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This webpage reproduces part of the

Claudius Ptolemy

published in the Loeb Classical Library, 1940

The text is in the public domain.

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 p307  Cam.2 p141 Book III

11. Of Bodily Form and Temperament.

Now that the procedure in the matter of the length of life has been explained, 142we speak about the form and character of the body, beginning the detailed discussion in the proper order, inasmuch as naturally, too, the bodily parts are formed prior to the soul; for the body, because it is more material, carries almost from birth the outward appearances of its idiosyncrasies, while the soul shows forth the characters conferred upon it by the first cause only afterwards and little by little, and external accidental qualities come about still later in time.

We must, then, in general observe the eastern horizon and the planets that are upon it or assume its rulership in the way already explained;109 and in particular also the moon as well; for it is through the formative power of these two places110 and of their ruler and through the mixture of the two kinds,111  p309 and furthermore through the forms of the fixed stars that are rising at the same time, that the conformation of the body is ascertained; the ruling planets have most power in this matter and the special characters of their places aid them.

The detailed account, then, as one might report it in simple terms, is this: First, among the planets, Saturn, if he is in the orient, 143makes his subjects in appearance dark-skinned, robust, black-haired, curly-haired, hairy-chested, with eyes of moderate size, of middling stature, and in temperament having an excess of the moist and cold. If Saturn is setting, in appearance he makes them dark, slender, small, straight-haired, with little hair on the body, rather graceful, and black-eyed; in temperament, sharing most in the cold and dry.

Jupiter, as the ruler of the aforesaid regions, when he is rising, makes his subjects in appearance light of skin, but in such a way as to have a good colour, with moderately curling hair and large eyes, tall, and commanding respect; in temperament they exceed in the hot and the moist. When Jupiter is setting, he makes his subjects light, to be sure, but not as before, in such a way as to give them a good colour, and with lank hair or even bald in front and on the  p311 crown, and of average stature; in temperament they have an excess of the moist.

Similarly, Mars, when rising, makes his subjects in appearance red and white of complexion, tall and robust, gray-eyed, with thick hair, somewhat curly, and in temperament showing an excess of the warm and dry. When he is setting, he makes them in appearance simply ruddy, of middle height, with small eyes, 144not much hair on the body, and straight yellow hair; their temperament exceeds in the dry.

Venus has effects similar to Jupiter's, but is apt to make her subjects more shapely, graceful, womanish, effeminate in figure, plump, and luxurious. On her own proper account she makes the eyes bright as well as beautiful.

Mercury, in the orient, makes his subjects in appearance sallow, of moderate height, graceful, with small eyes and moderately curling hair; in temperament, showing an excess of the warm. In the occident he makes them, in appearance, of light but not of good colouring, with straight hair and olive complexion, lean and spare, with glancing, brilliant eyes,112 and somewhat ruddy; in temperament they exceed in the dry.

 p313  The luminaries assist each of these when they bear an aspect to them, the sun tending to a more impressive and robust effect, and the moon, especially when she is separating113 from the planets, in general tending toward better proportion and greater slenderness, and toward a more moist temperament; but in particular cases her effect is proportioned to the special quality of her illumination, in accordance with the system of intermixture explained in the beginning of the treatise.114

Again, generally, when the planets are morning stars and make an appearance,115 they make the body large; at their first station, powerful and muscular; when they are moving forward,116 not well-proportioned; 145at their second station, rather weak; and at setting, entirely without repute but able to bear hardship and oppression.

Likewise their places, as we have said,117 take an important part in the formation of the bodily characters and temperaments. In general terms, once more, the quadrant from the spring equinox to the summer solstice makes the subjects well-favoured in complexion, stature, robustness, and eyes, and exceeding  p315 in the moist and warm. The quadrant from the summer solstice to the autumn equinox produces individuals with moderately good complexion and moderate height, robust, with large eyes and thick and curly hair, exceeding in the warm and dry. The quadrant from the autumn equinox to the winter solstice makes them sallow, spare, slender, sickly, with moderately curling hair and good eyes, exceeding in the dry and cold. The quadrant from the winter solstice to the spring equinox produces individuals of dark complexion, moderate height, straight hair, with little hair on their bodies, somewhat graceful, and exceeding in the cold and moist.

