Wednesday, February 7, 2018

EUNUCHS COURTYARD

Sultanahmet, Fatih - Istanbul - Turkey

Topkapı Palace Museum / Harem



PHOTOGRAPHS ALBUM

Another door leads to the Courtyard of the (Black) Eunuchs (Harem Ağaları Taşlığı), with on the left side their apartments. At the end of the court is the apartment of the black chief eunuch (Kızlar Ağası), the fourth high-ranking official in the official protocol. In-between lays the school for the imperial princes with precious tiles from the 17th and 18th centuries and gilded wainscoting.

At the end of the court is the main gate to the harem (Cümle Kapısı). The narrow corridor on the left side leads to the apartments of the odalisques (white slaves given as a gift to the sultan). The main entrance gate of the Harem and the gate of the Kuşhane connected the Enderûn court leads out into the Kuşhane door.

Many of the eunuchs’ quarters face this courtyard, which is the first one of the Harem, since they also acted as guards under the command of the Chief Harem Eunuch. The spaces surrounding this courtyard were rebuilt after the great fire of 1665. The complex includes the dormitory of the Harem eunuchs behind the portico, the quarters of the Chief Harem Eunuch (Darüssaade Ağası) and the School of Princes as well as the Gentlemen-in-Waiting of the Sultan (Musahipler Dairesi) and the sentry post next to it.

Built in the late 16th century, the unit features a tiled main room with a fireplace, a bath (hamam), a coffee kitchen and service rooms. The fireplace in the main room is covered with 18th century Baroque European tiles. The compound includes on its upper floor tiled rooms with fireplace and the School of Princes, which was under the responsibility of the Chief Harem Eunuch. The school space is a double-fronted hall with a centrally domed and vaulted ceiling.

The upper level is decorated with 17th century classic Ottoman tiles whereas baroque style tiles ornament the floor level. These were commissioned in the 18th century by Beshir Agha (Beşir Ağa), the Chief Eunuch of Sultan Mahmut I. The baroque detailed plaster fireplace dates also from the same period.

It is thought that the Courtyard of the Black Eunuchs and the buildings around it were probably erected during the institutionalization phase of the Harem in the mid-16th century. This was the first courtyard of the Harem. Many of the Black Eunuchs’ quarters, which were also an educational place, face this courtyard, since they also acted as guards under the command of the Chief Harem Eunuch. The spaces surrounding this courtyard were rebuilt after the great Harem fire of 1665.

The complex includes the dormitory of the Harem eunuchs located on the left hand side behind the portico, the quarters of the Chief Harem Eunuch (Darü’s-saâde Ağası) and the School of Princes as well as the Gentlemen-in-Waiting of the Sultan (Musahipler Dairesi) and the sentry post next to it. The inscription on the façade of the dormitory includes the deeds of trust - established for the eunuchs-  of the Sultans Mustafa IV, Mahmut II and Abdülmecit I dating from the 19th century.

HAREM EUNUCHS

Guarding the women sections in imperial palaces by eunuch, which is an old tradition that goes back to Assyrians, spreaded out of Mesopotamia till Chinese and Roman palaces. The Ottoman Harem also adopted this tradition. Two groups called as White Eunuchs and Black Eunuchs lived in the Ottoman Palace.

Before, White Eunuchs being Gate of Felicity (Bab’üs-Saade) Chief were also granted Abode of Felicity (Dar’üs-Saade) Lordship. Sultan Murad III (1574-1595) granted this function to Black Eunuchs in 1582. Black Chiefs carried out this function that completely passed to Black Eunuchs towards the end of 16th century, by increasing their authorities and influence until the end of the sultanate.

At Topkapı Palace, at the court of the Ottoman sultans, the harem staff commonly included eunuchs. These were slaves, either captured in war (mainly Christian Europeans in the Balkans) or recruited within the empire (especially Caucasian peoples from Georgia and Armenia and blacks from Egypt and Sudan) or even beyond (especially in Abyssinia).

