suspicious minds

Good to walk around with a mirror just to see who may be sneaking up on you. Hard to find a Sultan who wasn’t suspicious and didn’t keep a food tester on the payroll. And lets not talk about the jannisaries who had PHD’s in violence and who were fanatically conservative and prone to frequent spells of disloyalty. The price of power of running the Grand Seraglio and being Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. But besides all this, the Turkish Sultan’s were seeking the answer to a very basic and deeply historic question: Can absolute power bring absolute bliss? …

---Jean Joseph Benjamin Constant (French , 1845-1902) - Favorite of the Emir, 1879---Read More:

Clocks were greatly prized in Turkey. They were not allowed to be made there or set up in public places for fear of lessening the importance and authority of the muezzins’ five daily calls to prayer. Clockwork toys were coveted even more. Among Mohammed the Conquerer’s favorite booty at the taking of Contantinople was a pair of golden lions that roared and a golden tree, big enough for a man to sit under, full of singing birds. A French merchant in 1685 was able to get a look inside the harem by bribing the Chief Black Eunuch with a mechanical man playing a drum.

( see link at end) …His friendship with the Chief Black Eunuch, the Kislar Agha Haji Bektash, was the main cause of his success. So interested did this Abyssinian become in Flachat’s novelties that Flachat was created ” Baserguian bachi,” or First Merchant of the Grand Signor. He
sold aU manner of things to the Seraglio, mechanical devices being in special demand. In fact, the bribe that led Haji Bektash to conduct
him over the SeragUo consisted of an automaton of a man playing a drum, and others of a French girl and an Oriental slave, together with some diagrams of other machines, of which we are not given the details. Highly important as Haji Bektash was, it was more than his head was worth to show Flachat the Seragho openly, even though the Sultan was absent.

---Musical Interlude by Fabbi Fabbio (1861-1946). Fabbio, Lewis, and Gérôme were Orientalist painters. These particular Valide Sultans acted as regents to their sultan sons who were minors or mentally unfit to rule, and as such acted as guardians of their sons and political tutors. This rash of young and/or incompetent sultans was the result of a change in the rules of succession. Primogeniture was originally thought to be unfair to younger, and perhaps more capable, sons. Princes were expected to fight for the right to rule, but this was eventually deemed too violent, so primogeniture was adopted again.---Read More:

” The gods of mythology,” says Flachat, “manifest themselves to humans with less formality; the entrance to Tartarus is not more forbidden.” But, as luck would have it, some mirrors sent by Louis XV to Mahmud I were being installed, and Flachat, with the Comte de Castellane, the French Ambassador at the Porte, was introduced among the workmen, and so any suspicions of the other eunuchs were unaroused. In this
way practically the whole of the Seragho was inspected, and Flachat was a keen observer who would have illustrated his account with
diagrams had leave been granted. Read More:

The Turks acquired from the Byzantines not only mechanical toys but a good many habits now regarded as typically Turkish: The seclusion of women , the use of eunuchs as palace functionaries, the seclusion and semi-deification of the Royal Person, strict hierarchy and ceremony at court, and the luxury and fierce intrigue among powerful officials.

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The early Turkish rulers had been easily accessible to their people; but by the time of Suleiman the Magnificent, in the century after the conquest of Constantinople, the only remnant of the Sultan’s ancient accessibility was in his riding out every Friday to the mosque of Aya Sofia, formerly the great church of Hagia Sophia. At this time any subject of the realm had the right to present a petition. He did so by writing down his grievance, tying the paper to the end of a long stick, and prostrating himself in the street. When the Sultan rode by on a horse  whose mane was tied with diamond tassels, the petitioner, face to the ground, agitated the stick in the air and his petition was collected by an attendant.


(see link at end) …Occasionally, by way of variety, public dancers from outside the harem were introduced, and the enthusiasm with which they were received was unbounded. According to several writers the nature of the dances was far from modest, and we can imagine that the danse du ventre and other ‘ suggestive * movements played a large part in the entertainment. So also shadow shows, full of obscenities, resembling those that Montmartre keeps for inexperienced tourists, were very popular. During the reign of Selim III a French dancing-

er and a number of musicians actually had permission to enter some outer building of the harem ; and there, in the presence of several eunuchs, they gave lessons to the girls who had been selected to act in their next * show.’ Such girls were usually those who had not yet embraced the Muhammadan rehgion, as the law frowned on exhibitions of this nature.

Except for such diversions as these and occasional trips up the Bosphorus, life in the harem must have been dull indeed. Read More:

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