''This article is about the concubine. For the novel by Fiona McIntosh, see Odalisque (novel).

An odalisque ( ) was a virgin female slave who could rise in status to be a concubine or a wife in Ottoman Seraglios. Most were part of the harem of the Turkish sultan.


The word appears in a French form, and originates from the Turkish odal?k, meaning "chambermaid", from oda, "chamber" or "room". Some writers spell the word as, odahlic, odalisk, and odaliq.


An odalisque was not a concubine of the harem, but it was possible that she could become one. Odalisques were ranked at the bottom of the social stratification of a harem, serving not the sultan, but rather, his concubines and wives as personal chambermaids. Odalisques were usually slaves given as gifts to the sultan, although some Georgian and Caucasian families urged their daughters to enter a harem as an odalisque, hoping that they might become a palace concubine, favored slave, or wife of the sultan.

Generally, an odalisque was never seen by the sultan, but instead remained under the direct supervision of the Valide sultan. If an odalisque was of extraordinary beauty or had exceptional talents in dancing or singing, she would be trained as a possible concubine. If selected, an odalisque trained as a concubine would serve the sultan sexually, and only after such sexual contact would she change in status, becoming thenceforth a concubine. In the Ottoman Empire, concubines encountered the sultan only once-unless she was especially skilled in dance, singing, or the sexual arts, and thus gained his attention. If a concubine's contact with the sultan resulted in the birth of a son, she would become one of his wives.

Later Usage

In popular use, the word odalisque also may refer (rather inappropriately, given the virgin nature of these slaves) to a mistress, concubine or paramour of a wealthy man.

See also


External links

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This article is based on "Odalisque" from the free encyclopedia Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org). It is licensed under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation Licencse. In the Wikipedia you can find a list of the authors by visiting the following address: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Odalisque&action=history