Astrology In The Thirteenth And Fourteenthcentury Kingdom Of Aragon

Astro Elements

The Art Of Astrology

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I. Introduction

The study of astrology began in antiquity and continued to the modern era. Specifically in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, this pseudo-science became an interest, and in some cases a passion, of knowledgeable men: kings, princes, those employed by the royal court, doctors, and theologians. Unlike the classical and Renaissance study of astrology, medieval enthusiasts who studied the constellations did not clearly delineate between astrology, astronomy, and alchemy, all of which they brought together in their teachings and written works. This feature was due to the Arabic influence that insisted on observing a series of points or parts of the sky, rather than the Greek practice of concentration on the individual heavenly bodies.

The Catalan writers, their rulers, and several Jewish and Christian astrologers and translators employed by the kings of Aragon studied the works of Greek, Arabic, and Persian astronomers and astrologers. These works include Ptolemy's Tetrabiblos, or Quadripartitum, in its Latin translation and oriental authors such as Ali Abenragel, Albu-mazar, and Abu l'Abbas Fargani (Al-Faragani), among others.

From the time of Augustine to the thirteenth century, astrology had lost its prestige as a science due in part to Augustine's depiction of astrology as an illegitimate practice, driven by "the powers of demons" (Wedel 23). Arabic commentaries on Greek astrology and translations to Latin, such as Albumazar's Introductorium in Astrono-miam, Liber conjuctionum siderum and Flores astrologiae, brought about a new interest in this pseudoscience in western Europe. This new practice began to attract leading Christian scholars, such as Albert the Great (Wedel 66), who made concessions to judicial astrology, and Roger Bacon (Wedel 72-73), who read both Greek and Arabic studies on this subject, with a preference for Ptolemy.

Leading figures took an interest in astrology in the late Middle Ages. Pope John XXII practiced alchemy, while the Spanish Pope Benedict XIII collected many books on astrology in his personal library (Rubio i Lluch 1917-18: 12). Charles V of France was a patron of astrology, and amassed one of the leading libraries of Europe, containing some 11,000 books in the form of manuscripts (Wedel 94-95), many of which were astrological studies; he also brought to his court a cadre of prominent astrologers.

II. Arnau de Vilanova

Arnau de Vilanova is regarded by many as the leading physician of his time, the thirteenth century. He held the Chair of Medicine at the University of Montpellier during the last decade of this period. Leading potentates and popes vied for him to be their personal physician, including the Kings of Aragon, Pere III and Jaume III of Majorca, Frederick of Sicily, and popes of Avignion, Boniface VIII and Benedict XI.

Arnau accepted only theology and knowledge based on natural science, and rejected philosophical speculation, especially Scholasticism. In short, he sought God throughout nature. Religion was therefore accessible to all human beings because it was based on experience and revelation, not on philosophy. Using the deductive method, Arnau bypassed philosophical speculation by asserting that experience brings about reason, both of which are the sources of science. One must therefore reach God through nature.

Having discarded philosophy. Arnau opted for a new concept of man and the cosmos whose origins lie in Neoplatonism. In this process, however, Arnau gave precedence to imagination rather than to an objective scrutiny of data found in nature. The result of this process was magic and spiritualist theories, described as "una concepción fantástica de la naturaleza" (Vilanova 1:217).

Arnau studied humans (their differences, abnormalities, sicknesses, witchcraft) and concluded that a vital force he called "spiritus" (an immaterial force "fluido" of cosmic character) became an intimate and motivating part of each individual being. Arnau did concede in his De conservanda that the stars do not have a prophetic hold on men, but rather dispose than compel ("necessitas") them. He added that the role of scientific knowledge is important in this process.

Arnau was also convinced that the psychic influence of one being can also affect others who come under its domain by allowing others to control one's will (e.g. necromancy). Easily transferred from one being to another, this vital force owes its source to the constant motion here on earth caused by celestial bodies. However, it is God who sets the stars in motion, causing positive results on humans. There is also a hierarchy in which pure spirits influence inferior ones, such as the human soul. Only God can control evil spirits, although God can allow holy men to control diabolical beings, but no evil person can invoke demons. Furthermore, the celestial world may govern nature in a specific way, again through the influence of the stars, which possess a hidden virtue that does not exist in humans. This cosmic animation has the power to create gold, whereas alchemists may bring about a stone that only resembles gold, because they lack this hidden virtue.

These convictions taken from astronomers, astrologers, and alchemists of the past formed the basis for Arnau's medical practices, which manifested themselves in magic and astrology. His treatments and potents accorded with this occultist concept of nature.

Astrology played an important role in Arnau's medical practices. Objects suspended in space could have a positive or negative effect and, most importantly, a hidden force or "virtues," and the application of these "virtues" constituted his practice of medical astrology. This form of cure was based on lunar phases and especially the influence of the predominant star on the human body. In addition, in the De iudiciis astronomiae, Arnau concluded that the current zodiacal sign of the moon is of greater importance in curing a patient than is the motion of heavenly bodies, specifically on their effect on prescribed medicines (McVaugh 164). He resorted also to amulets and images of celestial bodies that were composed of valuable minerals, as well as the use of seals (see his treatise De sigillis).

Arnau wrote books on medicine and was a pioneer of the main occult sciences in the Latin West, including alchemy, astrology, and the interpretation of dreams. Lynn Thorndike (3:155—60) and Joaquim Carreras Artau (in Vilanova 2:19-86), among others, have shown that throughout the late Middle Ages and Early Modern era, Arnau's medieval and pharmaceutical treatises were studied and translated. A leading treatise on alchemy, Arnau's Rosarius philosophorum became a well-known work in light of numerous manuscripts and printed editions of and commentaries on its content. It is obvious that Arnau's major contribution to astrology was medical astrology, and the lengthy treatise, Capitula astrologiae de iudiciis infirmitatum secundum motum planetarum, is a major source of this branch of astrology. The De sigillis describes the structure of amulets and their purpose for special occasions.

III. Ramon Llull

Ramon Llull, a contemporary of Arnau, informed his readers about astrological and astronomic beliefs in several works, including Felix (1288), Libre de meravilles (1288-1289), Arbre de sciencia (1296), and Tractatus novus de astronomia (1297). Like other medieval Hispanic authors, Llull came under the influence of Ali Abenragel and other Arabic astronomers and astrologers, although his traditional system of correspondence has been described as simple, traditional, and derived from Ptolemy, "the most exact" (Samsó 201-02). He assigned a letter, A to D, to each of the four basic complexions, and then established connections between these and the signs of the zodiac and the planets. He also used houses in which the maximum influence of each sign is reached. Furthermore, each planet represented a human quality, a metal, and a day of the week: (e.g. Saturn: evil, lead, Saturday).

Despite certain errors in his astrological system, Llull attempted to supply elements lacking in the traditional system by resorting to his Art, thereby bringing to medieval astrology a unique feature. And although especially interested in some 28 planetary "conjunctions," Llull was unable to solve the problem of the number of possible "conjunctions" on the seven planets in the sign of the zodiac (Samsó 205-207). However, like other religious figures of the time, Llull used caution. In several works, he addressed the doctrines of free will and God's omnipotence (Samsó 204; Bonner 14; Libre de meravilles 1:156-57), although, according to Juan Vernet, Llull's acceptance of the freewill doctrine was not of "excesiva importancia" (189-91).

Ramon Llull also showed interest in medical astrology, taking into account the complexion of humans together with medicines derived from plants, in relation to the stars. Furthermore, the nature and amount or degree of medicine prescribed to a patient suffering from a humoral imbalance was determined by the person's horoscope

(Samso 204). Llull also was conscious of the uses of the astrolabe and astronomical tables and learning to tell time on the astrolabe.

IV. The Catalan Kings of Aragon and Astrology: Pere the Ceremonious and His Sons

As a youth Jaume II sought the knowledge of astronomy and the occult as well as medicine and other oriental science. His son and heir, Alfons IV (1327-1336), translated from Latin to Catalan a book on solar and lunar eclipses (Beaujouan 14-15). It was, however, during the reign of Pere III (1336-1387) that astrology, alchemy, and astronomy became a major interest of study.

Pere, whose main emphasis was in astrology and alchemy, populated his royal court with Jewish astrologers who were asked to produced astronomical instruments. Encouraged by his father Alfons' interest and the works on astronomy that issued forth from the court of Alfonso X of Castile, Pere requested that astronomers Pere Gilbert and Dalmau Ses Planes observe the course of the planets. He also ordered an almanac to be written between 1360 and 1366. In collaboration with the astronomers Jacob Al-Corsi, author of a treatise on the astrolabe, Pere drew up a book on astrological tables and the eight spheres that was published in Hebrew, Latin, and Catalan (Beaujouan 16-17). He also purchased works on astrology (Rubio i Lluch 1908-21, 2:171; Rubio i Lluch 1994: 231-32).

