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II.10‑13

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.10

Ptolemy
Tetrabiblos

p221 Cam.2 p103 Book III

1. Introduction

As in what precedes we have presented the theory of universal events, because this comes first and for the most part has power to control the predictions which concern the special nature of any individual, the prognostic part of which we call the genethlialogical art, we must believe that the two divisions have one and the same power both practically and theoretically. p104For the cause both of universal and of particular events is the motion of the planets, sun, and moon; and the prognostic art is the scientific observation of precisely the change in the subject natures which corresponds to parallel movements of the heavenly bodies through the surrounding heavens, except that universal conditions are greater and independent, and particular ones not similarly so. We must not, however, consider that both divisions1 employ the same starting-points, from which, by reckoning the disposition of the heavenly bodies, we attempt to foretell the events signified by their aspects at that time. On the contrary, in the case of the universals we have to take many starting-points, since we have no single one for the universe; p223and these too are not always taken from the subjects themselves, but also from the elements that attend them and carry with them the causes; for we investigate practically all the starting-points presented by the more complete eclipses and the significant passages of the planets. In predictions affecting individual men, however, we have both one and many starting-points. The one is the beginning of the temperament itself,2 for this we have; and the many are the successive significances of the ambients which are relative to this first beginning, p105though to be sure the single starting-point is naturally in this case of greatest importance because it produces the others. As this is so, the general characteristics of the temperament are determined from the first starting-point, while by means of the others we predict events that will come about at specific times and vary in degree, following the so‑called ages of life.3

Since the chronological starting-point of human nativities is naturally the very time of conception, but potentially and accidentally the moment of birth, in cases in which the very time of conception is known either by chance or by observation, it is more fitting that we should follow it in determining the special p225nature of body and soul, examining the effective power of the configuration of the stars at that time. For to the seed is given once and for all at the beginning such and such qualities by the endowment of the ambient; and even though it may change as the body subsequently grows, since by natural process it mingles with itself in the process of growth only matter which is akin to itself, thus it resembles even more closely the type of its initial quality.

But if they do not know the time of conception, which is usually the case, we must follow the starting-point furnished by the moment of birth and give to this our attention, p106for it too is of great importance and falls short of the former only in this respect — that by the former it is possible to have foreknowledge also of events preceding birth. For if one should call the one "source" and the other, as it were, "beginning," its importance in time, indeed, is secondary, but it is equal or rather even more perfect in potentiality, and with reasonable propriety would the former be called the genesis of human seed and the latter the genesis of a man. For the child at birth and his bodily form take on many additional attributes which he did not have before, when he was in the womb, those very ones indeed which belong to human nature alone; and even if it seems that the ambient at the time of birth contributes nothing toward his quality, at least his very coming forth into the light under the appropriate conformation of the heavens contributes, p227since nature, after the child is perfectly formed, gives the impulse to its birth under a configuration of similar type to that which governed the child's formation in detail in the first place.4 Accordingly one may with good reason believe that the position of the stars at the time of birth is significant of things of this sort, not, however, for the reason that it is causative in the full sense, but that of necessity and by nature it has potentially very similar causative power.

Since it is our present purpose to treat of this division likewise systematically on the basis of the discussion, introduced p107at the beginning of this compendium, of the possibility of prediction of this kind, we shall decline to present the ancient method of prediction, which brings into combination all or most of the stars, because it is manifold and well-nigh infinite, if one wishes to recount it with accuracy. Besides, it depends much more upon the particular attempts of those who make their inquiries directly from nature than of those who can theorize on the basis of the traditions; and furthermore we shall omit it on account of the difficulty in using it and following it. Those very procedures through which each kind of thing is apprehended by the practical method, and the active influences of the stars, both special and general, we shall, as far as possible, consistently and briefly, in accordance p229with natural conjecture, set forth. Our preface shall be an account of the places in the heavens to which reference is made when particular human events are theoretically considered, a kind of mark at which one must aim before proceeding further; to this we shall add a general discussion of the active powers of the heavenly bodies that gain kinship with these places by dominating them — the loosing of the arrow, as it were; but the predicted result, summed up by the combination of many elements applied to the underlying form, we shall leave, as to a skilful archer, p108to the calculation of him who conducts this investigation. First, then, we shall discuss in proper sequence the general matters the consideration of which is accomplished through the time of birth taken as the starting-point, for, as we have said, this furnishes an explanation of all natural events, but, if one is willing to take the additional trouble, by the same reasoning the properties that fall at the time of conception will also be of aid toward ascertaining the peculiar qualities that apply directly to the combination.

