A Kingdom of Stargazers: Astrology and Authority in the Late Medieval Crown of Aragon
Published by: Cornell University Press
Imprint: Cornell University Press
Sales Date: 2017-04-30
Published: April 2017
Imprint: Cornell University Press
Page Count: 232 Pages
Dimensions: 6.00 x 9.00
232 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 x 0.53 in
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Astrology in the Middle Ages was considered a branch of the magical arts, one informed by Jewish and Muslim scientific knowledge in Muslim Spain. As such it was deeply troubling to some Church authorities. Using the stars and planets to divine the future ran counter to the orthodox Christian notion that human beings have free will, and some clerical authorities argued that it almost certainly entailed the summoning of spiritual forces considered diabolical. We know that occult beliefs and practices became widespread in the later Middle Ages, but there is much about the phenomenon that we do not understand. For instance, how deeply did occult beliefs penetrate courtly culture and what exactly did those in positions of power hope to gain by interacting with the occult? In A Kingdom of Stargazers, Michael A. Ryan examines the interest in astrology in the Iberian kingdom of Aragon, where ideas about magic and the occult were deeply intertwined with notions of power, authority, and providence.
Ryan focuses on the reigns of Pere III (1336?1387) and his sons Joan I (1387?1395) and Martí I (1395?1410). Pere and Joan spent lavish amounts of money on astrological writings, and astrologers held great sway within their courts. When Martí I took the throne, however, he was determined to purge Joan?s courtiers and return to religious orthodoxy. As Ryan shows, the appeal of astrology to those in power was clear: predicting the future through divination was a valuable tool for addressing the extraordinary problems?political, religious, demographic?plaguing Europe in the fourteenth century. Meanwhile, the kings' contemporaries within the noble, ecclesiastical, and mercantile elite had their own reasons for wanting to know what the future held, but their engagement with the occult was directly related to the amount of power and authority the monarch exhibited and applied. A Kingdom of Stargazers joins a growing body of scholarship that explores the mixing of religious and magical ideas in the late Middle Ages.
Introduction: Traveling SouthPart I. Positioning the Stars, Divining the Future1. Prophecy, Knowledge, and Authority: Divining the Future and Expecting the End of Days2. For Youths and Simpletons: The Folly of Elite Astrology3. The Iberian Peninsula: Land of Astral MagicPart II. A Kingdom of Stargazers4. Kings and Their Heavens: The Ceremonious and the Negligent5. To Condemn a King: The Inquisitor and the Notary6. A Return to Orthodoxy: The Ascension of Martí I and the End of an EraEpilogue: An Unfortunate Claimant: Jaume el Dissortat, the Rise of the Trastámaras, and beyond the Closing of the EcumeneBibliography
"In this very entertaining book, Michael A. Ryan focuses on the history of astrological studies in the Crown of Aragon during the late fourteenth century and the influence of this forbidden knowledge on its European neighbors.... It is a brilliant study of one phase of the history of science and magic in the later Middle Ages and a worthy successor to the groundbreaking research of authorities such as Valerie Flint and Lynn Thorndike."Donald J. Kagay, The Historian
"A Kingdom of Stargazers is an excellent work that exposes in a novel way the relationship of the interest in astrology and magic, the censure of this interest, and the level of authority and power of kings in the medieval Iberian Crown of Aragon. To what extent the label 'occult' is a construct of scholarship or whether it represents a historical idea, or both, is one of the themes of this book. Ryan?s work offers a brilliant exploration of the sources of the court of Aragon, which reveals the complex relationship between political power and the attitudes toward astrology. Historians of medieval Spain and historians of science in general will find it worth reading; scholars interested in the history of medieval and early modern astrology, magic, or alchemy will also see in it an essential addition to scholarship."Renaissance Quarterly