Thursday, March 7, 2013

Redheads and Empire

The Ottoman Empire was founded by Osman in 1299 and it was ruled for ten successive generations by capable and often brilliant leaders, culminating in the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent (1494-1566), who led the Empire to its cultural and geographic zenith. He built Topkapi, captured Belgrade and Budapest and completed the conquest of the Balkans. He besieged Vienna, the keystone of central Europe, and except for a quirk in the weather would have taken it.  He was well on his way to solidifying the Ottomans as the rising historic star in Europe.

All that changed when he met the redhead.

He was given a red-haired Russian girl named Ghowrem, who came to be known as Roxelana, as part of his share of a slave-gathering raid into what is now Poland. She must have really been something. He was so taken by her he rejected his hundreds of other harem girls and spent his time with her exclusively. Then he did the unheard of. He married her.

She was soon known as "The Witch." She had a son, Selim II, and she poisoned Suleiman against his favorite, the brilliant and able Mustafa, to the advancement of her son. Mustafa was clearly the man to succeed the throne but she had Suleiman kill him. Suleiman actually watched as it was done. Selim became the new leader of the Empire and its new genetic father. A drunk and a coward, he brought dissolution to the Empire, personally and genetically. He started the tradition of killing every male in reach that looked to be a competent rival. This negative selective pattern reaped incompetent rewards. The behavior continued into the 20th Century when the Ottoman Empire fell apart in World War One, leaving the rest of the world with the aimless Middle East.

There is a great difference between phenotype and genotype.

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