Uruk and the Greco-Roman World

  • Alexander JonesEmail author
Part of the Why the Sciences of the Ancient World Matter book series (WSAWM, volume 2)


Uruk seems hardly to have been known in the broader Greco-Roman world except in rather specialized circles. A version of its Greek name occurs in Ptolemy’s Geography and his Handy Tables. The people of Uruk, the Orchenoi or Orchenioi, also show up in the Geography, as well as in the astrological geography of Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos, where Ptolemy associates astronomy with three peoples, Babylonians, Chaldaioi and Orchenoi, though apparently in his eyes the Babylonians were somehow more exotic, while the Chaldaioi and Orchenoi were more ‘people like us’. Pliny and Strabo also know the Orchenoi primarily as practitioners of astral science. A recently discovered papyrus fragment, P.Oxy. astr. 4139, takes us beyond these literary references by associating the Orchenoi with specific doctrines in mathematical lunar theory.



The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013)/ERC Grant Agreement No. 269804.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for the Study of the Ancient WorldNew York UniversityNew YorkUSA

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