Illustrations de Histoire des Othomans. Moeurs, usages, costumes des Othomans, et abrégé de leur histoire, 1812


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The Kislar Aga, or first black eunuch of the seraglio.
IN the various and complex government of the Grand Seignior’s Seraglio, no person holds a more important office than the Kislar Aga ; the business of this person being to direct and take care of every thing belonging to the females of the place. As he has the whole interior management of their apartments, he has various opportunities of ingratiating himself with the Sultan ; and thus he often becomes a most powerful friend, or enemy, to the other great officers. The story of throwing the handkerchief is not a fact, according to most modern writers. The fortunate fair one whom the Sultan honours with his regard, is informed of the circumstance by the Kislar Aga ; and this, among the Sultanas, is reckoned the highest mark of respect.

A Sultana, or Odalisk.
THE Seraglio itself, of which this female is a principal inhabitant, is an irregular building of vast extent ; and contains in all at least six thousand persons, many of whom indeed live in the city, and go there only during the day. It is not, in its extended sense, confined to the female apartments, for within its walls there are six large divisions for the divan, halls of audience, and various other departments ; besides very extensive gardens. The grand gate of entrance is called Baba-hoomajun, or Sublime Porte ; which is now also applied by foreigners to the Sultan and his government.
   The females of the Seraglio consist chiefly of Georgian and Circassian slaves, and are of course admitted when very young. It is a custom among the great men to present the Sultan with virgin slaves, through the hopes that these may hereafter promote their interest.
   Although the females in the Seraglio amount to more than five hundred, yet the Sultan generally chooses six or seven, called Kaddins, who alone have the privilege of producing an heir to the throne ; and the first who has a son is styled the Favourite. The other slaves are styled Odalisks, from Oda, a chamber ; and this plate represents one of these.

Copies of figures from Miller's The Costume of Turkey plus others appeared, arranged in pairs in Illustrations de Histoire des Othomans. Moeurs, usages, costumes des Othomans, et abrégé de leur histoire / [{Artist} Non identifié] ; Antoine Laurent Castellan, Louis Mathieu Langlès, aut. du texte, 1812 Where more specific captions are given for some of these than in The Costume of Turkey, this is educated guesswork. The pairings in this are not evidence that the characters had anything to do with each other.

Back to Origins and derivatives of Octavien Dalvimart's collection of Turkish costume
Vol. 3. Histoire des Othomans. Mœurs, usages, costumes des Othomans, et abrégé de leur histoire par Antoine Laurent Castellan et Louis Mathieu Langlès, Paris, 1812