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Lost Maps of the CaliphsDrawing the World in Eleventh-Century Cairo$
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Yossef Rapoport and Emilie Savage-Smith

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226540887

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226553405.001.0001

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Macrocosm to Microcosm

Macrocosm to Microcosm

Reading the Skies and Stars in Fatimid Egypt

(p.29) Chapter Two Macrocosm to Microcosm
Lost Maps of the Caliphs

Yossef Rapoport

Emilie Savage-Smith

University of Chicago Press

The anonymous author of the Book of Curiosities provides an account of the origins of astronomy and astronomical tables, placing it in the Indian city of Kannauj. This tale merges the biography of Gautama Buddha with the origins of the Indian manual of astronomy known as the Sindhind. The author then records, and illustrates, four different ways of mapping portions of the sky, including schemes inherited from classical Greek astronomers such as Ptolemy that involved the forty-eight classical constellations of the sky, many of which are familiar to readers today. They include also mapping schemes derived from a Late-Antique tradition attributed to the legendary Egyptian-Greek sage known as Hermes Trismegistus, another reflecting pre-Islamic Bedouin customs, and yet another system (known as ‘lunar mansions’) ultimately derived from Central Asia or India. The author devotes illustrated chapters to comets and meteors (‘stars with tails’), again using different sources for his information, some ascribed to Ptolemy, others taken from the Hermetic tradition. Stars, planets and comets were all seen as indicative of future events on Earth. The final chapter of the first part of the Book of Curiosities is on winds, lightning, thunder, and earthquakes, and what they might portend.

Keywords:   Kannauj, Buddha, Sindhind, Ptolemy, Hermes Trismegistus, lunar mansions, Hermetic tradition, meteors, comets

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