AAS 203rd Meeting, January 2004
Session 35 HAD III
Division Oral, Monday, January 5, 2004, 2:00-3:30pm, Regency V

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[35.01] The Latitude and Epoch for the Origin of the Astronomical Lore of Eudoxus

B. E. Schaefer (Louisiana S. U.)

The earliest presentation of the ancient Greek constellations that survives to today is the poem titled Phaenomena by Aratus which is a reasonable copy of a book of the same name by Eudoxus (c. 366 BC) which has not survived. Hipparchus’ sole surviving work (his Commentaries) also gives many direct quotes from Eudoxus’ book. Eudoxus reports on many astronomical lore items such as that the head of Draco skims the northern horizon and that Orion sets when Scorpius rises. Many of these lore items have their validity depend on the latitude and epoch of the observations on which the lore is based, so for example the two lore items just quoted will each yield rather fuzzy simultaneous constraints on the latitude and epoch of the observer. In all, I have found 172 useful constraints for Eudoxus’ lore, and the large number can be used to greatly increase the accuracy of the final joint constraint. My results are; (1) All lore reported by Eudoxus were based on observations from the year 1130 ±80 BC and at a latitude of 36.0 ± 0.9 degrees north. (2) My derived date and latitude correspond only to the peak of the Assyrian culture. (3) The typical accuracy of the lore is 4-8 degrees, even though 1 degree accuracy is easy to be gotten by primitive methods. (4) About half the rise/set pairs recorded in the Mesopotamian MUL.APIN tablets are also given in Eudoxus’ lore. (5) The MUL.APIN tablets have been independently determined to be based on observations from roughly 1000 BC at a latitude of 36 degrees north, which is consistent within uncertainties to my results for Eudoxus. Given the close match in date/latitude/content, I conclude that both Eudoxus’ lore and MUL.APIN were derived from the same old Assyrian observations.

This research was made possible with the support of the Herbert C. Pollack Award from the Dudley Observatory.

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 35 #5
© 2003. The American Astronomical Soceity.