Astronomies and Cultures in Early Medieval Europe

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Overview

Historians have long recognized that the rebirth of science in twelfth-century Europe flowed from a search for ancient scientific texts. But this search presupposes knowledge and interest; we seek only what we know to be valuable. The emergence of scholarly interest after centuries of apparent stagnation seems paradoxical. This book resolves that seeming contradiction by describing four active traditions of early medieval astronomy: one divided the year by observing the Sun; another computed the date of Easter Full Moon; the third determined the time for monastic prayers by watching the course of the stars; and the fourth, the classical tradition of geometrical astronomy, provided a framework for the cosmos. Most of these astronomies were practical; they sustained the communities in which they flourished and reflected and reinforced the values of those communities. These astronomical traditions motivated the search for ancient learning that led to the Scientific Renaissance of the twelfth century.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"McCluskey gives an interesting and informative survey...this is an interesting volume, and a work of considerable expertise." R.N. Swanson, International Journal of the Classical Tradition

"This book presents strong theses, clearly explained and defended. Its view of astronomy (or 'astronomies') in early medieval Europe stakes out a large and previously ill-defined topic for interpretation and exposition. It invites and will surely receive responses with alternate interpretations—clear proof of its value." Bruce Eastwood, Isis

"...well-written....[Astronomies and Cultures in Early Medieval Europe] will be the standard treatment of European astronomy before the coming of Aristotle and Ptolemy for the foreseeable future." American Historical Review

"This book presents strong theses, clearly explained and defended. Its view of astronomy (or 'astronomies') in early medieval Europe stakes out a large and previously ill-defined topic for interpretation and exposition. It invites and will surely receive responses with alternate interpretations—clear proof of its value." Bruce Eastwood, Isis

"...well-written....[Astronomies and Cultures in Early Medieval Europe] will be the standard treatment of European astronomy before the coming of Aristotle and Ptolemy for the foreseeable future." American Historical Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521583619
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 1/13/1998
  • Pages: 252
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Table of Contents

List of figures
List of abbreviations
Preface
1 Astronomies in cultures 3
Times and calendars 4
2 The heritage of astronomical practice 11
Prehistoric solar horizon calendars 11
Classical horizon systems 14
The stellar calendars of antiquity 15
Geometrical astronomy 17
Ptolemaic astronomy 20
The decline of observational calendars 24
Christianity and the Julian calendar 25
3 Astronomy and Christian thought 29
The scriptural background 30
Scriptural commentaries 31
Astrology and astral religion 38
4 Continuity and change in solar ritual 51
Calendar and ritual in Celtic Gaul 54
Christening the solar calendar 60
The context of solar rituals 69
5 Computing the central time - the date of Easter 77
Astronomical principles of Easter cycles 80
The early history of Easter computus 84
The Irish Paschal controversy 87
The Paschal controversy in England 92
6 Observing the celestial order - monastic timekeeping 97
Monastic prayer and astronomy 99
The celestial order 101
The astronomy of De cursu stellarum 104
Monastic timekeeping after De cursu 110
7 Astronomy in the liberal arts 114
Late Roman learning 117
Antique learning in Ostrogothic Italy 122
Astronomy in the Visigothic court 123
8 The fusion of astronomical traditions 131
Astronomy and court culture 140
The reemergence of astrology 145
Teaching computus 149
The revival of the liberal arts 157
9 The encounter of Arabic and Latin astronomies 165
Practical astronomies at Cordoba and Gorze 166
The astrolabe 171
All things in number and measure 180
10 The rebirth of Ptolemaic astronomy 188
Translators and translations 188
Universities and the new learning 190
The corpus astronomicum 192
Astronomy outside the universities 204
The legacy of early medieval astronomies 206
Bibliography 209
Index 229
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