How concubines were selected for the harem of the Turkish SultanBy Pictolic https://pictolic.com/en/article/how-concubines-were-selected-for-the-harem-of-the-turkish-sultan
For the first time the concept of "harem" appeared in the Ottoman Empire in the 13th century. So they began to call the part of the sultan's palace, fenced off from the rest of its territory, where the wives and concubines of the ruler lived. The female part was carefully guarded both inside and outside. It is not for nothing that "harem" means "forbidden place" in Arabic. With the sultan's wives, everything is clear, but how did concubines get into the "golden cage"? By what principle were the girls selected for the monarch?
Depending on the circumstances and the desire of the owner, from several dozen to several hundred women could live in the sultan's harem. Some got there at the age of 5, sold by their parents. These were not always families with a difficult financial situation. Often the daughters were given to the harem by quite prosperous people. They hoped that their daughter would eventually become the sultan's chosen one and signed documents on the rejection of their child.
There was no particular type of girl suitable as a concubine. Everything depended on the owner of the harem. Some sultans liked short brunettes, others preferred tall blondes in the body, and still others generally gravitated to beauties similar to young men. But most importantly, the girl had to remain in the taste of the owner. Therefore, the concubines were "kept in shape" so that they would meet the sultan's expectations. They could be kept on a diet or, conversely, fed the most high-calorie food.
The girls had to be well-groomed and neat. But the mind and upbringing played a much greater role. Therefore, the new inhabitants of the harem were taught sciences and manners. The rules of conduct were set out in verses to make them easier to read and assimilate. Without a thorough knowledge of these rhyming instructions, it was impossible to win the sultan's favor.
The residents of the harem studied literacy and mathematics, playing musical instruments, singing, versification and even playing chess. The more versatile the concubine was, the easier it was for her to attract the attention of the ruler. Special attention was paid to the art of seduction. Part of it was the science of applying makeup, hiding flaws and emphasizing virtues.
The girls had to be in good physical shape, so they were forced to swim in the pool. And they were also required to be economical and efficient. The concubine had to be able to brew and serve tea to the sultan and his guests, and then maintain a conversation if necessary.
All concubines had to profess Islam — this is one of the basic rules. Girls of other faiths, getting into the harem, immediately became Muslim. The study of the Koran was one of the most important duties of such converts.
There are many examples when concubines, thanks to their talents and cunning, achieved more power than the sultan's wives. There were also those who themselves became beloved wives and gave birth to an heir to the throne for their master.