Poetic astronomy and the construction of new heavens
The challenge facing post-Copernican mathematicians and stargazers was not only to convince the world of letters of a new picture of the heavens but also to fashion this picture in the first place. The new astronomical picture of the world consisted of intangible motions, invisible forces and planets tracing non-existent paths through the vast and empty universe. In was in this context that “nothing” acquired a positive and constructive value. This required a new poetics to fathom and figure out such nothingnesses, turning them into coherent narratives of celestial phenomena. The new poetics was an essential component, thus, of new techniques of invisibility that encompassed new optical devices to pry beyond the limits of human sight and to capture objects that had never been seen before. In examining this interface between instruments, poetics and new astronomical knowledge, this paper will focus on specific cases in which natural philosophers and mathematicians poetically staged the concept of nothingness. These will include Johannes Kepler striving to represent the invisible celestial planetary paths; Kepler and Galileo Galilei poetically construing telescopic observations; and René Descartes imagining a universe comprised of invisible atoms. These examples will be corroborated by analyzing specific passages from William Shakespeare and John Donne where they introduce the concept of nothing, and shadowy appearances, to their poetry as active positive elements in a literary production. The paper will thus suggest a model of understanding the ways in which innovative poetics and novel mathematical procedures portrayed the heavens anew in the first half of the 17th century.
Astronomisch-kosmologisches Wissen in der Sangspruchdichtung: Zwischen Nigromantie und gelehrter meisterschaft
Aufgrund ihres prekären Status als Fahrende tendieren die mittelhochdeutschen Sangspruchdichter dazu, in besonderem Maße die Relevanz ihrer Lehre zu betonen und mittels verschiedener Strategien ihre spezifische Befähigung für diese Aufgabe der Wissensvermittlung hervorzuheben. Zum einen grenzen sie sich dafür dezidiert und oft polemisch von Konkurrenten ab. Zum anderen suchen sie an (zunehmend avanciertem) gelehrtem Wissen zu partizipieren, um ihre eigene Kompetenz – ihre meisterschaft – unter Beweis zu stellen.
Besonders schillernd stellt sich in diesem Kontext das Feld astronomisch-kosmologischen Wissens dar, auf welches die Sangspruchdichtung seit Mitte des 13. Jahrhunderts zugreift. Einerseits inszenieren die Autoren dieses Wissen als Ausweis größter Gelehrsamkeit. Ein besonders eindrucksvolles Beispiel dafür geben zwei Strophen des Kanzlers aus dem späten 13. Jahrhundert: Mit einer dichten Reihung astronomisch-kosmologischer Fragen, die außergewöhnlicherweise auch mit entsprechenden Fachbegriffen operieren, fordert er die Zuhörer auf, ihre Klugheit dadurch unter Beweis zu stellen, dass sie ihm Antwort zu geben vermöchten; zugleich nimmt er das Thema zum Anlass für poetologische Reflexionen. Andererseits wird astronomisches Wissen in der Sangspruchdichtung aber als höchst arkan stilisiert und der Versuch, tiefer einzudringen, als unrechtmäßiger Vorstoß in Gottes Geheimnisse verdammt. Ausführlich verhandelt dies etwa das ‚Rätselspiel‘ des sogenannten ‚Wartburgkrieges‘, wo die außergewöhnliche Klugheit Wolframs, der als sangspruchdichterische Identifikationsfigur gezeichnet ist, den Verdacht nigromantischer Umtriebe erweckt, derer er durch astronomische Prüfungsfragen überführt werden soll. Er jedoch beweist seine Unschuld durch ostentative Unwissenheit auf diesem Feld. Auf der Oberfläche aber verhandelt dieser Text – trotz seiner scheinbaren frommen Selbstbescheidung – dergestalt freilich dennoch astronomisches Wissen. Ähnlich gerieren sich zahlreiche Sangspruchstrophen, die in der Unbegreiflichkeit astronomischer Vorgänge Gottes Allmacht preisen, nicht ohne dabei aber verschiedene erstaunliche astronomische Sachverhalte aufzuzählen.
Beobachten lässt sich mithin eine wechselnde Funktionalisierung des astronomisch-kosmologischen Diskurses in der mittelhochdeutschen Sangspruchdichtung, die aufs Engste mit der zentralen Absicht der Dichter verbunden ist, die eigene meisterschaft unter Beweis zu stellen.
Of Comets, Celestial Spheres and Planetary Children.
