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scholarship on the history of ancient astrology

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Posted: Tue Jan 24, 2012 6:46 am    Post subject: scholarship on the history of ancient astrology Reply with quote

I've been compiling scholarly articles on the history of ancient astrology, particularly from a large academic data base. I came across some that I found interesting, that either post-date Tamsyn Barton's Ancient Astrology and Nicholas Campion's Dawn of Astrology with their extensive bibliographies, or are not cited in them. I don't know if anyone else is interested in this kind of thing, or whether this is even the right place to post the references, but just in case [and assuming the moderators will deal with this message, if not.........]

Please post your own gleanings, as I would be interested, for sure!

Briant Bohleke, 1996, "In terms of Fate: A Survey of the Indigenous Egyptian Contribution to Ancient Astrology in Light of Papyrus CtYBR inv. 1132(B) Studien zur Altagyptischen Kulture 23: 11-46 [JSTOR]

Reconstruction of an Egyptian list of terms in Demotic from what might have been an Egyptian astrologer's handbook. It differs somewhat from the one in Ptolemy's Tetrabiblos. No exact date is given, but probably 1st century AD.

Joanne Conman, 2003, "It's about Time: Ancient Egyptian Cosmology," Studien zur Altagyptischen Kulture 31:33-71. [JSTOR]

She offers a revised view of Egyptian decans and cosmology based on her readings of funerary texts, and criticizes the mighty Otto Neugebauer for misunderstanding the Egyptian view of the cosmos.

Joanne Conman, 2006-2009, "The Egyptian Origins of Planetary Hypsomata," Discussions in Egyptology 64: (on-line, unpaged)

Exaltations may be traced to coffin texts on Egyptian decans from ca. 2000 BCE, which long pre-dates their first record in Mesopotamia. See also Conman, 2010, "Origins of Astrology" at .

D. R. Dicks, 1963, "Astrology and Astronomy in Horace," Hermes 91: 60-73. [JSTOR]

The Roman poet (1st cent. BCE) mentioned astrology in the context of the Roman belief in a "genius" presiding over each person's life, which he believed was governed by the person's "natal star", which Dicks interpreted as rising sign. He alludes to geographical astrology (cf. Ptolemy) in which each country was ruled by a zodiacal sign; and the qualities ascribed to several signs.

Evelyn Edson and Emilie Savage-Smith, 2000, "An Astrologer's Map: A Relic of Late Antiquity, Imago Mundi 52: 7-29. [JSTOR]

The maps possibly date from the 4th century, and include astrologers' zones, planetary influences on temperaments, and the zodiac in relation to wind direction. It appears to be the one discussed in Theon's commentary on Ptolemy's Handy Tables.

Alexander Jones and John M. Steele, 2011, "A Discovery of a Component of Greek Astrology in Babylonian Tablets..." ISAW Papers 1 (on line at

The oldest yet discovery of Babylonian terms. The tablets cannot be dated definitively, but the authors believe they were made in the 5th or 4th century BCE.

T. de Jong and K. A. Worp, 2001, "More Greek Horoscopes from Kellis (Dakhleh Oasis)," Zeitschrift fur Papyrologies und Epigraphik 137: 203-214. [JSTOR]

4th century Greek horoscopes in Egypt written on wood and papyrus. The style will be familiar to readers of Neugebauer and Van Hoesen's Greek Horoscopes, in that the horoscopes are pretty much just lists of planets, the ascendant point, and part of fortune in signs. One horoscope gives degrees for the planets, and indicates the signs' ruling planets. Given some problems in dating the wooden horoscopes, however, the authors surmise that these were used for teaching purposes, whereas the papyrus horoscopes can be accurately dated.

Marilyn Lawrence, 2010, "Hellenistic Astrology," Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy .

An interesting introductory mix of philosophers and astrologers of antiquity.

To be continued...
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Posted: Tue Jan 24, 2012 7:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

[continued from my previous post, in the hopes of encouraging more of the same from fellow "library rats"....

Please note that these sources are from just one data base-- that has demonstrated its inability to capture a number of useful sources. Essentially publishers have to sign on to it, and if they don't, then their articles will not appear. Also, it doesn't index books although these can be found if they were reviewed in the data base's journals. The sources I found most interesting are all from JSTOR but the data base includes solo publishers and other similar bibliographic services.]

A.-M. Lewis, 2008, "Augustus and his Horoscope Reconsidered, Phoenix 62: 308-337.

A look at the politics of astrology in the first century BCE, notably in the hands of Nigidius Figulus, polymath and astrologer. Interestingly, Augustus widely publicized his moon sign in Capricorn, which suggests a strong influence of Babylonian astrology. [JSTOR]

David Pingree, 1963, "Astronomy and Astrology in India and Iran," Isis 54: 229-246 (accessed at

research into Astrology East, comparing early Greek and Sanskrit texts.

David Pingree, 1977, "Antiochus and Rhetorius," Classical Philology 27:203-223. [JSTOR]

A survey of the early versions of texts attributed to these authors, and some of the problems in dating and correlating them.

David Pingree, 2001, "From Alexandria to Baghdad to Byzantium. The Transmission of Astrology," International Journal of the Classical Tradition 8:3-37. [JSTOR]

The astrology of Rhetorius the Egyptian was transmitted by Masha allah and by several Byzantine scholars, with much re-working of the text in the process.

Joachim Friedrich Quack, 2006, "Les Mages Egyptianises? Remarks on Some Surprising Points in Supposedly Magusean Texts," Journal of Near Eastern Studies 65:267-282. [JSTOR]

A look at the "magi" of Persia, and Zoroastrean and Egyptian influences on them. Quack has written a number of articles on similar themes-- in German.

Pauline Ripat, 2011, "Expelling Misconceptions: Astrologers at Rome, Classical Philology 106:115-154 [JSTOR]

Ripat unpacks the notorious expulsion orders (139 BCE to 175 CE) against astrologers from Rome. She asks, who was an astrologer? It turns out that some notable men studied astrology and even wrote about it, without necessarily being the "Chaldeans" or "mathematicians" (or circus and fair astrologers) against whom the expulsion orders were written. How the expulsion orders played out with various individuals indicates a lot of diversity in the actual practice of Roman astrology

K. Volk, 2009, Manilius and his Intellectual Background, Oxford University Press.

The author is a scholar of Latin poetry. Manilius probably never intended his work to be used as a practical handbook for professional astrologers, but he used astrology to air his political beliefs, and to write poetry about cosmology and the heavens.
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Posted: Mon Nov 12, 2012 6:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am contuing to work sporadically (very!) on searching academic journal data bases for research on the origins of western astrology. I just came across the c.v. of Alexander Jones at
which gives a full list of his many publications on the history of astronomy in Antiquity, up to 2010.

Alexander Jones is a classicist by education, and professor of the history of science at NYU. .

I haven’t read all of Jones's many articles, but the ones that I have looked at seem very appropriate for Hellenistic astrology today. Jones gets at the foundational questions of how people in Antiquity developed the essential math and astronomy to lay the foundations for what was to become horoscopic astrology. Topics of interest include the shift from the Babylonian equinoxes and solstices at 8 degrees into the cardinal signs to 0 degrees, calculating degrees within a sign, predicting future planetary positions, determining exactly when planets entered a new sign, and re-calculating planetary positions between the different calendar systems in use in Antiquity.

The Babylonians developed simple arithmetic calculations for their predictions, but the Hellenistic astronomers had more sophisticated mathematical tools at their disposal, as well as better knowledge of latitude and longitude. By comparing the two systems, Jones is able to show us how much of the evolving Hellenistic chart construction methods had Babylonian origins.

There is a mathematical argument to be made for the diffusion of planetary position calculations from Babylon to Egypt, oftentimes without much input from Greece; just as the computational methods of astrologers tend to show diffusion from the Hellenized world to India. While it is entirely plausible that many of the philosophical underpinnings and the “interpretive apparatus” techniques of Hellenistic astrology were Greek in origin, in focusing on the mathematical and astronomical side of horoscopic calculations, Jones traces more direct roots from Babylon to Egypt (1998, Planetary Epoch Tables, p. 38.)

Jones’s research made me remember that in Antiquity, astrologers were often called mathematicians. From these articles it is easy to see why.

