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

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.