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thehandsom 24 Apr 2009

Topkapi Palace (opposite from the Land of the Blind )

Topkapi Sarayi-Palace of Empire

According to the legend:
Byzas was a Greek colonist from the Dorian city of Megara, son of a King , who consulted the oracle of Apollo at Delphi. The oracle instructed Byzas to settle opposite from the "Land of the Blind".
Though he was confused about this strange instruction, Byzas searched for a land for his people and he completely forgot what oracle said.
When he came to a place with a most fantastic view he had ever seen and  also noticing the other side of the water populated by some strange people, he asked: "are they blind to live  there where there is this place?"
It was the moment he remembered Oracle and decided to settle there..

There is a palace on the place where he was standing and it is called Topkapi palace (and the place of blind people he was refering to is today´s kadikoy -how annoying..I love kadikoy- but at those times it was called  Chalcedon )


And they settled..

We are leaving the gap between 7th century bc (it was the time above legend) and 1453 (the Turks captured the city)
Ottomans inherited a wreckage as far as the old palace is concerned..It was runsacked in 1204 by christians (who were staging yet another crusade :P ) so ottomans  did not destroy it specifically.
Fatih the conquorer, first selected Beyazit (where today´s Istanbul University is) for the palace and he even built a palace there but later on, because of the charm of the place, he decided on topkapi (it is called topkapi  because of the cannons in front of its gates. This name was given by the people)


Topkapi palace was never a static palace: It grew with the empire. It was not built like other palaces in the west where they would have a design and that design would be constructed in one go..Topkapi grew organically..They needed more people for the palace and then they needed accomodation for those people and of course they had to built larger kitchens to feed them etc..(In the end 4000-5000 people were living there). Because of its growing nature, it also reflects the lives in time. During declining period of the empire, most of the sultans were enclosed in the palace and that is the reason the buildings during their periods show also their their insecurity. The figures  on the walls, in the gardens, on  mosaics can be interpreted as they did not have much outside contact so they brought the nature into the palace..

It is a humble looking palace comparing to its counter parts in other big empires..It may dissapoint people with its look:




But Topkapi is a palace which was used for nearly 400 years to run  Ottomani empire! (But infact, the humbleness of these palaces is a quite interesting subject because almost none of the ottomani sultans, or vezirs or pashas had enormously glamoures palaces..All those huge mosques were built by one of the biggest empires in history, but they never ordered those architects to built a palace that glamouros. They considered the mosques as ´the house of god´ and that was part of the reason why they did not want to built palaces which would compete with them)

Since  its richness and luxury have the secondory importance and  or not existant, its importance comes from its character, its customs and its traditions.
All sultans´ were left from Topkapi when they died for example..All of them had their cirumcision there (well you westerners can think of it as a minor surgery but it is a very important event for us :) ) ..One of the doors (babulselam -where tourists enter the palace)was representing the respect to the sultanate so that nobody apart from the sultan himself, was allowed to go in on a horse..

Every third month on a friday they would distribute the salaries of janissaries there. The noise janissaries would make, which was called ´gulgule´, would be heard from everywhere and foreign envoys would be watching the ceramony...(Soup would be give to janissaries and if they did eat it, everything was fine and there would be ulufe -salary- distribution after that. But if they did not it would be considered as mutiny)
Divani Humayun (Ottomani state engine)-Ottomani concil met here to solve the problems of the empire.
And all these activities were performed with  very strict and detailed rules.
Ottomans did not have  aristocracy but instead, they grew their own ruling class in this palace. Most of Ottomani ruling elites were graduates of Enderun which could be called the most important institution until the 18 century in Ottoman ruling engine.
It also has one of the biggest collection of china in the world with 12.000 pieces..

Lets talk abit about the most mysterious and egzotic place in the palace: Harem.

