Diwaniyya: Eunuchs in the Imperial Harem

The roles of the eunuch on a day-to-day basis included locking and unlocking the doors of the harem, keeping watch over those who entered and left, and ensuring that outsiders did not enter. Upon recruitment and initiation into the harem eunuchs were trained in a “school for eunuchs” where they were taught, “their practical duties, introduced to palace etiquette, and accustomed to the life of an eunuch.” The newly inducted eunuchs were at the bottom of the hierarchy; however, as one ascended the ranks of power they were unofficially given a large role in the Ottoman political system. Most notable is the influence of the African eunuchs whose rise to power beginning in the sixteenth century, and lasting well into the eighteenth is termed the “Sultanate of the African Eunuchs”. During this period over 70 Africans advanced to the status of Chief Black Eunuch. Due to the eunuch’s role as confidant to the master, which was generated through the innate trust which was placed in the eunuch, they exerted a lot of influence over the Empire which has been cited as playing a role in the decline and fall of the Empire. Yet, as close as the eunuch was to the master, it was highly unusual for a chief harem eunuch to hold that office until his death and as such would be removed from the center of political power.

 

via Diwaniyya: Eunuchs in the Imperial Harem.

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