An article by Andrei Dorian Gheorghe
first published as
“Dimitrie Cantemir, a Romanian Ruler and Astropoet”
in Star*Line
(the Journal of the Science Fiction Poetry Association),
January-February 2008, U.S.A.

Design (including the Cursing the Heavens photo)
by Gabriel Ivanescu



Dimitrie Cantemir (1673-1723)
was the ruler of Moldavia
(one of the three Romanian medieval states,
today divided into
“Romanian” Moldavia and the Moldavian Republic -
known also as Basarabia or Bessarabia)
between 1710 and 1711
(his correct title being “Domnitor and Voievod”, the equivalent of a local king),
and also a great writer, scientist, philosopher and even musician.

His major works were an impressive history of the Ottoman Empire
and Descriptio Moldaviae,
for which he was chosen as a member of prestigious Berlin Academy.

In 1705,
he also wrote in prose and poetry a spectacular allegory
(which could be considered a proto SF work, too),
Hieroglyphic History,
in which, at a moment, the main hero Unicorn is so deprived
of the Ottoman domination in South-East Europe,
that he curses in verses the whole Universe.

I have chosen from that curse, as a sample for this theme,
Dimitrie Cantemir’s excerpt referring to the zodiacal constellations:

The Lion roaring,
The Bull mooing,
The Ram weakening,
The Crab dressing in black bark,
The Capricorn bending his horns,
The Fishes getting drowned without waters,
The Twin Brothers abandoning one another,
The Maiden clowning her beauty and coloring her yellow hair into black,
The Scorpion spoiling his sharpen sting,
The Archer missing the target with his broken bow,
The Balance not showing justice,
The Waterman melting himself…


In 1711,
after his Christian (Moldavian-Russian) alliance lost a battle
against the Ottoman army,
Dimitrie Cantemir had to leave his country
and was hosted by the famous Russian Czar Piotr I (Peter the Great),
who named him as a prince of the Russian Empire for his cultural merits.

It is extremely interesting that afterwards his son
Antioh (1708-1744, Antiokh Dmitrievich Kantemir in Russian)
became an important imperial diplomat
and was considered the first cultivated poet of Russian literature.

To complete the praise to this bright East-European family,
I shall end this article with two significant quotations of Antioh Cantemir:

-one about the cosmic creationism:

God said to the moon and planets
To borrow light from the sun;
He ordered that hundreds of star torches
To lighten in the night after sunset.
He wisely arranged the time measure,
And all things respect these rules.

(Ode I)

-and one mirroring
a fundamental astronomical-philosophical question of those times,
referring to the dispute between the adepts of the geocentric theory
and the adepts of the heliocentric theory:

Does it deserve to change our peace for curiosity
and to know if the Earth ceaselessly moves,
or the luminous Sun?

(Satire I)

© 2008 SARM
(Romanian Society for Meteors and Astronomy)