Social Structure of Harem


The Guard of The Harem




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The Pyramid within the Harem

The Harem may be seen as a pyramid at the apex ofwhich the Valide sat in far from Ionely state, since all important business passed through her hands, not Ieast discipline without which Iife would have been im- possible. The women could be punished and beaten if they were insolent. Should they continue to be disobedient, they were sent to the Old Saray , stripped of their savings and so Ieft without hope of marriage or any other future. Any girl suspected of witchcraft was threatened with being flung in a sack in the Bosporus; at Ieast, according to Ottaviano Bon, the Venetian representative in Istanbul from 1604 to 1607.

Until 582 the Harem was under the same administration of the white eunuchs whichcontrolled the Palace School where the elite boys were trained for the chief offices of the empire. The structure of training was the same too, but not the subjects. Both had affinities with the guild system. For example, the young girls were admitted to the Harem as acemi, which was the same term as that usedfoi the boys and meant cadet rather than recruit. Like the pages, they were kul, or members of the Iarger family of the sultan, rather than slaves who could be bought or sold.

The white eunuchs could propose which graduates from either school might be married to each other . The novices were registered and their training began at once. They were admitted to a dormitory with divans along the walls and there were old women in charge of groups of ten of them. Lights were left burning all night to expose lesbian advances.1s To prevent beastliness, long radishes, cucumbers and such were sent from the kitchens ready cut: so extreme was the need to prevent wanton behaviour since young, lusty and lascivious girls without men could only have unchaste thoughts.

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