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Wiebke Deimann, David Juste (Eds.

)
Astrologers and their Clients in Medieval
and Early Modern Europe

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BEIHEFTE
ZUM ARCHIV FÜR KULTURGESCHICHTE

IN VERBINDUNG MIT
KARL ACHAM, EGON BOSHOF, WOLFGANG BRÜCKNER, BERNHARD JAHN,
EVA-BETTINA KREMS, FRANK-LOTHAR KROLL,
GUSTAV ADOLF LEHMANN, TOBIAS LEUKER, HELMUT NEUHAUS,
NORBERT NUSSBAUM, STEFAN REBENICH

HERAUSGEGEBEN VON

KLAUS HERBERS

HEFT 73

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ASTROLOGERS
AND THEIR CLIENTS
IN MEDIEVAL AND
EARLY MODERN EUROPE

Edited by

Wiebke Deimann and David Juste

2015
BÖHLAU VERLAG KÖLN WEIMAR WIEN

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Bibliografische Information der Deutschen Nationalbibliothek:


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Deutschen Nationalbibliografie; detaillierte bibliografische Daten sind
im Internet über http://portal.dnb.de abrufbar.

Umschlagabbildung:
The astrologer presents his book to a prince. Astrological manuscript
addressed to Louis de Bruges (end of the 15th century).
Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, lat. 7321A, f. 1r.

© 2015 by Böhlau Verlag GmbH & Cie, Köln Weimar Wien


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Table of Contents

Klaus Herbers
Zum Geleit – As a Preface . . ..........................................................................................  7

Wiebke Deimann and David Juste


Astrologers and Their Clients in Medieval and Early Modern Europe –
Introduction  ..................................................................................................................  13

Charles Burnett
Introducing Astrology: Michael Scot’s Liber introductorius and
Other Introductions  .. ...................................................................................................  17

Benjamin N. Dykes
Practice and Counsel in Guido Bonatti  . . ..................................................................  29

Jean-Patrice Boudet
The Archbishop and the Astrologers:
A Robert de Mauvoisin’s questio in 1316  .. ................................................................  43

Robert Hand
Giovanni Villani and the Great Conjunction of 1345  ..........................................  63

Wiebke Deimann
Astrology in an Age of Transition. Johannes Lichtenberger and his Clients  . . ...  83

Stephan Heilen
Paul of Middelburg’s use of the Mathesis of Firmicus Maternus  ..........................  105

H. Darrel Rutkin
Astrology, Politics and Power in 16th-century Florence:
Giuliano Ristori’s Extensive Judgment on Cosimo I’s Nativity (1537)  ..............  139

David Juste
A Sixteenth-Century Astrological Consultation  . . ..................................................  151

Katrin Bauer
Johannes Kepler between two Emperors  .. ................................................................  205

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6 Table of Contents

Table of Astrological Symbols  ....................................................................................  221


Index of Names  .............................................................................................................  223
Index of Manuscripts  ...................................................................................................  229

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Klaus Herbers

Zum Geleit – As a Preface

Die Tagung „Astrologers and Their Clients in Medieval and Early Modern Europe“
fand am 29. und 30. 9. 2011 in Erlangen statt. Die Veranstaltung wurde möglich durch
das Internationale Kolleg für Geisteswissenschaftliche Forschung (IKGF) „Schicksal,
Freiheit und Prognose. Bewältigungsstrategienen in Ostasien und Europa“. Das IKGF
untersucht Vorstellungen von Schicksal, Freiheit und Prognose und wird seit nunmehr
fast sechs Jahren vom Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung gefördert. Ziel
unseres Projektes ist ein Vergleich der Schicksalsvorstellungen einer asiatischen Kul-
tur, die offensichtlich weniger Probleme mit dem Verhältnis der Berechenbarkeit des
Schicksals und dem freien Willen hatte (und hat) mit einer europäisch-westlichen Kul-
tur, die die prinzipielle Unerforschbarkeit des Ratschlusses der Götter bzw. des einen
Gottes zum Ausgangspunkt hatte.
Sieht man genauer in das Mittelalter und in die Frühe Neuzeit, dann zeigt sich
jedoch, wie differenziert Verhaltens- und Umgangsweisen sein konnten. Die Formie-
rung Europas im Mittelalter – ein großes Schwerpunktprogramm der DFG, an dem
Erlangen maßgeblich beteiligt war und ist – zeigt, dass Traditionen aus der Antike, aber
weiterhin christliche, arabisch-muslimische und jüdische Entwicklungen Europa präg-
ten. Die Deutung natürlicher Zeichen in Kalendern und von den Sternen bestimmte
die Lebenswelten, wie Landwirtschaft, Reisen, Kampftermine. Verfahren waren Stern-
deutung, Ermittlung von Mondphasen, Kalender, Visionen, Träume und Mirakel.
In seiner 2005 erschienenen Habilitationsschrift „Astrologie und Öffentlich-
keit im Mittelalter“ hat Gerd Mentgen darauf verwiesen, wie wenig die Mittelal-
terforschung sich bisher diesem Gebiet gewidmet hat, obwohl nach seiner Schät-
zung sechzigtausend mittelalterliche Handschriften sich mit astrologischen Fragen
beschäftigten.1 Johannes Fried hatte 2001 in einem großen Essay die Entstehung
naturwissenschaftlichen Denkens aus dem Geist der Apokalyptik skizziert und dabei
die Bedeutung der Astro­logie hervorgehoben.2 In diesem Buch konnte er aber auf
den in seiner Zeit bahnbrechenden Forschungen des in München am Ende des 19. und
zu Beginn des 20. Jahrhunderts lehrenden Historikers und Archivars Hermann Grau-
ert aufbauen, der am 6. Mai 1899 in der historischen Klasse der königlich-bayerischen

1 Gerd Mentgen, Astrologie und Öffentlichkeit, Stuttgart 2005, S. 5.


2 Johannes Fried, Aufstieg aus dem Untergang: apokalyptisches Denken und die Entstehung
der modernen Naturwissenschaft im Mittelalter, München 2001.

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8 Klaus Herbers

Akademie der Wissenschaften zu München einen Vortrag gehalten hatte, und 1901 in
den Sitzungsberichten der Akademie unter dem Titel „Meister Johann von Toledo“
veröffentlichte.3 Darin untersuchte er unter anderem den immer noch diskutier-
ten Toledobrief aus dem ausgehenden 12. Jahrhundert und ging vor allem auf die
Öffentlichkeitswirkung der Astrologie ein. – Das ist noch immer Thema, wie nicht
nur dieser Sammelband zeigt.4
Die genannten Arbeiten sowie die ersten Forschungen am IKGF in Erlangen zeigten,
daß gerade dieses Feld vormoderner Lebens- und Zukunftsdeutung noch keinesfalls
voll erschlossen ist. Fragt man sich, warum diese Aspekte lange Zeit im Hintergrund
der Mittelalterforschung standen, so liegt dies an einer Vielzahl von Gründen. Dazu
zählt unter anderem die theoretische Auseinandersetzung im Mittelalter selbst mit
diesen Fragen, denn christlicher Glaube und Sternenglaube waren nicht einfach zu
harmonisieren, obwohl die Bibel selbst solche Beispiele bereithielt, denkt man zum
Beispiel an die Träume des Alten Testaments oder an den Stern, der die drei Weisen
aus dem Morgenland zum göttlichen Kind führte. Trotzdem: Vorherbestimmung
durch die Sterne, göttlicher Wille und freie Entscheidung waren schwer in Einklang
zu bringen, und einer der ersten in Erlangen forschenden Fellows, Loris Sturlese, hat
diese theologisch-philosophischen Probleme und die verschiedenen Lösungsansätze
mit einigen Kolleginnen und Kollegen vor kurzem aus verschiedenen Perspektiven in
einem anderen Workshop vorgestellt.5
Zu dieser Spannung von Theologie und Praxis kommt eine zweite Schwierigkeit,
die damit zusammenhängt und auch die Vorträge dieses Workshops mitbestimmt:
Die Astrologie lebte nach der Antike weniger im lateinischen Westen als in anderen
Gebieten wie Byzanz oder im später dominierten arabischen Herrschaftsbereich fort.
Deshalb lohnt es sich, genauer hinzusehen. Die meisten Gebildeten im Mittelalter
glaubten durchaus in einem bestimmten Grad an Astrologie, an die Möglichkeiten,
daß Himmelkörper irdische Ereignisse beeinflussten. Sie waren sich meist auch der
antiken Wurzeln bewußt und führten die Astrologie entweder auf die „Chaldäer“ oder
die „Ägypter“ zurück.

3 Hermann Grauert, Meister Johann von Toledo (Sitzungsberichte der Philosophisch-Philo­


logischen und der Historischen Classe der Königl. Bayer. Akademie der Wissenschaften zu
München), München 1901.
4 Zum Toledobrief vgl. z. B. außer Mentgen, Astrologie (wie Anm. 1) und anderen vor allem
Dorothea Weltecke, Die Konjunktion der Planeten im September 1186. Zum Ursprung
einer globalen Katastrophenangst, in: Saeculum. Jahrbuch für Universalgeschichte 54 (2003),
S.  179 – 212 sowie Klaus Herbers, Blicke in die Zukunft im Mittelalter, in: Köztes-Európa
vonzásában, Ünnepi tanulmányok Font Márta tiszteletére, hg. von Dániel Bagi , Tamás
­Fedeles und Gergely Kiss, Pécs 2012, S. 199 – 214.
5 Loris Sturlese (Hg.), Mantik und Schicksal im Mittelalter (Beihefte zum Archiv für Kul-
turgeschichte 70), Wien–Köln 2011.

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As a Preface 9

Trotz vieler noch nicht ausreichend gesichteter Belege zur Astrologie im lateinischen
Westen aus dem frühen und hohen Mittelalter, die jenseits religiöser Bedenken auf die
Praxis der Sterndeutung verweisen, scheint deshalb ein wichtiger Schub der erneuten
Zuwendung durch die Rezeption antiker Wissensliteratur im 12. und 13. Jahrhundert
anzusiedeln zu sein. Im Osten war unter byzantinischer Herrschaft eine Schwächung
der klassischen griechischen Kultur und Sprache eingetreten, jedoch gab es Bestrebun-
gen, die alexandrinische Kultur zu erhalten. Übersetzungen wurden angefertigt, meist
ins Syrische, später auch ins Arabische. Hauptsächliche Erben der alexandrinischen
Wissenschaft wurden so die Araber. Von Bagdad aus verbreiteten sich Kenntnisse zur
Astronomie und Astrologie in die Gebiete der arabisch-muslimisch dominierten Welt.
Besonders in Spanien und Sizilien erreichten diese Kenntnisse den lateinisch bestimm-
ten Raum, sofern beide Kulturen miteinander in Beziehung traten.
Ein Höhepunkt der Rezeption arabischer Schriften wurde erst im 12. Jahrhundert
erreicht, viele der antiken Schriften, die ins Arabische übersetzt worden waren, aber
nicht alles – wie die neuere Forschung nachgewiesen hat – fand in Toledo einen ­willigen
Übersetzer. Oft waren dies Juden oder Christen, die unter arabisch-muslimischer Herr-
schaft gelebt hatten und mit dem Arabischen vertraut waren.
Ein herausragender und in die Breite wirkender Beitrag zur Astrologie waren jedoch
die alfonsinischen Tafeln, die „Tablas Alfonsíes“, die in den Jahren 1263 – 1272 auf Befehl
von König Alfons dem Weisen zusammengestellt wurden. Sie ermöglichten Orientie-
rung am Lauf der Gestirne. Diese Tafeln wurden bald in ganz Europa verbreitet und
bis ins 16. Jahrhundert für astrologische Berechnungen genutzt.
Sterndeutung und Expertenwissen der Astrologen waren das Thema der Tagung und sind
Thema des vorliegenden Sammelbandes, den Dr. Wiebke Deimann und Dr. David Juste sehr
sorgfältig zum Druck vorbereitet haben. In der Tagungsorganisation wurden sie vom Team
des IKGF unterstützt. Herr Dr. Hans-Christian Lehner hat die Drucklegung auf Seiten des
Kollegs begleitet und mein Begleitwort durchgesehen. Ihnen und allen Beteiligten danke
ich als einer der Direktoren des IKGF auch auch an dieser Stelle herzlich für ihre Mühe.

As a Preface

The conference “Astrologers and their Clients in Medieval and Early Modern Europe”
was held in Erlangen on 29 – 30 September 2011. It was made possible by the International
Consortium for Research in the Humanities (IKGF) “Fate, Freedom and Prognos­tication.
Strategies for Coping with the Future in East Asia and Europe”. The IKGF examines
notions of fate, freedom and forecasting and has been funded by the Federal Ministry
of Research for nearly six years. The aim of our project is to compare the notions of fate
prevalent in Asian culture, which obviously had (and has) fewer problems with the ratio
of the predictability of fate and free will, with those in the European-Western culture,
which tends to explore the resolutions of the gods to a far less extent.

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10 Klaus Herbers

A closer look into the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Age, however, reveals
how differentiated the ways of behaving and acting can be. The formation of Europe
in the Middle Ages – a great Research Priority Program of the DFG with the signifi­
cant participation of Erlangen – shows that the traditions from ancient times, but still
Christian, Arabic-Muslim and Jewish developments, dominated Europe. The inter-
pretation of natural signs or the stars determined the world; that is, agriculture, travel,
and the dates of battles. Techniques like astrology, the determination of the moon’s
phases, the calendar, visions, dreams and miracles were used for the determination.
In his postdoctoral lecture qualification, published in 2005, Gerd Mentgen pointed
out how little medieval research has been devoted to this area although, by his estimate,
sixty thousand medieval manuscripts were occupied with astrological issues. 6 In 2001,
Johannes Fried outlined in an essay the origin of scientific thought in the apocalyptic
spirit and underlined the importance of astrology. 7 However, in this book, he was able to
build on the pioneering research of the historian and archivist Hermann ­Grauert, who
taught in Munich at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. Grauert
gave a lecture to the history class of the Royal Bavarian Academy of Sciences in Munich
on May 6, 1899. In 1901, he published his lecture in the proceedings of the Academy. 8
Therein, he examined, among other things, the still widely-discussed Toledo letter from
the late 12th century and enlarged mainly upon the publicity of astrology. This is still
subject to discussion, as not only this anthology shows. 9
The works mentioned and the first research at the “International Consortium for
Research in the Humanities” at Erlangen have shown that this particular field of pre-­
modern life and future interpretation is still by no means fully developed. If one wonders
why, for a long time, these aspects featured in the background of medie­val studies, it is due
to a variety of reasons. These include, among other things, the theore­tical discussion of
these issues in the Middle Ages, because Christian faith and faith in the stars were diffi­
cult to harmonise, even though the Bible itself holds such ­examples, such as the dreams
mentioned in the Old Testament or the star that lead the three wise men from the east
to the Christ Child. Nevertheless, the concepts of predetermination by the stars, divine
will and free decision were hard to reconcile. One of the first research fellows at Erlan-
gen, Loris Sturlese, recently presented with colleagues at another workshop from diffe­
rent perspectives these theological-philosophical ­problems and their various solutions. 10
This tension between theory and practice is just one problem. There is a second diffi­
culty that relates to this subject (and was also presented at this workshop): after the
Ancient period, astrology lived on less in the Latin West than in other areas such as

6 Mentgen, Astrologie (see note 1), p. 5.


7 Fried, Aufstieg (see note 2).
8 Grauert, Meister Johann (see note 3).
9 See note 4 for references.
10 Sturlese, Mantik (see note 5).

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As a Preface 11

Byzantium or in later Arab-dominated dominions. Therefore it is worth a closer look.


In the Middles Ages, most educated persons believed to a certain extent in astrology
and in the possibility that terrestrial events can be influenced by celestial bodies. Usually,
they were also aware of the ancient roots and that astrology can be traced back either
to the “Chaldeans” or the “Egyptians”.
Despite the many not yet sufficiently assured documents on astrology in the Latin
West from the Early and High Middle Ages, that refer beyond the religious concerns to
the practice of astrology, it seems nevertheless that an important thrust of the renewed
attention caused by the reception of ancient scientific literature is to be focused on
the 12th and 13th centuries. In the east, under Byzantine rule, a weakening of the classi­
cal Greek culture and language had occurred, but there have been efforts to preserve the
Alexandrian culture. Translations were copied, mostly into Syrian, and later also into
Arabic, so, consequently, the Arabs became the principal heirs of Alexandrian s­ cience.
Knowledge of astronomy and astrology spread from Baghdad to the territories of the
Arab-­Muslim-dominated world. Especially in Spain and Sicily, this knowledge reached
the Latin-­dominated territory, thus ensuring that both cultures were correlated with
each other.
The peak of the reception of Arabic writings was only reached in the 12th century.
Many of the ancient writings that have been translated into Arabic, but not everything –
as recent research has shown – found in Toledo a willing translator. Often, it were
Jews or Christians who had lived under Arab-Muslim rule and were familiar with the
Arabic language.
However, an outstanding and overall-effective contribution to astrology were the
Alfonsine Tables, the “Tablas Alfonsíes”, compiled on the order of King Alfonso “the
Wise” in the years 1263 – 1272. They offered orientation by the course of celestial ­bodies.
These tables soon became widespread throughout Europe and used for astrological cal-
culations until the 16th century.
Astrology and astrologers’ expertise were and are the subject of the conference
and this collection, which has been thoroughly prepared for printing by Dr. Wiebke
­Deimann and Dr. David Juste . In organising the conference they were supported by
the team at the IKGF. Dr. Hans-Christian Lehner accompanied the printing process
on sides of the IKGF and perused my preface. I would like to take this opportunity to
thank them and everyone involved sincerely for their efforts (as one of the directors
of the IKGF).

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Wiebke Deimann and David Juste

Astrologers and Their Clients in Medieval


and Early Modern Europe – Introduction

The contributions to this volume were originally presented at the conference “Astro­
logers and Their Clients in Medieval and Early Modern Europe” held in Erlangen
on 29 – 30 September 2011, which was organised under the auspices of the Inter­national
Consortium for Research in the Humanities “Fate, Freedom and Prognostication.
Strategies for Coping with the Future in East Asia and Europe” (IKGF) of the Uni-
versity of Erlangen, an interdisciplinary research centre established by the German
Federal Ministry of Education and Research in 2009, and whose participants were
Monica Azzolini, Katrin Bauer, Jean-Patrice Boudet, Charles Burnett, László Sándor
Chardonnens, Wiebke Deimann, Benjamin Dykes, Robert Hand, Stephan Heilen,
David Juste and Darrel Rutkin.
We would like to express our gratitude to the International Consortium for its funding
and continued support, particularly during the conference organisation: among others
to Klaus Herbers, Petra Hahm, Katrin Bauer and Hans-Christian Lehner. We are also
grateful to Elena Mohr and Susanne Kummer from Böhlau. Our greatest debt is to the
authors for taking part in the conference and contributing to this volume. We are very
grateful for their patience in what has been a long journey to see this book in print.
While the history of European astrology has received a great deal of scholarly atten-
tion over the past 25 years, we still know very little about the astrological practices
themselves. The aim of the conference was to investigate the various forms of interac-
tion between astrologers and their clients, and more generally between astrology and
society, in Western Europe from c. 1200 to 1700. Questions which the organisers asked
the contributors to focus on included the following:
•• Who are the astrologers and what do they do? What are their role and status (at
court, university and other places)? What services do they offer? What are their
sources and methods of working? How do they interpret horoscopes? Is there
any limitation, whether technical or philosophical, in the range of questions they
can answer?
•• Who are the clients? What are their motivations, expectations and concerns? To
what extent did astrological counseling affect their personal and public life?
•• What is the reputation of astrology and astrologers among the general public? Why
was astrology (apparently) more popular than other counseling practices? What is
it that distinguishes a “good” from a “bad” astrologer?

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14 Wiebke Deimann and David Juste

The nine articles in this volume offer a variety of answers to these questions in v­ arious
historical, political and social contexts from the thirteenth to the seventeenth cen-
tury, in Italy, France, Germany, the Low Countries and at the imperial court in Prague.
While most articles deal with court astrologers, we also encounter town astrologers,
obscure astrologers who are not attested elsewhere, occasional astrologers and non-
astro­logers who were nonetheless knowledgeable and skilled in the art. The ­clients and
other participants include emperors, princes, popes, archbishops, courtiers, humanists,
middle-class citizens and, of course, the intended readership for the texts that were sent
to the printing press. Nearly all astrological practices are represented, including the-
oretical treatises covering all branches of astrology, judgements on the great conjunc-
tions and judgements on interrogations and nativities, collections of horoscopes, astral
magic etc. The exploited documents range from literary sources to purely astrological
texts, from printed texts which became immensely popular to private consultations
and correspondence that survive in manuscripts and archival sources only. Two texts
are published in this volume for the first time, namely a fourteenth-century judgement
on an interrogation (Boudet) and a sixteenth-century judgement on a nativity ( Juste).
With the nine topics analysed here we are not raising a claim on completeness or
on exemplariness. Instead, with this volume we hope to show how multifaceted astro-
logical practice in Medieval and Early Modern Europe was regarding its agents, its
techniques, as well as its social settings. The volume comprises case studies that focus
on astrologers and their clients from different angles, thereby opening up a panorama
of astrological practices, while presenting latest research findings which include two
editions of astrological sources.
“Introductions” to astrology represent an important part of astrological literature of
the Middle Ages. Under the title Liber introductorius, Introductorius or Introductorium,
they explain the basic concepts and doctrines, whose knowledge is necessary before
proceeding with the more specialised branches of astrology and the interpretation of
horoscopes. In his article, Charles Burnett analyses these “introductions” as a genre of
writing. Starting with their Greek (eisagōgē) and Arabic (mudkhal) roots, the article
focuses on the Latin tradition and in particular on Michael Scot’s Liber introductorius
(early thirteenth century).
Guido Bonatti (c. 1210 – 1290) is one of the most famous medieval astrologers and
the author of one of the most complete astrological treatises ever written, the Liber
introductorius ad iudicia stellarum. Benjamin Dykes, who is also the translator of this
text into English, investigates the question of what it meant, for Bonatti, to be a con-
sulting astrologer. Far from being an author only, Bonatti was a practising astrologer
who had a wide variety of clients at all levels and in various places in Italy. His Liber
introductorius contains a wealth of personal observations about his clients, as well as
about himself and the political and social context of his time.
Jean-Patrice Boudet offers a technical analysis and an edition of a document
recently discovered in the Secret Archives of the Vatican, namely a judgement on an

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Introduction 15

“interrogation”, or a question asked by the client to the astrologer on a specific topic. This
docu­ment is remarkable not only because very few judgements on interrogations survive,
but also because of the people involved and its political context. The question was posed
by the archbishop of Aix-en-Provence, Robert de Mauvoisin, on 3 September 1316, soon
after the election of pope John XXII. ­Mauvoisin, who feared the new pope, was eager
to know what would happen to him after the election of John XXII. ­The judgement
is also remarkable because Mauvoisin put the question to two astrologers separately,
and both responses are preserved in the document, which turns out to be part of the
proceedings of a trial instructed by John XXII in Avignon in December 1317, against
Mauvoisin, who had been accused of divinatory and other illicit practices.
Astronomical and astrological expertise was not the preserve of professional astro­
logers. It was used in a variety of literary sources, including historiography, as an aid to
understand the deeper meaning of past and current events. This is illustrated by ­Robert
Hand, who devotes his article to the account of the great conjunction of Saturn and
Jupiter in 1345 found in Giovanni Villani’s famous chronicle of Florence. Villani, who
was above all a banker and a diplomat, demonstrates an unusual interest for and under-
standing of the astronomical and astrological technicalities. He reports the celestial
positions of three horoscopes related to the great conjunction and he also discusses the
triple conjunction Saturn–Jupiter–Mars of October 1345 and the great conjunctions
of 1305 and 1325.
Johannes Lichtenberger became one of the most renowned – and controversial –
astrologers of the Renaissance after the publication of his Pronosticatio (1488). Yet
Lichtenberger had a long career not only as an author, but also as a consulting astro­
loger. Wiebke Deimann sheds new light on his relationship with his clients and r­ eaders
through four texts, namely his extensive judgement on the nativity of duke Louis IX
of Bavaria-Landshut (1471); his judgement on the conjunction of Saturn and Mars
of 1473, printed in 1475; his Pronosticatio, which is essentially an astrological-prophetic
judgement on the great conjunction of 1484 and which was printed in Latin in 1488
and soon after in German; and his annotated collection of horoscopes of members of
the family Brandenburg-Bayreuth, recently discovered in an autograph manuscript,
­probably compiled in the last years of Lichtenberger’s life (1501 – 1503).
Lichtenberger’s Pronosticatio was largely inspired – in fact plagiarised – from Paul
of Middelburg’s Prognosticum, a long and very elaborate judgement on the great con-
junction of 1484 addressed to emperor Maximilian I of Habsburg and printed in 1484.
Stephan Heilen shows how the structure, style and content of the Prognosticum were
deeply inspired by Firmicus Maternus’s Mathesis (fourth century A. D.). Yet Firmicus
is named only once in the text, while authorities relevant to the topic, like Abū Ma‘šar,
Māšā’allāh and other Arabic astrologers, are named several times but actually used only
on a few occasions. The article addresses the reasons behind this apparent contradiction.
Darrel Rutkin focuses on the judgement on the nativity of Cosimo I de’ Medici
written in 1537 by Giuliano Ristory, a professor of theology, who is also known to have

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16 Wiebke Deimann and David Juste

taught astrology and mathematics at the University of Pisa. The judgement was made
soon after Cosimo had been elected duke of Florence at the age of seventeen and at
a critical moment in Florentine political history. The article analyses both the private
and public uses of Cosimo’s nativity.
In the next contribution David Juste deals with another judgement on a nativity,
which vastly differs in scope and implications, as well as in the status and rank of the
participants. It is the nativity of a middle- to upper-class official of Mechelen in the
duchy of Brabant, named Joannes Sillyers, but otherwise unknown. The judgement was
written in Deventer in 1566 by the town astrologer Willelmus Misocacus, who seems
to have had at best a superficial knowledge of his client. The article includes a technical
analysis and an edition of the text.
Finally, Katrin Bauer concentrates on Johannes Kepler as imperial mathematician at
the court of Rudolf II in 1611 – 1612, that is in the last years of the emperor’s reign and
at a time when he was gradually losing power to his brother Matthias. Four of Kepler’s
documents are analysed here. The first three are letters written in reply to Rudolf ’s ques-
tions between 1606 and 1611, where astrological configurations about recent political
events and the relationships between Rudolf and Matthias are discussed. The fourth
document is a letter addressed in April 1611 to an anonymous nobleman closely associated
to the emperor. These letters portray Kepler in a delicate position, not only “between
two emperors”, but also between science and politics.

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Charles Burnett

Introducing Astrology: Michael Scot’s Liber introductorius


and Other Introductions

If you are wanting to learn a new craft, a new skill, or become familiar with a new sub-
ject, you may well turn to a book that has “introduction” in its title: “An introduction to
bicycle maintenance”, “An introduction to fluid mechanics”, “An introduction to Japa-
nese Calligraphy”. Conversely, any book or leaflet with the title “Introduction” would be
expected to be aimed at those people who know little about the subject concerned, and
would be expected to provide basic information or instructions, which can be followed by
more detailed and in-depth works on the subject.1 This too, might be expected in the case
of Michael Scot’s “liber introductorius”, and is stated explicitly in the opening sentence:

Incipit prohemium libri introductorii quem edidit Michael Scottus, astrologus ­Frederici
imperatoris Romanorum et semper augusti, quem ad eius preces in astronomia leviter
composuit propter scolares novicios et pauperes intellectu …2
Here begins the preface of the introductory book which Michael Scot, the astro­loger
of Frederick the ever-noble Emperor of the Romans, which he composed on the ­science
of the stars, in an easy way, according to his (the Emperor’s) wishes, for scholars who
are still novices and poor in intellect …

And this sentiment is repeated at the end of the preface:

Volumus librum totius artis collectum pro noviciis scolaribus incipere ordinate qui
merito dici potest “introductorius”.3

1 Note that this article concerns introductions as separate books rather than introductions as
the first chapter within books (although there is some overlap between the two subjects). The
latter is the focus of Jaap Mansfeld, Prolegomena: Questions to be Settled before the Study
of an Author, or a Text, Leiden 1994, and Carlo Santini, Nino Scivoletto and Loriano
Zurli (eds.), Prefazioni, prologhi, proemi di opere tecnico-scientifiche latine, 3 vols., Rome
1990 – 1998. I am grateful for the comments and advice of David Juste and Michele Ferrari,
and audiences in Erlangen and the School of Oriental and African Studies, London.
2 All quotations are taken from MS Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, lat. 10268 (= M),
available on the website of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, here M, f. 1r.
3 M, fol. 19v (see note 2).

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We want to begin this book of the whole art, collected for novice scholars, in a
well-ordered way, which rightly can be called “introductory” (or “an introduction”).

And yet, unlike what one would expect from an introduction, the work extends over 146
closely written folios, in two columns in its main manuscript, Munich, Bayerische
Staatsbibliothek, Clm 10268. Moreover, even this manuscript does not contain the
whole work, as it was intended by the author. For the proemium to the work states
quite clearly that ‘this book consists of three books: a first one comprising four separate
parts (“distinctiones”), a second one which is a single book, and we call this “the parti­
cular (book)”…; and a third book which is called “(the book) of physiognomy”.4 That
these divisions are followed is clear from the rubrics to each “distinctio” (e. g., f. 118rb:
“explicit secunda distinctio primi libri, nunc incipit tertia”). The first book of the Liber
introductorius, therefore, can be called the Liber quatuor distinctionum, the second book,
the Liber particularis, and the third, the Liber physiognomie.5 In the extant manuscripts
the fourth book of the Liber quatuor distinctionum is missing. Even so, we are dealing
with a vast body of information. Could this be called an “introduction” in our sense
of the word? Already there is a hint that we have in our hands something other than
a mere introduction in that, as we have seen, Michael says “this is a book of the whole
art, collected for novice students”. But a hint of the significance of a book that “can be
called ‘introductory’” can be taken from Michael’s predecessors.
The “introduction” is a genre of writing already in the context of Classical learning.
The Greek term is eisagōgē, the Latin, introductio. Pseudo-Soranus in his Medical
Questions starts by asking:

Quid est isagoga? isagoga est introductio doctrinae cum demonstratione


primarum rationum.
What is an eisagōgē? An eisagōgē is an introduction to the teaching, with a demon-
stration of the basic arguments.6

And Isidore of Seville in his Etymologies defines it thus:

Isagoga […] graece, latine introductio dicitur, eorum scilicet qui philosophiam incipiunt.

4 “Hic enim liber constat ex tribus libris: primus quidem constat ex quattuor distinctionibus;
secundus liber est simplex, et ipsum librum appellamus ‘particularem’…; tercius vero liber
dicitur ‘physionomie’”, M, fol. 19v (see note 2).
5 Charles Burnett, Michael Scot and the Transmission of Scientific Culture from Toledo to
Bologna via the Court of Frederick II Hohenstaufen, in: Micrologus 2 (1994), pp. 101 – 126,
at p. 101, n. 4.
6 Pseudo-Soranus; the relevant passages are conveniently listed in Thesaurus linguae lati-
nae 7, 1, Leipzig 1951 – 1964, p. 489, 48 – 49.

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Introducing Astrology 19

Eisagōgē […] in Greek is called “introductio” in Latin, i. e. of those things which


begin philosophy.7

And these definitions are borne out by the texts themselves: Porphyry’s (c. 234 – 305
A. ­D.) Eisagōgē in Greek and in its Latin translation by Boethius (also “Isagoge”) is a
short introduction to the basic terms used in logic, as we learn from its opening words:

To understand Aristotle’s categories, Chrysaorius, one must know the nature of genus,
difference, species, property and accident. This knowledge is also useful for giving defi-
nitions and generally for division and demonstration. I shall make for you a concise
review of this traditional teaching as befits an introduction […] I shall avoid deeper
issues and in a few words try to explain the simpler notions.8

Nicomachus of Gerasa (c. 100 A. D.) wrote an introduction to arithmetic (eisagōgē


arithmētikē) which, again, Boethius translated, this time bringing out in the title its role
in teaching: “De institutione arithmetica”. It contrasts with a longer work by N
­ icomachus
which he called the “Art of arithmetic” (technē arithmētikē).9 Galen wrote an “intro-
duction to logic”, while an “introduction to medicine” also passes under his name.10
Finally, specifically in the field of astrology, Paulus Alexandrinus in the fourth century
wrote an Eisagōgika (“introductory matters”), which give a brief summary of astrologi-
cal doctrine, appropriate as a basis for a commentary by Olympiodorus.11 And Ptolemy,
while not calling his Tetrabiblos an introduction, goes out of his way to state that he is
“following the form of the introduction”.12
These introductions are all relatively short, simply written manuals, covering in a
summary way the most important elements of the subject. They are meant for begin-
ners in the subject, and use an appropriate style – often that of question and answer. To
quote Pseudo-Soranus again:

7 Isidori Hispalensis episcopi Etymologiarum sive originum libri XX, II, xxv, 1, ed. Wallace
Martin Lindsay, 2 vols, Oxford 1911, vol. 1 (s. p.).
8 Porphyry, Isagoge et in Aristotelis Categorias commentarium, I, 1 – 8, ed. Adolf Busse,
Berlin, 1887 (Commentaria in Aristotelem Graeca 4, 1), p. 1. See also Christina Thomsen
Thörnqvist’s discussion of Boethius’s concept of an introduction in her own introduction
to Boethius, De syllogismo categorico, Studia Graeca et Latina Gothoburgensia, LXVIII,
Gothenburg 2008, pp. xviii–xx.
9 This text no longer exists.
10 Gerhard Fichtner, Corpus Galenicum. Verzeichnis der galenischen und pseudogalenischen
Schriften, Tübingen 1989, no. 87, p. 53: Eisagōgē ē iatros.
11 Ibid., no. 300, p. 103: Eisagōgē dialektikē.
12 Ptolemy, Apotelesmatica (Tetrabiblos), I.3.20, ed. Wolfgang Hübner (Claudii Ptolemaei opera
quae exstant omnia 3,1), Leipzig 1998, p. 22: ποιησόμεθα δε ἤδη τὸν λόγον κατὰ τὸν εἰσαγωγικὸν
τρόπον (“We shall now conduct our discussion after the manner of an introduction”).

