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By Richard G. Hovannisian

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Despite his own criminality he took a poor if capricious view of public immorality and, according to Leake, had the ladies of a wellknown bawdy house drowned. 13 Was Leake too credulous, believing too readily what the Greeks, who hated Ali, told him? 14 With the withdrawal of Russia from the Ionian islands after the Treaty of Tilsit,Ali pinned his hopes of support on the English, whose own interest in securing possession of Corfu meant that he was largely left untroubled to secure his hold on most of mainland Greece along the west and south as far as the Gulf of Corinth.

This man of war and woes wore his ‘venerable face’, hiding ‘the deeds that lurk beneath, and stain him with disgrace’. 17 This was the court over which Ali ruled with pretensions to culture. 18 Ali appeared to be impressed by Byron’s title, no doubt emphasised by the British resident at his court who had made the arrangements. Byron made no complaint of his royal reception, which was generous and gracious. Ali received him standing, insisted on meeting all his expenses, greeted him like a son and remarked on his small ears, curling hair and little white hands, a sure mark, to Ali, of noble birth (and, Byron may have feared, homosexual predilection).

The seraglio was the inner quarter of any palace, where the most effective weapon of Ottoman control was forged. It was there that the Islamic virtue of submission was exercised with a secular thoroughness that was thoroughly oriental in its demand for total obedience and almost Japanese in its acceptance of sudden death. In 1533 the Venetian envoy Bernardo Navagero managed to learn enough of the four royal seraglios of Suleiman the Magnificent to report to his masters their true nature. They were simply the best schools there were, and the pupils were chosen by the child-catchers who roamed the Ottoman dominions selecting PON WHAT WAS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38  02_Ottomania_019-030 15/1/10 10:05 Page 20 OTTOMANIA children to be brought up there.

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