Interactions between Science, Religion, and Literature
Edited By Luis Arturo Guichard, Juan Luis García Alonso and María Paz de Hoz
“When I scan the circling spirals of the stars, no longer do I touch earth with my feet”: Juan Luis García Alonso
JUAN LUIS GARCÍA ALONSO
“When I scan the circling spirals of the stars, no longer do I touch earth with my feet”
In the Greek Anthology there is an epigram (AP 9. 577), attributed to Claudius Ptolemaeus, or Ptolemy, which is the source for my title.1 MacKail2 calls it Species aeternitatis, and it is more accurately rendered as follows:
οἶδ’ ὅτι θνατὸς ἐγὼ καὶἐφάμερος: ἀλλ’ ὅταν ἄστρων
μαστεύω πυκινὰς ἀμφιδρόμους ἕλικας,
οὐκέτ’ ἐπιψαύω γαίης ποσίν, ἀλλα παρ’ αὐτῷ
Ζανὶ θεοτρεφέος πίμπλαμαι ἀμβροσίης. ← 233 | 234 →
“I know that I am mortal, and ephemeral; but when I scan the multitudinous circling spirals of the stars, no longer do I touch earth with my feet, but sit with Zeus himself, and take my fill of the ambrosial food of gods.”
I have been working on different aspects of Ptolemy’s works for a good number of years. However, it was only recently that I understood all the implications a brief poem like this, even when not certain about its true authorship, may have in relation to a suitable recognition and comprehension of what ancient science was, of what it meant, of what assumptions it was built on, of the consequences this new understanding may have in order to fully grasp the interaction between Greek Science and Greek Religion, and of the way it found an expression (if indeed it did) in contemporary Greek Literature.
If that really is Ptolemy’s voice speaking, or even if it is the voice of someone deliberately impersonating him, it...
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