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II.4‑9

This webpage reproduces part of the
Tetrabiblos

by
Claudius Ptolemy

published in the Loeb Classical Library, 1940

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
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III.1‑9

Ptolemy
Tetrabiblos

p195 Cam.2 p91 Book II

10. Concerning the New Moon of the Year.

Now that we have described the procedure of prediction about the general states of countries and cities, it would remain to mention matters of greater detail; I refer to events that happen yearly in connection with the seasons. In the investigation of this subject it would be appropriate first to define the so‑called new moon of the year.91 That this should properly be the beginning of the sun's circular course in each of his revolutions is plain from the thing itself, both from its power and from its name. To be sure, one could not conceive what starting-point to assume in a circle, as a general proposition; but in the circle through the middle of the zodiac one would properly take as the only beginnings the points determined by the equator and the tropics, that is, the two equinoxes and the two solstices. Even then, however, one would still p197be at a loss which of the four to prefer. Indeed, in a circle, absolutely considered, no one of them takes the lead, as would be the case if there were one starting-point, but those who have written on these matters p92have made use of each of the four,92 in various ways assuming some one as the starting-point, as they were led by their own arguments and by the natural characteristics of the four points. This is not strange, for each of these parts has some special claim to being reasonably considered the starting-point and the new year. The spring equinox might be preferred because first at that time the day begins to be longer than the night and because it belongs to the moist season, and this element, as we said before,93 is chiefly present at the beginning of nativities; the summer solstice because the longest day occurs at that time and because to the Egyptians it signifies the flooding of the Nile and the rising of the dog star; the fall equinox because all the crops have by then been harvested, and a fresh start is then made with the sowing of the seed of future crops; and the winter solstice because then, after diminishing, the day first begins to lengthen. It seems more proper and natural to me, however, to employ the four starting-points for investigations which deal with the year, observing the syzygies p199of the sun and moon at new and full moon which most nearly precede them, and among these in particular the conjunctions at which eclipses take place, so that from the starting-point in Aries we may conjecture what the spring will be like, p93from that in Cancer the summer, from that in Libra the autumn, and from that in Capricorn the winter. For the sun creates the general qualities and conditions of the seasons, by means of which even those who totally ignorant of astrology can foretell the future.94

Furthermore, we must take into consideration the special qualities of the signs of the zodiac to obtain prognostications of the winds and of the more general natures;95 and the variations of degree from time to time are in general again shown by the conjunctions which take place at the aforesaid points and by the aspects of the planets to them, and in particular also by the conjunctions and full moons in the several signs and by the course of the planets. This might be called monthly investigation.

As it is proper that for this purpose there be enumerated the peculiar natural powers of the several signs to influence annual conditions, as well as those p201of the several planets, we have already, in what precedes, explained the familiarity of the planets,96 and of the fixed stars of like temperament,97 with the air and the winds, as well as that of the signs, as wholes,98 with the winds and seasons. p94It would remain to speak of the nature of the signs, part by part.

11. Of the Nature of the Signs, Part by Part,
and their Effect upon the Weather.

Now the sign of Aries as a whole, because it marks the equinox, is characterized by thunder or hail, but, taken part by part, through the variation in degree that is due to the special quality of the fixed stars, its leading99 portion is rainy and windy, its middle temperate, and the following part hot and pestilential. Its northern parts are hot and destructive, its southern frosty and chilly.

The sign of Taurus as a whole is indicative of both temperatures and is somewhat hot; but taken part by part, its leading portion, particularly near the Pleiades, is marked by earthquakes, winds, and mists; its middle moist and cold, and its following p203portion, near the Hyades, fiery and productive of thunder and lightning. Its northern parts are temperate, its southern unstable and irregular.

The sign of Gemini as a whole is productive of an equable temperature, but taken part by part its leading portion is wet and destructive, its middle temperate, and its following portion mixed and irregular. Its northern parts are windy and cause earthquakes; its southern parts dry and parching.

