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Hellenistic use of the Sidereal Zodiac
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Paul
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Posted: Fri Mar 01, 2013 11:16 am    Post subject: Hellenistic use of the Sidereal Zodiac Reply with quote

Following on from another conversations floating around the forum right now about using sidereal techniques in the traditional forum, and Lihin's comment on another thread regarding whether or not Valens used a sidereal zodiac I thought it may be interesting to have a thread to examine or explore the issue more.
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Konrad



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Posted: Fri Mar 01, 2013 11:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Paul,

are you looking for historical references, pracitical examples or something else?
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Paul
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Posted: Fri Mar 01, 2013 11:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Konrad wrote:
Hi Paul,

are you looking for historical references, pracitical examples or something else?


Well my own personal take is that most hellenistic astrologers (obviously Ptolemy excluded) used a sidereal frame of reference for measuring planetary positions, however sometimes this contested by some people. I think that the early astrologers were often using a fusion of tropical and sidereal logic at varying points, but chiefly measuring sidereally.

However, Lihin on another thread said:
lihin wrote:
Controversy abounds about which zodiac(s) he [Valens] applied, mitigated by the near concurrence of the equal sign Aries with the same-named constellation during his times. From Valens' Anthologies, Book I, it seems at times very difficult if not impossible to ascertain if constellations and / or equal signs were meant. The degree totals per constellation (sign?) are not all 30.


And I wasn't aware that there was this much controversy surrounding which zodiac he employed, if indeed such ideas of which zodiac someone uses is even appropriate for a hellenistic astrologer. But surely it's sidereal? I had never realised there may be debate on this to the degree that it would raise controversy. I'm not sure if Lihin is just overstating his case here or if real controversy actually exists. I've only read the Riley translation and he translates things like this which make it seem that there is little argument about how he measured:
"Aries is by nature watery, with thunder and hail. From its first degree to the equinox, it is stormy, full of hail, windy, destructive. "

Clearly this is not tropical - though admittedly focusing on this one thing is probably too simplistic, I'm not sure what the arguments are regarding Valens using a tropical zodiac instead.
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varuna2



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Posted: Fri Mar 01, 2013 12:44 pm    Post subject: slight digression, but still relevant Reply with quote

delete

Last edited by varuna2 on Sat May 04, 2013 8:34 am; edited 7 times in total
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lihin



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Posted: Fri Mar 01, 2013 12:49 pm    Post subject: "An" equal-sign 'sidereal' zodiac? Reply with quote

Good afternoon,

Perhaps the thread title would better read of 'a' instead of 'the' sidereal zodiac. As far as i know there were a few measuring methods in use during Hellenistic and even prior Babylonian times. It will be extremely difficult to sort out not only the methods but also the intentions of authors like Vettius Valens, ex. gr.:

1. Relative closeness of vernal equinox to the beginning of the Constellation of Aries during much of the Hellenistic period;

2. References, perhaps deliberately interchangeable, to attributes of the Constellations (not signs), like 'bestial';

3. References to climatic and meteorological phenomena in describing signs and / or constellations.

An underlying issue in my humble opinion oft insufficiently considered is the cultural relativity of the images assigned to various groups of fixed stars along the ecliptic and elsewhere. There is no such universal assignment. For example, even between the historically and culturally close Babylonian and Hellenic civilisations two zodiacal constellations, Aries and Sagittarius, changed pictures and / or meanings.

The pictures are obviously related to geographic locations. Aside from those escaped from zoological gardens and terrariums, there are no scorpions in Northern Europe. Even the number of ecliptical constellations has neither been constant nor universal. Scorpius, for example, lost its claws to Libra. The hind parts of the bull got whacked off.

Any astrology wishing to be universal will by definition have to avoid such cultural and climatic relativities.

Best regards,

lihin
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Martin Gansten
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Posted: Fri Mar 01, 2013 1:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think I'm going to stay out of this as much as I can, as almost every sidereal/tropical discussion I have seen so far has tended to deteriorate rather badly, even if beginning (like this one) with a simple request for historical information.

