“The World in a Box: Modeling the Cosmos in Antiquity”

Lecture by Daryn Lehoux, Queen’s University (Kingston, Ontario)

Columbia University, Classics Department’

Hamilton 616 at 4:10 Tues Oct. 29

Abstract: The Antikythera mechanism—the amazingly complex first-century-bc astronomical computer—may be remarkable, but it is also very likely not alone. Beginning with Cicero, references to mechanized astronomical /sphaerae/ crop up repeatedly in ancient sources, pointing to a tradition of manufacture and use that may have continued throughout antiquity and possibly into the early Middle Ages. These /sphaerae /were taken by the ancients to be marvels of human ingenuity (sometimes verging on hubris) and were seen as copies in miniature of the heavens themselves. But this very fact, that even the divine heavens could be modeled in a small device made by human hands, struck ancient writers as highly significant. This paper explores the cosmological, philosophical, and theological importance of these complex and wonderful heavenly models, and the ways in which they affected and were in turn affected by ancient worldviews.

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