25 Haziran 2007 Pazartesi

House of Osman

The "Ottoman dynasty" (c. 1290–1922) or as an institution "House of Osman" was unprecedented and unequaled in the Islamic world for its size and duration. The Ottoman sultan, pâdişâh or "lord of kings", served as the empire's sole regent and was considered to be the embodiment of its government, though he did not always exercise complete control.

Throughout Ottoman history, however — despite the supreme de jure authority of the sultans and the occasional exercise of de facto authority by Grand Viziers — there were many instances in which local governors acted independently, and even in opposition to the ruler. On eleven occasions, the sultan was deposed because he was perceived by his enemies as a threat to the state. New sultans were always chosen from among the sons of the previous sultan, but there was a strong educational system in place that was geared towards eliminating the unfit and establishing support amongst the ruling elite for the son before he was actually crowned. There were only two attempts in the whole of Ottoman history to unseat the ruling Osmanlı dynasty, both failures, which is suggestive of a political system which for an extended period was able to manage its revolutions without unnecessary instability.

After the dissolution of the empire, the new republic abolished the Caliphate and Sultanate and declared the Ottoman Dynasty as persona non grata of Turkey. Fifty years later, in 1974, the Grand National Assembly of Turkey granted descendants of the former dynasty the right to acquire Turkish citizenship. The current head of the House of Osman is Ertuğrul Osman V living in New York City.

…the Ottoman family was ethnically Turkish in its origins, as were some of its supporters and subjects. But … the dynasty immediately lost this "Turkish" ethnic identification through intermarriage with many different ethnicities. As for a "Turkish empire", state power relied on a similarly heterogeneous mix of peoples. The Ottoman empire succeeded because it incorporated the energies of the vastly varied peoples it encountered, quickly transcending its roots in the Turkish nomadic migrations from Central Asia into the Middle East.

Imperial Harem

Coffee delight at the Harem

Coffee delight at the Harem

The Harem was one of the most important powers of the Ottoman court. It was ruled by the Valide Sultan (also known as the Baş Kadın, or "Chief Lady"), mother of the reigning sultan, who held supreme power over the Harem and thus a powerful position in the court. On occasion, the Valide Sultan would become involved in state politics and through her influence could diminish the power and position of the sultan. For a period of time beginning in the 16th century and extending into the 17th, the women of the Harem effectively controlled the state in what was termed the "Sultanate of Women" (Kadınlar Saltanatı).

Harem of Topkapı Palace

Harem of Topkapı Palace

The harem had its own internal organization and order of formulating policies. Beneath the Valide Sultan in the hierarchy was the Haseki Sultan, the mother of the sultan's first-born son, who had the best chance of becoming the next Valide Sultan. The sultan also had four other official wives, who were each called Haseki Kadın. Next in rank below the sultan's wives were his eight favourite concubines (ikbâls or hâs odalıks), and then the other concubines whom the sultan favoured and who were termed gözde. Next in rank were the concubines of other court officials. Pupils (acemî) and novices (câriye or şâhgird) were younger women who were either waiting to be married off to someone or who had not yet graduated out of the Harem School.

Palace schools

"Palace schools" were not a single track but in two. First one was the Madrasa (Ottoman Turkish: Medrese) for the Muslims, which educated the scholars and the state officials in accordance with Islamic tradition. The financial burden of the Medrese was covered by vakifs, which gave a popular chance to children of poor families in changing their life by moving to higher social levels and income. Second track was a free-boarding school for the Christians the Enderûn, which recruited annual 3,000 students from Christian young males between 8 and 20 years old which come from one in forty families among the communities settled in Rumelia and/or the Balkans, a process named Devshirmeh (Devşirme). Orphans, single child, married boys, the Jews, Russians, shepherd's sons were exempted. Ottomans have been fairly successful in this trans- [or forced] culturation of students, which many statesmen were products of this process. This system functioned strictly for bureaucratic purposes, (ideally) the graduates were permanently devoted to government service and had no interest in forming relations with lower social groups. The incoming students were called the inner boys (Ottoman Turkish:iç oglanlar). It took seven years of professional development to graduate. The apprenticeship began with working in the Sultan's services; then mastering natural and Islamic sciences (formal education); and the last stage was developing their physical fitnesses and acquiring some vocational or artistic skills. It is reported by Madeline Zilfi that European visitors of the time commented "In making appointments, Sultan pays no regard to any pretensions on the score of wealth or rank. It is by merits that man rise..Among the Turks, honors, high posts and Judgeships are rewards of great ability and good service".

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