So I will content myself by saying that perhaps the terms tropical and sidereal need to be defined in advance. Commonly, and also in most academic discourse, the tropical zodiac is taken to be that espoused by Ptolemy, where the vernal equinox constitutes 0 Aries; any other zodiac will be called sidereal. Some, however, are not happy with this, and would define things differently, so that there are several possible tropical as well as sidereal zodiacs.
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Paul
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Posted: Fri Mar 01, 2013 2:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for this contribution Martin. I should state that I desperately do not want a sidereal versus tropical debate.
I agree perhaps we should define our terms. My definition would be that the tropical zodiac is a zodiac defined by the sun's interaction with the equator (ie, its maximum declinations and the intersection chiefly dividing it into four). This is to all extents popularised and properly defined by Ptolemy. Though I'd take anyone else, if such persons existed, who measured from the equinoxes or even the solstices as being based on tropical logic, and may be a tropical zodiac. I cannot think of any other examples however, I just want to contend that there may be others. A sidereal zodiac then being anything else, particularly something measured by the stars or just even one star.

What I was particularly interested in here is how anyone might argue that Valens was using a tropical zodiac. Martin I appreciate you don't want to get embroiled in any sidereal tropical debates. If it starts to go that way I will be removing the thread myself. I do not want that.

Lihin, I am just trying to ascertain what arguments if any are given for why Valens may be using a tropical one, however, I am not trying to get a definitive answer. Just better understand why anyone would think it's not sidereal. I am not interested in judging whether those arguments are 'valid' or not, just to hear them to understand them, as it would seem very obvious to me that it is indeed a sidereal one being used. You mentioned it was controversial, do you know why it was controversial? Is there something I'm missing from Valens?


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Posted: Fri Mar 01, 2013 2:29 pm    Post subject: Re: slight digression, but still relevant Reply with quote

varuna2 wrote:
To any Tropicalists who state that the Sidereal zodiac is not based on the stars because of uneven constellations, or that it is erroneous to have 12 equal divisions and that the Sidereal should be unequal divisions. By that logic, so should the Tropical zodiac be.


Thank you Varuna

I would just say that in the interest of not devolving this into a Sidereal Versus Tropical argument that we just ignore what 'tropicalists state' or what 'siderealists state' or the varying logic proposed by each side to justify their beliefs. I really hope everyone keeps this in mind that this is not about value judging one system over the other.

This request is much simpler and totally to do with historical approaches by hellenistic authors. Vettius Valens in particuar, though not limited to just him, seems to show clear use of a sidereal zodiac but if there is something I am missing as to why it may be that some think he used a tropical one, I'd be interested.
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Posted: Fri Mar 01, 2013 2:59 pm    Post subject: Re: slight digression, but still relevant Reply with quote

Jyotisha also uses the Solar Year (Tropical Zodiac) in at least one measurement of planetary strength. Many Tropical astrologers also use fixed stars.



1) Some culture's Zodiac constellations are not perfectly 30 degrees. Therefore, the Sidereal zodiac does not match the reality and is either erroneous and not actually based on the sky, or the Sidereal should be unequal Signs to match some culture's zodiac constellations.

a) There are 365.242 days in a Solar year. There are 360 degrees in a circle and in an astrology chart. The Sun travels also at different (apparent) speeds at different times of the year. Thus, the Tropical system is just as vulnerable to this argument as the Sidereal system and the Tropical does not match the reality of the Solar Cycle any more than the Sidereal does not match some culture's space of constellations.

2) There are more than one Sidereal Zodiacs and this suggests inaccuracy for astrology, whereas the Tropical Zodiac has one easily defined starting point. Therefore, Sidereal is questionable and less accurate.

a) "of the twelve signs the most northern, which are closer than the others to our zenith and therefore most productive of heat and of warmth are Cancer and Leo" (Tetrabiblos 1.17). This suggests an alternative starting point for the Tropical zodiac of 0 Taurus on the Vernal Equinox. There are two Vernal Equinoxes on earth, therefore there are at least 4 potential Tropical Zodiacs.

3) The Sidereal system is illogical because it does not match some culture's collection of 12 constellations and oftentimes only uses a starting point of only one star, therefore the Sidereal is not actually based on the stars, but on only one star and this is suspect.

a) The Tropical zodiac also only uses one starting point (one of the vernal equinoxes) and ignores the discrepancy of the Sun's varying (apparent) speed throughout the year in making Sign divisions, not to mention the 365.242 versus 360. Also, in jyotisha at least, the nakshatras and 12-fold division of the sky is completely intertwined and:

"There are 3 taras (stars) marking ashwin; 3 in bharani; 6 in krittika; 5 in rohini; 3 in mrigashira; 1 in ardra; 4 in punarvasu; 3 in pushya; 5 in ashlesha; 5 in magha; 2 in poorvaphalguni; 2 in uttaraphalguni; 5 in hasta; 1 in chitra; 1 in swati; 4 in vishakha; 4 in anuradha; 3 in jyeshtha; 11 in moola; 2 in poorvashadha; 2 in uttarashadha; 3 in abhijita; 3 in shravana; 4 in dhanishtha; 100 in shatbhisha; 2 in poorvabadrapada; 2 in uttarabhadrapada; and 32 in rewati" (Muhurta Chinta Mani G.C. Sharma).

