Tillo: The Wisdom That Catches The Sun

The exinoxs that takes place every 23 September and 21 March, reminds the astronomic setup in Tillo, the land of the high spirits.

Aydınlar is a district of Siirt in Southeast Anatolia… “Tillo”, the renowed ancient name of Aydınlar, means “high place / high souls” in the Semitic languages. Since 2000 BC, Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Arabic and Turkish civilizations have all left their marks on this land. Additionally, best views of the Botan River can be enjoyed in Tillo, which is also famous for its oxygen rich hills for paragliding, grapes, pistachios, traditional architecture and hospitality. Even though many towns in Anatolia have similar qualities and beauties of their own, Tillo transcends them. I mention this place where I spent summer holidays in my childhood, alternating between Tillo’s hot, sunny streets, which were my playground, and the peaceful shade of Tillo’s historical stone buildings. Another compelling reason is the science of astronomy that flourished here during 17th and 18th Centuries. The fact that the September equinox approaches also gives me the opportunity to recount the astronomical tale of Tillo, a place where I grew up with the words of the famous philosopher and scientist İsmail Fakirullah, my great grandfather from 10 generations earlier who said, saying “If understood, far becomes close; if not understood, close becomes far.”

The protagonists of the tale are two important names: Ismail Fakirullah and his best student Erzurumlu İbrahim Hakkı. The subject of the tale is a threepart mechanism that creates a astronomical wonder throough the play of light. The time of the tale is the equinox that happens every 23 September, when the duration of day and night are equalized. Towards the end of  the 17th and the beginning of  the 18th Century, İsmail Fakirrullah established a university in Tillo which conducted important research into both theology and positive sciences. The reason why I call this establishment a university rather than a madrasa (Muslim thelogical school) is the fact that, beyond theology, this school had a multi-disciplinary curriculum of astronomy, chemistry, cosmography, medicine and mathematics. Ibrahim Hakkı, who studied astronomy with his mentor Ismail Fakirrullah, created important works in this field which he assembled in four volume book called “Marifetname”. The sultan of the period, Mahmut I invited him to the palace, where he was given the opportunity to study the books in the palace library.

A BEAM OF LIGHT FOR LOYALTY
Ibrahim Hakkı, as a successful astronomer,  decided to repay his respect and loyalty to his mentor  Ismail Fakirullah by creating an optical mechanism and memorial. First he built an 8 cornered 10 meter high tower with a glass prism on top, near the mausoleum, which he had also built for the eternal sleep of his mentor. The third component of this mechanism was an unmortared, piled stone wall with a 40x50 cm window in it, placed atop the hill where the sun rises, 4 kilometers from the tower.

After the mechanism was constructed, Ibrahim Hakkı was ready to prove his genius. The delicate calculations of his long and hard work paid off: On 23 September, on the equinox, the first beams of light captured from the sun rising behind the hill penetrate the window on the wall and reach the prism on the top of the tower as a block, which the prism then refracts and shines of the grave of Ibrahim Hakkı’s mentor.  Hakkı’s light show of respect also repeats itself on the second equinox of the year, on 21 March.


Ibrahim Hakkı calculated the longitudes and latitudes by taking Tillo as ground zero.
He built a globe with slightly flattened poles, showing that the Earth’s shape is not round but geoidic.
He located constellations with his self-built celestial sphere model.
Ibrahim Hakkı also conducted research into subjects like the structure of the atom, gravity, as well as the Earth’s atmosphere and hydrosphere.
Scientific tools like ‘astrolabe’ (an antiquated compass), sextants, ‘rubu wood’ (a quadrant-shaped tool to measure distance, height and angles of the stars from Earth) that İbrahim Hakkı used in his astronomical research are exhibited in the Tillo Museum.