Medieval Astronomical and Astrological Texts as Reflected in the Manuscript Tradition
Dr. Daniel Könitz
Extant German-language astronomical and astrological manuscript material emerges almost exclusively starting in the 14th century and takes on heterogeneous forms. Computational tableaus and astronomical diagrams predictive of celestial events such as solar and lunar eclipses, planetary conjunctions as well as brief notes concerning comet observation all fall under contemporary scientific expression. In addition, numerous astrological treatises are to be found about constellations, a multitude of varying ‘celestial spheres’ and the planets of the solar system as known at the time. In the case of the latter texts, astronomical descriptions are usually accompanied by extensive astrological expositions. Astronomy, Astrology and even Medicine often enter into close association, which impacts current reading and reception. The historical otherness and, from out of the present-day perspective, apparent erroneousness of the texts appear in a new light when the texts are referenced to their era and the view is focused toward contemporary production and reception.
Taking the manuscript tradition into account, two main starting points present themselves with which this conference presentation shall pursue engaging with medieval astronomical and astrological writings: 1) the examination of individual texts with regard to their variants and the differences between them, 2) the identification and analysis of designated tradition networks and textual communities. Even though tradition-based research (editions, text versions) in the field of astronomical-astrological literature is still in its infancy, the manuscripts already provide clear and considerable indications useful in taking the second investigatory approach. Such investigations would confirm the general impression regarding medieval German-language texts in so far that tradition networks are already observed in nearly all other genres and text types.
Astronomical (In)accuracy in Heinrich von Mügeln’s Der meide kranz
Der meide kranz (“The Garland of the Virgin”), a verse poem written in the middle of the fourteenth century by the Middle High German author Heinrich von Mügeln, is as much Mariological as it is encyclopedic, outlining the objects and jurisdictions of the various liberal arts and intellectual disciplines of the later Middle Ages, and ranking them for their priority over each other and for their appropriate service towards the Virgin Mary. This paper identifies and explores an apparent inaccuracy made in those sections of the poem dedicated to astronomy and astrology: the signs of the Zodiac are enumerated in full three times in the text, yet in two of these lists the signs are presented out of order. These variations of order, which even perplexed some medieval commentators, may in fact not be erroneous, but rather indicative of a disconnect between tropical astrology and observational astronomy. A close reading of Der meide kranz suggests the influence of the limited heliocentric system of the Late Antique author Martianus Capella, whereby Mercury and Venus orbit the Sun, which in turn orbits the Earth. By understanding these three celestial bodies as a single conceptual entity, a Sun complex, and by calculating and plotting the historical extreme positions of its constituent members, it is possible to replicate the superficially confused order of the signs of the Zodiac in the poem. Implications for the contemporary differentiation between astronomy and astrology, for medieval and modern expectations of scientific accuracy in medieval art, and for the overall interpretability of learned theological poetry will be brought to the forefront of the discussion.
Three Egyptian an Horoscopes in Florence
This talk gives insights in the story of a 1000 year old Arabic text on astrology transmitted in more than 100 Persian, Turkish, Latin and (Judeo-) Arabic manuscripts.
I investigate the social and literary history of Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos in the Arabic speaking world. The treatise was translated into Arabic in at least two different versions between the 7th and 9th century and spawned several commentaries, most of which were lost in time. However, a commentary by the Fatimid physician and astrologer ‘Alī Ibn Riḍwān’s (d. ca. 1061), Tafsīr al-Maqālāt al-arba’ fī l-qaḍāʾ bi-l-nujūm alʿā l-ḥawādith was studied, read and copied for many centuries and throughout cultural and linguistic boundaries. Apart from an accessible textual and interpretational guideline which serves likewise as a safeguard for a correct understanding of the ancient Greek text, Ibn Riḍwān gives three concrete examples for the interpretation of planetary constellations. He provides a detailed study of his own horoscope and the horoscopes of a young Egyptian boy and his mother.
These three examples for natal interpretations shall be the focus of my study. I examine the marginal annotations and textual variations of my corpus and want to know:
– what can reader’s annotations tell us about the reception of these three horoscopes in different cultures?
– was the text updated in time or adapted to other cultures on linguistic or technical levels?
– what do we know about the dissemination and prominence of the text in certain regions throughout the centuries?
