Κυριακή, 22 Απριλίου 2012

Greek Archaeoastronomy Overview

Astronomy was not only a major field of systematic study and thought in ancient Greece but the works of such great astronomers of the time as Eudoxus of Cnidus (408-355 BC), Aristarchus of Samos (310-230 BC), Eratosthenes (275-194 BC), Hipparchus of Rhodes (190-120 BC), Poseidonius (135-50 BC) and Claudius Ptolemeus (100-178 AD) laid the foundation for this all-important present-day scientific discipline and whose works and accomplishments are documented elsewhere on this site (see tagged names above). The destruction of the Academy of Athens in 526 BC and the great library at Alexandria in 47 BC were instrumental in depriving humanity of the great works in science, philosophy and culture conceived and nurtured during the time of Ancient Greece, for it is believed that only 5% of the various works have survived these two great fires. Nevertheless, this miniscule sample not only provides a glimpse into the ingenuity of Ancient Greece but ironically begs the question as to how much human progress was retarded and set back and for how many centuries as a result of many concepts and discoveries having to be reinvented, reanalyzed and/or recreated by consequent generations. Alternatively, how far more advanced would we be today had those works survived and allowed to form the foundation for science, philosophy and culture for the ensuing centuries and the great minds thereof!

Of course, all of this is now academic and neither time nor events can now be turned back. Nevertheless, a brief and cursory examination of the thoughts and analysis of a sample of the Ancient Greek astronomers from 400 BC to 200 AD adequately reveals and illustrates their incessant efforts and attempts to approach the analysis and description of the cosmos using a combination of logic, deduction, observation and counter-argument using, at best, very rudimentary instruments. For example, Eudoxus (408-355 BC) is best known for his ingenious geocentric homeocentric sphere system. However, he is also recognized for systematically having recorded the location of the stars in the sky and mapped the constellations; for developing the theory of planetary motion; was the first to measure the size of the moon and sun and their distance from earth; proposed a calendar system so as to account and be in synchrony with the moon and its phases; identified the stars which are and are not circumpolar; developed a star catalog; and defined the equator (0° N or S) as well as the Tropics of Cancer (23.5° N) and Capricorn (23.5° S).

Five hundered years later and Ptolemeus (100-178 AD), perhaps the greatest of all ancient astronomers, Greek or otherwise, Many of the greatest minds from the time of ancient Greece have been honoured with the naming of one or more lunar features after them

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