All 3 commonly used arguments against the Sidereal system can also be used against the Tropical system. Therefore, those who live in glass houses should not throw stones.

On the one hand, Westerners always try to credit everything under the Sun to Mesopotamians and Greeks (due to prejudice and bias of the historical basis of their modern thinking: Judeo-Christianity and Hellenist philosophy), while on the other hand, they want to separate out "Indian astrology ideas" from their forums. According to them, India owes everything to the so-called West, so then how is there such a thing as "Indian astrology ideas"? This is a rhetorical question/rant. Obviously the truth is more subtle in their thinking, they want to give the basis for everything to their own genius, while allowing slight developments of their ideas by others.

Is someone seriously going to suggest there are several Sidereal zodiac measurement points, therefore each sidereal zodiac measuring point is a miniature Zodiac: sui generis?

Should we also have to face up to the fact that the Ptolemy system implies 4 different zodiacs?

0 Aries Northern Hemisphere Vernal Equinox
0 Taurus Northern Hemisphere Vernal Equinox (Tetrabiblos 1.17)
0 Libra Northern Hemisphere Vernal Equinox (from the Australian view)
0 Scorpio Northern Hemisphere Vernal Equinox (from the AU view and Tetrabiblos 1.17)


Aldebaran was an important marking star marking the Accadian asterism called Pidnu-sha-Shame. Jupiter is currently conjoined this star by longitude. This star and Jupiter are currently marking the exact center of the so-called Lahiri zodiac sign of Taurus.

This Aldebaran situation of falling exactly midpoint of Taurus, and the other star opposite of it, is also happening at the exact same time a star called Chitra is marking the near exact midpoint of a nakshatra called Chitra and also the beginning of the so-called Lahiri zodiac beginning point of Libra sign-constellation.

"...The full moon in Chitra, is the beginning of the year..." (Taittiriya Sanhita 7.4.Cool This is when the Moon is opposite the Sun, and the samvatsara (year) in this context is referring to the Winter Solstice. Therefore, this verse dates to at least 6000 b.c.e.

I consider it low-brow to start suggesting the measuring point of which star is the reference point of a sidereal zodiac, to represent sui generis sidereal zodiacs, therefore, sui generis astrology systems attached to which star one chooses as a reference point. The reality is that the same culture used more than one star at different times of the year. It would be impossible to practice ancient astrology otherwise, since the marking star would be gone many times of the night and/or year.

The reason I brought up marking stars, is because this is the basis of Sidereal astrology. Sidereal astrology does not work based on choosing some date around 300 c.e. and basing an astrology zero point on that. This is only a misconception based on hindsight Tropical thinking. Consider the fore-mentioned Taittiriya Samhita verse from 8000 years ago. They were not basing a zero point on 285 c.e., rather they were basing their measurement system of the Solar Cycle and Lunar Cycle on the nakshatras or star constellations, and keeping track of the Sun and Moon in this way. There was no conception of some hindsight zero-point in the vernal equinox of 285 c.e.

The Babylonians borrowed a Sanskrit word for month, and yet somehow it is always these people from Mesopotamia who originated everything, this is why I gave a response suggesting bias.

This is why I mentioned the Taittiriya Sanhita use of star positions thousands of years before this hindsight method of astrology by calculating the Tropical chart and then subtracting an ayanamsha, because that method is a modern method and did not exist thousands of years ago, for the Indians or for other peoples.

The above is from a posting in another thread at this website, but I wanted to put it here for those in the future who read this thread.

http://skyscript.co.uk/forums/viewtopic.php?t=7371&start=15


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Paul
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Posted: Fri Mar 01, 2013 3:05 pm    Post subject: Re: slight digression, but still relevant Reply with quote

varuna2 wrote:

All 3 commonly used arguments against the Sidereal system can also be used against the Tropical system. Therefore, those who live in glass houses should not throw stones.


