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Bill Thayer

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Ptolemy on LacusCurtius

For information on Ptolemy's life, and — mostly — on the manuscripts and editions of the Tetrabiblos, see the Loeb edition's introductory material, by Frank Egleston Robbins.

At present, works of Ptolemy on LacusCurtius are:


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[ complete English translation ]

The Tetrabiblos (or "Four Books" on astrology) was one of the most popular technical manuals in the world: it taught the rudiments of casting an astrological chart to many generations of practitioners. Compared to Ptolemy's other works — the Geography, the Almagest, and the Optics — it is a rather slight work; but it provides fairly comprehensive coverage of a subject essential for understanding ancient history and literature.


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[ partial English translation ]

The Geography was also a very useful work: an atlas of the known world, with many maps. Now these maps, which were of course, as with any atlas, the main item, have not come down to us: given the limited means of an ancient technology without printing, it was next to impossible to reproduce them faithfully. Ptolemy himself foresaw the problem and addressed it, suggesting, if they disappeared due to the difficulties in copying them, that we should redraw them from the coördinates in his index: and the index has survived, along with some introductory material of his.

The Geography was one of the very first items I put online in 1997; but I didn't know as much as I do now about texts, manuscripts and translations — and unfortunately, I learned a lot in a hurry. The sole English translation of the Geography, by Edward Luther Stevenson (1932), is completely unsatisfactory, and this so discouraged me that I dropped the project in mid-stream, and don't intend to resume it. About a third of the work is online, though, with the maps I redrew following Ptolemy's advice; as far as it goes, the transcription is good.


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Site updated: 27 Apr 05