Pere's interest in alchemy is shown by his allowing Joan d'Ulzinelles, "militis," and Gabriel Mayol, "jurisperitus," to write a book on "alchimie auri et argenti" (Rubio i Lluch 1908-21, 1:319). In addition, Pere endeavored to obtain astronomical paraphernalia from Vidal and Bellshom Efrai'm (Rubio i Lluch 1908-21, 2:xvi), as well as an astrolabe from another source (Rubio i Lluch 1908-21, 2:171).

Pere's curiosity about astrology became an obsession with his son and heir Joan I (1387-1395), whom Rubio i Lluch described as "more superstitious than his father" (1917-18, 12). Joan consulted frequently with astronomers and astrologers, such as Juce, Jew of Osca, on matters concerning the wedding celebrations, the births of his children, and other important events (Roca 141). John suffered from an illness described as an acute form or type of epilepsy (Tasis 165-66). However, convinced that these symptoms were caused by witchcraft, Joan's wife, Violant de Bar, the niece of Charles V of France, resorted to reading the Cogonina, a famous work on necromancy by the bishop of Barcelona, Jaume Cigó. Joan's symptoms subsided, leaving him mindful of the importance of medicine. He became an avowed protector of science in general and astrology, and of the Jewish and Moorish minorities, to whom he felt indebted, especially of Jewish men of science (Tasis 165-67). His interest in astrology, described by Rubió i Lluch (1917-18: 18) as incorrigable, became a pastime along with music and hunting.

Jewish astrologers were among Joan's main resources for astrological works. Before ascending the throne, Joan requested books from his contemporaries, including Bartomeu de Tresbéns, who was asked to visit Joan and bring with him all his books on "astrologia i fisica" (Rubió i Lluch 1908-21, 1:264). A similar request was made to Jucef Abernaduch the same year (Rubió i Lluch 1908-21, 1:195). In 1379 Joan insisted that Dalmau Ses Planes bring him a book on solar and lunar eclipses. Later, in 1381, Isaac Nafusi of the royal court, commissioned Vidal Efraim, a Majorcan Jew, to finish several works on astrology for Joan (Rubió i Lluch 1908-21, 1:293). During the same year Joan acknowledged the receipt of a book by Ali Aben Jaren (Alfagra), and requested a volume by Ali Abenragel from the king's archives (Rubió i Lluch 1908-21, 1:320 and 2:xxvi).

Martí I (1387-1410), who became king at Joan's death, is known to historians as "el Huma" (the Human), because of his dedication to the humanities. He is also known by a less familiar and rarely used sobriquet, that of "Eclesiástic." Rubió i Lluch (1908-21, 2:xlvi) conceived of Martí as a "monk" who became the legitimate heir and was crowned king. What Martí lacked of Joan's interest in sciences and the pseudo-sciences, he made up in religiosity. Martí faithfully attended church services, enjoyed staying in monasteries, read the breviary, and decorated churches, including his own chapel. He also became a close friend of Benedict XIII, the last of the Avignon popes.

Martí also followed Pere's and Joan's passion for collecting and reading books in different disciplines. However, he preferred to acquire religious works (Bible, Psalters, missals, books on hagiography, the liturgy, and speculative religious works). This is not to say that he lacked interest in astronomy and pseudosciences. Martí inherited a library containing some 3,000 volumes, about fifty of which dealt with astrology and necromancy. Of these fifty volumes many came from the private libraries of Pere and Joan (Rubió i Lluch 1917-18: 12-13).

V. Francesc Eiximenis

To date no comprehensive study has been written on Francesc Eixi-menis' (1327-1409) views on astrology, partly because much of his writings remain in manuscript form. Despite the absence of editions, an evaluation of any subject on the late medieval Kingdom of Aragon must include his opinions and insights for the following reasons. Eiximenis set out to complete an encyclopedic work, in the medieval sense of the term, which he titled El Crestia (The Christian); he divided the work into thirteen books that addressed most aspects of Christianity. Only four books are extant, a fact that leads scholars to the conclusion that he never penned them. Instead, Eiximenis included new material meant for the Crestia in later works he wrote on women, moral theology, ascetism, Christology, etc. His writings from 1383 to 1392 centered around social topics, for which he earned the reputation among twentieth-century scholars of being the chronicler of late medieval society in the kingdom of Aragon.

Before bringing to light his astrological beliefs, let us recall two historical sources on Eiximenis and the occult sciences. First, Eiximenis was accused of teaching Pope Benedict XIII necromancy (Probst 6). However, the accusation lacks validity given the friar's opposition to necromancy and his turning toward asceticism, prayer, and Christology in his later life, when he came to support the Spanish pope. Did this anecdote originate from malice, confusion with, or misrepresentation (i.e. Arnau's teaching Pope Boniface the art of alchemy)?

Unlike this questionable charge, Eiximenis' confrontation with Joan I is well documented and scrutinized (Rubio i Lluch 1908-21, 1:372; Bohigas 31-34; Roca 139-40). Eiximenis, who was drawn to prophetic-apocalyptic tendencies, wrote in the Dotze (ch. 466) that in the year 1400 all kingdoms of the world would cease to exist except the kingdom of France and its rulers. The passage apparently went unnoticed for several years by the Catalan kings, but in 1391, following on the heels of the Jewish pogroms in the kingdoms of Castile and Aragon, it came to Joan's attention, and he immediately called upon his chancellor, Pere d'Artes, to present a letter to Eiximenis stating: "Mestre francesch Ximeniz qui a vegades sentremet de lart de astronomia, pronostica e diu que ans que no passara lany Mccc. no haura algun Rey de cristians al mon, sino tansolament rey de Franga" (Rubio i Lluch 1908-21, 1:172). Placed on the defensive,

Eiximenis wrote back an apologetic letter to the king, which Joan answered (Rubio i Lluch 1908-21, 1:373-74).

Like his predecessors Ramon Llull and Arnau, Eiximenis wrote prolifically. However, he was a compiler rather than an original author, although at times he assertively expressed his beliefs. One finds at times in his works contrary opinions on minority groups and confrontational topics during his lifetime. Regarding his views on astrology, Josep Torres i Bages wrote:

Eiximenis s'hi veu sovint la lluita entre l'obediencia que vol tenir a l'autoritat de la Iglesia, qui damnava l'astrologia judiciara, i la seva forta aficio a les arts secretes i amagades que li prometien resultats meravillosos; aixi, no obstant lo transcrit, en altres llocs manifesta les extralimitacions de l'astrologia, i al tractar de la arts i oficis damnificants a la societat enumera als "alquimistes qui comunament son orats e enganadors (106).

I have cited or summarized representative passages culled from several of Eiximenis' works in order to analyze Eiximenis' attitude toward astrology and any contradictions concerning this pseudoscience that are evident in his works in light of Torres i Bages' passage, and will attempt to explain his attitudes toward these ancient sciences.

Eiximenis dedicated several chapters of his first extant work, the Primer del Crestia (1379), to astrology. Of the subjects that do not pertain to the clergy's curriculum ("no pertanyen a religios"), he included arithmetic, geometry, and especially astrology (Primer, ch. 32). Eixi-menis also reacted negatively to geomancy, "aquella mala art" (Primer, ch. 70).

In the Primer, Venus, which represents the earth, and especially Jupiter are the most favorable stars. He also equated six planets with the six major religious groups he regarded as the most important: the Jews, Caldeans, Egyptians, Christians, Muslims, and followers of the Antichrist. He revealed his source as Albumazar, "Livre des conun-tions", Books 1-2, probably a commentary on the author's De magnis conjunctionibus. In the Primer, ch. 184, Eiximenis opposed Albumazar by upholding the Christian belief on free will, citing St. Bernard and other Christian writers. Here Eiximenis introduced a proof repeated in his subsequent works, stating that Islam, which was to last 693 years due to the influence of Jupiter and Venus, had outlived itself-some 800 years; therefore, he concluded that only God knows the future. The author also refuted Albumazar's and other astrologers' belief that the planets were the cause of miracles (Primer, ch. 61).

Eiximenis made mention several times in the Primer that he would return to the topic of the constellations "coses celestials" and related subjects such as magic, unexplained phenomena, and diabolical works in the eighth book of the Crestia, which he probably never wrote.

In the Segon del Crestia (chs. 94-98), Eiximenis presented his most lengthy exposition on judicial astrology, specifying the location and ascendance of a number of planets. He also revealed his source as "Ali, gran astrolech, fill de Abeutragil, en lo terg libre seu dits Juys astrolechs." The astronomer to whom he referred is the eleventh-century Ali Abenragel (Gascón 394-95). Eiximenis included in chapter 94 of the Segon a detailed account about whether constellations could be used to interpret "natural" dreams and visions.

