The Grecks were not a long time without discovering the imperfections of that reform *. They imagined then 10 double the interval of the intercalation of the thirteenth month, and not to make that intercalation till four years had revolved, or, what is the same thing, at the beginning of each fifth year. It is from hence that that second period took the names of Tetraeteride and Pentaeteride, under which names it has been equally known 4. Lastly, as the Tetraeteride was still more defective than the Dieteride t, the Greeks invented a third, which they called Oitaeteride, or Enneateride, observing that this new cycle commenced every ninth year. Authors are divided about the manner in which the intercalation was used in this third period. Some say, that they intercalated three months after eight years had revolved; others say, that the Greeks added every eighth year an intercalary month, and it was in this that their octaeterides consisted. Macrobius pretends, that they had seven common years of 354 days each, and that the eighth year they intercalated the ninety days which eight solar years furpass eight lunar years.

I think that the Enneateride had place in Greece in the time of Cadmus. We see, in effect, that, under this prince, there was mention made of a great year, and that that great year was of eight yearsWe are not ignorant that the ancients, by these great years, understood the periods invented to reform the duration of the ordinary years,

* The Dieterịde exceeded the duration of two solar years about seven days. It of consequence occafioned 28 days, that is to say, near a month's error cyery eight years. d Censorin. c, 18.

of It must have been 15 days, or 15 days and a half, that 49 lunar months wanted of four solar years. Thus the Tetraeteride made from thirty to thirty one days of error every eight years, near three days more, ot confequence, than the Dieteride. But the irregularity caused by that period, acted in a quite opposite order. The Dieteride kept back the return of each month, with relation to the season to which it Thould appertain, and the Tetraeteride on the contrary advanced it.

. Cenfor. c. 18. f Newton's chronology of the Greeks, p. 78.& 79. & Saturn. l. 1. C. 13. p. 251.; see also Suidas, in Euautos, t. 1. p. 747. Apollod. 1. 3. P. 13


of their years.

and to bring them back to the order of the seasons and the revolution of the stars. I still think we have a glimpse of the traces of this period in the manner in which the ancients say that Minos published his lawsi, The using of all these different cycles proves plainly the ignorance and incapacity of the Greeks in astronomy at this time.

In course of time, they applied themselves to find out: means more proper to regulate with exactness the duration

The ancient annals of Greece attribute these first researches to an answer of the oracle of Delphos. The oracle having said, that they must celebrate the solemn feasts not only according to the usage of their country, but further, that they ought to observe there three things the Greeks thought that by these three things, the oracle had ordered them to have regard to days, to months, and to years ; they imagined, that; for this effect, they ouglit to regulate the years by the course of the sun, and the months by that of the moon k.

The authors from whom we have this fact, do not tell us the time in which they applied themselves to conform to the orders of the oracle ; but it is certain, that there passed many ages before the Greeks were instructed in the means proper to conduct them to the end which they proposed to themselves.

According to the testimony even of the most esteemed of their writers, these people before the reign of Atreus had not yet given attention to the proper motion of the sun from west to east. They say this prince was the first who instructed the Greeks in it. We are not ignorant that the reign of Atreus only preceded the war of Troy fixtcen years. Philostrates, at the same time that he will do honour to the exalted knowledge of Palamedes, is forced to confess that then they had neither rules nor measures for the

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

类 *

i See Marí. p. 613,

Κατα γ. k Gemin. apud Petav. Uranol. c. 6. p. 32.

Strabo, 1. 1. p.43. ; Lucian. de astrol. t. 2. p. 365. & 366.; Achil. Tat. Trag. p. 143.


months and for the years m. It must then be looked upon as certain, that all the practices which the Greeks used in the heroic times, were very imperfect.

Some moderns nevertheless have imagined, that the enterprise of the Argonauts had caused a great progress to be made in astronomy in Greece. They say the hazards of a long and dangerous navigation on feas upknown, forced the Greeks to apply with great attention to know the state of the heavens. There have been fome who have even advanced, that, at the time of the expedition of the Argonauts, they had charged the famous Centaur Chiron with the reform of the ancient calendar of Greece which wanted exa&ness. Chiron, continue they, made a new calendar for the use of the Argonauts two years before their expedition. He formed even constellations in order to facilitate the voyage of these he: roes. They have done more: they would affign in what points of the heavens Chiron had fixed the points of the equinoxes and of the solstices e.

An opinion so contrary to all that ancient history teaches us of the little knowledge the Greeks had of astronomy in the heroic times, has not failed to be advanced. We have demonstrated the falsity of it in a manner plain enough for its not being necessary to be insisted on anew. Yet, to the end that nothing may be omitted about a matter so interesting, I shall shew in few words the means by which they have combated a system so opposite to history and to reason. I shall only abridge what has already been said by two ce. lebrated and well-known authors, by adding only some reflections to their reasonings.

