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Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story Enter word:. Basics of Astrology Zodiac Signs Love and the Zodiac Types of Astrology Famous Astrologers Astrology in Pop Culture Astrology Systems Site Information There has been some good European scholarship on Manilius in recent years, especially by Italian scholars, but in English there is still no book-length study.

Manilius' Astronomica is the text that Housman edited over a period of many years and dedicated to Moses Jackson, a friend from school that Housman never got over. Housman's edition did not win new readers for Manilius' poem, to say the least. Housman liked to say that Manilius' great talent was "doing sums in verse"--meaning that Manilius seemed to take a virtuosic pride in the fact that he could describe complicated astrological diagrams in Latin verse meter, and this is true.


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  5. Housman also liked to point out that you cannot cast an astrological chart by using Manilius' poem as a textbook. This is true as well. But then, it's also true that Virgil, writing in the generation before Manilius, had written a didactic poem on farming, called the Georgics , and certainly nobody could ever have thought that Virgil's elegant and complex poetic masterpiece was supposed to be a manual for real farmers on real farms.

    In fact, the Georgics was almost certainly the chief model Manilius had in mind in writing his own didactic poem, so there is at least that much reason to think that Manilius' aim, like Virgil's was not so much instructional as artistic. Manilius' poem is in five books, with about eight or nine hundred verses to a book. Book 1 gives an overview of all the visible constellations. Book 2 describes the signs of the zodiac and the different "aspects," or geometric angles, of their relations to each other and just as in modern astrology, 60 degree angles or "trines" are good, while 90 degree "squares" and degree "oppositions" are generally bad.

    Book 3 gives a system of what astrologers call "houses": areas of human life governed by the twelve sections of the heavens. The third book also discusses what modern astrologers call "ascendants" or rising signs, and at a certain point this book flirts with the possibility of revealing the great secret that true astrologers were thought in antiquity to possess: namely, the method of predicting a person's fated life span. Book 4 describes the qualities of specific degrees of the degree circle of the zodiac and also explains which regions of the inhabited world are governed by which astrological signs Italy is governed by Libra, if you're curious, and Greece is under Virgo.

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    Book 5 is concerned with "paranatellonta. This fifth book probably includes some material drawn from systems of astrology much earlier than the one practiced in the Hellenistic Mediterranean. Manilius seems to know quite a bit about non-Greek constellations, and he probably had access to one or more Egyptian sources in Greek translation. And there you have the book, in a summary that doesn't do anything near justice to its richness and complexity.


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    Here are some of the questions I want to ask. First, and most importantly: based on our historical, literary and material evidence, what political role, if any, did astrology play at Rome during the passage from republic to empire? Other questions to be touched on more briefly in the course of our inquiry include these: What was ancient astrology like?

    From what sources did it come to Rome? How did it work? What social role did astrologers play and what was the range of attitudes people had toward them? Before I turn to this set of questions, I'd like to say something about the reasons why a literary type like me, decidedly not a specialist in the history of science, should have come to the conclusion that astrology, of all things, is important for a full understanding of Roman literature and Roman culture and society during the time when Rome was passing from an aristocratic republic to a monarchical empire.

    When Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 BCE, his adopted son Octavian later to be known as Augustus buried him with something close to royal honors and ultimately raised a temple to him as a god.

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    During the time when Julius Caesar was being publicly mourned, a comet was seen to pass across the Roman sky, and this comet was of course taken as a sign from the heavens. Divination or prophecy through reading the signs and portents of the sky was not merely a folk belief in the ancient Mediterranean; it was also part of the state religion at Rome. There was a group of official priests known as augurs whose functions included reading omens in the sky. Comets were generally read as unfavorable omens, signs of war or other calamities, but our sources tell us that after the death of Julius Caesar, certain people at Rome began to express the belief that this particular comet, so far from being a bad omen, was in fact the soul of Julius Caesar mounting the sky to become a god.

    Hellenistic Astrology | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

    This pious opinion carried the day, and Julius Caesar was deified by the Roman senate. We don't know precisely how instrumental Octavian was in achieving this result, but we do know that he lost no time in turning it to his own political advantage. Not only did Octavian declare war on Brutus, Cassius and the rest of Julius Caesar's assassins, a war that he quickly won at a battle on the plain of Philippi in Greece and commemorated by dedicating a temple at Rome to "Mars the Avenger," Octavian also began to use iconographic images of a cosmic kind to proclaim Julius' godhead and to associate himself closely with his deified father.

    A great statue of Julius Caesar stood in the forum, and at Octavian's order a star was placed over this statue's head. We also possess a number of coins minted by Octavian during this period that prominently feature images of the sacred comet, now known as the sidus Iulium or "star of Julius. And the son, Octavian, is also described on these coins as divi filius, "son of the deified one," that is to say, son of a god. None of this is precisely astrological material, but it is certainly an instance of cosmic and more precisely stellar imagery being used to give divine legitimacy to a political program by furthering the notion that heavenly forces were signaling their favor toward Julius Caesar and toward Octavian as his son and successor.

    Turning back to the Astronomica now, we can see a similar ideological and political use of heavenly influence in its dedication to Octavian, who by the time of Manilius' writing was known as Caesar Augustus and fully established in power. Manilius explicitly portrays the imperial rule of Augustus as cosmically ordained by the same fate that rules the motions of the stars in the heavens and governs every aspect of human life on earth. Here is how Manilius addresses the emperor in his opening lines: "You, Caesar, princeps and father of the fatherland," this latter title had been officially conferred on Augustus by the Roman senate in 2 BCE "you who rule the globe that obeys your august laws," you get the pun on "Augustus" , "you yourself a god, you who merit the universe that was granted to your father, inspire my mind and give me the poetic strength to sing so great a subject, for at this time the universe itself is favorably disposed toward those who peer into its secrets; the universe itself is eager to lay open the inventory of its heavenly riches through the power of poetry.

