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three pairs of lovers with space



Sir Adolphus Slade (1804-77) was a linguistically-skilled Englishman who became an admiral in the Ottoman navy and eventually a vice-admiral in the British one, besides writing eight books, of which the first and best-known was Records of travels in Turkey, Greece, &c. and of a Cruise in the Black Sea, with the Capitan Pasha, in the years 1829, 1830, and 1831 (2 volumes, London, 1833). At the time of the travels described, he was on half-pay as a Lieutenant in the British Navy, which he had joined when he was eleven.


Chapter IV […] Khosrew Pasha

Describing those he met at Pera, across the Golden Horn from Constantinople:

It was Khosrew, the seraskier pasha (minister of war.) […] I afterwards had the advantage of knowing him well. He was an instance of the rapid change of fortune daily witnessed in the East. By birth a Georgian, Khosrew was purchased when a child in the market of that very city in which I then saw him the most influential person. His supple and jestful manners, in his quality of page, gained him the love of Selim III. He retained it in manhood, and after filling minor situations, attained the height of his ambition, the reward of a life of hypocrisy, by being invested with the pashalik of Egypt at the time of its evacuation by the French and English troops. [I 98-9]


Chapter VII […] Ghiaour

Describing his cruise as a guest aboard the Ottoman capitan-pasha Achmet Papuchi’s flag-ship, the Selimier in June 1829:

One day the pasha’s mignon[1], a spoilt, handsome boy, called me, in a pet, ghiaour[2]. I did not heed the word, coming from that quarter; [I 184]

Chapter VIII.  Character of Sultan Mahmoud
[…] Judicial Education

Mahmud II, late 1820s

Describing the reigning Ottoman sultan, Mahmud II, then (1829) aged 44, and reigning since 1808:

He is temperate as regards women, a reproach, however, rather than a merit, in a man who keeps a well-stocked harem. He is greatly influenced by the favourites of the day, who enjoy his intimacy in a degree unwitnessed in western courts since the reign of Henry III. of France.[3] [I 209]

Among the many reasons it is unrealistic to hope for reform of the corrupt judicial system:

Or, if there be a man in the empire — a modern Kuprogli[4] — qualified to undertake the task, is it likely that he will be found among the ministers of Mahmoud IL, who are, four-fifths of them, bought slaves from Circassia, or from Georgia,—whose recommendation was a pretty face, — whose chief merit, a prostitution to the worst of vices, — whose schedule of services, successful agency in forwarding their master’s treacherous schemes against his subjects? [I 231]

Chapter IX.
[…] A parallel of civilized and uncivilized states

On the sycophancy of the Smyrna Gazette, or Courier d’Orient towards the Ottoman government:

We have read in them panegyrics on the talents and ministerial qualities of Mustapha effendi, the sultan’s secretary and Ganymede, the most empty- headed coxcomb that ever rolled a turban or presented a chibouque. [I 274]

Chapter XIII
[…] Ball on board Blonde

Describing a ball on board the British ship HMS Blonde in 1829, attended by some of the top dignitaries of the Ottoman Empire:

There were also present the Sultan’s two favourites, the Selictar pasha, and the secretary, Mustapha Effendi, both comely men about thirty; the former by birth a Candiote Greek, the latter an Anatolian, who, when a boy was employed in a cafenéh at the village of Ghiok, on the Bosphorus. The sultan riding through the village one day, was struck with his physiognomy, and had him transplanted to the seraglio, where his supple and compliant manners completed the conquest which his beauty had begun. Both had great power over their master’s mind, and without their favour few places were long tenable. [474 …]

Khosrew (modern Turkish: Koca Hüsrev Mehmed) Pasha (1769-1855), a slave-boy who eventually rose to be Grand Vizier

An important personage on board was Halil Pasha; and an equally striking example of the fortune which often follows slavery in Turkey. By birth a Circassian, he was purchased in the slave-market of Constantinople by Khosrew Pasha, who, it is worthy of remark, was bought in the same market. Having no sons, he finished by adopting Halil as the “son of his soul”, a common practice in the East, and raised him to the highest offices of the state. [474 …]

Following a description of Halil’s superb good fortune:

This good fortune of his adopted son gladdened the seraskier, and he could not help speaking of it to a Frank[5] in a manner which develops a point in Eastern character. “It is wonderful,” said the old man; “at length Halil is going. God is great. I purchased him. Now behold him an eltchi. Ah! he was a sweet child, a charming boy; he cost me fifteen hundred piastres. “Only fifteen hundred!” replied the Frank; that was not dear for such merit; surely your excellency cost more?” “I,” said the seraskier, “that is quite another thing, truly;  I was worth more; I cost my master two thousand five hundred piastres.” This conversation shows what fallacious ideas people entertain of slavery in the East, where it is regarded with pride rather than shame; and it is an argument against the general assertion of anti-slavites, that slavery is everywhere disgraceful and inhuman. Here was seen one of the first men of the empire referring with pleasure to epochs which we might suppose he would wish to bury in oblivion. [I 476]

