Article ID: CBB001251571

The Astronomical Interpretation of Catoptrica (2012)


A Catoptrica attributed to Euclid appears in manuscripts amongst treatises dealing with elementary astronomy. Despite this textual background, the treatise has always been read literally as a theory of mirrors, and its astronomical significance has gone unnoticed. However, optics, catoptrics, and astronomy appear strongly intermingled in sources such as, amongst others, Geminus, Theon of Smyrna, Plutarch and Cleomedes. If one compares the optical reasoning put forward in these sources to account for the formation of moonlight with arguments of Catoptrica, one is able to shed new light on several principles and propositions of Catoptrica, some of which had been deemed corrupt, meaningless, and obscure. Moreover, the present analysis offers a glimpse at the context of a specific stage in the evolution of ancient catoptrics: Whether literally or by analogy, several of its results appear to have been set against a wider astronomical background, which explains the inclusion of Catoptrica in the group of texts loosely defined as little astronomy.

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Authors & Contributors
Takahashi, Ken'ichi
Rappenglück, Michael A.
Marcin Miłkowski
Caglayan, Gunhan
Mateusz Hohol
Vit, Josef
Archive for History of Exact Sciences
Apeiron: Journal for Ancient Philosophy and Science
Sciamvs: Sources and Commentaries in Exact Sciences
Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry
Revue d'Histoire des Mathématiques
Polhem: Tidskrift för Teknikhistoria
Transmission of texts
Pappus of Alexandria
Heiberg, Johan Ludvig
Time Periods
19th century
16th century
Rome (Italy)
Alexandria (Egypt)

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