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Hellenistic use of the Sidereal Zodiac
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lihin



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Posted: Tue Mar 05, 2013 3:48 pm    Post subject: Universal astrology? Reply with quote

Good afternoon,

Not a proponent of any kinds of zodiacs that rely on regional and / or transitional symbolisms of constellations and / or signs, based on the above astronomical data concerning bright fixed stars near the ecliptic it nevertheless seems understandable to me that the axis Antares - Aldebaran long served as a reference for tracking planetary motion.

However, we might like to recall that, with reference to each other, the 'fixed' stars are not immutably motionless, but just appear to be much more so than the 'wandering' stars.

Also, within the framework of human diversities, there may be several or many astrologies with validities limited to a particular region and / or time period.

Humans, try if and as they like to do otherwise, remain anthropomorphic and conceptualise anthropomorphically.

Best regards,

lihin
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Phil



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Posted: Tue Mar 05, 2013 4:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Paul. I believe that definitions are important in your original question. If you seek signs of Valens using a tropical zodiac, they are likely not to be found in his measurement methods. You’ve shown well that these seem to be sidereal. But I think the idea of a “zodiac” encompasses more than just measurement. It requires actual zoidia. And the qualities of those zoidia. If you seek the tropical zodiac in Valens, it is in the symbolism. Leo and Cancer are associated with the word “hot”; Pisces is “cool”; Aquarius “very cold”; Libra is “equinoctial”. Aries through Cancer are reported to be associated with thunder and lightening. That these things, prominently and repeatedly reported by Valens, are parts of the “Nature of the Signs”, is attested by the title of the chapter. This common thread, reported by Valens to inform us of the nature of every sign, is seasonal. Overall, this flow of symbolism is where the tropical zodiac is to be found. The nature of the world under the influence of the signs is observed, and the nature of the signs is deduced. We have Valens’ report of prior “reverse engineering” of the signs of the zodiac. For instance, Cancer “…makes the air damp and hot…”

I think just stopping at the names of the signs, without considering their symbolism, allows one to label Valens’ zodiac “sidereal” – but in name only. In substance, tropical symbolism is pervasive. This cannot be ignored, because after all, astrologers don’t just label, they aim to describe, to flesh out.

I’d add that even further discussing and debating Valens’ descriptions of the nature of the zoidia, which is certainly a useful exercise, demonstrates our feeling that their nature is indeed important. But I understand that this likely is not your intent for this thread.

But if you don’t mind I’d mention one little point, discussion of which (perhaps elsewhere) would show that the qualities of the zoidia is just as important as their location. It’s a small detail, mentioned and ignored above, but it sticks out and poses a neat riddle: It is curious that Aries is described as “by nature watery”. This certainly goes against the typical description of this sign. But as noted above, at the time of Valens’ writing, part of Aries did indeed precede the spring equinox. Wasn’t this when part of this sign overlapped what is now considered tropical “Pisces”?
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Paul
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Posted: Tue Mar 05, 2013 5:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Phil wrote:
Thanks Paul. I believe that definitions are important in your original question. If you seek signs of Valens using a tropical zodiac, they are likely not to be found in his measurement methods. You’ve shown well that these seem to be sidereal. But I think the idea of a “zodiac” encompasses more than just measurement.


It is chiefly the measurement I'm concerned with here. As I said in a prior post I do not doubt that there are places where there is some tropical logic used by Valens, mostly because of the overlap between the two. However, the whole point in regards it requiring actual zoidia is that we must ask how do we demarcate those zoidia - my examination here is to see if Valens demarcates it from the vernal equinox or from a sidereal perspective, and that seems to be obvious to me to be sidereal.

Now everything else is sort of secondary to that. You talk about qualities of the zoidia but clearly Valens is assigning qualities based on things such as decans (which become sidereally defined) as well as 'up to the equinox' which is just an acknowledgement of the fact that the equinox is in the sign and so describes that sign. As I said in my earlier reply I think in reality most of the hellenistic astrologers used a fusion of tropical and sidereal logic.