Ok Varuna

But I cannot stress this enough: Nobody is throwing stones.

Quote:
I am interested in answering these common arguments.


Could do this in another thread? That is not what I was hoping for from this one.


I really do not want any debates or comparisons between the zodiacs. If it turns out that that's the way things go I will just either lock the thread or remove it altogether as no good comes from it.
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lihin



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Posted: Fri Mar 01, 2013 4:19 pm    Post subject: Agreed Reply with quote

Good afternoon,

I agree with those who would like this thread to remain investigative and informational rather than become yet another repetition of stale, often polemic debates about zodiacs.

The central question is as far as i can see what zodiac(s) were used by Hellenistic astrologers other than Klaudios Ptolomaios and his followers. If we define 'sidereal' for the purpose of this thread only to mean 'non-tropical', this might make things easier, at least a little.

Another important problem is the relative lack of accuracy of recorded planetary positions during much if not most of the Hellenistic period compared to now. Planetary positions were 'off' by an average of 3 ecliptical degrees, an amount exceeding an assumed, then current pro- (or pre-) cession arc. Positions of Hermès were 'off' on the average by more than double that amount.

Having read some translations, it appears to me that, at least in part for the reasons stated in my last post, the questions that seem important and relevant now about zodiacs were generally neither of interest nor clear-cut in many Hellenistic authors' minds.

Best regards,

lihin
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Paul
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Posted: Fri Mar 01, 2013 4:43 pm    Post subject: Re: Agreed Reply with quote

lihin wrote:

The central question is as far as i can see what zodiac(s) were used by Hellenistic astrologers other than Klaudios Ptolomaios and his followers. If we define 'sidereal' for the purpose of this thread only to mean 'non-tropical', this might make things easier, at least a little.


Yes, and I didn't mean to put you on the spot, but obviously examining a particular astrologer is a good place to start, and as you mention controversy surrounding Valens I wonder if you could share what you meant by this? Is this just a general controversy surrounding hellenistic astrologers generally and what zodiac they may have used? And/or something specific to Valens? What do you yourself think regarding Valens?

I agree with you regarding the notion that the 'arguments' regarding the zodiac were of less importance to many hellenistic astrologers and not clear cut to their minds, obviously Ptolemy is the driving force behind this to a large extent.

However certainly I think Valens measured sidereally, so in what sense might he have used a tropical zodiac? I'm curious as the answer to this, if indeed he did, may help us shed more light on whether or not both "zodiacs" were used (or, more precisely, both measurements were used) and may have been used to determine different things.
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Posted: Fri Mar 01, 2013 9:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

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Mark
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Posted: Sat Mar 02, 2013 12:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello Paul,

The most thorough and up to date scholarship on this subject is by Alexander Jones. Especially his article:

Ancient Rejection and Adoption of Ptolemy’s Frame of Reference for Longitudes by Alexander Jones.

Its found in the book Ptolemy in Perspective, Use and Criticism of his Work from Antiquity to the Nineteenth Century Edited by Alexander Jones. Published by Springer

I think it goes a long way to answering your question.

Mark
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lihin



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Posted: Sat Mar 02, 2013 7:52 am    Post subject: Zodiac(s) of Vettius Valens Reply with quote

Good morning,

By some, generally fervent advocates of some kind of 'sidereal' zodiac, Vettius Valens is claimed to be a representative of 'mainstream' Hellenistic astrology whilst Klaudios Ptolomaios was a scientist who, as an astrologer, was 'marginal' at best.

Careful reading even of Prof. Riley's draft translation of Valens' Anthologies reveals that things are, as usual in reality, not so simple, cut and dried, black and white, good and evil, right and wrong. Although Valens' charts transmitted to us use some kind of equal-sign zodiac, for the several reasons stated above, it is difficult if not impossible to determine precisely which zodiac(s) they were based on for calculation purposes. Moreover, many of Valens' passages, ex. gr. in Book I, either refer to the visible astronomic constellations or apparently make little sense.

Personally, i doubt these issues of Hellenistic astrology are resolvable within the current framework of 'tropical-sidereal disputes'. Many of the arguments currently applied remind me of the scribes of George Orwell's 1984 occupied in constantly re-writing history to make it better fit current ideological perspectives and priorities.

Best regards,

lihin
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