Devshirme in the Ottoman Palace School

Devshirme in the Ottoman Palace School
Enderun pyramid

The primary objective of the Palace School was to train the ablest children for leadership positions, either as military leaders or as high administrators to serve the Empire.[1] Although there are many resemblances between Enderun and other palace schools of the previous civilizations, such as those of the Abbasids, and Seljuks [2] or the contemporary European palace schools, Enderun was unique with respect to the background of the student body and its meritocratic system. Ethnicity or race was irrelevant in the strict draft phase (devshirmeh), as students were selected from the multicultural population of the Empire.

Those entrusted to find these children were scouts who were specially trained people throughout the Empire's European lands. Scouts were recruiting youngsters according to their talent and ability with school subjects, in addition to their personality, character, and physical perfection. The Enderun candidates were not supposed to be orphans, or the only child in their family (to ensure the candidates had strong family values); they must not have already learned to speak Turkish or a craft/trade. The ideal age of a recruit was between 10 and 20 years of age.[3] Mehmed Refiq Bey mentioned that youth with a bodily defect, no matter how slight, was never admitted into palace service (as cited in [4]), because Turks believed that a strong soul and a good mind could be found only in a perfect body.[5] The brightest youths who fit into the general guidelines and had a strong primary education were then given to selected Muslim families across Anatolia to complete the enculturation process.[6][7][8] They would later attend schools across Anatolia to complete their training for six to seven years in order to qualify as ordinary military officers.[9] They would get the highest salaries amongst the administrators of the empire, and very well respected in public.[10] Armagan,[11] defined the system as a pyramid which was designed to select the elite of the elite, the ablest and most physically perfect. Only a very few would reach the Palace school. More than three hundred years later, in 1789, Thomas Jefferson, the future president of the United States, proposed a similar system of identifying the most capable and educating them to their highest potential in his "A Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge".[12]


  1. ^ Basgoz, I. & Wilson, H. E. (1989). The educational tradition of the Ottoman Empire and the development of the Turkish educational system of the republican era. Turkish Review 3(16), 15.
  2. ^ Van Duinkerken, W. (1998). Educational reform in the tanzimat era (1839–1876): Secular reforms in tanzimat (Unpublished masters thesis, McGiIl University). Retrieved from =0&dvs=1248070802480~852
  3. ^ Taskin, U. (2008). Klasik donem Osmanli egitim kurumlari - Ottoman educational fundations in classical terms. Uluslararasi Sosyal Arastirmalar Dergisi - The Journal of International Social Research 1, 343–366.
  4. ^ Miller, B. (1973). The palace school of Muhammad the Conqueror (Reprint ed.). NY: Arno Press.
  5. ^ Ipsirli, M. (1995). Enderun. In Diyanet Islam ansiklopedisi (Vol. XI, pp. 185–187). Istanbul, Turkey: Turkiye Diyanet Vakfi.
  6. ^ Horniker, A. N. (1944). The Corps of the Janizaries. Military Affairs 8(3), 177–04.
  7. ^ Miller, B. (1973). The palace school of Muhammad the Conqueror (Reprint ed.). NY: Arno Press.
  8. ^ Ipsirli, M. (1995). Enderun. In Diyanet Islam ansiklopedisi (Vol. XI, pp. 185–187). Istanbul, Turkey: Turkiye Diyanet Vakfi.
  9. ^ Ilgurel, M. (1988). Acemi Oglani. In Diyanet Islam ansiklopedisi (Vol. I, pp. 324–25). Istanbul, Turkey: Turkiye Diyanet Vakfi.
  10. ^ Akarsu, F. (n.d.) “Enderun: Ustun yetenekliler icin saray okulu”. Retrieved from
  11. ^ Armagan, A. (2006). Osmanlı’da ustün yetenekliler fabrikası: Enderun Mektebi. Yeni Dünya Dergisi 10, 32.
  12. ^ Jefferson, Thomas (1779). A Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge. Retrieved from

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