Talk abstract details

The Antikythera Mechanism: An Archaeoastronomical Artefact in its Religious Context.
Nick Campion


This paper will ask whether the textual evidence for first and second century BCE Hellenistic religion, particularly the presumed relationship between the soul and the stars in Platonism, may provide a philosophical and religious context for the periodís major archaeoastronomical artefact, the Antikythera Mechanism. The wider question posed by the paper is the extent to which literary texts can support archaeological evidence.

The Mechanism, named after the island near Crete, place where it was discovered in a shipwreck in 1901, has been attributed to Geminus of Rhodes and contained thirty-seven gear wheels which were capable of predicting the positions of the sun and the moon, including eclipses, including Hipparchusí recently discovered lunar irregularities, and the planets. Relying on Ciceroís description of an apparently similar device constructed by the Stoic philosopher Posidonius, this paper will rely on textual evidence from Plato, Cicero and the Corpus Hermeticum to suggest that the mechanism may have played a soteriological function in assisting the soulís ascent through the planetary spheres and return to the stars.