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By Caglar Keyder

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He could not quite make out where, if to anyone other than himself, Ali’s loyalties lay. He owed the effectiveness of his control of the Epirus round Yannina to the restraint he imposed on his followers; he could be as rapacious as he liked but their greed was to be  02_Ottomania_019-030 15/1/10 10:05 Page 27 THE SULTAN IN HIS SERAGLIO moderated. He did not hesitate to cultivate the Orthodox hierarchy as his allies in extorting cash and supplies from the Christian faithful. Despite his pretence to be a Greek among the Greeks, he had a very Turkish view of the nation.

She in her turn was the head of a household of as many as 300 women: wives, domestic servants and concubines. Later there was to be the creole beauty Aimée Dubucq de Rivéry, a cousin of Napoleon’s first wife, Joséphine de Beauharnais, who was captured by Algerian corsairs and donated by the Bey as a diplomatic sweetener to the Sultan, Abdul Hamid I. Widely believed to be the mother of his successor Mahmud II (hammer of the Janissaries and would-be moderniser of that same empire from 1808 to 1839), Aimée was said to have influenced Ottoman policy in favour of France, despite Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt.

The Entertainments might cast a genial light on the world of faery but the eastern world had long been seen as the home of necromancy and magic, through which the spirits of the demonic world, over which presided the satanic figure of Eblis, could be evoked. There was scarcely an oriental tale that did not figure a sorcerer, or a djinn, or a slave with a magic talisman. 1 (Byron, Don Juan)  this popular image of the Sultan in his seraglio based? The canny Venetians, who sent sharp-eyed men to represent their interests at the court of the Grand Signor, had known better for two centuries, and much of the information upon which the West had constructed its image of the Ottomans came from them.

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