Almagest: Vol. VII, Issue 1

Almagest 7-1 cover

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Table of Contents and Abstracts, Almagest 7-1, May 2016

The Inscriptions of the Antikythera Mechanism

M. Allen, W. Ambrisco, M. Anastasiou, D. Bate, Y. Bitsakis, A. Crawley, M.G.Edmunds, D. Gelb, R. Hadland, P. Hockley, A. Jones , T. Malzbender, H. Mangou, X. Moussas, A. Ramsey , J.H. Seiradakis, J. M. Steele, A.Tselikas, M. Zafeiropoulou
1. General Preface to the Publication of the Inscriptions

This is the prefatory paper to a series which presents the surviving text inscriptions on the Antikythera Mechanism. The structure of the mechanism and the history of the reading of the inscriptions are briefly reviewed. The methods used by the Antikythera Mechanism Research Project to image the inscriptions —computed tomography and polynomial textual mapping— are outlined. The layout of the inscriptions is described, and the dimensions of the mechanism deduced to allow the space available for inscriptions to be estimated. General conventions and notations are provided for the presentation of the inscriptions.

A. Jones
2. Historical Background and General Observations

This paper presents a detailed account of the history of the fragments of the Antikythera Mechanism preserved in the National Archeological Museum, Athens, with particular attention to previous transcriptions and paleographical appraisals of the inscriptions in the fragments. The paper concludes with general observations about the technique and paleography of the inscriptions.

Y. Bitsakis, A. Jones
3. The Front Dial and Parapegma Inscriptions

The dial at the center of the front face of the Antikythera Mechanism was surrounded by two scales, one representing the zodiac, the other the Egyptian calendar year. The Zodiac Scale was inscribed with the names of the zodiacal signs as well as series of index letters in alphabetic order, while the Egyptian Calendar Scale was inscribed with the Greek names of the Egyptian months. In addition, two rectangular plates, the remains of which survived displaced from their original positions, bore an inscription, called the Parapegma Inscription, comprising an alphabetically indexed list of annually repeating astronomical events relating to the Sun and to fixed stars. This paper gives transcriptions and translations of the inscriptions on the dial scales and the Parapegma Inscription, and deduces the original structure, layout, and location of the Parapegma Inscription. A provisional astronomical analysis of the data in the Parapegma Inscription and tentative restorations of some of its damaged and missing lines are also provided.

M. Anastasiou, Y. Bitsakis, A. Jones , J. M. Steele, M. Zafeiropoulou
4. The Back Dial and Back Plate Inscriptions

The rear face of the Mechanism consisted of a rectangular "Back Plate" dominated by two large spiral dials. The upper five-turn Metonic Dial represented a 235-lunar-month calendrical cycle while the lower four-turn Saros Dial represented a 223-lunar-month eclipse prediction cycle. A subsidiary quadrant "Games" dial was situated inside the Metonic Dial, and a subsidiary three-sector Exeligmos Dial inside the Saros Dial. Preserved text inscribed around the dials (from the lower right quarter of the plate), probably representing about a quarter of the original inscription, provided further information associated with the predictions of eclipses. This paper describes the reconstruction from the Mechanism's fragments of the surviving parts of the text on the plate and its dials, giving transcriptions and translations. The Metonic Dial inscriptions imply a calendrical scheme similar to that described by Geminos. It was intended to be a version of the calendar of Corinth as it was practiced either at Corinth itself or in some locality of Epirus. The Games dial shows six competitions, four Panhellenic (Olympics, Pythian, Isthmian, and Nemean) plus Naa (Dodona) and very probably Halieia (Rhodes). On the Saros dial there were probably originally about 50 or 51 month cells with a lunar and/or solar eclipse prediction, each carrying a "glyph" and an index letter. Predicted eclipse times (in equinoctial hours) on the glyphs were calculated as times of true syzygy according to solar and lunar models that both involved anomaly, with the simple Exeligmos dial extending the predictions over three or more Saros cycles. We are reluctant to base a firm construction date on interpretation of the eclipse cycles. The additional information referred to by index letters from the Saros dial was grouped into paragraphs; that for lunar eclipse prediction probably ran down one side of the plate, and that for solar eclipse prediction down the other. Statements about direction may imply a meteorological aspect by referring to predictions of winds attending the eclipses. Five references to colour and size at eclipse are the only Greco-Roman source known to us that suggests prediction of eclipse colors, and might conceivably be linked with astrology.

Y. Bitsakis, A. Jones
5. The Back Cover Inscription

This paper presents an edition with translation and commentary of an extended text that was inscribed on a plate (or conceivably a pair of plates) that lay against the rear face of the Antikythera Mechanism while it was under the sea. This plate, which may have functioned as a protective cover, is extant only in small fragments, but more of its text was preserved as offsets on a layer of accreted matter that built up against it. The text was a systematic description of the dials, pointers, and other external features of the Mechanism, beginning with the front face and continuing with the rear face. The best preserved passages include descriptions of features on lost parts of the Mechanism: a display of pointers bearing small spheres representing the Sun and planets on the front dial, and a dial on the upper back face representing a 76-year "Kallippic" calendrical cycle.

M. Anastasiou, Y. Bitsakis, A. Jones , X. Moussas, A.Tselikas, M. Zafeiropoulou
6. The Front Cover Inscription

The bronze plate known as the “Front Cover” of the Antikythera Mechanism had inscriptions on its outside face. This paper describes the reconstruction of the surviving parts of this text from the Mechanism’s fragments, giving transcriptions and translations. The texts give data on synodic cycles for the five planets, and it may be conjectured that lost lines described the behaviour of the Sun and Moon. The data strongly support the idea that planetary motions were displayed on the front face of the Mechanism using simple epicyclic or eccentric models. Previously unattested long and accurate period relations are given for Venus and Saturn, which are favourable for geared representation and probably of Greek, rather than Babylonian, origin.