Astronomy in the Visigoda court

Astronomy in the Visigoda court

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Despite being one of the darkest stages in history, in the Visigothic court there was a time when interest in science and knowledge was reborn, based on Greece and Rome.

Godo king Sisebuto obtained the crown of Hispania in 612 after being elected among the nobles and reigned until 621. His reign consolidated the Visigothic monarchy, Romanizing culture and the protection of the Catholic religion.

Sisebuto was a man of his time, in a convulsive period, with a remarkable love of science. He liked to learn about celestial mechanics, according to the predominant model at the time, and spread his hobbies to much of his court, which became more cultured.

Perhaps he became fond of astronomy during his learning period in the Agali monastery, near Toledo, where the study of the stars was popular among some monks of the time, who tried to cultivate this science by rescuing the knowledge of the ancient Greeks.

At the request of King Sisebuto, San Isidoro de Sevilla (560-636) wrote a treatise entitled "De rerum natura" (On nature), at the beginning of the 7th century, in which he tried to synthesize scientific knowledge in his time and encompassed various subjects, with special emphasis on the dissemination of astronomy.

This book was soon known throughout Europe. This work by Isidoro, archbishop of Seville for more than thirty years, is full of Christian references and adapted to the author's conception, although this does not detract from it. San Isidoro de Sevilla also wrote numerous works of theological content and some profane, among which his well-known Etymologies stand out.

The king Sisebuto himself, in the response to San Isidoro after receiving the book, tried to give an explanation to the eclipses of Moon and Sun. From then on, the book of Isidore and the letter of Sisebuto were jointly known.

Although there are discussions, in the case of Sisebuto, his belief in a spherical earth seems to be clear from the reading of his text, since he speaks of umbra rotae (round shadow) and globus. The process of an eclipse as a whole (a Sun that turns always causes an equal shape in the shadow that is cut by the Moon) also implies a sphere-shaped earth.

Despite his admiration for the Hispanic scholar, Sisebuto did not follow his theories to the letter, and thus his belief in the luminosity of the stars and planets contradicts St. Isidore, who thought that they did not have their own light and were illuminated by the sun, as was the moon.

In general, during this time intellectual life was reduced to the ecclesiastical sphere, especially in monasteries, where works of the classical era were copied by hand that, otherwise, perhaps we would not know now.

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