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Quoniam utilior videtur eis qui ad medicinam introducuntur, interrogationum et


responsionum modus […] brevi in controversia isagoga tradenda illis.
Since the method of questions and answers seems more useful for those who are
introduced to medicine […] an eisagōgē taking the form of a brief discussion should
be given to them.13

The term and genre was taken over into Arabic. Just as the Greek and Latin words come
from the verb “to lead into” (“eisagein”, “introducere”), so the Arabic term “mudkhal”
is the verbal noun from the fourth form of d-kh-l: while the primary form of dakhala
means to “enter”, the fourth form means “to make to enter”, i. e. “to introduce”, and the
verbal noun from this is “mudkhal”. The title of Nicomachus’s Eisagōgē arithmētikē was
translated as kitāb al-mudkhal ilā ‘ilm al-‘adad (“Book of the introduction to the art
of numbers”). That the mudkhal is regarded as a genre with distinct characteristics is
indicated in the opening words of al-Qabīṣī’s Introduction to Astrology:

When I looked at all the astrologers of the past who composed books which they called
“introductions” (madākhil) to this profession, some did not provide everything that was
needed in an introduction, and some were too prolix, bringing in things that were not
necessary and necessary things were omitted, and some did not follow the right order
of instruction in their arrangement of the material. I composed this book and put it
together as an introduction, collecting in it from the sayings of my predecessors all that
is needed for the profession, following the method of an introduction (my emphases).14

If we look at Fuat Sezgin’s volumes on Arabic literature written before 1031 we find nume­
rous examples of books with the title “al-mudkhal” or “kitāb al-mudkhal” (“the book of
the introduction”), including 28 in the field of astrology alone.15 In fact, virtually every
Arabic astrologer of note has a kitāb al-mudkhal, whether extant or still to be identified:
these include, in roughly chronological order, Māshā’allāh, Abū ‘Alī (Ibn) al-Khayyāṭ,
Abū Sahl ibn Naubakht, Muḥammad ibn ‘Umar ibn al-Farrukhān, al-Kindī, Abū Ma’shar
al-Balkhī, al-Qaṣrānī, Abū l-Qāsim al-Balkhī, al-Sijzī, and Kushyār ibn Labbān.
While al-Qabīṣī’s mid-tenth century “Introduction” was enormously popular in Arabic
(where it “ranked among the works on the stars like Ḥamāsa among Arabic poetry”)16
and Latin (as we shall see, and according to John of Saxony “debet legi ante omnem

13 Pseudo-Soranus (see note 6), p. 489, 45 – 47.


14 Al-Qabīṣī (Alcabitius), The Introduction to Astrology. Editions of the Arabic and Latin
Texts and an English Translation, eds. Charles Burnett, Keiji Yamamoto and Michio
Yano, London–Turin 2004, Introductorius, I, 3 – 9, p. 19.
15 Fuat Sezgin, Geschichte des arabischen Schrifttums, 12 vols., Leiden 1967 – 2000, 7: Astro­
logie, Metereologie und Verwandtes bis ca. 430 H., Leiden 1979, p. 461.
16 Alcabitius, Introductorius (see note 14), p. 1.

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Introducing Astrology 21

librum iudiciorum astrorum”17), Kushyār’s eleventh-century introduction served to


introduce the science of astrology into Persian and Turkish and, in the late fourteenth
century, into Chinese.18
Al-Sijzī (second half of tenth century) stated that his aim in his introduction was
“to give the reader a summarised presentation of the elementary problems and terms of
astrology”,19 and this is what we find in the other works under this title: generally, short
chapters, and a simple style. We find instances of the use of question and answer, not
only in the well-known “introduction to medicine” of the doyen of translators from
Greek into Arabic, Ḥunayn ibn Isḥāq (also called “medical questions for students”:
“masā’il fi-l-ṭibb li-l-muta‘allimīn”),20 but also in a lost astrological text by the philo­
sopher al-Kindī, entitled “risāla fī mudkhal al-aḥkām ‘alā l-masā’il” (“the letter on the
introduction to judgements according to questions”).21 An introduction to arithmetic
by the mathematician Abū l-Wafā’ al-Būzajānī (940 – 997) is characterized as being
good for memorizing: “al-mudkhal al-ḥifzī fi’l-arithmātīqī” (“the memorizing intro-
duction to arithmetic”).22
A typical example of an introduction is that of al-Qabīṣī. It is structured in a very
well-organised way. The first chapter deals with the zodiac, describing it first in respect
to its essential conditions and then its accidental conditions. In each case, al-Qabīṣī
progresses from the larger divisions to the smaller ones – from circle and semicircles
through quadrants, triplicities, and signs to individual degrees, and from quarters of
the sky to individual houses or places. He ends the first chapter with a brief account of
how one can work out the mustawālin – the planet that is most relevant for a particu-
lar topic. Then come the planets: the second chapter on their essential characteristics –
their proper­ties, the third chapter on their accidental conditions, in respect to where
they are in the circle. The fourth chapter is devoted to astrological terminology over
the full range of astrological genres, and the last chapter deals with the lots. The same
information is found in the other introductions that I know, in slightly different orders,
but always with the lots coming at the end.
But in the Arabic tradition we find a conspicuous exception to the usual form of
concise introduction. We have a “great introduction”; something for which, I believe,
there is no precedent in the Greek tradition, and something which, on first sight, would
seem a contradiction of terms. How can an introductory work be of large dimensions?

17 John of Saxony, Commentary, in: Alcabitius, Libellus isagogicus ad magisterium iudicio-


rum astrorum, Paris 1521, fol. 34r.
18 Kušyār ibn Labbān, Introduction to Astrology, ed. and trans. Michio Yano (Studia cul-
turae islamicae 62),Tokyo 1997.
19 Sezgin, Geschichte (see note 15), 7, p. 178.
20 Ibid., 3: Medizin, Pharmazie, Zoologie, Tierheilkunde bis ca. 430 H., pp. 249 – 251.
21 Ibid., 7, p. 134.
22 Ibid, 5: Mathematik bis ca. 430 H., p. 325, 13 and 7, p. 408.

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And yet this is what we have in the “kitāb al-mudkhal” of Abū Ma’shar (787 – 886): a
work c­ onsisting of eight lengthy “treatises” (maqālāt) containing, altogether, 108 chap-
ters ( fuṣūl).23 The justification for this work being called an “introduction” is not its
summary or compendious nature, but rather because it takes up another aspect that is
charac­teristic of an introduction: it contains all that is necessary for the art. Some of Abū
Ma’shar’s ­opening words are remarkably similar to those quoted above from the preface
to al-Qabīṣī’s Introduction, but others are different: What we have here is the emphasis
on providing “all that is necessary for a beginner”. There is no mention of brevity, but,
in distinction to al-Qabīṣī and other writers of introductions, Abū Ma’shar mentions
the need to provide the causes and the arguments for astrological doctrines. In fact, we
have another work by Abū Ma’shar called “The Book of The Abbreviation of the Intro-
duction” (kitāb mukhṭasar al-mudkhal), which strips the Book of the Introduction of all
discussions of causes, arguments and philosophical and historical digressions, and leaves
only the doctrine and terms of astrology, with the result that it is very similar to other
Arabic introductions to astrology. The tenth-century Arabic bibliographer, Ibn al-­Nadīm,
refers to two works of Abū Ma’shar called respectively the “The Book of the Great (kabīr)
Introduction” and the “The Book of the Small (ṣaghīr) Introduction”,24 and with these
titles he might be referring to the two Arabic introductions I have just mentioned. It
must be noted, however, that, in the Arabic manuscripts Abū Ma’shar’s masterwork is
simply called “the introduction to astrology” or even “the introduction” tout court, and
it is on this work that his reputation was made, to such an extent that even in the Latin
context, many centuries later, Abū Ma’shar is still referred to as “the Greater Introducer”:
for in the windows of the Library of St Albans Abbey there used to be inscribed the verse:

magnus et Albumasar introductor vocitabar


I, Albumasar, used to be called “the Great Introducer”25

23 Ibn al-Nadīm refers to a text by Sahl ibn Bishr under the title “al-mudkhal al-kabīr” alongside a
“mudkhal al-ṣaghīr” (neither have been identified). To al-Kindī is also attributed a “al-mudkhal
al-awsaṭ” (“middle introduction”): Ibn al-Nadīm, Kitāb al-Fihrist, ed. Ayman Fu’ād Sayyid, 4
vols., London 2009, 2, p. 235, English translation by Bayard Dodge, The Fihrist of al-Nadīm.
A tenth-century survey of Muslim culture, 2 vols., New York–London 1970, 2, p. 652. Another
longer text is that by Abū Naṣr al-Munajjim al-Qummī (perhaps tenth century), which consists
of five treatises and 64 chapters (Sezgin, Geschichte [see note 15] 7, pp. 174 – 175), but it is
significant that this is described also as “al-bāri‘” – i. e. “the brilliant/­outstanding” – the same
word as that used for ’Alī Ibn Abī-l-Rijāl’s massive work. Exactly the same number of treatises
and chapters occur in al-Ṣūfī’s (d. 986) k. al-mudkhal ilā ‘ilm an-nujūm wa-aḥkāmihā (“intro-
duction to the science and judgements of the stars”; Sezgin, Geschichte (see note 15) 7, p. 168.
24 Ibn al-Nadīm, Fihrist, ed. Sayyid, (see note 23), pp. 242 – 243; transl. Dodge (see note
23), p. 657.
25 This is adjacent to the inscription “maximus astronomus reputatus eram Thomoleus”; quoted
from Camb. Antiq. Soc. 8˚ S. ­VIII, 219 – 220, in: The Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British

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Introducing Astrology 23

So, I come at last to the medieval Latin context. Medieval Latin scholarship owed the
concept and genre of the introduction to both the Classical and the Arabic tradition.
The Classical words, eisagōgē (usually in the forms “isagoga” or “isagoge”, regarded as
nominative singular and a nominative plural respectively) and “introductio” are retained.
For example, a general introduction to astrology by Abraham Ibn Ezra is entitled, in its
translation from Hebrew, “Liber introductionis ad iudicia astrologie”,26 and the separately
occurring book VIII of ‘Alī ibn Abī-l-Rijāl’s De iudiciis astrorum begins “Incipit liber
ipsius Haly necessarius ad introductionem iudiciorum” (note the reference to necessity
again).27 “Isagoge”, on the other hand, was used in the title of the late tenth-century
South-Italian translation of Ḥunayn ibn Isḥāq’s Introduction to Medicine (or Medical
Questions), and as the “Isagoge Iohannicii” this text was used as the first of the collection
of texts providing the basics of medicine, the Articella.28 It was also chosen by Adelard
of Bath, passing through Southern Italy in the early twelfth century, when he came to
translate Abū Ma’shar’s Abbreviation of the Introduction as the “Ysagoga Minor”29 ‒ this,
too, being an introductory text in respect to the large range of astrological texts that
were to be translated later.
In the more literal translations of astrological texts which we associate with the Toledo,
we find that the preferred Latin term is “introductorius”, either as an adjective: “liber
introductorius”, or as a noun standing on its own: “introductorius”. While “introduc­
torius” occasionally appears in Late Classical Latin as an adjective meaning “introduc-
tory” it is never used as a noun or in the title of a book; we must assume it has been
chosen as a calque on the Arabic. E. g., John of Seville, the translator of al-Qabīṣī’s Intro-
duction (shortly before 1135) appears to have used the term “introductorius” as a noun,
if we survey the majority and the most authoritative of the 200 manuscript witnesses.
Some manuscripts add “liber”, making “introductorius” an adjective; others substitute
“ysagoge”30. The same noun “introductorius” is used in John of Seville’s translation of
Abū Ma’shar’s Great Introduction (1133): “Incipit liber in quo est maior introductorius
Abumasar astrologi ad scientiam iudiciorum astrorum…”, with one mansucript giving

Sources, eds. Robert E. ­Latham and David Howlett, London 1975–, s. v. “introductor”.
26 This is the explicit of Henry Bate of Mechelen translation of Ibn Ezra’s Mishpetei ha-mazalot
in MS Leipzig, Universitätsbibliothek, 1466, s. XIV, fol. 37rb–48ra. This and the following
refe­rence are taken from the catalogue of Medieval Latin Translations of Works on Astro­
nomy and Astrology (c. 1110–c . 1400) being prepared by David Juste and Charles Burnett.
27 MS Würzburg, Universitätsbibliothek, M. ch. fol. 130, s. XV, fol. 89v–121v.
28 Danielle Jacquart, ‘A l’aube de la renaissance médicale des XIe-XIIe siècles: L›”Isagoge
­Johannitii” et son traducteur’, in: Bibliothèque de l’École des Chartes 144 (1986), pp. 209 – 240.
29 Abu Ma‘šar, The Abbreviation of the Introduction to Astrology, together with the Medie­val
Latin translation of Adelard of Bath, ed. and transl. Charles Burnett, with Michio Yano
and Keiji Yamamoto, Leiden–New York–Cologne 1994.
30 Alcabitius, Introductorius (see note 14), p. 199.

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24 Charles Burnett

“Isagoge” (B) and the work being refered to as “Ysagoge Japharis” by Daniel of Morley 31.
“Liber introductorius” (not “introductorium”) is also used as the title of the first work
of a corpus of astrological texts by Sahl Ibn Bishr, also translated by John of Seville 32.
But other Arabic-Latin translators also used the term “introductorius”. Hermann of
Carinthia made a second translation of Abū Ma’shar’s Great Introduction in 1140, to
which the title “introductorius” as a noun appears in three manuscripts (FHR), whereas
“liber introductorius” appears in two others (MO).33
So, we have arrived back at the title of Michael Scot’s text. Michael’s “Liber intro-
ductorius” apparently follows the model of Abū Ma’shar’s Introductorius maior, rather
than that of the same author’s Ysagoga minor or of Sahl ibn Bishr’s Liber introductorius.
Like Abū Ma’shar he claims to provide all that is needed. The second paragraph begins:

Quicumque vult esse bonus astrologus et homo sapiens […] et qui similiter vult optime
iudicare questiones querentium secundum artem astronomie, bene debet scire et prius
cognoscere naturas et proprietates 12 signorum celi et 7 planetarum, omnes condi-
tiones celestium circulorum…
Whoever wishes to be a good astrologer and wise man […] and also wishes to judge
in the best way the questions posed by clients according to the art of astrology, needs
to know well the natures and properties of the 12 signs of the heavens and the seven
planets, all the conditions of the celestial circles…34

Secondly, again like Abū Ma’shar, and as in other introductions, he is avowedly addres­
sing beginners in the field ‒ the scolares novicii. In order to do this he writes in an “easy
way” (leviter), and in a “vernacular” form of Latin (vulgariter in grammatica). The effect
is that the Latin is very close in syntax and vocabulary to Italian. That he is teaching is
indicated by a reference to making a model of a sphere in his teaching (magisterium)
in order to demonstrate the movements of the heavens, in the Liber particularis.35 But
while the Liber quatuor distinctionum is comparable in its enormous range with Abū
Ma’shar’s Great Introduction, the second book, the Liber particularis, purports to be
more like a “small introduction”.

31 For the titles see Abu Ma‘šar al-BalḪi, Liber introductorii maioris ad scientiam iudiciorum
astrorum, ed. Richard Lemay, 9 vols., Naples 1996 – 1997, 7, p. 678; Daniel of Morley,
Philo­sophia, §192, ed. Gregor Maurach, in: Mittellateinisches Jahrbuch 14 (1979),
pp. 204 – 255, at p. 234.
32 Many manuscripts, including Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, lat. 16204, s. XIII,
p. 433a.
33 Abū Ma‘šar al-Balhi (see note 32), VIII, p. 301.
34 M, fol. 1r (see note 2).
35 MS Oxford, Bold. Can. Misc. 555, fol. 1v: “cui spere in nostro magisterio addidimus circulos
planetarum sperales quos collocavimus seriatim infra zodiacum cum corporibus planetarum”.

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Introducing Astrology 25

It starts:

Cum ars astronomie sit grandis sermonibus philosophorum eo quod de ipsa multi multa
scripserunt et diversa, veluti cognoverunt semel et pluries experimentis celestium et per
celestia de terrestribus, idcirco que compendiose sufficiunt scolari novicio in eadem arte,
ad preces domini mei Frederici Rome imperatoris et semper augusti, iuxta vulgare in
grammatica compilavi, ne aliquis novitius hoc opus inveniat quin per se valeat studere in
ipso et de arte astronomie intelligere competenter. Si autem in prece­dentibus et conse­
quentibus verbis levibus sum locutus nemo miretur, quia magna et alta phylosophie
in arte aliqua non possent dici facile ydiotis et male intelligentibus nisi modo simplici
verborum. Cum autem quis pervenerit ad huius finem in intellectu, securius et audacius
poterit indagare excellentiores auctores me, cum sim tamquam infantulus lactans in ipsa
arte cui esset necesse panis biscoctus cum duris carnibus que ossa tenerent deinceps.
Since the profession of the science of the stars bristles with the words of the philo­
sophers, because many have written many different things about it, in accordance with
their frequent experience of the heavens, and their experience of the effects of the
­heavens on earthly things, I have compiled what suffices, in a compendious manner,
for the novice scholar in this profession, according to the wishes of my Lord, ­Frederick,
the ever-noble Emperor of Rome, using Latin in the vernacular manner, so that any
novice who comes across this work will be able to study it by himself and understand
the profession of the science of the stars in a competent way. Let no one be surprised
if I have spoken in what precedes and what follows in light words. For the great and
lofty things of philosophy cannot be spoken about easily in any profession to laymen
and those who do not understand well, unless they are conveyed in a simple form of
words. But when someone arrives at the end of this work and understands it, he can
more boldly and confidently put questions to authorities who are superior to me, since
I am, as it were, a suckling infant in this art, who has yet to eat the hard biscuits with
tough meat clinging to the bone.36

In keeping with an introduction Michael uses, in the Liber particularis, the question
and answer form, evoking the scene of the Emperor, Frederick, in conversation with
his astrologer.
So, formally, the relationship between the Liber quatuor distinctionum and the Liber
particularis is parallel to the relationship of Roger Bacon’s Opus maius to his Opus ter-
tium. And it is interesting that Bacon also uses the term “introductorius”, but only in
respect to the abbreviated Opus tertium:

36 I am grateful to Oleg Voskoboynikov for allowing me to use his edition of the Liber
particularis, and for advice on its translation, before it was published as Le Liber particula-
ris de Michel Scot, in: Archives d’histoire doctrinale et littéraire du Moyen Age 81 (2014),
pp. 249 – 384 (see p. 261).

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26 Charles Burnett

… velut introductorium volui secundam parare scripturam quatenus difficultas primi


operis mitigetur.
… I wanted to prepare a second work as an “introduction” in which the difficulty of
the first work should be mitigated.37

But while there are formal similarities between Michael Scot’s Liber quatuor dis-
tinctionum and Abū Ma’shar’s Great Introduction, and the Liber particularis and his
Small Introduction, the contents are rather different. Only the third “distinctio” of the
Liber quatuor distinctionum deals with the astrological matters that are found in the
other astrological “introductions”, and even this distinction strays into “judgements”
(interrogations and elections) which do not form part of the subject matter of intro-
ductions, but are a specific astrological genre. The rest of the Liber quatuor distinc-
tionum ranges over cosmology, descriptions of the constellations (with illustrations),
the astrolabe, music, planetary movements ‒ in fact, it is rather a collection of treatises
on specific and separate genres, rather than a summary or introduction, even in the
sense of Abū Ma’shar’s Great Introduction. And the Liber particularis, while treating
of the same cosmological matters as the Liber quatuor distinctionum, continues with
meteorology and mirabilia mundi (the topic of Frederick and Michael’s conversation).
Nor is Abū Ma’shar a significant source for Michael Scot. I would contend, then, that
Latin translations of Arabic introductions to astronomy, both long and short, pro-
vided the title “Liber introductorius” for Michael, but the contents are the result of
Michael’s own whimsy.
As an epilogue I would like to mention briefly a further example of the use of the term
“introductorius”, and this is in its impact on the French vernacular. Sometime before 1273,
an anonymous astrologer composed an introduction to astrology in French for the last
Latin Emperor of Byzantium, Baudouin II, under the title “introductoires d’astronomie”
(clearly a calque on the Latin). Whole chapters in this work have been translated from
Abū Ma’shar’s Great Introduction. But there is another work which appears almost in its
entirety in French translation: namely the introduction of the Book of the Nine Judges.
The Book of the Nine Judges was compiled from Latin translations of individual Arabic
texts on astrological judgements in the mid-twelfth century, in the circle of Hermann
of Carinthia and Hugo of Santalla.38 A compendious account of astrological doctrine
precedes the judgements of the nine (or rather, seven) judges themselves (parallel to
the texts previously mentioned with titles such as k. al-mudkhal ilā ‘ilm an-nujūm

37 Roger Bacon, Opus Tertium, ed. John Sherren Brewer, Fr. Rogeri Bacon Opera quaedam
hactenus inedita, I, London 1859, p. 5.
38 Charles Burnett, A Hermetic Programme of Astrology and Divination in mid-Twelfth-
Century Aragon: The Hidden Preface in the Liber novem iudicum, in: Magic and the Clas-
sical Tradition, eds. Charles Burnett and William Francis ­Ryan, London–Turin 2006,
pp.  99 – 118.

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Introducing Astrology 27

wa-aḥkāmihā by al-Ṣūfī and Liber ipsius Haly necessarius ad introductionem iudiciorum).


This introduction, in the Classicizing Latin used in the circle of Hermann and Hugo, is
described not as an “introductorius” ‒ a word which they would have avoided as being
non-Classical ‒ but rather as an “introitus” (“entrance”), and ends with a vivid image of
the beginner in astrology walking through a doorway or vestibule and finding himself
on a road leading through the riches of astrological knowledge:

Deinceps igitur ab hoc introitu nec parum, ut opinor, necessario iudiciorum viam ac
sideree potentie rationem, Auctoris eius ductu atque moderamine qui omnia novit,
cuncta diindicat, universa decernit, et hec ipsa quibus voluit patefecit, … ingrediamur.
Then, from this entrance way which is very necessary, as I think, let us enter onto
the path of judgments and the rationale of the stellar power, under the leadership and
guidance of the (Divine) Author who knows everything, judges between all things,
decrees everything and has revealed all this to those whom He wishes.39

And so, after the introduction, everything else will follow.

39 Ibid., p. 104.

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Benjamin N. ­Dykes

Practice and Counsel in Guido Bonatti

The life and writings of Guido Bonatti (13th Century) illustrate what it meant to be
a medieval astrologer. Bonatti played an important consulting role in Italian politics
and military affairs. But through his numerous personal comments and biographical
details, we can understand the medieval astrologer’s many other social and consulting
roles. He would normally have been a valued consultant (but sometimes a victimized
sycophant); a socially responsible individual and opponent of superstition and dema­
goguery; ­having a sympathetic view of the human condition, sometimes concealing
painful truths so as not to hurt his clients; an observant social critic; a therapist whose
art helps clients gain perspective on their hopes and fears, instilling a more balanced and
realistic approach to life; enhancing the opportunities of disfavored and poor ­people,
and using astrology as an adjunct discipline to other activities such as medicine or
matchmaking. Finally, the astrologer viewed the astrological experience as occupying a
special theological position from which to help clients gain positive moral perspectives
and practical footholds on life. After illustrating these points with Bonatti’s many com-
ments and ideas, I will construct a medieval astrologer’s creed, or advice from someone
like Bonatti, to an aspiring astrologer.

1. Introduction

Guido Bonatti’s life experiences, employment, and comments about his culture and
humanity, really illustrate what it meant to be a medieval astrologer. From his Book
of Astronomy 1 we can draw several portraits of the consulting medieval astrologer: a
valued consultant (but sometimes a victimized sycophant); a socially responsible indi-
vidual and opponent of superstition and demagoguery; having a sympathetic view of
the human condition, sometimes concealing painful truths so as not to hurt his clients;
an observant social critic; a therapist whose art helps clients gain perspective on their
hopes and fears, instilling a more balanced and realistic approach to life; enhancing the

1 Guido Bonatti, Liber introductorius ad iudicia astrorum, Basel 1550. I have recently trans-
lated this (with reference to the 1491 Augsburg edition by Erhard Ratdolt) as The Book of
Astronomy, trans. Benjamin N. ­Dykes, Golden Valley (MN) 2007. The 1550 edition is divided
into 848 numbered columns, which I will use in my citations in addition to Bonatti’s own
complicated divisions into Treatises, Parts, Houses, and Chapters.

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30 Benjamin N. ­Dykes

opportunities of disfavored and poor people, and using astrology as an adjunct discipline
to other activities such as medicine or matchmaking. Finally, the astrologer viewed the
astrological experience as occupying a special theological position from which to help
clients gain positive moral perspectives and practical footholds on life.
First let us consider a short biographical sketch of this famous medieval astrologer.2
Based on the chronology we can construct, he was born around 1210 AD in or around
Forlì, Italy, northeast of Florence and not far from Bologna.3 His father was a notary
for the Archbishop in Florence, for whom we have records from 1217 – 1221.4 He had at
least one much younger sibling, because he provides the nativity of a nephew born in
early 1268.5 We do not know much at all about his education or early career, although
he was probably studying astrology in Bologna in 1233, as he witnessed the actions of
Brother Giovanni da Schio of Vicenza ( John of Vicenza) during that year.6 He would
have died in about 1290,7 and if we believe Dante, we know where he went next: to the
eighth Circle and fourth Ring of Hell, the place of fortune tellers and diviners.8 There,
the damned souls who have tried to divine the future are placed with their heads turned
completely around (facing the past, as it were), their eyes blinded with tears.

2. The metaphysical position of astrology

For Bonatti, like other traditional astrologers, the nature and role of astrology depends
on certain metaphysical and cosmological notions. We can describe them in terms of
three sets of concepts.
First, there is the question of freedom. Although many things in life are causally
determined (else prediction would be meaningless), Bonatti allows some room for inde-
terminate freedom of the will (however small), as well as God’s own free will.9 This is a
typical Christian assumption of the time. So, between these two poles of indeterminate
freedom, is everything else in the deterministic natural world: this web of natural causes

2 See especially Baldassarre Boncompagni, Della Vita e Della Opere di Guido Bonatti,
Astrologo et Astronomo del Seculo Decimoterzo, Rome 1851.
3 For a discussion of possible birth places, see ibid., pp. 13 ff.
4 Ibid., pp. 17 ff.
5 Bonatti, Liber introductorius (see note 1), Tr. 9, Part III, 12th House, Ch. 8 (col. 819).
6 See Boncompagni, Della Vita (see note 2), p. 21, and Bonatti’s own account below.
7 See for example his employment history below.
8 Dante Alighieri, Inferno, trans. John Ciardi, New York 1996, Canto XX, v. 104.
9 See for instance Bonatti, Liber introductorius (see note 1), Tr. 3, Part 1, Ch. 7 (col. 118);
Tr. 5, Considerations 1 (col. 162) and 2 (col. 162 – 63); Tr. 7, Part I, Ch. 1 (cols. 385, 388);
Tr. 9, Part I, introduction (col. 666), and Ch. 5 (col. 670). Cf. also my own Introduction to
The Book of Astronomy, §6E.

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Practice and Counsel in Guido Bonatti 31

is generally called “fortune”, which also includes many human choices, since our choices
are sometimes caused by features of our temperament and other things.
Second, there is the question of contingency. Some things are necessarily the way
they are by nature, while others are impossible by nature. But in between these, is the
wide realm of the contingent – I don’t mean the random and wholly indeterminate, but
things which by nature have alternatives. For example, we might say that the human is
necessarily rational by nature, and that by nature it is impossible for humans to fly. But
other activities and outcomes are contingent, such as eating or speaking. Once they do
or do not come about, they become necessary or impossible.10
Finally, there is the question of what the stars do in astrology: do they cause things, or
only signify them, or both? Ancient and medieval writings and practices present several
views which are not always mutually consistent or obviously reconcilable. My purpose
here is not to explain how these diverse views arose and why they appear together, but
simply to point out their existence. For example, it is not uncommon for a writer like
Bonatti to both suggest causal influences, and use wholly significative language in his
instructions on how to interpret a chart (usually adopted from earlier texts).11
For Bonatti, astrology stands in the middle of each of these categories: (1) Although
free will is assumed in his theory of interrogational astrology, astrology is meant to help
people deal with matters of fortune:12 the web of natural causes around us and in us,
that lead to us falling in love, experiencing loss and death, getting a job, and so on. (2)
Astrology deals with the contingent and possible. One sign of this is that people come to
the astrologers with hopes and fears, but hopes and fears are based on possible things,13
not naturally necessary or impossible things. (3) Finally, especially in his theory of inter-
rogations, astrology is partly causal, partly significative. In sum, the astrologer counsels
people engaging with the causal world of fortune, in which many possible things may
happen, dealing with their fears, describing things through the stars’ indications and
causes, and seeing how people are impelled into their situations.

10 Ibid., Tr. 1, Ch. 7 (cols. 6 – 7). This material was most likely inspired by Abū Ma’shar’s Great
Introduction: see Abū Ma’sar al-BalḪi, Liber Introductorii Maioris ad Scientiam Judi-
ciorum Astrorum, ed. Richard Lemay, Napoli 1996, vol. V, pp. 36 f. (Tr. 1 §5).
11 If we go beyond the texts and look at practical branches of astrology, this tension between causal
and significative attitudes is especially relevant in interrogations: for example, suppose a client
asks an astrologer, “Is my wife pregnant”, Bonatti, Liber introductorius (see note 1), Tr. 6,
Part 2, 5th House, Ch. 3 – 4 (cols. 248 – 249). Since a planet will only be in a given place of the
astrological chart for up to about two hours, it probably makes more sense to say that a planet in
a certain place signifies she is pregnant, than that its presence now caused her to be pregnant two
weeks ago, much less that it caused it earlier and then also caused the interrogation to ­happen
at a time when it would be in that place. There may be many ways to solve this problem, but
my point is that the problem is there and medieval astrologers like Bonatti did address it.
12 See for example ibid., Tr. 7, Part I, Ch. 1 (col. 388).
13 Ibid., Tr. 1, Ch. 9 (col. 14).

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32 Benjamin N. ­Dykes

In Bonatti’s own work, these elements are best seen in his account of interrogational
astrology,14 where an astrological consultation is at the active center of these three rela-
tionships. Bonatti requires three things for a truly effective or “rooted”15 consultation.
First, there must be an external situation, which is either caused or indicated by the
planets; second, that the client has an internal impulse and desire which motivates the
consultation; third, that the client has made a connection to the will of God through
free will and prayer: this connection provides an active force to the free will, and a moral
justification for the experience. Some of the astrological ways of indicating that the situa­
tion is “rooted” include the considerations before judgment 16 (which are indications
within the chart itself ), or that the chart accurately describes the current situation, or
even that it bears an important relationship to the client’s natal chart.
In this way, for Bonatti the astrological experience occupies a special epistemologi-
cal, moral, and cosmological position that touches on the center of being human itself.

3. Therapeutically and morally helpful to client, and to oneself

It is well known that ancient and medieval astrologers defended the therapeutic bene-
fits of astrology, both for clients and themselves, and Bonatti is no exception: he argues
for such benefits based on the concepts just described. For the astrologer, astrology is a
practice which confers ennobling wisdom – wisdom about the world, about the divine
mind or providence, and wisdom about the human experience. Also, because it is one
of the knowledge-disciplines, it is less dependent upon class or circumstance, and so is
a more liberal and egalitarian art, as opposed to political roles or trade skills.
For the client, astrology is helpful precisely because of the role of metaphysical
contingency, and the physical and social fact of fortune. Again, Bonatti (like others)
believed that hope and fear are functions of belief in the contingent, of possible alter-
natives;17 but in fact, many of these possible experiences and choices are, in the final
analysis, determined against the client’s wishes. So on the one hand, the astrologer is
a counselor against false hopes,18 which can bring great relief: for example, a woman
who might neglect her career or other plans in the hope of getting married or having a

14 Ibid., Tr. 5, Considerations 1 (col. 162), 2 (cols. 162 – 163), and 6 (col. 165).


15 Often described as “radical” (Lat. “radicalis”, from “radix”, “root”).
16 Such as whether the lord of the ascendant is of the same triplicity as the lord of the hour, or
whether the Moon is void in course, and so on. See for instance Bonatti, Liber introducto-
rius (see note 1), Tr. 5, Considerations 7 (col. 166) and 143 (col. 213), also Tr. 6, Part I, Ch. 1
(col. 215).
17 Ibid., Tr. 1, Ch. 9 (col. 14).
18 Ibid., Tr. 1, Ch. 9 (col. 13); also Tr. 6, Part II, 11th House, Ch. 1 (col. 374).

