The black eunuchs of the Ottoman Empire

A eunuch of the Ottoman sultan. Photograph by Pascal Sebah, 1870s. 28/10/2016 (Hurriyet – Turkey): There are few more exotic subjects than the eunuchs of the Ottoman Empire. But despite being key centers of power for over three centuries, Ottoman court eunuchs remain something of an enigma. “The Black Eunuchs of the Ottoman Empire” by University of Northern Colorado professor George Junne is pioneering work that casts light on a fascinating but shady subject. It includes plenty of stomach-churning descriptions of the castration process, but also addresses broader issues of slavery, Ottoman power dynamics and cultural inheritance. Reading about this strange world of black and white eunuchs, court mutes, dwarf eunuchs, and dwarf concubine mutes is also a good reminder of what a bizarrely different world it was at the heart of Istanbul until just 100 years ago.



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