Interactions between Science, Religion, and Literature
Edited By Luis Arturo Guichard, Juan Luis García Alonso and María Paz de Hoz
Mechanics and Imagination in Ancient Greek Astronomy: Sphairopoiïa as Image and Tool: James Evans
Mechanics and Imagination in Ancient Greek Astronomy: Sphairopoiїa as Image and Tool
In our age, in which knowledge of the natural world is fragmented into dozens of sciences and thousands of subspecialties, no one science commands a special place.1 But in Hellenistic and imperial Alexandria this was not the case: astronomy really did occupy a commanding position, because of its links to mathematics, philosophy, literature, and traditional religion, as well as its ability to provide subject matter and inspiration for the arts. Astronomy could even offer practical applications in time-telling, in medicine, and in astrology. Moreover, astronomical and astrological symbolism was sometimes used to convey political messages. Particularly blatant examples of this begin with the reign of Augustus, but already around 230 BC, Queen Berenike II put two six-rayed stars and a cornucopia on the reverses of her coins to remind the people of Egypt of her links to the celestial realm, as well as of their dependence upon her for their material welfare.2 And then we come to the peculiarly Greek art of sphairopoiїa (“sphere-making”), the construction of models of the heaven and its parts. Sphairopoiїa included the making of celestial globes and armillary spheres that could be used as simple displays or as teaching tools. But this art also included the construction of more elaborate machines whose motions ← 35 | 36 → could replicate the daily revolution of the celestial sphere, or even the more complex motions of the Sun, Moon...
You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.
This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.
Do you have any questions? Contact us.Or login to access all content.