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Celestial Divination and Arabic Science in Twelfth-Century England: The History of Gerbert of Aurillac’s Talking Head

From: Journal of the History of Ideas
Volume 73, Number 2, April 2012
pp. 201-222 | 10.1353/jhi.2012.0016



The legend of Gerbert of Aurillac’s oracular head reveals significant information about contemporary medieval attitudes toward foreign knowledge from outside of the Latin Christian West, and in particular about the quadrivium, astral science, and celestial divination. In particular, William of Malmesbury’s account—the most well-known in the medieval period—demonstrates the extent to which scientific knowledge from the Arabic tradition had penetrated the intellectual climate of England in the early twelfth century.