Archive for History of Exact Sciences

, Volume 69, Issue 2, pp 217–230 | Cite as

On Philolaus’ astronomy

  • Daniel W. Graham


In Philolaus’ cosmology, the earth revolves around a central fire along with the other heavenly bodies, including a planet called the counter-earth which orbits below the earth. His theory can account for most astronomical phenomena. A common criticism of his theory since ancient times is that his counter-earth does no work in the system. Yet ancient sources say the planet was supposed to account for some lunar eclipses. A reconstruction of Philolaus’ cosmology shows how lunar eclipses occurring at certain times of day cannot be explained by earth blocking the sun’s light. The counter-earth could explain these eclipses.


Solar Eclipse Full Moon Empirical Adequacy Lunar Eclipse Heavenly Body 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I presented this paper to the International Association for Presocratic Philosophy at a meeting in Mérida, Mexico, on Jan. 9, 2012. I am grateful to the participants for discussion, as well as to Carl Huffman for written comments and to my colleague David Grandy for oral comments.


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ProvoUSA

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