Also, perhaps we focus today on the "interpretive apparatus" of Hellenistic astrology because the sorts of calculations that were necessary to construct charts "by hand" through the 1970s are no longer so important to our way of thinking.
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Posted: Wed Feb 20, 2013 8:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very interesting work you're into waybread!
I am answering here only to mention that I, too, am interested in researching the originals (as much as this is possible) of ancient astrology scripts!
Though, firstly I am just beginning, so I don't have such a list to put up here, & secondly I focus mainly on ancient Greek scripts,
which I can read for myself (maybe with a little help, of course)!

When my present astrological studies permit, I do intend to do a full-time research on whatever I may find available!!!

Wishing you the best,
Both Heart & Mind are like parachutes.
In order to function, they need to be open!
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Posted: Mon Feb 25, 2013 5:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks, Liana! Please post what you've got, when you can.
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Posted: Fri Jul 05, 2013 5:55 pm    Post subject: Transmission Reply with quote

Thanx Waybread, for your splendid bibliography ... one most important transmission, like Poe's Purloined Letter, right up there in plain sight, yet never seen by current astrologers: The Book of Daniel combined with Herodotus' account of Cyrus' conquest of Babylon ... explains transmission from Babylon to Persian 5th Century. I personally believe that Daniel was Zoroaster, and did in the 70 weeks of astrology (70 weeks = 490 days, pluto/Neptune cycle) predict Christ. He instructed the Magi who accompanied Cyrus in the Astral Arts of Babylon, being famously initiated.

If Curt Mainwaring would do the reading & think about his understanding of the Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin -- maybe Obama would be correctly informed and he could upstage Rob Hand, Ph.D. on astrological transmission.

And remember, any developments in astrology between Cyrus and Alexander, like discovery of the Jupiter/Saturn synodic cycle as the Chronactor of History, and the individual horoscope (410 bc or so) happened under the Persian/Magi. I actually believe the personal horoscope came about through trade & settlement in India -- the Sakawadipi Brahmins are an astrological caste and claim to have been taught by Zoroaster implying descent from those Magi taught by Daniel ... who settled in the Indus Valley and learnt Vedic techniques, which were personal -- their mundane astrology centered about the ruler's horoscope whereas in Babylon mundane astrology was concerned with lunations and planetary placements
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Posted: Fri Jul 05, 2013 11:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you SG. I hadn't thought of the Daniel connection, but it seems worth pursuing.
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Posted: Sat May 16, 2015 9:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here are some more recent findings from the groves of academe. Please add your own findings! For anyone unfamiliar with locating academic books and articles, your local library branch could probably get these for you via its Inter-Library Loan service; or better yet, if you're close to a major university library, ask about their library cards for members of the community: these book chapters and articles are available on-line in PDF format that way.

Two edited volumes plus some articles:

Alexander Jones, ed. 2010. Ptolemy in Perspective
Use and Criticism of his Work from Antiquity
to the Nineteenth Century
, Springer.

Chapters are:

Anne Tihon, An Unpublished Astronomical Papyrus Contemporary with Ptolemy . . . . . 1
Alexander Jones, Ancient Rejection and Adoption of Ptolemy’s Frame of Reference for Longitudes . . . . . . 11
Stephan Heilen, Ptolemy’s Doctrine of the Terms and Its Reception . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45
Florian Mittenhuber, The Tradition of Texts and Maps in Ptolemy’s Geography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 95
F. Jamil Ragep, Islamic Reactions to Ptolemy’s Imprecisions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 121
H. Darrel Rutkin, The Use and Abuse of Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos in Renaissance and Early Modern Europe: Two Case Studies (Giovanni Pico della Mirandola and Filippo Fantoni) . . . . . . . .135
N.M. Swerdlow, Tycho, Longomontanus, and Kepler on Ptolemy’s Solar Observations and Theory, Precession of the Equinoxes, and Obliquity of the Ecliptic . . . 151
J.M. Steele, Dunthorne, Mayer, and Lalande on the Secular Acceleration of the Moon
Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 217

Green, Steven J., and Volk, Katharina, eds. 2011,
Forgotten stars rediscovering Manilius' Astronomica
Oxford University Press.

