It has it all. The young ruler of a vast empire, sumptuous surroundings, lush costumes, intrigue, conflict, sex, violence…
Suleiman was three years younger than Henry VIII and lived a life that Henry would have coveted:
1- No doubts about his family’s legitimacy to be rulers of the empire
2- A healthy son
3- Hundreds of concubines and no wife
4- No pretenders to his throne
5- Endless land and wealth
Numbers 1 and 4 are related, in that Ottoman law allowed the ruler to kill off all pretenders to the throne, and Suleiman’s father, Selim, did so. Selim had had quite a few brothers that he disposed of, and either Selim or Suleiman himself killed off Suleiman’s brothers. So you have that drama, right there. It might make a good opening scene.
2 and 3 are related. The Sultan didn’t need to get married*; he had a harem full of women that were completely isolated from all other intact men. Any children they bore could reliably be assumed to be Suleiman’s own offspring, and the child of a slave could become Sultan.
Of course a miniseries could have a field day with scenes from the harem, and could focus on Roxelana, the ambitious Russian slave who bewitched the Sultan and even got him to marry her, supplanting the Sultan’s favorite of many years, Gulbehar “The Rose of Spring,” who was the mother of his first son, Mustafa. This latter was shaping up to be a worthy successor to the empire, about whom the Austrian ambassador said, “Suleiman has among his children a son called Mustafa, marvellously well educated and prudent and of an age to rule, since he is 24 or 25 years old; may God never allow a Barbary of such strength to come near us.” One wonders about the course of history if Mustafa had come to the throne–would we all be Muslim now? Anyway, Roxelana preferred that one of her own sons succeed and tried to have Mustafa murdered.
But the intrigues aren’t limited to the harem. There was Ibrahim, the Greek Christian slave and boyhood friend who rose through the ranks until Suleiman made him grand vizier. It didn’t end well for him, as Suleiman eventually became suspicious of him and he mysteriously died.
But enough of the soap opera drama. There was also military adventure going on all this time. Warfare against Charles, (the Holy Roman Emperor, though Suleiman preferred to call him the “King of Spain”) and Charles’s brother Ferdinand, the archduke of Austria; plus various Italian semi-states, the Safavid dynasty of Persia, pirates, knights Templar, etc. His navy, commanded by Barbarossa (Khayr al-Din) was as large as the navies of all the other European countries together.
*Yes, for hundreds of years Sultans didn’t marry, despite what Mike Huckabee says about five thousand years of one-man-one-woman marriage. And you might think Huck’d know better, since he claims to be conversant in Islam thanks to his backwoods theological training.
People look at my record and say that I’m as strong on immigration, strong on terror as anybody. In fact I think I’m stronger than most people because I truly understand the nature of the war that we are in with Islamo fascism. These are people that want to kill us. It’s a theocratic war. And I don’t know if anybody fully understands that. I’m the only guy on that stage with a theology degree. I think I understand it really well. And know the threat of it is absolutely overwhelming to us
By the way, Huckabee does not actually have a theology degree:
“Governor Huckabee doesn’t have a theology degree. He only spent a year in seminary.” –Huckabee staffer Joe Carter.
And to continue the hijack, here’s a cartoon that considers the question: why are there so few female polygamists?
While I’m at it, I’ll toss in this super-cool video to the awesome They Might be Giants song, Istanbul (Not Constantinople).