To the present time they had only regarded Chiron as 2 Theffalian very well versed in botany. In this refpe&t they were conformable to the unanimous testimony of all antiquity. They had never spoke of Chiron but as a phy

m Heroic. c. 1o. p. 709.
n Newton, chron, of the Greeks, p. 85. 87.-89. & feq.

• Le P. Hardouin, dissert. sur la chron. de M. Newton. It is inserted in the memoirs of Trevoux, Septem. 1729, art. 87. ; Bannier, explicat, des fables, t. 6. p. 343. & feq.


fician who knew better than all his cotemporaries the use of plants, especially of those which serve for the curing of wounds. But further : it is known that Jason was brought up by Chiron P. The Centaur, say the ancients, imparted to his disciples all his knowledge, and particularly that of medicine. They even add, that Chiron gave from this motive the name of Jason to that hero, instead of that of Diomede which he bore before. We do not see that in these ancient traditions there is any mention made of astronomy. On what authority then is it that a modern author is supported to make Chiron an astronomer capable of making a calendar, and to fix the true state of the heavens, especially in the ages he mentions? They support themselves from a fragment of an unknown poet mentioned by Clemens Alexandrinus. But further, what says this passage which makes the only basis of the system which we attack? Here it is, translated literally, that we may judge if such an authority is capable of destroying the unanimous fuffrage of antiquity. “ Hermippus of Beryte gives the “ name of Sage to Chiron the Centaur ; and he who has “ written the Titanomachy reports, that he had first learned " the human race to live according to justice, by shewing " them the force of an oath, the joyful sacrifices, or thanks. " givings, and the figures of the heavens r."

Without speaking of the whimsical assortment of these three sorts of knowledge, without being willing to examine the authority of an unknown poet, and of whom the ancients have transmitted scarce any thing to us, could even what he has faid make us conclude, that Chiron had been learned enough in astronomy to ranige all the stars under their different constellations? Do we see in the passage in question, that the Centaur had reformed the calendar in favour of the

[merged small][ocr errors]

The scholiaft ot Pindar brings to prove it two verses of Hefiod. Nemea 3, ad vers. 92.

? Id. Pyth 4. ad verf. 211.
This is what the scholiast of Apollonius says also, 1. 1. V. 554.
* Strom.d. 1. p. 367. & 361.
r Exúcu ta 'Onýrtit. Clem. Alex, loco cit.


Argonauts, and lastly, that he had fixed the four points of : the folstices and the equinoxes in the middle, that it to say, in the fifteenth degree of Cancer and of Capricorn, of the Ram and Libra ?

What we can conclude, as appears to me, most naturally from this passage, is, that Chiron joined to the knowledge of botany, that sort of astronomy which concerns the heliacal setting and rising of some constellations, such as the Hyades, the Pleiades, and Orion, whose appearances furnish prognostics about the wind, the tempests, the rains, and other accidents hurtful to agriculture. He might know also, that the observation of the stars near the pole is useful in navigation. Perhaps he might have given some instructions to . the Greeks about these objects. It was this point, without doubt, to which the celestial knowledge of Chiron was reduced. The state in which astronomy then was in Greece, does not permit us to doubt of it. These sciences, more. over, were limited enough, and did not put the person who possessed them, in a state of executing all that they would give the honour of to Chiron *.

We must besides have paid very little attentio. to the manner in which the Greeks failed in the heroic times, to imagine, that the Argonauts had need of a calendar to mark exactly the rising, the setting, and the position of the stars. The Greeks then only cruised about, that is to fay, failed along the coasts. It was not necessary in the enterprise of the Argonauts to bear off to the open seas; their object was to make the passage from Thessaly to Col. : chis. Of what use then would the pretended calendar of Chiron have been to them? Shall we suppose, that these ad. venturers knew how to take the height of the stars, to know the place in which they were? What I shall say in the fol

What Clemens Alexandrinus adds, of Hyppo, daughter of Chiron, whom Ovid, by the by, calls Ocyroe, confirms the explication which I have just given of the astronomical knowledge of Chiron. Hyppo, daughter of the Centaur, says Clement, having espoused Æolus, the fame Ulysses came to thew to her husband the science of her father, that is to say, the contemplation of nature. Euripides, adds he, says of this Hyppo, that she knew and predicted divine things by the oracles and by the rising of the stars. Strom. 1, 1.7.361.

« ElőzőTovább »