In particular, the constellations both within and outside of the zodiac which are of human shape produce bodies which are harmonious of movement and well-proportioned; those however which are of other than human shape modify the bodily proportions to correspond to their own peculiarities, 146and after a fashion make the corresponding parts like their own, larger and smaller, or stronger and weaker, or more and less graceful. For example, Leo, Virgo, and Sagittarius make them larger; others, as Pisces, Cancer, and Capricorn, smaller. And again, as in the case of Aries, Taurus, and Leo, the upper and fore parts make them more robust and the lower and hind parts weaker. Conversely the fore parts of  p317 Sagittarius, Scorpio, and Gemini cause slenderness and the hind parts robustness. Similarly too Virgo, Libra, and Sagittarius tend to make them well-proportioned and graceful, while Scorpio, Pisces, and Taurus bring about awkwardness and disproportion. So it is with the rest, and it is fitting that we should observe and combine all these things and make a conjecture as to the character which results from the mixture, with regard both to the form and to the temperament of the body.

12. Of Bodily Injuries and Diseases.

Since the subject which comes next is that which treats of the injuries and diseases of body, we shall attach here in regular order the method of investigation devised for this form of query. It is as follows. In this case also, to gain a general comprehension, it is necessary to look to the two angles of the horizon, that is, the orient and the occident, 147and especially to the occident itself and the sign preceding it, which is disjunct118 from the oriental angle. We must also observe what aspect the maleficent planets bear to them. For if they, one or both of them, are stationed against the ascending degrees of the aforesaid  p319 places, either bodily on them or quartile or in opposition to them, we must conclude that the subjects born will suffer bodily injuries and disease, especially if either one or both of the luminaries as well chance to be angular in the manner described,119 or in opposition. For in that case not only if one of the maleficent planets is rising after the luminaries, but even if it is rising before them and is itself angular, it has power to produce one of the aforesaid injuries or diseases of such kind as the places of the horizon and of the signs may indicate, likewise what is indicated by the natures of the afflicting and the afflicted120 planets, and moreover by those that bear an aspect toward them. For the parts of the individual signs of the zodiac which surround the afflicted portion of the horizon will indicate the part of the body which the portent will concern, and whether the part indicated can suffer an injury or a disease or both, and the natures of the planets produce the kinds and causes of the events that are to occur. For, of the most important parts of the human body, 148Saturn is lord121 of the right ear, the spleen, the bladder, the phlegm, and the bones; Jupiter is lord of touch, the lungs, arteries, and semen; Mars of the left ear, kidneys, veins, and genitals; the sun of the sight, the brain, heart, sinews and all the right-hand parts; Venus of  p321 smell, the liver, and the flesh; Mercury of speech and thought, the tongue, the bile, and the buttocks; the moon of taste and drinking, the stomach, belly, womb, and all the left-hand parts.

For the most part it is a general principle that injuries occur when the significant maleficent planets are oriental, and diseases, conversely, when they are setting. The reason for this is that these two things are distinguished thus — an injury affects the subject once for all and does not involve lasting pain, while disease bears upon the patient either continuously or in sudden attacks.

For the purpose of ascertaining particulars, certain configurations significant of injury or sickness have been specially observed, by means of the events which generally accompany such positions of the stars. For blindness in one eye is brought about when the moon by itself is upon the aforesaid angles, 149or is in conjunction, or is full, and when it is in another aspect that bears a relation to the sun, but applies to one of the star clusters in the zodiac, as for example to the cluster in Cancer, and to the Pleiades of Taurus, to the arrow point of Sagittarius, to the sting of Scorpio, to the parts of Leo around the Coma Berenices, or to the pitcher of Aquarius;  p323 and whenever Mars or Saturn moves toward the moon, when it is angular and waning and they are rising, or again when they ascend before the sun, being themselves angular. But if they are in aspect with both luminaries at once, either in the same sign or in opposition, as we said, morning stars with respect to the sun and evening stars to the moon, they will affect both eyes; for Mars brings about blindness from a blow, thrust, iron, or burning; when he has Mercury in aspect, in palaestras and gymnasiums or by felonious attack. Saturn causes it by suffusion, cold, glaucoma, and the like. Again if Venus is upon one of the aforesaid angles, particularly the occident, if she is joined with Saturn or is in aspect with him or has exchanged houses, and is inferior to Mars or has him in opposition, the men who are born are sterile, and the women are subject to miscarriages, premature births, or even to embryotomies, 150particularly in Cancer, Virgo, and Capricorn.122 And if the moon at rising applies to Mars, and if she also bears the same aspect to Mercury that Saturn does, while Mars again is elevated above her or is in opposition, the children born are eunuchs or  p325 hermaphrodites or have no ducts and vents.123 Since this is so, when the sun also is in aspect, if the luminaries and Venus are made masculine, the moon is waning, and the maleficent planets are approaching in the succeeding degrees, the males that are born will be deprived of their sexual organs or injured therein, particularly in Aries, Leo, Scorpio, Capricorn, and Aquarius, and the females will be childless and sterile. Sometimes those who have such genitures continue not without injury to the sight also; but those suffer impediment of speech, lisp, or have difficulty in enunciation who have Saturn and Mercury joined with the sun at the aforesaid angles, particularly if Mercury is also setting and both bear some aspect to the moon. When Mars is present with them he is generally apt to loosen the impediment to the tongue, after the moon meets him. Again, if the luminaries, together or in opposition, move toward the maleficent planets upon the angles, or if the maleficent planets move toward the luminaries, particularly when the moon is at the nodes124 or her bendings, or in the injurious signs 151such as Aries, Taurus, Cancer, Scorpio, or Capricorn, there come about deformations of the body such as hunchback,  p327 crookedness, lameness, or paralysis, congenital if the maleficent planets are joined with the luminaries, but if they are at the mid‑heaven points, elevated above the luminaries or in opposition one to the other, the deformations will result from serious dangers, such as falls from a height, the collapse of houses, or the attacks of robbers or animals. If Mars prevails, the danger is from fire, wounds, bilious attacks, or robberies; if it is Saturn, through collapse of buildings, shipwreck, or spasms.

For the most part injuries come about when the moon is near the solstitial or equinoctial signs, particularly at the spring equinox, injuries by white leprosy; at the summer solstice, by lichens; at the fall equinox, by leprosy; at the winter solstice, by moles and the like. Diseases are likely to result when at the positions already described the maleficent planets are in aspect, but in the opposite sense, that is, evening stars with respect to the sun and morning stars to the moon. For in general Saturn causes his subjects to have cold bellies, increases the phlegm, makes them rheumatic, meagre, weak, jaundiced, and prone to dysentery, coughing, raising, colic, and elephantiasis; the females he makes also subject to diseases of the womb. 152Mars causes men to spit blood, makes them melancholy, weakens their lungs, and causes the itch or scurvy; and furthermore he causes them to be constantly irritated by cutting or cautery of the secret parts because of fistulas, haemorrhoids,  p329 or tumours, or also burning ulcers, or eating sores; he is apt to afflict women furthermore with miscarriages, embryotomies, or corrosive diseases. Of themselves, they also bring about the properties of disease in agreement with the natures, which have been already discussed, of the planets in aspect, as they relate to the parts of the body.125

Mercury assists them126 chiefly to prolong the evil effects, when he is allied with Saturn inclining toward cold and continually stirring into activity rheumatisms and gatherings of fluid, particularly about the chest, throat, and stomach. When he is allied with Mars he adds his force to produce greater dryness, as in cases of ulcerous sore eyes, eschars,127 abscesses, erysipelas, savage lichens or skin eruptions, black bile, insanity, the sacred disease,128 or the like.

Certain qualities of disease are determined by changes among the zodiacal signs which surround the aforesaid configurations on the two angles. For in particular Cancer, Capricorn, and Pisces, and in general the terrestrial and piscine signs, cause diseases 153involving eating sores, lichens, scales, scrofula, fistulas, elephantiasis, and the like. Sagittarius and Gemini are responsible for those that come  p331 about with falling fits or epileptic seizures. And when the planets are in the last degrees of the signs they cause diseases and injuries especially in the extremities, through lesions or rheumatism, from which elephantiasis and, in general, gout in the feet and hands result. Since this is the case, if no beneficent planet bears an aspect to the maleficent ones which furnish the cause, or to the luminaries on the centres, the injuries and diseases will be incurable and painful; so also, if they bear an aspect but the maleficent planets are in power and overcome them. But if the beneficent planets are themselves in the authoritative positions and overcome the maleficent planets that bear the responsibility for the evil, then the injuries are not disfiguring and do not entail reproach and the diseases are moderate and yield to treatment, and sometimes they may be easily cured, if the beneficent planets are rising. For Jupiter generally causes the injuries to be concealed by human aid through riches and honours, and the diseases to be mitigated; and in company with Mercury he brings this about by drugs and the aid of good physicians. And Venus contrives that through pronouncements of the gods and oracles 154the blemishes shall be, in a way, comely and attractive,129 and that the diseases shall be readily moderated by divine healing; if however Saturn is by, the healing will be accompanied by exhibition and  p333 confession of the disease,130 and such like, but if Mercury131 is joined with her it will be with the accrual of use and gain, through the injuries and diseases themselves, to those that have them.

The Editor's Notes:

109 See III.2 (p233).

110 The eastern horizon and the place where the moon is found.

111 Apparently, the influence of the places and that of their rulers are the two "kinds" to which reference is made.

112 The text is perhaps corrupt; αἰγοπός seems to be otherwise unknown.

113 See I.24.

114 Probably a reference to the last paragraph of I.10, but the anonymous commentator (p136, ed. Wolf) seems to think it refers to I.8.

115 The commentator's (l.c.) explanation of this phrase is "being oriental" (ἀνατολικοί τυχόντες). The φάσεις, (p313)"appearances," "phases," are the positions of the planets with respect to the sun.

116 Strangely enough, according to the ancient terminology, when the planets are "moving forward" (in the direction of the diurnal movement, "in the direction of the leading signs," or east to west) they are "retreating" (ἀναποδίζοντες) with respect to their (west to east) motion in their own orbits; cf. Bouché-Leclercq, p429, 1 (on this passage) and p117, 1. The commentator (l.c.) here says, τουτέστιν, ἀφετικοί (probably ἀφαιρετικοί should be read).

117 He refers to places in the zodiac and to I.10.

118 See I.16; this sign is the fifth from the ascendant and is the so‑called sixth house.

119 I.e. in either the first or seventh house (orient or occident), and not at either of the other two angles.

120 See on III.9 (p267).

121 A planetary melothesia (distribution of parts of the body to the planets) follows. On such cf. Boll-Bezold-Gundel, p138, and P. Mich. 149, col. ii, 31 ff. (University of Michigan Studies, Humanistic Series, vol. XL).

122 Certain MSS. here add, "when the moon applies to the star clusters she incapacitates the eyes," which, as Camerarius notes in the margin of the second edition, is redundant here.

123 Proclus paraphrases thus: ἢ μὴ ἔχοντες τρυπήματα μηδὲ διέξοδον.

124 The points at which the moon's path intersects the ecliptic. The "bendings" are the points quartile to the nodes (cf. the anonymous commentator, p139, ed. Wolf).

Thayer's Note: "Bendings" — we could also call them by the Latin cognate "inflection points" — because at these points the course of the moon, at its maximum latitude, bends back toward the ecliptic.

125 The reference is to the planetary melothesia, earlier in the chapter (p319). Acting in their own proper characters (ἰδίως), the maleficent planets will affect those parts of the body of which, in the melothesia, they were said to be the "lords."

126 Saturn and Mars, the maleficent planets.

127 Dry sloughs, crusts, or scabs.

128 Epilepsy.

129 Cf. the famous passage of the Republic (474DE) in which Plato tells how lovers praise the irregular features and the complexities of their favourites.

130 The commentator (p141, ed. Wolf) says that this refers to the custom of taking the sick to temples for healing. So the disease would be openly exhibited and spoken of. Proclus indicates that the cure is through display and confession.

131 Hermes (Mercury) was the god of commerce and gain.

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