gerbert of aurilliac

gerbert of aurilliac - Gerbert was born somewhere in the...

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Gerbert was born somewhere in the mountainous region of Auvergne, in central France. Since neither his place of birth nor his parents were recorded, it seems likely that he was of low birth. Sometime about 963, he entered the monastery of St. Gerald at Aurillac. This is the monastery that Gerald the Good had established near his castle just before his death some sixty years earlier, and where he was buried. It was, like Cluny, a rather strict Benedictine monastery and was independent of any local control, being subject only to the pope. Here he studied his Latin grammar under a teacher by the name of Raymond, for whom he held a special affection for the rest of his life. Of course, by this time, "grammar" had come to stand for the verbal skills included in the trivium -- grammar, logic, and rhetoric. In 967, Count Borrell of Barcelona visited the monastery, and the abbot asked the count to take Gerbert back to Spain with him so that the lad could study mathematics there. It would seem that Gerbert had proven to be an apt pupil, and his abbot wanted to see him go on to the study of the quadrivium -- arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy. Borrell agreed and put the lad in the care of the bishop of Vic, where there was a cathedral school. Catalunya, in which both Barcelona and Vic were located, was a frontier territory, and there was considerable communication between Catalunya and the Muslims of al-Andalus to the south. Al-Andalus was much more advanced that Christian Europe. While the greatest library in Christian Europe boasted less than a thousand volumes, the library in the Muslim capital of Cordoba held over four hundred thousand. Catalunya benefitted from the proximity of the cultured Muslims, and the libraries of the cathedral of Vic and the nearby monastery of Ripoll were among the largest and best equipped in Europe. The proximity of the Muslims meant more than that in the matter of the subjects of the quadrivium, however. The Muslims had fallen heir to both Greek and Persian science in their initial expansion and had translated many classics into Arabic. At the same time, Arabic traders and travelers were in contact with India and China and had absorbed many of their advances. Muslim "scientists" were highly regarded, and perhaps nowhere in Islam as much as in al-Andalus. Muslim astronomy was the most advanced in the world, and Muslim astronomers proficient in using the astrolabe had done much to map the skies. Although the names of modern planets and constellations are Latin, the names of most major stars -- Altair, Deneb, Rigel, Sirius, Fomalhaut, Aldeberan, Betelgeuse -- are Arabic as are many of the other terms of astronomy, such as azimuth, almagest, almanac, and the Zodiac. The Arabs were even further advanced in the realm of arithmetic. They had adopted the concept of zero from the Indians and used a positional numeric system much like the modern system -- in fact, our numerals are based on the Arabic notation. They had also borrowed the abacus from the
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This note was uploaded on 11/18/2011 for the course HISTORY 170 taught by Professor Romero during the Fall '11 term at Rutgers.

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gerbert of aurilliac - Gerbert was born somewhere in the...

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