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The development of science in the modern world is often held to depend on such institutions as universities, peer-reviewed journals, and democracy. How, then, did new science emerge in the pre-modern culture of the Hellenistic Egyptian monarchy? Berrey argues that the court society formed around the Ptolemaic pharaohs Ptolemy III and IV (reigned successively 246-205/4 BCE) provided an audience for cross-disciplinary, learned knowledge, as physicians, mathematicians, and mechanicians clothed themselves in the virtues of courtiers attendant on the kings. The multicultural Greco-Egyptian court society prized entertainment that drew on earlier literature, mixed genres and cultures, and highlighted motion and sound. New cross-disciplinary science in the Hellenistic period gained its social currency and subsequent scientific success through its entertainment value as court science. Ancient court science sheds light on the long history of scientific interdisciplinarity.
Marquis Berrey, University of Iowa, Iowa City, USA.
“[...] Berrey has produced a work which will be essential reading for those interested in the political and intellectual currents in Hellenistic literature. Indeed, something which is highly revealing, but which Berrey downplays, is the position of poetry at court. He draws on research into Hellenistic poetry in explaining the aesthetics of scientific texts, i.e. their sense of belatedness or their cross-disciplinary nature.”Max Leventhal in: Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2018.08.11
"B[errey]’s book surveys an impressive cast of characters in an appealing way: here is a book that holds its own against the recent crop of excellent investigations of science in antiquity (e.g. Reviel Netz’s Ludic Proof: Greek Mathematics and the Alexandrian Aesthetic [CUP, 2009]—possibly the closest analogue). But it is so much more than a lucid exposition of ancient technological and theoretical advances. B.’s sensitivity to the ‘genres’ and discourses of scientific writing makes these (sometimes rebarbative) texts, often ignored or undervalued by classicists, historians, and archaeologists, come to life. It is precisely at the interface of cultural, social, historical, and technological factors that Berrey is at his best. Highly recommended for anyone who is interested in bringing the technical and the literary together and wants to see these texts in an exciting new light."Gary Vos in: Classics for All, 21.04.3018 https://classicsforall.org.uk/book-reviews/hellenistic-science-at-court/
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