Ottoman Lives

Ottoman Lives

The Ottoman Empire lasted for six hundred years and dominated the Middle East and Europe, from Budapest to Baghdad and everything in between. The sultans ruled three continents. But they didn't do it on their own. This podcast looks at the cast of characters who made the empire run: the sultan, the queen mother, the peasant, the janissary, the harem eunuch, the holy man, and the outlaw.


June 12, 2019 48 sec
A few announcements about the series before we begin.
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In this first episode we look at the person of the Janissary, who was part of the most elite fighting force in late medieval Europe and personal bodyguard to the Ottoman Sultan. They were technically slaves to the sultan who born as Christians, taken from their homes at early ages, converted to Islam, and went on to incredible military careers by conquering much of Southeast Europe and eventually Constantinople itself in 1453. Lear...
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June 17, 2019 44 min
The office of the sultan changed dramatically over the six centuries of the Ottoman Empire. The first sultan, Osman, was a medieval nomadic chieftain whose domains existed on the edge of the Byzantine Empire. He and his party accumulated wealth through plundering raids. The 10th sultan, Suleyman, was an emperor in every sense of the word and conquered much of Central Europe in the sixteenth century. The final powerful sultan, Abdul...
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June 17, 2019 24 min
Peasants made up 90% of the population of the Ottoman Empire, but to the sultan and his court, they were little more than a flock of livestock. In fact, the exact same word was used to describe a subject of the sultan and a group of sheep or cattle. Learn about the hard lives of peasants, who lived at the mercy of destroying natural disasters, bandit attacks, and invading armies.
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June 17, 2019 24 min
A eunuch who served in the Ottoman Imperial Harem in was typically born in Ethiopia, captured by a slave trader, castrated, and sold in Egyptian slave markets, then shipped to Istanbul's imperial palace. As such, eunuchs occupied positions of considerable power. At their peak there may have been as many as 800 court eunuchs organized in a hierarchical, well-defined structure. Eunuchs who served the sultan favorably, plus those...
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June 17, 2019 41 min
To foreign observers the most exotic aspect of the Ottoman Empire was always the harem. Novelists let their imaginations run wild about what the Sultan did in the concealed parts of his palace with his four wives and dozens of concubines. But historical studies have shown us that the harem wasn't the ancient version of the Playboy Mansion. Rather, it was the cadet training school for future wives of Ottoman dignitaries and sult...
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June 17, 2019 29 min
The Ottoman Empire hosted dozens of ethnic groups and religious groups, meaning you could find any sort of religious leader you wanted: whether an imam, rabbi, priest, or pastor. But in an empire where the line between politics and religion was porous, religious leaders often became revolutionaries and ideological figureheads. Learn in this episode how Ottoman holy men were sometimes a thorn in the government's side and other t...
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June 17, 2019 26 min
The Ottoman Empire was a great place to be a criminal. Were you a veteran who couldn't find gainful employment? No problem! Plenty of bandit networks were willing to hire you and they offered great pay in the form of plundering opportunities. There was little the central government could do to stop you, especially if you escaped to the mountainous Balkan regions. In fact, some bandit networks were so powerful (especially those ...
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