The sign of Cancer as a whole is one of fair, warm weather; p95but, part by part, its leading portion and the region of Praesepe is stifling, productive of earthquakes, and misty; its middle temperate, and its following parts windy. Its northern and southern parts are fiery and parching.100

The sign of Leo as a whole is hot and stifling; but, part by part, its leading portion is stifling and pestilential, its middle part temperate, and its following portion wet and destructive. Its northern parts are unstable and fiery, its southern parts moist.

The sign of Virgo as a whole is moist and marked by thunder-storms; but, taken part by part, its leading portion is rather warm and destructive, its middle temperate, and its following part watery. Its northern parts are windy and its southern parts temperate.

p205 The sign of Libra as a whole is changeable and variable; but, taken part by part, its leading and middle portions are temperate and its following portion watery. Its northern parts are windy and its southern moist and pestilential.

The sign of Scorpio as a whole is marked by thunder and fire, but, taken part by part, its leading portion is snowy, its middle temperate, and its following portion causes earthquakes. Its northern parts are hot and its southern moist.

p96 The sign of Sagittarius as a whole is windy; but, taken part by part, its leading portion is wet, its middle temperate, and its following part fiery. Its northern parts are windy, its southern moist and changeable.

The sign of Capricorn as a whole is moist; but, taken part by part, its leading portion is marked by hot weather and is destructive, its middle temperate, and its following part raises rain-storms. Its northern and southern portions are wet and destructive.

The sign of Aquarius as a whole is cold and watery; but, taken part by part, its leading portion is moist, its middle temperate, its following part windy. Its northern portion brings hot weather and its southern clouds.

The sign of Pisces as a whole is cold and windy; but, taken part by part, its leading portion is temperate, its middle moist, and its following portion hot. Its northern parts are windy and its southern watery.

p207 12. Of the Investigation of Weather in Detail.

Now that these facts have been stated in introduction, the method of dealing with the significations in detail involves the following procedure. For one method is that which is more generally conceived, with relation to the quarters, p97which will demand, as we have said,101 that we observe the new moons102 or full moons which most nearly precede the solstitial and equinoctial signs, and that, as the degree of the new moon or of the full moon may fall in each latitude investigated, we dispose the angles as in a nativity.103 It will then be necessary to determine the rulers of the place of the new moon or full moon and of the angle that follows it, after the fashion explained by us in the preceding sections dealing with eclipses,104 and thus to judge of the general situation from the special nature of the p209quarters, and determine the question of degree of intensification and relaxation from the nature of the ruling planets, their qualities, and the kinds of weather which they produce.

The second mode of procedure is based on the month. In this it will be necessary for us to examine in the same way the new moons or full moons that take place, in the several signs,105 observing only this, that, if a new moon occurs nearest to the solstitial or equinoctial sign just past, we should use the new moons which take place as far as the next quadrant, and in the case of a full moon the full moons. It will be needful similarly that we observe the angles and the rulers of both the places, p98and especially the nearest appearances106 of the planets, and their applications107 and recessions, the peculiar properties of the planets and of their places, and the winds which are aroused both by the planets themselves and by the parts of the signs in which they chance to be; still further, to what wind the latitude of the moon is inclined through the obliquity of the ecliptic. From all these facts, by means of the principle of prevalence, we may predict the general conditions of weather and the winds of the months.

The third step is to observe the even more minutely p211detailed indications of relaxation and intensification.108 This observation is based upon the configurations of the sun and the moon successively, not merely the new moons and full moons, but also the half moons, in which case the change signified generally has its beginning three days before, and sometimes three days after, the moon's progress matches that of the sun.109 It is based also upon their aspects to the planets, when they are at each of the positions of this kind, or likewise others, such as trine and sextile. For it is in accordance with the nature of these that the special quality of the change is apprehended, in harmony with the natural affinities of the attending planets and of the signs of the zodiac for the ambient and the winds.

