Controversies about Astrology in the Arabic and the Byzantine Worlds (Seminar)

cultural brokerage
Mon, 08/02/2021 17:30 to 19:00
Dr. Alberto Bardi, The Polonsky Academy for Advanced Study, Israel

Please join us for our upcoming seminar on: "Controversies about Astrology in the Arabic and the Byzantine Worlds" by Dr. Alberto Bardi (The Polonsky Academy for Advanced Study, Israel).

Monday, February 8, 2021, from 17:30 to 19:00 (Israel time) via zoom.



Controversies about the legitimacy of astrology are recurrent in both the Arabic and the Byzantine realms. They often signal a time of clashes between universalistic conceptions of the world. Notably, the renowned defense of astrology by Abū Maʿšar in his Great Introduction to Astrology (ninth century CE) is emblematic of an age in which different groups were struggling to have their conception of science imposed as official. The influence of Abū Maʿšar in subsequent literature is prominent. For instance, it is traceable centuries later in the so-called Hermippus Sive De Astrologia (fourteenth century CE), a Neoplatonic dialogue on the usefulness of astrological practice and its reconcilability with Christian doctrine. Astrology had become controversial in that age for it acted as a contested field among factions struggling for cultural hegemony in Constantinople. This paper examines the legacy of Abū Maʿšar in Byzantine literature and detects similarities between the Byzantine and the Arabic controversies about astrology by studying the Greek version of Abū Maʿšar’s Introduction and the Hermippus.


Alberto Bardi, Ph.D.
Polonsky Academy for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences
The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute

Bardi’s research explores the cross-cultural exchanges of scientific ideas and materials between Christians, Muslims, and Jews in the Eastern Roman Empire and neighbor civilizations of the Eastern Mediterranean in the Middle-Ages and early Renaissance. Among his academic appointments, he has been a fellow at the Max-Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin and at the Harvard University research institute Dumbarton Oaks. His first monograph, The Persian Astronomical Tables in the History of Byzantine Science (in German), is in press. Currently, he is working to his second book, Bessarion’s Astronomy and its Cultural Background, under contract by Ca’ Foscari University Press. This work shows how the coexistence of Islamic and Greek astronomy in Bessarion’s collection reshapes our understanding of Renaissance and the Byzantine heritage in Europe.