|mia carrying water at Bridgewood|
|mia digging in chains at Bridgewood|
|Modern day slaves of the Tuaregs in Niger|
|Brass manillas on the desk in my Study|
(Move your mouse pointer over the images to see full-size versions.)
When the Ottoman Turks captured Constantinople in 1453 they kept the name, and it only changed to "Istanbul" during the Turkish republic in the 1920s. The Ottoman Empire was built on slavery in many ways, not only because the bureaucracy and professional army were staffed by male slaves conscripted in the provinces, but also because the Sultans themselves were the sons of slave concubines kept in the Imperial Harem.
The "Avret (or Aurut) Bazaar" was the female slave market, which is the "Women's Market" in Turkish. It appears to have been within sight of the Nuruosmaniye Mosque, and is a real, identifiable place in modern day Istanbul. I've used some of my collection of slave market images to piece together some details about it.
One of the clearest images of the bazaar is in a series of engravings made by
Thomas Allom for "Constantinople and the Scenery of Seven Churches of Asia"
(1838) that includes descriptions by Dr Robert Walsh, who was chaplain to
the British embassy. The mosque with its two minaret towers is visible on
the right, along with the the buildings with balconies and overhanging upper
stories that surround the central courtyard.
A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to explore this area of
modern-day Istanbul myself, and took these three photos. The first shows the
left side of the Nuruosmaniye Mosque and is taken next to the Fortis Bank on
the corner of Tavuk Pazari Sk. and C. Nuruosmaniye Cd. The second picture,
showing the small square with trees, was taken at right angles to the first,
down another side of the bank (it's the same silver car in the
foreground in both.) This pretty much corresponds to the location implied by
the position of the minarets in the engravings, although it could be
somewhat closer or further away along the same line of sight. At the end of
the square is a cream wall with an arch, and this is one of the many entrances
to the Grand Bazaar. The third photo was taken just inside the arch and
shows how the covered bazaar was formed by roofing over many shopping
streets, with buildings having slightly overhanging upper storeys.
There are another couple of general views of the slave market. First,
William Allan painted a rather melodramatic version in 1838. Although again
showing the same identifiable place, it seems likely that Allan swapped the
orientation of the minarets to better balance the composition. Finally,
J.F. Lewis made an unfinished and possibly hurried sketch during his stay in
Constantinople in about 1840.
This shows the balconies surrounding the courtyard more closely, and they
appear to be arranged almost like cafes and were used for the sale of
the more expensive merchandise.
Some of the slaves were exhibited sitting on rugs on the ground, attended by the merchants as shown in these two coloured engravings by Preziosi. Others, of higher value, were sold in the rooms in the buildings surrounding the courtyard, as another of Allom's monochrome engravings shows. During this period the value and role of female slaves was often decided along racial lines, both in the Ottoman Empire and its former province of Egypt. Darker women from south of the Sahara were only employed as servants; less dark slaves from the east coast of Africa, including modern day Somalia, were valued as concubines; and white-skinned Circassian women from southern Russia were only affordable to the rich. Walsh's account expands on this racial division in Islamic domestic slavery of the period: "In the front are platforms raised four or five feet from the ground, and ascended by steps, forming a kind of colonade, and in the rear are latticed windows. In the one, blacks and slaves of an inferior kind are kept and disposed of; in the other those of a choicer quality, who are guarded with a more jealous vigilance, and secluded from the public eye."
The above pictures are part of my larger collection of slave market images, mostly 19th century paintings.