De astronomia

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De astronomia is a compilation of descriptions of the constellations and of ancient ideas about the structure of the world in Latin . It is also called poetica astronomica .

Author and period

The author, passed down only as Hyginus, is possibly identical to Gaius Iulius Hyginus , a Roman scholar of the Augustan period. De astronomia would then be towards the end of the 1st century BC. BC originated. The Phainomena des Aratos of Soloi , which are one of the sources of Hyginus, were known in Rome at the time and have been translated into Latin several times. But the writings circulating under the name 'Hyginus', next to De astronomia a genealogiae or fabulae , which are linked with each other via references and can be traced back to a common author, are part of the research in the late 1st or 2nd century dated and assigned to an author named Hyginus Mythographus .



Hyginus dedicates his book to a Marcus Fabius , who cannot be clearly identified among the numerous surviving people of this name. In the following table of contents not only a description of the starry sky, but also information about earth, sea, moon and the spheres is announced.

Book 1

Hyginus develops a worldview in order to define the terms on this basis that he uses in the following books to position the constellations. According to this, the earth is in the middle of the world and has an axis that extends from the pole in the north to the pole in the south. The 5 celestial circles ( circuli paralleli ) are determined: arctic celestial circle ( circulus arcticus ), tropical tropic ( aestiuus circulus ), celestial equator ( circulus aequinoctialis ), winter tropic ( circulus hiemalis ) and Antarctic celestial circle ( circulus antarcticus ). In addition there is the zodiac ( zodiacus ) and the Milky Way ( circulus lacteus ).

Book 2

In book 2, Hyginus describes the myths that had been developed around the constellations in his time. He is based on the cadastre , which is associated with Eratosthenes of Cyrene , whom he also mentions several times as a source. Like Eratosthenes, he describes 42 constellations, the planets and the Milky Way. In contrast to Eratosthenes, who puts the constellations in a loop-shaped, but basically counter-clockwise order, he leads them in a three-fold helical clockwise movement starting from the Little Bear . All myths come from the Greek world, only the names of the gods have been replaced by the Latin analogue. Hyginus only takes over the stories, not the information on the number of stars and positioning. It reproduces almost completely what has come down to us from Eratosthenes, but often collects further stories from other, mainly Greek authors. But it is not a direct translation. There are probably several arrangements and interpretations between Eratosthenes and Hyginus, which also lead to distortions.
The constellation triangle (2.19) near Hyginus represents the area in which the Nile divides Ethiopia and Egypt . Eratosthenes sees it as a more consistent representation of the Nile Delta. For the hare (2,33), Hyginus describes an environmental catastrophe that he did not find in Eratosthenes, for which only his report has survived: The settlement of hare on an island destroys the livelihood of people. The rabbits are totally removed from the island and their image is transferred to the memory of the sky.

Book 3

In Book 3 Hyginus goes the constellations again in the same order by and handed star number, position and rise or fall in relation to the constellations of the zodiac. The source for the number of stars and the distribution of the stars within the pictures could have been Eratosthenes, who also gives the number of stars for each constellation, with different numbers being determined in some cases.
Aratos also describes the situation and the rising and setting. However, it is out of the question as a direct source, as the accuracy of the information varies widely. While Aratos only provides approximate information, Hyginus usually determines the objects precisely through their position within the celestial circles shown in Book 1 and several neighbors. So he writes for the triangle (3.18)
... inter aestiuum et aequinoctialem circulum supra caput Arietis, non longe ab Andromedae dextro crure et Persei manu sinistra conlocatum ...
... between the tropic tropic and celestial equator, above the head of the Aries , not far from the right shin of Andromeda and the left hand of Perseus ...
Aratos only speaks of the proximity of the Aries and Andromeda.

Book 4

This book describes the constellations of the celestial circles, which were already introduced in Book 1. Hyginus largely follows Aratos, whom he often mentions by name. But also on the mundi rationem et quemadmodum moueatur , d. H. the world system and how it is moved is discussed, as is the sun , moon and planets . Interesting theories of the time are discussed.
While the leading opinion was that the globe with the stars as a whole rotates around the earth from east to west, there was also a minority theory that the stars move independently while the globe stands still. Possibly it is about Epicurean ideas. However, the sun, moon and the five planets were seen with independent movement outside the celestial spheres. Theories about the distance of these celestial bodies from the earth have also been developed, which are similar to those found in Pliny .

