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

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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.Cette étude vise à apprécier l’étendue du mécénat sur la science des étoiles (ʿilmal-nuǧūm) à la cour du huitième sultan ottoman Bāyezīd II (r. 886/1481-918/1512). Dans tout le monde islamique médiéval et prémoderne, les munaǧǧims (astronomes-astrologues) offrirent aux gouvernants leur expertise pour calculer les configurations célestes et les interpréter en vue de prédire les événements futurs. De ce point de vue, la politique ottomane ne fait pas exception. Cependant, dans le cas de Bāyezīd II, le nombre incroyable de munaǧǧims employés, de textes et d’instruments commandés par ou dédicacé pour le sultan le distinguent clairement et permettent d’avancer que sa tentative délibérée d’étudier personnellement et de cultiver la science des étoiles était inextricablement liée à un programme politique, idéologique et culturel plus large à l’époque. La première partie de l’article donne les preuves statistiques de la nature exceptionnelle du mécénat de Bāyezīd sur la science des étoiles en s’appuyant sur un certain nombre de documents d’archives, de taqwīms (almanachs-prognostics annuels) et de textes apparentés présentés au sultan. Un certain nombre de munaǧǧims importants actifs à sa cour y seront également présentés. La deuxième partie se concentre sur les propres intérêts savants et les aspirations intellectuelles de Bāyezīd et examine les aspirations célestes du sultan à la lumière de quelques curieux rapports d’archives, de preuves textuelles provenant de manuscrits et de témoignages de ses contemporains.This article is in English.

Affiliations: 1: Columbia University


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