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Practice and Counsel in Guido Bonatti 33

child may be saved many wasted years, if marriage is unlikely to be a good experience,
or having a healthy child impossible.
On the other hand, the use of interrogations and elections offers insight into ­people’s
lives and their level of control. As the saying goes, the virtuous often suffer and the wicked
often flourish, but astrology can help those who suffer or are disadvantaged to succeed
as much as possible. In one very touching passage,19 Bonatti speaks of clients who try
to be as good as they can, obeying the rules and treating everyone well, but who ask
what’s wrong in their lives, because they are always mistreated and suffer. So, astrological
counseling has several psychological benefits: first, it confers a sense of practical personal
empowerment (rather than simply being a victim of life); second, it implicitly recognizes
the existence of social injustice, and the need to remedy it; third, it allows the client
to have some critical distance from life and achieve a more balanced emotional state,
not overly rejoicing about an unexpected good, nor becoming too depressed about an
unexpected evil.20 For example, many predictive methods define periods of time which
will be more favorable or unfavorable – but because they are only temporary and will
then change to something else, the client may have more reasonable expectations and
preparedness about what each period means for life as a whole. However, as we will see
below, sometimes good counseling also means concealing painful truths.

4. A respected counselor and military advisor

Now let us turn to more worldly and social questions, using Bonatti’s life as an e­ xample.
Whatever his origins and education, his career led him to advise powerful military
and political elites during the violent 13th Century in Italy. All of his employers were
G
­ hibellines (anti-papal forces), combating the Guelphs (pro-papal forces). A few epi-
sodes from his career will help develop this portrait of the astrologer as a valued con-
sultant, but also as a victim of his employers.
•• Some historical writers 21 imply that Bonatti served Holy Roman Emperor Frederick
II, and received an annual stipend. This is probably not true, but Bonatti does claim 22
that he foresaw Innocent IV’s 1245 plot against Frederick in a chart (while Frederick

19 Ibid., Tr. 6, Part II, 7th House, Ch. 30 (col. 314).


20 See for instance Ibid., Tr. 1, Ch. 9 (cols. 9 – 10, 13).
21 See the discussion in Boncompagni, Della Vita (see note 2), pp. 25 ff. Gavinet, a 15th-cen-
tu­r y astrological physician, seems to have gotten further confused on this point (Ibid., p. 26):
he says that in a “certain book” by Bonatti, Bonatti claimed to have received a stipend from
­Frederick’s father, Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI. ­As Henry VI died in 1197, this is of course
impossible; nor does Bonatti claim this in the The Book of Astronomy.
22 Bonatti, Liber introductorius (see note 1), Tr. 5, Consideration 58 (col. 182).

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34 Benjamin N. ­Dykes

was in Tuscany), and that no one would listen to his warning. Bonatti would have
been about 35 years old, and probably trying to make a name for himself.
•• By 1258 – 1259 (at about age 50), Bonatti was working for Ezzelino III, a tyrant and
governor of Padua.23 This violent man had a staff of soothsayers and astrologers,
including Salio, the Canon of Padua, who also translated astrological texts from
Arabic. Bonatti relates several stories about Ezzelino which illustrate the danger of
working as an astrologer for powerful men.24 Ezzelino seems to have been an amateur
astrologer himself, and disputed the techniques of his own astrologers, just as many
tyrants believe they know more about military affairs than their own generals to.
My sense is that Ezzelino disputed the techniques that gave him answers he did not
like, which is a familiar experience for those who counsel tyrants. But he also felt he
needed this team of astrologers, and was not above kidnapping to keep them with
him: Bonatti reports that Ezzelino was holding Salio’s own brother as a hostage in
prison, as a way to prevent Salio from leaving. As a result, Ezzelino’s staff, and Salio
in particular, gave pleasing but false reports to their master, so as not to make him
angry. This led to Ezzelino’s undoing, as it always must. In 1258 or 1259, a dream led
Ezzelino to call on all of his astrologers and soothsayers, and he asked them to inter-
pret it. They told him that it meant he had a bright future, and would soon control
all of Lombardy. Ezzelino attacked his opponents and expected a great victory, but
he was soon captured and died in prison in late 1259.25
•• After Ezzelino’s death, Bonatti worked for Count Guido Novello in Florence. He
successfully advised Novello to attack the Florentine Guelphs in 1260, casting
both the chart of the interrogation which showed they would win, and the elec-
tion for the battle.26 Two months later, Bonatti is listed as a witness in documents
that were part of high-level negotiations to make Novello the new authority in
Florence.27 Bonatti also provides two valuable interrogational charts from 1261,28
when he advised Novello on whether to attack the Luccans. In explaining these
consultations for Novello, Bonatti comments on the weather, and the number and
condition of troops and armaments.

23 Boncompagni, Della Vita (see note 2), pp. 28 – 33.


24 See Bonatti, Liber introductorius (see note 1), Tr. 3, Part II, Ch. 14 and 22 (cols. 144,
152); Tr. 5, Considerations 9 and 141 (cols. 170, 209 – 210), Tr. 7, Part II, 9th House, Ch. 2
(col. 477); Tr. 9, Part III, 12th House, Ch. 5 (col. 816).
25 Boncompagni, Della Vita (see note 2), p. 33.
26 Bonatti, Liber introductorius (see note 1), Tr. 7, Part 1, Ch. 5 (cols. 393 – 394). See also
­Boncompagni, Della Vita (see note 2), p. 35.
27 Ibid., pp. 104, 121.
28 Bonatti, Liber introductorius (see note 1), Tr. 6, Part II, 7th House, Ch. 28 – 29 (cols. 311, 313).

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Practice and Counsel in Guido Bonatti 35

•• By 1264 Bonatti had returned to Forlì, and assisted negotiations between the Arch-
bishop of Ravenna and some men from Forlì.29 We don’t know why Bonatti left
Novello in Florence, but Novello might have regretted that Bonatti had left, because
although he returned again to Florence in 1266 he was ejected a month later, and
perhaps could have used Bonatti’s advice.
•• By 1276 – 1277, Bonatti was assisting the new authority in Forlì, Count Guido da
­Montefeltro (c. 1220 – 1298). He advised Montefeltro on the battle of Valbona
in 1276 – 1277, and gives brief information on the astrological chart.30 Near the end of
his career, Bonatti advised Montefeltro in his 1282 – 1283 defense against the forces of
Pope Martin IV, though Bonatti does not himself mention it.31

The record is clear about Bonatti’s fame, high social connections, and the role of the
military astrologer in the politics of the day. On the other hand, there are many years
not accounted for, especially up to age 50. Bonatti’s many observations about life and
people suggest long experience with questions about more humble and personal matters
such as love and money, doing astrological charts for family members, and participating
in social life as an advocate for fairness and justice.

5. A socially responsible opponent of fear and superstition

Bonatti describes himself as a socially responsible opponent of fear and superstition. In


several passages he says he stood up to tyrants and religious frauds who were h­ arming the
people – this is an interesting point, because it is directly counter to the later ­opinion that
astrologers are selfish frauds who promote superstition and do not care how they affect
society. Interestingly enough, Bonatti himself detested the Dominicans as frauds who
lectured people about God but who knew nothing about Him themselves: so ­Bonatti
saw astrology as a level-headed tool, protecting people from religious superstition. He
calls these enemies of astrology “fools in tunics”.32
One episode 33 describes a local demagogue in Forlì named Simon Mestaguerra, who
was born of a low father but rose to high status. At first the populace was behind him,
but he began to terrorize the people for about three years before being exiled. Bonatti
says that he was the only one who really knew what kind of man Mestaguerra was, and
stood alone in resisting him (though he does not say how).

29 Boncompagni, Della Vita (see note 2), pp. 37 – 38.


30 Bonatti, Liber introductorius (see note 1), Tr. 6, Part II, 7th House, Ch. 21 (col. 299). See
also Boncompagni, Della Vita (see note 2), pp. 77 – 79.
31 Ibid., p. 85.
32 For example, Bonatti, Liber introductorius (see note 1), Tr. 1, Ch. 4 (col. 4).
33 Ibid., Tr. 5, Consideration 141 (col. 210).

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36 Benjamin N. ­Dykes

Another very colorful episode is Bonatti’s description of John of Vicenza, a religious


charlatan who passed through Bologna in 1233 and for a while was a recognized city
leader. It’s worth quoting Bonatti at length on this:

[ John] was considered holy by practically all the Italians who confessed the Roman
Church; but to me it seems that he was a fake: he came to such a high status, that he
was said to have raised eighteen dead people, of which none could be seen by anyone;
and he was said to cure every illness, to cast out demons – I however could not see
anyone freed [from illness], even though I put forth much effort to see [them]; nor
[did I see] anyone who firmly said that he had seen one of his miracles, and it seemed
that practically the whole world was hastening after him, and he who was able to have
a little thread from his cape was considered blessed, and [the thread] was kept like holy
relics are. And the Bolognese used to go armed with him, and around him in a group,
and they used to surround him with arched staffs wherever he went, lest someone be
able to approach him; and if some people did approach him, they would deal with
them harshly. For some used to kill,34 others wound, others beat them powerfully with
clubs; and he himself rejoiced and was happy about those smashed to pieces 35 and the
wounded, nor did he heal any of them (as Jesus did Malchus).36 And he used to say
openly in his speeches that he spoke with Jesus Christ, and likewise with the Blessed
Virgin, and with the angels whenever he wanted to … nor were the authorities bold
[enough] to do anything against his rule, nor was anyone bold enough to contradict
his orders, except for me alone (but not the Bolognese): for I knew his tricks and his
lies…and he remained in that condition for nearly one year; ultimately however, he
was brought down to nothing, so that he was hardly associated with by a single Brother
when he wanted to go somewhere, and men started to understand who he was.37

34 “Mactabant”.
35 “Mactatis caesis”.
36 Remember, John was reputed to be a great healer.
37 “[Ioannes, natione Vicentinus] reputabatur sanctus quasi ab omnibus Italis, qui confite-
bantur ecclesiam Romanam; mihi autem videbatur quod esset hypocrita, qui devenit ad
tantam sublimitatem, quod dicebatur suscitasse octodecim mortuos, quorum nullus potuit
ab aliquo videri, & dicebatur curare omnem infirmitatem, fugare daemones; ego tamen
non potui videre aliquem liberatum, licet studuerim multum ut viderem, nec aliquem qui
diceret firmiter se vidisse aliquod de suis miraculis; & videbatur quasi totus mundus ruere
post ipsum, & reputabatur beatus qui poterat habere aliquod filunculum cappae ipsius,
& reservabatur pro reliquiis sanctis, & ibant Bononienses armati cum eo & circa ipsum
procommuni & circumdabant ipsum lignis convexis, quocunque ibat, ne aliquis posset ei
appropinquare; & si aliqui appropinquabant ei, tractabant eos malo modo: nam aliquos
mactabant, alios vulnerabant, alios baculis fortiter cedebant; & ipse gaudebat & laetaba-
tur de mactatis caesis atque vulneratis, nec sanabat aliquem, sicut fecit Iesus Malchum.
Et dicebat ipsemet palam in suis praedicationibus quod loquebatur cum Iesu Christo, &

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Practice and Counsel in Guido Bonatti 37

And so we see that Bonatti saw his own professional and personal role as being a sober
and scientific authority, a bulwark against spiritual demagoguery and wild-eyed reli-
gious crowds.

6. The astrologer as social observer and critic

Although much of the Book of Astronomy simply recounts rules and procedures for
astrologers, Bonatti often makes relevant social observations. This is especially true in
the treatise on interrogations or questions (Tr. 6), in which he often introduces a new
topic by discussing why someone might ask for the astrologer’s advice. Some of his
comments are perceptive and sympathetic, especially concerning the status of women.
As we have seen, Bonatti is suspicious of many religious authorities, and reluctantly
explains how to judge questions about obtaining religious dignities. He says,38 “even if
it should seem disgraceful to desire religious dignities (when it should be expected to
be a divine gift from above), still there are many today who indifferently desire clerical
dignities like the Papacy, a cardinalship, archbishopric, abbacy, a priorship, and other
dignities and clerical orders (both Brothers and others who are called secular clerics).”
And so the consulting astrologer sometimes has to cater to distasteful motives like these.
Likewise, he is both suspicious and pitying of many alchemists:39 for on the one hand
he says that many of them have lost their work, time, and expenses because they don’t
understand how to employ astrology; but he also points out that some alchemists adopt
a hypocritical moral tone, searching for gold themselves while accusing others of greed.
Bonatti also recognizes the cruelty of slavery, but he must have felt compelled to
address questions about it because his predecessors had done so. Both illness and slavery
belong to the sixth house, and he introduces the topic by saying the following:

Now it remains to speak in this chapter about a slave, whether he will be freed from
slavery or not. Nor [is this] without value, because slavery is wholly vicious compared
with illness: for there is not an illness which can be said to be worse than what afflicts

cum Beata Virgine, similiter & cum angelis quandocunque volebat… nec fuit potestas
ausus facere inde aliquod regimen, nec erat aliquis ausus contradicere suis mandatis, nisi
ego solus, non tamen Bononiae: noveram enim suas tricarias & suas falsitates… & duravit
in illo statu fere per unum annum; ultimo tamen devenit quasi in nihilum, ita quod vix
associabatur ab uno fratre cum volebat ire alicubi, & coeperunt homines cognoscere quis
ipse erat”, Bonatti, Liber introductorius (see note 1), Tr. 5, Consideration 141, cols.
210 – 211. See also Lynn Thorndike, A History of Magic and Experimental Science,
vol. IV, New York 1934, p. 831.
38 Ibid., Tr. 6, Part II, 9th House, Ch. 10 (col. 345).
39 Ibid., Tr. 7, Part II, 2nd House, Ch. 7 (col. 430).

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38 Benjamin N. ­Dykes

always, everywhere, and indifferently and continuously. For illness is but intermittent,
sometimes afflicting and sometimes being in remission; [this is different from] slavery,
for with it intermissions and remission do not intervene.40

To my mind the most interesting social comments have to do with sexual politics and
the delicate position the astrologer is sometimes in. Some questions 41 come from men
who worry that their children are not really their own, which Bonatti says happens
when merchants or soldiers are gone for a long time, only to find their wives pregnant
or already with children upon their return. Other men 42 ask whether a prospective
bride has already had children who have been given up for adoption, because they
worry about potential scandal.
But the position of women gives us the most dramatic observations by far – and
­Bonatti especially points out that some problems women face are due to the cruelty
of other women. For example, in a section on electing a time to conceive a child, he
suggests that the astrologer helps people overcome prejudice about virginity and con-
ception, saying that “sometimes women are accused [of not being virgins], because they
conceive on the first night, when [in fact] they are blameless; and they are often accused
by women who ought to defend them”.43
A long section on marriage questions 44 concerns inquiries about how sexually
experienced a prospective bride is – answering this question in the wrong way
can lead to great trauma and embarrassment for everyone involved. Bonatti says
such worries might arise from jealous rivals who want to ruin an engagement, or
spurned lovers who could not get what they wanted from the woman and want her
reputation to suffer, and even by other women who have been pressuring her to
take a lover. Bonatti then takes the astrologer through a jaw-dropping list of sexual
experiences, because what makes someone a virgin or not, is not a simple issue. So
for example, he discusses foreplay, frottage (both with and without ejaculation),
female masturbation and possibly female orgasm, date rape, lesbianism, and anal
sex. Bonatti says “such things of this type tend to happen when men have much

40 “Restat nunc dicendum in isto capitulo de servo, utrum liberetur a servitute an non; nec incas-
sum, quoniam servitus pravissime aegritudini comparatur: non est enim aegritudo quae posset
dici deterior illa quae semper ubique & indifferenter atque continue afflicit; nulla aegritudo
enim est quin aliquando affligat intervallo, vel aliquali quiete, praeter servitutem, in illa enim
intervallum vel quies non intervenit”, ibid., Tr. 7, Part II, 6th House, Ch. 5, col. 261.
41 Ibid., Tr. 6, Part II, 7th House, Ch. 6 (col. 271).
42 Ibid., Tr. 6, Part II, 7th House, Ch. 7 (col. 271).
43 “Unde accusantur aliquando mulieres, quia concipiunt in prima nocte cum sint inculpabiles,
& ut multum accusantur a mulieribus quae deberent eas defendere”, ibid., Tr. 7, Part II, 7th
House, Ch. 1, col. 458.
44 Ibid., Tr. 6, Part II, 7th House, Ch. 4 (cols. 267 – 269).

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Practice and Counsel in Guido Bonatti 39

privacy with women, or frequent them much, or sometimes at large banquets, or


by going to pleasure-gardens, or when women go off to parties that are long-lasting
or remote from the city, and so on”.45 But what should the astrologer do with this
sensitive information? Here Bonatti endorses a bit of lying to save the reputations
of everyone involved. If it seems that the woman was innocently experimenting or
believes that she is still a virgin, he recommends telling the man that she is a virgin,
or at most that she masturbates: because “if you tell him the whole truth, perhaps
he will consider her to be corrupted,” and this can lead to many problems. The
astrologer is supposed to help people, not ruin their lives. To my mind, this long
and detailed section, with its sensitivity to client needs, probably reflects actual
client situations Bonatti faced.

7. The astrologer as practical advisor

Of course we cannot ignore the fact that the medieval astrologer is also in the busi-
ness of giving practical advice, and not only to the wealthy but also to people of lower
classes and those suffering from bad fortune: in fact, Bonatti endorses a metaphysical
view regarding fortune that justifies the practice of electional astrology.
We have already seen that Bonatti gave practical military advice. But he did not s­ imply
give one-word, yes-or-no answers to questions based on rules. His interrogational charts
for Guido Novello against the Luccans show that the astrologer must give counsel and
describe the overall situation, before telling the client what he really needs to know.
In the first chart,46 Novello wanted to know “whether there would be a battle.” This is
a yes-or-no question, and if Novello had been determined to fight he would not have
needed to ask the question. But Bonatti saw in the chart that both sides were weak
and had troops of low quality, so that both sides were reluctant to fight. By confirming
Novello’s state of mind and that of the enemy, he relieved his client of a mental and
military burden, and the two armies parted.
One month later, Novello wanted to capture a castle, and asked if he could take
it.47 Again, this is a yes-or-no question. Bonatti saw in the chart that while Novello
could take the castle, his troops were again lazy and weak, and so that they would
be reluctant to do what they had to. So the answer was really, “yes, you can, but you
won’t.” Novello decided to go ahead with the siege anyway, and Bonatti reports that

45 “Et huiusmodi talia consueverunt evenire, quando homines habent multam domesticitatem
cum mulieribus, vel frequentat eas multum, vel aliquando in magnis conviviis, vel eundo ad
viridaria, vel quando vadunt mulieres ad festivitates longinquas, vel remotas a civitatibus, &
similia”, ibid., Tr. 6 Part II, 7th House, Ch. 4, col. 268.
46 Ibid., Tr. 6, Part II, 7th House, Ch. 28 (col. 311).
47 Ibid., Tr. 6, Part II, 7th House, Ch. 29 (col. 313).

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40 Benjamin N. ­Dykes

the army did not do anything it needed to in order to complete the siege, even though
it had superior numbers. Bonatti’s report suggests that the troops’ bad morale had
partly to do with a serious drought, because in the end they asked him to predict the
weather. He predicted it would rain in a few days, and the army left in good spirits,
because “it had been four months since it had rained.”
Other statements by Bonatti reflect the real danger and difficulties that everyday
people faced when going to the astrologer. For example, the Persians had provided rules
for discovering what the contents of a letter were.48 We might ask why that is ­important.
Bonatti reports that sometimes noble men want to punish or even kill someone, but
they worry about the public consequences if their action is found out. And so, they
send their victim with a sealed letter to someone else, with instructions to enslave or
punish or kill the bearer of the letter. One might imagine what is at stake for the poten-
tial victim who consults the astrologer about such a matter, because he may be facing
death or the necessity of flight.
But another passage,49 which is really a theodicy, shows that Bonatti believes the
astrologer’s job is to help people overcome the forces of fortune, in a world where
­neither God nor human free will tends to directly dictate how things turn out. For
fortune rules “in every matter,” which helps explain why “certain wise men … often do
not have something to eat,” while other “fools, who, if a wolf took away seven out of ten
of their cattle, would not know whether they were diminished or not, being [already]
overflowing with necessities.” If fortune did not exist, we would be left with believing
that God Himself was responsible for this injustice, which is “an abhorrent heresy”.50
Here and elsewhere then, Bonatti suggests that astrology is partly meant to help low-
class and unfortunate people take advantage of good timing and questions as much as
they can, to improve their condition: the world is causally constructed in such a way
that virtue and knowledge do not guarantee success, but astrology can help people
who suffer bad fortune through no fault of their own. So this metaphysical situation
of humanity justifies the astrological profession.

48 See for example Zael, De interrogationibus, MS Paris, BnF, lat. 16204, p. 477a–b, trans.
­Benjamin N. ­Dykes, Works of Sahl & Māshā’allāh, Golden Valley, MN 2008, pp.  168 – 170
(On Questions §13.3). See Bonatti’s own version in: Liber introductorius (see note 1), Tr. 6,
Part II, 9th House, Ch. 13 (cols. 348 – 349).
49 Ibid., Tr. 7, Part I, Ch. 1 (col. 388).
50 Ibid.: “Volo enim te scire quod fortuna dominatur in omni re, licet quidam ex tunicatis idio-
tae dicant quod fortuna non est, sed solum quod Deus vult… nonne vides quosdam sapientes
probos & intelligentes, qui non habent ut plurimum quod manducent, et quosdam fatuos,
quibus si lupus auferet ex decem pecudibus 7, nesciret utrum essent diminutae vel non, cunctis
sibi necessariis affluentibus abundanter; ipsi enim imponunt rabiem creatori suo, mentientes
ipsum non esse iustum, & in haeresim incidunt abhorrendam.”

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Practice and Counsel in Guido Bonatti 41

Finally, in several places 51 Bonatti suggests that astrology is a helpful assistant to


other disciplines, such as electing the right times to perform surgery, or as a helpful
aid in matchmaking. In this way the astrologer is a kind of prudence counselor, adding
astrological weight and safeguards to other established practices and skills.

8. A new astrologer’s creed

In conclusion, let me summarize these ideas by constructing a kind of new medieval


creed or set of advice, from an astrologer like Bonatti to an aspiring student:
“You who would become an astrologer, know that you are learning a Divine science.
God has so made the world, that free will rarely plays an important role, and people’s
lives are often controlled by fortune: forces and powers which come from without them
and from within, in which the virtuous often suffer, and the vicious often flourish. But
through astrology we can often see from a higher perspective what has been, what is
happening now, and what will happen, to people who need our help. Sometimes we can
help them change their lives, other times we can only help them make good choices and
manage existing affairs. Your consultation sometimes acts as a spiritual link, in which
they may exercise free will (when they often might not).”
“And so, be sympathetic to the human condition. Your charts will often reveal when
someone is being victimized or has little control. Your client is depending on you in
a time of need: do not harm him or her by revealing destructive truths, but speak so
that your client will benefit from your help, through knowledge or action. You have a
moral responsibility to society, which is filled with injustice and wicked rulers. Justice
demands that you use the objective truth of astrology and your Divine orientation, to
resist tyrants and those who spread falsehood and ignorance.”
“In all things, you must decide whether or not to take a chart or question, based on
your moral sense and personal situation. Some people ask unnecessary questions because
of unjust social beliefs, while other clients are wicked or want dubious things. But you
might feel compelled to answer them due to finances or coercion. Perhaps you might
even help them see the good by providing your counsel.”
“You may be financially successful, but this does not indicate that you are really wise
or good. Fortune has great control over you, too, and can take your riches and status
away. Therefore, resist undue pride and showing yourself off, so that you do not debase
this divine service and art which you have been blessed to study.”

51 Ibid., Tr. 7, Part II, 6th House (passim).

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Jean-Patrice Boudet

The Archbishop and the Astrologers:


A Robert de Mauvoisin’s questio in 1316

On 17 December 1317, four months after the death at the stake of Hugues Géraud,
bishop of Cahors, accused of poisoning and sorcery, pope John XXII began to instruct
in Avignon the criminal trial of another prelate who had been a friend of Clement V,
i. e. the archbishop of Aix-en-Provence Robert de Mauvoisin. This trial ended with
the appointment of Pierre Després as archbishop of Aix in September 1318 and with
­Mauvoisin’s resignation in December 1318.
The main parts of the proceedings of this trial have been published in 1999
by Joseph Shatzmiller,1 but Julien Théry has discovered at the end of the register
­Collectorie 17 of the Secret Archives of the Vatican some documents forgotten
by S­ hatzmiller in his edition.2 Among these documents appears a choice morsel,
a unique text in the judicial context of that time (published in the appendix), i. e.
the copy of a transcription of an astrological advice arranged by Mauvoisin with
two specialists – a Jew, Moses of Trets, and a Christian, Master Peter –, an advice
founded on a horoscope dated 3 September of a year which is not indicated (see
§ 4 of the appendix), but whose astronomical data correspond to 3 September 1316,
that is four weeks after the election of John XXII (7 August) and two days before
his coronation in Lyons (5 September).
Entitled Questiones, disputationes, responsiones et determinationes Judei et magistri
Petri, this document has in fact three parts:
1.  §§ 1 to 4, Robert’s questio to his Jewish physician and astrologer, Moses of Trets
(Mossé de Trets or de Jouques), and Moses’ responsio;
2.  §§ 5 to 13, another responsio to the same questio, given later (some days after the new
Pope’s coronation?) in Lyons by a Christian astrologer, Master Peter, scriptor of the
pontifical Curia;
3.  §§ 14 to 26, Moses’ reply to Master Peter’s arguments.

1 Joseph Shatzmiller, Justice et injustice au début du XIVe siècle. L’enquête sur l’archevêque
d’Aix et sa renonciation en 1318, Rome 1999.
2 See Jean-Patrice Boudet and Julien Théry, Le procès de Jean XXII contre l’archevêque
d’Aix Robert de Mauvoisin (1317 – 1318): astrologie, arts prohibés et politique, in: Jean XXII
et le Midi, Cahiers de Fanjeaux 45 (2012), pp. 159 – 236.

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44 Jean-Patrice Boudet

The motivation of the new Pope in this affair is quite clear: he did not want an impor-
tant ecclesiastical province like Aix to be in the hands of a prelate openly loyal to the
“Gascon Party”, composed of former friends of his predecessor, Clement V. ­His strategic
­interest explains partly why he chose to take much care about Mauvoisin’s misconduct.
But some of the charges against the archbishop were not without any foundation. For the
most part of the matter concerning us, the documents of his case are not at all mythical.
In the first article (out of ten) of the first part of the proceedings,3 Mauvoisin is accused
of having used divination (“sortilegia”, i. e. “reading the sorts”, and “ars mathematica seu
divinatio”) and other illicit practices, i. e. wearing rings engraved with “impressions and
[magical] characters”, in order to maintain his dignity and status. He is also accused of
having used to this end several diviners, mainly “a certain Jew named Mossé de Tretz”.
During the first interrogatory of the archbishop (17 December 1317), he answered
with much more detail than for the nine other articles. When he was studying law in
Bologna, he consulted a professor of astrologia and medicine at the university, ­Master
“Johannes de Luna”,4 about a messenger sent to Gascony, his own future and what could
happen after Clement V’s accession in 1305.5 Mauvoisin argued that he did not take
into account the astrological advice of this Bolognese practitioner, but he admitted
that sometime after his appointment at Aix, in August 1313, he took Moses of Trets
into his service, “thinking that his art was licit”.6 On 3 September 1316, he therefore
asked Moses what might happen to himself after John XXII’s accession: “Queritur quid
accidet petenti de domino boni vel mali” (§§ 1, 3 and 6). And he gave a description of
Moses’ advice copied in our document, of Master Peter’s one and of the reply of the
Jewish astrologer, indicating the incipit and explicit of each part.7
During his second interrogatory (20 December 1317), Mauvoisin harked back to
this document and gave some interesting indications about its parts coming from
Moses’ expertise: the rationes, disputationes et responsiones dicti Judei were spoken by
him “in romanico” (i. e. in Provencal) and then dictated in Latin by the archbishop to
one of his scribes, i. e. Bertran Guilhem, a notary of Cavaillon who was witness for the
prosecu­tion (20 February 1318).8 In our copy, several technical terms are still in romanico
while others are unusual and could show that neither Mauvoisin nor Guilhem – not to
mention the scribe – were experts in “astrologia” (astronomy-astrology): the positions
of the planets are indicated in “grasas” (a vernacular term for “gradus”) and “secundas”

3 Shatzmiller, Justice et injustice (see note 1), p. 169.


4 Giovanni di Luni was paid as professor of astrologia and ars fixice (medicine) in Bologna in
1303, see Fabricio Bònoli and Daniela Piliarvu, I Lettori di Astronomia presso lo Studio
di Bologna dal xii al xx secolo, Bologna 2001, p. 57.
5 Shatzmiller, Justice et injustice (see note 1), pp. 175 – 176.
6 Ibid., p. 177.
7 Ibid., pp.  177 – 178.
8 Ibid., pp.  249 – 250.

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The Archbishop and the Astrologers 45

(which is a strange error for “minutas”); the twelve celestial houses are called “camere”
instead of “domus”; the horizon is “osizon”; the decans are designated by the word
“tercium” instead of “facies”, etc. The text is understandable but it is interesting to note
some differences between its beginning, where the influence of the vernacular is the
strongest, and what follows, where the opinion of the Christian astrologer is reported
(in the second part, where “gradus” appears from § 6) and where the text is somewhat
standardised in terms of technical vocabulary (e. g. in § 9, in which appears the equiva-
lence “domus seu camera”), even in the third part supposed to reproduce Moses’ replica
(see §§ 15 and 16, where appear “gradus” and “minutas”, even though “grasis” is found
again in § 22). While the scribe’s incompetence has undoubtedly increased the oddi-
ties of this crammed-full Latin text, one thing that makes it interesting is that it is close
enough to the multilingual oral context that characterises Provence in the beginning
of the fourteenth century.
Mauvoisin also admitted during his trial the possession of three talismanic rings made
by Moses “secundum artem phisice et planetarum” (“according to the art of medicine
and of the planets”). He claimed that Moses swore on the Bible that these rings could
be used “without sin”, that he had himself no real confidence in it (!) and that he did
not act “in bad faith” (“mala fide”). He said however in his second statement that he
had doubts about it, because he had heard that such rings could enclose some demon,9
which had become a fairly common charge since the trials of the pope Boniface VIII
in 1303 (before his death) and 1306 (post mortem).10
On 19 January 1318, one of the witnesses, a cleric called Izarn Vaureilh, went further
and denounced Moses “qui dicitur publice astrologus, divinator, magicus et sortilegus”.
He claimed that the “fama publica” of the Jewish physician and astrologer was that of
a “divinator, sortilegus, invocator demonum, experimenta faciens”,11 the word “experi­
mentum” referring to “necromancy” or, more exactly in this context, to “nigromancy”
(demoniac magic).12 But these stereotyped accusations were refuted by Moses when he
was called as a witness two months later, on 8 April 1318. In his clear and precise depo-
sition, he admits what follows:
•• First, he used astrology in order to answer Mauvoisin’s three questions: 1) What will
be the appropriate time to send to John XXII a gift of joyful advent? 2) Will the
­sister (or the sister-in-law) of the archbishop be able to conceive a child and is she the

9 Ibid., pp.  182 – 183.


10 See Jean–Patrice Boudet, Démons familiers et anges gardiens dans la magie médiévale,
in: De Socrate à Tintin. Anges gardiens et démons familiers de l’Antiquité à nos jours, eds.
Jean–Patrice Boudet, Philippe Faure and Christian Renoux, Rennes 2011, pp. 119 – 134.
11 Shatzmiller, Justice et injustice (see note 1), pp. 199 – 200.
12 See Richard Kieckhefer, Forbidden Rites. A Necromancer’s Manual of the Fifteenth
Century, Stroud 1997, and Jean-Patrice Boudet, Entre science et nigromance. Astrologie,
divination et magie dans l’Occident médiéval (XIIe – XVe siècle), Paris 2006, chap. 7.

