A Spectacle of Interpersonal Association
In fact, the Tower of Justice also served as an internal device of the ruling institution as well as its external symbol. Its latticed window had been specifically constructed to provide a view of the core mediating segment of the palace complex, the middle court. From the seclusion of his residential quarters, the sovereign was able to mount the Tower of Justice, position himself before this latticed window, and observe an extraordinary scene of "ceremonies and spectacles" consisting of "praises and eulogies." Down below in the middle court, he could observe thousands of loyal officials who had assembled to show themselves to their sovereign, greeting and honoring him as they did so. In all probability, Cafer had these occasions in mind when he composed his verses describing the palace. He had sought to capture the wonder of a novel architectural structure by which personal oversight of normative performances had been translated into a world imperium.
In the early years of his reign, before the palace complex was completely finished, Mehmet II had not always mounted the Tower of Justice to view the assemblies down below. He had regularly joined his officials and troops in the middle court, appearing before them and hosting a meal. Necipoğlu, relying on the description of a Genoese merchant, gives the following account of these gatherings, which occurred early each day at the break of dawn:
The derivative and evolutionary character of the palace complex has once again come into view. Once upon a time, the sovereign had been more routinely present at the assembly of his officials, not only as they dispensed justice, but also as they congregated as a sovereign association. The windowed overlooks of the palace complex therefore appear as architectural replacements of the once-present sovereign.
On these occasions the courtyard was filled with eight thousand officials wearing "vests of brocade and silk of every color and type." The sultan appeared in glory under a magnificent portico (lobia) in front of the gate that led to the residential court. The ceremony lasted for a quarter of an hour, during which time servants offered food to the sultan on a gold tray and to those assembled on silver and copper trays, according to their rank. At the end of this banquet, at which not a word was spoken, the courtiers loudly acclaimed their ruler, extolling, praising, and glorifying his name. . . . Ambassadors were made to watch this ceremony of imperial glorification, after which they were conducted . . . to the sultan's seat. After bowing and kissing his hand, they were made to sit . . . until he rose to return to his private quarters. As soon as he stood he was again loudly acclaimed by the soldiers; then he sat and rose a second time to hear another acclamation, before entering his private apartment. After the soldiers left, the dignitaries of the [Council Hall] ate. Only then did [they] listen to the cases presented, which they subsequently reported to the sultan inside the private courtyard.
At a certain moment, it would seem, Mehmet II had chosen to absent himself from his officials, substituting his participation in a sovereign association with the device of a windowed overlook. The intention of carrying out such a replacement can therefore be more or less precisely dated to Mehmet II's decision to build a new palace. It did not immediately follow the conquest of the Byzantine capital. Mehmet II had first built another palace complex in Istanbul, later to be known as the "old palace" (eski saray). It was only after he had decided to launch an imperial project some years later that he undertook to build what would become formally known as the New Imperial Palace (sarây-ıı cedîd-i 'âmire).