Greek Astronomy - Archaic Greek Astronomy

Archaic Greek Astronomy

References to identifiable stars and constellations appear in the writings of Homer and Hesiod, the earliest surviving examples of Greek literature. In the Iliad and the Odyssey, Homer refers to the following celestial objects:

  • the constellation Boötes
  • the star cluster Hyades
  • the constellation Orion
  • the star cluster Pleiades
  • Sirius, the Dog Star
  • the constellation Ursa Major

Hesiod, who wrote in the early 7th century BCE, adds the star Arcturus to this list in his poetic calendar Works and Days. Though neither Homer nor Hesiod set out to write a scientific work, they hint at a rudimentary cosmology of a flat earth surrounded by an "Ocean River." Some stars rise and set (disappear into the ocean, from the viewpoint of the Greeks); others are ever-visible. At certain times of the year, certain stars will rise or set at sunrise or sunset.

Speculation about the cosmos was common in Pre-Socratic philosophy in the 6th and 5th centuries BCE. Anaximander (c. 610 BC–c. 546 BC) described a cylindrical earth suspended in the center of the cosmos, surrounded by rings of fire. Philolaus (c. 480 BC–c. 405 BC) the Pythagorean described a cosmos with the stars, planets, Sun, Moon, Earth, and a counter-Earth (Antichthon)—ten bodies in all—circling an unseen central fire. Such reports show that Greeks of the 6th and 5th centuries BCE were aware of the planets and speculated about the structure of the cosmos.

Read more about this topic:  Greek Astronomy

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