2. Of the Degree of the Horoscopic Point.

Difficulty often arises with regard to the first and most important fact, that is, the fraction of the hour of the birth; for in general only observation by means of horoscopic astrolabes5 at the time of birth p231can for scientific observers give the minute of the hour, while practically all other horoscopic instruments on which the majority of the more careful practitioners rely are frequently capable of error, the solar instruments by the occasional shifting of their positions or of their gnomons,6 and the water clocks by stoppages and irregularities in the flow of the water from different causes and by mere chance. It would therefore be necessary that an account first be given how one might, by natural and consistent reasoning, p109discover the degree of the zodiac which should be rising,a given the degree of the known hour nearest the event, which is discovered by the method of ascensions.7 We must, then, take the syzygy8 most recently preceding the birth, whether it be a new moon or a full moon; and, likewise having ascertained the degree accurately, of both the luminaries if it is a new moon, and if it is a full moon that of the one of them that is above the earth, we must see what stars rule it at the p233time of the birth.9 In general the mode of domination is considered as falling under these five forms: when it is trine, house, exaltation, term, and phase or aspect; that is, whenever the place in question is related in one or several or all of these ways to the star that is to be the ruler. If, then, we discover that one star is familiar with the degree in all or most of these respects, whatever degree this star by accurate reasoning occupies in the sign through which it is passing, we shall judge that the corresponding degree is rising at the time of the nativity in the sign which is found to be closest by the method of ascensions.10 But if we discover two or more co‑rulers, we shall use the number of degrees shown by whichever of them is, at the time of birth, passing p110through the degree that is closer to that which is rising according to the ascensions. But if two or more are close in the number of degrees, we shall follow the one which is most nearly related to the centres and the sect. If, however, the distance of the degree occupied by the ruler from that of the general horoscope is greater than its distance p235from that of the corresponding mid‑heaven, we shall use this same number to constitute the mid‑heaven and thereby establish the other angles.11

3. The Subdivision of the Science of Nativities.

After this preface, should any one simply for the sake of order attempt to subdivide the whole field of genethlialogical science, he would find that, of all the natural and possible predictions, one division concerns solely events preceding the birth, such as the account of the parents; another deals with events both before and after the birth, such as the account of brothers and sisters; another, with events at the very time of the birth, a subject which is no longer so unitary and simple; and finally that which treats of post-natal matters, which is likewise more complex in its theoretical development.12 Among the subjects contemporary with the birth into which inquiry is made are those of sex, of twins or multiple births, of monsters, and of children that cannot be reared. p111To those dealing with post-natal events belong the account of the length of life, for this is not attached to the account of children that cannot be reared; second, that of the form of the body and that of bodily p237illnesses and injuries; next, that of the quality of the mind and illnesses of the mind; then that which concerns fortune, both in the matter of possessions and in that of dignities; and after this the account of the quality of action; then that of marriage and of the begetting of children, and that of associations, agreements, and friends; following comes the account of journeys, and finally that of the quality of death, which is potentially akin to the inquiry about the length of life, but in order is reasonably placed at the end of all these subjects. We shall sketch each of these subjects briefly, explaining, as we said before, together with the effective powers by themselves, the actual procedure of investigation; as for the nonsense on which many waste their labour and of which not even a plausible account can be given, this we shall dismiss in favour of the primary natural causes. What, however, admits of prediction we shall investigate, not by means of lots and numbers of which no reasonable explanation can be given, but merely through the science of the aspects of the stars to the places with which they have familiarity, in general terms, however, which are applicable to absolutely all cases, that we may avoid the repetition involved in the discussion of particular cases.

