Greek Science of the Hellenistic Era: A Sourcebook

Greek Science of the Hellenistic Era: A Sourcebook

Greek Science of the Hellenistic Era: A Sourcebook

Greek Science of the Hellenistic Era: A Sourcebook

Synopsis

We all want to understand the world around us, and the ancient Greeks were the first to try and do so in a way we can properly call scientific. Their thought and writings laid the essential foundations for the revivals of science in medieval Baghdad and renaissance Europe. Now their work is accessible to all, with this invaluable introduction to c.100 scientific authors active from 320 BCE to 230 CE.The book begins with an outline of a new socio-political model for the development and decline of Greek science, followed by eleven chapters that cover the main disciplines:* the science which the Greeks saw as fundamental - mathematics* astronomy* astrology and geography* mechanics* optics and pneumatics* the non-mathematical sciences of alchemy, biology, medicine and 'psychology'.Each chapter contains an accessible introduction on the origins and development of the topic in question, and all the authors are set in context with brief biographies.

Excerpt

More of Greek “science” survives than does any other category of ancient Greek literature, and yet much of that is obscure even to classicists. This source-book aims at treatment of that problem, not cure. No consensus on the nature of modern “science” exists, much less on the nature of ancient Greek “science”—we have therefore preferred inclusion to omission. Although the kosmos is vast and time endless, books and lives are not—these selections are a tiny fraction of the texts. Selection and translation distort and disappoint—but a warped mirror and dim candle are better than no view at all. A book twice or more the length of this one (as Cohen and Drabkin 1958) and in Greek would be a far better representation—and much less read. Most experts will find some favored passage absent.

Division and definition whether of objects or concepts remains a deep conundrum, but our chapter divisions separate segments of Greek science at joints we believe natural. Terminology is a famous difficulty, but various Greek terms did exist which more or less cover the semantic range of “science,” as well as most of the chapter titles (except “psychology,” which is thus always in quotation marks). In their synthesis (on which see Chapter 1), mathematics are foundational and unite astronomy, geography, and physics (mechanics, optics, and pneumatics), while the non-mathematical sciences of natural phenomena (alchemy, biology, medicine, and “psychology”) stood apart until astrologers proposed planetary “sympathy” with body-parts, plants, and stones. Since the soul and the heavens were both seen as made of aither, such a framework provided a path to harmony and fulfillment, both individual and social. Other chapter distributions are possible: e.g., fusing astronomy and astrology, and even geography (or else separating cosmology from astronomy); fusing mechanics and pneumatics, and even optics (or else separating out music); fusing biology and medicine, and even “psychology” (or else splitting biology into botany and zoology), etc. These and other independent possibilities allow for hundreds of choices—we cannot please every reader.

Within each “field” (chapter) we eschew fine distinctions of topic as misleading and arbitrary: each reader will find their own relevant passages. We have preferred fewer longer extracts and a broader range of authors: those readily . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.