Lecture: Why did Piri Reis call Christopher Columbus a ‘munajjim’?


For history lovers, and in particular those interesting in naval exploration, the latest in Yunus Emre Institute’s Arts and Culture lecture series is a fascinating look at two of the early modern world’s leading navigators.

In his Book of Navigation (Kitāb-ı Bariye), Piri Reis, the famous sixteenth-century Ottoman cartographer and naval captain, introduced Christopher Columbus as a Genoese “munajjim” (astrologer). Reis’ respect for the Italian explorer came from his use of a legendary book that was said to have descended from the time of Alexander, comprising the secrets of the science of the sea.

Taking Piri Reis’ curious appellation as a stepping-stone, Dr. Tunc Sen will probe in this talk the social, cultural, and scientific order in the early modern Ottoman world. In doing so, he will provide ample evidence that challenges modern widespread assumptions about the practice of astrology and identity of astrologers in the Ottoman realm.

About Dr. Tunç Şen

Dr. Tunç Şen, Assistant Professor of Ottoman History & Culture

Tunç Şen is Assistant Professor of Ottoman History and Culture in the Institute for Area Studies (LIAS) at Leiden University, in the Netherlands. He received his PhD in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago.

Anchored in early modern Ottoman history, culture, and philology, his main areas of research and teaching include the history of knowledge, science, and the occult in late-medieval and early modern Islamicate world, practices of reading and writing in Islamic manuscript culture, and comparative political and religious history of the Turko-Persian polities in the post-Mongol era.

His published and forthcoming research includes studies on Ottoman dream narratives, cultivation of astrology and other divinatory practices in the early modern Ottoman world, social and cultural history of Ottoman learned class, and Ottoman book culture. 

Lecture details

Title: “Why did Piri Reis call Christopher Columbus a ‘munajjim’? Exploring the Cultural History of Astrology in the Early Modern Ottoman World” By Dr. A. Tunç Şen (Leiden University)

Date: Thursday 4th May 2017

Start time: 7pm

Venue address:  Yunus Emre Insitute, 10 Maple Street, London, W1T 5HA

Admission: Free, but prior registration required

Ticket registration: tuncsen.eventbrite.co.uk