In chapter 95, the Franciscan began his refutation of Ali Abenragel's astrological convictions, stating that only the meaning that God gives to dreams and visions is true: "negun nos deu friar en ni deu dar fe a negun jhuy astrolech sino fort atart e ab comuna concordancia de molts scients en la dita art e en materia que nos puxa regir ni mudar per nostre franch arbitre." Eiximenis went on to say that no clergyman should study astrology because such study conveys a bad example.

According to Eiximenis, before the coming of Jesus learned men studied and upheld the validity of astrology, but after his death astrology no longer was considered a reliable study for predicting the future. Here Eiximenis resorted to a common practice with which to refute Islamic and Jewish astrology: the works of Ptolemy: "lom per prudencia natural pot senyorejar a les steles, e per conseguent molt mils hi senyoreja hom devot, requirent e tement Deu, qui sola-ment posa sa fe en Deu." Likewise, in chapter 98, Eximenis summarized his conclusions, again citing Ptolemy: celestial influence cannot cause one to sin because free will can overcome the stars' force, especially with the help of divine grace.

In the Terg del Crestia (chs. 133-34), Eiximenis continued in the same vein of argumentation, partly popular and partly scholastic, on the root of evil. Eiximenis was fond of stereotyping different racial groups. In these chapters he described the Germans and the English as serious and easily provoked, while the French were happy and easygoing. These stereotypical discussions moved gradually to the planets and constellations as the cause of racial personalities. Here Eiximenis repeated his much-used astrological example, which he described as "la general sentencia dels estrólechs": humors, which

Eiximenis called "malicies", appear in specific regions that are governed by a specific planet. Therefore the influence of Saturn is felt in regions in which men are malicious and stubborn, and Venus, where men are sensual (1929-32, 2:18). Again Eiximenis repeated the reference he insisted came from Ptolemy (1792 [MS], ch. 14), stating that Saturn and Mars cause malice in those born under their sign, and Jupiter exhibits "bons costumes" to all. Those born under the influence of Mercury show a positive trait (good nature) and their negative side (evil) (1792 ch. 686).

Eiximenis also used astrology for his own ends and proofs. In his writings, especially in the Primer, he put forth characteristics of nonChristian racial and religious groups that inhabited Iberia in the Middle Ages, mainly Jews and Moors. The Franciscan also stereotyped Jews in chapter 119, in which he added "la malicia judayca," labeling them with traits and moral characters caused by the influence of Saturn, which is melancholic, cold, dry, nocturnal, and powerful. More concretely, Eiximenis, basing his conclusions on Ptolemy's Quadripartitum 2, chapter four, concluded that Jews were not adept as government leaders because of their indecisiveness, laziness, melancholy, and other negative traits.

Despite the constant mention of free will and God's grace as deciding factors in one's salvation, Eiximenis was indeed attracted to astrology and astronomy. Contemplating the beauty God created, Eiximenis asked his reader to look to the heavens: "e pensa lavors quina granea es aquella del cel scelat e veuras que segons que posa los astrolechs, tota la terra no es sino un punt e un centre petit e invisible per esguart d'El" (1792 [MS], ch. 939). Again in the Llibre de les dones (1392), Eiximenis insisted that his reader contemplate the beauty of the works of God, "axi com son los cels, e.1 lur ornament, movement e ferm estament, e influximent e influencia a les coses jusanes leva molt lo cor a loar lo poder de nostre senyor Deu" (2:526). This beauty revolves around the earth, which Eiximenis paints in dark hues (1971: 433).

The Dotze libre del Crestia is, in large part, concerned with the education of the prince. Eiximenis is ambivalent in giving advice to royal leaders on the reliability of astrology. In the second part of the Dotze, in which he placed freedom of the will above astrological influence, the Franciscan suggested that the prince take into account the personal constellations of those who govern (2:2,310-11), especially if they are of "complexion diversa" (Dotze 2:2,293). The prince must also allow predication of his food, especially at banquets, as well as the hygiene and the direction of his responsibilities (2:1,198). However, the prince must not place much faith in astrology because he will lose confidence in God and thereby allow the luminaries to control him (2:1,198).

In another chapter of the Dotze, Eiximenis referred to astrology as a "sciencia errable," in which several astrologers might predict contradictory interpretations of the stars: "sobre una matexa con-clusio diveres astrolechs fan juys contraries" (2:1,209). Eiximenis therefore followed the theological approach by repudiating the astrologers' opinions and adding exempla in which Julius Caesar (2:1,264-65) and Robert of Sicily (2:2,218-19) show their disregard for astronomy.

In the Dotze, (ch. 24), Eiximenis stated that Barcelona, his model city, owed its origin to a fortuitous constellation. Based on his source, Halirafal's Judiciari, this city's fortune and prosperity was due to the fruitfulness of its generations of Catalans, especially their intelligence, wealth, and modest honors.

The Dotze (chs. 108-10) deals with the question about whether constellations can affect construction of cities or dwellings. Eiximenis brought forth unexplained occurrences: a person dies of the plague whereas his neighbor is not affected by it; a woman gives birth in one home, yet when moved to another house she cannot conceive. Eiximenis again resorted to Ptolemy (propositio xxii, xxxvi) to affirm the influence of certain stars. These two chapters were recently studied together with chapter 126, which reads somewhat like an almanac. Eiximenis began the latter chapter by referring to New Year's day, which fell on a Sunday, and made predictions for each day, including the weather for the year, divided into the four seasons, agricultural predictions, natural disasters, diseases (including plagues), and war. He concluded this discussion by revealing his source:

Diu Alidonius Cordubensis, recitant les dites coses per vida de natura, ajuda molt lo art de astrologia, mas sobre tot es posar bo en les mans de Nostre Senyor Deu a quia pertany principalment saber les coses esdevenidors e al qual plau mes hom se reta ignorant en esta materia per la sua reverencia, que no massa entrecuydat per propria astucia.

The aforementioned scholars who have studied the three chapters as a unit found it odd that Eiximenis would dedicate so much material to the influence of the constellations, especially the predictions for each season and, in a brief paragraph, negate under the banner of free will all that he had written regarding astrological beliefs. They offer two conclusions: either Eiximenis used astrological references to lure his readers, given the popularity of astrology in the fourteenth century, or the Franciscan was attracted to astrological predictions. However, to avoid the risk of being a true believer in judicial astrology, he relegated these astrological assertions to men of the past and placed at the end of each treatise on astrology a refutation that included the undeniable beliefs in the ultimate power of free will and God's ability to control the stars.

In chapter 120 of the Dotze, on how the influence of the stars creates a virtuous king, Eiximenis admitted Cronica that evil rulers, such as Baltasar, according to rabi Heleatzar's Cronica judaica, prospered and were fortunate in war, as was Sciprion Africanus, a virtuous leader. Here Eiximenis somewhow omitted the reference to free will.

Throughout part 1 of the Dotze, especially in his treatise on the prince and war, Eiximenis discussed the effect of celestial bodies on victory in battle. These chapters include the Dotze, ch. 223, which concludes, according to Ptolemy, that men are more inclined to excel in war: the influence of Mars, which predestines men born under this sign to become virtuous and fortunate in battle.

Chapters 284-286 are especially informative. In chapter 284, "Com la constellacio celestial ajuda en batalles," Eiximenis described several remedies for misfortune that border on the occult. However, in the next chapter (285), he refuted their remedies, insisting that the Church opposed such beliefs. Eiximenis (chs. 285-286) preferred the "merits de les volentats dels homens e ordinacio divinal" to the "pura obra de natura," and denied potions and incantations, leaving all in God's hands. He also labeled such practices as bitter superstitions, referring his reader to Machabeus 1.3. However, in the Dotze 2, Eiximenis continued to return to the science of astronomy and pseudoscience of astrology in order to predict success in battle. In chapter 550 (2:1,189), he described Alexander as learned, handsome, rich, fortunate in arms, and amiable, and accepted the influence of the stars. But the friar immediately stepped back, warning those who examined these influences too closely that they would fall into the superstition of the devil. Here again he returned to the Christian acronym of free will and divine grace in Ptolemy's works.

Also, his Llibre de les dones, Eiximenis, recalled Alexander once again in a chapter In which the author sought to prove that It was possible for an illegitimate child to become a good Christian. Eiximenis' description of Alexander as a "bon cavaller" gradually became tarnished when he listed defects he attributed to the Greek's supposed illegitimacy: "fort pompos e altiu, desconexent a molt e taccat d'als-cuns vices," some of which Eiximenis attributed to the ruler's evil tutor. To disguise his illegitimacy, Alexander wished to be called "son of Jupiter." Although as the son of Jupiter he could not rule the "empire of Greece," Jupiter allowed him to reign among the stars so that Alexander could rule the land. Once again Eiximenis curiously omitted in this discussion the superiority of free will and the divine will and grace.

