The first outer gate of the Palace we come to is called
the Bab-i Humayun, or Imperial Gate; it was built in
1459, 6 years after the Conquest.
After his victorious entry into the city, the young
Conqueror Mehmet II retired to rest in the Old Seraglio
of the time, which is today the University of Istanbul
at Beyazit, he did not move to Topkapi until some time
later, after the Palace had been properly fitted out.
Thus this gate, which goes back to the Conqueror's reign,
itself, comprises a separate building, with two domed
bedrooms at the sides, two storerooms, an entresol reached
by a staircase, three guard-rooms and two latrines.
This exterior section of the Sultan's residence was
called "Kapicilar Ocagi"; it was opened at
the time of the morning prayer and locked after the
In the interior at a point called "Kubbealti"
(Under the Dome) the state functionaries met every Tuesday,
the day set aside for deliberations. People having business
with one of the government departments, merchants and
traders and those with relatives serving inside the
Palace, had to announce their identity in advance and
explain the purpose of their visit.
This entrance gate into the Seraglio was the scene of
important happenings, some of them bloody, in Ottoman
History. Men of State, great personages of the Empire
were executed here, Governors of imperial Provinces
were hanged, the ringleaders of revolts had their severed
heads exposed on these outer walls.
Viziers, men of learning, and foreign ambassadors visiting
the Palace could pass through the gate either on foot
or on horseback, to arrive at the second entrance.
After crossing the Bab-i Humayun, we come to an open
space known as the First Courtyard of the Palace. At
the farther end of this we see the Second Gate, called
the Middle Gate, or Bab-us-Selam (Gate of Salutation).
PALACE ORTA KAPI [Middle Gate]
The great gate before us now is known as the Middle
Gate; it is the Gate of Salutation (Bab-us-Selam). It
is flanked on either side by a tower of planed stone.
The gate dates from Fatih (The Conqueror), the towers
belong to the period of Suleyman Magnificent; all three
underwent alterations after the Conquest of Hungary,
being then endowed with a Hungarian style.
In accordance with Palace regulations, persons entitled
to the use of horse or carriage were obliged to descend
from them at this threshold of the Bab-us-Selam and
proceed on foot. Only the sovereign had the right to
pass through the second gate on horseback.
Tourists also are required to abandon their vehicles
at this point, thus obeying a historic ordonnance! By
an amendment not foreseen in history the taking of photographs
is allowed and tickets for both tourist and camera are
obtainable at the ticket office.
to the Harem
of Ahmet III
of the Relics
The guards of this gate were under the orders of the
"Kapucubasi Aga" (Aga-in-chief of the gatekeepers),
which was one of the high posts of the Palace. This
chief of the gatekeepers was responsible for communicating
to those concerned the firmans (edicts) of the Imperial
Divan, on which account he was received by the Valis
(Governer - Generals of Provinces). Personages who had
been granted an audience waited to be received in the
room belonging to this Chief Gatekeeper of the Palace;
those unfortunate enough to have incurred the Sultan's
displeasure were tooted up in the cells below the towers,
emerging to follow their destiny, either prison, forgetfulness
in the bosom of their families, or the block placed
outside the gate near the Executioners' Fountain.
The alter ego of the Sultan, his supreme representative,
the Grand Vizier, arriving at this brilliant rank of
power and splendour, becoming after he had crossed on
foot the threshold of this second gate, the Lieutenant
of the Empire, could always be relegated to the lowest
rank at the lightest sign of the Sultan. Then he would
have to give back the Imperial Seal entrusted to him
in a little silk purse, and await the worst, without
any help in the world, his life at stake...
Let us make our way into the second courtyard of the
Palace, It was here that the janissaries received their
thrice-yearly pay and swallowed down their legendary
soup. Here on the two Bayrams, the "Saray Baklavasi"
(Palace Baklava) is distributed. The same spot witnessed
this rioting of the soldiery in revolt, the growling
and yelling of the mob.
In the Palace of Sultans, at present, there are sections
such as kiosks and residential apartments open for public
visits because of their value in architecture and furniture
as well as there are sections arranged as a museum with
cabinets in which valuable objects are exhibited.
However, in such a world of complicated buildings, it
will be necessary to make one or two expections in our
principle. For example, the entrance of the Harem happens
to be in the second courtyard not far from the Middle
Gate, but the exit in the third courtyard; therefore,
by keeping to the right, we shall arrive at the entrance
of the Harem towards the end of our visit to the Palace
and having visited Harem, we shall find ourselves once
more in the third courtyard and from therepass under
the Gate of Felicity once more and even through the
Opposite us can be seen the third and last of the interior
gates of the Palace. Beyond a wall on our right extend
the Palace kitchens, to the left we notice the building
known as "Kubbe Alti".