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Macrobius's Commentary On Scipio's Dream: Its Carolingian Uses For Astronomy And Cosmology

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Chapter Summary

A picture of the physical cosmos - the earth, the stellar sphere, and the intermediate ordered planets - appeared clearly for the scholars of Charlemagne’s day in Macrobius’s lengthy commentary on Cicero’s Somnium Scipionis. Macrobius described a cosmos of concentric spheres, from the central and spherical earth up through the seven planets to the outermost, stellar sphere. Three other diagrams described by Macrobius offer further elements of cosmological order. These are: a diagram emphasizing the physical centrality of the earth; the climatic regions of the earth; and the zones and circles of the celestial sphere, symmetrical with terrestrial circles and zones. In commenting on Cicero’s Dream of Scipio, Macrobius laid out a broad spectrum of philosophical, mythological, and scientific doctrines. Carolingian scholars generally made use of the commentary of Macrobius with discrimination, and they even chose at times to make it say what its author did not say.

Keywords: Carolingian scholars; Cicero; cosmological order; Dream of Scipio; Macrobius



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