An Ancient Parallel

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The foregoing experiment could be condemned as thoroughly artificial and unconnected with the practice of interpreting horoscopes. Unfortunately, we have only one example of an original horoscope with a full set of interpretations (as opposed to the examples given in treatises) to use for comparisons.105 Normally there is no interpretation at all, but in two cases there are warnings of danger in particular periods, and in another a remark relating the data to the well-being of the father.106 In the literary horoscopes, the only interpretations are retrospective, and illustrate how astrological data would have revealed what happened. However, the one full interpretation we have seems to support the results of the 'experiment'.

This horoscope, preserved on papyrus, may well have been found with a set of planetary tables for the years 105-34 CE, which were picked up by the same British collector on a visit to Egypt in 18834 (see Plate II).107 It is tempting to see this as an astrologer's kit. One element missing, though, would be the water-clock mentioned as having been used in conjunction with the tables. The date of the horoscope is 13 April 95 CE, so the papyrus would be from the second century, assuming that the native is more than five years old. The first part of the horoscope, giving the data and the beginning of the interpretation, is in Greek, but most of the rest is in Old Coptic, an Egyptian language of which there are very few examples. Together with the damaged condition of the papyrus, this has made translation very difficult. However, though not all details are secure, it is clear that the successive periods of life are discussed, in relation to the Time-Lord of each, in the manner in which we have seen them discussed in Firmicus and Dorotheus. It is also clear that there is an exceptionally varied set of data, with references to the houses of the planets, the terms, the dodecatemories, the decans and the 'thirtysix horoscopes' and the Lots. The list of decans is different from any other known, the meaning of 'the thirty-six horoscopes' is unclear but seems to be a second version of the decans, and the Lots are determined by principles peculiar to this papyrus. Thus, we can immediately see that, even in relation to a particular horoscope, there is considerable scope for conflicting data. Furthermore, the peculiarity of the methods supports the view that there was not so much a linear development of astrological theory, but rather scope for individual variations on themes. We shall come back to this point later.

The Greek text has been freely translated as follows by the editors, with the passages in square brackets conjectured:

The first period Venus rules up to six [years nine (?) months twenty-five days. Its position in Lot One, Agathos Daimon, indicates well being and abundance] of pleasure. If he is a slave [he will be set free; if he is poor he will become] rich; if he is rich he will become richer and [whatever slaves] he is master of will increase, as the nativity indicates; and [his crops (?) of whatever sort they are] will do well; and the children from whatever union born will have inborn in them a fine nature like their parents. And he will have excellent associations extending everywhere. He will suffer from cold or fevers or other illnesses; such are the things that Mars portends,... Venus is in Epanaphora (the second

Place). And Saturn is in trine to Venus (and portends that) he will be cold as regards women. He will be tried before the magistrate for unspeakable associations.. .he will suffer miserably and will live a miserable life abroad. For the first Lot is a separation (?), the second likewise a separation (?) and the third likewise a separation (?).

This could very easily have been extracted directly from a treatise in the way I used them to interpret Prince Charles's horoscope. There has been no attempt to adapt them to the circumstances of the native, who must be a child at this point in his life, if we are really dealing with periods of life. At any rate, a variety of occupations and stations in life are envisaged. Furthermore, no attempt is made to deal with the apparent contradiction of the favourable predictions from Venus and the unfavourable ones at the end, presumably from Saturn.

In the surviving parts of the horoscope that follow, though there is doubt about details and parts missing, it seems obvious that the native's life is described as a roller-coaster ride of ups and downs whose succession is highly implausible. If we consider the question of his marriage, for instance, having heard that he will be cold to women, we find that in the second period he may neglect his wife or be at odds with her, and then that she will 'burn to the hair' (?). In the next period (roughly twenty years beginning from thirty-four), it seems that his heart will become good through a woman, but then that he will be shamed by one, then that he will have one (presumably as a wife) until year 94, and next that he will see a wife's death or be parted from her. Then (after taking counsel from a woman) his heart will become good for a wife. The last surviving column is very fragmentary, but there seem to be more references to his heart becoming good for a woman, his taking a wife, and to the wife's leaving him. Moreover, if we take the issue of children, who have already been described as of good character, in the third period (roughly ten years beginning from twenty-four), we see that his children may misbehave, or he will part from them on mercantile business, and a child 'will not come to him for ever' (presumably meaning 'will not be born'). Later we learn that he will be given a child in year 42. Thus, though there are difficulties with this text, it seems evident that we have here something very similar to the compilation of predictions that I made, though in this case only concerning the periods of life. The whole is riddled with contradictions.

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