Sultans would keep their harem in the old palace but because of his love to Hurrem, Kanuni was the first sultan brought his harem to this palace.
The most important thing about harem is that it is a palace and a prison at the same time!! Nobody could come in and nobody could go out..
It was built to hide the women of sultan from men. It was guarded by enouches who were castrated. They were prisoners there too..
After a certain date, princes would live in a corner of harem as well but they were practically prisoners as well (the section they lived called ´kafes´ which means ´cage´)..
(sultans used to kill their brothers until sultan Ahmet I who built sultanahmet mosque -across Hagia Sophia-, in order to stop princes fighting between eachother for the throne. Before that, all princes would be sent to  one of the provinces as a little sultan to be and get the experience. But after Ahmet I , the princes would not be sent to provinces or got killed, instead they would be kept under the sultan´s eye in the harem. With that law, princes become abit pathological instead of fighters. Though the law changed but the princes were never sure of their life! There was one thing for sure in Ottomani empire that there had to be a Ottoman sultan. Nobody could comprehand to replace the sultan with somebody else. After Ahmet I, his son ´Osman the young´ got killed by janissaries because there was an ´alternative´ Ottoman living in the harem for example)
Since we mentioned about sultanahmet mosque, a quick info about it: Normally sultans would built the mosques with the spoils of war, but Ahmet I was not an old style sultan and he did not built that mosque with the booty (because he was not a fighter sultan. He did not win any war at all :( ). Instead, he used the money from  the national treasure..Because of that, they say , the people  protested in the beginning by not coming to the mosque for praying (well they also say that the protest went on nearly 100 years)..



 Some  statistical info from its official website :

It was first constructed by  Fatih Sultan Mehmet, (the Conqueror) in 1478.
The palace having around 700.000 m.² area during the foundation years has currently 80.000 m.² area.
 By the order of  Mustafa Kemal Atatürk,.. opened to public visits on date of April 3, 1924,...and finally it was renamed as Topkapi Palace Museum Directorate and it still continues its services. 
 Upon the performance of small repairs and taking some administrative cautions in 1924, Topkapi Palace was opened to service as a Museum on October 9, 1924. ....



 (palace at night)

 The tower is called tower of justice (adalet kulesi)   (The tower symbolises the eternal vigilance of the sultan against injustice. Everyone from afar was supposed to be able to see the tower to feel assured about the sultan´s presence)


Ok that is enough history:)

Lets talk about some gossipy facts and stories about the palace and its people:
One of our sultans was Ibrahim the mad . He was very famous with his desire for plump women. One day, he orders ´bring me the fatest woman in istanbul´. All officals look for this woman in every corner of Istanbul and in the end they find this baby elephant like Armenian woman. Ibrahim falls in love with her straight away. But also he gives all revenues from Damascus to this woman..(what happened to that woman after he was taked down from the throne is unknown) . He even named her as ´sekerpare´


http://www.lezzetportali.com/wp-content/1168981302sekerpare.jpg  a picture of sekerpare :)


But another sultan  Osman III was completely opposite and he could not face any women..He got made special shoes with nails underneath and he would walk with those shoes so that when women heard the noise they would go into their rooms..


In one of the paragraphes, I mentioned about how ottomans created their ruling class with the institution of ´enderun´. Candidates for Enderun were selected as the best of bests. They were very clever and also most importantly they were all very very good looking boys..(they were christian devshirmes  and they would be taken to other palaces first but the most good looking and the clever ones were going to be sent to Topkapi palace. Normally, there would be 350 or 400 young boys, aged between 15 and 30 and they would live in less than 1,5 hectares all those years!!. The system of enderun established by sultan Mehmed II-the one captured Istanbul- and the entire purpose of it was to create people who are able govern the empire with utmost loyality to sultan.´ Meritocracy  with utmost loyalty´ perfectly suited at the time.)

Well, also during their education, these boys did not have much chance to see very many women.!! I am sure there are many stories around about their private lives but they would not make that much interesting stories. But sultans relations with some of these boys would:
Murat IV was madly in love with one of these boys who was called Musa -an armenian-, he would go crazy for him. Musa was not the only love in Murat IV´ private life, there was another boy whom was made ´silahtar pasa´ (silahtar pasha would carry sultan´s sword and weapons and was quite high in highrachy)
Same goes Mehmed IV as well..He was in love with a boy called Guloglu and he was made a pasha as well..


One of Enderun graduate was Kilic ali pasa who became kaptani derya (which was the highest ranked  chief commander of the navy in the Ottoman Empire). According to rumors he had a very very ´bed´ habit. He would sleep with a virgin almost every night. When he was quite elderly, he fell quite ill.. The doctors told him that ´you have to take these medicines and then you have to diet´. But when he realised the diet was nothing to do with the ´fried veggies and lamb´, he kicked the doctors out by saying ´my medicine is not what you advice, my medicine is what you are trying to ban´.
And he arranged a party around his bed at that night. A bit later, they took his corpse away from his bedroom!!


Anyway, Topkapi palace is just behind Hagia Sophia. :)

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