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46 Jean-Patrice Boudet

subject of a curse? 3) Will the Pope help improve Robert’s situation? Moses answered
to the first question that the astrological data required a waiting period of 26 or 27
days (i. e. until the end of September 1316) before the sending of the gift, but finally
the archbishop sent it two months later, after another consultation with Moses just
before All Saints’ Day. The Jewish practitioner replied to the second question that
the sister (or sister-in-law) of Robert had not conceived a child because she had been
bewitched, but that it was not incurable. And he said to the prelate the Pope would
help to improve his condition, but not before two years.
•• Moreover, Moses asserted that the archbishop had asked him two other crucial ques-
tions: 1) before Christmas 1316, he asked if he had an enemy in the pontifical Curia; 2)
just before the beginning of Lent of 1317 (16 February), he asked if Moses knew how
long John XXII had to live. Moses said he did not answer the second question but he
said that Mauvoisin recounted for him the prophecy of the reign of a cricket (“grio”,
i. e. probably “grillus”, a very active insect at night in Provence!) which would last two
and a half years, a prophecy which seemed applicable to the present Pope.13
•• Finally, Moses asserted that the three first questions of the archbishop had been the
subject of a second assessment by an astrologer who was “scriptor domini Pape”
and who “disagreed in part with his reasoning, but agreed with his conclusions”. He
received 30 or 40 sous for his consultations, and occasionally additional money. His
client, he said, did not use any “nigromancia” or “ars prohibita”, but asked him to
engrave three rings with the symbols of the Sun, Jupiter and Venus (the beneficent
planets in astrology), “in order to preserve his dignity and status”.

According to some of his coreligionists, among whom a controversy raged around 1300
on the legitimacy of the use of astrological seals in medicine,14 Moses seemed to approve,
almost like the author of the Speculum astronomiae, the idea of “imago astronomica”, i. e.
a talisman founded solely upon the natural influence of the celestial bodies, without any
ritual.15 The practice of astrological interrogations was perhaps less problematic among
the Jewish community of Provence than for a member of the Christian Church, but

13 Shatzmiller, Justice et injustice (see note 1), p. 285: “Et dictus archiepiscopus narravit sibi
quod quedam profecia sive versus pro ipso domino Papa: ‘Surget grio, et flores cum pedibus
sive ungulis trepidavit, et duobus annis et dimidio regnabit’.” [sic] I did not find this prophecy
elsewhere, especially in the first version of the Vaticinia de summmis pontificibus: cf. Martha
H. ­Fleming, The Late Medieval Pope Prophecies. The Genus nequam Group, Tempe 1999.
14 Dov Schwartz, La magie astrale dans la pensée juive rationaliste en Provence au XIVe ­siècle,
in: Archives d’Histoire doctrinale et littéraire du Moyen Âge, 61 (1994), pp. 31 – 55; Id.,
­Studies on Astral Magic in Medieval Jewish Thought, Leiden–Boston 2005, pp. 123 – 165.
15 See of course Nicolas Weill-Parot, Les «images astrologiques» au Moyen Âge et à la
Renaissance. Spéculations intellectuelles et pratiques magiques, Paris 2002, pp. 27 – 90 (for
the Specu­lum) and pp. 380 – 383 (for the trial of Mauvoisin).

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The Archbishop and the Astrologers 47

elections and interrogations were the parts of “astrologia” that were considered par-
ticularly dangerous by Christian theologians and jurists because their “judicial” aspect
seemed to be incompatible with human free will and God’s absolute power. In a document
entitled Forma et modus interrogandi augures et ydolatras preserved in the anonymous
Summa de officio Inquisitionis written in the 1260s in the entourage of Benedict Alignan,
bishop of Marseilles, the observation of favorable or unfavorable times to undertake a
particular action – a practice referred to many times in the trial of Mauvoisin, which
relates to elections and horary questions – explicitly fell within the competence of the
Inquisition.16 But this did not prevent some members of secular and ecclesiastical elites
continuing to use the services of astrologers who claimed that that part of the “scien-
tia de judiciis” was especially useful when the precise date of birth of their clients was
unknown (this is Mauvoisin’s case).17
In the first part of our document (§ 4), the astronomical positions given by Moses
for the interrogation clearly correspond to those of 3 September 1316 at 5pm. It is
­possible to reconstitute the “figura celi” of Mauvoisin’s questio (Fig. 1) and to compare
its astronomical data with those calculated according to (1) the Almanach perpetuum
of Prophatius Judeus (the famous Jewish astronomer of Montpellier Jacob ben Makhir
ibn Tibbon),18 which, according to Master Peter, Moses used (cf. the tacuinum judeum
de Monte Pessulano, § 10); (2) the modern programme “astromodel” giving the plane-
tary positions according to the Toledan Tables (TT), that Master Peter probably used
directly or indirectly (cf. § 10, the tabule verificate astrorum; by “indirectly” I mean an
adaptation of the Toledan Tables for a Provencal meridian);19 and (3) the programme

16 See article 11 of this document ed. by Boudet, Entre science et nigromance (see note 12),
pp. 557 – 558: “Si observavit menses aut tempora, aut horas dierum, aut annos, aut Lune, aut
Solis cursum vel etatem, credens dies, vel horas, vel puncta, vel tempora aliqua fortunata vel
infortunata ad aliquid faciendum, vel incipiendum vel obmittendum, ut pro viagio, vel pro con-
jugio copulando, vel pro edificio inchoando.” This is closer to the right time (“bonus punctus
vel hora”) to undertake any important thing, mentioned about Mauvoisin in ­Shatzmiller,
Justice et injustice (see note 1), pp. 200, 206, 212, 216, 250 and 284.
17 Ibid., p. 285.
18 For Prophatius ( Jacob ben Machir ibn Tibbon, c. 1236 – 1304) and his Almanac, see José
Chabás, “Prophatius Judaeus”, in: Medieval Science, Technology, and Medicine. An Ency-
clopedia, eds. Thomas F. ­Glick, Steven J. ­Livesey and Faith Wallis, New York–London 2005,
pp. 422 – 423, and Almanach Dantis Alighieri sive Prophacii Judaei Montispessulani. Almanach
perpetuum ad annum 1300 inchoatum, eds. Giuseppe Boffito, Camillo Melzi d’Eril,
Florence 1908. The planetary data of this almanac were mainly inspired by the Toledan
Tables: Gerald J. ­Toomer, “Prophacius Judaeus and the Toledan Tables”, in: Isis (64), 1973,
pp. 351 – 355. For these tables, see Fritz S. ­Pedersen, The Toledan Tables. A review of the
manuscripts and the textual versions with an edition, 4 vol., Copenhague 2002.
19 For the planetary positions calculated with the Toledan Tables, I have used the Lars ­Gislen’s
“astromodel” programme: http://home.thep.lu.se/~larsg/Site/Welcome.html. I have ­chosen
5° long. East and 43° lat. North, reference data of Prophatius’ Almanach. There are some

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Kairos by Raymond Mercier indicating the planetary positions according to modern


astronomy (MT), the ascendant and the celestial houses.
The comparison in Figure 2 globally confirms, I think, that the planetary positions of
the horoscope are reliable and congruent with what could have been calculated in 1316
for 3 September at 5pm, even if there are some little discrepancies for Mercury, the
Moon and the Head of the Dragon. But the position of the ascendant, 3° Scorpio, is
totally aberrant: it should have been located around 17° Aquarius at 5pm, more than 100°
further on the zodiac, and it corresponds to 9.30 am. A confusion between 5 pm and
the 5th hour of the day seems incoherent with the position of the Moon, 2° 45’ Aries
according to Moses: at 9.30 am, the Moon was around 28° Pisces, which is very different.
How can we explain this aberrant position of the ascendant which is not disputed
by Master Peter? During the trial, Moses is said to have used a quadrant with Hebrew
characters for his predictions,20 and I suspect it was a quadrans novus, of which the
original Hebrew version has been composed by Prophatius c. 1288 – 1293.21 This astro-
nomical instrument, which is a reduction of the astrolabe to one of its quarters, is
much more complicated to use than the astrolabe (a decomposition of computation
in several phases is needed) in order to obtain the cusps of the ascendant and the
houses.22 It seems very plausible that Moses did not know how to use it correctly
and that Master Peter did not check Moses’ calculations for these cusps, but only
analysed with his own sources the horoscope drawn up by his Jewish competitor
and his first responsio.
Let us have a look now at the astrological interpretation of the figura celi by our two
experts. It might seem logical that Moses followed in this matter the guidelines of the
great Jewish philosopher, scholar, astronomer and astrologer of the twelfth century
Abraham Ibn Ezra, who was the author of a treatise on interrogations widely diffused,
the Sefer ha -She'elot,23 and that Master Peter was inspired meanwhile by the methods

differences between the data of Montpellier and Aix-en-Provence, but they are not very
important for our purpose.
20 Shatzmiller, Justice et injustice (see note 1), pp. 284 – 285 and especially p. 216: “Et tunc
ipse judeus traxit se ad partem et posuit in manu sua ad Solem quoddam instrumentum de
cupro triangulare caracteratum et continens quasdam litteras ebraycas, ut eidem testi vide-
bantur.”
21 Cf. Emmanuel Poulle, Le quadrant nouveau médiéval, in: Journal des savants (1964),
pp.  148 – 167 and 182 – 214.
22 Ibid., pp.  201 – 202.
23 Three different versions of this treatise have been written. The first one was composed in
Béziers in 1148, the second and the third ones in northern France after 1148 or in England
after 1157. The first two versions are conserved in 47 copies (29 of She’elot I, and 18 of She’elot
II). See in particular Renate Smithuis, Abraham Ibn Ezra’s Astrological Works in Hebrew
and Latin: New Discoveries and Exhaustive Listing, in: Aleph 6 (2006), pp. 239 – 338, and
[Abraham Ibn Ezra,] Abraham ibn Ezra on Elections, Interrogations, and Medical Astro­logy.

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The Archbishop and the Astrologers 49

described in the specialised literature translated from Arabic into Latin in the twelfth
century, or in large compilations such as those by ‘Alī ibn Abī-l-Rijāl (Haly Abenragel)
or Guido Bonatti,24 available in Latin since the thirteenth century. But Abraham Ibn
Ezra did not have enough authority to be explicitly mentioned by Moses in the con-
text of a consultation transformed into a dispute with a Christian astrologer, and it is
in fact Master Peter who refers to Ibn Ezra in § 7, among other sources he is obviously
happy to publicise.

1. §§ 1 – 4, Moses’ responsio to the questio of the archbishop

The petens (i. e. the querent) is Robert, whose significator is Jupiter (§ 2); the dominus
is the new pope John XXII, whose significator is the Sun.
The planet considered by Moses as major significatrix in responsionibus to an interro-
gation is the Moon (§ 1), which is a common opinion in Arabic astrology.25 The Moon
is in Aries, sign of exaltation of the Sun (honor Solis). The Sun signifies the Pope and is
the master of the 10th house (significatrix majoris et altioris dominii, “which signifies
the major and highest power”, and the nobility of the thing in questiones),26 because
the cusp of this house is in Leo, the domicile of the Sun. The Sun is at 17° 31’ Virgo, in
the 11th house (indicating friends and more specifically the accomplishment of the
thing in questiones)27, and is “directly irradiating the Moon”, which is an excellent aspect
according to Moses (irradiat directe ad Lunam, qui melior irradians est).28 That’s why
the applicant “will be irradiated with honor by the Lord [Pope]”.

A Parallel Hebrew-English Critical Edition of the Book of Elections (3 Versions), the Book
of Interrogations (3 Versions), and the Book of the Luminaries, ed. and trans. Shlomo Sela
(Abraham Ibn Ezra’s Astrological Writings 3), Leiden–New York 2011, especially pp. 240 – 450.
24 For the techniques of interrogations in medieval Arabic-Latin astrology, see now the trans-
lations made by Benjamin J. ­D ykes, Works of Sahl and Māshā’allāh, Minneapolis 2008, pp.
xxxiv–xxxviii, lxxviii–lxxx (introduction), pp. 67 – 186 (translation of  Zael’s De interrogationi­
bus) and 417 – 438 (translations of Messahallah’s opuscula on the subject); Bonatti on Horary.
Treatise 6 of Guido Bonatti’s Book of Astronomy, From the 1491 and 1550 Latin Editions,
Minneapolis 2010; The Book of the Nine Judges. Traditional Horary Astrology, Minneapolis
2012. For Haly Abenragel, see Albohazen Haly, Filius Abenragel, Liber in judiciis
astrorum, Venice 1485.
25 See for example Zael’s De interrogationibus, in: Works of Sahl and Māshā’allāh (see note 23),
p. 68, for the dominating role of the Lord of the Ascendant and the Moon in questions.
26 Albohazen Haly, Liber (see note 24), fol. 8va: “Decima significat nobilitatem et altitu-
dinem rei et ejus proprietatem in factis.”
27 Ibid., fol. 8va: “Undecima significat complementum rei, pulchritudinem et convenientiam ejus.”
28 Sic: the Sun is in fact going away from its opposition with the Moon. This is challenged by
Master Peter in § 10, which requires Moses to hark back to it in § 15.

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Moreover, Moses said that the master of the ascendant (3° Scorpio) was Mars, whose
domicile is Scorpio. Mars was at 27° 40’ Libra, in the ascending part of the sphere, in
one of his terms and his tercia i. e. face, the lords of the other faces of Libra coming in
conjunction with Mars.29 So Moses concluded that a lot of friends shall come to Robert
in order to take advantage of his favour.
But in the second paragraph, Moses moderates this enthusiasm. At the time of the
horoscope, Mars, master of the ascendant, irradiabat decime domus medii amoris, i. e.
was in a quartile aspect (90°), unfortunate, with the cusp of the 10th house, of which
the Sun, significator pape, was the master. And Jupiter, Robert’s significator, located at 18°
58’ Virgo, was “burnt by the Sun” (conbustus a Sole), whose position was 17° 31’ Virgo.30
Robert had to wait the coming out of Jupiter from this quartile aspect and combustion
to start entering in favour with the Pope, which would take two months, according to
Moses. And this favour should have been totally effective only two years later, i. e. in
September 1318, seven months after the beginning of the trial and just at the time when
Pierre Després was appointed as archbishop of Aix in place of Robert …

2. §§ 5 to 13, Master Peter gives his responsio,


criticising Moses on several points

He hits hard from the start, probably to impress his client and his Jewish competitor,
quoting the Astronomia, sive Flores in Almagesto of Geber, alias Jābir ibn Aflāḥ, a high–
level treatise of al-Andalus astronomy translated by Gerard of Cremona in the 12th cen-
tury, where the author seeks to analyse the errors in Ptolemy’s Almagest.31 The quoted
passage is in the prologue (cf. appendix, § 5):

[…] Et quia necessaria fuit inquisitio veritatis, et facere ipsam vincere et apparere,
et ut non timeatur ille, qui deviat ab ea, quamvis sit magnus. Et imitavimus in hoc
Aristotelem, cum intendit redire super magistrum suum Platonem, dixit excusando:

29 Sic: Moses seems to have mixed the position of Mars with the cusp of the ascendant, as Mas-
ter Peter pointed out in § 9.
30 Moses highlights this point in his testimony during the trial: Shatzmiller, Justice et injustice
(see note 1), p. 284. The combustio is one of the most dangerous positions for the significator
of the querent or the master of the ascendant of an interrogation: see Abraham Ibn Ezra,
On Elections (see note 23), pp. 288 – 289 (She’elot I), 352 – 353, 382 – 383 and 407 (She’elot
II); Abraham ibn Ezra, Liber interrogationum, in: id., Opera, transl. Pietro of Abano,
Venice 1507, fol. 61rb: “Et quando [superiores] fuerint combusti, nullus eorum denotabit nisi
malum, sive sit fortuna, sive malus”; Ibid., fol. 65ra: “Et si [dominus ascendentis interrogati]
non fuerit receptus a Sole fueritque combustus, irascetur rex super eum atque incarcerabit.”
31 See Richard P. ­Lorch, The astronomy of Jābir ibn Aflāḥ, in: Centaurus 19 (1975), pp. 85 – 107,
repr. in: id., Arabic Mathematical Sciences. Instruments, Texts, Transmission, Variorum 1995, VI.

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The Archbishop and the Astrologers 51

«Veritas et Plato ambo sunt amici, sed veritas est magis amica.» Visum est nobis, ut
numeremus intentiones in quibus [Ptolomeus] erravit, et dicamus loca earum in libro
nostro hoc, ut perveniat ad ea facile qui voluerit scire.32

The necessity of the inquisitio veritatis in both domains, i. e. the science of the stars and
judicial inquiry, must be noted in the context of a trial, but above all Master Peter tries
here to show his scientific culture and his mastery of rhetoric. He disagrees then with
Moses about the “irradiation” of the Moon by the Sun at the moment of the horoscope.
According to the tabule examinationum consulted by him, this “irradia­tion” happened
the day before 3 September, Thursday the 2nd, when the Sun and Moon were oppo-
site (full Moon). But there is also a mistake here: the Sun was not at 12° Virgo, as he
said (§ 6), but at 16° 36’ Virgo when it was in opposition, and in XII gradu Virginis is
probably an error for in XVII gradu Virginis, as Moses suggests in the third part (§ 16).
Peter’s reference in § 6 to the De radiis ascribed to al-Kindī is problematic here and the
authority of Ptolemy’s Quadripartitum or Tetrabiblos seems in this case to be fictive. His
references in § 7 to Abū Ma’shar’s Great introduction, to Abraham Ibn Ezra (“Avenesre”)
and ‘Alī ibn Abī-l-Rijāl are more serious but less presti­gious than the one of Ptolemy.
In paragraphs 10 to 13, the end of Peter’s responsio is founded on the highest value of
astronomical tables than of a tacuinum judeum (cf. supra), and on several Arabic astro-
logical authorities: ‘Umar al-Farrukhān al-Ṭabarī (Aomar), one of the nine judges of
the Liber novem judicum; Abū‘Mashar, and the tract on elections of ‘Alī Imrānī. But
his points of disagreement are secondary in importance, as said Moses during the trial.

3. §§ 14 to 26, Moses replies to Master Peter on two main points,


astronomical and astrological.

First, he grants to Peter that there was an opposition of the Sun and Moon on 2 Sep-
tember at 5.11 pm, i. e. 18 hours [sic] before the interrogation: this would not be far
from the data of the Toledan Tables but this is incompatible with the hour of the
questio (3  September at 5 pm and not at 11.11 am), with the position of the ascendant
(3 September at 11 am, the ascendant was 20° Scorpio and not 3° Scorpio) and with the
place of the Moon indicated in the first part. This incoherence is rather strange if we
take into account that the other data given by Moses in § 16 are correct: in 18 hours,
between 2 September 5.11 pm and 3 September 11.11 am, the mean motion of the Moon
was 9° 52’ and the mean motion of the Sun was 44’. And he is right to say then, as we
have already seen, that the Sun during the opposition was located at 17° Virgo (or at

32 Geber filius Affla Hispalensis, De astronomia libri IX, published with Petrus Api-
anus, Instrumentum primi mobilis, Nuremberg 1534, p. 2.

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the 17th degree) and not at 12° Virgo. There is indeed a horary problem in this dossier,
in contrast with the planetary positions indicated by the Jewish astrologer, which are
globally more reliable than the ones of his Christian counterpart.
The most interesting thing of the end of Moses’ reply is his contestation, falsely
founded on the authority of the famous Jewish astrologer Māshā’allāh’, of the authen-
ticity of Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos or Kitāb al-Arba‘a (§ 20): as far as I know, Māshā’allāh
criticized this treatise but did not say that its attribution to Ptolemy was spurious;33 it is
Abraham Ibn Ezra in his Sefer ha-Te‘amim (Book of Reasons), probably inspired himself
by Abū‘Mashar,34 who seems to have been the hidden source and model of Moses here,35
a contradictory model if we observe that, as his famous Jewish predecessor did, Moses
uses the Tetrabiblos and refers to it several times (§§ 15, 19, 22 and 24), while reporting
a testimony denying its authenticity.
What is the significance of such a surprising disputatio at a distance? There is of course
a rhetorical and an exemplary aspect in this kind of expert’s report, but we must note
that Moses seems to have the last word in this case, which is an exception in the judi-
cial documents of the Late Middle Ages, where the stereotype of the Jewish sorcerer is
usually omnipresent (including in the case of Hugues Géraud’s trial in 1317). The diffe­
rence between this stereotyped view and the concrete description reproduced here may
be partly explained by the fact that our document was produced by Mauvoisin for his

33 Moses refers to what “Mosalla scribit in Libro generali judiciorum, in Xo capitulo, in fine,
et in principio Libri nativitatis”. I do not know exactly to what text Moses alluded to in the
first case but in the Latin translation of Māshā’allāh’s Kitāb al-mawalīd (the Arabic text is
lost), the attribution of the Tetrabiblos to Ptolemy is not contested: see Edward S.  ­Kennedy
and David Pingree, The Astrological History of Māshā’allāh, Cambridge (Mass.), 1971,
pp. 145 – 174. In fact, Moses seems here to quote Abraham Ibn Ezra’s Sefer ha-Te‘amim and
Sefer ha-Moladot. See infra, note 35.
34 Abū Ma’šar al-Balkhī [Albumasar], Kitāb al-mudkhal al-kabīr, Liber introductorii maio-
ris ad scientiam iudiciorum astrorum IV, 1, vol. II: Texte arabe et apparats critiques, Naples
1995, p. 242, and vol. V: Texte latin de Jean de Séville avec la révision de Gérard de Crémone,
Naples 1996, p. 137.
35 See chapter I of Abraham ibn Ezra’s first version of his Sefer ha-Te‘amim (Book of Reasons) in
Abraham Ibn Ezra, The Book of Reasons. A Parallel Hebrew-English Critical Edition of
the Two Versions of the Text, ed. and trans. Shlomo Sela, Leiden–Boston 2007, pp. 34 – 35:
“But I, Abraham, the author, say that this book was not written by Ptolemy, because there
are many things in it that have in them nothing of rational thought or experience, as I shall
explain in the Book of Nativities”. Ibn Ezra said in his Sefer ha-Moladot (Book of Nativities):
“Ptolemy said in the Tetrabiblos that regarding children we should always observe the tenth
and eleventh <mundane> houses. All those who came after him, including Māshā’allāh, laugh
at him; and they are right” (ibid., p. 119; cf. also The Book of Nativities and Revolutions by
Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra, translated by Meira B. ­Epstein, Arhat Publ. 2008, p. 47). For the
critics formulated by Ibn Ezra against Ptolemy, see Shlomo Sela, Abraham Ibn Ezra and the
Rise of Medieval Hebrew Science, Leiden-Boston 2003, pp. 247 – 256 (especially 254 – 256).

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Appendix 53

defence in order to show the harmlessness of his astrological concern, other documents
of the proceedings revealing other aspects of Moses’ activity. This trial shows the comple-
mentary importance of astrological expertise, political prophecies and talismanic magic
for individual career and promotion in the pontifical court of Avignon during the second
decade of the fourteenth century. Even if the career of Moses does not seem to have been
broken by the prosecution of his client,36 these common practices contribute to explain
the atmosphere of general suspicion of John XXII’s accession and the unprecedented
repression of divination and magic during the first part of his pontificate, notably the
consultation of 1320, in which magic was assimilated to a kind of “heretical fact”.37 But
this assimilation is totally absent in Robert de Mauvoisin’s trial: the history of relations
between the charge of magic and divination, and the accusation of heresy is far from linear.

36 There is an important local documentation on Moses, showing the continuation of his medi­cal
and commercial activities in Jouques and Marseilles after Mauvoisin’s trial: Shatzmiller,
Justice et injustice (see note 1), pp. 130 – 133.
37 Alain Boureau, Le pape et les sorciers. Une consultation de Jean XXII sur la magie en 1320
(Manuscrit B. A. V. ­Borghese 348), Rome 2004.

Appendix

A Forgotten Document:
A Relevant Paper of the Robert de Mauvoisin’s Trial
(Vatican, Secret Archives, Collectorie 17, fol. 109v and 102r–108r)

/fol. 109v/ ⊕ Questiones, disputationes, responsiones et determinationes Judei [et]


m
­ agistri Petri.
/fol. 102r/ ⊕

[1] Queritur quid accedet petenti de domino boni vel mali. Respondetur quod Luna,
que reputatur major significatrix in responsionibus, quia invenit eam in Ariete, qui

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est honor 38 Solis, et Sol dominus est decime camere et Sol irradiat directe ad Lunam,
qui melior irradians est; et camera decima est significatrix majoris et altioris dominii.
Idcirco respondetur quod petens irradiabitur honorifice ab illo domino et in magna
familiaritate habebitur et magnis honoribus exaltabitur ab eodem, quia inveni dominum
camere ascendentem supra osizon, qui est Mars, dominus videlicet camere, quia est in
signo mutanti, quod est Libra, et Libra est in parte ascendentis spere. Respondetur quod
petens mutabitur de honore in majorem honorem, ex eo quia Mars dominus in ascensu
ille ascendet; nam si ille dominus, scilicet Mars, descenderet, petens etiam naturaliter
haberet descendere. Item etiam quia Mars, dominus ascendentis, erat in suo termino 39 et
suo tercio et domini terciorum aliorum sui signi veniebant conjungi cum illo. Respon-
detur quod multi amici petentis juvabunt eundem petentem ad obtinendum petita et
alia ejus negocia obtinenda. Istam sententiam dat magister sine instancia. /fol. 102v/
[2] Item quia Mars, dominus ascendentis, irradiat decime domui medii amoris et
quia Jupiter erat significator petentis et conbustus a Sole, respondetur quod nichil petat
a domino prima vice, donec sit extra combustionem, que erit post duos menses, nec
multa eidem domino presentet, nisi ab expresso consilio ejusdem amicorum; nam in
suis negociis invenit amicos, ut premititur in questione ut supra, adjutores. Item quia
invenit Mars longe a camera decima decem signa, respondetur quod usque ad duos
annos premissi honores non complebuntur; et tunc omnia complebuntur, nisi a Deo
aliud ordinetur.
[3] Primo fuit quesitum a magistro quid continget petenti a domino utrum malum
vel bonum. Respondet quod bonum, ut supra declaravit; de malo non videtur quod
sibi accidat ab eodem, nec invenit juxta sententiam astronomie. Amicos bonos habet
et invenit in suis negociis et attentos; sed mali, licet garrulent vel cogitent quandoque,
nichil valent contra eum aliqualiter obtinere.
[4] Hora petentis fuit tercia die mensis septembris, hora quinta. Ascendens erat tercia
grasa in Scorpione. Locus septem planetarum est iste: Saturnus: Acarius, XVII grasas et
LIIIIor secundas, retrogradas; Jupiter: /fol. 103r/ Virgo, XVIIIo grasas, LVIIIo secundas,
rectas; Mars: Libra, XXVII grasas, XL secundas, rectas; Sol: Virgo, XVII grasas, XXXI
secundas; Venus: Libra, XXX grasas, rectas; Mercurius: Libra, V grasas, XV secundas;
Luna: Aries, II grasas, XLV secundas; Caput Draconis: Aries, XIX grasas; Cauda Draconis:
Libra, XIX grasas; par dominationis: Virgo, V grasas; par dignitatis subita: Leo, II grasas.
[5] Magister, quicumque es, si reprehendo in aliquo, excuset me dictum Geberis
expositorii Almajesti quando reprehendit Tholomeum, magistrum suum, in capitulum
decem et octo, in quibus dicebat ipsum errasse; excuset etiam me verbum Philosophi

38 Honor is synonym with “exaltation”. Cf. Abraham Ibn Ezra, On Elections, Interrogations,
and Medical Astrology. A Parallel Hebrew-English Critical Edition of the Book of Elections
(3 Versions), the Book of Interrogations (3 Versions), and the Book of the Luminaries, ed.
and trans. Shlomo Sela, Leiden–New York 2011, p. 335.
39 For the “terms” according to Ibn Ezra, cf. ibid., p. 335.

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Appendix 55

quando reprehendit Platonem, magistrum suum, cum dicit: “Veritas et Plato ambo sunt
amici, sed veritas magis amica.”40 Ideoque pro veritate loquor.
[6] Vidi scripturam que incipit: “Queritur quid accidet de domino”, ad cujus
responsionem dixistis quod Luna significatrix pro omni querente erat tunc in A ­ riete,
in quo est honor Solis, respiciens domum decimam honoris et dignitatis; et in hoc
bene dixistis; sed addidistis quod Sol, qui significat dominum, qui est dominus d­ ecime
camere, tunc irradiabat Lunam; quod est falsum, quia die jovis precedenti, Luna fuit
in opositione Solis irradiata a Sole per opositum.41 Hoc probant tabule /fol. 103v/
examinationum; hoc vidimus per experienciam. Vos etiam ponitis eam extra oposi-
tum Solis, quia dicitis quod erat in duodecimo gradu Arietis, ibi irradiata a Sole per
opositum; et dicitis quod Sol erat in XIIo gradu Virginis, cujus opositum in veritate
est in XVIIIo Piscium, qui distat per XXIIIIor gradus a XIIo gradu Arietis ubi poni-
tis; Lunam irradiatam a Sole per opositionem in hoc male videtur studuisse in libro
qui dicitur Alquindus De radiis 42 et rationes jaumetricas quas ponit Tholomeus in
­Quadripartito suo qui dicitur Alarba.43
[7] Et quia dixistis per Lunam significari quod querens obtineret honorem a
­domino et cetera, male considerastis introductiones astronomicorum in Introduc-
torio majori Albummassar 44 et aliorum judicum, qui omnes concorditer dicunt, et
precipue Avenesre 45 et Ali Abenragel,46 cum dicunt quod quando Luna vel signifi-
cator respicit domum seu cameram rei de qua queritur, sicut hic Luna irradiabat
Xam domum, tunc debet atente considerari quod si Luna sit in cadenti, sicut erat hic

40 This sentence is in fact found in the prologue of the Astronomia sive Flores in Almagesto,
­written by Jābir ibn Aflāḥ; cf. Geber Filius Affla Hispalensis, De astronomia libri
IX, published with Petrus Apianus, Instrumentum primi mobilis, Nuremberg 1534, p. 2.
41 This configuration corresponds to one of the misfortunes of the Moon according to many
astrologers, e. g. Albumasar, Ysagoga minor, vol. IV, in Abū Ma’shar, The Abbreviation of
the Introduction to Astrology, together with the Medieval Latin translation of Adelard of
Bath, ed. and trans. Charles Burnett, Keiji Yamamoto and Michio Yano, Leiden–New
York–Cologne 1994, p. 122.
42 This reference is problematic and seems strange because the De radiis ascribed to al-Kindī
is only theoretical and has been condemned in the Errores philosophorum ascribed to Giles
of Rome. See Marie-Thérèse d’Alverny and Françoise Hudry, Al-Kindi, De radiis, in:
Archives d’Histoire doctrinale et littéraire du Moyen Âge 49 (1974), pp. 139 – 269.
43 Cf. the Kitāb al-Arba‘a, arabic translation of Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos. I did not see the exact
sentence in Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, ed. and trans. Frank E. ­Robbins, Cambridge (Mass.)–
London 1961, and Ptholomeus, Quadripartitum, Venice 1493.
44 Albumasar’s Introductorius major (see note 34 on the edition).
45 Abraham Ibn Ezra, On Elections (see note 38), pp. 286 – 291 (She’elot I, 10th house), and
pp.  382 – 383 (She’elot II, 10th house); Id., De interrogationibus, trans. Peter of Abano, V
­ enice
1507, fol. 65ra–rb, De decima domo.
46 Albohazen Hali, Filius Abenragel, Liber in judiciis astrorum, Venice 1485, III, III,
20, fol. 48vb–49rb.

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cadens in sexta domo, non significat complementum rei, sicut vos dixistis, sed haberet
tantum in cogitatione et non in effectu; si vero esset in angulo vel in sequenti, tunc
irradiatio significaret effectum.
[8] Item dixistis quod Jupiter erat in XIa domo seu camera spei et fortune et ­desiderii
et familiarium domini 47 et quod erit ibi cum Sole comburente; et hec bene dixistis;
sed conclusistis quod post tempus certum obtineret et cetera; et in hoc /fol. 104r/
mirum est quod ignorastis verba Albummassar de revolutione anni,48 cum quo famosi
astrologi concordant, cum dicunt quod Sol per conjunctionem corporalem extra Leo-
nem et ­Arietem comburit et destruit omnes planetas et nulla virtus est in eis et quod
tunc planeta significare non potest, neque promittere nullo unquam tempore dabit pro
questione illa, nisi esset in corde Solis, quod est cum sunt ambo infra viginti minuta
unius gradus in longitudine et latitudine.
[9] Item dixistis in secunda questione de mutatione status et cetera, quia ascendens
erat tercius gradus Scorpionis, dominus ejus erat Mars, dominus ascendentis, et erat circa
finem Libre; et in hoc bene dixistis, pro eo quia erat in signo mutanti; sed adjunxistis
quod mutaret in melius, pro eo quod Mars erat in parte ascendente spere, sed in hoc
non bene considerastis introductiones et amphorimos sapientum astrorum, qui dicunt
quod planeta ascendens in parte spere, quando est in XII a domo seu camera, qui est
locus dejectionis et vilitatis, tunc nichil boni promittit in mutatione status, sed in aliis
locis, vel si appodiatur planeta in angulis, quod hic non erat; et quamvis tu dicas quod
domini terciorum junguntur Marti, domino ascendentis, per quod juvaretur querens ab
amicis, non dixistis in hoc verum, quia unus illorum est separatus et alter nullo modo
respicit, sicut tu jam ponis eos in adhecationibus planetarum.

