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Vettius Valens - compiled by Mari Garcia and Joy Usher
Brief Summary :
Vettius Valens was a 2nd century Hellenistic astrologer, a somewhat younger contemporary of Claudius Ptolemy. Although originally a native of Antioch, he appears to have traveled widely in Egypt in search of specific astrological doctrines to bolster his practice.

Major Contribution :
Valens' major work is the Anthology, ten volumes in Greek written roughly within the period 150 to 175. The Anthology is the longest and most detailed treatise on astrology which has survived from that period. A working professional astrologer, Valens includes over a hundred sample charts from his case files in the Anthology. At the time Alexandria was still home to a number of astrologers of the older Babylonian, Greek and Egyptian traditions. He published much of what he learned from the tradition and through his practice in his Anthology, written in an engaging and instructional style. The Anthology is thus of great value in piecing together actual working techniques of the time.

Short Biography :
The Anthology provides the only biographical material on Valens and one of the charts presented in the Anthology is speculated to be his own. If so, this would give him a birth date of 8 February 120 CE.

According to his own report his mother predeceased his father in the 140s. At the age of 34 he worked abroad; at 35 he took a sea voyage during which he was in danger from pirates and a storm. He moved to Egypt in search of occult knowledge where, according to him he "...suffered much, endured much... and spent money that seemed inexhaustible, because I was persuaded by mountebanks and greedy men." His teachers were avaricious, and, although he paid great sums, he did not attain the truth.

Valens then withdrew into an ascetic life for time, but was later lured back to astrology, attracted by the idea of determining which star rules a given period i.e. "chronocractorship". His dedication was total. He was never attracted by horse races, spectacles, art and music, or love. He never desired command, high rank, wealth or possessions. Astrology was his fortification against the inevitable fatalities of life.

Quote :
...Two self-begotten gods, Hope and Fortune, the assistants of Fate, control man's life and make him bear Fate's decrees by using their compulsion and deception ...Fortune raises some high only to cast them down and degrades others only to raise them to glory...Hope moves everywhere in secret, smiling like a flatterer, and she displays many attractive prospects which cannot be attained....But those who have trained themselves in the prognostic art ...despise Fortune, do not persist in Hope, do not fear death, and live undisturbed...They are alien to all pleasure or flattery and stand firm as soldiers of Fate."


Most Significant Contribution :
The Anthology is an important study of ancient astrology containing some 125 actual horoscopes whose interpretation illuminates ancient astrological doctrines during the first centuries of the era.

Interesting Fact :
Valens cites nearly two dozen authors in his work and without the Anthology little would be known of other authors such as Critodemus, Nechepso and Petosiris.

Recommended Further Reading :
PDF download containing Mark Riley's draft translation of the Anthology.
Professor Mark Riley's 'A Survey of Vettius Valens' (PDF)
Summaries of the contents of the four principal treatises of the Anthology - from the Project Hindsight website
Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: entry on Valens
Wikipedia entry on Vettius Valens
PDF article (undated): 'Vettius Valens and the Planetary Week' by Robert Odom


© Mari Garcia, Joy Usher, January 2012.

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