Cycles of the sun, moon and venus

Homer & numbers panel

Data and calculations from Homer’s Odyssey


Homer’s precise definition of the days, months and seasons of the Lunar Year (see 

previous page)  is only a brief introduction to his mathematical ingenuity and much more 

astronomical and calendrical data can be discovered in the Odyssey.


One major problem faced by ancient astronomers and calendar-makers was how to 

keep the 354 days of the lunar year in step with the 365 days of the solar year. 


It is not known when or where observations of cycles of the sun and moon first helped to 

resolve this issue, but Homer (c. 745-700 BC) was so familiar with such cycles that the 

organisation of time in both the Iliad and the Odyssey is constructed around them.


Homer’s Secret Odyssey discloses how analysis of numerical data embedded in the epic

and a reading of the Odyssey as extended metaphor, reflects Homer the Astronomer’s 

surprisingly advanced knowlege of luni-solar cycles and much other astronomical and 

calendrical learning, including:


* The 99 lunations of an 8-year luni-solar cycle (an octaeteris).

* The alternating 49 and 50 lunations of the 4-year period between Olympic games.

* The 235 lunations of the 19-year luni-solar cycle (later known as the Metonic).


* The 223 lunations of the Saros eclipse cycle.

* The 584 days of a Venus synodic period.

* 5 Synodic Venus periods and an octaeteris

 Luni-solar cycles and the lives of Penelope, Helen, Telemachus and others. 

Numerical data is far from being Homer’s only method of preserving astronomical knowledge 

in the Odysseyand his soaringly beautiful descriptive narrative is an equally bountiful and 

supportive source.  One example of how Homer uses narrative to describe an astronomical 

event can be found on the next page:

Next: Circe and Magical ‘Moly'

 Page links

See also on YouTube:  Homer the Astronomer-1  and  Homer the Astronomer-2  


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