Astronomy in Ancient and Medieval Italy
Welcome to the Archaeoastronomy pages on Historia Vivens Web! On this page Adriano Gaspani bring us on a fascinating journey through the Italian Peninsula and the astronomical knowledge and practices from Prehistory to the Middle Ages. A particularly outstanding contribution of the author refers to the archaeoastronomical study of the settlements and necropolises belonging to the so-called Golasecca Culture, one of the oldest Celtic cultures in Europe, that was settled in North-eastern Italy from the thirteenth century to the fourth century BC.
Another important contribution by the Author in the Archaeoastronomy field is represented by the extensive survey and analysis carried out for many years in investigating the astronomical orientation and symbolism of the early medieval Christian churches throughout Italy. Further areas of research related to the Italian peninsula focus on the ancient cultures from Northern and Central Italy, and the astronomical criteria used for the layouts of the medieval cities and castles.
Here below you can find Adriano Gaspani's contributions (mostly in Italian language) published on Historia Vivens Web. Texts and images, unless otherwise attributed, are provided by the Author himself, and are his copyright. Please note that, to ease the reading, all articles, in full version and usually accompanied by pictures and notes, are available for free and safe download in PDF format. We hope you will enjoy the contents and wish you a pleasant surfing experience. This section is constantly evolving, please come back often for the latest updates. Thank you!
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La Cultura di Golasecca
Adriano Gaspani introduce us to the Golasecca Culture that reached a quite sophisticated astronomical knowledge used for agricultural planning, cult administration and time measurement...
The astronomy in the culture of Golasecca
To reconstruct the history and the culture of the people living in the region of Lombardia just before the roman capture and the Gauls invasion in the 338 B.C., we have to consider all the archaeological remains and the historical events. Actually the archaeologists can't tell which were the populations living in the plain and in the lakes area in the north of Italy.
The researches reveal the existence of a common culture of the people living in the area of the river Oglio, which is known as "Golasecca Culture", a name that may have originated from the most famous place near Varese city, where the first remains of that culture have been found. Looking at a comparison between the tombs and the nemetons and the maps of the stars dating back to the first millennium BC, we see that there were standing stones erected in correspondence to defined constellations, that were well known in those distant ages.
The cromlech of Monsorino
The cromlech of Monsorino: an example of geometry and astronomy in the culture of Golasecca. The word cromlech comes from the welsh language and it means exactly "curved stone". The cromlech is an enclosure of many stones set in a circle enclosing one or more tombs. It is also called "ring tomb" and is well known throughout Europe and in the Ticino area where after the first mellennium B.C. the Golasecca culture set up. The cromlechs situated on the top of the hills like at Monsorino and on the plains like at Vigevano and Vergiate, have different sizes from 3 to 10 diameter meters. The circle of Vigano, unfortunately disappeared, was the biggest one with a diameter of 17 meters and a corridor of about 30 meters. In the Ticino area, at Carrera in Sesto Calende, the use of these funeral enclosures started in the VIII c. and went on in the VII and VI c. as well. The strange thing is that at Monsorino they used the Pitagora triangle in the VII and VIII c. B.C. a period of 3-4oo years before its coming.
The Battle of Syracuse (Sicily), 413 BC, and the Moon...
History shows us that often the fate of a battle or sometimes even of a whole war were decided by astronomical events, such as a solar and lunar eclypse, a comet, or, better to say, the interpretation and the omens drawn from their happening. Also the ancient Greek history is rich of examples of this kind. One very famous episode occurred in the 5th century BC: the battle fought between the Athenians and the Greek settlers of Syracuse (Sicily) and their Spartan allies.
Image: the final sea battle in the Great Harbour at Syracuse, 413 BC (copyright and source: Peter Bull via InfoBarrell).
The Athenian Sicilian expedition and the siege of Syracuse was a two year long military expedition to Sicily which took place from 415 BC to 413 BC during the Great Peloponnesian War (31-404 BC, an ancient Greek war fought by Athens and its allies against the Peloponnesian League led by Sparta). In this article the author tells us how a lunar eclipse managed to decide the fate of the war, that ended with the total defeat and destruction of the Athenian army...
You can download here the full article (in Italian) in PDF format: