GOLDEN AGE OR COSMIC DISASTER? EARLY MODERN PREDICTIONS FOR THE GREAT CONJUNCTION OF 1504
For each of the astronomical conjunctions of Saturn and Jupiter in the 15th and 16th centuries (1444, 1464, 1484, 1504, 1524, 1544, etc.), intellectuals all over Europe wrote predictions based on the Arabic astrological theory of the Great Conjunctions. Being cyclical and of pagan origin, the theory offered a fascinating alternative to the linear concept of historical progress implied in the Christian doctrine of the successive ages (aetates).
Some European intellectuals used the Arabic theory to find a precise date for the end of the world, which they believed to be imminent. Others employed the same theory to overcome these widespread fears by arguing that their own age of decline would be followed by a splendid renewal of civic life and public institutions.
Some fifteen extant texts, written mostly in Latin and comprising about fifty printed pages, contain predictions for the Great Conjunction of 1504. The authors are leading scientists, poets, and political advisers to popes and emperors. Their debate remains largely inaccessible to modern historians, because a critical edition with translations and commentary is not available. More than half of the texts are preserved in only one copy worldwide.
It is the purpose of Professor Heilen’s research project to remedy this situation with a comprehensive case study. He will prepare a philologically correct presentation of the texts with accurate translations and elucidation of their technical details. For the first time, this set of materials will be presented as a solid foundation on which historians, philosophers, theologians, psychologists, and other scholars can build.