Major Primary Texts

Catalogus Codicum Astrologorum Graecorum (CCAG), 12 vols, Brussels 1898-1953. Dorotheus of Sidon, Carmen Astrologicum, ed. Pingree, Leipzig 1976. (Arabic with English translation.) Firmicus Maternus, Mathesis, ed. Kroll, Skutsch and Ziegler, Leipzig 1913. English translation, J.Rhys Bram, under the title Ancient Astrology Theory and Practice, New Jersey 1975. 'Heliodorus', Heliodori, ut dicitur, in Paulum Alexandrinum commentarium, ed. Boer, Leipzig 1962. Hephaestion of Thebes, Apotelesmatica...

The Stars As Gods

For most schools of thinkers, the stars' divine nature was selfevident. Indeed, their motion was difficult to explain if it was otherwise. The Epicureans, who denied that the heavenly bodies were divine, were forced to explain their movements by gusts of wind. In this case, their depiction of a universe of atoms in random motion was hard to substantiate, and the regularity of the planets' motions was frequently cited by those who wanted to argue for a divinely ordered cosmos. The stars were in...

Summary

In this chapter we have looked at astrology in the context of the Roman Empire. We have been able to trace the arrival of the learned version of astrology, though we know much less about the kind of astrology which would have appealed to the person in the street. Astrology came to Rome as part of Greek high culture, backed by philosophy, literature and astronomy. Elite Romans seem not to have taken it seriously until the last century BCE. It is at this time that we begin to find generals...

Astrological Literature Under The Early Empire

It is also the second century CE which offers many of our most significant astrological sources, so on the argument from survival, it could be claimed that this was a time when astrology enjoyed a vogue. Since Manilius, more whole treatises of which we have substantial parts had appeared. First was Dorotheus of Sidon, who wrote in Greek verse. Quite recently, an Arabic version of his treatise was discovered, edited and translated. Since the eight horoscopes in it date from between 7 and 43 CE,...

Modern Science

If we are to agree or disagree about the existence of science in the distant past, we must first agree on what science is. A brief, ordinary characterisation of science would surely include most of the following (i) It is objective. The scientist puts his passions aside and relies on reason, (ii) It is non-religious. No longer does an instinct veneration for a creator structure the search into nature. In being objective, passionless, creatorless, it alone produces tangible truth, which in...

Nimrud Dagh Horoscope

In this chapter we have seen what would happen if the treatises were taken at face value and used to interpret a particular horoscope. What emerged was that the treatises could not teach anyone how to cast and interpret a horoscope. To any one question, a large number of contradictory responses was available, and there were no clues as to how to choose between them. This finding demanded an explanation. Rather than assume that this was the result of corrupt texts or the stupidity of the...

Astrology In Everyday Life

Despite the low profile of women in the literary horoscopes, perhaps distorted by the clientele of Valens, the treatises do sometimes pay specific attention to women, as we have seen. In Juvenal's satirical portrait, women are singled out for attack because of their excessive addiction to astrology Your wife, your Tanaquil, Is for ever consulting such folk. Why does her jaundice-ridden Mother take so long dying When will she see off Her sister or her uncles (She made all enquiries About you...

Basic Principles Of Ancient Astrology

The chart, whether it concerns a birth or any other event, is simply a map of the heavens, frozen at a particular moment. There are a variety of ways of presenting the information one is visible in Figure 10, Figure 9 Positions of the planets in their orbits relative to Earth. Figure 9 Positions of the planets in their orbits relative to Earth. Figure 10 The same positions represented in the birth chart. Figure 10 The same positions represented in the birth chart. which represents the situation...

Ptolemaic Egypt

We need to look now at the evidence for astrology in the Hellenised Egypt of the Ptolemies, since most authorities have placed the origins of Hellenistic astrology proper in this context. As early as Aristotle, there is reference to Egyptian astronomy as equal to that of Babylon, but the first definite reference to astrology from a contemporary writer comes in Diodorus of Sicily, writing in between 60 and 30 BCE The positions and arrangements of the stars, as well as their motion, have always...