Living on and tradition

The work of Hyginus had a great aftereffect. Isidore of Seville quotes it several times in his work De natura rerum . For example, he takes over Hyginus, Book 1,8 almost literally:
Terra - ut testatur Hyginus - mundi media regione collocata .
The earth lies - as Hygin testifies - in the middle of the world.

Some medieval authors such as Thierry of Chartres and John of Salisbury also name him as a source.

The text has been preserved in an unusually large number of manuscripts - more than 70 from the 11th to the 16th centuries. In a number of manuscripts, drawings of the constellations are explained by texts from the de astronomia , the Aratea of ​​Cicero and Pliny the Elder, e.g. B. Harleianus 647 from the 9th century. A particularly beautiful example is the Aratea from Leiden .

Editions and translations

  • Ghislaine Viré (ed.): Hygini de astronomia. Teubner, Stuttgart 1992, ISBN 3-519-01438-6 (critical edition).
  • André Le Bœuffle (Ed.): Hygin: L'astronomie. Les Belles Lettres, Paris 1983, ISBN 2-251-013-21-0 (critical edition with French translation).
  • Jürgen Wüllrich (translator): Hyginus: From the astronomy (De Astronomia). BoD, Norderstedt 2009, ISBN 978-3-8391-0191-9 ( limited preview in Google book search).



  1. ^ Peter Lebrecht Schmidt, Helmuth Schneider: Hyginus, C. Iulius. In: Der Neue Pauly (DNP) , Vol. 5, Stuttgart 1998, Col. 778 f .; André Le Bœuffle (Ed.): Hygin: L'astronomie , Paris 1983, pp. XXXI-XXXVIII; Jean-Yves Boriaud (Ed.): Hygin: Fables , Paris 1997, pp. VII-XIII; Mariagrazia F. Vitobello (Ed.): C. Giulio Igino: L'astronomia , Bari 1988, pp. VII-XI.
  2. ^ André Le Bœuffle (ed.): Hygin: L'Astronomie , S. XLIII.
  3. Hyginus, De astronomia 2,12,2 mentions his first book Genealogiae : de quibus in primo libro Genealogiarum scripsimus “we wrote about it in the first book of Genealogiae ”.
  4. ↑ Adhering to a date in the 2nd century, for example: Robert A. Kaster : C. Suetonii Tranquilli de vita Caesarum libri VIII et de grammaticis et rhetoribus liber. Clarendon Press, Oxford 1995, p. 208; Marc Huys: Euripides and the 'Tales from Euripides': Sources of the Fabulae of Ps.-Hyginus? In: Archives for Papyrus Research and Related Areas . Volume 42, 1996, pp. 168-178, here: p. 169; Marc Huys: Review: Hygin. Fables; texts établi et traduit by Jean-Yves Boriaud. In: Mnemosyne . Volume 53, 2000, pp. 615-620, here: p. 616; Alan Cameron : Greek Mythography in the Roman World (= American Classical Studies. Volume 48). Oxford University Press, Oxford / New York 2004, p. 11 with note 36; Patrizia Mascoli: Igino bibliotecario e gli Pseudo-Igini. In: Invigilata lucerni. Volume 24, 2002, pp. 119–125 assumes that the corpus circulating under the name Hyginus includes works by at least two authors of the same name.
  5. ^ André Le Bœuffle: Hygin: L'Astronomie , pp. XXXVIII-XLI.
  6. Eratosthenes, Sternsagen 20.
  7. André Le Boeuffle: Hyginus: L'Astronomie , p 173rd
  8. ^ André Le Bœuffle: Hygin: L'Astronomie , p. 208.
  9. Pliny, Naturalis historia 2.83.
  10. ^ Isidore of Seville, De natura rerum XLVIII.
  11. ^ André Le Bœuffle: Hygin: L'Astronomie , S. XLV.
  12. ^ André Le Bœuffle: Hygin: L'Astronomie , S. XLVI, XLVII.
  13. ^ Jean Soubiran: Cicéron: Aratea, Fragments poétiques , Paris 2002, pp. 106, 107.