17 Peculiarities in Development of Ancient Astronomy

According to Scaliger's chronology, the "ancient" astronomy achieved an incredible level of development. It is considered that its peak was reached in the Almagest by the last greatest astronomer of the antiquity — Claudius Ptolemy. After that, in Scaliger's chronology, the period of profound silence takes place. Arthur Berry, in his Short History of Astronomy states that the last important name associated with the ancient Greek astronomy was that of Ptolemy.

The heights of the "ancient" astronomical knowledge were allegedly attained again only by astronomers in the Middle Ages during the epoch of Renaissance. In fact, it is portrayed that, in the "antique" world, the level of astronomical knowledge was so widespread and of such unbelievable stature that, it was even present among common people of that time. For example, a certain "ancient" consul in the Roman army was able to present to his regular soldiers a lecture on the scientific theory of lunar eclipses. In respect to this, that's what Titus Livy writes in his famous History of Rome: "Sulpicius Gallus, a military tribune attached to the second legion, who had been a praetor the year before, obtained the consul's permission to call the soldiers on parade. He then explained that on the following night the moon would lose her light from the second hour to the fourth, and no one must regard this as a portent, because this happened in the natural order of things at stated intervals, and could be known beforehand and predicted. Just in the same way, then,, as they did not regard the regular rising and setting of the sun and moon or the changes in the light of the moon from full circle to a thin and waning crescent as a marvel, so they ought not to take its obscuration when it is hidden in the shadow of the earth for a supernatural portent. On the next night - September 4 - the eclipse took place at the stated hour, and the Roman soldiers thought that Gallus possessed almost divine wisdom." We are told today, that this detailed explanation about eclipses was given to the soldiers of the Legion of the "ancient" Rome about 2000 years before. For a person familiar with the history of science, this "ancient soldiery lecture" makes a real strong impression. This impression can be even stronger if we take a look at the stage of the astronomical knowledge during the period from the 2nd to 10th century A.D.

After having witnessed the pronouncement of the Roman consul in front of the soldiers of the Legion, let us move forward to the 6th century A.D. and find out what tells us the renowned specialist in the medieval cosmography — Kosma Indikoplevst. What was at that time the knowledge about the Universe, stars and Sun? In his opinion, the Universe was believed to be a "basket" (see a copy of a medieval picture representing the Universe on Figure 1.20). Inside this "basket, from the flat Earth surrounded by the ocean, there was a huge mountain rising up. The Sun and Moon were hiding behind this mountain for a fixed time. The firmament, filled with small nails-stars, was supported by four vertical walls. This "highly competent" perspective of the Universe, illustrates quite well the initial of a very primitive knowledge at this epoch.

What's happened? From where did this cave-man like understanding of astronomy come from? According to Klimishin, what is a typical historian explanation, it was a decline of the antique culture that took place:

"After a marvelous blooming of the ancient culture on the European continent, there came a long period of stagnation and regress — lasting for more than 1000 years, which we call today the Middle Ages. ...During these 1000 years, not even one significant astronomical discovery was made." Basically, the traditional explanation of this phenomena can be simply summarized as: Christianity was not compatible with science.

According to A. Berri, "history of the Greek astronomy essentially ends with Ptolemy. The art of astronomical observation collapsed to such a degree that during the eight centuries, separating

Figure 1.20: Medieval representation of the Universe.

Ptolemy from Al-Baghdadi, there wasn't almost any astronomical observation made of scientific nature. " Historians of science, following Scaliger's chronology, are forced to call this situation a "relapse of childhood," explaining that the ideas of the flat Earth, which are usually conceived during the childhood, found their way to dominate people's minds. But these arguments are not convincing. We have seen how Greek scientists and philosophers were able to effectively prove that the Earth is spherical, determine its dimensions, and even, although it was not very precise, to compute the distance from the Earth to the Sun and Moon. It can hardly be considered as an explanation that the new generations obsessed by religious fanaticism attempted to destroy the rising up knowledge of science because of their relapsing childhood ideas.

A. Berri provides the following comments regarding Scaliger's history of the astronomical development:

"About fourteen centuries elapsed from the proclamation of the Almagest to the death of Copernicus (1543) ... During that time ... not even one astronomical discovery of primary importance was made. ... Theoretical astronomy barley made some progress and in some sense cases suffered retrogression. In fact, the astronomical doctrines that were followed during this epoch are clearly inferior to the Ptolemy's ideas and demonstrate significantly lower level of understanding than the astronomical theories used in the ancient times. As we have seen, in the Western European astronomy nothing substantial took place during the five centuries after the death of Ptolemy. After that there was a rather steady period, and many centuries passed before we could see a more or less significant revival of interests in astronomy." Finally, he concludes that "Regarding the Europe, the gloomy period following the collapse of the Roman Empire (apparently in the 6th. century A.D. — Authors) . . . constitutes not only a disruption of history, but also disruption of every branch of science."

In our opinion these "disruptions," "periods of silence," "dark ages" etc. exist only because historians are using the incorrect Scaliger version of chronology.

On Figure 1.21, we show a medieval drawing of Ptolemy who is clearly wearing medieval cloths.

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