p112In the first place, we should examine that place of the zodiac which is pertinent to the specific heading of the geniture which is subject to query; for example, the mid‑heaven, for the query about action, or the place of the sun for the question about the father; then we must observe those planets which have the election of rulership to the place in question p239by the five ways aforesaid;13 and if one planet is lord in all these ways, we must assign to him the rulership of that prediction; if two or three, we must assign it to those which have the more claims. After this, to determine the quality of the prediction, we must consider the natures of the ruling planets themselves and of the signs in which are the planets themselves, and the places familiar to them. For the magnitude of the event we must examine their power14 and observe whether they are actively situated both in the cosmos itself and in the nativity,15 or the reverse; for they are most effective when, with respect to the cosmos, they are in their own or in familiar regions, and again when they are rising and are increasing in their numbers;16 p113and, with respect to the nativity, whenever they are passing through the angles or signs that rise after them,17 and especially the principal of these, by which I mean the signs ascendant and culminating. They are weakest, with respect to the universe, when they are in places belonging to others or those unrelated to them, and when they are occidental or retreating in their course; and, with respect to the nativity, when they are declining from the angles. For the time of p241the predicted event in general we must observe whether they are oriental or occidental to the sun and to the horoscope; for the quadrants which precede each of them and those which are diametrically opposite are oriental, and the others, which follow, are occidental. Also we must observe whether they are at the angles or in the succedent signs; for if they are oriental or at the angles they are more effective at the beginning; if they are occidental or in the succeeding signs they are slower to take action.

4. Of Parents.

The guiding style of the specific inquiry, to which we should adhere throughout, runs after this fashion. We shall now, therefore, begin, following the order just stated, with the account of parents, which comes first. Now the sun and Saturn are by nature associated with the person of the father and the moon and Venus with that of the mother, and as these may be disposed with respect to each other and the other stars, such must we suppose to be the affairs of the parents. Now the question of their fortune and wealth must be investigated by means of the attendance18 upon the luminaries; for when they are surrounded by planets that can be of profit and by planets of their own sect, either in the same signs or in the next following, they signify that the circumstances of the parents will be conspicuously brilliant, p114particularly if morning stars attend the p243sun and evening stars the moon, while the luminaries themselves are favourably placed in the way already described.19 But if both Saturn and Venus, likewise, happen to be in the orient and in their proper faces,20 or at the angles, we must understand it to be a prediction of conspicuous happiness, in accordance with what is proper and fitting for each parent. But, on the other hand, if the luminaries are proceeding alone and without attendants, they are indicative of low station and obscurity for the parents, particularly whenever Venus or Saturn do not appear in a favourable position. If, however, they are attended, but not by planets of the same sect, as when Mars rises close after the sun or Saturn after the moon, or if they are attended by beneficent planets which are in an unfavourable position and not of the same sect, we must understand that a moderate station and changing fortunes in life are predicted for them. And if the Lot of Fortune,21 of which we shall make an explanation, is in agreement in the nativity with the planets which in favourable position attend the sun or the moon, the children will receive the patrimony intact; if, however, it is in disagreement or opposition, and if no planet attends, or the maleficent planets are in attendance, the estate of the parents will be useless to the children and even harmful.

With regard to the length or the shortness of their life one must inquire from the other configurations. For in the father's case, if Jupiter p115or Venus is in any p245aspect whatever to the sun and to Saturn, or if Saturn himself is in an harmonious aspect to the sun, either conjunction, sextile, or trine, both being in power, we must conjecture long life for the father; if they are weak, however, the significance is not the same, though it does not indicate a short life. If, however, this condition is not present, but Mars overcomes22 the sun or Saturn, or rises in succession to them, or when again Saturn is not in accord with the sun but is either in quartile or in opposition, if they are declining from the angles, they merely make the fathers weak, but if they are at the angles or rising after them, they make them short-lived or liable to injury: short-lived when they are upon the first two angles, the orient and the mid‑heaven, and the succedent signs, and liable to injury or disease when they are in the other two angles, the occident and lower mid‑heaven, or their succedent signs. For Mars, regarding the sun in the way described,23 destroys the father suddenly or causes injury to his sight; if he thus regards Saturn he puts him in peril of death or of chills and fever or of injury by cutting and cauterizing. Saturn himself in an unfavourable aspect to the sun brings about the father's death by disease and illnesses caused by gatherings of humours.

