|Social structure of the
Ottoman court or the culture that evolved around the court of the Ottoman Empire was known as the "Ottoman Way". To get a high position in the empire, one must be skilled in the Way. It included both knowing Persian, Arabic and Ottoman Turkish and how to behave in court, in front of the sultan, and in formal and religious occasions. The Ottoman Way also used to separate the nobles from the lower classes. Peasants and villagers were called Turks, while nobles were called Ottomans.
The sultan was served by an army of pages and scholars. Twenty-five of these served in the kitchen and in the larder. Others served in the Treasury and the Armoury, maintaining the sultan's treasures and weapons. There was also a branch of servants that were said to serve the Chamber of Campaign, i.e. they accompanied the sultan and his court while on campaign. The best of the pages were chosen to serve the sultan in person. One was responsible for the sultan's clothing, one served him with drinks, one carried his weaponry, one helped him mount his horse, one was responsible for making his turban and a barber shaved the sultan every day. At the palace served also a great number of stewards who carried food, water and wood throughout the palace and lit the fireplaces and braziers. Doorkeepers (Kapıcı) numbered several hundreds and were responsible for opening the doors throughout the entire palace. The chief doorkeeper was responsible for escorting important guests to the sultan. A number of lackeys (Çikadar) served as messengers in the palace and the city and from one of these were the Imperial Herald (Divan Çavısı, literally "sergeant of the divan") who was a man entrusted by the sultan to various tasks, among others to inform people who would take part in meetings of the Divan.
The Harem was under the administration of the eunuchs, of which there were two categories, Black and White Eunuchs. Black Eunuchs were Africans who served the concubines and officials in the Harem and together with chamber maidens of low rank. The White Eunuchs were Europeans from the Balkans. They served the recruits at the Palace School (see below) and were from 1582 prohibited from entering the Harem. An important figure in the Ottoman court was the Chief Black Eunuch (Kızlar Ağası or Harem Ağası). In control of the Harem and a perfect net of spies in the Black Eunuchs, the Chief Eunuch was involved in almost every palace intrigue and could thereby gain power over either the sultan or one of his viziers, ministers or other court officials.
The Harem was a small world in itself. Often the mother of the current sultan (Valide Sultan) was a politically influential person. 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 for the sultan were married off 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 and palaces.