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Download Oct 20 Morality, mysticism, magic in late antiquity
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Oct 20 Morality, mysticism, magic in late antiquity (and a little astrology) Encyclopedias Roman version of Greek science = compiled summary of past knowledge, and claimed observations. Popularizers of science (ancient Carl Sagans) = Not doing original research, but instead spreading scientific info to general educated audience that finds it fashionable and entertaining. Pliny the Elder (23-79CE): Natural History Theories summarized from ancient sources. Catalogue “observed” marvels, anecdotes from the exotic edges of Empire. Entertainment Moralizing Pliny’s agenda Wonders of the animal world exist for the benefit of man – to teach us moral lessons. Learn science for the sake of ethical improvement and imperial strength. Writing for young aristocrats. Favorite example – the hardworking and cooperative bee. Philosophical schools in Roman world Popular science – for all the people. Practical ethics – Roman concern in civil war era, excesses of emperors, life of luxury… • • Stoics – resigned to fate Cicero (106-43BCE) Epicureans – atomists and hedonists Lucretius (55BCE), epic poem On the Nature of Things Main doctrines E & S Materialist atomism vs. materialist soul Chance vs. purpose, order, teleology Free will vs. determinism Both favor natural causes and dismiss superstition/religion. Platonist school (Rome 200CE-) Not materialist. External teleology. Mystical, religious. Platonist philosophy “The One” – perfect, transcendent deity. Chain of being – linked hierarchy. It created “the other” – everything else. World-soul to planets to organisms to rocks. Natural bonds, influences within the universe. Mystical goal to achieve unity with the One. Influenced early Christian theology. Hermetic school Texts found (and written) in Alexandria about 200CE. About astrology & magic. Believed to be the revealed word of the Egyptian god Hermes Trismegistus. Magic Pliny (70CE): The tongue of a live frog, set over the heart of a woman while she sleeps, will compel her to answer all questions truthfully. Hidden powers in natural objects. Doctrines of natural magic Connections – sympathies & antipathies – between things. Correspondences between the macrocosm (universe) & microcosm (human). Hidden (occult) powers within nature. Controlling nature Magician (magus) has secret, divine knowledge of the correspondences. Can use them for his own purposes. For example the hidden healing powers of certain plants. Roman uses for astronomy Improved Julian calendar (46BCE) Map the Empire and the known world (Strabo 20CE) Astrological forecasts Strabo world map History of astrology Ideas of how heavenly bodies might affect life on earth Sun’s influences obvious. Moon said to affect menstruation, “lunatic.” Plato, Pliny: every soul has its own star. Stoics, Platonists: sympathetic links between macrocosm (universe) & microcosm (human). Ptolemy, astrologer (150CE) Tetrabiblos The work of the great scientist?! Working for Roman emperor? Astronomy used to predict planetary motion, and to predict the changes they cause: “it is so evident that most events of a general nature draw their causes from the heavenly environment.” Ptolemy’s theory based on Aristotle’s 4 elements. The sun and planets cause hot/cold, wet/dry on earth: “For the Sun is always in some way affecting everything on earth, not only by the changes that accompany the seasons of the year [growth of plants & animals], but also by its daily revolutions furnishing heat, moisture, dryness, and cold in regular order and in correspondence with its positions.” From this, one could predict weather. Horoscope at birth Ptolemy further says, “why can he not, too, with respect to an individual man, perceive the general quality of his temperament from the heavenly environment at the time of his birth…and predict occasional events, by the use of the fact that such an environment is attuned to such and such a temperament and is favorable to prosperity, while another is not so attuned and conduces injury.” Astrology in ancient world Babylonian and Egyptian kings had long used it to forecast events during their rule (judicial astrology). Greeks did not practice it. Stoic fatalism supported astrology. Much evidence of its practice starting with the Roman leaders (100BCE). Political destiny in the stars Augustus Caesar legitimized his rule with a horoscope for future greatness. But emperors became paranoid that other astrologers were seeking omens of rivals to the throne – so they outlawed private astrology. Astrologers and diviners could work only for the state (“beware the Ides of March”).