POPE SYLVESTER II or SILVESTER II (c. 946 – 12 May 1003) was Pope
from 2 April 999 to his death in 1003. Originally known as GERBERT OF
AURILLAC (Latin : Gerbertus Aureliacensis or de Aurillac; French :
Gerbert d'Aurillac), he was a prolific scholar and teacher. He
endorsed and promoted study of Arab and
mathematics, and astronomy, reintroducing to Europe the abacus and
armillary sphere , which had been lost to Latin (though not Byzantine
) Europe since the end of the
Greco-Roman era. He is said to be
the first to introduce in Europe the decimal numeral system using
Arabic numerals. He was the first French
* 1 Life * 2 Legend
* 3 Legacy
* 4 Works * 5 See also * 6 Notes
* 7 References
* 7.1 Citations * 7.2 Bibliography
* 8 Further reading * 9 External links
Gerbert was born about 946 in the town of Belliac, near the
present-day commune of
Saint-Simon, Cantal ,
Borrell II of Barcelona was facing major defeat from the Andalusian powers so he sent a delegation to Córdoba to request a truce. Bishop Atto was part of the delegation that met with Al-Hakam II of Cordoba, who received him with honor. Gerbert was fascinated by the stories of the Christian Bishops and judges who dressed and talked like the Arabs, well-versed in mathematics and natural sciences like the great teachers of the Islamic madrasahs . This sparked Gerbert's veneration for the Arabs and his passion for mathematics and astronomy.
In 969, Count Borrell II made a pilgrimage to
After the death of
Adalberon died on 23 January 989. Gerbert was a natural candidate
for his succession, but
Gerbert now became the teacher of
Otto III , and
In 1001, the Roman populace revolted against the Emperor, forcing
Otto III and Sylvester II to flee to
The legend of Gerbert grows from the work of the English monk William
of Malmesbury in
De Rebus Gestis Regum Anglorum and a polemical
pamphlet, Gesta Romanae Ecclesiae contra Hildebrandum, by Cardinal
Beno , a partisan of
Emperor Henry IV
According to the legend, Gerbert, while studying mathematics and
astrology in the Muslim cities of Córdoba and
Gerbert was supposed to have built a brazen head . This "robotic" head would answer his questions with "yes" or "no". He was also reputed to have had a pact with a female demon called Meridiana, who had appeared after he had been rejected by his earthly love, and with whose help he managed to ascend to the papal throne (another legend tells that he won the papacy playing dice with the Devil).
According to the legend, Meridiana (or the bronze head) told Gerbert that if he should ever read a mass in Jerusalem, the Devil would come for him. Gerbert then cancelled a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, but when he read mass in the church Santa Croce in Gerusalemme ("Holy Cross of Jerusalem") in Rome, he became sick soon afterwards and, dying, he asked his cardinals to cut up his body and scatter it across the city. In another version, he was even attacked by the Devil while he was reading the Mass, and the Devil mutilated him and gave his gouged-out eyes to demons to play with in the Church. Repenting, Sylvester II then cut off his hand and his tongue.
The inscription on Gerbert's tomb reads in part Iste locus Silvestris membra sepulti venturo Domino conferet ad sonitum ("This place will yield to the sound the limbs of buried Sylvester II, at the advent of the Lord", mis-read as "will make a sound") and has given rise to the curious legend that his bones will rattle in that tomb just before the death of a Pope.
The alleged story of the crown and papal legate authority given to
Stephen I of Hungary by Sylvester in the year 1000 (hence the title
Apostolic King ') is noted by the 19th-century historian Lewis L.
Kropf as a possible forgery of the 17th century. Likewise, the
20th-century historian Zoltan J. Kosztolnyik states that "it seems
more than unlikely that
Gerbert of Aurillac was a humanist long before the Renaissance. He
In 967, he went to
Gerbert was said to be one of the most noted scientists of his time. Gerbert wrote a series of works dealing with matters of the quadrivium (arithmetic , geometry , astronomy , music ), which he taught using the basis of the trivium (grammar , logic , and rhetoric ). In Rheims, he constructed a hydraulic -powered organ with brass pipes that excelled all previously known instruments, where the air had to be pumped manually. In a letter of 984, Gerbert asks Lupitus of Barcelona for a book on astrology and astronomy , two terms historian S. Jim Tester says Gerbert used synonymously. Gerbert may have been the author of a description of the astrolabe that was edited by Hermannus Contractus some 50 years later. Besides these, as Sylvester II he wrote a dogmatic treatise, De corpore et sanguine Domini—On the Body and Blood of the Lord.
ABACUS AND HINDU–ARABIC NUMERALS
Reconstructed Ancient Roman Abacus.
