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Posted: Fri Oct 19, 2007 10:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ptolemy has been knocked down not only in astrology, but astronomy as well.

James Holden, in his introduction to his translation of al-Khayyat’s The Judgments of Nativities (AFA, 1988), comes across as having a low opinion of Ptolemy. He bluntly states “The truth of the matter is that he was not an astrologer at all, but merely a science writer". More interestingly, he writes in a footnote (page 11):

He may not have been much of an astronomer either. See Robert R. Newton The Crime of Claudius Ptolemy (Baltimore & London: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1977). Newton demonstrates that most of Ptolemy’s astronomical “observations” were fictitious, that he tampered with the records of observations made by earlier astronomers, that he copied Hipparchus’s Star Catalog (merely adding 2°40’ to the longitudes), and that his mathematical treatment of planetary motions was not necessarily the best. Newton also declares that the public success of Ptolemy’s astronomical works may have deprived us of works of equal or greater value by causing a loss of interest in them. I would extend his statement to include astrological texts.


Newton’s book came out thirty years ago. I wonder if Holden has fairly represented the book, and if so, how well the book’s ideas have withstood three decades.
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Deb
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Posted: Fri Oct 19, 2007 11:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hmm, notice how this also came out one year after Riley’s paper? And yet when you read Riley’s paper it is clear that he actually has a high opinion of Ptolemy:

Quote:
...not only does Ptolemy expect mathematical competence, he also assumes the reader knows basic astronomy and astrology

Ptolemy's theoretical approach to astrology is in sharp contrast to the approaches of the other astrologers. His preferred principle of organization is clear. He begins with the basic physical principles from which all phenomena can be derived: the four humors, heat, cold, moist, dry, from which the nature and effects of the stars and signs, as well as the nature of the inhabitants of the earth's climes, can be derived, [etc., etc] …
Quite different approaches were used by the other astrological writers, who are concerned with practical matters. Dorotheus begins, not with a proof of the validity of astrology or a description of the universe, but with instructions for forecasting births, the native's status, [etc., etc] ….


A particularly revealing example of the difference between Ptolemy's style of forecasting and that of the other astrologers can be found in one passage of Hephaistion, who copied the Tetrabiblos, borrowing Ptolemy's system of organization for the first two books, but with significant additions and omissions. In Tetrabiblos 3.5, "On Parents," Ptolemy had laid down a general principle for forecasting: [long snip on what Ptolemy wrote] … In other words, the astrologer must use his own judgement and experience in evaluating possible combinations. Hephaistion, while copying verbatim the rest of this chapter, omits this entire sentence.
(It should follow 2.4.17). The practicing astrologer preferred cut and dried methods which left less to the imagination; he preferred ready reference to a Lot, a Place, a list of configurations, rather than a vague directive to use his own judgement.

Not only in astrological methods and organization can we see differences between Ptolemy and some other astrologers, but also in their attitudes towards their colleagues: Ptolemy, for whatever reason, shows few signs of the animosity toward fellow professionals which is so evident in ancient literary society. [Long snip on how other astrologers criticised and attacked each other’s methods] …

Note however that Ptolemy's criticism does not develop into vilification, nor does he claim divine inspiration for his own work and exact oaths of
secrecy from his students. In neither the Almagest nor the Tetrabiblos does Ptolemy ever mention other contemporaries by name nor does he engage in acrimony.


These are just a few comments that show the author considering Ptolemy as a cut above the usual standards of his day. He does not criticise Ptolemy as incompetent in any way, or suggest that he was ‘merely a science writer’, the paper is more a comparison of approach towards the subject compared with other writers. He always treats Ptolemy as a knowledgeable astrologer - the difference is that he is more interested in focussing on the theoretical principles. This is the very reason why Ptolemy's work was so important, and why it gave such a strong philosophical defence for its practice which prevented it from being dismissed as pure superstition.

