Murad III was the eldest son of sultan Selim II (1566–74) and valide sultan Nur-Banu (née Cecilia Venier-Baffo) and succeeded his father in 1574. His authority was undermined by the harem influences, more specifically, those of his mother and later of his favorite wife Safiye Sultan. The power had only been maintained under Selim II by the genius of the all-powerful grand vizier Mehmed Sokollu who remained in office until his assassination in October 1579. The reign of Murad III was marked by wars with Iran and Austria and Ottoman economic decline and institutional decay.
He was also a renowned womanizer, obtaining more than 1,200 of the most beautiful girls available at slave markets for his enjoyment; among the largest and most prestigious harems in the world. He enjoyed watching the girls frolic naked as they bathed, sometimes inventing games for them to play. As his empire was deteriorating, he could usually be found comfortably ensconced in the harem. This lifestyle led him to sire 103 children.