Although the stars could not affect humans who freely chose good— aided by God's grace—or evil, the planets could influence animate beings and inanimate objects. Military arms, such as swords forged under certain signs, favored the warrior who carried them into battle by adding to his bravery and fortitude. As an example, Eiximenis also referred to a sword Jaume I, conqueror of Valencia, had in his possession, as well as the one that Pere III carried with him (Dotze, ch. 288; 2:246). Eiximenis inferred that he had seen these swords. Besides metals, the moon and celestial bodies influenced the growth of fruits and other foods, according to the Greek and Roman writers Eiximenis cited. On a lighter note, to chase away bothersome flies, Eiximenis recommended fabricating a fly of pure gold with wings of iron on "lo dia de Mercuri" (Torres i Bages, 2:105).

In the Dotze, chapter 287, Eiximenis discussed a thorny issue: if and when a soldier, especially an officer, should retreat from battle when facing an imminent defeat. The Franciscan suggested that the soldier remove himself from the battleground when a perilous comet should appear in the heavens and followed Ptolemy's Species de cometes, book 9. He went on to outline a summary description of comets and constellations and their effects on agriculture and on the lives of kings and nobles. In the Dotze, ch. 288, Eiximenis continued by describing stars and comets, their unique colors and effects on produce and on military decisions.

In his curriculum for the sons of princes and kings, Eiximenis also recommended astrology be included, but he stressed that kings of the past invoked the divine before consulting the stars. However, the friar considered political and military decisions to be of utmost importance to the kingdom. Therefore, he recommended for the princes of his time the study of theology, metaphysics, medicine, and ethics, as well as law, swordmanship, and military tactics. The princes' confidence should be in God, not in the constellations.

Eiximenis also preferred the opinions of theologians and opposed those of philosophers who believed in the effects of the constellations (Dotze 2:2,450). He therefore warned his lay readers who were not trained in theology, philosophy, and canon law not to take up either astrology or alchemy because they may become involved in necromancy: "Car en aquestes dues ciencies son gran disposicio a caure en aquesta mala art" (1927: 134-36). They will become deceitful, suffer, and die a harsh death that they ironically cannot themselves predict. In the Llibre dels angels (Book IV, ch. 31, f. 83v), Eiximenis continued in the same negative vein: to seek knowledge to which only God is privy drives one to the ways of Satan. And having been deceived by the devil, the sinner deceives others.

Throughout the Dotze, Eiximenis wrestled with astrology and alchemy as a profession. In the Primer, chs. 60-61, the friar stated that alchemy is only revealed to few people, for example, Solomon, whom God instructed in this science. In the Dotze (2:2,229), Eiximenis lamented that there were no good astrologers in his day as there were in the past. Given the complexity of this science, most preferred the less complicated subjects, such as medicine and law, which provided a steady and lucrative income. Eiximenis used chapters 143 to 147 of the Dotze to expound on these professions. He began with Aristotle (Politicorum 2), whom he upheld as an exemplary philosopher because he refused to use his knowledge of astronomy to become wealthy by predicting good and bad harvests. The friar then strong together several short narrations involving astrologers and alchemists in the service of royalty and nobles whose predictions and magic brought about the desired results. Yet Eiximenis remained cautious and reaffirmed his opinion that there were in his time very few learned men in astronomy and alchemy (Dotze, ch. 145 and 2:2,219), perhaps a quip toward the Jewish notables who populated the royal courts of Aragon during the era of the last Catalan kings.

Medieval Christianity, however, was hard pressed to reject astrology. At the birth of Jesus, the Bible tells that the Magi from Persia followed a celestial omen to Bethlehem. However, Eiximenis made only a brief mention of the event in his Vita Christi, one of his major works: "Ell fa apareixer novella estela qui fa venir los tres reis d'Orient en Betlem a adorar-lo aqui" (Eiximenis 1951: 31; 1496, f. 93r). On the other hand, Mary, to whom Eiximenis dedicated several chapters of the Vita Christi, is referred to in an astrological context:

eylla nasque en lo XXII grau del signe apellat virgo en lo zodiac celestial en lo qual grau e signe estech lavors feta conjuncio de plenetes, axi alta que james no estec ne n sera semblant en lo dit signe, per que diu lavors los grans astrolecs de Egipte jutgaran que aquel any verifica (Vita Christi ch. 2: De vita Christi, fol. 19r).