In fact, anyone familiar with the text of his Tetrabiblos will gain little information from the paper, since it is mainly an explanation about what is in the book. I should imagine that in 1987 it seemed quite informative, since few astrologers were bothering to actually read the Terabiblos at that time.

As for the comment that Ptolemy “tampered with the records of observations made by earlier astronomers, that he copied Hipparchus’s Star Catalog (merely adding 2°40’ to the longitudes)”. He clearly states that he had access to earlier records which formed the basis of his corrections. The tables that he produced were accurate enough to serve the interests of astrologers for centuries afterwards and became a standard astronomical and astrological resource. If the world was deprived of potentially better works because everyone rested on Ptolemy’s, that’s hardly his fault Smile Maybe one day they’ll say the same about Einstein’s theories ?
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floydrainy



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Posted: Sat Oct 20, 2007 7:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tom wrote:
What I've read is that Ptolemy was not an astrologer so, if true, he did not use any house system. Hand and Schmidt argue that he outlined the whole sign system in Tetrabiblos. Valens used whole signs and Porphry to determine planetary strength. I have no idea what Al Biruni used. I cannot find any indication in his work.

Tom

Yeah, I agree with you about Ptolemy. I'm interesting in his theory(maybe not) of how the planet be placed in 12signs. How can I get the detailed information about the house system?What's the opinion of you about Koch? Thank you.
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Theo



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Posted: Sat Oct 20, 2007 9:29 am    Post subject: Is Ptolemy An Astrologer? Reply with quote

Deb wrote:
Hi Tom

I think I have found the article that stirred up the comment about Ptolemy. It was written by Mark Riley in 1987 ‘Theoretical and Practical Astrology: Ptolemy and his colleagues’ Transactions of the American Philological Association 117 (1987) 235-256.

This makes the argument that Ptolemy was more of a theoretical astrologer than a practical one, partly because he did not present instruction to students the way that Valens did. (So for example, you can learn astrological techniques from Valens whereas you have to know them already to understand Ptolemy’s arguments). Within this paper, we find comments such as this:

Quote:
All this suggests that Ptolemy viewed astrology as he did astronomy, geography, and harmonics (the other sciences on which he wrote), i.e., as a strictly theoretical science, by the use of which the scientist can explain the interconnections between celestial and terrestrial phenomena and can trace the cause-effect relationships between the stars and the earth.


Much of what the author says makes a lot of sense. He doesn’t suggest that Ptolemy was not an astrologer, but I can see how people could reduce some of the arguments and stretch others a little further to generate that suggestion.

To clear the names of Hand and Schmidt.

In Book I of their serialised edition of the Tetrabiblos (1994), Rob Hand writes in the Introduction:

"It is even widely maintained that Ptolemy was not a practicing astrologer. So why, we have the right to ask, was his work so influential?” Then he gives his reasons, and on the next page states “He was an astrologer. I think we can believe that. But I think we can also assume that he was more of a theoretician than a practicising astrologer.”

Here (I believe) Rob Hand was influenced by the Mark Riley paper. I imagine a lot of astrologers would have been struck by Hand’s first remark and would not have fully understood the suggestion behind the second. So from that point on it was easy for astrologers to criticise some of Ptolemy’s techniques and suggest that his authority in practical astrology was already undermined.

Robert Schmidt certainly has nothing to do with the suggestion, because he criticises it vigorously. In the 4th book of the series (1998) he writes his own introduction and states:

