Ancient Greek Astronomy Essay

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Ancient Greek Astronomy

Since the first Egyptian farmers discovered the annual reappearance of Sirius just before dawn a few days before the yearly rising of the Nile, ancient civilizations around the Mediterranean have sought to explain the movements of the heavens as a sort of calendar to help guide them conduct earthly activities. Counting phases of the moon or observing the annual variations of day length could, after many years' collection of observations, serve as vital indicators for planting and harvesting times, safe or stormy season for sailing, or time to bring the flocks from winter to summer pastures. With our millennia of such observation behind us, we sometimes forget that seeing and recording anything less obvious than
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There are hints of the Greek conception of the universe in Homer, who mentions many subjects on his two epics describing war and the perils of trying to come home after long absence. For Homer, heaven is a solid inverted bowl straddling the earth, with fiery, gleaming "aither" above the cloud-bearing air. Homer mentions the movements of sun, moon, and many stars by name. The fact that Hades is on the underside of earth has an important impact on conceptions of heaven: it is unlit by the sun, therefore, the sun--and by extension, other heavenly bodies-- must sink only to the level of Ocean, which is conceived as a river circling earth's edge. From it the Sun must also rise--though how it gets back to the eastern bank of Ocean is never explained. These popular conceptions of sky are more fully explained in Hesiod, whose works on gods, on agriculture, and animal-herding are more closely connected to the practical application of astronomy. He clocks spring, summer, and harvest by solstices and the rising and setting of certain stars, and notices that the sun migrates southwards in winter
As the Greeks began to travel and explore, their ideas of the order of the universe began to change. Many Greeks settled on the coast of Turkey in the early migrations of the eleventh century BCE, and there enjoyed rich cultural mingling with their neighbors the Lydians and Persians, latest descendents of Mesopotamian civilization. They kept in

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