How the Sultan Moulay Ismail of Morocco Sired 1,000 Children
Sultan Moulay Ismaïl of Morocco, "The Bloodthirsty," was the second ruler of the Moroccan Alaouite dynasty and reigned from 1672 to 1727. Like others of the dynasty, he claimed to be a descendant of Muhammad, the founder of Islam. As well as being infamous for his brutality and cruelty, he was also well-known for reportedly siring hundreds of children and perhaps more than a 1,000. However, many scientists have doubted that the historical records are correct, so a team of anthropologists from the University of Vienna conducted a computer simulation to determine whether it could have indeed been possible.
Moulay Ismail is noted as one of the ‘greatest figures’ in Moroccan history. He inherited a country weakened by internal tribal wars and royal successions, but by the end his reign, he controlled the country with a powerful army of more than 150,000 men, most of them slaves from sub-Saharan Africa. Moulay Ismail guaranteed the continued existence of his elite units by providing soldiers with women and raising their offspring for service in the guard.
Ismail was given the epithet ‘the Bloodthirsty’ for being infamously ruthless – his reign is said to have begun with the display of 400 heads at the city of Fez, and over the next 55 years it is estimated that he tortured and killed more than 30,000 people, not including those that died in battle.
Ismail was also fiercely protective of his four wives and 500 concubines. Men who merely looked at one of his wives or concubines were punished by death, and any suspicion of adultery against him was severely punished. The women were either strangled by the sultan himself, or their breasts were cut off, or their teeth torn out.
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Ismaïl fathered 888 children, the greatest number of progeny for anyone throughout history that can be verified – it is no wonder a succession battle between his sons ensued after his death. Based on reports by Dominique Busnot, a French diplomat who frequently travelled to Morocco, the Sultan may actually have had 1,171 children by 1704. At that time, Ismaïl was 57 and had ruled for 32 years.
While many have scientists have doubted it was possible, new computer simulations suggest he could have fathered this many children if he had sex about once a day for 32 years. He certainly had enough women with whom to impregnate. In fact, the simulations revealed that he would only have needed a harem of 65 to 110 women to achieve the same outcome.
"We were as conservative as possible with our calculations, and Moulay could still achieve this outcome," said study lead author Elisabeth Oberzaucher, an anthropologist at the University of Vienna.
Oberzaucher and her colleague Karl Grammer detailed their findings Feb. 14 in the journal PLOS ONE.
By John Black