p247 In the case of the mother, if Jupiter is in any aspect whatever to the moon and to Venus, p116or if Venus herself is concordant with the moon, in sextile, trine, or conjunction, when they are in power, they signify long life for the mother. If, however, Mars regards the moon or Venus, rising after her or in quartile or in opposition, or if Saturn similarly regards the moon by herself, when they are diminishing or declining, again they merely threaten with misfortune or sickness; but if they are increasing or angular, they make the mothers short-lived or subject to injury. They make them short-lived similarly when they are at the eastern angles or the signs that rise after them, and liable to injury when they are at the western angles. For when Mars in this way regards the waxing moon, it brings about sudden death and injury of the eyesight for the mothers; but if the moon is waning, death from abortions or the like, and injury from cutting and cauterizing. If he regards Venus, he causes death by fever, mysterious and obscure illnesses, and sudden attacks of disease. Saturn regarding the moon causes death and illnesses, when the moon is in the orient, by uterine ulcers and cancers.

We must take into consideration, also, with reference to the particular kinds of injuries, diseases, or deaths, the special characteristics of the signs in which are the planets which produce the cause, p117with which p249we shall find more appropriate occasion to deal in the discussion of the nativity itself,24 and furthermore we must observe by day particularly the sun and Venus, and by night Saturn and the moon.

For the rest, in carrying out these particular inquiries, it would be fitting and consistent to set up the paternal or maternal place of the sect as a horoscope25 and investigate the remaining topics as though it were a nativity of the parents themselves, following the procedure for the investigation of the general classifications, both practical and casual, the headings of which will be set forth in the following. However, both here and everywhere it is well to recall the mode of mixture of the planets, and, if it happens that the planets which rule the places under inquiry are not of one kind but different, or bring about opposite effects, we should aim to discover which ones have most claims, from the ways in which they happen to exceed in power in a particular case, to the rulership of the predicted events. This is in order that we may either guide our inquiry by the natures of these planets, or, if the claims of more than one are of equal weight, when the rulers are together, we may successfully calculate the combined result of the p251mixture of their different natures; but when they are separated, that we may assign to each in turn at their proper times the events which belong to them, p118first to the more oriental among them and then to the occidental. For a planet must from the beginning have familiarity with the place about which the inquiry is made, if it is going to exercise any effect upon it, and in general, if this is not the case, a planet which had no share whatsoever in the beginning can exert no great influence; of the time of the occurrence of the event, however, the original dominance is no longer the cause, but the distance of the planet which dominates in any way from the sun and from the angles of the universe.

5. Of Brothers and Sisters.

The preceding may perhaps have made clear the topic of the parents. As for that of brethren, if here too one examines only the general subject and does not carry beyond the bounds of possibility his inquiry as to the exact number and other particulars, it is more naturally to be taken, when it is a question of blood-brethren alone, from the culminating sign, the place of the mother,26 that is, that which contains by day Venus and by night the p253moon; for in this sign and that which succeeds it is the place of the children of the mother, which should be the same as the place of the brethren of the offspring. If, then, beneficent planets bear an aspect to this place, we shall predict an abundance of brethren, p119basing our conjecture upon the number of the planets and whether they are in signs of a simple or of a bicorporeal form. But if the malevolent planets overcome them or oppose them in opposition, they signify a dearth of brethren, especially if they have the sun among them. If the opposition is at the angles, and especially at the horoscope,27 in case Saturn is in the ascendant, they are the first-born or the first to be reared; in case it is Mars, there is a small number of brethren by reason of the death of the others. If the planets which give brethren are in a favourable mundane28 position, we must believe that the brethren thereby given will be elegant and distinguished; if the reverse is the case, humble and inconspicuous. But if the maleficent planets overcome those that give brethren, or rise after them, the brethren will also be short-lived; and the male planets in the mundane sense29 will give males, the female females; again, those farther to the east the first and those farther to the west the later-born. Besides this, if the planets that give brethren are in harmonious aspect with the p255planet that rules the place of brethren,30 they will make the given brethren friendly, and will also make them live together, if they are in harmonious aspect with the Lot of Fortune;31 but if they are in disjunct signs or in opposition, they will produce p120quarrelsome, jealous, and for the most part, scheming brethren. Finally, if one would busy himself with further inquiries about details concerning individuals, he might in this case again make his conjecture by taking the planet which gives brethren as the horoscope and dealing with the rest as in a nativity.

