The Moon in Greek Astronomy answers questions

The Moon in Greek Astronomy


November 2016 - Early Greeks thought of the moon as the goddess Artemis. Where the Egyptians had thought of the moon as a man and the sun as a woman, the Greeks reversed that and thought of the moon as a woman.

By the Archaic period, however, educated Greek men and women like the astronomer Thales in the 600s BC knew from observing solar eclipses and ships sailing to the horizon that the moon was a round ball. Thales also knew that the moon didn't make its own light, but shone by reflecting light from the sun. In the 400s BC, Greek scientists like Anaxagoras knew why eclipses happened.

painting of a woman standing and holding two animals

By the Hellenistic period, in the 200s BC, Aristarchus figured out that the moon went around the earth, and (based on the work of the Libyan Eratosthenes) about how big the moon was.

Learn by doing: observe the moon
More about Artemis, the Greek moon goddess
More about the moon

Bibliography and further reading about Greek astronomy and the moon:

Greek and Roman Science, by Don Nardo (1998). Nardo has written a lot of good books about the ancient world for kids; this one is no exception.

Greek Astronomy, by Thomas Heath (1932). A collection of what ancient Greek writers had to say about astronomy, in their own words, with a long introduction. For adults.

The History & Practice of Ancient Astronomy, by James Evans (1998). Includes both the history, and directions to actually re-do the experiments that ancient Greek astronomers used to figure out their conclusions. For adults.

Greek Science After Aristotle, by G. E. R. Lloyd (1975).

More about the Moon
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Professor Carr

Karen Eva Carr, PhD.
Assoc. Professor Emerita, History
Portland State University

Professor Carr holds a B.A. with high honors from Cornell University in classics and archaeology, and her M.A. and PhD. from the University of Michigan in Classical Art and Archaeology. She has excavated in Scotland, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, and Tunisia, and she has been teaching history to university students for a very long time.

Professor Carr's PSU page

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