Moonlight, quintessence, and Gabriel: The explanation and use of the lunar spots across fields of intellectual inquiry in Islam
Efforts to explain the nature of the lunar spots (or lunar maria) in the premodern Islamic literature were not limited to one field of intellectual inquiry. The issue, rather, falls at the intersection of six major fields: optics, natural philosophy, hayʾa (cosmology), kalām (Islamic philosophical theology), Tafsīr (Qurʾānic exegeses), and ḥadīth (Prophetic Tradition). Writing in each field, different scholars (or sometimes a single scholar), would come up with different hypotheses regarding the nature of the lunar spots. This paper traces these discussions from the tenth to the fourteenth century as presented in the works of Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen), Ibn Sīnā (Avicenna), Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī, and Quṭb al-Dīn al-Shīrāzī. I show how the paradigms of the field in which they were writing shaped their understanding of their research problem, affected their choice of criteria for classifying and sifting through the existing hypotheses, and influenced the conception of their own hypothesis. For instance, writing in the field of optics, Ibn al-Haytham considers the lunar spots to be a visually perceived scenery the quiddity of which can be successfully explained through the application of his theory of light to the observations of lunar color. Whereas, Avicenna, who brings up the issue in al-Samāʾ wa al-ʿālam of his al-Shifāʾ, sees the lunar spots as a challenge to the simplicity of the celestial bodies (a key principle in his celestial physics) that can be resolved through a physical hypothesis that explains their cause. Moreover, I show that the lunar spots were not always a phenomenon to be explained or a problem to be solved, but sometimes an intellectual tool used by the occasionalist theologians against philosophers.
Reading the stars in late Byzantium and the Balkans under the Ottoman Empire
George N. Vlahakis
Byzantium has been considered for many historians the Dark Ages of the East. This is a widespread thesis which during the last decades has been started to be modified as several scholars have shed light on the cultural and scientific production during this period. The last two centuries of Byzantium, known as the “Paleologan Renaissance” has been characterized by the flourish of philosophy and sciences, following naturally always the basic doctrines of the Greek Orthodox Christian dogmas.
After the fall of Constantinople and the establishment of the Ottoman administration in the Balkans Christians, having as a vehicle for communication the Greek language, the lingua franca of that period, continued to write, among others philosophical, scientific and religious texts as well as some works of poetry, based on popular stories and myths.
In this paper we aim to present and discuss how the Byzantine scholars, as well as the scholars who continued this tradition in the Balkans, after the occupation of the region by the Turks, have attempted to study the stars and the heavens.
For this reason we shall use as sources the texts devoted to Astronomy and Astrology, the religious texts and their interpretation of the astronomical phenomena and finally the references to astronomical phenomena in popular poetical books.
Mirari faciunt magis hec quam scire: Ways of (not) understanding the cosmos in Jean de Hauteville’s Architrenius
During the so called Renaissance of the 12th century mankind’s cosmic place was one of the most widely discussed aspects among theologists and poets of the ‘School of Chartres’, a loosely connected network named after the famous cathedral school. Their motivation was to reconcile Platonic cosmology with Christian creation theology – in short: to harmonize the Timaios with the Book of Genesis. As this task could not be exhaustively fullfilled in tractates and systematic works, literature provided a more experimental way to discuss the more contentious points of friction.
One of those literary works is Jean de Hauteville’s Architrenius (c. 1184), an allegorical poem about the Arch-mourner, a young man traveling the corrupted world on his search for Mother Nature, who from his point of view has neglected her increasingly depraved children. When he finally finds her and confronts her with his accusations and demands, she reacts in an astonishing way: Instead of making a statement, Nature explains the marvellous cosmic order to him – an explanation based mostly on Alfraganus, whose work at the time was state of the art in his field (see Wetherbee 1994, p. 265). As ROLING has pointed out, Mother Nature here aims for contemplatio coeli, a medieval concept based on the idea that understanding the harmony of the cosmic order leads to harmonizing one’s soul with one’s body (see Roling 2008). Her attempt of consolation fails for Architrenius does not have the intellectual capacity to understand her lecture in astronomy. But since she created him, she cannot blame him for this lack of understanding and finds another way to console him. What Jean explores ironically in his work (and what I would like to discuss in my talk) is the question of how to locate the cosmic place of non-philosophers like the Arch-mourner as disruptive factors for the Chartrian utopian ideas of ‘scientific’ consolation.
• Jean de Hauteville: Architrenius. Ed. by Winthrop Wetherbee. Cambridge 1994.
• Roling, Bernd: Das Moderancia-Konzept des Johannes de Hauvilla. Zur Grundlegung einer neuen Ethik laikaler Lebensbewältigung im 12. Jahrhundert. In: Frühmittelalterliche Studien 37 (2003), p. 167–258.
