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Ancient Astral Science in Transformation

Objective

The introduction of the zodiac in Babylonia in the 5th century BCE was a turning point in the history of astral science - astronomy and astrology, scholarship and culture at large. The “zodiacal turn” was accompanied by a “mathematical turn” in astronomy and a “personal turn” in astrology. From Babylonia, zodiacal astral science spread to Egypt, the Greco-Roman world and beyond. In view of its entanglement with social practices, religious doctrines, philosophical theories and iconographic expressions, its global spread can be compared with that of Christianity, Islam, or Copernican astronomy. How did zodiacal astral science emerge, develop and spread to different ancient cultures and take root there? What explains the enormous success of this cross-cultural phenomenon? Until now, scholarship has failed to answer these questions, because crucial evidence has been ignored.

ZODIAC will develop an account based on the hypothesis that zodiacal astral science offered universally appealing, adaptable solutions to social, religious and political needs that emerged in multi-cultural empires. It achieve this with an interdisciplinary approach that pays full attention to all aspects that shape transmission by conceiving astral science as a package of entangled astronomical, astrological, mathematical and other practices. It wil carry out the first in-depth, comprehensive study of cross-cultural transformations in textual and iconographic sources, including pivotal groups of overlooked ones, to reveal strategies that foster acceptance in new contexts. The accuracy of ancient predictions will be cross-culturally analysed using modern astrophysics. Recent scholarship on ancient empires will contextualise astral science in a new framework that transcends microhistorical approaches. The new account will be developed in dialogue with existing models of innovation, transmission and theory change, thus connecting ancient astral science to contemporary narratives of globalisation.

Field of science

  • /natural sciences/physical sciences/astronomy
  • /humanities/philosophy, ethics and religion/philosophy

Call for proposal

ERC-2019-ADG
See other projects for this call

Funding Scheme

ERC-ADG - Advanced Grant

Host institution

FREIE UNIVERSITAET BERLIN
Address
Kaiserswerther Strasse 16-18
14195 Berlin
Germany
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 2 499 778,75

Beneficiaries (1)

FREIE UNIVERSITAET BERLIN
Germany
EU contribution
€ 2 499 778,75
Address
Kaiserswerther Strasse 16-18
14195 Berlin
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments