The Alleged Babylonian Discovery of the Precession of the Equinoxes
Historians constantly face two closely related problems: to make new textual material available and to destroy generally accepted theories. The present paper is concerned with the latter aspect, in the case of the more and more frequently quoted statement that the Babylonian astronomer Kidinnu was the discoverer of the precession of the equinoxes and that this event can be dated in 379 b. c., thus antedating Hipparchus by about two and one-half centuries. It may seem as if we were dealing here with one of those questions of priority which are of very little significance. Actually the problem has wider implications. It is closely related to the problem of the date of origin of Babylonian mathematical astronomy, which exercised a deep influence on Greek astronomy and its continuation in the Middle Ages. It is furthermore of importance for the evaluation of Babylonian astronomy and the mutual role of observation versus theory during the Seleucid period.
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