Responsio [sic]49
[10] Ego autem considero sic. In questione prima de obtentu a domino, /fol. 104v/
quia verba sunt sapientum, super XIa domo et textus est Ahomar 50 et Azelis 51, cum

47 Albumasar, Ysagoga minor, II, in Abū Ma’shar, The Abbreviation (see note 41), p. 104,
for the meaning of the 11th house: “spei, fortune, divitiarum, fame, sodalium.”
48 Abū Ma’shar al-Balkhī [Albumasar], Liber introductorii majoris ad scientiam iudi-
ciorum astro­rum, ed. Richard Lemay, Naples 1996, vol. V, VII, 4, Texte latin de Jean de Séville
avec la révision de Gérard de Crémone, p. 289.
49 Master Peter’s responsio begins in fact at § 5. So there is a mistake of the copyist here.
50 Aomar Tiberiadis (‘Umar al-Ṭabarī, died c. 815) is one of the nine “judges” of the Liber novem
judicum. Cf. Liber novem judicum, Venice 1508 (fol. 77va–88rb for the interrogations of the
10th house); The Book of the Nine Judges. Traditional Horary Astrology, trans. Ben Dykes,
Minneapolis 2012.
51 I. e. Zael Benbriz (Sahl Ibn Bishr), the famous Jewish astrologer of the 9th century. See the
Liber novem judicum (see note 50), fol. 77rb sq., and in Ptolomaeus, Quadripartitum,
Venice 1493, fol. 135ra–135rb, the chapter of Zael’s De interrogationibus called Questio de
qualibet re si adipiscetur vel non.

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Appendix 57

dicunt quod si fortuna sit in angulo Xe camere vel in angulo orientis seu prime
camere, illum dominum seu alium de quo queritur amicum esse asserit, scilicet
querentis honorem et profectum ab eo inducit; et ita erat in ista figura celesti, quia
Venus, que est fortuna, sicut dicit Abummassar in libro De peregrinationibus et Hili,
De electionibus,52 erat in tercio gradu Scorpionis in gradu orientis prope, sicut patet
per tabulas verificatas astrorum, et non per tacuinum judeum de Monte Pessulano, 53
sicut judicat tua scriptura.
[11] Item in alia questione de mutatione status considero sic. Mars, dominus ascenden-
tis, erat cadens in XIIa domo et erat in signo mutationis, scilicet Libra, et Luna similiter
erat cadens in VIa domo et erat similiter in signo mutationis, scilicet Ariete, in prima
facie, non in secunda sicut tu ponis; et omnia hec significant mutationem status; quod
autem sic mutatio in melius ita considero quia Mars erat in ascendente spere, ut tu jam
dixisti, sed erat in fine signi Libre, qui est casus ejus, et jam intrabat signum Scorpionis,
ubi habet multas suas dignitates ex domo et triplicitate et jam radii medii sui orbis lumi-
nis erant in eo; et hec ratio sumitur ex figura celi naturalis; ex figura autem accidentali
sic probatur, quia Mars, dominus ascendentis, erat in fine XIIe domus cadentis, quasi
intraturus primam domum orientis in quinque gradibus qui sunt supra orizonta, jam
irradians illos ut veniat suo motu ad angulum orientis, per quod signi-/fol. 105r/-ficatur
mutatio in melius et cetera.
[12] Item de tempore dixistis quod usque ad duos annos premissi honores non com-
plebuntur et tunc omnia complebuntur, quia Mars erat a longe a camera Xa per decem
signa; per hec videris intelligere quod quando Mars venerit ad Leonem in Xa camera,
tunc complebuntur sibi honores et cetera, quod erit circa finem duorum annorum; et
in hoc bona fuit consideratio, sicut legitur in libris de temporibus; sed forte esset melior
consideratio quod istud tempus significaretur a planeta Venere fortuna que erat fortior
et proprior in ascendente angulo, et hoc esset quando Venus veniret ad Xam cameram in
Leone et maxime si esset ibi cum Sole, quod poterit esse ante finem primi anni.
[13] Item dixistis quod Mars, dominus ascendentis, erat in suo tercio et domini ter-
ciorum aliorum sui signi veniebant conjungi cum illo; ideo dixistis quod multi amici
juvarent eundem petentem ad obtinendum petita. Et ego dico quod nullus planetarum
jungitur Marti nec Mars alteri, sicut patet intuenti figuram et adecationes planetarum
et scienti radios et aspectus planetarum; sed forte hoc potuit significari quod industria

52 Haly Embrani, De electionibus, in: José Maria Millàs Vallicrosa, Las traducciones
orientales en los manuscritos de la Biblioteca Catedral de Toledo, Madrid 1942, p. 335: “Luna
enim, secundum ipsum [= Albumasar], calida est, et fortuna quoque sicut Venus. Quod tes-
tatur Albumasar, ubi loquitur de peregrinationibus.”
53 I. e. the Almanach of the Jewish astronomer Prophatius ( Jacob ben Makhir ibn Tibbon). Cf.
Almanach Dantis Alighieri sive Prophacii Judaei Montispessulani. Almanach perpetuum ad
annum 1300 inchoatum, ed. Giuseppe Boffito, Camillo Melzi d’Eril, Florence 1908. This
almanach is mainly based upon the Toledan Tables.

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sua, amicorum consilio et altiorum hominum propter translationem luminis de Luna


ad Mercurium per apositionem et Mercurii ad Saturnum ex trino aspectu amicitie ad
Saturnum recipientem et receptum in angulo quarte domus et fortunium XIe domus
per Solis presentiam, qua signum calefacit et non destruit, sed fortunat /fol. 105v/ XIam
et propter fortunium prime domus orientis in qua erat Venus ut predixi.
[14] “Queritur quid accidet de domino”: in ista questione prima laudastis dictum
primum, sed dixistis falsum esse cum dicebam quod Sol, qui est dominus Xe camere,
tunc irradiabat Lunam, quia, ut dicitis, die jovis precedenti Luna fuit in oppositione
Solis irradiata a Sole per oppositum, allegando quod hoc probabant tabule examina-
tionum et quod hoc videratis per experienciam.
[15] Concedo et dico quod die jovis post meridiem quinque horis et XI momentis
fuerunt Sol et Luna per oppositum et ab illa hora usque ad horam petentis erant XVI-
IIo hore, et interim Luna ascendit IX gradus et LII minutas et Solis XLIIIIor minutas;
et Tolomeus scribit in VIIo capitulo in libro judicum in quo tractat de triginta modis
qui judicant motus et virtutes planetarum; et unus illorum est irradiatio, ubi dicitur
septem modis;54 et ibidem ponit quod Hali, Abummassar et omnes antiqui dicebant
quod irradiatio non deficiebat in virtute per longitudinem XII graduum;55 Tholomeus
autem dicebat quod impediebat cum distabat per XVI gradus, unde non impediebat
secundum Tholomeum et alios, cum non distaret nisi per IX gradus; unde perinde
­judico ac si directe radiaret, quod facit quantum ad veram sententiam et effectum, cum
talis distancia non impediat, ut est dictum. /fol. 106r/
[16] Item quia dicitis quod pono Lunam extra oppositum Solis, ymo pono quantum
ad IX gradus et LII minutas, sed quantum ad sententiam et effectum, judico quod irra-
diantibus directe ut superius est dictum; nec dixi quod esset in XIIo gradu Arietis, ymo
in meis adjectionibus, si bene vidistis, Sol Virgo erat XVIIo et non in XIIo, quia tunc
esset aliud; et vos dixistis quod erat in XVIIIo Piscium, qui distat per XXIIIIor gradus
a XII o gradu Arietis, ubi ponebam Lunam irradiatam a Sole per appositionem; dixi
et dico ut supra, ut apparet in adzacationibus meis, si bene vidistis, ubi dixi Sol Virgo
XVIIo gradus. In hoc vero quod dicitis Solem esse in Piscibus, multum miror, quia scitis
quod nisi in XVIIIa die marcii non erat in Piscibus.
[17] Item in hoc quod dicitis me non bene vidisse in Libro irradiationum a calide,
dico illum vidisse, sed non facit ad istos radios super quibus tractatur, quia isti sciuntur
per virtutes numerum et illi sciuntur a calide per visum occuli.
[18] Item de illo quod me reprehendistis quod Lunam ponebam significatricem
­honori et dignitati petentis, et dicitis quod Luna erat in VIa camera nichil habebat sig-
nificare, sed si esset in Va, concederet significationi quam dabam, salvo honore vestro,
non ordinastis cameras ut debuistis, secundum esse terre petentis, quia si vultis bene

54 The exact source could not be identified.


55 Albumasar, Liber introductorii majoris (see note 48), VII, 5, vol. V, p. 294.

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Appendix 59

studere et ponere cameras secundum ascentiones signorum in hac terra, /fol. 106v/


invenietis quod Luna est in Va camera, quia est in secunda camera Arietis; quare ejus
significatio erat bona et vera ut posui.
[19] Item super eo quod me reprehendistis quia respondi petenti et assignavi certum
terminum ad consequendum honores, quia dicitis quod Jupiter erat combustus a Sole
et ponitis quod nullam significationem potest facere super questione, miror valde, quia
scitis quod in XLIIo capitulo de octo libris sententiarum habet quod quando planeta
est retrograda, dicit quod non potest esse in pejori significatione; et ponit in capitulo
sequenti quod debet judicari quando erit directa, tunc debet obtinere petita; et in capi­
tulo nonagesimo ponit Tholomeus quod planeta combustus est sicut homo existens
in periculo mortis et postea venit in convalescentia; quare dico quod post exitum com-
bustionis, habet significare complementum propter reductionem sui primii status et in
combustione nichil propter debilitatem et melenconiam.
[20] Item super eo quod me reprehendistis quod bene non vidi Librum alariba,
sciatis quod vidi, sed per ipsum non judico, quia Mosalla scribit in Libro generali judi-
ciorum, in Xo capitulo, in fine, et in principio Libri nativitatis, quod ipse credit quod
Tholomeus non fecit illum librum, /fol. 107r/ quia illa plurima que continentur in eo
sunt longe a veritate et a ratione.56
[21] Item super eo etiam quod me reprehendistis quod judicabam quod mutaret
dignitatem suam in melius quia Mars erat in parte ascendentis et dicebam quod erat
in XIIa camera, que vocatur cadens, et dixistis quod potius haberet significare in pejori,
miror de reprehensione, quia scitis in Libro communi judiciorum, in Vo capitulo, ponit
nobilitatem et incrementum unicum, que recipiunt planete secundum locum eorum
in spera, ubi ponit quando planeta ascendit in partem sinistram vel ascendit in speram
parvam aut in statu suo secundo aut exit subtus combustionem Solis, tunc in suo ­meliori
statu; et non distinguit per cameram in qua est.
[22] Item super eo quod me reprehendit quia dominus terciorum Scorpionis con-
jungebatur Marti, qui est dominus Scorpionis, et unus terciorum est separatus et alius
non irradiat, miror, quia domini terciorum Scorpionis sunt Venus et Mars et socius est
Luna et Venus et Mars sunt infra duabus grasis et XX minutis /fol. 107v/ et virtus cor-
poris cujuslibet planete durat VI gradibus et plus et Tholomeus ponit in VIIo capitulo

56 As far as I know, the attribution of the Tetrabiblos to Ptolemy has not been contested by the
famous Jewish astrologer Māshā’allāh. But some important Jewish scholars of the Middle
Ages did so: see in particular chapter one of Abraham ibn Ezra’s first version of his Sefer
ha-Te‘amim (Book of Reasons) in Abraham Ibn Ezra, The Book of Reasons (see note 35),
pp. 34 – 35. See also the Latin translation of the Sefer ha-Te‘amim from 1281 by Henry Bate
of Mechelen under the title De mundo vel seculo, Venice 1507, fol. 76rb: “Et ego, Abraham
compilator, dico quod hunc libellum [i. e. Quadripartitum] non compilavit Ptolomeus, nam
in eo sunt multi sermones frivoli secundum scientie contra ponderationum et experiencie.
Idem in Libro nativitatis, caput domus 5, ait idem […].”

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sui Libri generalis quod quocienscumque quod planeta sit infra virtutem alius planete
vocantur conjuncte.
[23] Ex quibus concludo positiones meas prout posueram veras esse et de reprehen-
sione vestra merito valde miror, sed ad declarationem vestre intentionis et mee in festivi-
tatibus natalis Domini Aquis simul erimus, Domino concedente; existens nichilominus
in mea intentione quod petens suum obtinebit optatum prout scripsi.
[24] In sententiis vestris cum meis concordantibus in effectu, licet differant in arte
et in effectu etiam quantum ad prorogationem temporis discordemus, quia vos ponitis
tempus brevius et ego longius; miror de vobis, quia posuistis significatorem Venus et ex
eo extraxistis brevitatem obtinendi petita contra sententiam meam, qui dicebam longius,
quia scitis quod Venus ponit Tholomeus quod Venus nichil significat quoad honores
boni, sed quantum ad lacivitates et luxurias;57 adhuc est magis miran d um, quia Venus
erat /fol. 108r/ in XII a camera cadentis et nullium dominium habebat cum domino
ascendentis et non debuistis ipsum recipere pro significatore, quia nullum dominium
habebat cum domino ascendentis, nec potestatem nec proprietatem in questione, sed
Mars erat dominus ascendentis, quare recepi eum pro significatore.
[25] Insuper, miror quia dixistis quod irradiatio Mercurii ad Saturnum significat
mutationem majoris honoris, quia Saturnus est retrogradus et nullam bonam signifi-
cationem habet.
[26] Dixistis quod judicavi per tacuinum. Verum est, et etiam per tabulas, quia quan-
tum ad questionem istam non differunt.
Similem processum habuit dominus P.,58 Aquensis archiepiscopus.

57 Ptolomaeus, Quadripartitum (see note 51), III, 13, fol. 81va. Cf. Abraham ibn Ezra,
Liber rationum, trans. Peter of Abano, Venice 1507, fol. 39ra: “Venus est fortunata planeta,
­quoniam parum temperata, ideo luxuriam significat.”
58 Pierre Després was appointed bishop of Aix by John XXII the 11th of September 1318.

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Appendix 61

Fig. 1. A Reconstitution of the figura celi of the questio


(see § 4 of the text)

pars dignitatis 2°
☼ 18°58’
☿5°15’ ♃ 17°31’ pars domin. IX
XI 5°
19° X
XII VIII
♂27°40’
♀30° 3°
Questio of
Robert de Mauvoisin
3 September 1316
I (Asc.) 5 post meridiem VII


II
VI
♄ 17°54’ 19°
III IV V ☾ 2°45’

Main signification of the twelve houses (domus or camere): I. vita, II.


lucrum, III. fratres, IV. parentes, V. filii, VI. valitudo, VII. nuptie, VIII. mors,
IX. peregrinationes, X. honores, XI. amici, XII. inimici.

Fig. 2. Comparison between Moses’ astronomical data with those which


could have been calculated with Prophatius’ Almanach perpetuum,
the Toledan Tables (TT), and the positions we can get with modern
astronomical tables (MT)

Moses Prophatius TT MT
Saturn 317.54 318.18 318.2 321.51
Jupiter 168.58 168.26 168.14 168.41
Mars 207.40 207.34 207.29 207.9
Sun 167.31 167.29 167.32 168.45
Venus 210 209.48 211.17 212.45
Mercury 185.15 183.37 183.23 188.33
Moon 2.45 0.20 0.47 2.34
H. ­Dragon 19. 20.43 19.59 20.
Ascendant 213 (3° Scorpio) 316.54

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Robert Hand

Giovanni Villani and the Great Conjunction of 1345

Giovanni Villani (c. 1276 – 1348) is well known to medieval historians as the first major
chronicler of the history of Florence. He was a banker and diplomat, and typical of
the Florentine upper classes in that his origins were not from nobility but from what
we would now call the upper middle class. He began writing the Cronica 1 around 1300
and continued until shortly before his death from the plague in 1348. This we know
because the last chapters of his work deal with the plague. His work constitutes one of
the richest primary sources for history of Italy in the Middle Ages.
This is a publication about “Astrologers and their Clients in Medieval and Early Modern
Europe.” From this point of view Villani and his chronicle is an especially interesting case.
Villani was not an astrologer in the same sense as Guido Bonatti (c. 1210–c. 1290), Cecco
d’Ascoli (1257 – 1327), or Pietro d’Abano (late 13th–early 14th centuries). Astrology was not
Villani’s primary activity. Yet there are approximately thirty-five chapters in this work in which
there is some mention of astrology. Many of these are simple references to ancient astrological
beliefs and references to cosmic omens, comets, eclipses and phenomena of the kind quite
common in medieval chro­nicle literature. However, there are also astrological discourses in
the Cronica which are quite sophisticated, one of which from Book XIII, chapter 41 is the
subject of this paper. What I attempt to give in this paper is an example of how a complex
form of astrology, at a high level of sophistication, could be employed by a literate layper-
son, who was neither an academic nor a practicing astrologer, as a tool of historical analysis.
Villani was by no means the only one to write on this conjunction. Thorndike 2
mentions several. Among these are John of Eshenden (died c. 1379),3 Geoffrey of
Meaux (first half of the fourteenth century),4 John of Murs (first half of the fourteenth

1 The edition of Villani used throughout this paper is the following: Giovanni Villani, Nuova
Cro­nica, ed. Giuseppe Porta, 3 vols., Parma 22007. This edition will be referred to hereafter
as Cronica.
2 Lynn Thorndike, A History of Magic and Experimental Science, 8 vols., New York,
1923 – 1958, referred to hereafter as HMES.
3 The forms of his name vary considerably. Thorndike lists Eshenden, Eschenden, chendon,
Aschendene, Ashenton, Eschuid, Aschelden, Aysheen, Escynden, Esshenden, Veschinden,
Ashenden, Ashindon, and Eastwood. Ibid., vol. 3, p. 325. Thorndike’s description of John’s
involvement with the conjunction of 1345 is pp. 326 – 332.
4 Thorndike, HMES (see note 2), vol. 3, p. 281, denies that Geoffrey wrote on the conjunc-
tion but Hubert Pruckner published a text that clearly is about this conjunction, and does
not appear to be the one “actually” (according to Thorndike) written by John of Murs. See

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­century),5 Firmin de Beauval (first half of the fourteenth century),6 plus a prognosti-
cation by Levi ben Gerson (originally written in Hebrew but translated into Latin)7 to
cite a few. However, these men were all professionally involved in astronomy in both
medieval uses of the word.8 Villani was not a professional practitioner in either sense.
Although quite literate in astrology, as I will demonstrate below, he was a patron of
astrologers whose work he used, not one himself.
Villani’s attitude toward astrology is quite clear. He was suspicious of astrology inso-
far as it was associated with pagan concepts 9 and he vigorously asserted free will against
the fatalism allegedly supported by some astrologers.10 His hostility toward those who
seemed to advocate a more deterministic view of astrology may be revealed in Book VIII,
chapter 8111 where he makes an ironic reference to Guido Bonatti and his employment
by the Duke of Montefeltro in battle strategy. He refers to Bonatti as a “roof-maker”
when he certainly must have known (Bonatti having been very much involved in the
history of Florence) that Bonatti was an educated man and quite possibly attended the
University of Bologna.12
However, the most elaborate use of astrology in the Cronica is to make sense of his-
torical events both present and past. The more complex of these are found in the later
books. In addition to the chapter which is the topic of this paper we have Book XIII,
chapters 31, 32, 40, 84, 98, and 114, all of which cover the period of Villani’s own life.

Hubert Pruckner, Studien zu den astrologischen Schriften des Heinrich von Langenstein,
Leipzig–Berlin 1933, pp. 215 – 219.
5 See Thorndike, HMES (see note 2), vol. 3, pp. 303 – 304, but also see Pruckner, Studien
(see note 4), pp. 223 – 226.
6 See Thorndike, HMES (see note 2), vol. 3, p. 268, but also see Pruckner, Studien (see
note 4), pp. 220 – 221.
7 Bernard R. ­G oldstein and David Pingree, Levi Ben Gerson’s Prognostication for the
Conjunction of 1345, vol. 80/6 (Transactions of the American Philosophical Society), Phil-
adelphia 1990, pp. 28 – 29.
8 As was the general practice of the time, the hard and fast distinction between the two terms,
nearly universally maintained in modern times, was not maintained in the Middle Ages. See
Richard Lemay, The Teaching of Astronomy in Medieval Universities, principally at Paris
in the Fourteenth Century, in: Manuscripta 20/3 (1976), pp. 197 – 217.
9 Villani, Cronica (see note 1), vol. 1, p. 89 and p. 145.
10 See the passages referred to in the previous note as well as the passage from ibid., vol.1, Book
XIII, ch. 41 (pp. 392 – 396) which is the main subject of this paper.
11 Ibid., vol. 1, p. 536.
12 The details of Bonatti’s life are not well known. The best source material on his life is con-
tained in Baldassarre Boncompagni, Della vita e delle opere di Guido Bonatti astrologo
ed astronomo del secolo decimoterzo, Rome 1851. Another useful introduction to his life is
contained in the translation by Dykes of Bonatti’s opus. Guido Bonatti, Book of Astronomy,
trans. Benjamin Dykes, 2 vols., Golden Valley, MN 2007.

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Others have noted Villani’s use of astrology and commented on the pervasive
influence of astrological ideas in the Cronica. In particular there is the work by Ernst
Mehl, “Die Weltanschauung des Giovanni Villani” 13 which provides the general
background. Also, an article by Viktor Stegemann (kindly provided to me by David
Juste) demonstrates that Villani’s language, when describing major historical figures,
kings, emperors, popes and the like, is dominated by the language of astrological
character typing as was to be found in the works of ancient and medieval writers
such as Ptolemy, Vettius Valens, Dorotheus and Albumasar. Stegemann argues that
the apparent reliance on astrological literature is so great that the verbiage used may
not have been derived from direct knowledge of the personalities of these figures
but rather from astrologically-derived basic character types, ones that these indivi­
duals should have possessed (according to astrology) based on their roles in history.
Nor does one have to go back as far as Stegemann did to find such authors. In the
writings of Bonatti from just before Villani’s own time we find the same language of
astrological character typing.
Let us now turn to the passage in question from Book XIII, chapter 41 entitled “On
the Conjunction of Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars in the Sign of Aquarius.”14
Villani begins his discussion as follows:

In the year 1345 on the 28th day of March, a little after the ninth hour,15 according to
the calculation of Pagolo di ser Piero, a great master in this science, there was a con-
junction of Saturn and Jupiter in twenty degrees of the sign Aquarius along with the
aspects of other planets [which will be] described below. But according to the alma-
nac of Prophatius Judaeus 16 and the Toledan Tables the aforesaid conjunction had to
be on the 20th day of the aforesaid March, and the planet Mars was with them in the
sign of Aquarius, twenty-seven degrees, and the Moon was completely eclipsed on the
­eighteenth day of the aforesaid March in the sign of Libra in seven degrees.

13 Ernst Mehl, Die Weltanschauung des Giovanni Villani. Ein Beitrag zur Geistesgeschichte
Italiens im Zeitalter Dantes (Beiträge zur Kulturgeschichte des Mittelalters und der Renais-
sance 33), Berlin 1927, reprint Hildesheim 1973.
14 “Della congiunzione di Saturno e di Giove e di Marti nel segno d’Aquario”, Villani, Cron-
ica (see note 1), p. 392. Unless otherwise noted, all translations in this paper are by myself.
However, I wish to acknowledge the assistance in correcting my translation of Villani’s Italian
provided by Katherine Jansen, Associate Professor of History at the Catholic University of
America in Washington DC. ­Any remaining errors are my responsibility.
15 Early afternoon if one assumes, probably correctly, that the Florentines of the time, or at least
the Florentine astronomers, began the day at sunrise rather than midnight.
16 For a discussion of the Prophatius Judaeus’ Canons see Thorndike, HMES (see note 2),
vol. 3, pp. 694 – 698.

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Also, at the entry which the Sun made into the sign of Aries on the eleventh day of
March,17 Saturn was on the ascendant in the sign of Aquarius in eighteen degrees and
was the lord of the year, and Jupiter was in Aquarius in sixteen degrees. Mars was in
Aquarius in the twenty-two degrees.
But following the calculations of the aforementioned master Pagolo, who is one of
the modern masters, he said that he saw visibly the conjunction with his instruments
on the twenty-eighth day of March, the conjunction being in the angle of the west
and the Sun was almost on the Midheaven declining a little from the angle in sixteen
degrees of Aries and in his own exaltation. Leo, the Sun’s domicile, was in the ascen­
dant in thirteen degrees, and Mars was already in six degrees of Pisces. Venus was in
Taurus in fourteen degrees, in her own domicile, and in the Midheaven. Mercury was
in Taurus in the first degree, and the Moon was in Aquarius in four degrees.18

As one can see Villani cites the observations of one Pagolo di ser Piero whom he
describes twice as a master in this field. Along with Pagolo di ser Piero, Villani also
mentions the computations of the almanac of Prophatius Judaeus and the Toledan
Tables which were the standard set of astronomical tables in use until the compo-
sition in the mid-thirteenth century of the Alphonsine Tables. 19 Apparently these
­latter tables were not in use in Florence in Villani’s time. To be noted here is that the
computations of Master Pagolo and Prophatius Judaeus disagree by several days as

17 According to modern calculations the actual conjunction was on March 24 O. ­S. at 12:05
TT. ­For an explanation of TT or Terrestrial Time see Explanatory Supplement to the Astro-
nomical Almanac. A revision to the Explanatory supplement to the Astronomical ephemeris
and the American ephemeris and nautical almanac, ed. P. ­Kenneth Seidelmann, Mill Valley,
CA 1992, p. 42.
18 “Nell’anno MCCCXLV a dì XXVIII di marzo, poco dopo l’ora di nona, secondo l’adequa­
zione di mastro Pagolo di ser Piero, gran maestro in questa iscienzia, fue la congiunzione
di Saturno e di Giove a gradi XX del segno dello Aquario collo infrascritto aspetto degli
altri pianeti. Ma secondo l’almanaco di Profazio Giudeo e delle tavole tolletane dovea esere
la detta congiunzione a dì XX del detto mese di marzo; e ’l pianeto di Marti era co·lloro
nel detto segno d’Aquario gradi XXVII, e·lla luna scurata tutta a dì XVIII del detto mese
di marzo nel segno della Libra gradi VII. ­E all’entrare che fece il sole nell’Ariete, a dì XI di
marzo, fu Saturno in sull’ascendente nel segno d’Aquario gradi XVIII e signore dell’anno,
e Giove nel detto Aquario gradi XVI. ­E Mars nel detto Aquario gradi XXII; ma seguendo
l’equazione del detto mastro Paolo, ch’è de’ maestri moderni, e dissene che co’ suoi stor-
menti visibilmente vide la congiunzione a dì XXVIII marzo, essendo la detta congiunzione
nell’angolo di ponente, e ‘l sole era quasi a mezzo il cielo un poco dichinante a l’angolo, a
gradi XVI dell’Ariete, e in sua saltazione; e il Leone, sua casa, era in su l’ascendente gradi
XIII e Mars era già nel Pesce gradi VI; Venus nel Tauro gradi XIIII, sua casa, e in mezzo il
cielo; Mercurio in Tauro in primo grado, e·lla luna inn-Aquario gradi IIII”, Villani, Cron-
ica (see note 1), pp. 392 – 393.
19 These were prepared during the reign of Alfonso X, “the Wise”, of Castile.

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Giovanni Villani and the Great Conjunction of 1345 67

to the exact date of the conjunction. There are three reasons for this: first, the tables
then in use were not accurate enough to compute the exact or even the approximate
time of a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. It was not always even possible to get the
correct date until Kepler’s Rudolfine Tables in the seventeenth century. The second
reason has to do with the nature of the computations. As we shall see below, the date
of the conjunctions was often based not on the actual date of the conjunction of the
two visible bodies, which could be measured (but not very precisely) by observation,
but on the mean date based on the average lengths of Jupiter's and Saturn's revolu-
tions about the earth. A third problem arises from the fact that even with the best
instruments of the time such as master Pagolo might have used, the exact time of a
conjunction could not be ascertained by observation. However, all of this discussion
about the exact time of the conjunction raises an important point: Villani was aware
of the technical issues surrounding the computation of the conjunction. He was not
simply a passive consumer of astrological information provided by others.
The text goes on, however, to give horoscopic details. These are important because
no layperson who was not literate in astrology would be aware of such details. Here are
the positions compared with modern ones.20

Villani 360° Modern  21


360°
Ascendant 13°Le 133° 13°Le 133°
Midheaven Not given 30°Ar 30°
Moon 4°Aq 304° 4°Aq 304°
Mercury 1°Ta 31° 2°Ta 32°
Venus 14°Ta 44° 13°Ta 43°
Sun 16°Ar 16° 16°Ar 16°
Mars 6°Pi 336° 5°Pi 335°
Jupiter 20°Aq 320° 20°Aq 320°
Saturn 20°Aq 320° 20°Aq 320°

20 The modern positions were computed with the program Solar Fire v.7.0. This program employs
calculation routines developed in Switzerland based on Jet Propulsion Laboratory figures.
While no planetary calculation routines can be considered completely precise this far back-
ward before modern times, the positions given by Solar Fire are certainly accurate within a
few minutes of arc and are considerably more accurate than anything available to medieval
astrologers. The positions have been computed for March 28, 1345 at 12:56 PM Local Mean
Time for 42N46, 11E15, Florence.
21 I have followed a common medieval convention in rounding the degrees of the modern
positions. Anything over an exact degree, even by a minute or second of arc, is considered
to be in the next degree. Thus the Moon’s modern computed position of 303º 25’ is listed
as 304º.

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Abbreviations used:22

Ar Aries Cn Cancer Li Libra Cp Capricorn


Ta Taurus Le Leo Sc Scorpio Aq Aquarius
Ge Gemini Vi Virgo Sg Sagittarius Pi Pisces

I think it is clear that the two sets of positions are extremely close. However, there is
a problem with the reported observation of Master Pagolo. The chart is calculated for
early afternoon. It would not have been possible to observe the positions of Jupiter
and Saturn or any other body besides the Sun and Moon in the daytime. It is possible
that the time of the conjunction may have been derived by making observations of
Jupiter and Saturn before dawn on several successive days and interpolating between
those observations to obtain the time of conjunction. Then, given the time arrived at
by this means, he could have derived the other positions from tables. Given the accu-
racy of medieval observations (as already pointed out) this could account for the fact
that the time of the conjunction is in fact incorrect according to modern calculations.
However, in the course of the final preparations I found out something 23 that makes
this whole matter somewhat more mysterious. In Levi ben Gerson’s Prognostication
the Latin translation of the original Hebrew text contains exactly the same posi-
tions 24 as Master Pagolo’s “observations.” As Levi ben Gerson’s tables do not include
planetary tables,25 it is not at all clear how these positions could have come to Master
Pagolo unless he had access to the Latin translation of ben Gerson’s Prognostication,
or exactly the same tables that ben Gerson used from another source. The latter seems
unlikely, the former may be possible but we have no information. This is a puzzle that
I cannot resolve here.
In any case according to modern computations Master Pagolo did not quite catch
the exact conjunction (although he certainly came close). The actual positions of Jupi-
ter and Saturn at this time of his observation were 19°Aq 45' for Jupiter and 19°Aq 21'
for Saturn which indicates that the conjunction was slightly past. Modern computa-
tions place the exact conjunction in the early afternoon Florence time on March 24.
However, it is not my purpose to judge the quality of medieval astronomy here; it is
simply to point out that Villani had a nearly complete, state of the art (as it was in the
fourteenth century) astrological chart chart to work from.
There is much more in this first passage that illustrates the depth of Villani’s know­
ledge of contemporary astrology. Master Pagolo’s chart of the conjunction is not the

22 These abbreviations are used throughout the paper wherever the astrological characters are
not used.
23 My thanks to David Juste for pointing me to this.
24 Rounded upward as described above in note 21.
25 Goldstein–Pingree, Levi Ben Gerson’s Prognostication (see note 7), p. 41.

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Giovanni Villani and the Great Conjunction of 1345 69

only one that Villani refers to. In the second paragraph of this passage Villani refers
to the recent entry of the Sun into the sign of Aries, or, to put it a bit more accurately
astronomically speaking, the chart of the exact vernal equinox. Why is this here? I will
answer this presently but for the moment we simply need to see that it is here. We must
note that according to the calculations of the time Saturn and Jupiter were rising near
the ascendant degree and that for this reason (Saturn being the closer of the two to the
ascendant) Saturn was the Lord of the Year.
That term is emphasized because it is yet another term of astrological art that one
would not expect to see in a work if the author were not literate in astrology. It refers
to the planet in the chart of the equinox which is the most useful in indicating what
will happen to a people or nation as a whole in the year ahead. It is, therefore, the single
most important indicator, or significator, in the chart. The method for determining it
varies somewhat from author to author but the two principal source texts are the Latin
version of Messahallah’s text known in Latin as De revolutionibus and the Albumasar text
known as Flores. In either of these texts the principle described below by M ­ essahallah
would be accepted as definitive.

