Cleomedes' Lectures on Astronomy: A Translation of the Heavens

Cleomedes' Lectures on Astronomy: A Translation of the Heavens

Cleomedes' Lectures on Astronomy: A Translation of the Heavens

Cleomedes' Lectures on Astronomy: A Translation of the Heavens

Synopsis

At some time around 200 A.D., the Stoic philosopher and teacher Cleomedes delivered a set of lectures on elementary astronomy as part of a complete introduction to Stoicism for his students. The result was "The Heavens (Caelestia), "the only work by a professional Stoic teacher to survive intact from the first two centuries A.D., and a rare example of the interaction between science and philosophy in late antiquity. This volume contains a clear and idiomatic English translation--the first ever--of "The Heavens, "along with an informative introduction, detailed notes, and technical diagrams. This important work will now be accessible to specialists in both ancient philosophy and science and to readers interested in the history of astronomy and cosmology but with no knowledge of ancient Greek.

Excerpt

The sole surviving treatise by the Stoic Cleomedes may belong chronologically to some time around a.d. 200, but philosophically it is rooted in the Hellenistic period: in the third century b.c. when Stoicism was first established, and in the first century b.c. when that school underwent a renaissance at the hands of Posidonius of Apamea. The treatise itself, a digression on astronomy and some aspects of cosmology, was prepared for pedagogical purposes as part of a larger survey of Stoicism. Had the works of the major Stoics survived, Cleomedes would be an insignificant footnote in the history of this school, marginalized as the minor Platonists of his era are by the survival of the Platonic corpus. But since the foundational works of Stoicism are lost, his treatise takes on a significance that exceeds its merits, but reflects its uniqueness. As the only work of “school” Stoicism from its period to survive intact, it fully warrants the close scrutiny that it receives in the present study.

Cleomedes maintained the doctrines of the early Stoa of Chrysippus, but, as we argue in the Introduction, was also influenced to some degree by Posidonius' important interventions in Stoic philosophy. This major thinker had in particular sought to redefine Stoic physical theory in relation to the science of astronomy, which had made such spectacular advances during his own lifetime. While Cleomedes' own account of as-

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