Nicholas of Cusa (Cusanus) and the mathematization of nature
As we know Koyré was reluctant to consider Cusanus as part of the scientific revolution that issued in our modern world one of the argument cited by Koyré is Cusanus’s denial of considering the mathematization of nature:
“… in deep opposition to the fundamental inspiration of the founders of modern science and the modern world‐view, who, rightly or wrongly, tried to assert the panarchy of mathematics, (Cusanus) denies the very possibility of the mathematical treatment of nature”.
Nevertheless, Koyré conisders the Cardinal Cusanus as “the thinker who is most often credited or blamed for the destruction of the medieval cosmos, which entails a destruction of Aristotelian physics”. That destruction, which in turn would seem to be a presupposition of post‐Copernican, post‐Galilean science, is provided by Cusanus’s transference of the hermetic metaphor of the infinite sphere, the sphere that has its center everywhere and its circumference nowhere, from God to the cosmos.
In this lecture we will reconsider and read some of Cusanus’s writings and experiences, and show that in some sense he, too, called for just such a mathematical treatment.
Astronomy for the public. The Warsaw parade of planets in Martin Gruneweg’s relation
The paper discusses a parade of planets which took place on 15th February 1580 in Warsaw and was described by Martin Gruneweg at the beginning of the 17th century. It was based on the iconography of the seven planets with zodiac signs – planetary houses. It was a kind of the city carnival processions, but also was related to the Renaissance triumphs. The spectacle was an entertainment for the both the townspeople and the royal courts of Stephen Báthory and his wife Anna Jagiellon. It was probably created thanks to the cooperation of these two circles. The authors used their astronomical or astrological knowledge, which was based on the geocentric model of the cosmos. They adapted this knowledge to the needs of a wide, medium-educated audience. Therefore, the parade can be seen as an example of natural studies reception in a possibly attractive performative form which was dedicated for the diverse public and was connected with the popular culture. The cosmology, astrology and mythology, as well as carnival ludic element, mix there. To some extent, the parade reflects the astronomical awareness of the Warsaw inhabitants – from the royal couple and magnates, through the townspeople to the commoners. What is more, astronomical meanings of the spectacle are filtered by the quite complicated worldview and mentality of the author of relation – a Lutheran merchant who travelled a lot and finally converted to the Catholicism and became a Dominican. He interpreted the procession in the context of Christian spirituality and bourgeois virtues.
Heavenly Theater. Writing about Astronomy and Astrology in Jean Bodin’s Démonomanie des Sorciers (1580)
In the fifth chapter of his Démonomanie des Sorciers (first published in French in 1580), the jurist and political philosopher Jean Bodin discusses the possibilities of exploring the future based on a theory of natural causes. Aside from everyday practices of observing signs (e.g. meteorology), a differentiation is presented between legitimate and illegitimate practices, especially with regards to astrology. Bodin cites astronomical authorities such as Firmicus Maternus, Ptolemy, Albumasar and Ibn Ezra, but usually not first-hand, he rather uses Pico della Mirandola’s Disputationes adversus astrologiam divinatricem and other works.While we can expect Bodin to possess a certain astronomical knowledge, his descriptions of conjunctions and constellations are not aimed at an expert readership.This is most striking in a paraphrase of God’s speech from the Book of Job, where he demonstrates the human limitations, and which deviates significantly from the biblical list of questions: Bodin expands the astronomical passage of his source, re-structures it and embellishes the descriptions. In the German translation by Johann Fischart (first published 1581),the section is enlarged again – Fischart presents, for example, no less than three synonymous terms for Ursa Major. The Hyades, which Bodin adds to the Vulgate text, are described by Fischart with recourse to weather signs as the Raegenlich Sibengestirn im Kopff des Stiers. Descriptions and transcriptions such as these occur throughout the chapter, which therefore not only offers insights in the assessment of astrological practices, but also demonstrates how astronomical knowledge is processed and functionalized for a lay audience. The paper presents some examples and discusses their significance for Bodin’s work.
In Ruins – in Dreams. (The End of) ›Heavenly Writing‹ in Jean Paul’s Speech of the Dead Christ down from the Universe That There Is No God (1796)
For most of the 18th century, the metaphor of ›legibility‹ was still very powerful in regard to the conceptualization of astronomical and cosmological knowledge. In this period, literature, poetics and astronomy influenced and legitimated each other in a lively and highly productive manner: While astronomical observation meant reading in the ›great book of nature‹ and deciphering the cosmic ›handwriting‹ of the Creator, cosmological knowledge was conceived in various literary forms such as dreams, didactic poems or popularizing dialogues.