6. Of Males and Females.

Now that the topic of brethren has been brought before our eyes in suitable and natural fashion, the next step would be to begin the discussion of matters directly concerned with the birth, and first to treat of the reckoning of males and females. This is determined by no simple theory based upon some one thing, but it depends upon the two luminaries, the horoscope, and the stars which bear some relation to them, particularly by their disposition at the time of conception, but more generally also by that at the time of the birth. The whole situation must be observed, whether the aforesaid three places and the planets which rule them are either all or the most of them masculine, to produce males, or feminine, p257to produce females, and on this basis the decision must be made. We must however distinguish the male and the female planets in the way set forth by us in the tabular series in the beginning of this compilation,32 from the nature of the signs in which they are, p121and from the nature of the planets themselves, and furthermore from their position with reference to the universe, since they become masculine when they are in the east and feminine in the west; and besides, from their relation to the sun, for again when they rise in the morning they are made masculine, and feminine when they rise in the evening. By means of all these criteria one must conjecture what planet exercises preponderating control over the sex.

7. Of Twins.

Likewise with regard to the births of two or even more, it is fitting to observe the same two places, that is, the two luminaries and the horoscope. For such an event is apt to attend the intermixture33 when either two or the three places34 cover bicorporeal signs, and particularly when the same is true of the planets that rule them, or when some are in bicorporeal signs, and some are disposed in pairs or in larger groups. But when both the dominant places are in bicorporeal signs and most of the planets are similarly p259configurated, then it befalls that even more than two are conceived, for the number is conjectured from the star that causes the peculiar property of the number,35 and the sex from the aspects which the planets have with respect to the sun and the moon and the horoscope for the production of males or of females, in accordance with the ways stated above.36 But whenever such an arrangement of the planets p122does not include the horoscopic angle with the luminaries, but rather that of the mid‑heaven, mothers with such genitures generally conceive twins or even more; and in particular, they give multiple birth, to three males, by the geniture of the Kings,37 when Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars are in bicorporeal signs and bear some aspect to the aforesaid places; and to three females, by the geniture of the Graces, when Venus and the moon, with Mercury made feminine, are so arranged; to two males and one female, by the geniture of the Dioscuri, when Saturn, Jupiter, and Venus are so ordered, and to two females and a male, by the geniture of Demeter and Korê,38 when Venus, the moon, and Mars are thus ordered. In these cases it generally happens that the children are not completely developed and are born with certain bodily p261marks, and again the governing places may bear certain unusual and surprising marks by reason of the divine manifestation, as it were, of such portents.

8. Of Monsters.

The subject of monsters is not foreign to the present inquiry; for, in the first place, in such cases the luminaries are found to be as far as possible removed from the horoscope or in no way related to it, and the angles39 are separated by the maleficent planets. Whenever, then, such a disposition is observed, p123for it frequently occurs in humble and unlucky nativities, even though they are not the genitures of monsters, one should look at once for the last preceding new or full moon, and the lord of this and of the luminaries of the birth. For if the places of the birth, of the moon, and of the horoscope, all or the majority of them, happen to be unrelated to the place of the preceding syzygy, it must be supposed that the child will be nondescript. Now if, under such conditions, the luminaries are found in four-footed or animal-shaped signs,40 and the two maleficent planets are centred, the child will not even belong to the human race, but if no beneficent planet witnesses to p263the luminaries, but the maleficent planets do so, it will be completely savage, an animal with wild and harmful nature; but if Jupiter or Venus witness, it will be one of the kinds regarded as sacred, as for example dogs, cats,41 and the like; if Mercury witnesses, one of those that are of use to man, such as birds, swine, oxen, goats, and the like. If the luminaries are found in signs of human form, but the other planets are disposed in the same way, what is born will be, indeed, of the human race or to be classed with humans, but monsters and nondescript in qualitative character, and their qualities in this case too are to be observed from the form of the signs p124in which the maleficent planets which separate the luminaries or the angles happen to be. Now if even in this case not one of the beneficent planets bears witness to any of the places mentioned, the offspring are entirely irrational and in the true sense of the word nondescript; but if Jupiter or Venus bears witness, the type of monster will be honoured and seemly, such as is usually the case with hermaphrodites or the so‑called harpocratiacs,42 and the like. If Mercury should bear witness, along with the foregoing, this disposition produces prophets who also make money thereby; but when alone, Mercury p265makes them toothless and deaf and dumb, though otherwise clever and cunning.