Black Eunuchs also called Eunuchs of the Harem were mostly chosen from the Central African territories of the Empire and in particular among those of Abyssinian origin. They were taught the rules of the Palace and Harem and trained and educated in a strict discipline. Their main functions were to guard the gates and control access to the Harem, accompany the carriages and let no one from the outside enter the Harem.

Black eunuchs usually were Sandali (i.e. their genitalia were entirely amputated), hence they were preferred for harem service, while White eunuchs usually kept part of their penis and/or testicles, so they were assigned to less 'intimate' duties, e.g. secretarial. They were often donated to the Sultan by his governors, in total about six- to eight hundred.

The castrated servicemen in the Muslim and Turkish states in the Middle Ages were recruited to serve in the palace from the times of Sultan Mehmed I onwards. These eunuchs who were trained in the palace and were given the charge of guarding the harem rose in rank after serving in many positions. The harem eunuchs and the harem organisation were under the command of the Chief harem eunuch, who was also called the Master of the Girls (Kızlar Ağasi) or Chief (Black) Eunuch.

They supervised the quarters where the female population of the palace lived. They had influence on the palace and later on the state administration in the 17th and 18th centuries as they had access to the sultan and the sultan's family and became very powerful. Eunuchs at the Ottoman court were preferably taken from Africa, especially Sudan. Since lighter skin was considered more aesthetic than dark skin, the sultans felt the chances of an affair developing between their, mostly Eastern European, concubines and their dark-skinned eunuch caretakers extremely low.

He was sometimes considered second only to the Grand Vizier (head of the imperial government, but often working in his own palace or even away, e.g., on military campaign) in the confidence of the Sultan, to whom he had and arranged access (including his bedchamber, the ne plus ultra for every harem lady), also being his confidential messenger. As commander of an imperial army corps, the halberdiers (baltaci), he even held the supreme military dignity of three-tail pasha (general).

Meanwhile the Chief (White) Eunuch (Kapı Ağasi), was in charge of 300 to 900 white eunuchs as head of the 'Inner Service' (the palace bureaucracy, controlling all messages, petitions, and State documents addressed to the Sultan), head of the Palace School (school for pages training as white eunuchs), gatekeeper-in-chief, head of the infirmary, and master of ceremonies of the Seraglio, and was originally the only one allowed to speak to the Sultan in private.

In 1591, Murad III transferred the powers of the white to the black eunuchs as there was too much embezzlement and various other nefarious crimes attributed to the white eunuchs, but later they regained some favor.

During the Women's Sultanate (Kadınlar Saltanatı), the eunuchs increased their political leverage by taking advantage of minor or mentally incompetent Sultans, causing political instability. The teenage Sultans were "guided" by regencies formed by the Queen Mother (Valide Sultan), the Grand Vizier and the Valide's other supporters- and the Chief Black Eunuch was the Queen Mother's and Chief Consorts' intimate and valued accomplice.

Since the Chief Harem Eunuchs oversaw the Ottoman imperial foundations and the Harem endowments, they were handling substantial revenues and had a high income. Consequently, they have been able to erect numerous mosques, schools, fountains and kiosks built for the dispensing of free drinking water as an act of piety in Istanbul and elsewhere in the country.  On the other hand, they have been effective in state administration, particularly in the 17th and 18th centuries, since they were close to the Sultan and his family owing to the tasks they were fulfilling in the court.

The Head of the Black Eunuchs, Chief Harem Eunuch (Darü’s-saâde Ağası) also called the Girls’ Eunuch was the highest authority in charge of the Harem. In the protocol ranking, he was placed directly after the Grand Vizier and the Sheikh ul-lslam, the chief religious official in the Ottoman Empire, (Şeyhülislam).

BLACK CHIEFS / KARA AĞALAR

African boys that are selected from the mid-Africa generally originating from Ethiopia used to be raised with a strict discipline after being taken to the Old Palace and Topkapı Palace. Castrated African kids called as çiçek used to be trained so that they would apply the Harem rules after learning Turkish.

They used to start their functions with the name of "Down Below (En Aşağı)" and pass to Beginner Lordship, and within time they used to promote to higher classes such as Ortanca, Hasırlı. After a certain period of time, they used to be provided promotions on their duties in Harem by being given to the service of Sultan’s Head of Wives and Mother Of Sultan.

