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The Alexandrian Tradition

Interactions between Science, Religion, and Literature

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Edited By Luis Arturo Guichard, Juan Luis García Alonso and María Paz de Hoz

This book is the outcome of the conference «Imperial Alexandria: Interactions between Science, Religion and Literature», held at Salamanca University in October 2011. The conference convened a group of experts from different fields to address the interrelationship between Science, Religion and Literature in the Graeco-Roman world during the Imperial Period, and especially in Alexandria, situating it within the context of the long tradition of knowledge that had been consolidating itself in this city, above all during the Hellenistic era. The encounter’s main aim was to create a forum for interdisciplinary reflection on «the Alexandrian model» of knowledge in the Imperial Period and its background, being attended by philologists and historians specialising in different types of texts (literary, scientific and religious), whose study requires an interdisciplinary approach, with priority being given to the notion of contact and the relationship between these subjects in order to gain a better understanding of the spirit, way of thinking and moral values of a particularly important era in the development of ancient culture.
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Mechanics and Imagination in Ancient Greek Astronomy: Sphairopoiïa as Image and Tool: James Evans

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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...

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