Alphonsus X.

, king of Leon and Castile, who has been surnamed The Wise, on account of his attachment to literature, is now more celebrated for having been an astronomer than a king. He was born in 1203, succeeded his father Ferdinand III. in 1252, and died in 1284, consequently at the age of 81. The affairs of the reign of Alphonsus were very extraordinary and unfortunate, but we shall here only consider him in that part of his character, on account of which he has a place in this work, namely, as an astronomer and a man of letters. He acquired a profound knowledge of astronomy, philosophy, and history, and composed books upon the motions of the heavens, and on the history of Spain, which are highly commended. “What can be more surprising,” says Mariana, “than that a prince, educated in a camp, and handling arms from his childhood, should have such a knowledge of the stars, of philosophy, and the transactions of the world, as men of leisure can scarcely acquire in their retirements? There are extant some books of Alphonsus on the motions of the stars, and the history of Spain, written with great skill and incredible care.” In his astronomical pursuits he discovered that the tables of Ptolemy were full of errors, and was the first to undertake the task of correcting them. For this purpose, about the year 1240, and during the life of his father, he assembled at Toledo the most skilful astronomers of his time, Christians, Moors, or Jews, when a plan was formed for constructing new tables. This task was accomplished about 1252, the first year of his reign; the tables being drawn up chiefly by the skill and pains of Rabbi Isaac Hazan, a learned Jew, and the work called the Alphonsine Tables, in honour of the prince, who was at vast expences concerning them. He fixed the epoch of the tables to the 30th of May 1252, being the day of his accession to the throne. They were printed for the first time in 1483, at Venice, by Radtolt, who excelled in printing at that time; an edition extremely rare: there are others of 1492, 1521, 1545, &c.

We must not omit a memorable saying of Alphonsus, which has been recorded for its boldness and impiety; namely, “That if he had been of God’s privy council when he made the world, he could have advised him better.” His biographers have endeavoured to vindicate him in this instance, by assuring us that he meant only to reflect on. | the absurd philosophy by which the laws of nature were then explained. Perhaps their wiser course would have been to consign it to oblivion, as there is no direct proof of his not having used this irreverent language. 1


Univ. History —Moreri. —Saxii Onomasticon. Gen. Dict. in art. Castille.