Death Race: Ottoman Empire Edition

The Ottoman Empire employed an elite cadre of palace gardeners to carry out their executions, usually through strangulation. The condemned person would get a reprieve however, if they win a foot-race against their executor through the palace gardens. Seriously.

When very senior officials were sentenced to death, they would be dealt with by the bostancı basha in person, but—at least toward the end of the sultans’ rule—execution was not the inevitable result of a death sentence. Instead, the condemned man and the bostancı basha took part in what was surely one of the most peculiar customs known to history: a race held between the head gardener and his anticipated victim, the result of which was, quite literally, a matter of life or death for the trembling grand vizier or chief eunuch required to undertake it.

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