Helena Palaiologina (daughter of Demetrios Palaiologos)
Edirne, Ottoman Empire
Helena Palaiologina (April 1442 – 1470) was the daughter of Demetrios Palaiologos, Despot of Morea and his second wife Theodora Asanina, daughter of Paul Asanes. Some historians erroneously suppose that she entered the harem of Sultan Mehmed II, however the contemporary sources state that Sultan did not marry her, she died alone in Edirne.
In autumn 1458, Mehmed II sent a messenger to Helena's father, Demetrios Palaiologos, the Despot of the Morea and pretender to the Byzantine throne with orders to hand over the sixteen-year-old Helena, famed for her beauty, for inclusion in the Imperial Harem.
In spring 1460, Mehmed invaded Morea. Demetrios agreed to leave his capital of Mistra and surrender it to the Turks on 29 May. The sultan arrived with the vanguard of his army the next day, and Demetrios was summoned to appear before him. Mehmed left no doubt that Demetrios was to consider himself a hostage and that Greek rule in both Mistra and Morea was over, and once again demanded Helena, who was then in Monemvasia with her mother, be handed over to him.
According to the historian Sandra Origone, Helena was taken to the Sultan Mehmed II's harem. However, according to the Ottomanist Franz Babinger, Helena may never have entered the sultan's harem, for Mehmed feared she might poison him.
Theodore Spandounes states that Mehmed did not marry Helena:
"The Despot Demetrios who ruled at Mistra seems to have allowed the Sultan to conquer the Peloponnese because Mehmed had promised to take his daughter to wife. She was his only child and heiress to all that he had. Mehmed, however, no longer wanted to marry Demetrios's daughter; and she died as a virgin at Adrianople".
Demetrios died in 1470 in a monastery in Edirne. Helena's mother Theodora Asanina also soon died. Helena herself died of bubonic plague just before her father. An unknown rhetorician who composed a lament in her honour could not find tears enough to bemoan her passing.
- M. Çağatay Uluçay (2011). Padişahların kadınları ve kızları. Ötüken. ISBN 978-9-754-37840-5.
- Babinger 1992, p. 161.
- Babinger 1992, p. 174.
- Marriage Connections between Byzantium and the West in the Age of Palaiologoi, Sandra Origone, Intercultural Contacts in the Medieval Mediterranean, ed. Benjamin Arbel, (Routledge, 2012), 232.
- Babinger 1992, p. 179.
- Theodore Spandounes: On the Origins of the Ottoman Emperors. Donald M. Nicol. Cambridge University Press, 1997