    Manilius, then, states openly and unambiguously what Octavian's iconographic imagery had merely implied. How did historical events come to the point where it was possible for claims of this nature to be made explicitly by a Roman poet, and precisely what kind of power was Augustus himself claiming to possess? Rashi and Samuel b. Meir ad loc. In several places in the Talmud mk 27a; Ned.

    The astrological character of this custom was forgotten and the noun gad , originally the name of a star, came to mean simply "luck," as was eventually the case with the term mazzal "star of luck" itself. During the eighth to the tenth centuries several famous Jewish astrologers lived in Islamic lands and wrote books on astronomy and astrology.

    Both were found among the astrological manuscripts of Ibn Ezra, and accordingly, it has been conjectured that Ibn Ezra himself was their translator. Toward the end of the Middle Ages the Hebrew translations of both these astrologers were translated into Latin and printed. Ibn Ezra refers several times to the Persian Jewish astrologer Andruzgar b.

    Zadi Faruk ninth century.

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    Several astrological treatises in Arabic composed in the ninth and 11 th centuries, some anonymous, were translated into Hebrew, and some of them, apparently by Jewish translators, into Spanish. Hebrew translations of Arabic version of the astrological works of Ptolemy, the Tetrabiblos and Centiloquium , have also been preserved. Abraham b. The former even based decisions in practical affairs on astrological considerations.

    He also undertook to prove from the Talmud that the rabbis of that time in their use of astrology agreed in principle with the gentile sages about the role played by the stars, differing only in that "they say that the power of the stars and the constellations is not a perfect power … all being at the beck and call of God, who can at will set aside their rule and abrogate their decrees whenever He desires. In his Megillat ha-Megalleh Abraham b.

    Abraham ibn Ezra's reputation as a great student of astrology spread beyond Jewish circles. He believed that all beings in the sublunar world were influenced by the configurations of the stars and the zodiac, and that most men were entirely enslaved by the powers of the seven planets Commentary on Ex. Nonetheless, it is within the power of man to free himself of the dictates of the stars by perfecting himself spiritually. In his commentary on Deuteronomy Ibn Ezra writes: "It is known from experience that every nation has its own star and constellation and similarly there is a constellation for every city; but God bestowed His greater favor on Israel by rendering them starless and Himself their adviser.

    To reconcile predestination by the stars and divine providence, he assigns an astrological significance to the two biblical names for God: Elohim refers to the Creator in His "natural" manifestations, revealed in conjunction with patterns of the stars, while the Tetragrammaton refers to the Creator as He is manifested miraculously, i. Ibn Ezra composed a large number of astrological books; some of these were printed, but the majority are in manuscript.

    Most of these writings were translated into Latin at the close of the 13 th century and were printed in ; several were also published in a French translation. Judah Halevi never took a definite stand concerning the value and reliability of astrology. He admitted Kuzari that the celestial bodies had an influence over terrestrial affairs, that terrestrial sublunar life was due to the changing constellations, and that all astrological sayings attributed to the rabbis of old were based on genuine traditions.

    At the same time, however, he rejected the astrologers' claim that it was possible to determine the exact influence of the stars on sublunar beings. Halevi complained that the Jewish people continued to be seduced by astrological charlatanry despite the biblical injunction to the contrary ibid. Inquiring whether the movements of celestial bodies really exercised "leadership and governance over the events of human life," he came to the conclusion that while there is no clear evidence rebutting the assumptions of the astrologers, in view of human free will and divine providence it is nevertheless impossible to attribute an absolutely decisive character to "the dictates of the configurations" Or Adonai He launched a series of attacks against the beliefs of the astrologers based not only on dogmatic considerations but on empirical events as well: many times thousands of people had perished by plague, in war, or had been drowned at sea, yet it was unimaginable that the horoscope of each should have been responsible for his untimely death in the general disaster.

    Accordingly, Albo fell back upon the opinion of Abraham ibn Ezra that there are several factors capable of annulling the destinies of private individuals Sefer Ikkarim Upon being asked by the rabbis of southern France whether it was possible to combine the theories of astrology with the principles of Judaism, Maimonides replied: "… This science, which is called the decree of the stars … is no science at all, but mere foolery … and it behooves us never to engage in it…. Those who composed treatises upon it… were the Chasdeans, the Chaldeans, the Canaanites, and the Egyptians … however, the wise men of Greece … scorned, mocked, and condemned these four nations… and compiled proofs to reject their notions completely….

    I well know that you may seek and find in the Talmud and the Midrashim isolated sayings implying that the stars at the time of a man's birth will have a certain effect upon him… but this need not perplex you," inasmuch as "he is unworthy of pursuing knowledge … who would forsake it for the isolated saying of a rabbi of old who may perhaps have been mistaken….

    David ha-Kohen of Lunel. He also ruled: "Who is a me'onen ["soothsayer"]? He who allots dates in the manner of the astrologers, who say … such-and-such a day … is good for performing such-and-such a task, such-and-such a year or month is bad for such-and-such… and even though he does nothing but tell lies, the foolish believe that his words are the truths of the wise. Thus, whosoever heeds the astrologers when he chooses to do something or go somewhere at a certain time, such a one should be punished by stripes, for it is written 'Ye shall not soothsay'" Yad, Avodah Zarah —9.

    Similarly, in his commentary on the Mishnah he speaks of "the falsifying astrologers, who are wise and enlightened in their own eyes" Sanh. Despite Maimonides' great prestige, his criticism of astrology had practically no influence on subsequent Jewish writers.