Culture of the Ottoman Empire

From Academic Kids

Early on as the Ottoman Turks drove out the Byzantines from Anatolia and later pursued them into Europe, the pursuit was a part of the Jihad (or Holy War) against Christianity, and the first Ottoman rulers called themselves Gazi, or Holy Warriors. But, as the Ottomans moved further west and the assimilation of the Greek and Balkan cultures progressed, the Turkic leaders themselves absorbed some of the culture of the conquered peoples. The alien culture was gradually added to the Turks' own, creating the characteristic Ottoman culture. After the capture of Constantinople in 1453, most churches were left intact and only a few (including, notably, Hagia Sophia) were turned into mosques. The Ottoman court life in many aspects assembled ancient traditions of the Persian Shahs, but had many Greek and European influences.

The Ottomans had a high tolerance of alien cultures and religions: The men of the ruling Dynasty, the house of Osman, always married women with mixed heritage, Turkish, Greek, Arab, Russian, Serbian, thus themselves were mixed. For centuries, the Ottoman Empire was the refuge of the Jews of Europe.


The Harem

The Harem was a small world in itself, ruled by the Sultana (Empress/Queen). It was the administrative center of Empire. The Sultana was the mother of the current sultan (Walida Sultana). She also selected the concubines for her son. The concubines could live in or around the palace for their entire life, and it supported them with whatever they needed. Women not found suitable by the Sultana for the sultan were married of to eligible bachelors from the Ottoman nobility or sent back home. Female servants did all the chores such as serving food and making the beds. Male (sometimes Eunuch) white and black servants did the hard work such as shopping, guarding the palaces and maintaining the gardens, the braziers and candelabras.

Missing image
Dancing Köçek with a tambourine. Photograph, late 19th c. Private collection.

The Dancing Boys

Competing - successfully - with the women of the harem for the affection of the Ottoman noble were young males in various functions, chief among whom were the entertainers, known as köçeks. They traveled in troupes and were skilled in music, dancing, and erotic pleasures. The average troupe - named after its leader - would have about thirty dancers, though some had several hundred. When not on stage, köçeks would work in coffe-houses and taverns, where they would serve drinks, flirt, and be available for trysts with the clientele

They were highly sought by all nobles of all ranks, including the Sultan. Köçeks wore elegant and gaudy costumes, had long curly hair, and were immortalized in books discussing their qualities and ranking them by nationality, such as the Huban-nameh of Enderunlu Fazil.

The Ottoman Way

The culture that evolved around the court was known as the Ottoman Way. To get a high position in the empire, one must be skilled in the Way. It included knowing both Persian, Arabic and Ottoman Turkish and how to behave in court, in front of the sultan, and on formal and religious occations. The Ottoman Way also used to separate the nobles from the lower classes. Peasants and villagers were called Turks, while nobles were Ottomans. Sometimes though, people would get mad at other and this caused many disputes between the people.

Ottoman Calligraphy and Art

[to be written]

See Arabic calligraphy, Islamic art and external links to Ottoman calligraphy (, miniature painting (, textiles (, portrait painting ( and manuscript illumination ( from the Turkish Ministry of Culture.

Ottoman Poetry

[to be written]

See: Khaled El-Rouayheb. The Love of Boys in Arabic Poetry of the Early Ottoman Period, 1500 - 1800. Middle Eastern Literatures, January 2005, vol.8, no.1.

Ottoman Jewelry and Handicraft

[to be written]

Ottoman Architecture

[to be written]

See these examples of Ottoman Architecture:

See also:


Academic Kids Menu

  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools