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Reading the Stars at the Ottoman Court: Bāyezīd II (r. 886/1481-918/1512) and his Celestial Interests

Sen, A. Tunc

This study seeks to determine the extent of the patronage of the science of the stars (ʿilm al-nuǧūm) at the court of the eighth Ottoman sultan Bāyezīd II (r. 886/1481- 918/1512). Throughout the medieval and early modern Islamicate world munaǧǧims (astronomer-astrologers) offered rulers their expertise in calculating heavenly configurations and interpreting them with a view to predicting future events; here the Ottoman polity is no exception. In the case of Bāyezīd II, however, the sheer number of munaǧǧims employed and texts and instruments commissioned by or dedicated to the sultan unequivocally singles him out and makes it possible to further argue that his deliberate attempt to personally study and cultivate the science of the stars was inextricably related to the broader political, ideological, and cultural agendas at the time. The first part of the article provides statistical evidence on the exceptional nature of Bāyezīd’s patronization of the science of the stars based upon a number of archival documents, taqwīms (annual almanac-prognostications) and related texts presented to the sultan. Here a number of key munaǧǧims active at his court will also be introduced. The second part focuses upon Bāyezīd’s own learned interests and intellectual aspirations, and examine the celestial inquiries of the sultan in light of a few curious archival reports, textual evidence from surviving manuscripts, and testimonies of his contemporaries

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December 7, 2017
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