The day by day intensifications of these particular qualities are brought about p99chiefly when the more brilliant and powerful of the fixed stars make appearances, matutine or vespertine, at rising or setting, with respect to the sun.110 For ordinarily they modulate the particular conditions to accord with their own natures, and none the less too when the luminaries are passing over one of the angles.

For the hour by hour intensifications and relaxations of the weather vary in response to such positions of the stars as these, in the same way that the ebb p213and flow of the tide respond to the phases of the moon, and the changes in the air-currents are brought about especially at such appearances of the luminaries at the angles, in the direction of those winds towards which the latitude of the moon is found to be inclining. In every case, however, one should draw his conclusions on the principle that the universal and primary underlying cause takes precedence and that the cause of particular events is secondary to it, and that the force is most ensured and strengthened when the stars which are the lords of the universal natures are configuratedº with the particular causes.

p100 13. Of the Significance of Atmospheric Signs.

Observations of the signs that are to be seen around the sun, moon, and planets would also be useful for a foreknowledge of the particular events signified.

We must, then, observe the sun at rising to determine the weather by day and at setting for the weather at night, and its aspects to the moon for weather conditions of longer extent, on the assumption that each aspect, in general, foretells the condition up to the next. For when the sun rises or sets clear, unobscured, steady, and unclouded, it signifies fair weather; but if its disk is variegated or reddish or sends out ruddy rays, either directly outward or turned back upon itself, or if it has the p215so‑called parheliac clouds on one side, or yellowish formations of clouds, and as it were emits long rays, it indicates heavy winds and such as come from the angles to which the aforesaid signs point. If at rising or setting it is dark or livid, being accompanied by clouds, or if it has halos about it on one side, or the parheliac clouds on both sides, and gives forth either livid or dusky rays, p101it signifies storms and rain.

We must observe the moon in its course three days before or three days after new moon, full moon, and the quarters. For when it appears thin and clear and has nothing around it, it signifies clear weather. If it is thin and red, and the whole disk of the unlighted portion is visible and somewhat disturbed, it indicates winds, in that direction in which it is particularly inclined. If it is observed to be dark, or pale, and thick, it signifies storms and rains.

We must also observe the halos around the moon. For if there is one, and this is clear, and gradually fading, it signifies fair weather; if there are two or three, storms; if they are yellowish, and broken, as it were, storms accompanied by heavy winds; if they are thick and misty, snowstorms; pale, or dusky, and broken, storms with both winds and snow; p217and the more of them there are the more severe the storms. And the halos that gather about the stars, both the planets and the brilliant fixed stars, signify what is appropriate to their colours and to the natures of the luminaries which they surround.

As for the fixed stars which are close together in some number, we must observe their colours and magnitudes. p102For if they appear brighter and larger than usual, in whatever part of the sky they may be, they indicate the winds that blow from their own region. As for the clusters in the proper sense, however, such as Praesepe and the like, whenever in a clear sky their clusters appear to be dim, and, as it were, invisible, or thickened, they signify a downpour of water, but if they are clear and constantly twinkle, heavy winds. Whenever, of the stars called the Asses on each side of Praesepe, the one to the north becomes invisible, it means that the north wind will blow, and the one to the south, the south wind.111

Of occasional phenomena in the upper atmosphere, comets generally foretell droughts or winds, and the larger the number of parts that are found in their heads and the greater their size, the more severe the winds.

Rushing and shooting stars, if they come from one p219angle, denote the wind from that direction, but if from opposite angles, a confusion of winds, and if from all four angles, storms of all kinds, including thunder, lightning, and the like. Similarly clouds resembling flocks of wool are sometimes significant of storms. p103And the rainbows that appear from time to time signify storms after clear weather and clear weather after storms. To sum up the whole matter, the visible phenomena, which appear with peculiar colours of their own in the atmosphere in general, indicate results similar to those brought about by their own proper occurrences, in the manner already explained in the foregoing.112

Le us, then, consider that thus far, in outline, there has been given an account of the investigation of general questions, both in their more universal aspects and in particular detail. In the following we shall supply in due order the procedure for the prediction which follows the genethlialogical form.


