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Teukros of Babylon (1)

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05 Scientific knowledge and scholarly lore

05 Scientific knowledge and scholarly lore

Greek Orientals
1st century CE
Roman Empire
Helleno-Roman philosophers and scholars

Teukros ‘of Babylon’ lived in the first century CE, and made a register of stars that rose to the north and south of each zodiacal sign. His work was translated in Pahlavi for the first time about the third century or later. Unfortunately the Pahlavi translation disappeared and only a number of fragments in Arabic still survive, although some of them, ascribed to Ṭīnkarūs or Tīnkalūs, seem to be a forgery. In any case Teukros’ work was very important in the transmission of the astrological system of the Decans, i.e. the subdivision of the Zodiac into 36 Decans, each one 10 degree, three per constellation, and also of the so-called Paranatellonta (i.e. the constellations rising on the horizon simultaneously with a certain Decan).

A Middle Persian translation of Teukros was written or probably rearranged in the sixth century under Xusraw Anōširwān, more precisely in the year 542, because al-Ṭabari noted that the book of Tinkalūšā (another form of the name Teukros) about the Decans was written 80 years before the Hijra. This very translation was used by Abū Mashˁar together with Indian sources about the iconography of the Decans deriving from the Indian astronomer Varāha Mihira (sixth century CE), taken in its turn from the Yavanajātaka of Sphujidhvaja (third century CE), a Sanskrit translation of a Greek-Alexandrian astrological text. Some Pahlavi material from Teukros was probably embedded in the Introductorium maius of Abū Mashˁar, and via such a translation they returned to Byzantium and the West. It has been shown that the Egyptian iconography of the Decans, intermingled with Indian and Sasanian modifications, was transferred through the Arabic Introductorium maius to Spain, then to France and finally was embedded in the Astrolabium planum of Pietro d’Abano, a contemporary, a contemporary of Dante and Giotto. The Sphaera barbarica, as described in the work of Pietro d’Abano, actually played an important role in the program of decoration of the so-called Salone at the Palazzo della Ragione in Padua (1306) and in the Salone dei Mesi at the Palazzo Schifanoia in Ferrera (1470).


Panaino 2002, 4-5Panaino, Antonio. “New Perspectives for an Intercultural Approach to the Sciences of Antiquity between East and West. Some Reflections on the Cultural Meaning of the MELAMMU Project.” In: A. Panaino and G. Pettinato (eds.). Ideologies as Intercultural Phenomena. Melammu Symposia 3. Milan: Universita di Bologna & IsIAO 2002, 1-12. [PDF]

Antonio Panaino

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