School of Humanities

Christian Thomé

Room: L.11.19
Phone: 0202 - 439 5517
E-Mail: thome[at]
Bergische Universität Wuppertal
Gaußstr. 20
42119 Wuppertal

Research Project

Euclid's Phaenomena

History of Transmission, Textual Criticism, Translation, and Explanation.

Supervised by Prof. Dr. Thomas Riesenweber & Jun.-Prof. Dr. Stefan Weise

(The dissertation will be written in German.)

The Greek mathematician Euclid of Alexandria lived in the third century BC. He is renowned for his work Elements, which covers various areas of mathematics in 13 books. Much of modern (school) mathematics draws extensively from this work, and terms such as "Euclidean" and "non-Euclidean" geometry are widely recognized. Among his lesser-known writings, which build upon the insights laid out in the Elements, are the Phaenomena. In a more narrow sense, "phaenomena" refers specifically to celestial phenomena, encompassing, first and foremost, the motion of the stars fixed on a celestial sphere that rotates around the Earth (hence "fixed stars").

Despite the overwhelming influence of Euclid's work, there remains a significant need for research, particularly concerning the constitution of the Greek text. There is debate about which text the medieval manuscripts present, the oldest one of which was copied in AD 800; even Euclid's authorship of some passages has been questioned. The Phaenomena are available to scholars in the form of the last volume of a comprehensive edition (with a latin translation facing the Greek) by the Danish philologist Johan Ludvig Heiberg and his German colleague Heinrich Menge (Euclidis opera omnia, 1883–1916). Subsequent research on the text has been minimal, and no new edition has been published since. Furthermore, some fundamental views of these editors regarding the transmission history of several of Euclid's texts have been called into question. Meanwhile, historians of mathematics demand a closer examination not only of the text but also of the geometric diagrams presented in the manuscripts.

Therefore, I will, inter alia, examine the manuscripts afresh and offer a running critical commentary. Additionally, the resulting book will provide an introduction to the non-trigonometric yet complex mathematical astronomy of the Phaenomena, accessible even to laypersons. The diagrams will be discussed extensively and represented as perspective drawings, inspired by ancient work with armillary spheres. The translation of the text will include passages that have not been previously translated, not even into Latin. A 9th-century Arabic translation of the work (from a lost Syriac translation, which was in turn translated from a lost Greek version) will be edited and translated into English by Hamid Bohloul.

This endeavour aims to lay the groundwork for further research in a largely forgotten branch of mathematics.



  • 2010–2018: Teacher training program including educational studies in Classical Philology and History at Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich (degree: Erstes Staatsexamen) and the University of Oxford (Master of Studies).

  • 2018–2020: Teacher training for secondary schools (Gymnasium) in Bavaria (Zweites Staatsexamen).

  • September 2020 to February 2021: Part-time teacher at a Bavarian Gymnasium.

  • Since late 2020: Fellow at the Graduate School Dokument – Text – Edition at the Bergische University Wuppertal and the Kirchliche Hochschule Wuppertal/Bethel, also a doctoral student at the Faculty of Humanities and Cultural Studies (Department of Classical Philology) at the Bergische University Wuppertal.

Last modified: 20.09.2023

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