9. Of Children that are not Reared.

As the account of children that are not reared43 is still lacking in the discussion of matters related to the birth itself, it is fitting to see that in one way this procedure is connected with the inquiry concerning length of life, for the question in each case is of the same kind; but in another way they are distinct, because there is a certain difference in the actual meaning of the inquiry. For the question of length of life considers those who in general endure for perceptible lengths of time, that is, not less than one circuit of the sun, and such a space is properly understood to be a year; but potentially also lesser periods than this, months and days and hours, are perceptible lengths of time. p125But the inquiry concerning children that are not reared refers to those who do not attain at all to "time" thus defined, but perish in something less than "time" through excess of the evil influence. For this reason the investigation of the former question is more complex; but this is simpler. For it is merely the case that if one of the luminaries is angular44 and one of the maleficent planets is in conjunction with it, or in p267opposition, both in degrees and with equality of distance,45 while no beneficent planet bears any aspect, and if the lord of the luminaries46 is found in the places of the maleficent planets, the child that is born will not be reared, but will at once come to its end. But if this comes about without the equality of distance, but the shafts of the maleficent planets succeed closely upon the places of the luminaries, and there are two maleficent planets, and if they afflict47 either one or both of the luminaries either by succeeding them or by opposition, or if one afflicts one luminary and the other the other in turn, or if one afflicts by opposition and the other by succeeding the luminary, in this way too children are born that do not live; for the number of afflictions dispels all that is favourable to length of life because of the distance of the maleficent planet through its succession. Mars especially afflicts the sun by succeeding it, and Saturn the moon; but conversely in opposition or in superior position Saturn afflicts the sun and Mars the moon, p126most of all if they occupy as rulers the p269places of the luminaries or of the horoscope. But if there chance to be two oppositions, when the luminaries are at the angles and the maleficent planets are in an isosceles configuration, then the infants are born dead or half-dead. And in such circumstances, if the luminaries should chance to be removing from conjunction with one of the beneficent planets, or are in some other aspect to them, but nevertheless cast their rays in the parts that precede them, the child that is born will live a number of months or days, or even hours, equal to the number of degrees between the prorogator48 and the nearest rays of the maleficent planets, in proportion to the greatness of the affliction and the power of the planets ruling the cause. But if the rays of the maleficent planets fall before the luminaries, and those of the beneficent behind them, the child that has been exposed will be taken up and will live. And again, if the maleficent planets overcome49 the beneficent ones that bear an aspect upon the geniture, they will live to affliction and subjection; but if the beneficent planets overcome, they will live but as supposititious children of other parents; and if one of the beneficent planets should either be rising or applying50 to the moon, while one of the maleficent planets is setting, they will be reared by their own parents. And the same methods of judgement are to be used p271also in cases of multiple births. p127But if one of the planets that two by two or in larger groups bear an aspect to the geniture is at setting, the child will be born half-dead, or a mere lump of flesh, and imperfect. But if the maleficent planets overcome them, the infant born subject to this influence will not be reared or will not survive.


The Editor's Notes:

1 I.e. general astrology and genethlialogical astrology.

2 "Temperament" here is used in its astrological sense, of the mingling of physical and other traits which make up the individual. Cf. the similar use of κρᾶσις in I.11, p64.