Quote:
There is an opinion current in the astrological world that although Ptolemy may have been a very good astrological theorist, his practical astrological teaching does not work. I have even heard it stated that he was not a practicing astrologer. Now, as a dogmatic assertion this is a stupid remark. Maybe he wasn’t, but how in heaven’s name could we know this for sure?
We cannot infer that he did not practice astrology from the mere fact that he gives no concrete examples; for, as Ptolemy repeatedly says, his intention was solely to outline the guiding principles and provide the general procedures in a systematic manner, leaving it to the individual astrologer to flesh out the outline and spell out the details for himself. It is true that he does not explicitly make the claim that he has tested some procedure and found that it works, as Valens frequently does, but such a personal statement would be entirely out of place in a formal treatment such as this.
It may be the case that, ultimately, Ptolemy approves of some particular method more because it seems “natural” to him—that is, because it makes sense within the framework of Aristotelean natural philosophy—than because he has done extensive testing of it. However, he obviously has a healthy respect for the inaccuracy and uncertainty of fine-grained, detailed astrological prediction in the material world—a respect that could just as well have been gained through practical experience. More than any other Hellenistic astrologer, Ptolemy emphasizes that methods can only take one so far, and beyond this point prediction becomes a kind of educated guesswork. Does this sound like the position of an inexperienced astrologer?
So we come down to the criticism that Ptolemy’s procedures do not work. Again I say, how in heaven’s name could any modern astrologer be in a position to make such a claim? [It continues for two more pages]

So the answer is, neither Schmidt, Hand, or Mark Riley ever made the claim that Ptolemy was not an astrologer or fully conversant in its principles. But parts of their comments are being taken out of context and reproduced by astrologers who think they did say this.


I agree with Robert Schmidt. This is more common than one may think. One of the problems modern astrology has is that there are many "astrologers" out there who, with more of a humanistic/psychological perspective have considerable trouble with astrology as a priori science, which it always has been.

Astrology was paramount to Ptolemy, and from there, he applied its uses to geography, meteorology, and stellar cartography (which is what we call astronomy) ~ all sub-sciences of classical scientific astrology.

The weak attempt in the paper to reduce astrology to a "theoretical" science on the same subset as astronomy, geography, and harmonics seems to come from the inability of some to reconcile the true history of classical scientific astrology, and conventional views. The same is trying to be said of Johannes Kepler, and Galelio, for example, both also classical scientific astrologers.

The 1987 paper by Riley ‘Theoretical and Practical Astrology: Ptolemy and his colleagues’ Transactions of the American Philological Association was part of a movement that resurfaces from time to time attempting to prove that astrology is not a science. What is striking is that those very great scientific minds, and famous names of the past, were all astrologers. This is troubling to those who seem to have determined (how, I don't know) that astrologers such as Ptolemy really were not astrologers.

The facts say otherwise: Claudius Ptolemy was a typical classical scientific astrologer. His many works surely are standard educational fare for conventional astronomers, and astrologers alike. As a classical scientific astrologer myself, one oftens finds those who, because not being from this strata, have "issues" with the fact that classical astrologers practice both Sign Astrology, and Sidereal, or constellation astrology. This is difficult for those who work only with tropical-western based astrology, or for those who shamelessly denounce Ptolemy's astrological works as a "hobby" or "theoretical."

My own study of astrology as a kid started with meteorology, and Ptolemy was one of the first reads I had to complete. He was responsible for the advance of forecasting weather astronomically in his time. The fact that Ptolemy was a scientist and a astrologer continues to cause problems with those of the conventional world of science, and, within some within the astrological community who've been unable to co-exist with the classical scientific astrology Ptolemy surely practiced.
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Tom
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Posted: Sun Oct 21, 2007 11:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello Deb,

Previously I made the statement that I had read that Ptolemy was not an astrologer and of course when asked where I read this, I couldn't recall any, much less all of the places I've seen (or heard) this stated or implied. Frankly I didn't feel like looking through all possible locations with no guarantee I'd locate a sensible quote. Besides, I thought he was an astrologer based on my reading of him.

Still I wanted to produce at least a few references, but I didn't want to do the work. So, in an effort to demonstrate that perhaps while I am often wrong, and my memory often fails, I don't make things up (I know that no one accused me of that or even implied it), I'm going to use this thread to cite places where poor ol' Ptolemy gets accused of being other than what even I think he was - an astrologer Leery

Number one goes to James H. Holden, whom, by all accounts is a good guy. On page 1 of his translation of Morin's Book 22 of Astrologia Gallica Primary Directions we find a footnote to Morin's first mention, in this book, of Ptolemy's name: To wit:



Quote:
Claudius Ptolemy (2nd Century) the most famous astronomer and science writer of classical antiquity. His astrological handbook Tetrabiblos contains fundamental instructions for calculating what are now called primary directions (in book 3 Chap. 10) His instructions were misunderstood by most of his readers (including Morin).


Note he does not use the "astrologer" and Holden surely knows that when he uses the word "astronomer", his audience is not thinking it is a synonym for "astrologer." I read this as a deliberate omission. This text was first published in 1994. He may well have been influenced by Riley.

I'll post any others I find, if and when I find them.

Tom
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Theo



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Posted: Mon Oct 22, 2007 3:57 am    Post subject: Ptolemy's Astrology & Astronomy Reply with quote

Tom wrote:
Hello Deb,

Previously I made the statement that I had read that Ptolemy was not an astrologer and of course when asked where I read this, I couldn't recall any, much less all of the places I've seen (or heard) this stated or implied. Frankly I didn't feel like looking through all possible locations with no guarantee I'd locate a sensible quote. Besides, I thought he was an astrologer based on my reading of him.

Still I wanted to produce at least a few references, but I didn't want to do the work. So, in an effort to demonstrate that perhaps while I am often wrong, and my memory often fails, I don't make things up (I know that no one accused me of that or even implied it), I'm going to use this thread to cite places where poor ol' Ptolemy gets accused of being other than what even I think he was - an astrologer Leery

Number one goes to James H. Holden, whom, by all accounts is a good guy. On page 1 of his translation of Morin's Book 22 of Astrologia Gallica Primary Directions we find a footnote to Morin's first mention, in this book, of Ptolemy's name: To wit:



Quote:
Claudius Ptolemy (2nd Century) the most famous astronomer and science writer of classical antiquity. His astrological handbook Tetrabiblos contains fundamental instructions for calculating what are now called primary directions (in book 3 Chap. 10) His instructions were misunderstood by most of his readers (including Morin).


Note he does not use the "astrologer" and Holden surely knows that when he uses the word "astronomer", his audience is not thinking it is a synonym for "astrologer." I read this as a deliberate omission. This text was first published in 1994. He may well have been influenced by Riley.

I'll post any others I find, if and when I find them.

Tom


They'll be many more. This has been an ongoing habit among conventional astronomers unable to accept that nearly all of the famous scientists like Ptolemy were in fact, classical astrologers.

They add the word "astronomer" as "distinct" from the word "astrologer" which they then use to attempt to seperate the two. Moreover, their definition of "astrology" is highly suspect, considering that most use the term from a "pop-culture astrology" perspective, which isn't saying much.

What is odd is that "astronomy" was itself invented by astrologers as a subset of one of the many branches of astrology. Astronomy is, of course, nothing more than stellar cartography, the identification and mapping of the celestial heavens ~ a normal part of astrologers work ~ particularly that of Ptolemy, who is famous for his stellar cartography.

The distinction is further complicated by the lack of understanding about Zodiacal Astrology and Constellational Astrology, or the astrology of the Signs, and sidereal astrology. Claudius Ptolemy was a classical scientific astrologer, which practices both forms of astrology.

Conventional astronomers have been unable, for the most part, to accept Ptolemy's work on astrology due to what seems to be a need to ignore the facts that Ptolemy, Brahe, Galielo, Kepler, etc., some of the most famous names in science, were astrologers.

The use of the word of "astronomy" to conventional scientists is practiced as a "philosophy" that astronomy has never been. Astronomy is stellar cartography, which is a technique used by classical astrologers to map the heavens. It was never meant to be a "philosophy" which it is now in conventional use.

All the information derived from the identification, and mapping of the celestial heavens (astronomy) is to be gathered and then used by astrologers to "judge" which is then applied to forecasting. All the works of Ptolemy are written in this manner as he applied stallar cartography towards forecasting... among the areas, like the climate and weather, for instance.
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Chris Brennan



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Posted: Thu Mar 06, 2008 8:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Holden is the main proponent of the argument that Ptolemy wasn't an astrologer. He made it initially in the Abu 'Ali translation already mentioned as well as in some other papers in the 80's, but also again in the mid-90's in his book A History of Horoscopic Astrology with the statement that

Ptolemy cites no astrological authorities by name, he gives no example horoscopes, and he certainly was not a practicing astrologer. (Holden, A History of Horoscopic Astrology, 1996, pp. 48-49.)

As Deb pointed out, Schmidt and Hand are more cautious about the matter, although like Holden, they do consider Ptolemy to represent more of a deviant form of mainstream Hellenistic astrology, as represented by guys like Valens, Dorotheus, Firmicus, etc. There is some truth to this, although if you really study Ptolemy's text closely you start to realize that, when taken in its entirety, its really not as divergent from the tradition as Holden and sometimes Schmidt make it out to be. There are definitely some major points of departure though.

Riley and the rest of the academics are always drooling over Ptolemy and bashing the intellectual abilities of the other astrologers, particularly Valens, because Ptolemy was a scientist who made major contributions to other fields, and perhaps they have more respect for him as a result of that. I don't think that the level of respect or disdain that the academics have for certain astrologers should be the litmus test for judging them though.

Sorry for bringing this old post up again, but I found it randomly because some astrologer on Wikipedia is trying to argue that whole sign houses weren't the oldest house system, and he is trying to use Deb's statement about Ptolemy not using whole sign houses against me.

On that point, I thought that Schmidt made a pretty compelling argument during the course of his translation of Ptolemy that he was using whole sign houses much of the time. Like pretty much all of the other Hellenistic astrologers, Ptolemy only seems to introduce the quadrant divisions once he starts addressing the length of life treatment. In the rest of the work Schmidt did a pretty decent job of pointing out in the footnotes each instance where whole sign houses were employed in books 3 and 4, and I believe that Holden has come to a similar conclusion based on his own investigations of the Greek. I think that if we pressed Hand on the issue that he would end up siding with them on this issue as well. I could be wrong though. We could always ask him.
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woodwater



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Posted: Thu Mar 06, 2008 9:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

i suspect the realy true house system is the one ive been thinking about and is most practical for ancient astrologers. Since the houses are symbolic then: If house 9 corresponds to the period betwen noon and 2PM solar time, and I was born at 13.40 solar time then my capricorn Sun is in house 9 and Taurus rising regardless of sunrise. If i use sunrise then Sun will be in house 8. Confused ? So am i.
But maybe the ascendant is irrelevant and what matters is where the sun is
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woodwater



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Posted: Thu Mar 06, 2008 9:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

my theory could be verified by people whose main planets all fall in one house in one system and in another in a different house system. Anyone who has most planets in the same sign as the Sun including Ascendant and Sun ruler?
Im thinking of Pasteur
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Deb
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Posted: Thu Mar 06, 2008 10:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
As Deb pointed out, Schmidt and Hand are more cautious about the matter, although like Holden, they do consider Ptolemy to represent more of a deviant form of mainstream Hellenistic astrology, as represented by guys like Valens, Dorotheus, Firmicus, etc. There is some truth to this, although if you really study Ptolemy's text closely you start to realize that, when taken in its entirety, its really not as divergent from the tradition as Holden and sometimes Schmidt make it out to be. There are definitely some major points of departure though.


