Ancient Greek Science: Astronomy and Medicine - CL821

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2019-20
(version 2)
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7 30 (15) DR R Wyles







Ancient Greek concepts of 'rational science' were vastly different from modern perceptions and discipline classifications. Its foundation was grounded in philosophical discussions that considered the nature of the cosmos and all that existed within it. This module demonstrates how the subjects were interlinked through a close analysis of the development of ancient astronomy and medicine, from the Geometric to the Hellenistic periods. It discusses literary, philosophical and archaeological material. The first half of the module will focus on astronomy. The second half of the module will concentrate on medicine and begin with a discussion of the pre-Socratic philosophers’ introduction of the theory of the four elements: earth, air, fire and water that were present within everything, including the stars and the body. From here students will examine how the theory of the four elements was transformed into the humoural system. Consideration will also be given to how the body and health were influenced by environment and astronomy discussed in the first half of the module.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

Total contact hours: 20

Method of assessment

Commentary review (1000 words) - 20%;
Presentation portfolio (1000-1500 words) - 40%;
Essay (3500 words) - 40%

Indicative reading

Aratus, Phaenomena (any edition);
Evans, J. (1998) The history and practice of ancient astronomy. Oxford: Oxford University Press;
Gregory, A. (2011) Ancient Greek Cosmogony. London: Duckworth;
Hippocrates, Airs, waters, places; Nature of Man (any edition);
Lloyd, G. E. R. Magic (1979). Reason, and experience: studies in the origin and development of Greek science. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press;
van der Eijk, P. J. (2005). Medicine and Philosophy in Classical Antiquity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

Students will be able to deal with complex academic issues for the study of both Greek astronomy and Greek medicine based on their systematic understanding of these areas, and have a critical awareness of current research questions within the academic study of Ancient Greek Sciences;
Students will be able to interpret a comprehensive range of primary sources for the study of ancient cosmology and ancient medicine utilising techniques that are appropriate for their interpretation and critical evaluation;
Students will be able to understand and articulate the complex relationship between Ancient Greek Philosophy and the Ancient Sciences (including astronomy, cosmology and medicine);
Students will be able to critically evaluate the philsophical thinking that links the cosmos to the body in ancient Greece;
Students will be able to demonstrate self-direction and originality in tackling and solving problems raised in the study of the complex intersection between philosophy, science, medicine and the cosmos in Ancient Greece ranging from the Geometric to the Hellenistic periods.

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