Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Faculty of Language, Literature and Humanities - Alexander von Humboldt Professorship

Living according to the seasons – the power of parapegmata

Gerd Graßhoff

Parapegmata are from a hybrid genre of scientific texts. Sometimes they are used as physical symbolic objects in a public space like the parapegma of Milet. Considering the small amount of literate people in an agora, one might assume some sort of broad public understanding of its functioning. People need to know the specific weekday for the markets and seasonal dates for the traded goods. There are also parapegma that clearly articulate regularities between astronomical seasonal indicators and weather phenomena. These are theoretical texts written for the expert and utilized by a small group of scholars. Ptolemy’s Phaseis are considered to be a compilation of such parapegmata, with typical references to authorities concerning certain regularities. What is the purpose of this compilation of information which is in total not applicable to the same location? Are there in fact two kinds of parapegmata, one group of theoretical rules without general validity? And the other, which defines the locally valid seasonal patterns? What is the application procedure of theoretical parapegmata?