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Identify the title and painter of this
Ottoman Age Notables... The 'Tower of Babel' by Pieter Brueghel the Elder (c.1525  1569); Flemish painter known for his landscapes and peasant scenes.
Ottoman Age Masterpiece
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Encyclopedia of the Ottoman Empire
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Sultans and Concubines and Eunuchs, oh my...!

Site visitors may navigate the encyclopedia using the
Ottoman Empire Index
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Term Meaning Comments
Ebussuud (1490-1574)
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Faithful Interpreter...16
Süleyman The Magnificent's friendship with Ebussuud was warm and long lasting. It was to him that the aged Süleyman, on his way to his final Hungarian campaign, wrote a moving personal letter, addressed to "my fellow in age and in sorrow, my brother in the world-to-come, my comrade on the Right Road."33

The most influential Şeyhülislam of the 16th Century. Was Süleyman I, The Magnificent's great friend and an Islamic jurist remembered for smoothing the conflicts between common secular law and religious law (Şeriat, aka Sharia). In so doing, he established the Sultan as being the final word (during Süleyman's reign at least) on all matters of law -- religious or secular.32 In the mid-sixteenth century, Süleyman I decided to systematically define his secular Ottoman Law in terms of the Islamic legal tradition. (Do you remember that Süleyman I was called The Lawgiver (Kanuni) by his Ottoman subjects?). And he could rely on the cooperation of the Ottoman religious authority (the ulema) -- because he controlled job appointments to ulema judgeships, professorships, and fellowships. As the architect to implement his plan, Süleyman chose his intimate friend and companion, Ebussuud -- appointed to the influential post of kazasker (chief justice) of Rumelia in 1537. From then onward, through his tenure (beginning in 1545) as Chief Mufti of the Empire (şehulislam) until beyond the death of his friend Süleyman, Ebussuud made the task of legal conflict-resolution a major personal preoccupation. For Ebussuud, the sultan's rule was justified because he protected the şeriat (the canonical law of Islam and the basis for all of Muslim life). By defining the Sultan's secular law in canonical terms, Ebussuud made Süleyman's rule synonymous with the rule of the şeriat. During his period of office, 'Ottoman rule' and 'şeriat' became almost interchangeable concepts. An example of this doctrine appeared in a sultanic decree around 1537 that made a local ruler responsible to force Muslim inhabitants to build mosques (see cami) in their village if none existed already -- and to attend prayer regularly. If the villagers failed to heed the ruler's words, he could "compel the inhabitants...because the Call to Prayer is one of the distinguishing characteristics of Islam, so that if the people of a city, town, or village refuse, then the Imam (religious 'ruling' cleric) should force them, and if they do not do it, he should take up arms against them. And if the people of a town neglect the Call to Prayer, the performance of prayer, and the congregational prayers, he must fight them, for these are earmarks and outward signs of religion."30 Decrees like this were as much a test of loyalty to the sultan as they were to orthodox Islam. And, failure to observe them were a defiance not only of God, but also of the sultan. However, to persuade the Ottoman people that Süleyman was God's Orthodox Lawgiver required sensitivity -- and there was nothing to be gained by offending the many heterodox religious groups, who remained loyal to the Ottoman sultan. To overcome the sensitivity issue, heterodox practices were permitted in private -- so long as the practitioners expressed loyalty to the şeriat, in public! But Ebussuud was faced with another problem: How to 'sanctify' secular Ottoman laws and administrative practices. His answer involved some fancy footwork and a little slight of hand. Secular Ottoman laws, he decreed, although not themselves deriving from the şeriat are a necessary precondition to its enforcement. He then proceeded to redefine Ottoman secular practices in canonical religious terms. So non-canonical taxes, such as the sheep-tax, were redefined and reassigned to the same category as zakat (alms), for example. He achieved this by invoking the legal fiction that the taxpayer paid these levies with the 'intention' of paying 'zakat'. Measures like these helped bring the Sultan's secular law into relative harmony with religious law. But it was not always a completely melodious harmony. For example, controversy arose over a decree issued by Ebussuud (in 1544 when he was still 'kazasker') -- that forbid "a mature free woman of sound mind" to marry without the consent of a male guardian. An earlier judicial interpretation had allowed such marriages but, recently, Süleyman had eliminated the option, and Ebussuud, when questioned, justified the decree partly on the grounds that the sultan's authority could not be challenged. Ebussuud held the belief that the Ottoman sultan, as caliph, had universal power and that his decrees had the same force as the şeriat. He never produced a definitive formulation of this idea -- partly because it wasn't necessary in Süleyman's youth, and in old age it wasn't possible. In youth, Süleyman's great conquests made him impervious to criticism at home -- so he had all the 'universal power' he needed. But, in old age, his increasing infirmities sapped his desire to seek or promote it. When Ebussuud died in 1574, the theory of the Ottoman caliphate died with him.31
Ege DenizThe Aegean Sea 
Ehl-i hibre
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'Person of knowledge', an expert of a craft guild.  
eminiAn Ottoman supervisor or superintendent. 
emini beytülmalImperial Treasurer. See also emini hazine. 
emini hazineImperial Treasurer. See also emini beytülmal.  
emini kadiA trustee of a judge. 
emini mahzenSuperintendent of the Imperial Storehouse. 
emini vahy [or vahyullah]The Prophet Muhammad. 
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the 'inside' The interior of the 'seraglio', the residence of the court, the society of the Harem and the Sultan.
Enderunlu Fazıl bey
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18th Century bisexual poet and author. Wrote the Ottoman Erotic Classics 'Çenginame' (Book of the Çengi Dancing Girls), 'Hubanname' (Book of the Beauties), and 'Zenanname (Book of Women)'.
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A robe/nightshirt with a narrow waist worn open or buttoned.  