In my lecture, I would like to present Jean Paul’s Speech of the Dead Christ down from the Universe That There Is No God, a short prosaic paratext to his novel Siebenkäs (1796), as a remarkable example for the dissolution of this literary-cosmological dispositif on the threshold to the 19th century: Therefore, I focus on the form of the ›dream‹ to expose how the epistemic change of the cosmic world view around 1800 went hand in hand with a re-functionalization of its forms of representation. While cosmic dream journeys were a popular means to imagine the Copernican cosmos in the early modern era, Jean Paul’s cosmic nightmare reveals the contingency, distance from God, and metaphysical emptiness of the cosmos: Referring to the latest celestial discoveries of his time (Herschel; Laplace) and in anticipation of Nietzsche’s and Freud’s later diagnoses the human subject here appears as being thrown back on itself.
Monuments, Hermeneutics, or Astronomy? China and the Invention of World History
In 1658, as the Jesuit missionary Martino Martini (1614-1661) was making his second journey to China, his “history of the great Empire,” Sinicae Historiae Decas Prima, was published in Munich. In this work, just a few pages after reassuring his European readers that “[o]ne can have full faith in Chinese chronology,” Martini claimed that through his erudite study of Chinese historical annals, which recorded ancient astronomical events, he became “convinced that this extreme part of Asia […] was populated before the Flood.” Martini’s work generated lively debate amongst European scholars of different disciplinary backgrounds over how one could best establish the credibility of foreign antiquities. Some, following the approaches of Athanasius Kircher, searched for ancient Chinese material “monuments”. Others attempted to figuratively interpret the Yijing, equating its contents to narratives from the Old Testament. However, the most popular way by which Jesuits attempted to convince other Europeans of the verity of events from distant Chinese antiquity was by using records of ancient Chinese astronomical observations as an ostensibly culture-independent marker of historical events. By examining these three different methods used between the mid-seventeenth and mid-eighteenth centuries to establish historical facts, and their interactions with one another, this paper re-evaluates what Alexander Statman has recently called the “first global turn” of history. It argues that the supposedly secular nature of Enlightenment world histories such as Voltaire’s Essai sur les moeurs (1756), which extolled the virtues of Chinese astronomical observations as credibility markers of the empire’s antiquity, was largely contingent on the outcome of this three-way controversy.
“Heavenly Patterns” and everyday life in a nutshell Astronomy in pre-modern Chinese handy encyclopedias
Complete books of myriad treasures 萬寶全書 were an encyclopaedic genre popular in China from the late Ming to the early Republican era (seventeenth to early twentieth century). They showcased particularly useful classified knowledge claimed to dispense the readers from having to seek help from others in all matters of daily concern. These texts, comparable to a backscratcher so-to-say, provided in their very first chapter illustrations, memorization verses and short texts on how to understand “heavenly patterns” 天文 and eventually influence them. These chapters covered a wide range of themes related to the sky: constellations, cosmogony, weather forecasting, celestial and meteorological phenomena interpreted as omens and other “heavenly patterns”.
In my contribution I will analyze how, through specific narrative and intertextual devices applied in these booklets, classical astronomical knowledge was reorganized in its relation to common patterns of heaven, earth, and man, thus integrating the readers into cosmic theories. Given the high popularity of the Complete Books over three and a half centuries, my diachronic analysis of the transformations of the contained body of astronomical knowledge will also shed light on the inclusion of (and resistance to) foreign knowledge brought to China during this time.
Lunar travels as an anti-colonial desire The Moon and the New World Discourse
This contribution aims to show how colonial and anti-colonial desire is always associated with (European) fictions of the moon. Moon and Mars are probably by far the most popular extra-terrestrial star bodies on which human fictions play out – and also the most popular fantasies of exobiology. Moon journeys have the claim to tell the unheard and never seen; in this sense they can be read „as the paradgima of all that is new“ (Aït-Touati 2011). Until the 20th century, moon fictions functioned as a counter-model to the genre of voyages of discovery and con-quest: in them, man is not the ruler of creation; on the contrary, he ranks far below within the cosmic taxonomy. On the moon, on does not discover aggressive barbarians or stummering in¬dians. Starting from Lucian, in the canonical and most influential texts in the history of the journey to the moon, the inhabitants of the moon appear as a kind of superhuman and over-men. By contrasting the New World Discourse and the (New World in) the Moon Discourse, the papers aims to examine this thesis by means of the texts of Francis Godwin (The Man in the Moone, 1638), Cyrano de Bergerac (L‘autre monde. Les états et empires de la lune, 1657) and the post-revolutionary pamphlet of Aratus (A Voyage to the Moon strongly recommended to all lovers of real freedom; 1793).