Introduction

Astrology is a remarkably resilient discipline. At the end of the last century, when the classic study of ancient astrology was written by Bouche-Leclercq, contemporary astrology looked as if it had permanently disappeared. He was apparently writing the history of a dead superstition.1 But since then astrology has enjoyed a renaissance. The vehicle for astrology's phoenix-like resurrection has undoubtedly been the newspaper horoscope. The first publication of a newspaper horoscope in the world...

Ancient Egypt

Before looking further at the background to Greek astrology, however, we need to return to the question of the Egyptian contribution. It should first be explained that Egyptian mathematics was rudimentary in comparison to that of Babylon most importantly, there was no place-value system. Like the Romans, the Egyptians had separate signs for 1, 10, 100, 1,000 and so on, while in the placevalue system 11 represents not 1 + 1 but 1 x 10+1. The Babylonians had a sexagesimal place-value system,...

Astrology And The Law Under Christian Emperors

The legal situation is revealed to us by the codification made under Theodosius in the late fourth century. The anti-pagan legislation of which the laws on divination were part was only sporadically enforced, and it was not until 407 CE that those simply practising pagan religion were pronounced to be breaking the law. However, the laws concerning divination were tougher than any previously in force. In 358 the long-standing connection of magic and divination apparent in earlier trials was...

Dorotheus Of Sidon

In using Dorotheus' text, I have combined predictions under headings with a bit more creative input, in order to present a more processed horoscope. There are some key differences in his approach. He values the Places differently, in a more hierarchical way which also produces more optimistic predictions. However, in the case of this chart, the arrangement puts Venus in an evil location, which alters the interpretation. He seems to use the first, fourth, seventh and tenth Places as cardines...

Babylon And Greece

In the text just discussed one can already see some developments in astrological theory which recur in later Greek texts further refinements occur in different horoscopes. One, for 264 BCE, deals with conception as well as birth, establishing the standard duration of pregnancy as 273 days, or ten sidereal lunar months, a figure commonly used in Greek texts another refers to the exaltation of a planet (the sign in which its influence was enhanced). A recent publication of a text on lunar...

Ancient Astrology Summary

Few dates of important developments are secure or precise in this account, but it offers a broad outline of current consensus. Details may be subject to controversy, but the general picture may be summarised as follows. The omen-literature of ancient Mesopotamia included matter concerning the heavens, and when it was combined with the astronomical data derived from attempts to construct a calendar, horoscopal astrology developed, of which we have evidence from the fourth century BCE or slightly...

Astrological Practice Casting A Horoscope

Astrology is a technically complex discipline, and the exposition in the foregoing chapter may have seemed baffling to the uninitiated. As one way of showing how it actually worked, I am going to take an individual birth chart and illustrate how two ancient astrologers would have interpreted it, according to the generalised instructions given in their works. They are quite different sources, in that they are separated by several centuries, and that one was written in Greek and the other in...

From Republic To Empire

Astrology emerged as the Roman Republican system began to collapse, a coincidence which, in my view, was no accident. Astrology belonged with the sole ruler, as the state diviners belonged with the Republic. Generals with armies at their backs threatened the Republican constitution which ensured that power rested in the Senate as a body rather than in individuals. From the death of Tiberius Gracchus at the hands of a Roman mob in 133 BCE, the threat of civil war loomed large, and civil wars...

Glossary

Antiscia relation between signs equidistant from the Midheaven or IC. Aphetic place, aphetes starting-point on the chart for calculation relying on prorogation (looking ahead to see where the planets cross particular points in the future). Ascendant the degree or sign of the zodiac rising over the eastern horizon at a given moment, horoscopos in Greek the First Place. Aspects specific angular relationships between planets and other astrological entities. The aspects are conjunction, opposition,...

Jewish Attitudes Towards Astrology

By the eighth century the great Jewish astrologer Messahala (known in the Near East as Masha' allah), who worked at the court of Baghdad, heralded a new era for Jewish astrology. Until quite recently it used to be assumed that Jewish interest was limited to occasional hostile rejection until the early Middle Ages. This is true of the Old Testament, a collection of books dating from the tenth to the second century BCE.22 This negative attitude is also found in the writings known as the...

Astrology Under The Principate

It is under Augustus that astrology comes to the fore in literature. There is the first astrological work in Latin, indeed the first classical astrological work to survive in its original form, the didactic poem of Manilius. He followed a Greek tradition in writing in verse not only was Aratus' Phaenomena a model, but, as we have seen, Nechepso was said to have written thirteen books in verse on horoscopic astrology. Lucretius had also offered a Latin example, in writing his great exposition of...

Emperors And Astrology

Many of the incidents recorded for Tiberius' reign prefigure those of other emperors portrayed as tyrannical. Domitian, at the end of the century 'had not failed to take note of the days and hours when the foremost men had been born, and in consequence was trying to destroy not a few of those who were not even trying for the attainment of power.' Caracalla (188-217), according to Herodianus, scoured the country for astrologers, magi and soothsayers to find the traitors he feared and to tell him...

Conclusion

The story of ancient astrology is one of continuity and of change. On the one hand there is a remarkable inertia often revealed in astrological writings. At the extreme, you can find a text of the sixth century, such as that of John the Lydian, containing passages about celestial omens which could have been copied from the cuneiform tablets of the first millennium BCE. As for the texts in the Catalogue of Manuscripts of Greek Astrologers, it is hard to tell from the state of the theoretical...

Chorography Mundane Astrology

Chorography was rather a sub-discipline of astrology than a discipline in its own right, though it could be seen to offer an over-arching framework of explanation which would dominate geography, ethnography and even medicine as well as other parts of astrology. It corresponds to what is today called mundane astrology, being the study of the influence of the stars on cities or regions of the world. Ptolemy, who was the author of a treatise on geography, gives geographical astrology a prime role,...

Firmicus Maternus

Babylonian Astrology

Here I go through the treatise in order, picking out any parts which relate to the particular circumstances of Charles's nativity. Charles was born at 9.14 p.m. on 14 November 1948. There are a number of general factors to take into consideration. As this is a nocturnal chart, Venus, Mars, Mercury and the Moon are made more favourable, and the Sun, Jupiter and Saturn less so. There is a Mars-Jupiter conjunction, the Moon and Mercury are in opposition, Saturn, the Moon and Jupiter are in trine,...

Christian Attitudes Towards Astrology

While Christianity was illegal, there were few Christian discussions of astrology. Indeed, in the period when there was no institution able to create and enforce orthodoxy, many Christians might find encouragement to take astrology seriously in the New Testament itself. Most important was the tale of the Magi, clearly envisaged as astrologers, who followed a star which they saw as presaging the birth of a great king.29 Apart from this sign of Christ's birth, there were also a number of...

Mithraism

Neoplatonism Cosmology

The Great Magical Papyrus of Paris claims to write down the mysteries which the great god Helios (Sun) Mithras ordered to be revealed through his archangel.65 Though it is clearly not a liturgy of the cult, it now seems likely that it does incorporate some ideas from Mithraic cult into the usual magical amalgam. It does offer some clues as to the cosmology of the cult, which was one of several cults centred on the Sun in antiquity. We have already seen the links between astrology and some...

Astrology Under Threat

As the attitude to heresy hardened, so moves were made against astrology in Church law. The first record of a Council forbidding clergy to be astrologers or magicians is from the Council of Laodicea, in 365. It is possible that it was interpolated later.55 In the Constitutions of the Apostles, a fourth-century set of regulations attributed to the apostles, astrologers, along with debauchers, magicians and philosophers, are to be refused baptism or damned. It is also most severely forbidden for...

Introduction Astronomy And Astrology

Pictogramme Riz

The astrologer's cosmology is, of course, geocentric, reflecting the general consensus in antiquity. Though Aristarchus hypothesised a universe centred round the Sun in the third century BCE, this hypothesis never found general support. The geocentric cosmos accorded with perception from Earth we look up to the sky and see the Sun, Moon and planets revolving round us. It seems as if there is a dome above us in which the stars are fixed, and thus a celestial sphere was envisaged revolving round...