Understand that the strongest of the planets [in the annual revolution] is that
planet which is in the ascendant neither remote from the angle nor cadent, or
which is in the midheaven […] If the lord of the ascendant is in the horoscopus
[ascendant], to wit, 3 degrees before or after its cusp, and it is neither cadent nor
remote from the angle of the Ascendant, it will not be necessary for us to look at
another planet with it.26

In the equinox chart described by Villani Aquarius, which is ruled by Saturn, rises with
Saturn on or near the degree of the ascendant. Clearly it is the Lord of the Year. Also,
Mars is with Saturn and Jupiter in Aquarius which made this particular conjunction
one in which all three superior planets, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, were conjoined at
the same time. Earlier in the month of March the three planets had come within two
degrees of each other. The following table shows the positions of the three planets in
celestial longitude and latitude at 24 hour intervals computed for 0:00 hour Terrestrial
Time (TT) following the modern convention.27

26 “Scito quod fortior ex planetis est ille, qui fuerit in ascendente, non remotus ab angulo,
necque cadens, uel qui fuerit sic in medio coeli, […] Cum fuerit dominus ascendantis
in Horoscopo, scilicet per tres gradus ante uel retro cuspidem eius, non cadens neque
remotus ab angulo ascendentis, non erit nobis necesse cum eo aspicere alium Planetam”,
Messahallah, De Revolutione Annorum Mundi, trans. John of Seville, Nuremberg
1549, ch. 6, fol. B3r.
27 All calculations below were done by the Solar Fire program (see note 20).

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Date 28 Mars Lg. Mars Lat. Jup. Lg. Jup. Lat Sat. Lg. Sat. Lat
Mar 1 13°Aq 30' -01°07' 14°Aq 13' -00°38' 16°Aq 41' -01°00'
Mar 2 14°Aq 17' -01°07' 14°Aq 27' -00°39' 16°Aq 48' -01°00'
Mar 3 15°Aq 04' -01°08' 14°Aq 39' -00°39' 16°Aq 54' -01°00'
Mar 4 15°Aq50' -01°08' 14°Aq 52' -00°39' 17°Aq 01' -01°00'
Mar 5 16°Aq 37' -01°09' 15°Aq 05' -00°39' 17°Aq 07' -01°00'
Mar 6 17°Aq 23' -01°09' 15°Aq 18' -00°39' 17°Aq 13' -01°01'

The actual conjunctions among the three planets occurred as follows:

Mars Conjunct Jupiter March 2, 1345 6:48:36 am TT


Mars Conjunct Saturn March 5, 1345 6:05:11 pm TT
Jupiter Conjunct Saturn March 24, 1345 12:04:41 pm TT

In addition to the charts of the actual conjunction, however approximate, and the chart
of the vernal equinox, there is another chart mentioned in this passage, a total eclipse
of the Moon on March 18. By modern calculations this would have been on March 18,
1345 at 10:20 pm LMT in Florence. The Sun was at 06°Ar14' and the Moon at 06°Li14'
(the seventh degree of Libra as stated in the text) with 23°Sc rising. This would have
placed the eclipsed Moon in the east well above the horizon.
So we have the following:

1.  References to and planetary data of the time of the actual conjunction of Jupiter
and Saturn.
2.  References to and planetary data of an eclipse of the Moon.
3.  References to the co-presence of Mars in the general area of the conjunction.
4.  References to and planetary data of the chart of the Sun’s entry into the sign Aries,
otherwise known as the chart of the vernal ingress.

Is there some special reason why all of these phenomena would have been mentioned
in particular? The answer is made clear in text of the work usually known in Latin as
De magnis coniunctionibus by the Persian astrologer Abū Ma’shar (787 – 886 CE).29 In

28 All dates O. S. “Lg.” stands for longitude from 0 degrees Aries as measured on the ecliptic.
“Lat.” stands for latitude or the angular distance above or below the ecliptic.
29 His full name was Abū Ma’shar, Ja’far ibn Muhammad al-Balkhī and was most commonly
latinized as Albumasar. A modern edition of the text is Abu Ma’shar, On Historical
Astro­logy. The Book of Religions and Dynasties (on the Great Conjunctions), ed. and
trans. Charles Burnett and Keiji Yamamoto, Leiden–Boston 2000. This edition con-
tains a critical edition of the Arabic with an English translation plus a critical edition of
the standard Latin translation.

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Giovanni Villani and the Great Conjunction of 1345 71

the first book of this work he lays out the general schema according to six principles
based on the times of the conjunctions of the outer or superior planets, Mars, Jupiter
and Saturn, Saturn being the most superior. The six principles, somewhat simplified,
are as follows:30

1.  The conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in the sign of Aries. This is supposed to occur
every 960 years.31
2.  The first time in a series when Jupiter and Saturn occur in a new triplicity. This is
supposed to occur every 240 years.32
3.  The conjunction of Mars with Saturn in the early degrees of Cancer. This occurs
every 30 years.
4.  The conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in any sign other than those signified in #1
and #2. These occur every 20 years.

These first four cycles derive their astrological significance not from the moments of
exact conjunction (which medieval astronomers could not accurately compute) but
from the moment of, and the chart computed for, the moment of the entry of the Sun
into the sign Aries as described above. This chart for the beginning of spring in the
northern hemisphere (an example of which has already been mentioned previously)
was called the revolutio anni mundi, or in English the “annual revolution,” or the “revo-
lution of the year.” The phrase revolutio anni mundi, or its plural revolutiones annorum
mundi is found in the Latin text of every one of these first four principles. Therefore
it is clear that the presence of the Aries ingress in Villani’s text is not merely due to the

30 Abu Ma’shar, On Historical Astrology (see note 29), pp. 11 – 19. The medieval theory of
Great Conjunctions, as it is usually called, constituted one of the major divisions of medie-
val astrology and was in fact considered to be one of the more licit applications of astrology.
The other three divisions were Nativities, the asking of questions or Interrogations, Incep-
tions and Elections or the choosing of times for taking action or making beginnings. This
fourfold division of astrology is found in a number of sources both medieval and modern.
For a m­ odern source see Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic, Oxford–New
York 1971, p. 287. For a medieval source, the Speculum astronomiae, see Paola Zambelli,
The Speculum Astronomiae and its Enigma, Dordrecht 1992, p. 222. While a definitive
work on the influence of the method of Great Conjunctions in medieval thought has yet to
be written, two modern works which are instructive in this regard are the following: Laura
­Ackerman Smoller, History, Prophecy, and the Stars: The Christian Astrology of Pierre
d’Ailly, 1350 – 1420, Princeton, NJ 1994, and John D. ­North, Astrology and the Fortunes
of Churches, in: Centaurus 24 (1980), pp. 181 – 211.
31 Sources differ whether this should be the first time in a cycle when the conjunction occurs in
Aries or when the conjunction occurs in the first few degrees of Aries which constitute the
first term of Aries.
32 The progression is from fire signs, to earth signs, to air signs, to water signs then back to fire.
How this works is discussed later in the paper.

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fact that it was close in time to the actual Jupiter Saturn conjunction. It also preceded
that conjunction and quite closely. Now let us continue with the last two principles
which continue along the same lines albeit with some additions.

5.  The new or full Moon which directly precedes the entry of the Sun into each of
the four moveable (or in modern terminology) cardinal signs of the zodiac, Aries,
Cancer, Libra and Capricorn, and also the actual chart of the Sun’s entry into those
signs. These occur four times a year.33
6.  The new or full Moon which directly precedes the entry of the Sun into each of
other signs of the zodiac, and also the actual chart of the Sun’s entry into those
signs. These give eight more charts a year plus associated new or full moon charts.

Principles #5 and #6 give the likely reason why Villani and his sources may have been
concerned about an eclipse of the Moon in this period. Eclipses were frequently ­studied
in connection with other important astrological phenomena occurring in the same period
of time. There may be a problem with that in that the eclipse occurred after the annual
revolution so it may be here for another reason given below. However, Albumasar was
not the only source that was used for this kind of material. Ptolemy in Book II of the
Tetrabiblos recommends both using new and full moon around the vernal equinox and
he is also the source of the ancient and medieval doctrine of eclipses.34 Certainly a lunar
eclipse either before or after the vernal ingress, on top of all of these other indications,
would have rendered the conjunction of 1345 more ominous. I believe that we can now
say with some conviction that Villani and his sources had more than a casual knowledge
of the astrology of the great conjunctions, more even that of some later astrologers. In
fact Guido Bonatti seems unaware of the role of annual revolution charts in the ­analysis
of the years of major conjunctions.35 Later on the practice of using the charts of annual
revolutions prior to conjunctions seems to have been dropped. Astrologers in the Eng-
lish tradition in the seventeenth century certainly did not use revolution charts and

33 There is some variation on this subject. I have reported exactly what Albumasar says, but
Messahallah, De revolutione, ch. 4, fol. B2v, where he states that sometimes one uses
only the vernal chart, sometimes the autumn one as well, and in some years all four ingress
charts in the manner of Albumasar.
34 Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, ed. and trans. Frank E. ­Robbins (Loeb Classical Library
435), vol. 2, Cambridge (Mass.) 1956.
35 For this material see an early modern printed edition as follows: Guido Bonatti, Decem
Continens Tractatus Astronomie, Augsburg 1491, tractatus IV, part 1.

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Giovanni Villani and the Great Conjunction of 1345 73

may by that time not have been aware of the practice. These include William Lilly 36
and William Ramesey.37
Villani continues:

This conjunction with its aspect of the other planets and signs, according to what was
said and written in the books of the ancient grand masters of astrology, signifies, with
God’s consent, great matters in the world, battles, murders, and great changes in king-
doms and peoples, the death of a king, changes in the composition of the rulership
and of sects, the appearance of some prophet and of new errors in the Faith, a new
arrival of rulers and a new people, famine and mortality in respect to those climes,
kingdoms, countrysides and cities, whose influence is attributed to the aforesaid signs
and planets. And sometimes it causes some comet to arise in the air, or some other
sign, and floods or excessive rains.38

This next section identifies what it is that can be known from the study of conjunctions.
What Villani has to say here is directly derived from the topic of the title of Albumasar’s
work in Arabic. While this work was usually referred to Latin as De magnis coniunc-
tionibus or On the Great Conjunctions, according to the introduction to the work by
Yamamoto and Burnett the original title was The Book of Religions and Dynasties 39 and
so they entitled their edition, adding On Historical Astrology to the title. Unlike the
more technical aspect of the use of the method of conjunctions to which I have referred,
which was not widely known outside of astrological circles, the purpose of the method
for predicting the rise and fall of religions and dynasties as just described here was widely
known in the medieval period. Roger Bacon in the Opus Maius described the relation-
ship of the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction cycle to the rise of religions quite completely.40

36 William Lilly, England’s Propheticall Merline, London 1644. This is a short work, but it
contains an excellent summary of the state of the method of conjunctions as it was in his time.
37 William Ramesey, Astrologia Restaurata; or Astrologie Restored: Being an Introduction
to the General and Chief Part of the Language of the Stars, London 1653, pp. 326 ff. This is
a more comprehensive work than Lilly’s but also omits the role of the annual revolution.
38 “Questa congiunzione co’ suoi aspetti delli altri pianeti e segni, secondo il detto e scritto de’
libri degli antichi grandi maestri di strologia, significa, Idio consentiente, grandi cose al mondo,
e battaglie, e micidi, e grandi commutazioni di regni e di popoli, e morte di re, e tralazione
di signorie e di sette, e aparimento d’alcuno profeta e di nuovi errori a fede, e nuova venuta di
signori e di nuove genti, e carestia e mortalità apresso in quelli crimanti, regni, paesi e ­cittadi,
la cui infruenza de’ detti segni e pianeti è atribuita; e talora fa nascere inn-aria alcuna stella
comata, o altri segni e diluvi e di soperchie piove”, Villani, Cronica (see note 1), vol. 3,
pp.  393 – 394.
39 Abu Ma’shar, On Historical Astrology (see note 29), pp. xv–xxii.
40 Roger Bacon, The Opus Majus of Roger Bacon, trans. Robert Belle Burke, Philadelphia
1928, pp.  276 – 280.

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But while Bacon does describe the basic technical aspects of astrology and its use of
charts, he does not go into the more technical aspects of the use of the method of con-
junctions as I have described it here. So the passage from Bacon just mentioned does
not add anything to our understanding of Villani’s technical knowledge of the method.
However, Villani goes on as follows:

However, this is a serious conjunction because of the proximity of Mars, also because
of the preceding eclipse of the Moon, because of the annual figure which was in agree-
ment with this, and so also because a little time afterward Saturn and Jupiter moved
themselves by retrograde motion to within one degree and thirty-five minutes, so that
they could be considered as having returned to another conjunction. Because of retro­
grade motion, they have much more slowness in their effects.41

So we see that he was aware of what occurred astronomically after the exact conjunc-
tion itself, namely, that Jupiter and Saturn approached very closely to an exact con-
junction later on that year. This occurred in early October. This tells us that V
­ illani
was a very sophisticated consumer of astrological information, and that he had the
means to derive it himself. The following table shows how close Jupiter came to con-
joining Saturn once again in October.

Date 42 Jup. Lg. Jup. Lat Sat. Lg. Sat. Lat.


Oct. 1 1345 17°Aq07'R -01°12' 15°Aq19' -01°25'
Oct. 2 1345 17°Aq06' -01°12' 15°Aq18' -01°25'
Oct. 3 1345 17°Aq06' -01°12' 15°Aq17' -01°25'
Oct. 4 1345 17°Aq05' -01°12' 15°Aq17' -01°25'
Oct. 5 1345 17°Aq05' -01°12' 15°Aq16' -01°25'
Oct. 6 1345 17°Aq05'D -01°12' 15°Aq15' -01°25'
Oct. 7 1345 17°Aq06' -01°12' 15°Aq15' -01°25'
Oct. 8 1345 17°Aq06' -01°11' 15°Aq14' -01°25'
Oct. 9 1345 17°Aq07' -01°11' 15°Aq14' -01°25'
Oct. 10 1345 17°Aq08' -01°11' 15°Aq14' -01°25'

41 “… però ch’ella è grave congiunzione per la propinquità di Marte, e sì per l’ecrissi proccedente
dalla luna, e sì per la figura anuale a·cciò concordevole, e sì ancora perché poco tempo apresso
ritrogando Saturno e Giove si rapressaro a gradi uno, minuti XXXV, tanto che·ssi possono un’al-
tra volta congiunti riputare; bene darà più tardezza alli effetti per la ritrogagione”, ­Villani,
Cronica (see note 1), vol. 3, p. 394.
42 All dates O. S.

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Giovanni Villani and the Great Conjunction of 1345 75

Villani continues:

What we say does not happen because of necessity but happens more or less accor­ding
to the pleasure of God, the disposer of the aforementioned heavenly bodies, with his
justice and mercy mediating by purging and rewarding according to the merits and
sins of nations, kingdoms, and peoples. And there is the liberty of the man’s free will.
When someone desires to do something, such a thing [as free will] exists in few because
of the defects of lustful vice and [there being but] little constancy in virtue, so that
way they live more according to the course of fortune.

Here Villani expresses a common attitude toward astrology, how, as it affects masses of
people, even so the will of god is the ultimate disposer, not the planets. His additional
comment that an individual’s free will is vitiated by lusts and inconstant virtue is com-
pletely consonant with theories regarding the freedom of the will versus the body and
emotions from ancient times up to Villani’s day. Compare Villani with Thomas Aquinas’
position on the same subject in Summa Theologica as quoted by Wedel.

The majority of men, in fact, are governed by their passions, which are dependent upon
bodily appetites; in these the influence of the stars is clearly felt. Few indeed are the wise
who are capable of resisting their animal instincts. Astrologers, consequently, are able to
foretell the truth in the majority of cases, especially when they undertake general predictions.
In particular predictions, they do not attain certainty, for n ­ othing prevents a man from
resisting the dictates of his lower faculties. Wherefore the astro­logers themselves are wont
to say “that the wise man rules the stars,” forasmuch, namely, as he rules his own passions.43

Villani’s next section contains more of astrological interest.

Take note and you will find the planet Mars entered into the sign of Cancer on the
twelfth day of the month of September in the aforementioned year 1345 and stood
in that sign between direct and retrograde [motions] until the tenth day of January.
While retrograde it turned back into Gemini and stayed until the sixteenth day of
February and returned then into Cancer and stayed there finally in that sign until the
second day of May 1346. So the phenomenon remained in Cancer for six and a half
months between the two turnings. According to its usual course Mars does not stay
in a sign more than fifty days. Whereby it was said by many masters that the realm of
France would have many adversities and great changes because the sign of Cancer is

43 Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, 115. 4, Ad Tertium (5. 544), cited in Theodore
Otto Wedel, The Medieval Attitude toward Astrology Particularly in England, New
Haven 1920, p. 68.

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76 Robert Hand

the exaltation of the planet of Jupiter, sweet and peaceful, and of riches and nobility.
That sign of Cancer is assigned to the kingdom of France. Again the planet of Jupi-
ter was positioned under Saturn and Mars. The planet of Jupiter has been assigned
to the Church and the king of France. Also take note that when Jupiter took leave of
the conjunction of Saturn and Mars and entered the sign of Pisces, its own house, it
continued on to conjoin in that sign with the Tail of the Dragon, which again caused
backbiting and conflict there and in the countryside.44

The long transit of Mars through Cancer was due to the fact that every two years the
earth passes between Mars and the Sun (according to modern reckoning) and this
causes Mars to appear to go backwards while the earth is passing Mars on its orbit about
the Sun. In 1345 – 1346 such a retrogradation (as it is termed) did occur and it caused
Mars to spend a great deal of time in the sign Cancer going forwards, then retrograde,
then forward again (the “turnings” or stations) going backwards briefly into the sign
of Gemini, then turning around and moving forward into Cancer. Villani’s dates are
approximately correct according to modern calculations. Here is a table of Mars’ motions
in the signs from September 1345 to June 1346.

Mars Entered Cancer Sep. 12 1345 09:17:48 am TT


Mars Retrograde Nov. 11 1345 10:41:18 am TT
Mars Entered Gemini Jan. 16 1346 03:42:53 am TT
Mars Direct Jan. 28 1346 08:30:39 pm TT
Mars entered Cancer Feb. 11 1346 06:44:23 am TT
Mars Entered Leo Apr. 30 1346 00:48:08 am TT

In the entire period from September 12, 1345 until April 30, 1346 Mars spent 126 days in
Cancer before entering Gemini, then 26 days in Gemini, then another 77 days in Cancer
before finally entering Leo for a total of 203 days in the sign Cancer. That is a bit more

44 “E nota ancora e troverrai che ‘l pianeto di Marti entrò nel segno del Cancro a dì XII del mese
di settembre nel detto anno MCCCXLV, e stette nel detto segno tra diretto e ritrogrando
infino a dì X di gennaio, che ritrogando tornò in Gemini, e stettevi infino a dì XVI di febraio, e
ritornò poi in Cancro, e stette poi in quello infino a dì II di maggio MCCCXLVI, sicché mostra
sia stato in Cancro da mesi VI e mezzo tra due volte, che secondo suo usato corso non sta nel
segno che L dì. Onde per molti maestri si disse che ‘l reame di Francia avrebbe molte aversità
e mutazioni, perché il segno del Cancro è asaltazione del pianeto di Giove dolce e pacifico,
e dà ricchezze e nobiltà. Il quale segno del Cancro è atribuito al reame di Francia. Ancora il
pianeto di Giove fu soprastato da Saturno e da Mars, il quale pianeto di Giove s’atribuisce alla
Chiesa e al re di Francia. Ancora nota che partito Giove dalla congiunzione di Saturno e di
Marti, ed entrato nel segno del Pesce sua casa, al continuo fu congiunto in quello colla cauda
dragonis, ch’ancora li fa ditreazione, e nel paese ov’è atribuito la sua infruenzia”, Villani,
Cronica (see note 1), vol. 3, pp. 394 – 395.

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Giovanni Villani and the Great Conjunction of 1345 77

than six and a half months. It would seem reasonable for anyone versed in astrology
that any people, place or kingdom that had a special connection with Cancer would
have difficulty during this period because at least back as far as Book II of Ptolemy’s
Tetrabiblos,45 and almost certainly further, the signs of the zodiac were related to specific
places and peoples. However, Villani did not derive his assignment of the kingdom of
France to Cancer from Ptolemy. This appears to have come from Albumasar, or rather
to a portion of an unknown work by another Islamic author a Latin translation of which
became part of the standard Latin version of Albumasar’s work.46
Now we come to the conclusion of this section. Villani asks the obvious question,
“what profit of wisdom will this astrology bring to the present treatise?” And he gives
an excellent answer:

… for him who will be discreet and provident, and will wish to investigate the major
changes that we have just been through in these times in this country of ours and else-
where, that in reading this chronicle it will be possible to understand what is predicted
for the future, with the consent of God, by comparison with what has just passed.47

45 Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos (see note 34), pp. 129 – 161.


46 Abu Ma’shar, On Historical Astrology (see note 29), vol. 1, p. 515.
47 “Ora potrà dire chi questo capitolo leggerà, che utole porta di sapere questa strolomia al
presente trattato? Rispondiamo che a chi fia discreto e proveduto, e vorrà investigare delle
mutazioni che sono state per li tempi adietro in questo nostro paese e altrove, leggendo questa

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The idea behind this is very simple. There is a tendency for certain kinds of event to happen
at similar points in the Jupiter-Saturn cycles, modified of course by the signs in which the
conjunctions occurred and other astrological phenomena that occur in the same times.
He refers to “a strangeness and novelty which is very evident in our city and elsewhere.
This is renewed from one conjunction to another, which lasts from about twenty years to
a bit less than twenty years.” Since the average length of the Jupiter-Saturn cycle is 19.86
years, this cycle is clearly connected with these twenty-year patterns and the multiples
of these in 60, 240, and 960 years. Villani refers to all of these in this last section of the
chapter. He begins referring to the present group of conjunctions which are occurring
in the triplicity of air signs, Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius. The upper diagram at the right
shows the relationships of the signs to triplicities. According to the calculations of medie­
val astronomy, each conjunction is on average of 242º 25' 17.1"48 from the previous one.
Three successive conjunctions create a rough equilateral triangle in the zodiac with each
conjunction being 8 signs plus from the previous one. The lower diagram at the right
shows this pattern. As one can see the triangle rotates because of the increment from one
conjunction to the next, and by medieval computations this takes 240 years. When the
conjunctions change from one triplicity to another this is a major cycle event. Then in 960
years it was reckoned that the conjunction would come back to the beginning of Aries
and a new cycle would begin. It should also be mentioned that every 60 years, if there is
not change of triplicity, the conjunctions will occur in the same sign as 60 years before.

cronica assai potrà comprendere per comparazione di quelle sono passate pronosticate delle
future, aconsentiente Idio…”, Villani, Cronica (see note 1), vol. 3, p. 395.
48 Abu Ma’shar, On Historical Astrology (see note 29), vol. 1, p. 13.

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Giovanni Villani and the Great Conjunction of 1345 79

These cycles cannot be perfectly reproduced by modern calculations because there


appears to have been an error in the original measurement of the cycle. One also suspects
that with the very neat multiples of 20, 60, 240 and 960 years that some “smoothing”
of the data was done. Another difficulty arises because of the use of the average or mean
motions of the planets. If one simply computes the dates of the conjunctions from the
geocentric or earth-centered perspective, the parallax due to the earth’s motion distorts
the cycle. But even from a heliocentric perspective, there are no cycles of any length
that are as regular as the theory demands.49 This is not the place to try to resolve this
problem, but the fact remains that we have here a very ambitious attempt to resolve
history into a series of recurring patterns based on the 20, 60, 240, and 960 year cycles.
This passage from Villani, I believe, is but an example of an application of this process.
I want to emphasize this fact because Louis Green in the Journal of the History of Ideas
in 1967 made the following comment:50 “At one point, he even detected a periodicity in
history, illustrated by the recurrence of certain configurations of the stars at twenty-year
intervals.” Then in an accompanying note he added “In Giovanni Villani’s Chronicle
there does not appear to be any evidence that the cyclic rhythm of history owes anything
directly to astrology …”.51 I hope it is obvious by now that Green’s statement that there is
no evidence that these twenty-year cycles owe “anything directly to astrology” is incor-
rect even if one acknowledges that the astronomy itself appears to have been incorrect.
Let us take a moment and look at some of the specifics of Villani’s use of the Jupi-
ter-Saturn cycles in this section. He begins referring to the conjunctions of 1305 and 1325
as having occurred in the signs Libra and Gemini respectively. Using the dates of the
actual geocentric conjunctions (as opposed to conjunctions in mean motions) the
actual years of the Libra conjunctions were 1305 and 1306 in which there were three
such conjunctions, the first of which was on Dec. 25, 1305 O. S. in 0°Sc 40', the second
was April 20, 1306 in 20°Li 05', and the third and last was July 19, 1306 in 26°Li 01'. The
heliocentric conjunction was April 3, 1306 at 28°Li 30'. The slight moving over into
Scorpio was due the parallax caused by the earth’s motion about the Sun. The actual
conjunction of 1325 in Gemini was indeed in that year on June 1, 1325 in 17°Ge53'. The
heliocentric conjunction was on June 2, 1325 in 17°Ge 52' the dates and positions of the
geocentric and heliocentric conjunctions being very close.
Finally we have Villani's concluding remarks.

49 I refer to the heliocentric conjunctions because in fact if one uses the mean motions of Jupiter
and Saturn to compute conjunctions, the phenomena that come about because the earth’s
motions are removed, and the result is closer to, although not exactly the same as, what we
would term the heliocentric conjunctions.
50 Louis Green, Historical Interpretation in Fourteenth-Century Florentine Chronicles, in:
Journal of the History of Ideas 28, 2 (Apr.–Jun. 1967), pp. 161 – 178.
51 Ibid., p. 167.

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This conjunction [of 1345] was in the triplicity of air signs and it started in our present
times with the year 1305 in the sign of Libra, and then in the year 1325 in the sign of
Gemini. In each [of these years] there has been, and there is a strangeness and novelty
which is very evident in our city and elsewhere. This is renewed from one conjunction
to another, which lasts from about twenty years to a bit less than twenty years, which
is less serious and is returned in 60 years which is more serious and changes triplicity.
And also we can easily retrieve the strangeness and change that was happening, the
discord and wars of the Church and the Empire, other changes [that occurred] and
[information] about the ancient people of Florence, the changes of rulerships from
that of King Manfred to that of King Charles. Also in 240 [years] (or else in 238) it
will have done 12 times in 12 signs, the strange things that there were just then in those
times, the passage over the sea and other grand events, and the changes of rulership of
the kingdom of Sicily to Robert Guiscard. And in 960 or rather 953 years you supply
48 conjunctions, and a return to the first [conjunction] which is the most important
of all of them. You would find yourself now having found the beginning of the fall of
the power of the Roman Empire with the coming of the Goths and the Vandals into
Italy, and great disturbances in the Holy Church, etc. This is enough on this present
material, and we will now speak of something else.52

Villani’s comment, “and it started in our present time with the year 1305,” is a bit
unclear because there is nothing significant about that conjunction other than the
fact that it occurred in the fourteenth century in which Villani wrote. It would not
have even been the first of his lifetime as he was born around 1276. That distinction
belongs to conjunction of 1285 which occurred on Dec. 31, 1285 in 8°Aq 02'. Interes­
tingly enough that was the previous time before 1345 that the conjunction occurred
in Aquarius. The 1285 conjunction was the conjunction 60 years prior to the 1345

52 “… che questa congiunzione in questa tripicità de’ segni dell’aere fu e cominciò a questi nostri
presenti tempi gli anni MCCCV nel segno della Libra; e poi gli anni MCCCXXV nel segno
del Gemini. A ciascuno fu ed è assai manifesto le novità state nella nostra città e altrove,
ch’assai sono fresche dall’una congiunzione e·ll’altra, che sono state quasi di XX anni in XX
anni poco meno; ch’è·lla più leggera, e in LX anni tornò, ch’è più grave e muta tripicità. E
anche si possono leggermente ritrovare le novità che furono, e·lla discordia e guerra dalla
Chiesa e·llo ‘mperio, e l’altre novitadi e dell’antico popolo di Firenze, e della tralazione della
signoria del re Manfredi al re Carlo, e in CCXL overo in CCXXXVIII l’avrà fatta XII volte
in XII segni, le novitadi che furono in que’ tempi adietro, il passaggio d’oltremare e altre
grandi cose, e·lla mutazione della signoria del regno di Cicilia a Ruberto Guiscardo. E in
DCCCCLX overo DCCCCLIII anni fornite XLVIII congiunzioni, e tornando alla prima,
ch’è la più ponderosa di tutte, se cerchi adietro troverrai il cominciamento del calo della
potenza del romano imperio alla venuta de’ Gotti e di Vandali inn-Italia, e molte turbazioni
a santa Chiesa etc. E questo basti alla presente materia, e diremo d’altro”, Villani, Cronica
(see note 1), vol. 3, pp. 395 – 396.

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Giovanni Villani and the Great Conjunction of 1345 81

conjunction. There had been no change of triplicity between the two conjunctions. 53
Villani then goes on to refer to the change of the rulership of Sicily from Manfred,
one of the last in the direct line of Hohenstaufens, to that Charles of Anjou in 1266.
On July 25, 1265 there was a conjunction in 9°Ge 42'. This was the conjunction 60
years prior to the 1325 conjunction. The twenty and sixty year patterns of the con-
junction are quite evident. It is not quite so clear what point Villani was trying to
make except perhaps that major historical changes tend to occur around the time
of these conjunctions.
Then Villani refers to the changes of triplicity that were supposed to occur roughly
every 240 years. In this connection he mentions the “the passage over the sea” which
refers to the beginning of the Crusades (1095 ff.), and conquest of Sicily by Robert
Guiscard (1061 – 1072). In both of these periods the conjunctions were by any possible
measure in the midst of the earth signs, neither near the beginning of that phase nor
the end. So it is not clear again what the 240 year mutation of triplicities has to do with
those particular events. There was a conjunction in Virgo in the middle of Guiscard’s
campaigns in Sicily, but there was no conjunction of significance or otherwise near the
launching of the First Crusade.
Finally Villani brings up the 960 cycle which is the longest of all of the cycles. It
was supposed to start with a conjunction near the beginning of Aries with a return to
approximately the same position 960 years later. While it is true that the momentous
events that Villani cites were approximately 960 years before his own time, it is not
clear what these had to do with his own time except for one interesting possibility. It is
not explicit in this passage how Villani felt but if, as the plague came on, he felt that he
was living in the “end times” of his civilization then perhaps he was attempting to draw
the reader’s attention to this fact and implicitly giving warning on the basis of the 960
cycle that his time was in some way parallel to the closing period of the Western Empire.
In view of the fact that the great plague was only a few years away after the events of
this chapter and that he may have written this passage when the plague was already
evident, these make this idea seem at least plausible.54 At this point the chapter ends.
Villani’s position on astrology, that it should be primarily used for explaining mass
behavior, was a common position in the middle ages. Hilary Carey has described the
attitude that Villani exemplifies as follows:

There was a general tolerance for astrological prediction which involved general affairs or
the public good, such as medical astrology, weather prediction and general predictions

53 The anomalous conjunction of 1305 in early Scorpio does not count as a change of triplicity
because it was caused by the earth’s parallax, not the actual position of Jupiter and Saturn.
54 In chapter 84 of this same book III Villani describes the plague which was to take his life
shortly thereafter. This is another one of those passages in which Villani goes into great astro-
logical detail.

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82 Robert Hand

for the year, based either on the positions of the constellations when the sun entered
the first degree of Aries, or at the time of conjunctions of the major planets, or dur-
ing the passage of comets. Predictions about the fates of individuals were always the-
ologically suspect.55

However suspect astrology may have been regarding the fates of individuals, I believe
that we see here in this chapter (and in several of the other chapters especially in
Book XIII) the use of astrology as an adjunct to what we might term “medieval his-
toriography.” It is certainly clear that Villani used it as a device for making sense out
of history to provide some degree of order and meaning in events. As Albumasar’s
introduction to De coniunctionibus magnis makes clear that was exactly the purpose
for which the method of conjunctions was intended. This is something that modern
medieval historians need to be aware of. However, it is only recently with the publi­
cation of Burnett and Yamamoto’s edition of Albumasar that historians can begin
to look and see exactly what impact on medieval historical method the method of
conjunctions may have had. This is not going to be a simple task. The work and its
method is often obscure and require a great deal of knowledge of medieval astrology.
It is clear that even as a layman, one who was not a practicing astrologer, Villani had
that knowledge. In fact he demonstrates a greater practical knowledge of the method
of conjunctions than many practicing medieval astrologers, and certainly more than
anyone I am aware in a work by someone who is not normally identified as an astrolo-
ger, an historian in fact. To see more evidence of how the method of conjunctions may
have affected medieval historical method, we must possess at least as much knowledge
of the method as he had and probably more.

55 Hilary M. ­Carey, Courting Disaster: Astrology at the English Court and University in the
Later Middle Ages, New York 1992, pp. 13 – 14.

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Wiebke Deimann

Astrology in an Age of Transition.


