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Biography of
Claudius Ptolemy

Claudius Ptolemaeus (a.k.a. Ptolemy)Name: Claudius Ptolemaeus [tolemayus] a.k.a. Claudius Ptolemy
Born: est. CE 85
Location: Egypt
Died: est. CE 165
Location: Alexandria, Egypt
Nationality: His name is a mixture of the Greek Egyptian "Ptolemy" and the Roman "Claudius" indicates that he was descended from a Greek family living in Egypt and that he was a citizen of Rome
 which would be a result of a Roman emperor giving that "reward" to one of Ptolemy's ancestors.





  • Father: Unknown 
  • Mother: Unknown 
  • Brother(s): Unknown 
  • Sister(s): Unknown 


  • Wife: Unknown 


  • Son(s): Unknown 
  • Daughter(s): Unknown 


Principal Activity or Occupation(s):

  • Astronomer
  • Cartographer
  • Astrologer

Lived In:

  • Alexandria, Egypt


  • Worked in the great library in Alexandria. (As Alexandria had a tradition for scholarship, it would indicate that Ptolemy had access to other practicians not to mention the library itself where he would have found valuable reference material of which he obviously made good use of).

Teachers and Mentors:

  • We know that Ptolemy used observations made by Theon, the mathematician. This was almost certainly Theon of Smyrna who, most likely, was also one of Ptolemy's teachers. This would make sense since Theon was both an observer and a mathematician who had written on astronomical topics such as conjunctions, eclipses, occultations and transits.
  • Most of Ptolemy's early works are dedicated to Syrus who may have also been one of his teachers in Alexandria, although, nothing is known of Syrus.


  • In general, he subscribed to an Aristotelian position philosophically, though his predilection for mathematics led him to regard that division of science with far greater reverence than the more biologically minded Aristotle. One of his minor works and chapters in the longer ones are philosophical and testify to his knowledge of and interest in the subject.
  • Though he was himself amply capable of original thought, he was acquainted with the work and writings of his predecessors such as:
    Menelaüs in mathematics
    Hipparchus in astronomy
    Marinus of Tyre in geography
    Didymus in music
    Posidonius in astrological ethnology and the arguments whereby Astrology was defended.
    He drew freely and openly from them, and had the gift of systematizing the materials with which he dealt, a characteristic which is especially evident in the Tetrabiblos.

Key Relationships:

  • Unknown

Most Noted For:

  • Ptolemy was considered the greatest astronomer of late antiquity. His Almagest, was the most important compendium of astronomy and was produced until the 16th century.
  • His system, (the Ptolemaic system), propounded the geocentric theory in a form that prevailed for 1400 years until dislodged by Copernicus.
  • Ptolemy made his astronomical observations from Alexandria, in Egypt, during the years CE 127 - 141. While little is known of Ptolemy's life, his observations can, in fact, be dated. His first observation which was made on March 26, 127, while his last was made on February 2, 141.



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