Some Explanations

We need to look empathetically at what the astrologers might be doing in offering this morass of contradictions. To do this, it is vital to explore the context within which astrological teaching took place. Unfortunately we have little evidence from other sources about specifically astrological instruction. Vettius Valens is rare in mentioning the existence of pupils, and in referring to his efforts to instruct them in relation to his treatise.108 Thus, to infer the nature of the context, we...

Astrological Literature Under The Christian Empire

The continuity of astrological literature in the Byzantine tradition is attested by the numerous volumes of the Catalogue of Manuscripts of Greek Astrologers (CCAG), which include sizeable texts, as well as by Arabic and Indian material which preserves the work of Greek astrologers. The major treatises which have come down to us in Greek are those of Paul of Alexandria and Hephaestion of Thebes. In Latin there is much less. Firmicus Maternus, whose cautious advice on consulting about the...

Astrology And Magic

Munich Manual Demonic Magic

Already, with the pharmacopoeia, we are straying into the field of magic, which always lay close to medicine. In the magical papyri, mainly from the second century BCE to the fifth century CE, our chief primary sources for magic, we find reference to correspondences. For instance, the seven flowers of the planets, and seven precious stones representing the planets, are mentioned.47 There are presumably other analogical procedures which determine timing. Figure 23 Figures of the thirty-six...

Sex Polymorphous Perversity

There are fascinating clues to the understanding of gender stereotypes in the astrologers. The figure of the cinaidos, or cinaedus, the effeminate man or passive homosexual, receives quite a lot of attention from the astrologers. Firmicus makes a distinction between the public cinaedus, whose status is made clear, and the man who is secretly a cinaedus, about whom nothing more is said. However, it seems that it was better to be a secret cinaedus, since positive astral influences hid the vice....

The Greek Background

The first evidence of Greek interest in the sky comes from the poem Works and Days of Hesiod (609ff.), written in about 700 BCE, in which the rising of certain constellations is related to the farmer's year. There remains controversy about the dating of Mesopotamian influence on Greek thought evidenced in Hesiod his Theogony contains Greek versions of Babylonian myths, and the Works and Days draws on Mesopotamian collections of wisdom-literature. Nevertheless, the influence of Babylon is...

Ancient Astrology

SCIENCES OF ANTIQUITY Series Editor Roger French Director, Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine, University of Cambridge Sciences of Antiquity is a series designed to cover the subject matter of what we call science. The volumes discuss how the ancients saw, interpreted and handled the natural world, from the elements to the most complex of living things. Their discussions on these matters formed a resource for those who later worked on the same topics, including scientists. The intention...

Greek Culture And The Roman Elite

But apart from such brief hints, the history of astrology which emerges from what has survived overwhelmingly concerns the elite. They, or their prot g s, wrote our sources, and they were far more interested in themselves than in anyone else. In this context, the story of astrology at Rome is part of the story of how Greek learning was adopted by the Romans. From the third century BCE, a small number of the nobility had shown serious interest in Greek literature and philosophy. It was from 229...

The Great Omenseries Enuma Anu Enlil

The EnUma Anu Enlil, the compilation of around seventy tablets comprising some 7,000 omens and corresponding predictions found in the royal archives in Nineveh, was inscribed in the seventh century BCE, though it incorporated much older material. It is named after its first words 'When the gods Anu, Enlil and Ea established in council the plans of Sky and Earth '. Anu, Enlil and Ea are the spirits of Heaven, Earth and Water respectively. The sixty-third tablet, known as the Venus tablet of...

Early Mesopotamian Evidence

The earliest evidence we have to consider in fact comes from Mesopotamia. The oldest texts in existence are written in cuneiform script, a form of writing invented by the Sumerians, who dominated the area from at least the fourth millennium BCE, and continued by the Akkadians, who were dominant by the latter half of the third millennium BCE. Each used the script to represent their language. One of the first surviving clues to the existence of divination based on the stars among the Sumerians...

Babylonian Horoscopes

The dates of the nativities in the earliest horoscopes to survive are at the end of the fifth century. The earliest has only been published recently, and it shows a transitional stage in the casting of horoscopes. Instead of recording the positions of planets in relation to the zodiac on the day of the birth, it is constructed around the synodic appearances of the planets surrounding the birth, and even records calendaric and meteorological data. It thus simply applies the sort of data...