Johannes Lichtenberger and his Clients

Johannes Lichtenberger is a renowned figure in the history of 15th century astrology,


as he was generally – and probably mistakenly – believed to be a court astrologer of
emperor Frederick III. (1440 – 1493).1 Among historians of early book printing and of
late medieval prophecy, however, Lichtenberger is not so much known for his astrological
activities but for his bestselling book, the Pronosticatio, a mixture of popular prognostic
texts, astrological insertions, and political statements written in 1488.
Dietrich Kurze’s dissertation from 1960 remains the only biographical study on
­Lichtenberger and provides pivotal information on his life and works.2 Since its publi-

1 Lynn Thorndike, A History of Magic and Experimental Science IV: 14th and 15th Centu-
ries, New York 1934, p. 475 f.; John D. ­North, Astrology and the Fortunes of Churches, in:
Centaurus 24 (1980), pp. 181 – 211, at p. 201 f.; Barbara Bauer, Die Rolle des Hofastrologen
und Hofmathematicus als fürstlicher Berater, in: Höfischer Humanismus, ed. August Buck
(Mitteilungen der Kommission für Humanismusforschung 16), Weinheim 1989, pp. 93 – 118,
at p. 96 f.; Katherine J. ­Walsh, Von Italien nach Krakau und zurück. Der Wandel von Mathe­
matik und Astronomie in vorkopernikanischer Zeit, in: Humanismus und Renaissance in
Ostmitteleuropa, ed. Winfried Eberhard and Alfred A. ­Strnad (Forschungen und Quellen zur
Kirchen- und Kulturgeschichte Ostdeutschlands 28), Cologne 1996, pp. 273 – 300, at p. 286;
Jean-Patrice Boudet, Les astrologues Européens et la genèse de l’état moderne (XIIe–XVIIe
siècle): Une première approche, in: L’État moderne et les élites XIIIe–XVIII siècles. Apports
et limites de la methode prosopographique. Actes du colloque internatiobal CNRS-Paris I,
16 – 19 octobre 1991 (Histoire Moderne 36), ed. Jean-Philippe Genet and Günther Lottes, Paris
1996, pp. 421 – 433, at p. 429, also notes the lack of information on Lichtenberger’s (potential)
astrological activities at court; Walter Blank, Providentia oder Prognose? Zur Zukunfts­
erwartung im Spätmittelalter, in: Das Mittelalter 1 (1996), pp. 91 – 110, p. 105; Michael Shank,
Academic Consulting in the Fifteenth-Century Vienna: The Case of Astrology, in: Texts and
Contexts in Ancient and Medieval Science. Studies on the Occasion of John E. ­Murdoch’s
Seventieth Birthday, ed. Edith Sylla and Michael McVaugh, Leiden–New York–Cologne,
1997, pp. 246 – 270, at p. 266 f.; Dietrich Kurze, Johannes Lichtenberger. Leben und Werk
eines spätmittelalterlichen Propheten und Astrologen, in: Archiv für Kulturgeschichte 38
(1956), pp. 328 – 343, at p. 329, regards the 1470s as the most splendid period in the life of
Lichtenberger. – I am very grateful to David Juste, Helen Williams, and Marianne Heaslip
for their helpful remarks.
2 Dietrich Kurze, Johannes Lichtenberger († 1503). Eine Studie zur Geschichte der Prophetie
und Astrologie (Historische Studien 379), Lübeck–Hamburg 1960.

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cation, research on Lichtenberger has focused on different stages of his career as well as
on different texts resulting in very different findings. Historians of science, specifically
of astrology, criticise Lichtenberger for the mediocre quality of his astrological pieces
and even more for his plagiarism. On the other hand, ­Lichtenberger was one of the
first authors to bring astrological topics into print, and the combination of prophe­c y
and astrology that he used in his Pronosticatio was both popular and ­influential.
This inconsistent picture certainly derives in part from the different perspectives of
the disciplines involved, focusing either on evolution in the field of astrology and
astronomy or on developments in early modern printing. For a ­balanced picture of
­Lichtenberger’s works and achievements it is inevitable to consider other aspects such
as the type of source (manuscript or print) and their addressed a­ udience (individual
client, fellow scholars or public readers). By taking the clients into conside­ration, it
is possible to bridge the gap between the two sides of research on ­Lichtenberger. It
is instructive to examine how the astrologer addressed his clients or readers respec-
tively. But it is also important to determine who the clients were, how they were
related to Lichtenberger and in what way this might have affected Lichtenberger’s
way of working. Additionally, it is crucial to work out how he presented astrology
and himself within his works.
From what we learn from the surviving material, Lichtenberger does not serve
as prototypical example for a late 15th century astrologer. In the following we will
see how he became a popular author of prophetical texts, in which astrology is only
one issue among others. The extant Lichtenberger texts also differ a lot from each
other in form, function and audience. This study will be based on four important
sources representing the wide range within Lichtenberger’s work. Two of them
are astrological manuscripts (one of which has only recently come to light and has
hitherto remained almost unnoticed), one is a printed interpretation of a celestial
phenomenon and one is a book that has been published numerous times in a variety
of prints. Following the chronological order, I will present and analyse these texts
against the background of Lichtenberger’s life in the second half of the 15th cen-
tury with special attention on his relationships towards actual or potential clients
and – in later years – readers.

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I Lichtenberger’s early career

According to his own account, Johannes Lichtenberger was born between 1424
and 1427.3 His original name was Johannes Grümbach, maybe from the dwelling of
Grünbach near Baumholder in Palatinate. From his earliest surviving works he used
the (additional) name of Lichtenberger, herewith probably referring to the better
known mastery of Lichtenberg.4 About his education nothing is known. His works
show a learned author and an averagely skilled astrologer. One of his first astrolo­
gical calculations may have been a judgement on the appearance of a comet on 22
September 1468. It is, however, only mentioned by Lichtenberger himself in a later
text, the judgement itself is unknown.5 If this was indeed one of his first astrological
pieces, Lichtenberger would have had started his astrological activities remarkably
late, at an age of almost 40 years. We know that he was priest in a Palatine parish
in the last years of his life,6 so it may well be assumed he had been a cleric since his
youth. For 21 June 1470 Lichtenberger is listed in the registers of the palatinate court
of Hesse where he was provided with food by the Rentmeister of Gießen.7 This indi-
cates that one or more members of the Hessian court may have consulted him for
astrological advice. He may have worked for other princes within those years as well,
as the following example suggests.

3 In his astrological work for Casimir of Brandenburg-Bayreuth (between 1501 and 1503) he
states: „Ego decrepitus annum agens 76“, Cod. Guelf. 115 Noviss. 4°, Wolfenbüttel, Herzog
August Bibliothek, fol. 3v – persistent URL: http://diglib.hab.de/mss/115-noviss-4 f/start.
htm. See Christian Heitzmann, Hüte dich vor Pfeil und Gift! Johannes Lichtenbergers
Vorhersagen und seine bisher unbekannten Horoskope, in: Zeitschrift für Ideengeschichte
3 (2009), pp. 103 – 112, at p. 109. Until the recent discovery of this collection of horo-
scopes his date of birth has been vaguely assumed for the first half of the 15th century,
around 1440.
4 See Kurze, Johannes Lichtenberger († 1503) (see note 2), p. 7, with further references.
5 See ibid., p. 13; Gerd Mentgen, Astrologie und Öffentlichkeit im Mittelalter (Monogra-
phien zur Geschichte des Mittelalters 53), Stuttgart 2005, p. 230. On the Coniunctio
­S aturni et Martis (1473) see part III of this paper. A fact that supports his statement is
the actual occurrence of a comet in the respective year.
6 See Kurze, Johannes Lichtenberger (see note 1), p. 329, esp. note 8, with references.
7 Karl E. ­Demandt, Der Personenstaat der Landgrafschaft Hessen im Mittelalter. Ein “Staats­
handbuch” Hessens vom Ende des 12. bis zum Anfang des 16. Jahrhunderts, vol. 1 (Veröffent­
lichungen der Historischen Kommission für Hessen 42), Marburg 1981, p. 512 no. 1827; see
also Mentgen, Astrologie (see note 5), p. 230.

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II Lichtenberger’s judgement on the nativity of duke Louis IX


of Bavaria-Landshut from 1471

Lichtenberger’s first surviving work is the extraordinary long judgement on the nativity
of Louis IX, “the Wealthy”, duke of Bavaria-Landshut (1417 – 1479), written in 1471.8 In
its introduction the author declares that this was already the fifty-sixth nativity he had
calculated for a prince so far 9 – a rather unlikely figure considering that this is his first
appearance as an astrologer in the sources at all. According to Kurze, the r­ emarkably
high number should be explained by a mere error in the manuscript.10 More likely,
however, it seems to be a case of pronounced self-promotion.11 Lichtenberger may have
deemed it necessary to appear as a busy and much-favoured astrologer while presen­
ting his service to such a high-ranking prince as Louis the Wealthy. Claims of being a
successful astrologer consultant reappear in other Lichtenberger texts, as will be seen
later, giving rise to the assumption that this was a conscious strategy, rather than an
accidental error. On the other hand, a recently discovered manuscript contains hints
supporting Lichtenberger’s own statement.12 If this turns out to be reliable, his figure
of fifty-six judgements might be correct and it is only a coincidence that none of his
early works have survived.
In contrast to the reference from the Hessian court, where the astrologer’s presence
is documented but no work of his is handed down, there is no sign of Lichtenberger
at the court of Bavaria-Landshut which makes it difficult to decide whether the judge-
ment was a commissioned work by the duke or an individual initiative by Lichtenberger,
presented to the duke in hope of further orders of astrological judgements. Only a
few pieces of circumstantial evidence give rise to the assumption that the manuscript
was commissioned by Louis IX ; for a piece of work intended to show one’s astrolo­
gical skills aiming at future assignments the judgement on the nativity appears to be
astoundingly voluminous. With 112 folio-pages the manuscript is, in fact, the longest

8 Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg, Cod. Pal. Germ. 12. The manuscript is accessible online,
persistent URL: http://digi.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/diglit/cpg12. On Louis of Bavaria-­Landshut
see Irmgard Lackner, Herzog Ludwig IX. der Reiche von Bayern-Landshut (1450 – 1479).
Reichsfürstliche Politik gegenüber Kaiser und Reichsständen (Regensburger Beiträge zur
Regionalgeschichte 11), Regensburg 2011.
9 Cod. Pal. Germ. 12 (see note 8), fol. 105r: “Und ist der LVI furst, dem ich geurteilt
habe slechtenclich”.
10 Kurze, Lichtenberger († 1503) (see note 2), p. 8, note 20, discretely “corrected” the pas-
sage. He quoted only the number of six and referred to the foregoing 50 (“L”) in a footnote
­belie­ving in a reading error for the improbability of the figure. The passage of the manuscript
is indeed very clear and definitely reads 56. For a detailed discussion of Kurze’s (mis-)reading
see Mentgen, Astrologie (see note 5), p. 230, esp. note 465.
11 Ibid., p. 231.
12 Cod. Guelf. 115 Noviss. 4° (see note 3), which will be discussed below.

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known astrological manuscript from the Middle Ages. Its production presumably took
Lichtenberger a considerable amount of time.
A possible connection between the duke and Lichtenberger is also indicated by
Louis’s general interest in astrology, documented in one of his letters to the physi-
cian Erhard Windsberger from February 1478 that was attached to a consignment
of three astrological books.13 The most striking evidence for a connection between
the astrolo­g er and the house of Bavaria-Landshut was pointed out a few years ago
by Gerd Mentgen: another hitherto unknown Lichtenberger text from 1490 had
been found in Munich, a nativity for John III of the Palatinate (born 1488, prince-
bishop of Regensburg 1507 – 1538), a grandson of Louis IX, which was calculated
while John was still a toddler, almost twenty years after the judgement for Louis.14
The second nativity suggests a gene­ral connection between Lichtenberger and the
house of Wittelsbach that made use of the astrologer’s services once again. All in
all, a direct connection between L ­ ichtenberger and Louis the Wealthy seems very
likely, and the lengthy interpretation of the nativity for Louis the Wealthy might
very well have been commissioned by the duke himself.
Let us now take a look at the manuscript itself. It has survived in only one version
preserved in Heidelberg University Library.15 The main text is in black ink while key
words like planet names are underlined in red. It has probably not been written by
Lichtenberger himself, but appears to be a copy from another manuscript. A com-
ment between two paragraphs on folio 24v reads: “Hic felt eyn Iar”.16 As the actual
writer of the text Lichtenberger himself would have filled in the missing year instead
of noting its lack. The difference to the hand in the newly discovered manuscript
from Wolfenbüttel 17, which is a Lichtenberger autograph, supports the assumption
that the Bavarian judgement is a copy. The manuscript contains several marks on the
margins written by a different hand, underlining remarkable passages. A prominent
example of this is the sketch of a hand pointing towards a paragraph with a very
auspicious prognostication for the duke: “… this young man will shine above all the

13 Kurze, Johannes Lichtenberger († 1503) (see note 2), p. 74 f. His identification of the only
named author, a certain “Viechtelberger”, in the letter with Johannes Lichtenberger has been
fundamentally questioned by Mentgen, Astrologie (see note 5), p. 232 f.
14 For details see ibid., p. 234.
15 It was part of the famous Bibliotheca Palatina established by Otto Henry (Ottheinrich),
prince-elector of the Palatinate (1502 – 1552). Otto Henry was himself a member of the house
of Wittelsbach and through his mother a direct ancestor of Louis IX of Bavaria-Landshut.
The manuscript from the 15th century has been bound in leather and decorated with golden
plates, showing the image and initials of Otto Henry, under his direction in 1556.
16 Cod. Pal. Germ. 12 (see note 8), fol. 24v; Kurze, Johannes Lichtenberger († 1503) (see
note 2), p. 74.
17 Cod. Guelf. 115 Noviss. 4° (see note 3).

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Johannes Lichtenberger, Judgement on the nativity of duke Louis IX of Bavaria-Landshut, 1471,


Universitäts­bibliothek Heidelberg, Cod. Pal. Germ. 12, fol. 4v.

other human beings … and may perform many miracles”.18 Very likely the markings
are by Louis himself or by someone close to him: the text refers specifically to the
duke’s life events and may hardly be of any interest for anyone else.
Considering its remarkable length of 112 folio pages, it is not very surprising to
come upon a rather lengthy and detailed piece of text. The incipit ends with the words:
Von Iohann Grümbach von Liechtemberg etc. gesproch nach heydenischem vszsproch etc.19
The astrologer here refers to a pagan origin of his work. Further on it reads: Nach aller
weisen Indianer Chaldeer vnd Arabischer sage eynhellen. 20 The obscure and exotic refe­
rences to Indians, Chaldeans and Arabians are supposed to work as a proof for the
originality and quality of his astrological calculations. Remarkably, Lichtenberger
does not mention specific Greek, Arabian or Latin astrological authorities, which
were well known and often quoted by his fellow astrologers. Instead, he uses expres-
sions like “and those of Arabia say”.21 Is this a sign of his mediocre skills in the field
and his ignorance of the main sources? Or is it to be explained as a stylistic device
addressing readers with only very superficial knowledge about astrology instead of

18 Cod. Pal. Germ. 12 (see note 8), fol. 4v: “… dass disser Jüngeling eynen Schein will gewynnen
ub(er) all and(er)n Mentschenn […] Vnd mag vil wonders wirken”.
19 Ibid., fol. 1r.
20 Ibid., fol. 1v. The words “Indianer”, “Chaldeer” und “Arabischer” are with red underlining.
21 Ibid., fol. 2v: “Vnd die vo(n) Arabia sagent …”

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proving his skills in the field – an opportunity he misses throughout the whole of
the text where references to sources or authorities remain as obscure as in the intro-
duction? Is it a stylistic device in order to render an exotic and arcane touch to the
judgement? It may well be both at the same time. Not only in the Bavarian nativity
does Lichtenberger demonstrate his ability to turn a lack of knowledge or skills into
a stylistic device.
The first part of the text is dedicated to the actual nativity, i. e. the calculation of the
position of the planets at the time and place of the duke’s birth, including the defini-
tion of the almutin and the hyleg.22 The brief second part divides the life of the duke
into time periods of different lengths, each ruled by a certain planet,23 while the third
part gives an account of every year in the client’s life,24 followed by an analysis of the
­meaning of the houses 25 and a treatment of the influences of the zodiac signs on the
duke. The graphical representation of the nativity is included at almost the end of the
manuscript.26 Lichtenberger’s formulations are often lengthy, imprecise and general.
Personal or private topics can be found as well as political ones. A frequent motif is
colour. For instance, the astrologer prognosticates for the year 1437 – Louis is 20 years
old – that in this year the prince will fall off a brown horse and win the heart of a ­virgin
in a red dress.27 In astrology certain colours are attributed to certain planets and their
occurrence is not unusual. At the time of the calculation of the nativity Louis was
already 54 years old. He did not reach the old age of 75 that Lichtenberger predicted
for him,28 but died aged 62 in 1479.
The nativity for Louis IX is a work of astrological routine that stands out mainly
because of its remarkable length. It provides a good and very detailed example of an
individual interpretation on the client’s nativity. The astrologer includes all aspects of a
nativity that can be analysed in relation to the life and person of the client. If the notes
on the margins were actually by the duke or someone close to him, we may infer that
the judgement attracted the client’s interest and therefore fitted its purpose.

22 Ibid., fol.1r–20r. The almutin here is identified with Venus, fol. 2r, while hyleg is the Sun,
fol. 3r.
23 Ibid., fol. 21r–21v.
24 Ibid., fol. 22r–38v.
25 Ibid., fol. 39r–45r.
26 Ibid., fol. 105v.
27 Ibid., fol. 26r.
28 Ibid., fol. 21v.

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III The Coniunctio Saturni et Martis

The next known work by Lichtenberger is the Coniunctio Saturni et Martis from 1473.29
It is a calculation of the heavenly bodies at the time of the conjunction regarding its
general meaning with an emphasis on its relevance for the siege of Neuss. Besides its
astrological content it already shows a “style of imperial prophecy”30 that will become
much more apparent in Lichtenberger’s most popular work, the Pronosticatio, from 1488,
as we will see later. The Coniunctio was printed in Cologne or Strasbourg in 1475 and is
thus the first work of the astrologer to appear in print and an early example of a printed
astrological judgement in general. Its broader topic and political contents were of inte­rest
for a wider circle of readers so justifying a printed edition.
Scholars have often referred to the Coniunctio Saturni et Martis because it is the
major reference linking Lichtenberger to the imperial court of Frederick III for two
reasons: in the text, Lichtenberger calls himself “astrologer of the holy empire” (astro­
rum iudex sacro imperii),31 and the work is dedicated to the emperor and the prin­
ces.32 This lead to the presumption, which remained undisputed for a long time, that
Lichtenberger had been a member of the imperial court as astrological advisor, at least
temporarily. But this presumption is no longer sustainable because, in fact, there is no
reliable evidence for a connection of Johannes Lichtenberger to the imperial court
(not to mention an official position) apart from his own remarks, as Mentgen recently
demonstrated.33 This begets several implications. First, new light is shed on the person
and life events of ­Lichtenberger himself. His astrological career now appears not only
much less ­successful and glamorous, but also his credibility is affected (even more),
since he incorrectly presented himself as imperial court astrologer. Comparable to the
exaggeration about the number of princes he had worked for, as noted in the n ­ ativity
for Louis IX, this may be explained as another attempt of self-promotion as well as
an element of his stylistic device. His presentation as iudex sacro imperii is, in fact,

29 Coniunctio Saturni et Martis, 1473; the only known manuscript was formerly kept in the
library of C. ­Fairfax Murray in London, and is now in The Morgan Library in New York City.
I was not able to consult the original print and have to rely on the descriptions by Kurze,
Johannes Lichtenberger († 1503) (see note 2), p. 9, note 24.
30 Thorndike, HMES IV (see note 1), p. 476.
31 Kurze, Johannes Lichtenberger († 1503) (see note 2), p. 8. The reference is not from the 1488
Pronosticatio as Daniel Carlo Pangerl, Sterndeutung als naturwissenschaftliche Methode
der Politikberatung. Astronomie und Astrologie am Hof Kaiser Friedrichs III. (1440 – 1493),
in: Archiv für Kulturgeschichte 92 (2010), pp. 309 – 328 at p. 315, claims.
32 “Coniunctio saturni et martis in anno domini M.CCCC.LXXIII penultima die mensis augusti
per me iohannem lichtenberg In urbe argentina. Domino imperatori et principibus manu
mea propria presenta die octava assumptionis beate Marie virginis et calculate”, quoted after
Thorndike, HMES IV (see note 1), p. 475, note 144.
33 See his detailed argumentation in Mentgen, Astrologie (see note 5), pp. 227 – 230.

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a sign for a certain remoteness from the court. The title would have impressed only
readers with no or limited know­ledge of the court personnel; furthermore, it may
have irritated or even repelled readers who were acquainted with courtly affairs and
thus would have known that Lichtenberger did not belong to those circles. Therefore,
the alleged presentation of the text to the emperor and the princes in person and its
dedication to them should be understood as fictional rather than factual. Within this
literary construct of a fictive astrological advisory to the realm’s elite, the readers of
the text become passive listeners, who are not addressed directly by the author, but
become instead eavesdroppers on a conversation between the author and the emperor
himself.34 The astrological consulting is here c­ arried out on another – fictional – level:
The actual client is replaced by a fictional one, whereby the communication process can
be made public – a strategy closely linked to the new medium of print. L ­ ichtenberger
would use this stylistic approach again in a more elaborate way in the Pronosticatio
several years later.
Until now, attempts to systematise the development of astrological advisory at royal
courts in the 15th and 16th centuries relied heavily on the person of ­Lichtenberger as
the main representative for the figure of an astrologer-prophet.35 With the forfeiture
of Lichtenberger as court astrologer of Frederick III these hypotheses lose credibility.
However, as the respective concepts for the evaluation of court astrology were already
contradictory before Mentgen’s discovery, one may come to think that circumstances
were more complex and developments less linear than such systematising concepts
tend to suggest. The custom of employing astrologers as personal and political con-
sultants and thus fixed members of the court (at least temporarily) was still in its early
stages and depended very much on the individual beliefs and interests of a ruler. The
individual reasons for choosing or rejecting a certain astrologer as consultant remain
rather obscure.

IV Astrology, prophecy and politics: the Pronosticatio from 1488

Lichtenberger’s most famous, assuredly most successful, and in several regards most
interesting, work is the Pronosticatio, a compilation of prophetical and astrological texts
complemented by political statements. Published in 1488 at Heidelberg by Heinrich
Knoblochtzer in Latin and between 1488 and 1492 in German,36 the Pronosticatio was

34 Jonathan Green, Printing and Prophecy. Prognostication and Media Change, 1450 – 1550,
Ann Arbor 2012, p. 80.
35 Shank, Academic Consulting (see note 1), p. 266 f. (see also the discussion of Shank’s theses in
Mentgen, Astrologie [see note 5], p. 229, note 461), and Bauer, Rolle (see note 1), p. 96 f.
36 For details regarding the dating see Heike Talkenberger, Sintflut. Prophetie und Zeit-
geschehen in Texten und Holzschnitten astrologischer Flugschriften 1488 – 1528 (Studien

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immensely successful in the following years, resulting in several reprints as well as new
editions. In 1492 it was translated into Italian and published in Italy, followed again
by reprints and revised editions.37 After a decreasing interest in the book in Germany
during the first quarter of the 16th century, it gained new popularity around 1525 and
was repeatedly printed until the 17th century.38 Forty-five woodcarvings accompany
the text.39 The first set of pictures was made by Hans Hesse and included in the first
editions of the Pronosticatio. Carvings from different artists in later editions closely
followed this version.40
The text is divided into three parts representing the tripartite society of oratores,
bellatores and laboratores.41 This structure is also depicted in one of the illustrations,

und Texte zur Sozialgeschichte der Literatur 26), Tübingen 1990, pp. 55 – 109 at p. 58, esp.
note 19.
37 For the Italian editions see Giancarlo Petrella, La “Pronosticatio” di Johannes ­Lichtenberger.
Un testo profetico nell’Italia del Rinascimento. Con edizione anastatica di Johannes
­Lichtenberger, Pronosticatione in vulgare, Milano, Giovanni Antonio di Farre, 18 luglio
1500, Udine 2010, esp. pp. 44 – 101, with a print of the Italian Pronosticatio, pp.  103 – 200;
Domenico Fava, La Fortuna del Pronostico di Giovanni Lichtenberger in Italia nel Quat-
trocentro e nel Cinquecento, in: Gutenberg-Jahrbuch 5 (1939), pp. 126 – 148.
38 For a detailed description of prints, places and printers see Talkenberger, Sintflut (see
note 36), pp. 58 – 60; see also Green, Printing (see note 34), pp. 182 f.; and the – not utterly
­reliable – list of prints and manuscripts of the Pronosticatio in Kurze, Johannes Lichten-
berger (†1503) (see note 2), pp. 81 – 89.
39 It has been disputed whether the woodcarvings are to be seen as a complementary addition
to the text, to be consulted by illiterate people, or as a supplement containing (slightly) dif-
ferent implications than the written text. Jonathan Green, Bilder des fiktiven Lesers als
Imaginationslenkung in Lichtenbergers Prognosticatio, in: Imagination und Deixis. Studien
zur Wahrnehmung im Mittelalter, ed. Kathryn Starkey and Horst Wenzel, Stuttgart 2007,
p. 178, for instance, argues, the images were meant to sooth the provocative elements within
the Pronosticatio in order to prevent popular uprisings in an age of turmoil. Talkenberger,
Sintflut (see note 36), pp. 108 f., also acknowledges the fact that the images are less provocative
and emotional than the written text, but rather estimates them to be meant as a guidance for
the reader, selecting and presenting the major topics of the text.
40 Ibid., p. 82. On the woodcarvings also see Barbara Baert, Iconographical Notes to the
Pronosticatio of Johannes Lichtenberger (1488). Using an Edition Printed by Peter Q ­ uentel
(1526), in: Early Sixteeenth Century Printed Books 1501 – 1540 in the Library of the ­Leuven
Faculty of Theology (Documenta Libraria 15), ed. Frans Gistelinck and Maurits Sabbe,
Leuven 1994, pp. 139 – 168; Anneliese Schmitt, Text und Bild in der prophetischen Litera­
tur des 15. Jahrhunderts. Zu einer Praktik Johannes Lichtenbergers aus dem Jahre 1501, in:
Von der Wirkung des Buches. Festgabe für Horst Kunze zum 80. Geburtstag. Gewidmet
von Schülern und Freunden, ed. Friedhilde Krause, Berlin 1990, pp. 160 – 176; Green,
Bilder (see note 39), pp. 177 – 190.
41 Otto Gerhard Oexle, Die funktionale Dreiteilung der „Gesellschaft“ bei Adalbero von Laon.
Deutungsschemata der sozialen Wirklichkeit im früheren Mittelalter, in: Frühmittelalterliche
Studien 12 (1978), pp. 1 – 55.

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showing Jesus Christ with open arms above clerical rulers standing to his right and
laical rulers to his left. Two smaller peasants are working on a field in the front of the
picture.42 The organisation of the text of the Pronosticatio is based on this tripartite
scheme: part one is devoted to the church, part two is concerned with the nobility
and part three deals with the laity, without specifically defining this group in the con-
text of late medieval society, in which it appears as rather anachronistic, especially
with regard to the much more complex social order in the cities, where presumably
most of the readers of the text were to be found.43 This formal structure, however,
is not maintained throughout the actual text. The church and the clerical princes,
for instance, are not only dealt with in the first part devoted to them, but are also
­­repeatedly addressed in the other two parts of the text, whereas – in contrast – the
laymen of the third part are hardly spoken of at all.44
Notwithstanding the great popularity of the Pronosticatio among readers of the 15th
and 16th centuries, examining the text is an arduous task due to its heterogeneous con-
tents, the lack of a stringent text structure and its incoherent style which is sometimes
difficult to follow. Research on the Pronosticatio has been undertaken from different
perspectives. Besides Kurze’s biographical study that includes a summary and an inter-
pretation of the text and identifies many of Lichtenberger’s sources,45 it has been a­ nalysed
in greater detail by historians interested in the field of early book printing, comprising
the function of the woodcarvings as an integral part of the work,46 by historians of pro-
phetical literature,47 and by historians of astrology.48
The Pronosticatio is mainly a compilation of different prognostic elements taken
from entirely diverse sources such as the bible, astrological calculations and popular
prophetical literature, complemented by direct political appeals to ecclesiastical and
secular rulers. It takes a number of astrological observations as its starting point: the
great conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter on 24 November 1484 in Scorpio, followed
by the conjunction of Mars and Saturn – again in Scorpio – on 30 November 1485
as well as a solar eclipse on 16 March 1485. Within an astrological mindset, celestial

42 Johannes Lichtenberger, Pronosticatio in latino, Heidelberg post 1 April 1488, Wolfen-


büttel, Herzog August Bibliothek, A: 1 Quod. (3), digit.: http://diglib.hab.de/inkunabeln/1-
quod-3/start.htm, image 9.
43 Green, Printing (see note 34), pp. 65 – 71.
44 Talkenberger, Sintflut (see note 36), p. 64; on the tripartite social scheme in the Pronos-
ticatio see also Green, Printing (see note 34), pp. 71 – 77.
45 Kurze, Johannes Lichtenberger (†1503) (see note 2), pp. 15 – 37.
46 Baert, Iconographical Notes; Talkenberger, Sintflut (see note 36), pp. 56 – 110; Schmitt,
Text und Bild; Green, Printing (see note 34), pp. 85 – 96.
47 Marjorie Reeves, The Influence of Prophecy in the Later Middle Ages. A Study in ­Joachimism,
Notre Dame–London 21993, esp. pp. 347 – 351.
48 Thorndike, HMES IV (see note 1), pp. 473 – 480; Mentgen, Astrologie (see note 5),
p. 227, mentions the Pronosticatio only en passant.

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phenomena like these, and especially the so-called “great conjunction” of Saturn and
Jupiter, would be of particular importance for the world and the fate of mankind.
Their interpretations do not refer to individuals, but claim a universal significance.
The Pronosticatio contains prognoses for the near future until approximately the
end of the 15th century, but reaches much further at some points with outlooks up
to the year 1576.49 It is neither my intention here to analyse the text in full, nor to
criticise its astrological contents technically. Instead, I will focus on L­ ichtenberger’s
presentation of astrology and of himself as astrologer(-prophet) with regard to the
intended readers.50
In the introduction to the Pronosticatio, Lichtenberger reflects briefly upon the
relation between astrology and free will. Without giving further thought on the fol-
lowing somewhat contradictory ideas, he argues that the rise of false prophets results
from planetary movements. At the same time he neither denies free will, nor God as
the last and highest authority who may always alter astrological predictions if he wished.
Though the late 15th century witnessed a broad interest in astrology, he deemed it neces-
sary to defend it against its critics by placing it under God’s will. Lichtenberger did not
always predict with care. In 1492 the Theological Faculty of the University of Cologne
released a decree, stating that Lichtenberger should be arrested. He was accused of the
prognostication of someone’s death. It is unknown whether Lichtenberger ever took
note of this allegation.51 His formulations in the Pronosticatio at least appear to be rela­
tively tame in comparison.
The author lists three different ways by which one could foresee the future: (1)
By learning from the experiences one gains within a long life – an option basically
open to everyone; (2) by astrology, as the movements of the heavenly bodies influ-
ence all things below; and finally (3) by divine revelation through dreams, visions
and angels, only accessible to a few chosen ones. Lichtenberger declares he will make
use of all three methods for the benefit of the recipients.52 Whereas his claims for
life experience and astrological knowledge do not need further explanation, his
self-portrayal as a prophetical figure is a new element in his work. In this regard the
depiction of the author in one of the woodcarvings is illuminating:53 it shows him
as a man in a monk’s habit with a tonsure, kneeling in an open field, hands folded

49 Lichtenberger, Pronosticatio in latino (see note 42), p. 69.


50 For comprehensive accounts of the contents of the Pronosticatio see Kurze, Johannes
­Lichtenberger (†1503) (see note 2), pp. 15 – 38; and especially Talkenberger, Sintflut (see
note 36), pp. 56 – 110, who presents the text in a thoughtfully structured and systematised way.
51 Kurze, Johannes Lichtenberger († 1503) (see note 2), p. 10; Mentgen, Astrologie (see note
5), p. 245.
52 Lichtenberger, Pronosticatio in latino (see note 42), p. 3; Thorndike, HMES, IV (see
note 1), p. 477.
53 Lichtenberger, Pronosticatio in latino (see note 42), p. 6.