APARTMENTS OF THE BLACK EUNUCH

Built in the late 16th century, the unit features a tiled main room with a fireplace, a bath (hamam), a coffee kitchen and service rooms.  The fireplace in the main room is covered with 18th century Baroque European tiles. The compound includes on its upper floor tiled rooms with fireplace and the School of Princes, which was under the responsibility of the Chief Harem Eunuch. 

The school space is a double-fronted hall with a centrally domed and vaulted ceiling. The upper level is decorated with 17th century classic Ottoman tiles whereas baroque style tiles ornament the floor level. These were commissioned in the 18th century by Beshir Agha (Beşir Ağa), the Chief Eunuch of Sultan Mahmut I. The baroque detailed plaster fireplace dates also from the same period.

DORMITORIES OF THE EUNUCHS

The dormitories date to the 16th century. They are arranged around an inner courtyard in three storeys. The decorated rooms on the upper stories were for novices and those below overlooking the courtyard were occupied by the eunuchs who had administrative functions. The third floor was added in the 18th century. The rooms are decorated with floral motifs and depictions of landscape. The portico in front of the ward was raised after the 1660 repairs.

The dormitories of the Harem eunuchs (Harem Ağaları Koğuşu) date to the 16th century. They are arranged around an inner courtyard in three storeys. The inscription on the facade of the dormitory includes the deeds of trust of the Sultans Mustafa IV, Mahmud II and Abdül Mecid I dating from the 19th century. The rooms on the upper stories were for novices and those below overlooking the courtyard were occupied by the eunuchs who had administrative functions.

There is a monumental fireplace revetted with the 18th century Kütahya tiles at the far end. The Chief Harem Eunuch's apartment (Darüssaade Ağasi Dairesi) adjacent to the dormitory contains a bath, living rooms and bed rooms. The school room of the princes under the control of the Chief Harem eunuch was on the upper storey. The walls were revetted with 18th century European tiles with baroque decorations.

The complex includes the dormitory of the Harem eunuchs located on the left hand side behind the portico, the quarters of the Chief Harem Eunuch (Darü’s-saâde Ağası) and the School of Princes as well as the Gentlemen-in-Waiting of the Sultan (Musahipler Dairesi) and the sentry post next to it. The inscription on the façade of the dormitory includes the deeds of trust - established for the eunuchs-  of the Sultans Mustafa IV, Mahmut II and Abdülmecit I dating from the 19th century.

PAVILION OF THE GENTLEMEN-IN-WAITING OF THE SULTAN

Persons close to the Sultan who were his confidants and intimates were referred to as musahib (companion). These gentlemen-in-waiting were usually chosen by the Sultan, from among knowledgeable and courteous people, skilled in making sharp witty remarks and conversation.  The quarters built to accommodate these Gentlemen-in-waiting consisted of multi-level cut stone structures.

It is known that the Treasurer and the dwarf aghas in charge of the financial affairs of the Harem also utilized these premises. The walls which were covered with tiles in the classical period reached the 19th century, coated with painted plaster. The front facing the courtyard is still partly tiled.

MOSQUE OF THE EUNUCHS

The mosque was restored following the Harem fire of 1665. Its two entrances bear the names of the Şadırvanlı Sofa (hall with fountain) and the Karaağalar Taşlığı (courtyard of the black eunuchs). The inscription above the Şadırvanlı Sofa entrance bears the date 1666/67. It leads to an arched corridor with windows. The date 1667/68 appears also in the inscription above the inside of the other entrance. The mosque is set on a square plan with a flat wooden ceiling. The door of the mosque interior opens onto a small courtyard.

LOCATION SATELLITE MAP



WEB SITE : Topkapı Palace Museum Directorate

MORE INFO & CONTACT
E-Mail : topkapisarayimuzesi@kultur.gov.tr
Phone : +90 212 512 0480
Fax : +90 212 526 9840

These scripts and photographs are registered under © Copyright 2018, respected writers and photographers from the internet. All Rights Reserved.