Rome- Scientists.

So I already looked into the Science aspect in Rome through the side of medicine, so I wanted to look a bit further into those who worked towards the contributions, such as the scientists.

Galen (c.130AD-c.210AD)- a writer, philosopher and physician whose work dominated Rome for over 1,500 years. He was a prolific writer who produced hundreds of works, 120 of which have survived. As human dissection was banned in the Roman empire, he mainly worked on animals, however some of this research contributed to mistakes. He gave extensive descriptions of bones and muscles, resulting in the discovery that there are differences in structure of veins and arteries and the use of valves. He also demonstrated the contributions of paralysis from spinal injuries and that urine passes from the kidneys to the bladder. Galen, furthermore, showed diagnoses through the pulse rate.

However, Galen’s limitation on studies of Human race caused some errors in his work.

  1. He thought that muscles attach to the bone in the same way in humans and in dogs.
  2. He thought that blood was created in the liver. He realised that it flowed round the body, but said it was burned up as fuel for the muscles.
  3. He thought he saw holes through the septum, which allowed the blood to flow from one side of the heart to the other.
  4. He made mistakes about the blood vessels in the brain.
  5. He thought the human jaw-bone was made up of two bones, like a dog’s.
  6. He was mistaken about the shape of the human liver.

(, 2016)

Books by Galen include “On My Opinion,” “Usefulness Parts of the Body” and “On the Natural Facilities.”

Claudius Ptolemy  (85–165 CE)- Ptolemy was one of the greatest astronomers of Roman Alexandria. He worked on previous knowledge from Greek culture of the Universe, his work contributing to astronomers making accurate predictions of planetary positions and solar and lunar eclipses. His work was used throughout Rome for more than 1,400 years.

Ptolemy used the basis that the sun and planets revolved around the world (as seen originally by Aristotle. Using his naked eye, Ptolemy saw the Universe of a set of spheres with the Earth in the centre. He was able to position the Moon, Mercury, Venus and Sun. He even position Mars, Saturn and Jupiter (the additional known planets today were not known at the time. Ptolemy used the calculations of Hipparchus’ notion of epicycles and his observations that the size, motion and brightness of planets varied to work out the formula for orbiting patterns. Epicycles are small circular orbit around centres on which planets are said to move while making a revolution around the Earth. From these calculations, astronomers could accurately calculate eclipses and positions of planets.


                               (Taylor, 1974)

Ptolemy recorded over 1,000 stars and mapped them, including 300 newly discovered one.

Some of the pages from the “Almagest.” (Ptolemy et al., 1955).

Astronomy came a long way from the original lunar calendar progression. The original calendar (pre-Julian calendar) was designed by Romolus (the King of Rome). The calendar started the year in March (Martius) and consisted of 10 months, with 6 months of 30 days and 4 months of 31 days. The calendar, however, unaccounted for winter.

Pre-Julian calendar months:

  1. Martius – 31 Days
  2. Aprilis – 30 Days
  3. Maius – 31 Days
  4. Iunius – 30 Days
  5. Quintilis – 31 Days
  6. Sextilis – 30 Days
  7. September – 30 Days
  8. October – 31 Days
  9. November – 30 Days
  10. December – 30 Days

(Michels, 1967).

The Roman calendar also had different ways of marking the days and months, using three markers known as Ides, Nones and Calends.

Calends (Kalendae, Kalends) signify the start of the new moon cycle and was always the first day of the month. It is derived from the Greek word καλειν, “to announce” the days of the full and new moon.

Nones (Nonae) were known to be the days of the half moon which usually occur 8 days before the Ides.

Ides occurred on the 15th day of March, May, July, and October, and the 13th day of the other months. They are thought to have been the days of the full moon.

(, 2016)

The calendar was reformed in 700 BCE by King Numa Pompilius, adding the months January (Ianuarius) and February (Februarius), increasing the length to 355 days. Month names were also edited, Quintilis was renamed July in honor of Julius Caesar in 44 BCE and Sextilis was renamed August in honor of Augustus in 8 BCE.




, (2016). BBC – GCSE Bitesize: Anatomical errors in Galen. [online] Available at: [Accessed 10 Feb. 2016].

Taylor, B. (1974). Picture reference book of the ancient Greeks. Leicester: Brockhampton Press.

Ptolemy, Taliaferro, R., Wallis, C., Copernicus, N., Kepler, J. and Kepler, J. (1955). The almagest. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica.

Michels, A. (1967). The calendar of the Roman Republic. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press., (2016). The Roman Calendar. [online] Available at: [Accessed 10 Feb. 2016].




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