The Editor's Notes:

91 The new moon closest to the first of the year, as explained later.

92 Bouché-Leclercq, p129, with n1, points out that the Egyptian year began with the rising of Sirius, which is close to Cancer; that Cancer was the horoscope in the so‑called Egyptian "theme of the world" (the horoscope of the universe, in which the planets, etc., were in the positions which they occupied at the very beginning); but that after Posidonius Aries was definitely recognized as the starting-point of the zodiac.

93 1.10.

94 Cf. I.2.

95 The Latin versions interpret this sentence in substantially the way here shown. The Paraphrase of Proclus, however, understands it to mean that the sun governs the qualities of the signs, the winds, and "certain other general matters"; and the anonymous commentator also (p79, ed. Wolf) says, προϋπακουστέον ὁ ἥλιος ποιεῖ. By "the more general natures" doubtless are meant temperature and other things, besides the winds, that go to make up the weather.

96 I.4 and 18.

97 1.9.

98 Cf. the chapter on the triangles, I.18.

99 Ptolemy characterizes three parts of each sign, leading, middle, and following, besides the portions north and south of the ecliptic. The "leading" portion is so‑called because it is the part which first rises above the horizon in the apparent diurnal movement of the heavens; the "following" portion is the last of the sign to appear. "Leading" degrees, or signs, are regarded as being to the right of the "middle" and the "following."

100 "Fiery, destructive, and parching," according to certain MSS. See the critical note.

The critical note to the Greek text reads:

Post ἔκπυρα add. καὶ φθαρτικὰ PLNCam.; om. VMADGProc.

101 In the latter part of II.10. Cardanus, pp228‑229, commenting on this chapter, says, after admiring the genius of Ptolemy, "For in this chapter he does five things. In the first place, he has declared the proper nature of each part of the year in general, which is predicted from the new moon or full moon preceding the ingress of the sun to the cardinal point. In the second . . . , the quality of each month from the new or full moon, following the ingress of the sun to the cardinal point. In the third (p207)place, he tells us how to know the nature of the weather of the fourth part of each month . . . and this is discovered not only from new moons and full moons but also from the quarters. . . . In the fourth place, he shows us how to recognize each day the quality of the air . . . from the rising or setting of the bright stars. In the fifth he teaches us to learn that same thing hour by hour from the passage of the luminaries through the angles at the time." The "quarters" mentioned by Ptolemy are the quarters of the year, or of the zodiac.

102 Literally "conjunctions" (συνόδους), but with special reference to those of the sun and moon; hence, "new moons."

103 That is, determine the horoscopic point, mid‑heaven, occident, etc., at the time of the conjunction and construct the horoscope for the event as though it were a birth.

104 The reference is to II.4‑8, especially c. 5, where the method of procedure is explained.

105 The signs are taken as marking the months, and the new or full mons first occurring while the sun is in the several signs (hence following the entrance of the sun into (p209)the sign, as Cardanus says) are to be observed. However, if, for example, in predicting the weather for the first quarter (spring), a new moon had preceded the first of Aries and had been used in determining the prediction in the way just described, we are to use the new moons in Aries, Taurus, and Gemini for the monthly predictions of this quadrant; if a full moon, the full moons.

106 Or apparitions.

107 See I.24.

108 That is, in the predicted event. Ptolemy also uses the expression "the more or less" (τὸ μᾶλλον ἢ ἧττον) to refer to intensification and relaxation.

109 I.e. conjunction.

110 Heliacal risings and settings may be meant; but see also the list of configurations given in the note on II.7, p171.

111 This sentence is perhaps an addition to the text, since it does not occur in all the MSS. nor in Proclus; it is to be found, however, in Hephaestion, p100, 31‑33 (ed. Engelbrecht). Hephaestion's compilation dates, according to Engelbrecht, from the year 381.

112 The purpose of this clumsy sentence seems to be merely to refer the reader to the account already given in II.9.


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