Gerbert learned of Hindu–Arabic digits and applied this knowledge
to the abacus , but probably without the numeral zero . According to
the 12th-century historian
William of Malmesbury , Gerbert got the
idea of the computing device of the abacus from a Spanish Arab. The
abacus that Gerbert reintroduced into Europe had its length divided
into 27 parts with 9 number symbols (this would exclude zero, which
was represented by an empty column) and 1,000 characters in all,
crafted out of animal horn by a shieldmaker of Rheims. According to
his pupil Richer, Gerbert could perform speedy calculations with his
abacus that were extremely difficult for people in his day to think
through in using only
ARMILLARY SPHERE AND SIGHTING TUBE
Although lost to Europe since the terminus of the
Gerbert reintroduced the astronomical armillary sphere to Latin Europe
via the Islamic civilization of Al-Andalus, which was at that time at
the edge of civilization. The details of Gerbert's armillary sphere
are revealed in letters from Gerbert to his former student and monk
Remi of Trèves and to his colleague Constantine, the abbot of Micy ,
as well as the accounts of his former student and French nobleman
Richer, who served as a monk in
Rheims . Richer stated that Gerbert
discovered that stars coursed in an oblique direction across the night
sky. Richer described Gerbert's use of the armillary sphere as a
visual aid for teaching mathematics and astronomy in the classroom, as
well as how Gerbert organized the rings and markings on his device:
An armillary sphere in a painting by
First demonstrated the form of the world by a plain wooden sphere... thus expressing a very big thing by a little model. Slanting this sphere by its two poles on the horizon, he showed the northern constellations toward the upper pole and the southern toward the lower pole. He kept this position straight using a circle that the Greeks called horizon, the Latins limitans, because it divides visible stars from those that are not visible. On this horizon line, placed so as to demonstrate practically and plausibly... the rising and setting of the stars, he traced natural outlines to give a greater appearance of reality to the constellations... He divided a sphere in half, letting the tube represent the diameter, the one end representing the north pole, the other the south pole. Then he divided the semicircle from one pole to the other into thirty parts. Six lines drawn from the pole he drew a heavy ring to represent the arctic polar circle. Five divisions below this he placed another line to represent the tropic of Cancer. Four parts lower he drew a line for the equinoctial circle . The remaining distance to the south pole is divided by the same dimensions.
Given this account, historian Oscar G. Darlington asserts that Gerbert's division by 60 degrees instead of 360 allowed the lateral lines of his sphere to equal to six degrees. By this account, the polar circle on Gerbert's sphere was located at 54 degrees, several degrees off from the actual 66° 33'. His positioning of the Tropic of Cancer at 24 degree was nearly exact, while his positioning of the equator was correct by definition. Richer also revealed how Gerbert made the planets more easily observable in his armillary sphere:
He succeeded equally in showing the paths of the planets when they come near or withdraw from the earth. He fashioned first an armillary sphere. He joined the two circles called by the Greeks coluri and by the Latins incidentes because they fell upon each other, and at their extremities he placed the poles. He drew with great art and accuracy, across the colures, five other circles called parallels, which, from one pole to the other, divided the half of the sphere into thirty parts. He put six of these thirty parts of the half-sphere between the pole and the first circle; five between the first and the second; from the second to the third, four; from the third to the fourth, four again; five from the fourth to the fifth; and from the fifth to the pole, six. On these five circles he placed obliquely the circles that the Greeks call loxos or zoe, the Latins obliques or vitalis (the zodiac) because it contained the figures of the animals ascribed to the planets. On the inside of this oblique circle he figured with an extraordinary art the orbits traversed by the planets, whose paths and heights he demonstrated perfectly to his pupils, as well as their respective distances.
Richer wrote about another of Gerbert's last armillary spheres, which had sighting tubes fixed on the axis of the hollow sphere that could observe the constellations, the forms of which he hung on iron and copper wires. This armillary sphere was also described by Gerbert in a letter to his colleague Constantine. Gerbert instructed Constantine that, if doubtful of the position of the pole star , he should fix the sighting tube of the armillary sphere into position to view the star he suspected was it, and if the star did not move out of sight, it was thus the pole star. Furthermore, Gerbert instructed Constantine that the north pole could be measured with the upper and lower sighting tubes, the Arctic Circle through another tube, the Tropic of Cancer through another tube, the equator through another tube, and the Tropic of Capricorn through another tube.
12th century copy of De geometria.
Gerbert's writings were printed in volume 139 of the Patrologia Latina . Darlington notes that Gerbert's preservation of his letters might have been an effort of his to compile them into a textbook for his pupils that would illustrate proper letter writing. His books on mathematics and astronomy were not research-oriented; his texts were primarily educational guides for his students.
* Mathematical writings
* Libellus de numerorum divisione * De geometria * Regula de abaco computi * Liber abaci * Libellus de rationali et ratione uti
* Ecclesiastical writings
* Sermo de informatione episcoporum * De corpore et sanguine Domini * Selecta e concil. Basol., Remens., Masom., etc.
* Epistolae ante summum pontificatum scriptae
* 218 letters, including letters to the emperor, the pope, and various bishops
* Epistolae et decreta pontificia
* 15 letters to various bishops, including Arnulf, and abbots * one dubious letter to Otto III. * five short poems
* Acta concilii Remensis ad S. Basolum * Leonis legati epistola ad Hugonem et Robertum reges
* List of Roman Catholic scientist-clerics * Barcelona\'s astrolabe
* ^ Other names include GERBERT OF REIMS (Latin : Gebertus Remensis) or RAVENNA (Gebertus Ravennatensis) or AUVERGNE (Italian : Gerberto dell'Alvernia) and GIBERT (Latin : Gibertus). * ^ Charles Seife : "He probably learned about the numerals during a visit to Spain and brought them back with him when he returned to Italy. But the version he learned did not have a zero."
* ^ "Silvester ," CERL Thesaurus.
* ^ Morris Bishop (2001). The Middle Ages. p. 47. ISBN
* ^ Jana K. Schulman, ed. (2002). The Rise of the Medieval World,
500-1300: A Biographical Dictionary. p. 410. ISBN 9780313308178 .
* ^ Toby E. Huff (1993). The Rise of Early Modern Science: Islam,
China and the West. p. 50. ISBN 9780521529945 .
* ^ Nancy Marie Brown, "The
Abacus and the Cross: The Story of the
* Buddhue, John Davis (1941). "The Origin of Our Numbers". The
Scientific Monthly. 52 (3): 265–267.
* Darlington, Oscar G. (1947). "Gerbert, the Teacher". American
Historical Review . 52 (3): 456–476.
JSTOR 1859882 . doi
* Kosztolnyik, Zoltan J. (1977). "The Relations of Four
Eleventh-Century Hungarian Kings with
* Brown, Nancy Marie. The
Abacus and the Cross: The Story of the