XVIII […] Adrianople […] Vizir

Describing how during his stay at Adrianople in early 1830, he was invited to a reception by the grand vizir, Redschid Pasha, then holding court there, and he and the guests were particularly honoured by the vizier having pipes brought to them:

With such an apparatus, presented by a youth à la Ganymede, you may imagine that you are inhaling the spirit of nectar, and, while in a kind of trance, watching the odorous vapour curling above your head, that the ceiling is studded with houris’ eyes. But this perfection can only be attained at the divan of a refined Osmanley. [II 84]

Chapter XX.  Of Constantinople (Stamboul)

On “Avret Bazar (Women Market)”, a slave-market in Constantinople, where Slade stayed 1829-30:

Males are sold in a different place – always young. Boys fetch a much higher price than girls, for evident reasons: in the East, unhappily, they are also subservient to pleasure, and when grown up are further useful in many ways; if clever, may arrive at high employments;[6] whereas women is only a toy with Orientals, and, like a toy, when discarded, useless. [II 121-122]

Grand Bazaar, Constantinople by Amedeo Preziosi

Chapter XXV. […] Enos […] Banquet

Describing a feast to which Slade was invited by the local bey at Enos (Turkish: Enez), a maritime Greek-inhabited town in the Ottoman eyalet of Adrianople, in June 1830:

Presently dancing boys came in, and began in a moderate manner to keep time with their attitudes. This would not suffice the yombokgri; he rose, fast inflaming, reeling joined the dance, and excited them to shew all their skill; but, it not being the intention of epicurean company to exhaust at once their means of entertainment, he was compelled to sit down and console himself with punch, while the boys continued in their own fashion to exhibit lascivious sleepy gestures. [II 197 …]

after much further feasting and drinking;

[…] our orgies were pushed to excess, and the scene, - what with the music, the songs and the dancing boys, became rather bedlamite. some of the guests tore off their upper garments – fire in their eyes, froth on their beards – joined the dancers, their turbans half-unrolled flying out as they reeled round the apartment, and but for the presence of the bey scandalous displays would have ensued. One grey-beard actually seized a handsome lad belonging to the cadi with felonious intent. The struggle was sharp between them, and the company stifled with laughter at beholding the grimaces of the drunken old satyr. The lad’s eye at length caught mine; - blushing till his very ears tingled, he broke away, letting the other fall on his face. Tranquillity followed this burst: [II 199]


Chapter XXVI […] Mount Athos

Adolphus Slade, later, as an Ottoman admiral

Describing how while staying in the village of “Cariez” (Karyes), the Turkish administrative centre for the Greek Orthodox monasteries of Mount Athos (then in the Ottoman eyalet of Salonica) in July 1830, Slade, accompanied by nine priors, waited on the Turkish waivode in charge and amused him with an account of social changes in Constantinople:

“Mashallah!” he exclaimed, “the world is coming to an end. What then brings you here?” he laughingly asked. “You will find nothing but monks and vegetables: I have been here six years, and have not seen a woman.” The priors looked at each other with becoming confusion, and a beautiful Albanian youth, in the room, smiled significantly. “You have a fine climate,” I observed, “to make amends.” “Yes, we have a good air, good water, and,” winking to the priors, “excellent wine;” to which I added my testimony. [II 217]


[1] Mignon, literally meaning in French “prettily small or delicate”, is here used in its special homosexual sense of boy favourite, which came into English from being the usual term for those of the French King Henry III (reigned 1574-89).

[2] Ghiaour was a Turkish word for infidel.

[3] Henry III’s favourites caused outrage in his reign (1574-89) because they were believed to be his lovers and because of their ostentatious dress and manners. For the fullest primary source on this, see the Mémoires-journaux of Pierre de l’Estoile.

[4] The family of Köprülü (modern Turkish spelling), furnished six Ottoman grand viziers between 1656 and 1711, before the Ottoman empire went into decline.

[5] Europeans had been known generically as Franks in the Near East since the time of the crusades.

[6] Four-fifths of the ministers of the present Sultan were purchased slaves. How many of the pashas who rule the provinces sprung from the same origin I cannot say, probably great numbers. the road to honour in the East is through a disgusting channel. [Author's footnote]




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