Quote:
This common thread, reported by Valens to inform us of the nature of every sign, is seasonal...
We have Valens’ report of prior “reverse engineering” of the signs of the zodiac. For instance, Cancer “…makes the air damp and hot…”


You say that Valens references tropical symbolism and state that "Leo and Cancer are associated with the word “hot”; " but lets look at what he actually says in regards to Cancer, for example, being hot:
The parts are as follows: under the two initial stars to the southeast, it is worthless, destructive, stifling, productive of earthquakes. From that point to 10° it makes the air damp and hot

In other words from a given star to the 10 degrees mark is hot. That's hardly a tropical logic, but clearly demarcating from a given star associated with the start of Cancer which is surely sidereal. Why only the first ten degrees? Is it relating to a decan? That the first several degrees are under the term of Mars?

By leaving out a major part of this quote you're trying to shoe horn it into a tropical perspective when clearly this quote actually shows that valens is only describing a third of the sign, and this description is explicitly measured sidereally.

As for Leo, I don't see anything saying it is hot. Instead it is called fiery, which indeed it is - ironically particular attention is given to Regulus, a fixed star, as being especially fiery.

I don't see anything in this which corresponds to a tropical zodiac, instead I see acknowledgement of the elements associated with the signs, and qualities attributed to the sign for a variety of reasons, some of which are sidereal, some of which are due to a variety of planetary rulerships, and some of which are due to the presence of the equinoxes/solstices in those signs, but even at that those attributes are minimal.

Quote:
It is curious that Aries is described as “by nature watery”. This certainly goes against the typical description of this sign. But as noted above, at the time of Valens’ writing, part of Aries did indeed precede the spring equinox. Wasn’t this when part of this sign overlapped what is now considered tropical “Pisces”?


Yes this is possible and I wondered it myself, though I equally wonder why the same thing wasn't said of all the other signs. In any event I don't think I would put too much weight on this, though it's certainly an odd statement to make - however the elements may well have still been in a state of flux at this stage, this is very very early in the adoption of the elements.
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Paul
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Posted: Tue Mar 05, 2013 5:07 pm    Post subject: Re: Universal astrology? Reply with quote

lihin wrote:
...it nevertheless seems understandable to me that the axis Antares - Aldebaran long served as a reference for tracking planetary motion.


None of this is related to the topic we're discussing here.
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Martin Gansten
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Posted: Tue Mar 05, 2013 7:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Paul wrote:
Quote:
It is curious that Aries is described as “by nature watery”. This certainly goes against the typical description of this sign. But as noted above, at the time of Valens’ writing, part of Aries did indeed precede the spring equinox. Wasn’t this when part of this sign overlapped what is now considered tropical “Pisces”?


Yes this is possible and I wondered it myself, though I equally wonder why the same thing wasn't said of all the other signs. In any event I don't think I would put too much weight on this, though it's certainly an odd statement to make - however the elements may well have still been in a state of flux at this stage, this is very very early in the adoption of the elements.

From the context ('by nature watery, with thunder and hail'), I personally don't think this comment of Valens' relates to the elements at all, but rather to weather conditions around Alexandria in early spring. In other words it's one of the seasonal or 'tropical' references, though not equating the equinox with 0 Aries.
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Phil



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Posted: Tue Mar 05, 2013 7:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Paul, thank you for making me think! I agree with your statement, via your last post, that an analysis of the qualitative descriptors that define a “zodiac” is a discussion worth having. I think asking, as you did in your first post, “whether or not Valens used a sidereal zodiac” certainly requires this discussion, which I am glad to see you don’t hesitate to thoughtfully address.