Right click to 'View' image enlargement...

18th century representation of the
Esed astrological symbol.70

The Osmanlı (Ottoman) astrological sign -- equivalent to Aslan in modern Turkish, and Leo in English. Covers the modern day period of 23 July to 22 August. In Ottoman times, Seretan was designated one of the three Summer astro-signs, along with Seretan and Sünbüle. (The Ottomans could learn the exact dates of these lunar periods from the Gurrename...) See burçlar for complete list of Osmanlı (Ottoman), Modern Turkish, and English astrological signs.
Click to see sample Turkish astrological predictions...
Eski Saray
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The old palace (at Bayazid). Topkapı Palace (built during 1459-1478) was the second Palace that Mehmed II (The Conqueror) built in İstanbul. After he built Topkapı, he gave the name 'Eski Saray' (Old Palace) to the first palace that he had built there during 1454-1458. Later, when Dolmabahçe Palace was built, Topkapı Palace itself became known as 'Eski Saray' (The original 'Eski Saray' is no more, having become the site for the modern day İstanbul University.)
eunuch [Harem] guard(s) whose 'sexual equipment' did not come 'in the original package'. See also, hadım, tavaşi, black eunuch, kızlar ağası, spadoni, thlibiae, white eunuch, and other headings following, under this entry.
eunuchs, history of It was easy for the Ottoman Turks to inherit the eunuch-tradition of the Byzantine Empire (when they captured the Byzantine capital of Constantinople in 1453) and to adopt it for the care of their women. So, during the time of the Ottoman Empire, every well-to-do family kept at least one pair of eunuchs in its service. Originally the Turks kept only white eunuchs. But, a wifely indiscretion with a semi-functional white eunuch could still result in a white baby, whose male parentage could not be proved. So the use of black eunuchs became increasingly popular from the 16th Century. They were considered a safer alternative because of their perceived ugliness, their ability to tolerate the operation, and the ease of spotting an infidelity by the color of the off-spring. Ancient historians mention castrated slaves throughout the orient from Mesopotamia to China. And, an early account of a 'eunuch' merchant (from the Greek Island of Chios) is found in Herodotus (c. 484 -- c. 425 B.C.).
He cites the case of one Panionius (a trader in eunuchs) who purchased the youth, Hermotimus, from soldiers who had captured him near Halicarnassus (present-day 'Bodrum'). Panionius then castrated and resold the boy at a handsome profit. Later in his life, Hermotimus 'chanced to fall in with' the unsuspecting Panionius and persuaded the older man's entire family to live with him. Hermotimus then took control of the situation and forced Panionius to castrate his own four sons. He then made the sons castrate the father, to complete his revenge...
The Persians castrated their Ionian prisoners too and offered them, together with virgin girls, as gifts to their sovereigns. Christians adopted the idea readily and kept up the practice until the 19th Century -- the high voices of the castrati were much in demand for the choir of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. And the custom survived -- as long as the castrati remained popular at the Italian opera.
eunuchs, their emasculation procedure The procedure to cancel manhood was normally done at an early age -- to better the chances of the victim's survival... From Barbara Chase-Riboud's
Valide, A Novel of the Harem...
On Lorenzo's terrace, there was dead silence. One of the Orientalists cleared his throat. "The operation," Lorenzo continued, "is performed in this manner: white ligatures or bandages are bound tightly round the lower part of the belly and the upper parts of the thighs, to prevent too much hemorrhage. The parts about to be operated on are then bathed three times with hot pepper-water, the intended eunuch being in a reclining position. When the parts have been sufficiently bathed, the whole -- both testicles and penis -- are cut off as closely as possible with a small curved knife, something in the shape of a sickle. The emasculating being effected, a pewter needle or spigot is carefully thrust into the main orifice at the root of the penis; the wound is then covered with paper saturated in cold water and is carefully bound up. After the wound is dressed the patient is made to walk about the room, supported by two 'knifers,' for two or three hours, then he is allowed to lie down. The patient is not allowed to drink anything for three days, during which time he often suffers great agony, not only from thirst, but from intense pain, and from the impossibility of relieving nature during that period. At the end of three days the bandage is taken off, the spigot is pulled out, and the sufferer obtains relief in the copious flow of urine, which spurts out like a fountain. If this takes place satisfactorily, the patient is considered out of danger, but if the unfortunate wretch cannot make water he is doomed to a death of agony, for the passages have become swollen and nothing can save him."
[Note: Interestingly, the entire above-quoted passage appears verbatim in N.M. Penzer's much earlier, The Sultan's Harem (1936).23 In that 'non-fiction' book Penzer attributes the passage to Stent who described the methods "adopted with Chinese eunuchs." Chase-Riboud mentions, "M. Panzer's [sic], The Harem, Philadelphia (1936)" in a footnote at the end of her novel.]

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