Harem Ghosts: What One Cemetery Can Tell Us About the Ottoman Empire

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“Since 1840 countless visitors to Turkey’s metropolis have passed this beautiful building and its garden graveyard without, it seems to me, realizing the gems of architecture and culture that await discovery within its dignified walls. Now, over a century and a half after the tomb arose on the heights above the Golden Horn, we have a guide that unlocks the secrets it holds.” —H.I.H. Prince Osman Selaheddin Osmanoğlu

In vivid and engaging style, Douglas Brookes uses the royal tomb of Sultan Mahmud II as a window onto the past, exploring the insights the tomb reveals about Ottoman culture in its splendid last decades. Woven into the tale are the life stories of the Turkish royals and harem concubines interred in the mausoleum, and the illustrious Ottomans buried in the tomb’s garden: the statesmen, admirals, generals, and palace eunuchs who ran the Ottoman Empire, but also the musicians, artists, and poets who shaped its cultural life. The first in-depth study of Istanbul’s most prestigious burial ground, Harem Ghosts leads the reader through the enchanting site that began as the tomb for one monarch but evolved into the national pantheon of the Ottoman Empire— “the Ottoman Westminster Abbey”—at the heart of the city.

Douglas Scott Brookes teaches Ottoman Turkish at the University of California, Berkeley. His other books include The Concubine, the Princess, and the Teacher: Voices from the Ottoman Harem. Ali Ziyrek, Museum Researcher at the Istanbul Directorate of Tombs, is the author of The Sultan Ahmed Mosque.






1. The Mahmud Quandary

2. More Than a Tomb

     Water and Piety

     Catafalques and Palls

     Furnishing a Tomb

     In Foreigners’ Eyes

     Pride of the City

3. The Cemetery as Window

     The Consummate Sepulchre

     The Path to the Tomb

     Deciphering Ottoman Tombstones

     Gates of Rhyme

     The Ottoman Career Ladder

     Harem Living

4. The Dynasty in the Tomb


     Imperial Concubines

5. From Garden to Graveyard .

     Meet the Ottomans


     Artists and Artisans

     Cabinet Ministers and Grand Viziers

     Generals, Admirals, and Governors

     National Heroes

     Palace Staff and Courtiers

     Parliamentary Deputies and Senators


     Royalty and Nobles

     Scholars and Religious Figures





Markus Wiener Publishers
Princeton, NJ
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