Porreca (2023 Congress)

David Porreca
(University of Waterloo)

“Games and Pedagogy:
William Fulke (1538–1589), Astrology, and Geometry”

Abstract of Paper
presented at the 58th International Congress on Medieval Studies
(Kalamazoo, 2023)

Session on “Moving Parts and Pedagogy, Parts I–II”
Part II:  “Teaching Astrology and other Liberal Arts”

Organized by David Porreca

Co-Sponsored by the RGME and the Societas Magica

2023 Congress Program



William Fulke (see also William Fulke) was a professor of Hebrew at Cambridge University, but being a man of his time, his interests were far from restricted to the Semitic linguistics that won his bread. As an instructor, he took a lively interest in finding new ways to transmit core ideas to new generations. University curricula at the time were still largely focused around the Seven Liberal Arts. Pedagogical tools were in ample supply for teaching the Trivium (grammar, rhetoric, dialectic), and among the topics of the Quadrivium, there had existed for centuries the game of arithmetic called Rhythmomachia, while the principles of music (and the working of fractions therein) could be readily taught using a basic instrument called the monochord.

This paper proposes to provide a detailed examination of the intersection between game mechanics and content of the two works Fulke published in 1572 and 1576 (respectively) that address the lacuna in teaching tools for the two other Liberal Arts of the Quadrivium: astrology and geometry. For the former, he wrote the Ouranomachia, hoc est, Astrologorum lupus, and for the latter, he wrote the Metromachia, sive ludus geometricus. Both are intended for two-person play (like chess), but the game mechanics involved in each case are astonishingly complex and provide a pedagogically useful approximation and reflection of the actual practice involved in both topics. Even today, those seeking to understand the principles behind traditional Western astrology, and to gain a basic understanding of both 2D and 3D geometry, could do a lot worse than to learn through these games.


David has contributed steadily to RGME Sessions and our other activities, for which we give thanks.  For example: