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The Life & Work of Vettius Valens
by Deborah Houlding
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translated by Jenn Zahrt PhD
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Life And Work of Vettius Valens, by Deb Houlding

 
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Paul
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Posted: Fri Nov 27, 2020 10:42 pm    Post subject: Life And Work of Vettius Valens, by Deb Houlding Reply with quote

Deborah Houlding has recently released an article on the life and work of Vettius Valens that she's been working on intermittently for a couple of years.

The article covers what we know, and what we don't know about Vettius Valens; and why attempts to fill in the blanks with speculation may be obscuring our understanding of when and where he lived and compiled his work.

In particular it raises questions about Valens' birthplace, and indeed whether the argument, repeated by many but first proposed by David Pingree, that Valens' chart is the one most frequently mentioned in Valens's work.

If anyone's interested, they can read it here:
http://skyscript.co.uk/valens.html
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james_m



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Posted: Sat Nov 28, 2020 6:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

thanks paul and thanks deb for sharing this...

i enjoyed reading it! i suppose there are many questions left unanswered about valens, but it was good to have them clarified in this article that you've shared.. i found it all very interesting.. thanks - james
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Levente Laszlo



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Posted: Sun Dec 20, 2020 12:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Let me have a few remarks to the essay.

To Valens’s lifetime (p. 1 and n. 3 on p. 9). The latest nativity used by Valens (2.27.1–2) was dated to 10 August 188 by Neugebauer and van Hoesen (GH pp. 130–131), but Pingree, revising their opinion, redated it to 26 July 70. (A similar case is another nativity in 2.22.10–12, which was originally dated to 18 May 95 but now to 13 May 63.) This makes a nativity (7.4.11–15) dated to 3 February 173 the latest one in Valens’s work. This native died on 26 February 173. Another native, who was born on 9 February 162, also died in January or February 173. On the other hand, for a native born on 7 February 132 (6.6.11–31 and 6.7.3–11), the 52nd and 53rd years are investigated (from 183 to 185) and the calculation refers to 9 June 184. If this is accepted as genuine, Valens finished his work after 184 or 185; if not, after February 173.

To the title (p. 1 and n. 4 on p. 9). The manuscripts containing the work use the title form “Οὐεττίου Οὐάλεντος Ἀντιοχέως ἀνθολογιῶν βιβλίον n” for the separate books. This ἀνθολογιῶν is the plural genitive form of ἀνθολογία, which means ‘flower-gathering,’ later ‘collection of excerpts.’ Therefore, the most suitable translation of the individual book titles would be “book n of the collected excerpts from Vettius Valens of Antioch,” which reflects the fact that the different sections were composed in different times and published under different titles, and were assembled not earlier than September 249, the death of Philip the Arab (referred in 1.17.44). As scholars like Latinate titles, they conventionally use the form Anthologiae, the corresponding Latin version of the deducted ἀνθολογίαι (the plural nominative form of ἀνθολογία), which they translate in whichever way it feels more comfortable. But the most faithful title would be “Collected Works” or something like this.

To “David Pingree, in introductory notes to his critical edition … interprets the title to mean “the flowers of arithmetic”, and suggests from this that we have only extracts of the full, original work.” (n. 4 on p. 9) I haven’t been able to find either of these references in Pingree’s edition. What he does say is “anthologiarum librorum novem a Vettio Valente anno fere 175 completorum traditio saeculo quinto incepta quam α appellamus corpus lacerosum Graecum nobis tradidit; aliud corpus nunc dispersum interpolatumque cuius origo de versione Pahlavica pendet Arabicum existit.” To translate, “The (textual) tradition of the nine books of the collected works of Vettius Valens, completed around 175, began in the 5th century, and we call it α. It was transmitted to us in a mangled Greek (textual) corpus, but there exists another, Arabic, corpus, now scattered and interpolated, which depends on a Pahlavi version.”

To “He … talks about the effect the obliquity of the ecliptic has on determining the cusps of the twelve houses” (p. 4) referring to Riley’s translation of 9.8.29, which is cited (n. 20 on p. 12) as “Therefore the layout of the XII Houses, which are arranged differently depending on the inclination of the ecliptic in different <geographical>, cause an extraordinary variation <in>. Those born in Rome will not have the same lifespan as those born in Babylon, and vice-versa. [Sometimes a very small variation is found, sometimes a very great one, sometimes an enormous one.]” This is an unfortunate mistranslation of a text that reads ὅθεν αἱ τῶν οἰκήσεων τοποθεσίαι κατὰ τὴν τοῦ ὁρίζοντος παρέγκλισιν ἄλλοτε ἄλλως ἀναμετρούμεναι διαφορὰν οὐ τὴν τυχοῦσαν ἐνδείκνυνται, οὔτε τοὺς αὐτοὺς χρόνους βιώσονται οἱ ἐν τῇ Ῥώμῃ γεννηθέντες τοῖς ἐν Βαβυλῶνι οὐδ’ ἕτεροι ἑτέροις, ἀλλ’ ὁτὲ μὲν διαφορὰ ἐλαχίστη εὑρεθήσεται, ὁτὲ δὲ μεγίστη, ὁτὲ δὲ ὑπερβάλλουσα. The word οἴκησις never means ‘houses’ (in astrological sense), especially not “XII Houses.” A faithful translation of the sentence should be something like “For which reason, the locations of the dwelling places, which are measured according to the divergence of the horizon differently in different times, show not negligible differences, and neither those born in Rome will live as many years as those born in Babylon, nor those born in another place will live as many years as those born in a different place, but sometimes a very small, other times a really great, and yet other times an excessive difference will be found.” The context reveals that the different rising times belonging to the different climas and so promising different lifespan to natives is meant here.

To “Valens’s” nativity (pp. 5–6). The author seems to assert that if this nativity dated to 8 February 120 is Valens’s nativity indeed, he couldn’t have been born in Antioch, for in 7.6.135, the nativity is located in clima 7, considerably more northern than Antioch. The problem is that in the same passage (7.6.139–140), the rising times used are 27;00 for Capricorn, 32;30 and (!) 27;30 for Cancer (which is an obvious sign of corruption), and 42;30 for Libra, of which only 27;00 for Capricorn is correct for Valens’s clima 7; for Cancer, it should be 33;00 and for Libra, 45. However, the said values are extensively used in the calculations: the text claims the RT of Capricorn plus 8 is 35, the first version of the RT of Cancer plus 38 is 70.5, and the sum of the RTs of Libra and Cancer (second version) is 70. But if the values are replaced with the rising times valid for clima 3 of Rhodus, which was probably used for Antioch, 27;53,20 should stand for Capricorn, 32;06,40 for Cancer, and 40;33,20 for Libra; then the RT of Capricorn plus 8 would result 35.89, the RT of Cancer plus 38 would result 70.11, and the sum of the RTs of Libra and Cancer would result 72.67. If one allows that Valens rounded the values here and there and some textual corruption is also assumed, the birth may have occurred in clima 3. In any event, it is obviously corrupt in its present form.

The chart belonging to “Valens’s” nativity (p. 6). The caption of the drawing claims it is a chart “showing the planet positions described by Valens,” but it is hardly. The data that Valens give are 7 or 8 Virgo for the Ascendant (1.21.17 and 1.4.14, respectively), 22 Aquarius for the Sun (1.4.2, 5, and 12; 1.8.12), 7 Scorpio for the Moon (1.4.12, 1.8.12, 1.14.2, 1.21.17), 16 Leo for the prenatal Full Moon (1.8.15), 8 Leo or 28;45 Cancer for the Ascending Node (1.15.8 and 1.15.18, respectively), 16 Capricorn for Venus (1.18.67; the described method should result 29 Capricorn), 25 Aquarius for Mercury (1.18.70; the described method should result 22 Aquarius). For Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars, Valens only gives the signs (Cancer, Libra, and Virgo, respectively), and he doesn’t mention the positions of the MC and the house cusps.
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Deb
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Posted: Mon Dec 21, 2020 12:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Levente

Thanks for your post and careful analysis. I agree that the labelling of the chart diagram on p.6 was a little clumsy in reading "Computer chart drawn for 8 Feb. 120 showing the planet positions described by Valens."

What I should have been clearer about is that this is the closest completely computerised chart I can create that comes close to the positions described by Valens. I have a separate (as yet unpublished) exploration of that point where a computerised chart is given alongside a Photoshopped one that accurately replicates the details as described in the text.

I think it is clear from my article that I don't place any expectation on this being Valens' own nativity - I am not denying that as a possibility, but illustrating why I think the suggestion is not sufficiently proven to be given widespread acceptance. I will leave the issue of the rising times analysis and your suggestion that this chart could belong to klima 3 until another time when I can re-investigate that (because I have been away from that point for a while).

Thanks for the comments on the chart dating. One thing I hoped my article would illustrate is that some of the analysis done on the timing and locations of the charts is quite speculative and some has been based on faulty details. It appears to me that at some stage it would be worth someone entering into that as a whole new research project, but I think before that happens each of the chart examples (or collections of chart data) deserves further reinvestigation. For example, klima 3 or klima 7 for that Feb 120 chart - well, that is an important point that needs looking at closely. Neugebauer and Van Hoesen, and then Mark Riley, did a lot of very important work on the timeline of charts but the volume of work involved was too much for this to lead to reliable summaries on something that was a side issue to their main interest in the text anyway. This would make a good, stand alone research project for someone (which I am sure will not be me).

Thanks again
Deb
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Deb
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Posted: Fri Dec 25, 2020 1:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Levente

- And merry Christmas!

I was just looking into that passage in book 7 regarding the rising times. It is definitely problematic, and frustrating! However, no matter how the figures are pulled I cannot see any support for suggesting a birth in klima 3 - that doesn't make any sense of the text (klima 5 maybe, not klima 3).

Let's assume the ref to Cancer being 27 years, 6 months is a flat out mistake (it clearly is, and is contradicted by the other ref to Cancer in the same passage). Yes, we still have the problem of the Cancer rising time of 32.30 being half a degree out for klima 7 (33) or for klima 3 (32°07).

The rising time of 27 Capricorn is exact for Klima 7, but would be almost a full degree out for klima 3 (27°53).

Then we have that completely problematic statement about Jupiter and Saturn sharing the chronocratorship - I can make sense of that in a number of ways, but all of them require me to propose something quite different to what appears to be stated in the text as we have it.

Can I ask - you are a language scholar and I am not - have you checked what we have recorded of the Greek text of this passage (I am certain you probably have, but want to ask anyway, because it is not something I have easy access to, and would love you to share).

Other things to consider, which incline me to reject klima 3 completely, and veer towards the stated klima 7 being correct, even though a case could be made for klima 5 in the passage you quoted:

When reconstituting this chart example to gain the reported degree of the ascendant, the figures only add up correctly using klima 7, not klima 3.

Where using the reported ascendant and following the maths to gain the ascendant, only klima 7 allows the placement of the ascendant in a late degree of Taurus as reported in the text (Riley p.105) - klima 3 would place it in Gemini.

So I do think the report of klima 7 is reliable, for various reasons, or remains the best assumption to work from. But you are right that the passage where the klima is reported is riddled with obvious problems. In any event, there is nothing solid to support a suggestion of klima 3 and a great deal to contradict that, so the prospect of this horoscope representing a birth at Antioch is out of the question IMO.

Best wishes
Deb
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Levente Laszlo



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Posted: Sat Dec 26, 2020 10:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Deb,

I also wish you a (bit late) merry Christmas!

I agree that the details of Valens’s charts should be investigated further, preferably together with a new and more reliable translation of the whole text collection, since both Schmidt’s and Riley’s translations are marred with inaccuracies and mistranslations. For this work, the Arabic fragments should also be consulted, the applied techniques should be analysed and interpreted, and the missing tables should be reconstructed. No doubt, this is a daunting task!

I also agree that to put the ‘Valens’ chart to klima 3, the text should be tampered beyond what is acceptable. I admit I haven’t been able to explore the issue in the necessary depth, but I still maintain the description is either corrupt or some details of it are poorly understood. Perhaps in the future I’ll do more research on the issue.

To answer your question, yes, I’ve checked the transmitted text. Would you like me to reproduce it alongside my translation?

Finally, there is one more thing to consider. Valens is called ‘of Antioch’ only in the titles and the explicits of the individual books of his collected writings and by an unknown astrologer who read exactly the same recension of the text as we have now. Therefore, it’s also possible that either the association of Valens to Antioch is a mistake or Antioch wasn’t the place of his birth but of his residence. (There are several people called ‘N of C’ even though C was the place of their activity and not of their birth.) If this is the case, and Valens was indeed born in klima 7 (roughly corresponding with the 45th parallel north), he might have been born in northern Italy or one of many other places; especially as the name ‘Vettius Valens’ is Latin, not Greek, which suggests his family originated from the Latin-speaking area of the empire. (Many Latin-speaking authors preferred to write scientific works in Greek, not in Latin, so this can’t exclude his western origins.)

Interestingly, there are surviving inscriptions of three men bearing the name ‘Marcus Vettius Valens’ (PIR V 343–344 referring to CIL XI 395, 421, and 383), all natives of Ariminium (now Rimini; almost precisely on the 44th parallel north) and probably a grandfather, father, and son living in the 1st and 2nd centuries. We also know that at least some of Valens’s writings were addressed and bequeathed to a certain ‘Marcus.’ So, someone audacious enough may conjecture that the astrological writer’s full name was M. Vettius Valens, he was born in Ariminium in 120, and after long journeys, he settled in Antioch, where he wrote his books, a part of which was addressed to his son Marcus. But unfortunately, however attractive these ideas look, none of them can be proved.

All the best,
Levente
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Posted: Sun Dec 27, 2020 2:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A late merry Christmas to everyone, I'm just catching up on these discussions.

Levente Laszlo wrote:

To “He … talks about the effect the obliquity of the ecliptic has on determining the cusps of the twelve houses” (p. 4) referring to Riley’s translation of 9.8.29, which is cited (n. 20 on p. 12) as “Therefore the layout of the XII Houses, which are arranged differently depending on the inclination of the ecliptic in different <geographical>, cause an extraordinary variation <in>. Those born in Rome will not have the same lifespan as those born in Babylon, and vice-versa. [Sometimes a very small variation is found, sometimes a very great one, sometimes an enormous one.]” This is an unfortunate mistranslation of a text that reads ὅθεν αἱ τῶν οἰκήσεων τοποθεσίαι κατὰ τὴν τοῦ ὁρίζοντος παρέγκλισιν ἄλλοτε ἄλλως ἀναμετρούμεναι διαφορὰν οὐ τὴν τυχοῦσαν ἐνδείκνυνται, οὔτε τοὺς αὐτοὺς χρόνους βιώσονται οἱ ἐν τῇ Ῥώμῃ γεννηθέντες τοῖς ἐν Βαβυλῶνι οὐδ’ ἕτεροι ἑτέροις, ἀλλ’ ὁτὲ μὲν διαφορὰ ἐλαχίστη εὑρεθήσεται, ὁτὲ δὲ μεγίστη, ὁτὲ δὲ ὑπερβάλλουσα. The word οἴκησις never means ‘houses’ (in astrological sense), especially not “XII Houses.” A faithful translation of the sentence should be something like “For which reason, the locations of the dwelling places, which are measured according to the divergence of the horizon differently in different times, show not negligible differences, and neither those born in Rome will live as many years as those born in Babylon, nor those born in another place will live as many years as those born in a different place, but sometimes a very small, other times a really great, and yet other times an excessive difference will be found.” The context reveals that the different rising times belonging to the different climas and so promising different lifespan to natives is meant here.


Hi Levente

Thanks for this important correction, it does of course completely change the context of meaning here. I do think though that there's something puzzling about the translation as you've provided it, it seems to not make much sense of what we know to be going on and I wonder if it's something like it being a literal translation or there's other word that might better fit the context that Valens means, or perhaps an idiom or something of that nature? The translation as you've rendered it here (which I'm not disputing, I don't speak Greek so I take your word on it) seems to raise as many questions as it answers so to speak.

For example you say "the locations of the dwelling places", but I wonder if this isn't just another word for the climes. Would this make sense of the translation as you understand it? It seems like it's the ecumene regions - basically a synonym for what we would say in english as just being the habitable world. The only other bit that is a bit weird is the "according to the divergence of the horizon differently in different times". Does this mean to imply only just that throughout the day at a given location the divergence of the horizon (by which I take it he means the difference in angular direction?) changes at different times throughout the day?

Quote:
The context reveals that the different rising times belonging to the different climas and so promising different lifespan to natives is meant here.


Yes I think that context is clear throughout the examples Valens provides in this section and many others where he repeatedly uses the ascensional times to measure longevity (i.e. Valens does not calculate the MC etc. in right ascension but via the ascensional times)

Quote:
We also know that at least some of Valens’s writings were addressed and bequeathed to a certain ‘Marcus.’ So, someone audacious enough may conjecture that the astrological writer’s full name was M. Vettius Valens, he was born in Ariminium in 120, and after long journeys, he settled in Antioch, where he wrote his books, a part of which was addressed to his son Marcus. But unfortunately, however attractive these ideas look, none of them can be proved.


That's a really interesting theory, it's impossible for us to know, as you say, but nevertheless it's interesting to speculate all the same.
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Levente Laszlo



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Posted: Mon Dec 28, 2020 4:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Paul

Paul wrote:
I do think though that there's something puzzling about the translation as you've provided it, it seems to not make much sense of what we know to be going on and I wonder if it's something like it being a literal translation or there's other word that might better fit the context that Valens means, or perhaps an idiom or something of that nature? The translation as you've rendered it here (which I'm not disputing, I don't speak Greek so I take your word on it) seems to raise as many questions as it answers so to speak.


That’s true: for the first half of the sentence, I provided a rather literal translation, and I agree that it’s not an especially clear one.

Paul wrote:
For example you say "the locations of the dwelling places", but I wonder if this isn't just another word for the climes. Would this make sense of the translation as you understand it? It seems like it's the ecumene regions - basically a synonym for what we would say in english as just being the habitable world.


I think it means the geographical locations of the different places for which the astrologer wants to erect a chart, not necessarily the complete climas. But of course, in practice, astrologers went with the tables of the clima that was most fitting to the current geographical location.

Paul wrote:
The only other bit that is a bit weird is the "according to the divergence of the horizon differently in different times". Does this mean to imply only just that throughout the day at a given location the divergence of the horizon (by which I take it he means the difference in angular direction?) changes at different times throughout the day?


I guess it simply means that a given hour corresponds with different horizontal axes in different climas, and sometimes this difference is smaller, other times greater.

Paul wrote:
That's a really interesting theory, it's impossible for us to know, as you say, but nevertheless it's interesting to speculate all the same.


While most bits of the theory are at least possible (even if not very plausible), it’s almost sure that Valens’s addressee, Marcus, wasn’t his son. At the beginning of Book IX, he writes, “greetings from Valens to Marcus,” and I can’t really imagine he’d call himself “Valens” when writing to his own son. However, IF the chart is genuinely Valens’s (which is quite likely) AND it’s genuinely for clima 7 (which is a strong possibility), then taking Ariminium as his birthplace is a viable but unprovable theory.
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Posted: Mon Dec 28, 2020 4:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Levente Laszlo wrote:

I think it means the geographical locations of the different places for which the astrologer wants to erect a chart, not necessarily the complete climas. But of course, in practice, astrologers went with the tables of the clima that was most fitting to the current geographical location.


Right, that's sort of the end result of the effect I meant - when I said 'climes' I meant the sum total of them, so the region of the world in which people live basically. I tried to look into this a bit more later, and if the word is oikoumene then it is indeed the ecumene I mentioned before - it has a kind of technical terminology in geography to mean the habitable region. It's not a big deal, I was just curious, it makes me wonder if it's used elsewhere and Riley translated it as 'houses' taking 'dwelling place' kind of literally as well. If nothing else it shows the difficulty with translation I guess.
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Levente Laszlo



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Posted: Mon Dec 28, 2020 5:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Paul wrote:
Right, that's sort of the end result of the effect I meant - when I said 'climes' I meant the sum total of them, so the region of the world in which people live basically. I tried to look into this a bit more later, and if the word is oikoumene then it is indeed the ecumene I mentioned before - it has a kind of technical terminology in geography to mean the habitable region. It's not a big deal, I was just curious, it makes me wonder if it's used elsewhere and Riley translated it as 'houses' taking 'dwelling place' kind of literally as well. If nothing else it shows the difficulty with translation I guess.


The word isn’t oikoumenē but the plural form of oikēsis, meaning ‘the act of inhabiting a place’ and so ‘house, residence, etc.’ It isn’t used by Valens anywhere else, but in other astrological texts, it has the meanings I write, without any technical connotation.
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Posted: Mon Dec 28, 2020 5:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Levente Laszlo wrote:
Paul wrote:
Right, that's sort of the end result of the effect I meant - when I said 'climes' I meant the sum total of them, so the region of the world in which people live basically. I tried to look into this a bit more later, and if the word is oikoumene then it is indeed the ecumene I mentioned before - it has a kind of technical terminology in geography to mean the habitable region. It's not a big deal, I was just curious, it makes me wonder if it's used elsewhere and Riley translated it as 'houses' taking 'dwelling place' kind of literally as well. If nothing else it shows the difficulty with translation I guess.


The word isn’t oikoumenē but the plural form of oikēsis, meaning ‘the act of inhabiting a place’ and so ‘house, residence, etc.’ It isn’t used by Valens anywhere else, but in other astrological texts, it has the meanings I write, without any technical connotation.


Ah, thanks for the correction. I went on a bit of a journey there trying to figure it out.
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