Chapters are:

Introduction : a century of Manilian scholarship / Katharina Volk -- I: Intellectual and scientific backdrop. More sentiment than science : Roman stargazing before and after Manilius / Elaine Fantham... ; Manilius' conflicted Stoicism / Thomas Habinek ; Myth and explanation in Manilius / Daryn Lehoux -- II: Integrity and consistency. Watch this space (getting round 1.215-46) / John Henderson ; On... some notable modern exceptions, the infamously harsh verdict of Manilius' most famous twentieth-century editor, A. E. Housman, continues to cast an imposing shadow on the poem, especially for Anglophone... two Stoic 'paradoxes' in Manilius / Wolfgang-Rainer Mann ; Manilian self-contradiction / Katharina Volk ; Arduum ad astra : the poetics and politics of horoscopic failure in Manilius' 'Astronomica... ; Census and commercium : two economic metaphors in Manilius / Patrick Glauthier -- IV: Didactic digressions. Digressions, intertextuality, and ideology in didactic poetry : the case of Manilius / Monica R...

Calder, William M. and Stephan Heilen, 2007. David E. Pingree : an unpublished autobiography, Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies 47: 515 -523

Evans, James, 1999. The History and Practice of Greek Astronomy, Oxford University Press.

Evans, james. 2004, “The astrologer’s apparatus: A picture of professional practice in Greco-Roman Egypt”, Journal for the history of astronomy, 35: 1–44.

Stašo Forenbaher and Alexander Jones, 2011, The Nakovana Zodiac: Fragments of an Astrologer's Board from an Illyrian-Hellenistic Cave Sanctuary , Journal for the History of Astronomy 42: 425-438.

Gee, Emma, 2013, Aratus and the astronomical tradition,Oxford University Press.

Teri Gee, 2012, Strategies of Defending Astrology: A Continuing Tradition, Ph. D. dissertation, University of Toronto.

Green, Steven J., 2014, Disclosure and discretion in Roman astrology : Manilius and his Augustan contemporaries, Oxford University Press.

Stephan Heilen, 2010, Anubio Reconsidered, Aestimatio : Critical Reviews in the History of Science, 7:.127

Heilen, Stephan, 2004, Astrological remarks on the new horoscopes from Kellis, Zeitschrift fur Papyrologie und Epigraphik 146:131-136.

Lehoux, Daryn, 2004 Observation and prediction in ancient astrology, Studies in history and philosophy of science 35: 227 -246

Ross, Micah T. 2006. Horoscopic ostraca from Medinet Madi. Ph. D. dissertation, Brown University.
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Posted: Sun May 17, 2015 12:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

For Egypt-o-philes:

Dorian Gieseler Greenbaum and Micah T. Ross, 2010. The Role of Egypt in the Development of the Horoscope, in Ladislav Bareš, Filip Coppens,Květa Smoláriková, eds. EGYPT IN TRANSITION: Social and Religious Development of Egypt in the First Millennium BCE, Czech Institute of Egyptology, Faculty of Arts, Charles University in Prague, 146-182.

An abbreviated version of this article is on line at:

Stephan Heilen, 2007 (published 2011,) "Some metrical fragments from Nechepsos and Petosiris," in Isabelle Boehm and Wolfgang Hübner, eds, La Poésie Astrologique dans l’Antiquité, Collection du Centre d’Études et de Recherches sur l’Occient Romain – CEROR, Paris, 23-93.

available on-line at:

Deb posted the reference on this thread, which generated some discussion, at in 2012,but the article is now widely available on-line.

Dennis Clark, 2008, Iamblichus' Egyptian Neoplatonic Theology in De Mysteriis, The International Journal of the Platonic Tradition 2: 164-8.

(The Egyptian god Kmeph or Kneph as the possible Agathos Daimon of the 11th house.)

Conman, Joanne, 201., Ancient Egyptian Sky Lore: Rethinking the Conventional Wisdom, Decan Wisdom Books.

Conman has serious credentials in Egyptology and ancient Egyptian astronomy, although this book appears to be self-published and much of it is a critique of the academic literature on Egyptian star lore. Available at

Conman, Joanne, 2006-9. The Egyptian origins of planetary hypsomata, Discussions in Egyptology 64:7-20.

Conman, Joanne 2003. "It's about time: ancient Egyptian cosmology. Studien zur Altägyptischen Kultur 31:33-71.

These articles are linked at her website:
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