Regarding my mention of the sign Cancer, here is my thought: Valens notes that part of Cancer “makes the air damp and hot, having heavy rains and constant thunderstorms.” Not all of Cancer, fair enough. But the concept remains: We see a zodiac sign, as listed in Valens’ section on the nature of the signs, affecting seasonal phenomena on earth. Causing them. If a sign does this, the zodiac collectively does this. The chapter of Valens’ Anthology entitled “The Nature of the Twelve Zodiacal Signs” is replete with seasonal descriptions of those signs. The zodiac’s nature is gleaned, at least in part, from tropical phenomena. One could get as granular as one likes, looking for a decan that’s a counter-example, etc. Or noting contradictions in the text. But look for the word “hot”, or “cold”, etc., and it would be very hard to honestly ignore this component of zodiacal description. Looking at a preponderance of what’s written, we get a seasonal flavor to the signs as described by Valens. (Some contend that this flow of symbolism informs all the qualities of each sign, the “fiery” and “upward trending” nature of Aries, the “earthy” and “rustic” nature of Taurus, e.g. But this concept is not central to this thread.) Shoehorning does not lead me to this conclusion. Quite the opposite, a global look at what was written, in full context, leads me to my thoughts above. This can be found here for all to see:

http://www.csus.edu/indiv/r/rileymt/Vettius%20Valens%20entire.pdf

Now, “Leo is hot: the bright star in its breast is fiery and stifling.” Again, this fits. Valens’ Earth is in fact stifling in the heat of summer. Stellar spatial descriptions are being employed: sidereal. A seasonal basis informs the qualities of a star: tropical.

One could spend all day cancelling out some points above, reversing others, etc., and then retranslating and re-contextualizing back in the other direction! We’ve seen all that before. This endless cycle of picayune detail trumping picayune detail is, sadly, the usual outcome of this “granular” method. Even in the face of such methods, I think, on the whole, the above represents a fair answer to your original question. But if one can’t even entertain this tropical flow of symbolism, I just don’t know what else to say without repeating myself. Or the prominent "tropical" and "sidereal" astrologers who've made the same points.
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Graham F



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Posted: Tue Mar 05, 2013 9:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Phil wrote:
Quote:
Leo is hot: the bright star in its breast is fiery and stifling.

The bright star refers to Regulus, which of course is not visible when the Sun is in Leo. The signs were probably originally "full moon signs", perhaps even after they were equalised; the FM would have been in a given sector once, occasionally twice (in a 13-FM year) a year.
But I accept that by Valens time (and probably long before) they could work out where a star must be, even if invisible.

It's clear from the citations given and the points raised by Phil that Valens was simply doing meteorological Sun-sign astrology, for his time and place (that's not all he was doing, of course). But in his time (working between about 140 and 175CE), the VP was nearly in sidereal Pisces (indeed, according to some rather maverick opinions - De Luce, Djwhal Kuhl - it already was), so there was none, or very little, of sidereal Aries in "tropical Pisces" (and the latter concept of course did not yet exist).

Perhaps Paul's original question, as Phil and Pankadjubey have both suggested, should have been "Would Valens have used a sidereal or a tropical zodiac if he were alive today?" Or in 2000 years time? So would he still be predicting fiery and stifling heat in Leo in 4000? If yes, he's a tropical astrologer, if no, he's sidereal.

To me the best indication that Valens was probably thinking sidereally (albeit giving some significations which were only valid for a particular place and epoch) is, as Paul says, that he clearly situated the VP some way inside Aries.
The best indication that he might possibly be thinking tropically is that, like nearly everybody else at the time and since, he lists the signs starting from Aries as number one. But as you have to start somewhere, why not follow the convention and choose the sidereal sign where the VP falls at the time?
Most sidereal astrologers still choose to start the list with Aries today, whihc wouldn't be a problem if everyon understood it was arbitrary, but they don't. and many (notably Indian ones) write and talk of Aries as "the first sign of the natural zodiac". I'd say that was tropical thinking, but 2000 years out.

Graham
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Paul
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Posted: Tue Mar 05, 2013 9:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Phil

I do not doubt that there are tropical descriptions applied in places to the signs - just as there are sidereal ones, and those attributed by particular philosophies.

However, whilst I recognise that parts of the signs are given seasonal/tropical assignations, and that the signs as a whole can in places be affected by this, I do not think that his zoidia are 'tropica' any more than they are purely 'sidereal'. They are, in my opinion, a mix of tropical and sidereal logic (which I conceded in a very early post in this forum). My interest is mainly in whether Valens was concerned mostly with dividing the ecliptic sidereally or from the equinox, more so than what attributes he applies as a result.