»AND THEY LOOKED LIKE A HUNDRED SUNS«: IMAGINATION OF THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL IN EARLY EUROPEAN ENLIGHTENMENT
In my paper, I will focus on the vivid discussion about possible analogies between the earth and other observational celestial bodies in early modern time. My inquiry will start with a short glimpse on Galilei’s telescopic observation of the moon’s uneven surface in Sidereus Nuncius (1610), an observation that marks the beginning of a long struggle between ecclesiastical astronomy (basically a fusion of Aristotelian and biblical cosmology) and early Copernican positions. Despite its marginalized position within the erudite networks of the time, the idea of inhabitable worlds other than the Earth, which became thinkable only by the new Copernican structure of the cosmos, soon triggered the imagination not only of the erudite followers of the so called new astronomy, but also of writers. Early modern science fiction soon became one of the main advocates for a multi-centred universe populated by a diversion of different semi-human species. From Kepler on, who in his Somnium (pub. 1634) invented the first extra-terrestrial inhabitants based on empirical knowledge and observational analogies, fiction became the preferred genre to elaborate ideas about a populated universe. Writers such a Francis Godwin in The Man in the Moon (1638), Savinien Cyrano in Les états et empires de la lune et du soleil (1657/1661) or a bit later Eberhard Christian Kindermann in Die Geschwinde Reise mit dem Lufft=Schiff nach der obern Welt (1744) focused on two causal relations: first, the causality between natural environment and specie, second, the analogy between mankind and its extra-terrestrial neighbours. Whereas nowadays the first sounds like a very early example of eco-criticism, the second contributed to the birth of the new discipline of comparative anthropology, on which I will centre my attention.
The anatomy of constellations: How textual descriptions in early modern star catalogues refer to body-parts of constellation figures
Early modern star catalogues were modelled on Ptolemy’s catalogue of stars found in books 7 and 8 of his Syntaxis. These catalogues, such as that of Tycho Brahe, Edmond Halley, Johannes Hevelius, or John Flamsteed, have received extensive attention from modern astronomers and historians of astronomy. This attention has been focussed almost exclusively on the data, i.e. the positions of stars given by the catalogues. On the other hand, the textual descriptions of the catalogue objects have been mostly ignored by the corresponding literature. And that is not surprising: these descriptions define their objects typically with respect to body-parts of imaginary constellation figures.
This paper explores this neglected aspect of classical star catalogues. First it briefly characterises the patterns of anatomical references in Ptolemy’s catalogue, in which 721 of the total 1028 object descriptions contain at least one anatomical reference (the descriptive term referring to a body-part). The basic statistics of the Ptolemaic original will be compared to corresponding results from early modern catalogues. Results include: the number of anatomical terms used, the proportion of anatomical descriptions per total number of descriptions, the number of multiple anatomical references within descriptions, the relative frequency of individual anatomical terms and the ‘popularity’ of certain body-parts for different authors.
The paper aims to show that, while significant variances can be seen in how different authors employ anatomical descriptions, these descriptions nevertheless remained an integral part of star catalogues and their conceptual context throughout early modern astronomy.
The “celestial script” conquered the earth and the southern sky
500 years ago European travellers and geographers started to conquer the rest of the seas and to explore foreign continents. They also had to conquer and study the foreign sky in order to navigate. By this procedure a 4000 years old tradition of non-European origin replaced the indigenous traditions of American, African, and Asian peoples in the name of European rulers.
At the latest in the middle of the third millennium BC the cuneiform cultures in the Near East started the tradition of looking into the sky and seeing constellations which resembled animals but also their own script. All these constellations were closely connected to the religion and to the oral and written stories of the people. By means of astronomy and astrology and literature this tradition was transported to the West via Greek and Arabic and Latin languages and was one of the foundations for the European seafarers to start to conquer the world. Navigational knowledge was needed (astronomy), religious support was important, and literature was the cultural and political basis.
They explored the southern hemisphere, the terrestrial one but also the celestial one. Finally they added names for southern constellations in the spirit of early modern European technology, transmitted the northern names of Mesopotamian origin to the South, and hence they nearly eradicated the original constellations of the peoples in the South.
In this talk a few astronomical observation reports of European travellers and geographers around 1500 will be described. And their navigational and cultural importance will be discussed.