You know, there is an interesting contradiction here. On the one hand, the consensus of opinion is that Ptolemy’s interest leant more towards the academic/theoretical. On the other, he is accused of presenting a theory that deviates from the mainstream works of his era (?). That doesn’t make sense does it? One thing for certain is that Ptolemy was passionate about his interest in astrology – if he wasn’t, he wouldn’t have taken the trouble to point out and correct statements that he felt were misleading or wrong. At the same time, there was no reason for him to innovate, and no advantage to be gained from 'making things up'? So I agree with you. I don’t believe that Ptolemy is as divergent from mainstream tradition as he is made out to be either, and I think the perceived points of departure show us that we still have a lot to learn.

On the issue of the houses, the only comments within the Tetrabiblos that are clear and unambiguous are those that demonstrate the use of quadrant division. Any that are used to support the use of whole-sign houses are the result of Schmidt’s arguments about his perspective, using his translation of Hubner’s preferred Greek text. Ultimately, any argument made in favour of whole sign is just as easily contradicted, whilst the demonstration of quadrant division is clear. Ptolemy describes the influence of these places and how they are calculated, so I don’t see how the Tetrabiblos could ever be used to argue that whole-sign is the oldest system, since the only clear evidence it presents is to show the use of quadrant division.

But I am wary of this whole argument and anyone’s attempt to have it settled, when we ought to be admitting that our understanding of ancient technique is still very premature, based on a pinprick of sources available. Since Wikopedia is a great place for checking facts, I think it would be great to see the onus placed on what we have currently established. For example, if it could detail the earliest undisputed use of the whole sign system as ????, and the earliest undisputed use of Porphyry, Placidus, etc., etc. Admittedly, this tells us very little about which was the oldest system, because it only really shows the oldest example that we have been able to find. Generally though, wouldn’t Wikopedia be a perfect reservoir for those kinds of details that could be easily updated and corrected as new texts come to light, or students fall across something that has never been noticed before?
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woodwater



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Posted: Thu Mar 06, 2008 10:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

ok then how do you explain that at certain latitudes ascendant and descendant are in the same sign, MC is in Ascendant??. Astronomically Quadrant systems make no sense
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Deb
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Posted: Thu Mar 06, 2008 10:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

For an explanation, I’d defer to Mike Wackford and offer a link to his series on house division in polar regions: http://www.skyscript.co.uk/polar1.html

But astrology (as we know it) was not developed near to polar regions, so its ancient practitioners would never have experienced that problem, and that’s not what this thread is about. Unless someone is convinced that oldest is inevitably best, what does identifying the oldest system have to do with which system makes the best sense?
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###



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Posted: Thu Mar 06, 2008 12:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Yet Ptolemy we swallow hook line and sinker and there is not one single reference to an earlier work or author! Think about it - that's strange and it is not true with his greater work the Almagest! Sorry- there's something fishy with Ptolemy's astrology <g>!


So, could someone suggest what I and other lost souls should do about the fact that Ptolemy pretty much is the basis of the Western astrology we know?
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Andrew



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Posted: Thu Mar 06, 2008 12:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
In the Almagest, Ptolemy often goes out of his way to document his sources and reiterate earlier physics and mathematics and he clearly documents his corrections. In the Tetrabiblos there is not one documented source ... I question why he does not so assiduously document his sources as he does in his even larger and more detailed works ... It is this big deviation within Ptolemy's own works that raises questions.


Sharrock and Ash note that ancient historical writers tended to name their sources either when they were faced with contradictory accounts, or when their careful research had unearthed some particularly unusual material. I doubt the absence of source citations in the Tetrabiblos is indicative of anything other than our own suppositions and expectations.
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woodwater



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Posted: Thu Mar 06, 2008 12:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Deb wrote:
For an explanation, I’d defer to Mike Wackford and offer a link to his series on house division in polar regions: http://www.skyscript.co.uk/polar1.html

But astrology (as we know it) was not developed near to polar regions, so its ancient practitioners would never have experienced that problem, and that’s not what this thread is about. Unless someone is convinced that oldest is inevitably best, what does identifying the oldest system have to do with which system makes the best sense?


but itshould work for everyone not only people who live in temperate latitudes
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