ČĀŠNĪGĪR, literally “taster” (Pers. čāšnī “taste”), the official who at the court of Turkish dynasties in Iran and elsewhere, from the Saljuq period onwards, had the responsibility of tasting the ruler’s food and drink in order to ensure that it was not poisoned.
Under the Saljuqs, the čāšnīgīr was one of the great court officials, together with the ṭāstdār or ābdār, the bearer of the ewer, concerned with personal service to the sultan, and he was usually one of the leading Turkish amirs. The office was possibly connected with that of the ḵᵛān-sālār, overseer of the preparation of food, although Neẓām-al-Molk’s Sīāsat-nāma (chap. 18, ed. Darke1, p. 152, tr. idem, p. 122) differentiates between the čāšnīgīr and the ḵᵛān-sālār. The latter, indeed, must have been concerned also with the procurement of victuals, since it was the oppressiveness of the Saljuq Sultan Sanjar’s ḵᵛān-sālār, charged with extracting 24,000 sheep per annum for the court’s consumption from the Oghuz of the upper Oxus region, which in 548/1153 helped to spark off the Turkmen revolt against the Saljuq ruler (Rāvandī, Rāḥat al-ṣodūr, ed. M. Iqbál, London, 1921 , p. 177).
The čāšnīgīr continued to be a prominent figure at the courts of the post-Saljuq Turkish and Turco-Mongol dynasties, including those of the Ayyubids, the Saljuqs of Rūm, the Anatolian beys, the Il-khanids,(where the office seems to overlap the Mongol institution of the bokāvol, see Barthold, Turkestan3, p. 382, and G. Doerfer, Türkische und mongolische Elemente im Neupersischen II: Türkische Elemente im Neupersischen, Wiesbaden, 1965, pp. 2301-07, no. 755) and the Āq Qoyunlū (see Ī. H. Uzunçaṛşılı, Osmanlı devleti teşkilâtına medhal, Istanbul, 1941, pp. 35, 39, 85, 88, 147, 202, 245, 293, 352, 362-63). He was a leading official under the Mamluks of Egypt and Syria and was often an amir of a thousand, i.e., the classic definition of the jāšnakīr in Qalqašandī, Ṣobḥ al-aʿšā, Cairo, 1331-40/1913-22, V, p. 460). The early Mamluk sultan al-Malek al-Moʿezz Aybak (648-55/1250-57) had been čāšnīgīr to Najm-al-Dīn Ayyūb (E. Quatremère, Histoire des sultans mamlouks par Makrizi, Paris, 1837-45, I, p. 2 n. 4). The function continued under the Ottomans, but at a lower level, and as late as 1153/1740 a grand vizier is mentioned as having a food-taster, čāšnīgīr, in his retinue (Uzunçaṛşılı, Osmanlı devletinin merkez ve bahriye teşkilâtı, Ankara, 1948, p. 170).
Bibliography: Given in the text.
(C. Edmund Bosworth)
Originally Published: December 15, 1990
Last Updated: December 15, 1990
This article is available in print.
Vol.V, Fasc. 1, pp. 47-48