MÜNECCİMBAŞILIK (CHIEF ASTRONOMERSHIP) IN THE OTTOMAN STATE
In this article, the rise of "müneccimbaşılık" (chief astronomership) in the pre-Ottoman period, its tranmission to the Ottomans and its development as an institution in the Ottoman State are examined.
Though we do not have enough reliable sources and information about the origins of the chief astronomership, its history can be traced back to the Abbasid times. It is known that in the Abbasid period, there were many astronomers in the court, but there was not an institutionalized structure. In the Ilkhanid period, during which "ilm-i niicum" reached its peak and many world famous astronomers were brought up such as Ulugh Beg, astronomy was given special importance in the court and some people having the title of "müneccim" (astronomer) were entrusted for the determination of "cülus" (accession to the throne) and battle times. But inspite of all this historical background, it was during the Seljukid period that "müneccimlik" (astronomership) achieved a more systematic structure and a position closer to its place in the Ottoman State. Seljukid sultans, like their Ottoman counterparts, took the astronomers and astrologers to war with them and gave them the task of preparing calenders. The question of ?? origin of astronomership in the Ottoman State " can be solved by the consideration of this historical truth. Likewise, the main structure in the Seljukids was passed to the Ottoman State.
It is not very easy to fix a date when chief astronomership first appeared ii the Ottomans; but the first calenders prepared by astronomers belong to the period of Sultan Murad the Second (1404-1451). It's also known that Mehmed the Conqueror (1430-1481) consulted the astronomers about the favorable date for the siege of Istanbul. Astronomers were highly respected and appreciated by all Ottoman sultans after this time.
Though it had a definite structure in the pre-Ottoman period, chief astronomership gained institutional status in the Ottoman times. The staff of this institution included "müneccimbaşı" (chief astronomer), "müneccim-i sani" (second astronomer), müneccim-i salis (third astronomer) and the "müneccimbaşı katipleri" (clerks of the chief astronomer).
Chief astronomers were chosen from among scholars qualified in astronomy and belonged to the "ilmiye" class. So their appointments and diss-missals were made just like the other officers', within the court. "Müneccim-i sani"s, who were also chosen from among the "ilmiye" class, helped the chief astronomer and they participated in the preparation of calenders. We know that there was also a title of "müneccim-i salis".
Astronomers, like other officials of the court, had incomes such as "arpalık" (a kind of fief), "cülus bahşişi" (tip given on the occasion of Sultan's accession to the throne), "atiyye" (bounty granted by the Sultan) and they also received an income from the horoscopes and calenders they submitted to the sovereigns. Since astronomers belonged to the "ilmiye" class, they were liable to the rules of this class about dressing but wore special costumes in ceremonies or when they were admitted to the Sultan's presence.
The duties of the chief astronomer included the preparation of calenders, fasting time tables and horoscopes. Besides these, there were various institutions working under the supervision of the chief astronomer. The "muvakkithane"s (ti-mekepper's offices) that worked on time keeping and the "Mekteb-i Fenn-i Nü- cum" (School of Astronomy) established by Hüseyin Hüsni Efendi (d. 1840) were among them. The Observatory of Istanbul, established in 1577, worked under the directorship of its founder Takiyüddin Rasıd who was the chief astronomer from 1571 onwards.
The institution of chief astronomership was abolished in 1924 with the foundation of the Turkish Republic, and its activities were carried on by the newly established "başmuvakkıtlık" (chief time-keepership) which functioned until 1952.