I do think you are overstating the case for the tropical assignations however, for example we can see from Sagittarius that it is "moist because of the
constellation Argo" - so clearly its attributes of hot, cold, dry, moist are not entirely tropical, and, in fact, as I said before, Leo is so hot because, he claims, of Regulus. There is plenty of opportunity to say "because of the solstice" (which would be cancer) or because it follows a solstice sign, or because of the seasons. Instead it is because of the nature of a fixed star. We can argue that the nature of the fixed star is in turn derived tropically but we do not have that evidence to make that claim. We're only guessing. It could be any number of other reasons.

You conclude that as part of Cancer is 'damp and hot' that therefore the signs are "affecting seasonal phenomena on earth" - but this is not the only conclusion to draw from this, any more than we might say that as part of Aquarius is fiery that therefore Aquarius is warm (a similar kind of logic to what you're using for Leo and Cancer). Clearly Valens is describing, very explicitly, that only part of Cancer is warm and damp, and not even the part nearest to Leo which is then considered hot. In fact throughout all the signs we see things like the south part are this, the left part are that, the north part is something else. We clearly do not have the concept of a sign here as being an unbroken individual unit, but rather an area of space with differing attributes often wildly conflicting scattered throughout it. This seems much more like a sidereal logic to me. I do not accept that calling a third of Cancer makes the air damp and hot suggests that this is derived because of the seasons (at least not alone). I think it's just as likely to be because "The first 7° of Cancer belong to Mars: hurling thunderbolts, moved in different directions, uneven, contradictory in his wishes, manic, prolific, poor, destructive, and in the end, base"

Ultimately I'm not as interested in the discussion of sign attributes as I am in sign measurements, unless we see it that in all cases of sign attributes, the attributes change drastically after a regular N degrees, which might contend that a tropical zodiac is being overlaid upon a sidereal measurement, but as that is not happening there is probably little point in entertaining that idea.

I do not doubt that tropical considerations are found scattered throughout many of the hellenistic authors, valens included, and unlike what Geoffrey and Pankadjubey want me to ask, I'm not asking about hypothetical situations of if Valens were alive today - I am purely trying to examine and understand the 'controversy' of the zodiac as outlined by Valens in his own time.
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Graham F



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Posted: Tue Mar 05, 2013 10:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Paul
Maybe this section of Valens could help answer your question (my bold):
Quote:
8K;7P. Listening and Beholding Signs.
Similarly the listening and the beholding signs (the sextile signs) must be calculated from their rising times as follows: Pisces beholds Taurus; in the second klima the rising times of the six signs from Pisces <to> total 160 and from Taurus to Libra total 200. Pisces is less than Taurus and therefore listens to it. The rising times of the two groups total 360. Likewise from Gemini to Scorpio there are 212 and from Leo to Capricorn 212; therefore Gemini and Leo are of equal rising time and listen to each other. Again from Virgo to Aquarius is 200, from Scorpio to Aries 160. They behold each other /24P/ and <Scorpio> listens to Virgo . From Leo to Capricorn is 212>, and from Libra to Pisces is 180… From Sagittarius to Taurus is 148, and from Aquarius to Cancer is 148. They listen to each other and are of equal rising times. Similarly for the rest <of>.

I don't understand all the details, or what he means by saying that groups of signs, which overlap, behold or listen to each other. But when he gives just two signs, it's clear that his "mirror axis" is not at 0° Aries or Cancer , but somewhere inside those signs, and that he's consciously using these points to organise the signs into antiscia and contrantiscia within a sidereal framework. It's fairly clear that we're in the same situation as Deborah Houlding describes in her article on Antiscia:
Quote:
Manilius describes this scheme in the Astronomica, where he states that signs opposing each other across the solstice axis are able to 'see' each other - his terminology derived from the fact that both will rise and set in the same part of the horizon. However, Manilius's description differs from that of Firmicus because he uses the centre of Cancer and Capricorn as his reference points, linking the sign of Gemini to Leo, Taurus to Virgo, Aries to Libra, Pisces to Scorpio, and Aquarius to Sagittarius.The obvious explanation for this shift of reference is that the use of antiscia as an astrological technique has a very long history, originating from the time when 15° Aries marked the Vernal Equinox and the middle degrees of Cancer and Capricorn corresponded with the solstices. Manilius's scheme is certainly the same as that of Firmicus because both create an association between periods of equal sunrise and sunset.


