Ancient Greek Astronomy

Griechische Astronomie

What is the sense of human life? he (Anaxagoras) was asked; “to look at the sky, the stars, the moon, the sun,” was his response.
Protrepticus 51,11 = Aristotle, Protrepticus Fr. 11 Ross, and Eudemian Ethics 1216a11 = DK 59 A 30.
To what purpose should I trouble myself in searching out the secrets of the stars, having death or slavery continually before my eyes? Anaximenes, to Pythagoras
... And whereas it has also come to the knowledge of the said Congregation that the Pythagorean doctrine -- which is false and altogether opposed to the Holy Scripture -- of the motion of the Earth and the immobility of the Sun, which is also taught by Nicolaus Copernicus in De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium, and by Diego de Zuñiga On Job, is now being spread abroad and accepted by many... Therefore, in order that this opinion may not insinuate itself any further to the prejudice of Catholic truth, the Holy Congregation has decreed that the said Nicolaus Copernicus, De Revolutionibus Orbium, and Diego de Zuñiga, On Job, be suspended until they are corrected. From the decree of the Roman Catholic Congregation of the Index condemning "De Revolutionibus", March 5, 1616
Babylonian astronomy was quite advanced after centuries of astronomical observations before the Greeks applied for the first time mathematical models and especially geometry. Who had first an idea of a heliocentric model is not known. In a Sumerian image one can see in the sky something that looks like the sun surrounded by planets. But there are no written comments to my knowledge that support this. Is the central object the sun or a so-called central fire that Pythagoras and his students considered in their cosmological model. It could be possible that Pythagoras had these ideas from his visits in Egypt and other countries. Anaxagoras idea about the sun was considered as a crime and in this way he was treated by the ancient Greeks like the Christians later treated Galilei. Aristarchus developed a heliocentric model but this was not accepted by others because parallax measurements did not support the model. Only in 1836 it was possible to measure the parallax. The influence of the Greek astronomy was very important. Greeks knew that the Earth is round, some even developed a heliocentric model, the dimensions and distances of the Earth and planets have been measured with the best accuracy that is possible without advanced instruments that were available only later than 1600 AD. Democritus believed that the Milky way is a collection of distant starts and that extraterrestrials exist. There is even some evidence that ancient Greeks knew Newtons inverse square gravity law (or is it more correct to say that Newton knew the ideas of Hipparchus and others?) It is not true that the Greeks believed that the world is small. Democritus, Epicurus, and Metrodorus of Chios among others believed that the world is infinite large and that extraterrestrial life is a consequence of this possible.
The planet Uranus was discovered in 1781, by William Herschel. a musician who had become both the director of the orchestra at the celebrated spa, Bath, and a first class astronomer. His fame was crowned by the discovery of a new planet, named Uranus after Urania, the muse of astronomy and geometry.

Anaximander's Cosmos

Archytas “proof” of an infinite Universe , Galaxies and Extraterrestrial life: Democritus, Epicurus and others

Aristotle and Astronomy (The Prime Mover), Physics and Metaphysics

The Total Solar Eclipse Described by Plutarch , The Fractal Cosmos of Anaxagoras (In Preparation)

The Farnese Atlas and the globe with Constellations

The Precession of the Earth, Hipparchus, Newton and connections with the Argonauts: a Letter from Voltaire

Epicurus: Letter to Pythocles , Ancient Greeks and Craters on the Moon

Astrology originally from Mesopotamia (probably since the 3rd BC millenium) was developed further in the Hellenistic period, especially in Alexandria (Tetrabiblos of Ptolemy). Hellenistic astrology was transmitted to Europe and China indirectly by the Arabs and also to India (even if China and India had a much older astrology prehistory). Astrology was combined with medicine or with chemistry forming the pseudosciences of “iatromathematics” and “alchemy”. Even if it contradicted Christian religion astrology was teached in various Universities (Bologna, Florence, Paris...) and only in the 18th century the scientific community had turned away from astrology.

Stephen R. Wilk, Futher mythological evidence for ancient knowledge of variable starts

Timeline of Greek Astronomy

Astronomy Links

Ptolemy Constellations (Information from Wikipedia)

Andromeda - Aquarius - Aquila - Ara - Argo Navis - Aries - Auriga - Boötes - Cancer - Canis Major - Canis Minor - Capricornus - Cassiopeia - Centaurus - Cepheus - Cetus - Corona Australis - Corona Borealis - Corvus - Crater - Cygnus - Delphinus - Draco - Equuleus - Eridanus - Gemini - Hercules - Hydra - Leo - Lepus - Libra - Lupus - Lyra - Ophiuchus - Orion - Pegasus - Perseus - Pisces - Piscis Austrinus - Sagitta - Sagittarius - Scorpius - Serpens - Taurus - Triangulum - Ursa Major - Ursa Minor - Virgo

Anaximander and the Origins of Greek Cosmology

Greek Astronomy , Heath, Dover Publications, Incorporated, 1991 reprint (from 1932 original)

Knowing when to consult the oracle at Delphi See also this Link


Suda On Line: Byzantine Lexicography