3 The "divisions of the successive times," i.e. the ages of man, are discussed in IV.10.

4 An assumption which Ptolemy does not think it necessary to demonstrate. The statement that the sign in which the moon was found at the conception would be in the ascendant at the nativity is attributed to "Nechepso and Petosiris"; Boll-Bezold-Gundel, p154; cf. Bouché-Leclercq, pp376, 379.

5 An instrument consisting of a graduated circle with a movable arm by which angles above the horizon could be taken.

6 The "solar instruments" are sun-dials, the gnomons of which cast shadows, the position and length of which (p231)are significant. Clepsydrae, or water-clocks, operated on the principle of the hour-glass, except that water was used instead of sand. In addition to these instruments the practitioner would undoubtedly have tables of various sorts, including ephemerides, which gave the position of the sun, moon, and planets from day to day, tables of ascensions, etc. Examples of them are preserved among the papyri.

7 The "ascensions" are the times, measured in arcs of the equator, in which the signs of the zodiac (which do not lie on the equator) rise above the horizon. They will vary for the individual signs, and for the latitudes (Greek, "climes", κλίματα) at which observations are made.

8 A conjunction or an opposition.

9 The text adopted is that of the two most important MSS. and is supported by the anonymous commentator. Bouché-Leclercq (p388, n1) would discard the words κατὰ τὸν χρονὸν τῆς ἐκτροπῆς, but he had made no examination of the MSS. and presumably did not know that the best of them support κατά τε κτλ., the reading mentioned by the commentator. To observe the position of the luminary above the earth at the time of conjunction, rather than that of the one that is above the earth at the time of the nativity, seems much simpler and more natural.

10 On Ptolemy's rule for determining the ascendant degree, cf. Bouché-Leclercq, pp387‑388.

11 Ordinarily the horoscope, or ascendant, would be the point of reference by which the other centres (mid‑heaven, occident, inferior mid‑heaven) of the nativity would be (p235)established. In this case the mid‑heaven is made the point of reference. The "general" (ὁλοσχερές; Proclus paraphrases with κατὰ τὸ καθ᾽ ὂλου) horoscope seems to be the "presumable" one.

12 What follows is practically a list of chapters in Books III and IV. Since the subject of the last chapter of Book iv (the divisions of time and the ages of man) is not included, its genuineness has been questioned, but not seriously doubted.

13 See c. 2, p233.

14 The power of the ruling planets.

15 The horoscopic point and other angles change for each nativity; the signs of the zodiac, houses of the planets, terms, etc., are cosmic, as being related to the universe itself and therefore fixed.

16 I.e. when their movement in the zodiac is direct, not retrograde. The theory of epicycles was used to explain the stations and changes of direction in the movement of the planets.

17 Or, the signs succedent (ἐπαναφοραί) to the angles.

18 δορυφοία "attendance," and δορυφόρος, "spear-bearer," "attendant," outside of astrology refer to the hired military guards of princes and tyrants.

19 I.e. in the preceding chapter.

20 Cf. I.23.

21 See III.10.º

22 The anonymous commentator on Ptolemy says that "stars are said to overcome (καθυπερτερεῖν) when they are of a smaller number of degrees," i.e. of the zodiac. The right takes precedent over the left, as a general rule. Cf. Bouché-Leclercq, p250, n1.

23 In quartile or opposition.

24 Cf. III.12, IV.9.

25 The anonymous commentator, on this passage, says that the significant planet is to be taken as the horoscope. Cf. a similar statement at the end of c.5 and Bouché-Leclercq, p394.

26 This is the reading of all the MSS. and Proclus. Camerarius, inserting a καί before τοῦ μητρικοῦ τόπου, would make it "the culminating sign and the place of the mother." While the best-attested reading has been left in the present text, the passage is extremely difficult to understand, whichever reading is preferred.

Thayer's Note: Camerarius' insertion is more tempting than Prof. Robbins lets on. The culminating sign is that occupying the mid‑heaven — the beginning of the tenth house, which is the place of the father. The place of the mother is the imum coeli (in Robbins' translation, "the lower mid‑heaven") and the fourth house.

