ptolemy’s amalgest and the japanese magnolia of belhaven university

The study of planets and stars captured my interest when I completed an Art Before Cortes class at Gustavus Adolphus College with Professor Linnea Wren. It must have been 1990 or 1991. As I found out, the Mayans were master astronomers, and at some point I’ll share what I learned. Future biscuit/post.

The ancient Greeks were no slouches in the astronomy department. Have you heard of Claudius Ptolemaeus (born c. 100 CE—died c. 170 CE)?


He is more commonly known as Ptolemy, and was an Egyptian astronomer of Greek descent. He believed that the motions of the Sun, Moon, stars, and planets could be described in mathematical terms. His observations, which he called Hē mathēmatikē syntaxis (“The Mathematical Collection”), are known as the Amalgest.

The Amalgest isn’t your ordinary ancient Greek text; it’s an informational rabbit hole of the highest order (at least to me). If you’re looking for some light reading, you can lose yourself starting here.

I appreciate Ptolemy’s exceptional brain. Who doesn’t like to chart, map, and analyze things? I know I do. I try to keep a running list of when flowers start to bloom in my corner of #Belhaven to see how the list measures up the following year. In mid January, the camellias. Check. The second week of February, the Japanese magnolia trees. Check.

The Japanese magnolia trees have freaky cool blooms. They look like pink teacups (at least to me). I took this photo from nearby Belhaven University, which has a beautiful campus. I know my friend Stacie Wells would agree.

Japanese magnolia

It seems that the magnolia (not the Japanese kind) blooms in Belhaven started opening a bit later this year, compared to last year. Stuff I need to commit to a book, I’m guessing. My own Amalgest.