A eunuch who served in the Ottoman Imperial Harem in was typically born in Ethiopia, captured by a slave trader, castrated, and sold in Egyptian slave markets, then shipped to Istanbul's imperial palace. As such, eunuchs occupied positions of considerable power. At their peak there may have been as many as 800 court eunuchs organized in a hierarchical, well-defined structure. Eunuchs who served the sultan favorably, plus those who learned Turkish and who converted to Islam, could progress in the system. A few would procure appointment to administrative posts within the empire. This was the paradox in place: African eunuchs in the Ottoman Empire were slaves and could often be the objects of contempt and ridicule, but some could amass amazing influence.