27 "Horoscope" is used here in its more original sense of the point rising above the horizon at the time the observation is made.

28 See the note on III.3, p239.

29 I.e. in the quadrant from the orient to mid‑heaven or that from the occident to lower mid‑heaven; cf. I.6.

30 I.e. the place (literally, "twelfth part" of the zodiac) which governs the inquiry about brethren; see the beginning of this chapter.

31 For the Lot of Fortune see III.10.

32 See I.6.

33 That is, of the influences of luminaries, signs, etc.

34 The places or houses in which the luminaries and the horoscope are found.

35 That is, from the planet that governs the dominant place.

36 In the preceding chapter.

37 Bouché-Leclercq, p398, n3, after remarking upon the various interpretations given this passage, says: "The title Ἀνάκτορες (Ἄνακτες, Ἄνακες) having been borne by the Dioscuri, the Cabiri, and the Curetes, I do not know to which group he alludes, and possibly he did not know very well himself." Cardanus remarks that Ptolemy regards three children as the largest number that can be born at one birth and survive.

38 MS. N and Camerarius add here "and Dionysus," but the other MSS. agree in omitting the expression.

39 Cardanus and Whalley say the ascendant and the mid‑heaven are meant.

40 Cf. I.12. The only human signs are Virgo, Gemini, Sagittarius, and Aquarius.

41 The later MSS. here add "or apes."

42 Deaf mutes.

43 Either because they do not survive or because they are exposed; Ptolemy treats both classes in the same (p265)chapter, as does Firmicus Maternus, VII.2 (De expositis et non nutritis). Cumont, L'Égypte des astrologues, p186, remarks that whereas the ancient Egyptian custom had been to bring up all children born, the Greeks introduced the practice of exposing unwanted babes.

44 I.e. at one of the angles — rising, setting, or culminating.

45 κατ᾽ ἰσοσκελείαν, literally, "by equality of leg." The anonymous commentator does not explain this expression. Cardanus (pp264‑265) understands it to mean that the two are exactly in opposition not only in longitude ("in degrees"), but also in latitude (as when the moon is in 10° of Aries, 3° north latitude, and Saturn or Mars in 10° of Libra, 3° south latitude).

46 The planet which governs the sign in which the luminaries are found.

47 Affliction, which in general is damage done by a maleficent planet to a beneficent one, is defined by the astrologer Antiochus (CCAG, VIII.3, p106, 34‑38) as existing "when (sc. a beneficent planet) is smitten by the rays of maleficent planets, or is surrounded, or is in application with one of them, or in glutinatio (κόλλησις), or is governed by one of them, when the maleficent planet is in the inactive (non-signifying, ἀχρημάτιστοι) places. These are the sixth, third, second, eighth, and twelfth from the horoscope." Ptolemy says little about the "places" (less correctly "houses") of a geniture; they are twelfth parts of the zodiacal circle marked off from the horoscope, each with some special significance; cf. Boll-Bezold-Gundel, pp62‑63.

48 A luminary, planet, or portion of the zodiac which determines the length of life or the duration of some event. The prorogators are discussed in the next chapter.

49 See on III.4 above (p245, n1).

50 See I.24.


Thayer's Note:

a how one might discover the degree of the zodiac which should be rising: what follows is a method of "rectification"; convoluted, as most such methods are. The problem can be simply stated: to draw up a good astrological chart, you need to establish the degree in the ascendant, and thus to know the birth time to within about four minutes; yet even for a present birth it is often not possible to know what time it is, and in the case of a past birth the actual time may not be known — all the more so in antiquity, when time-keeping devices were poor. So what's an astrologer to do?

The approximate time, however, will be known: and that in turn will certainly be good enough to establish the previous new or full moon, the longitude of which is known quite precisely. From there, a series of calculations are made, designed to loop back to the approximate birth time in such a way as to narrow it down to a precise moment, which is then stated to be the correct birth time; whence the modern name for the process: "rectification".

It will be noticed that methods of rectification always make certain birth times theoretically impossible; the underlying theory of rectification, not very often explicitly stated, is that births can only occur under certain configurations of the heavens. Within the framework of astrology, it's a logical premise.


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