38 CONSTANTINOPLE AND ITS ENVIRONS;
no manumission unless the captives embrace Islamism, and then they become free as
of right, and can be no more sold. The strictness of this exclusion, however, is now
relaxed, and Franks are admitted to see, but not to purchase.
The first impression made upon a stranger is the cheerfulness and hilarity of the
inmates of this prison. He enters with his mind full of the horrors of slavery: he expects
to see tender females dragged from their families, the ties of nature torn asunder, and the
helpless victims overwhelmed with grief—sad, and weeping, and sunk in despondency.
He sees no such thing: they are singularly cheerful and gay, use every means to attract his
attention, and, in their various dialects, invite him to purchase them.* The circumstances
of their early life, and the state into which they are about to enter, account for this. The
condition of slavery in Turkey is generally to them an amelioriation. A regular traffic is
carried on, and parents in Circassia and Georgia educate their most comely daughters,
not less that they should profit by the sale, than that the children should profit by being
sold. They impress upon their minds the splendid fortune that awaits them at Stamboul;
and when the annual traders arrive at Anaka, or other ports of the Euxine, for white
slaves, the girl leaves without regret the home where she is taught to feel no ties of
family affection, and embarks with a light heart and joyous anticipations of the happy
prospect before her. Nor are her bright hopes disappointed: the state of slavery in
which she is found, and the traffic by which she is bought, do not degrade her in the eye
of the Turk who purchases her; she is transferred to the harem of some vizir or pasha,
where she may become its mistress, invested with all the consequence and dignity of his
favourite wife; the splendid destiny of those that are periodically purchased for the
imperial seraglio is quite dazzling—any one of them may become the arbitress of empires,
and the mother of sultans. t Yet this bright prospect is clouded by dismal forebodings.
When the reigning monarch dies, his whole female establishment purchased here, is
removed to the eski serai, or old palace, where five hundred of the most youthful and
lovely females in the universe are condemned to a state of perpetual celibacy and seclusion. A still more terrible fate sometimes attends them. On vain pretexts they are
sacrificed to the caprice or suspicion of the successor to the throne; and hundreds at
once, in the prime of life and splendour of beauty, are consigned to a watery grave.
The merchants who purchase slaves are usually Jews. When a female of great
beauty is not accomplished in the arts of pleasing, the Jew undertakes her instruction.
She is taught, by competent masters, music, dancing, and other personal attractions—the
cultivation of the mind is never thought of. When her value is thus enhanced by her
acquirements, the most extravagant price is exacted and given. The usual purchase of
a young white slave is 6000 piastres, or about £100: for a black, merely intended
for the domestic drudgery which a Turkish woman will not submit to, 1200 piastres,
* To this the Greek girls form an exception. Refined by education, strongly attached to their
families, and abhorrent to slavery, their natural vivacity is overcome by their state, and they appear
sad and dejected amid the levity that surrounds them.