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The Little Astronomy and Middle Books between the 2nd and 13th Centuries CE: Transmissions of Astronomical Curricula

Authors: Roughan, Christine
Keywords: Graeco-Arabic; History of astronomy; Late antiquity; Middle Eastern history; Transmission
Issue Date: Jan-2023
Abstract: This dissertation examines the transmission of two astronomical curricula: the Little Astronomy of Greek late antiquity and the Middle Books of the medieval Islamicate world. The Little Astronomy is usually understood to have comprised a group of approximately nine ancient Greek texts: Theodosius’s Sphaerica, Autolycus’s On the Moving Sphere, Euclid’s Optics, Euclid’s Phaenomena, Theodosius’s On Habitations, Theodosius’s On Days and Nights, Aristarchus’s On Sizes and Distances, Autolycus’s On Risings and Settings, and Hypsicles’s Anaphoricus. All of these treatises were translated into Arabic by the end of the ninth century CE, and these translations came to serve as the core of the Middle Books – a grouping named as such because they were the books to be read between Euclid’s Elements and Ptolemy’s Almagest. The existence of a collection called the Middle Books is well-attested by contemporary sources; that of the Little Astronomy is less so. This dissertation therefore sets out to establish the evidence for these respective groupings, examining when they existed, what form they took, and how they developed over time. It determines that the Little Astronomy and Middle Books both comprised a persistent core series of treatises set out in a logically ordered arrangement, sometimes accompanied by other treatises at different points in time. The dissertation then turns to philological analyses to establish the influence of the curricular context on the transmission of the component texts. I argue that many of the changes introduced into these texts by late antique and medieval editors can be identified as motivated by the didactic use of these curricula, and that these contributions speak to how copyists, teachers, and editors in different contexts perceived of their own relationship to a long-lived astronomical tradition.
Rights: ©2023 Christine Roughan. All rights reserved.
Appears in Collections:ISAW Dissertations

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