This reference, in which Eiximenis insisted that Mary excelled above all others in purity, is especially interesting because he relied on astrology when it did not conflict with Christian thought or when it did not originate with Arabic astrologers. On another occasion, Eiximenis supported the metaphysical view of Aristotle, Avicena, and Augustine that angels inhabit and propel celestial circles: "mouen a fer lur cors natural e ordinary" (Angels book 4, ch. 5). Through their movement they control the twenty-four hour day and the time it takes for a human to walk 36,000 days. This reference is a misinterpretation of Ptolemy, who stated that a star travels the heavens in 36,000 years, while a man can walk around the earth in less than three years. Eiximenis also reminded his readers of the great gift ("virtut") God, who created the skies, gave to angels.

Several conclusions can be drawn from sections of Eiximenis' works discussed here. He was familiar, at least in part, with the Latin version, the Quadripartitum, of Ptolemy's Tetrabiblos, and, on occasion translated passages from this work into Catalan. On the other hand, there is no evidence that Eiximenis consulted Ptolemy's Almagest, perhaps because this work was too technical for him. The Franciscan appears to accept sections he had cited from the (Quadripartitum. However, he is cautious regarding Arabian astrologers, although he seems to be drawn to Albumazar's astrology, as were Christian writers, in part due to its Aristotelian basis, including the doctrine of the fifth essence and the stratification of the different spheres. No matter how attracted Eiximenis became to Arabian science, he quickly lifted his shield, the doctrine of free will, which he was compelled to uphold as a Christian theologian. In addition, the fatalism he found in Arabian juridical astrology would also cause him to turn away (Pelaez 433—44). Eiximenis found in Islam a religion that not only approved of magic and astrology, but also encouraged their practice. This is especially evident in the Franciscan's attack on Islam and Mohammed's miracles in the Primer (Cerulli 41-77). Especially in the chapters on Islam in the Primer, Eiximenis discussed aspects of Mohammed's life and miracles as doubtful, deceitful, superstitious, and immoral. Another aspect of Eiximenis' attitude that, to my knowledge, has been overlooked by scholars is the disconcerting presence of astrologers and alchemists whom he discreetly regarded as amateurish. This label, as it existed in Eiximenis' mind, was figuratively placed on Pere III and his sons and on court astronomers and astrologers, including the well-known Hasdai Cresques, whom Joan I had consulted on the veracity of Eiximenis' prediction on the future elimination of all kings except the French monarch. Was Eiximenis envious of the prestige Jewish astronomers and physicians held in the kingdom in which he lived his adult life? Rubió i Lluch (1917-18: 10-18) attests to the trust Joan placed in the prediction of Jewish astronomers, whom he believed to be more knowledgeable on these matters than the Franciscan's and Majorcan navigators.

VI. Astrologers in the Royal Court

Bartomeu de Tresbéns (1:11) was a physician in the service of Pere III and Joan I from 1361 to 1374. When Pere became convinced of his physician's expertise in astrology and in the astronomical tables, he requested that Tresbéns write a treatise on astrology. The Tractat d'astrologia, completed before 1383, combines Greek and Arabian astrology and concentrates on the position of the stars at the moment of a birth. Pere was especially interested in such a treatise not only for himself but also as a means of learning about his friends and enemies.

Of the many astrologers in Pere's court, four stand out. Pere Gilbert and his student Dalmau Ses Planes wrote, at the king's request, works entitled Taules astronomiques and an Almanac. Dalmau continued in the royal court from 1364 to 1383 (Gascón 391). Jacob Corsuno, who served Pere as an astrologer, translator, and scribe, penned the Taules de Barcelona, while Bellshom Efrai'm translated astrological works by Al-Faragani.

VII. Conclusion

Astrology and astronomy commanded much interest in the late medieval kingdom of Aragon. Physicians and theologians, even popes, were attracted to studying the constellations. Kings and princes collected numerous books on astrology, astronomy, alchemy, and related subjects, and consulted with both Christian and Jews on these subjects. Also, the horoscope and instruments such as the astrolabe were prized much as telescopes and other scientific instruments are today. Much of this fervor must be credited to Arab and Persian astrologers who had brough Ptolemy to the Latin West, adorned in a different attire to attract leading minds of the Middle Ages.

In the Kingdom of Aragon as in neighboring realms (Castile and France), the pseudoscience astrology had captured the attention of leading intellectuals such as Ramon Llull, Arnau de Vilanova, and Francesc Eiximenis; kings and princes called upon men of learning to examine, translate, and compose books on the planets and constellations. The search now continues in this neglected area of Catalan studies with today's scholars, such as John Lucas, who has brought forth in this book the rich heritage of medieval astrology in the kingdom of Aragon with modern editions of works such as his edition of Tractat de prenostication.

David J. Viera Tennessee Technological University


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