three pairs of lovers with space

THE HISTORY OF THE SERRAIL, AND OF THE COURT OF THE GRAND SEIGNEUR, EMPEROUR OF THE TURKES BY MICHEL BAUDIER

 

Michel Baudier (ca. 1589-1645) was a French court historian and orientalist who took a special interest in Turkish history and wrote the Histoire générale du sérail et de la cour du grand Turc, published in Paris in 1626. It was translated into English by Edward Grimeston, “Serjant at Armes”, as The History of the Serrail, and of the Court of the Grand Seigneur, Emperour of the Turkes, published in London in 1635.

 

CHAP. X.

of the Grand Seigneurs loves.

Title page of the original French edition

That which we have formerly written of the entertainment of the Turkish Prince with his women, is not the most blameable of his affections. The greatnesse of his power, which makes all mens wils obey him, and the contagious example of his Courtiers, carries him to the detestable excesse of an unnaturall passion. Hee burnes many times for the love of men, and the youngest Boyes which are in the Levant, the flowre of beautie and the allurement of graces, are destinated to the filthinesse of his abominable pleasures. The Bashaes bring them from the remote Provinces, and present them unto him. This disorder is so inveterate in the Serrail, as of twenty Emperours which have carried the Turkish Scepter, you shall hardly find two that were free from this vice. Achmat the last which died,[1] abandoned it a little before his death, by the wise advice of his Mufti, and his Sonne Amurath the Fourth who raignes at this present 1626. is yet so young, as hee may be easily diverted from this excesse, and framed to virtue, eschewing the Rockes, where his Predecessours have suffered shipwracke.[2] What doth it availe such great and redoubted Monarchs to be the glorious vanquishers of so many Nations if they themselves be captives to vices. The Prince is the Physician of the State; but how can hee cure it if hee himself bee sicke. Hee is the heart; but what meanes is there to give it life, if it be troubled and darkened with passions? Every Prince that loves his Throne, his Scepter, and his Estate, must flie vice and cherish wisdom: For a wise Prince is the assurance of those, and the support of his people. [pp. 56-57]

 

CHAP. XIV.

Of the filthy and unnaturall lust of the Bassa’s[3] and of the great Men of the Court.

The great fortunes which are found in the Courts of great Monarches, produce great riches: and these furnish Courtiers with delights, in the which they glut their sensuall and brutish appetites. The Bassa’s of the Court, great in diginities and abounding in riches, plunge themselves in all sorts of voluptuousnesse, and their spirits mollified in the myre of filthy pleasures, they seeke them by a contrary course, and demand that of nature which she hath not: Being many times tired with the love of women, they abandon their affections to young Boyes, and desperatly follow the allurements of their beauties: They imbrace them, and use them in the place of women. This abhominable vice is so ordinary in the Turks Court, as yee shall hardly find one Bassa that is not miserably inclined unto it: It serves for an ordinary subject of entertainment among the greatest when they are together; they speake not but of the perfections of their Ganimedes:

Title page of the English translation

One sayes, they have brought me from Hungarie the most beautifull and accomplished Minion, that ever was borne among men: he is the height of my felicitie, and the only object that my thoughts adore. Another saith, I have lately bought a young Infant of Russia, who hath not his like in all the East, and I dare assure you his countenance is not humane, but that of an Angell: Some Sot of the company intreats him earnestly to have a fight, and that hee may bee satisfied by his eyes. These are the discourses of those lustfull Goats. The care they have to keepe neatly, and to attire richly these poore creatures, destinated to so damnable an use is not small: the Eunuches which have them in guard are alwayes neere them, to beautifie them outwardly, they plaite their haire with Gold, and sometimes with Pearles, they perfume them, they attire them in Robes of Cloth of Gold, and adde to their naturall beauty whatsoeuer Arte can invent: what vertue, what wisdome, what pietie can be found in a Court composed of such men? He that is the Head and commands them, doth furnish this pernicious example; for the Sultans Serrail is full of such Boyes, chosen out of the most beautifull of the East, and vowed to his vnnaturall pleasures: This doth countenance this disorder and corruption in the Othoman Court: Such as the Prince is, such are most commonly the Courtiers which follow him: the principall Maxime which they give for a precept to their fortune, is to follow the humours and manners of the Prince, whatsoever they be, yea, many times they incite the Prince to these disorders. The miseries and diasters which happen daily in Turkey, are too many to be coucht in this Historie. The great Men kill or poyson one another for such subjects, Families are in combustion, Wives make away their Husbands, and Husbands their Wives. Mahomet the second Emperour of the Turkes, was stabde in the thigh,[4] and if any misfortune seeme monstrous among them, this vice which is so monstrous doth produce it: Men well bred abhorre it, Heaven detests it: When it was borne upon the Earth, Idolatry was her sister Twinne. So being the aversion of Nature and the contempt of the Author thereof, Heaven doth punish it, and casts forth the fire of his wrath upon those which are polluted therewith; whole Townes have been consumed, men eternally lost, and the memory of the one and the other in execration upon the Earth. The Turkes doe not punish it; they alleage, as wee have observed in the History of their Religion, that God hath reserved the chastisement to himselfe, and they bring an example of a miserable wretch who had abused a young Boy which stab’d him. This Sodomite being thus slaine, Mahomet their Prophet sent his Kinsmen to open his Tombe, and see how many wounds he had; they came and saw no body, but found in the place a blacke and smoakie stocke. Hence they say, that seeing the divine Iustice doth punish those that are culpable of this offence, they must leave the execution to him, and in the meane time suffer this vnnaturall excesse to any. The Turkish Ladies detesting these damnable affections of their husbands, have also abandoned themselves by their example or for revenge, to another disorder: the following Chapter will shew it. For the husbands are many times the cause of the losse of their wives; and the contagious example of their vices, gives them occasion to ill, and to faile in their faith to him, who had first broken it. [pp. 162-164; the following chapter duly describes how sexually neglected Turkish wives seek out sex with other men and with women.]

Constantinopolis by Matthäus Merian, 1635

 

[1] Ahmed I, who reigned 1603-17.

[2] Murad IV was aged 13-14 in the year 1626, but by the date of this translation the author would have been sorely disappointed, since the young Sultan had by then already shown himself to be an unusually passionate lover of boys. See the Sultan’s own words quoted by Robert Dankoff, An Ottoman Mentality. The World of Evliya Çelebi (Leyden, Netherlands, 2006) 40.

[3] Bassa is the translator’s word for the more usual pasha, a high honourary title.

[4] The 19-year-old sultan Mehmed II the Conqueror was stabbed in the thigh in 1451 by the 13-year-old Transylvanian prince Radu the Beautiful when he tried to seduce him; Radu then changed his mind and accepted the sultan as his lover. See The Histories by Laonikos Chalkokondyles IX 82.

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