Enderun Mektebi: The Palace School of the Ottoman Empire

During the Ottoman Empire madrasas (schools) were very common educational institutions. These madrasas were a continuation of the traditional Islamic madrasas, which were established to educate people on Islamic traditions. However, what many people do not know is the fact that there was something called the Enderun Mektebi, or the Palace School. And although the Enderun Mektebi was founded by Sultan Murad II in Istanbul, it was his son Mehmet II who extended and expanded the purpose and ideas of this special school. 

Originally, this shool was designated for the education of Ottoman princes and people with important political positions. Afterwards it was also used to educate future administrators of the Empire. They were trained in order to become military leaders or high administrators. 

The Enderun Mektebi was not like any other educational institution. This is not only because of the strict and complicated admission procedure. In fact, you could not apply for this school on your own. You had to be chosen by one of the scouts that were trained in the Empire’s European lands. Their task was to travel around the Empire and look for specific youngsters who fit into the desired profile description. This included an outstanding ability in school subjects, a great character and personality as well as a good physique. You also had to be between 10 and 20 years old and should not be an orphan or the only child in the family because of the important family values you are supposed to have. Moreover, there was something called the devşirme, a procedure where young Christian boys were first placed into a Muslim Turkish family in order to learn the Turkish language and customs and afterwards sent to the Palace School for education. 

The curriculum consisted of various subjects that can be divided into five main divisions. The first one is the Islamic science division. This included subjects like Arabic, Persian and Turkish language, Islamic theology, the Quran and hadith. Under the division of positive sciences, they got subjects like mathematics and geography. They also got art, calligraphy and music education. The fourth one was all about the customs of the Palace and government issues. Lastly, they were trained in horsemanship, fencing, weaponry and archery. These last two divisions made the big difference with usual madrasas.

Amongst all of the students the best were selected as the iç oğlan, pages or inner palace boys of the Sultan. They stay at the Palace school for two or seven years before graduating and being sent to one of the chambers of the Sultan. Graduating was also possible if you were able to advance yourself in science or government. If you fail to do so, you will be assigned to military. However, all students were able to speak, write and read three languages, had at least a craft, knew about the latest scientific developments and had great combat skills after finishing their studies at the Enderun Mektebi.

The end of the Enderun Mektebi came with the Ottoman countercoup in 1909.