Graham
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varuna2



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Posted: Wed Mar 06, 2013 12:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Could any of it be based on the apsidal precession of the perihelion?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apsidal_precession

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Graham F



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Posted: Wed Mar 06, 2013 6:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

varuna2 wrote:
Could any of it be based on the apsidal precession of the perihelion? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apsidal_precession :)


I assume you're being tongue in cheek, but it's true that the movement of the perihelion/aphelion over the centuries can slightly alter the dates of the seasons. But if that explains anything mentioned here, it shows Valens was working sidereally - he was situating the VP in sidereal terms. Tropically, the VP is always 0° Aries, whatever sort of precession calls its movement.

Graham
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lihin



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Posted: Wed Mar 06, 2013 8:31 am    Post subject: Non-tropical = 'sidereal'? Reply with quote

Good morning,

It may well have been that Vettius Valens used position tables originally mainly based on the Antares - Aldebaran axis. Speculation, like much one performs when attempting to enter an ancient mind set.

Meanwhile we know that, of the two, Antares exhibits from a terrestrial perspective much less nutation and proper motion than Aldebaran.

Mr Paul's quote is quite useful. Can anyone arrive at 12 equal signs of 30 degrees each using the given numbers?

Best regards,

lihin
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Martin Gansten
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Posted: Wed Mar 06, 2013 8:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Graham F wrote:
But in his time (working between about 140 and 175CE), the VP was nearly in sidereal Pisces (indeed, according to some rather maverick opinions - De Luce, Djwhal Kuhl - it already was)

By most ayanāṃśas in popular use today, the equinox would have been around 1-2° Aries at this time; but Valens seems to have used an old value of 8° (see IX.12, top of p. 162 in Riley's translation). He most likely wasn't aware of precession, which means it should come as no surprise that he relates the signs of the zodiac both to the fixed stars and to the seasons. (Several ancient civilizations used star phenomena to mark the seasons, precisely because precession was not known.)

Going back to Paul's original question, it seems clear that Valens did not equate the equinox with 0 Aries, but rather viewed it as a point falling somewhere in the sign Aries. In other words, he was not a tropicalist in the Ptolemaic or common modern sense. If nobody has any evidence to present to the contrary, perhaps this thread should be allowed to rest.
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Paul
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Posted: Wed Mar 06, 2013 9:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

[quote="Martin Gansten"]
Graham F wrote:

Going back to Paul's original question, it seems clear that Valens did not equate the equinox with 0 Aries, but rather viewed it as a point falling somewhere in the sign Aries. In other words, he was not a tropicalist in the Ptolemaic or common modern sense. If nobody has any evidence to present to the contrary, perhaps this thread should be allowed to rest.


I agree, and it does not seem anyone has presented any strong case that Valens measured anything tropically. I would add that this does not mean that some of the things employed or measured were not in turn tropical in nature (the contra-antiscion and rising times Graham mentioned relating to that) but that is a wholly separate topic to what I was examining. I think it is clear from reading several hellenistic authors that the majority of hellenistic authors were not aware of precession or not very astronomically astute - often relying instead upon traditions handed down through the centuries.

I had wondered if there was some hidden tropical definitions of signs somewhere I had not noticed, and particularly so as it may indicate an interpolation from some later text. But it does not appear to be the case.

I think it is clear that Valens does indeed measure sidereally.
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pankajdubey



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Posted: Wed Mar 06, 2013 12:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think a similar question would be If Jesus was a Pope: )
Or is Pope secular.

The way the question is defined produces different answers.If the ancients were not really aware how were they aware?
I agree this thread has served as much purpose as itcould.
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