Ottoman court

Ottoman court or the culture that evolved around the court of the Ottoman Empire was known as the "Ottoman Way". To get a high position in the empire, one must be skilled in the Way. It included both knowing Persian, Arabic and Ottoman Turkish and how to behave in court, in front of the sultan, and in formal and religious occasions.

Ottoman court was held at the Topkapı Palace in Constantinople where the sultan was served by an army of pages and scholars. Some served in the Treasury and the Armoury, maintaining the sultan's treasures and weapons. There was also a branch of servants that were said to serve the Chamber of Campaign, i.e. they accompanied the sultan and his court while on campaign. The best of the pages were chosen to serve the sultan in person. One was responsible for the sultan's clothing, one served him with drinks, one carried his weaponry, one helped him mount his horse, one was responsible for making his turban and a barber shaved the sultan every day. At the palace served also a great number of stewards who carried food, water and wood throughout the palace and lit the fireplaces and braziers. Doorkeepers (Kapıcı) numbered several hundreds and were responsible for opening the doors throughout the entire palace. The chief doorkeeper was responsible for escorting important guests to the sultan.

The Harem was under the administration of the eunuchs, of which there were two categories, Black and White Eunuchs. An important figure in the Ottoman court was the Chief Black Eunuch (Kızlar Ağası or Harem Ağası). In control of the Harem and a perfect net of spies in the Black Eunuchs, the Chief Eunuch was involved in almost every palace intrigue and could thereby gain power over either the sultan or one of his viziers, ministers or other court officials.

The Harem was a small world in itself. Often the mother of the current sultan (Valide Sultan) was a politically influential person. She also selected the concubines for her son. The concubines could live in or around the palace for their entire life, and it supported them with whatever they needed. Women not found suitable for the sultan were married off to eligible bachelors from the Ottoman nobility or sent back home. Female servants did all the chores such as serving food and making the beds.

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