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Johannes Lichtenberger, Pronos­ti­


catio zu theutsch, Heidelberg post
1488, Munich, Bayerische Staats­
bibliothek, 2 Inc.s.a. 790, p. 6.

and mouth opened in prayer. His eyes are set on God in the opposite corner of the
picture who looks back at him and blesses him – a scene of divine revelation. The
image, which may have been designed by the printer and the woodcarver without
any intervention from or even knowledge by Lichtenberger, shows the author in
the tradition of prophetical men and thereby reflects the way he is presented in the
written text. One of the prophets who was popular in the late 15th century was the
forest-hermit Brother Rainhard the Lollard (or Nollard),54 whose words are quoted
in the Pronosticatio, whom the author lists among his main authorities and who is
depicted in the first woodcut among the most important prophetical sources of the
Pronosticatio. Lichtenberger aligns himself with the Lollard and the other prophets
he cites. His prophetical approach, however, is not revelation but compilation. He
spreads the words of God about the future of mankind by collecting them, writing
them down and, thus, passing them on to his readers. In the introductory passage
of the Pronosticatio the author is compared to the biblical figure of Ruth gleaning
the fields of Boaz.55 In the double sense of the German word “ernten” (to harvest),
the author gains prophetical knowledge from the authorities.56 In fact, the German
version completely omits the name “Lichtenberger”, but only calls him “Ruth” or
“pilgrim Ruth”, thus emphasising his characterisation as prophetical figure even
more.57 Among the prophetical (mostly Joachite) literature used by Lichtenberger

54 See Green, Printing (see note 34), p. 49.


55 Lichtenberger, Pronosticatio in latino (see note 42), p. 3.
56 Ibid.; cf. Green, Printing (see note 34), p. 45 f.
57 The identification of the philological compiler with a prophet provided an influential model
for later writers such as Sebastian Brant. His self-presentation as prophetical hermit also had

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Johannes Lichtenberger, Pronosticatio zu


theutsch, Heidelberg post 1488, Munich,
Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, 2 Inc.s.a. 790,
p. 10.

are the Sibyls, Saint Brigid, Joachim of Fiore, Pseudo-Joachite texts and the already
mentioned Rainhard the Lollard.58
Whereas the sources of this prophetical wisdom are relatively clear or explicitly referred
to as the main authorities (namely the ones depicted in the first woodcut), the text is much
more obscure when it comes to its astrological sources, apart from very general references
to Aristotle or Ptolemy.59 None of the actual astrological contents of the Pronosticatio are
based on Lichtenberger’s own observations and calculations, but unacknowledged quota-
tions from other astrological texts. Extensive use is made of Paul of Middelburg’s Prognos-
ticum for the years 1484 to 1504, an elaborated piece of theoretical astrology (namely the
Arabic theory of Great Conjunctions) written in elegant, humanistic rhetoric and style.60

a long-lasting effect on Lichtenberger’s own reputation. See Green, Printing (see note 34),
pp. 45 – 52, with further examples for both.
58 For the prophetical literature compiled within the Pronosticatio see Reeves, Influence (see
note 47), pp. 339 f., 347 – 351 and 368; Kurze, Johannes Lichtenberger (†1503) (see note
2), pp. 37 f.
59 In one case concerning the time between an eclipse and resulting events, for instance,
­Lichtenberger states that authorities like Ptolemy disagree on this point: Lichtenberger,
Pronosticatio in latino (see note 42), p. 47; see Thorndike, HMES IV (see note 1), p. 477.
60 Paul of Middelburg, Prognosticum, Louvain: Johannes de Westfalia, 31 August 1484;
On text and author see Stephan Heilen’s contribution to this volume. Not only the parts based
on astrological calculations are copied, but even an introductory prayer to God, as Kurze,
Johannes Lichtenberger (†1503) (see note 2), p. 18, has shown, is half copied from Konrad

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Its author, the later bishop of Fossombrone, came to know Lichtenberger’s Pronosticatio
shortly after its publication and immediately wrote a pamphlet in which he accused the
Palatine astrologer of plagiarism. This Invectiva […] in supersticiosum quendam astrologum
against Lichtenberger was printed in 1492.61
From a modern point of view this seems at a first glance to be a case of simple plagia­
rism, but against the background of the late 15th century it is not as easy to judge. During
the most part of the Middle Ages, before the invention of book printing by Johannes
Gutenberg, every book was a unique and precious piece of craftmanship. To compile
a text from other sources was an acknowledged and honourable method of writing,
through which the authoritative knowledge was spread most efficiently. The printing
press accelerated the production of texts, it increased the number of possible readers
and accelerated its distribution even over long geographical distances. Scholars could
now read and reflect upon works of their contemporaries, and publish respective com-
mentaries or critiques in direct response, as in the example of Paul of Middelburg’s
­pamphlet. Texts and ideas spread and circulated with hitherto unknown speed, thus
altering the value of individual (intellectual) achievements. Specialists in different
fields felt obliged to underline their respective individuality, trying to set themselves
apart from their colleagues. The growing relevance of the individual is an important
and ­lasting effect of these developments.62 In this case, the contemporary astrologers
Lichtenberger and Paul of Middelburg can be seen as representatives of two compet-
ing concepts: Lichtenberger follows the established practice of compilation, trying to
utilise the new medium of print as a multiplier for this purpose and, hence, to maxim-
ise its effects by spreading the prophetical words widely, i. e. his book. Paul of Middel-
burg, on the other hand, appears as a confident scholar, conscious of his own astrolog-
ical achievements and not willing to leave them – unacknowledged – to anyone else,
especially not to those such as L ­ ichtenberger, to whom he denied any competence in
the field of astrology. At the same time, Paul of Middelburg himself borrowed heavily
from the Mathesis of ­Firmicus Maternus, naming his source only once.63 The differ-
ent notions between the two astrologers are typical for their period, as the historical

Heingarter, half from Paul of Middelburg. On other astrological works cited by Lichtenberger
without giving reference see ibid., p. 36 f.
61 See ibid., p. 34 f.; Aby Warburg, Heidnisch-antike Weissagung in Wort und Bild zu Luthers
Zeiten (Sitzungsberichte der Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften. Philosophisch-­
historische Klasse 26, 1919) Heidelberg 1920, p. 38.
62 Bernd Schneidmüller, Grenzerfahrung und monarchische Ordnung. Europa 1200 – 1500
(C. ­H. Beck Geschichte Europas), Munich 2011, pp. 272 f.; Peter Burke, A Social History
of Knowledge. From Gutenberg to Diderot. The Vonhoff lectures 1998 – 1999, Cambridge
2000, pp.  149 – 153.
63 Stephan Heilen, who has analysed Middelburg’s use of the Mathesis in details, states that Paul’s
borrowings from Firmicus Maternus are numerous, but never longer than a few words, and
that the astrologer includes his classical source into his own observations on a high scientific

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developments, however fast they happened, were far from being linear or uniform.64
On the one hand Lichtenberger, author of popular lite­rature, was inspired by concepts
of writing and authorship that were traditional, but not yet overcome (as the success
of the Pronosticatio underlines), on the other hand the scholar Paul of Middelburg felt
obliged to express humanistic ideas of accuracy in form and content and of individual
intellectual achievements. Significantly, the controversy between Paul and Lichten-
berger took place only very shortly after the first known docu­mented copyright for a
text in Venice from 1486.65
To give an impression of the Pronosticatio’s contents a few of the text’s major themes
shall be addressed briefly. One of its characteristic features is the expectation of the
Imperial Saviour, in which the text is strongly influenced by Joachite ideas, even
though, once again, the author intertwines them with other prophetical traditions
leading to a rather obscure and sometimes contradictive presentation. 66 Expecta-
tions of the Imperial Saviour were a common subject in medieval prophetical litera­
ture. In the 14th and 15th centuries they became closely linked to the hope for an
end of the Mongolian or Turk menace. The Last Emperor was a prominent figure in
texts criticising current circumstances in church and society.67 Within most of these
Imperial Saviour-prophecies the name Frederick played a key role, many rulers of this
name were confronted with eschatological expectations. This was especially the case
with emperor Frederick III whose death in 1493 consequently marked a downfall of
popu­lar hopes for an Imperial Saviour of this name.68 It is therefore remarkable that
­Maximilian, king of the Romans since 1486, became the centre of attention as figure of
the S­ aviour in the Pronosticatio, instead of his father, the emperor.69 Within two years
of M
­ aximilian’s election and enthronement, Lichtenberger turned away from Frederick,
whom he had identified with the Imperial Saviour in an earlier text,70 towards his son

as well as stylistic level. In contrast to Lichtenberger’s use of Paul of Middelburg, he would,


in this case, not speak of plagiarism. See his contribution to this volume.
64 Both concepts can be found next to each other until the 17th and 18th centuries; Burke,
Social History (see note 62), p. 153.
65 The copyright was held by Marcantonio Sabellico for a history of Venice; ibid., p. 153.
66 On the usage and inclusion of Joachite and pseudo-Joachite sources in the Pronosticatio see
Reeves, Influence (see note 47), pp. 347 – 351.
67 Ibid., pp. 295 – 392; see with several examples Tilman Struve, Utopie und gesellschaftli-
che Wirklichkeit. Zur Bedeutung des Friedenskaisers im späten Mittelalter, in: Historische
Zeitschrift 225 (1977), pp. 65 – 95.
68 Ibid., pp. 68 – 72 and 94 f.
69 Lichtenberger, Pronosticatio in latino (see note 42), p. 17: “Nunc regem esse Fridericus
tercius Ego volo quem sic Maximilian ... regnabit ubique”; and ibid. p. 19: “O Maximiliane
… interficiant”; cf. Reeves, Influence (see note 47), pp. 350 f.
70 Lichtenberger, Coniunctio, fol. 4v, cited in: Kurze, Johannes Lichtenberger († 1503) (see
note 2), p. 77.

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Maximilian. At the time of the publication, the emperor was already 73 years old and
he had reigned for 48 years as King of the Romans and for 36 years as Holy Roman
Emperor. Lichtenberger may have regarded him as too old to pin one’s hopes on; his
son appeared as much more promising. Frederick’s politics in response to a potential
Turkish invasion had never shown any success. All attempts to raise an army after the
conquest of Constantinople in 1453 failed, partly because of the Emperor’s lack of
commitment; he did not take part in most of the court councils summoned on this
matter.71 Lichtenberger now builds his hopes on Maximilian and predicts the release
from the Turkish menace and the recapture of the Hagia Sophia for Christendom
by him. His prediction is attached to conditions, however: if the undertaking was to
succeed, it was imperative for the nobility to show their support to the emperor. At
this point (and elsewhere), the text takes on the character of a political pamphlet. The
prince-electors are chided for their behaviour towards Maximilian, kings and princes
are criticised for their politics.72 Lichtenberger supports the imperial Habsburgian
dynasty with Maximilian as its key representative. His pronounced political state-
ments might have been influenced by his personal ambitions to become astrological
advisor at the imperial court – now under the prospective future emperor Maximilian,
but this can at no point be verified in the text which was not even dedicated to the
Habsburgian king. Lichtenberger was not the first to show his hopes on and sympa-
thies for Maximilian: late fifteenth-century Methodian prophecies identified him
with the Imperial Saviour, and Paul of Middelburg had dedicated his Prognosticum
to Maximilian – possibly in search for a new patron, as his former one, Federico da
Montefeltro (1422 – 1482), had died recently.73
Lichtenberger also predicts the coming of several true and false prophets in the near
future. This is of particular interest for the later reception of the Pronosticatio, as one of
those prophets has been identified with Martin Luther, and Luther himself, although
criticising astrology and having mixed feelings towards the work, wrote an introductory
text to the 1527 Wittenberg edition.74

71 On the usage of the Türkengefahr-argument as far as domestic policy is concerned see ­Winfried
Schulze, Reich und Türkengefahr im späten 16. Jahrhundert. Studien zu den politischen und
gesellschaftlichen Auswirkungen einer äußeren Bedrohung, Munich 1978; Almut Höfert,
Den Feind beschreiben. “Türkengefahr” und europäisches Wissen über das Osmanische
Reich 1450 – 1600 (Campus Historische Studien 35), Frankfurt/Main–New York 2003, esp.
pp. 68 – 71 and, with reference to popular prophecies, pp. 76 – 78.
72 Talkenberger, Sintflut (see note 36), pp. 76 f.
73 See Heilen’s analysis in this volume.
74 On Luther’s reception of the Pronosticatio and its place within the Reformation see Warburg,
Heidnisch-antike Wahrsagung (see note 61), pp. 44 – 47; Petrella, La Pronosticatio (see
note 37), pp. 29 – 32, with further literature; Robert E. ­Lerner, The Powers of Prophecy.
The Cedar of Lebanon vision from the Mongol onslaught to the dawn of the enlightment,
Berkeley–Los Angeles–London 1983, pp. 164 f.

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Regarding the addressees of the Pronosticatio Jonathan Green has shown a discrepancy
between the groups of readers formally addressed by means of the tripartite feudal scheme
of oratores, bellatores and laboratores and its actual readers who bought the text and read
it together with their families and households.75 As the programmes of the different prin­
ters who carried the Pronosticatio into their portfolio show, the latter group of readers is
to be found mainly among the merchants and craftsmen in the cities,76 not among laical
and clerical rulers or even among (predominantly illiterate) peasants as is suggested in the
text. Green differentiates between the fictional reader and the actual audience.77 Following
Green’s argument, this distinction works as a stylistic device. It creates a distance between
the text and the actual reader who does not have to feel personally criticised.78 The author
does not need to worry about offending his readers and can thus articulate his criticism
more freely, what, again, makes the text more interesting and entertaining – surely one
of the reasons for its great success. Criticism and political appeals in the text are mainly
addressed to laical and clerical rulers – the devastating state of the church being one of its
major topics. The reader becomes an eavesdropper upon a conversation between a divinely
inspired prophet and astrologer and the leading elite of his time.79 As we have seen, main
features of this literary concept, although less elaborate, can be found in the example of
Lichtenberger's first printed text mentioned above, the Coniunctio. Certainly, the Pronosti-
catio was not intended to raise Lichtenberger’s scholarly reputation among peer astrologers.
It was instead written for a much broader audience, not for experts in the field of astrology.
It reads like a – not very well structured – compendium of popular predictions regardless
of whether they derived from an old religious prophecy or from contemporary astrological
calculations. For an audience of non-experts this procedure might have been absolutely
plausible. If all of them claim to contain some truth, why should they contradict each
other? If there was one way of foretelling the future, why should others not work as well?

75 Green, Printing (see note 34), pp. 71 – 84.


76 This corresponds with the rest of the programme of the main four printers of the Pronostica-
tio in Germany, Jacob Meydenbach in Mainz, Bartholomaeus Kistler in Strasbourg, Heinrich
Knoblochtzer in Heidelberg and another anonymous printer also in Heidelberg. Their prin­
ting programmes show an emphasis on popular literature intended to reach a broad audience.
Green, Bilder (see note 39), p. 181; Id., Printing (see note 34), pp. 65 – 71.
77 Ibid., pp. 79 – 84, esp. p. 81.
78 Green, Bilder (see note 39), p. 187.
79 Green, Printing (see note 34), pp. 79 – 84.

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V The last years and new horoscopes

Years before the publication of the Pronosticatio Johannes Lichtenberger was acquainted
with the parish of Brambach by Louis I, Count Palatinate of Zweibrücken, due to the
intervention of Countess Johanna in 1481.80 The position may have been sufficient to make
a living, but was it adequate to fulfil Lichtenberger’s ambitions? A recently discovered
manuscript shows that he carried on with his astrological activities until shortly before
his death in 1503. The hitherto mostly unknown Lichtenberger autograph is kept in the
Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel since it was bought from the antiquarian
Konrad Meuschel in 2008.81 The manuscript is written in brown ink (with some red
used for the planets within the diagrams) on paper and consists of 16 pages, some of
which are left blank. It is a collection of nativity-charts, judgements of diverse length, a
list of important dates, some further astrological diagrams – all in Latin – and a German
praise of God. While the paper cover of the manuscript is original, the title is written
by another hand, probably shortly afterwards; it reads: “Judicium Meister Hannsen
Lichtenbergers m[einem] g[nädigen] H[errn] Margg[ra]ff Kasimirien gemacht Und
h[er]n Sig[ismund] von Hesperg”.82 Addressees of the booklet were accordingly mar-
grave Casimir of Brandenburg-Bayreuth (*1481, 1515 – 1527) and Sigmund of Heßberg,
a Franconian knight. Contrary to the archival description that dates the manuscript
between 1460 and 1501, I would date it between 1501 and 150383.
Because of its diverse contents and its fragmentary character, it is not possible to
achieve full clarity on the question of its function. Besides the nativities for Casimir and
Sigmund it contains untitled nativities that are very likely for Casimir’s father, margrave
Frederick of Brandenburg-Ansbach-Kulmbach (1460 – 1536), and several others I could
not identify with certainty, as well as a list of dates of birth and death. Although not
everyone could be identified, most of the persons mentioned belong to the family of
Brandenburg-Bayreuth.84 Therefore, I would locate the manuscript in the vicinity of the

80 See Kurze, Johannes Lichtenberger (see note 1), p. 329, esp. note 8, with references.
81 Cod. Guelf. 115 Noviss. 4° (see note 3); see the description of the manuscript by Alexandre Tur
and the catalogue-article of the antiquarian: Das einzige bekannte Autograph des deutschen
Nostradamus, in: Antiquariat Konrad Meuschel, 97. Katalog: Manuskripte, Bücher und
Handzeichnungen, 2006, no. 20, pp. 22 – 24.
82 Cod. Guelf. 115 Noviss. 4° (see note 3), title.
83 Cod. Guelf. 115 Noviss. 4° (see note 3); the fact that it contains nativities from 1460 to 1501
does not necessarily indicate a writing process of equal duration. The calculation of a horos­
cope does not have to be taken out shortly after the birth of a person, but can be conducted
much later. In the Konrad Meuschel-catalogue the manuscript is dated to 1501. Heitzmann,
Hüte dich (see note 3), p. 109, follows this dating.
84 The first untitled part is a nativity calculated for the 8 May 1460 which corresponds with the birth-
day of Casimir’s father and predecessor margrave Frederick of Brandenburg-Ansbach-­Kulmbach;
Cod. Guelf. 115 Noviss. 4° (see note 3), fol. 1r. On fol. 2r follows a list of important dates, mainly

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court of Brandenburg-Bayreuth and do not see any proximity to the Habsburgian court
as Heitzmann did, unaware of Mentgen’s detection that Lichtenberger (­presumably)
was no imperial court astrologer.85 A connection between Sigmund of Heßberg and
Casimir existed – Sigmund was a rat (councillor) of the margrave, assigned by him
with an important delegation.86 Judging from what has been said so far, the astrolog-
ical collection seems to have been commissioned by both Sigmund and Casimir and
was probably supposed to comprise members of the margravian family as well as other
people of importance to them. It was written at some time between 1501 and 1503 but
remained unfinished, possibly due to the astrologer’s death in 1503. The restricted group
of clients also explains its form in a single binding, where otherwise several sepa­rate
pieces would seem more appropriate. The manuscript is a remarkable document of late
medieval astrology and still holds some secrets. It is hoped future research will shed
more light on the remaining questions by analysing this fruitful source for the social
and communicative structures at the margravial court.
As we have seen, this unique Lichtenberger autograph also contains information on
the astrologer himself, whose date of birth must now be placed between 1424 and 1427.
As a consequence, he was much older than hitherto assumed when he worked on the
texts known to us. In his final years he was still active as astrologer calculating nativi­
ties for noble families – this might either have been a result of his prominence after
the publication of the Pronosticatio or it might simply be a coincidence that such a late
piece of his has come down to us meaning that he carried out his astrological activities
throughout all his life.

dates of birth, of members of the family; for instance: 1460 – Ursula, a sister of margrave F
­ rederick;
1451 – Elisabeth, another sister; 1453 – Margarethe, another sister. Casimir is listed under his
year of birth 1481, followed by Margarethe, his younger sister, in 1483, his brother Georg in
1484 and so on. The largest judgement in the manuscript is the one on the nativity of Casimir,
fol. 2v–4r. On fol. 5v follows the diagram for the nativity of a certain Andree for the year 1501,
perhaps Casimir’s brother Friedrich Albrecht who died young in 1504. This Andree was men-
tioned already in the list of dates on fol. 2r which makes it even more likely that he was a member
of the family. Fol. 6r and 6v remain empty. Possibly some space was left for later additions, such
as an interpretation of Andree’s nativity whose birth must have occured shortly before the man-
uscript was composed. From this point on the nativities are not for close members of the family
anymore (with the possible exception of the nativity and a list of auspicious days on the date 30
September 1450 which may have been for Ursula of Brandenburg [1450 – 1508], the eldest sister
of margrave Frederick), but – as far as they could have been identified yet – for minor noblemen
or laymen with a connection to Casimir, his father Frederick and the margravial court: fol. 7r–v
contain the judgement on the nativity of Sigmund of Heßberg. Johannes de Auffer, fol. 11v–12r,
might have been a member of the Franconian nobel family Aufseß.
85 Heitzmann, Hüte dich (see note 3), p. 109.
86 See Cordula Nolte, Familie, Hof und Herrschaft. Das verwandtschaftliche Beziehungs-
und Kommunikationsnetz der Reichsfürsten am Beispiel der Markgrafen von Brandenburg-­
Ansbach (1440 – 1530) (Mittelalter-Forschungen 11), Ostfildern 2005, p. 294, note 546.

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Astrology in an Age of Transition 103

Also, Lichtenberger’s claim from the nativity for Louis the Wealthy that the duke was
the fifty-sixth prince for whom he had calculated a horoscope should be reconsidered:
as we now know, the astrologer was nearly twenty years older at that time than Kurze
or Mentgen had assumed, which would have given him a lot more time for calcula­
ting horoscopes and establishing himself a reputation as an astrologer. The last extant
Lichtenberger manuscript demonstrates emphatically how to include many noblemen
into one astrological text. If he had produced similar pieces earlier in his career already,
it would have been much easier for him to reach the impressive number of 56 princely
horoscopes. All things considered, the question as to whether this was an outright
exagge­ration or somewhere near the truth will probably remain unsolved.

VI Concluding remarks

It should have become apparent how much coincidence in the transmission of sources
and perspective influence the way we interpret and reinterpret the sources – a common-
place for medieval history, but especially true for the history of premodern astrology. It
is quite likely that future discoveries of astrological sources will change our picture of
Johannes Lichtenberger and his clients further. As for what is known at the moment
both Johannes ab Indagine, a German astrologer (first half of 16th century), and Paul of
­Middelburg appear to be too limited and radical in their opinions of him: while the former
praises him as “a miracle of nature, a man not inferior to Ptolemy, and by many regarded
as a prophet”,87 the latter condemns him as an untalented and unscrupulous plagiarist.88
It is not only the difficult tradition which obfuscates our view of astrological prac-
tice in the late 15th century. It was a period of upheavals, which is reflected in different
ways in Lichtenberger’s work – especially in the Pronosticatio – as well as in the way he
was regarded by his contemporaries and in later times. Astrology was not limited to the
fields of astronomical calculations and individual astrological consulting anymore, but
also found its way into prophetical literature. The Pronosticatio is an early example for
this process.89 Lichtenberger’s Pronosticatio and his Coniunctio Saturni et Martis were
also among the first astrological texts to appear in print.
It was this technological change that fostered both Lichtenberger’s success and
his poor reputation among contemporary scholars. He used the new technology to
spread his word, but he retained the traditional way of compiling his texts. In a time
of transition, his compilations provoked contradiction by scholars taking an authorial

87 Thorndike, HMES IV (see note 1), p. 474; Johannes ab Indagine, Introductiones apotelesma­
ticae…, Strasbourg 1522, fol. 15v–16r .
88 Green, Printing (see note 34), p. 151; see also Heilen’s paper on Paul of Middelburg in this vol-
ume.
89 Struve, Utopie (see note 67), pp. 86 f.

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104 Wiebke Deimann

perspective such as Paul of Middelburg. But even if Lichtenberger’s astrological skills


could not match Middelburg’s, and even though his activities as astrologer did not lead
to an appointment at the imperial court, he seems to have harnessed the pulse of the
times, as the wide dissemination of his Pronosticatio demonstrates.
This success might be one reason for noblemen at some of the major courts of his
time, such as the houses of Bavaria-Landshut, of Brandenburg-Bayreuth and Hesse, to
employ a less able – and finally even decrepit – astrologer.

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Stephan Heilen

Paul of Middelburg’s use of the Mathesis of Firmicus


Maternus

The present contribution complements a forthcoming article on the Prognosticum of


Paul of Middelburg (1445 – 1533) for the years 1484 to 1504.1 While that other article
will provide biographical information on the Dutch scholar and a summary of his pre-
diction with astronomical and astrological analyses, the present contribution will be
devoted to another aspect of it, namely Paul’s extensive use of the only preserved Latin
prose m­ anual of ancient astrology. Both articles originate from my preparation of a crit-
ical edition with commentary of Paul’s Prognosticum. This contribution is articulated in
six parts: an introduction (I), a classification of Paul’s borrowings from Firmicus with
examples (II), an investigation of Paul’s manuscript of the Mathesis (III), a sample analysis

1 Stephan Heilen, Paul of Middelburg’s Prognosticum for the years 1484 to 1504, in: From
­Masha’allah to Kepler: The Theory and Practice of Astrology in the Middle Ages and the
Renaissance. Proceedings of the International Conference at the Warburg Institute, Uni-
versity of London, 13 – 15 November 2008, ed. Charles Burnett and Dorian G. ­Greenbaum
(forthcoming). For concise biographical information on Paul of Middelburg, see Cornelis
G. van Leijenhorst, Art. ‘Paul of Middelburg’, in: Contemporaries of Erasmus. A Bio-
graphical Register of the Renaissance and Reformation, ed. Peter G. ­Bietenholz and Thomas
B. ­Deutscher, 3 vols., Toronto et al. 1985 – 1987, vol. 3, pp. 57 – 58, and Menso Folkerts, Art.
‘Paul von Middelburg’, in: Lexikon des Mittelalters, vol. VI, part 9 (1993), p. 1827. There is
also an important, detailed biography of our author by the early modern mathematician Ber-
nardino Baldi (1553 – 1617) who worked in Urbino and had access to many texts left behind
by Paul of Middelburg: Bernardino Baldi. Le vite de’ matematici. Edizione annotata e com-
mentata della parte medievale e rinascimentale, ed. Elio Nenci, Milan 1998, pp. 356 – 397. – I
am grateful to Michele Rinaldi for expert advise on the history of the text of Firmicus. See
especially his excellent monograph: ‘SIC ITUR AD ASTRA’. Giovanni Pontano e la sua opera
astrologica nel quadro della tradizione manoscritta della Mathesis di Giulio ­Firmico Materno
(Studi Latini 45), Naples 2002. Note, however, that Paul of Middelburg is not mentioned in
Rinaldi’s book. I further thank my graduate students C. ­Neugebauer and F. ­Engelhardt for
collating the relevant passages of cod. Vat. lat. 1418 and cod. Vat. Urb. lat. 263. On MS Soest
24 (saec. XII) see now Charles Burnett, Arabic and Latin Astrology Compared in the
Twelfth Century: Firmicus, Adelard of Bath and ‘Doctor Elmirethi’ (‘Aristoteles Milesius’),
in: Studies in the History of the Exact Sciences in Honour of David Pingree, ed. Charles
Burnett et al., Leiden–Boston 2004 (Islamic Philosophy Theology and Science. Texts and
Studies 54), pp. 247 – 263.

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106 Stephan Heilen

of Paul’s literary technique (IV), another one of astronomically and/or astrologically


significant ­borrowings (V), and a summary with final questions and outlook (VI).2

I. ­Introduction

Paul of Middelburg studied philosophy, theology, medicine, mathematics, and astro­nomy


at Louvain. He spent most of his life in Italy where he first became professor of astronomy
in Padua (1479), then personal physician to Federico da Montefeltro (1481) and eventu-
ally bishop of Fossombrone (1494). As an outstanding mathematician and astronomer,
he played an important rôle in the fifth Lateran council (1512 – 1517) and the reform of the
Julian calendar. Erasmus, Pico, Ficino, Scaliger, and other humanists thought highly of him.
As to his astrological writings, six annual predictions for the years 1479 – 1483 and 1486
are extant as well as the long Prognosticum for the years 1484 to 1504 which will mainly
occupy us here.3 Paul first published this Prognosticum, which does not bear a specific
title, in August 1484.4 It contains detailed predictions regarding the allegedly imminent
effects of the conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter in Scorpio in November 1484 and of a
total solar eclipse in Aries in March 1485. In keeping with the Persio-Arabic theory of the
‘Great Conjunctions’,5 Paul’s predictions cover a twenty year time-span, i. e. the approximate
period between two consecutive astronomical conjunctions of Saturn and Jupiter. Paul’s
Prognosticum became the most influential Renaissance text on the conjunction of 1484. It
was reprinted s­ everal times both north and south of the Alps and was plagiarized in 1488
by Johannes ­Lichtenberger (1440 – 1503) whose extremely successful illustrated Pronos­
ticatio is analyzed by Wiebke Deimann in her contribution to the present volume.
It is important to see Paul’s Prognosticum in context. Astrological predictions were
published in print on an increasing scale from the 1470s onwards. The earliest extant

2 This articulation in six chapters is meant roughly to structure the material without creating
a blinkered vision. Whenever needed or useful, we shall allow for brief digressions.
3 In addition, Paul wrote a very late astrological expertise for Pope Clement VII (1523); see below
note 101.
4 Louvain: Johannes de Westfalia, 31 August 1484. References will henceforth be to the text and foli-
ation of this edition. I used the copy of the university library of Cologne which is available online
at http://inkunabeln.ub.uni-koeln.de/vdib-info/kleioc/ip00187550 [verified 30 – 11 – 2012]. Only
one other copy of the editio princeps is extant (at Cambridge, UK). The first leaf of this edition is
blank and unsigned. In the following text, Paul repeatedly refers to his own text as the prognosticum.
Only some later reprints (Antwerp and Leipzig) have a longer, more specific title which does not
seem to go back to Paul himself: Prenostica Magistri pauli de middelburgo ad viginti annos duratura.
5 An overview of its sources and doctrines is given by Keiji Yamamoto and Charles Burnett
(eds. and trans.), Abū Ma‘šar, On Historical Astrology. The Book of Religions and Dynasties
(On the Great Conjunctions) (Islamic Philosophy, Theology and Science. Texts and Studies
33 – 34), 2 vols., Leiden–Boston–Cologne 2000, vol. 1, pp. 573 – 613.

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Paul of Middelburg’s use of the Mathesis 107

printed astrological predictions date, according to the Incunabula Short Title Catalogue,
from 1474 (Padua).6 The following figures refer to the ten year time-span from 1474 to the
publication of Paul’s Prognosticum in August 1484. In this time-span, a total of fifty-nine
predictions by nineteen different authors from various European countries is recorded
as extant in print.7 Of these fifty-nine, fourty-two are in Latin (of which five by Paul 8
and thirty-seven by others) and seventeen in vernacular languages (six in ­Italian, nine in
German, one in Dutch and one in French). Besides, there are anonymous fragments of
eleven more printed astrological predictions from this time-span, seven of which are in
Latin, two in German, and two in Dutch. The publications are roughly twice as many in
the second half of this period than in the first half. Many authors have published both
in Latin and in one of the vernacular languages. The most significant result, however, is
the following: With only one early exception, to which we shall return later,9 all those
printed astrological predictions that were p­ ublished before Paul’s Prognosticum of 1484
are concerned with one specific year and compa­ratively short, mostly eight to ten pages.10

6 Online at http://www.bl.uk/catalogues/istc/index.html [verified 30 – 11 – 2012]. My search


argument was ‘prognost* OR pronost* OR (*udicium AND ann*)’.
7 Their names are, in the order of their first recorded prognostication whose year of publication
will be indicated in parenthesis: Franciscus Guasconus (1474), Johannes de Lubec ( John of
Lübeck, 1474), Hieronymus de Manfredis (1475), Johannes Laet (1476), Petrus Bonus ­Advogarius
(1477), Matthaeus Moretus (1478), Johannes Glogoviensis (1479), Nicolaus de Insula Mariae
(1479), Paulus de Middelburgo (1479), Marcus Scribanarius (1479), Julianus de Blanchis (1481),
Wenceslaus Faber de Budweis (1482), Vitus Geroch (1482), Martinus Polichius de Mellerstadt
(1483), Franciscus de Sirigattis (1482), Georgius de Drohobycz (1483), Johannes Barbus (1483),
Dominicus Maria de Novara (1484), Marcus Gualterius (1484). Some of the predictions of these
authors were published by two or even three diffe­rent printers more or less contemporaneously;
some others were printed both in Latin and in the vernacular language. Such multiple publica-
tions of one and the same prediction are counted as one prediction in my survey.
8 For the years 1479, 1480, 1481, 1482, 1483.
9 See below, chapter VI.
10 If one takes also manuscripts into account, several more authors of prognostications for
years between 1474 and 1484 come into play. These are Aquilinius of Aquila (Bologna, BU,
AV.KK.VIII.29, f. 144r– 145v), Aurelius C. (?), Baptista Piasii of Cremona, Conrad ­Heingarter,
Gabriel Pirovanus (London, BL, Arundel 88, f. 28r– 29v), Iacobus Yspanus (Firenze, BML, Plut.
30.22, f. 21r– 47r), Johannes of Glogau, Matthaeus Merotus (Bologna, BU, AV.KK.VIII.29, f.
141r– 143v), and Matthias Fibulator. For all authors which are here listed without references
to specific ­manuscripts see the respective Index des noms, titres et notions in the first two
volumes of CCAL under the authors’ names (Catalogus Codicum Astrologorum ­Latinorum,
vol. I– II [BSB Munich and BN Paris], ed. David Juste, Paris 2011– 2015). See ibid. under the
names of Georgius Kotermak de Drohobycz, Girolamo Manfredi, Johannes Laet of Borchloen,
­Marcus Scribanarius, Paul of Middelbourg, and Wenceslas Faber de B ­ udweis (these have been
mentioned above with regard to incunabula) for further prognostications for years between
1474 and 1484 that are extant in manuscripts. I am grateful to David Juste for directing my
attention to all these handwritten prognostications. They are without exception for single
years and similar in length to the incunabula discussed above.

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108 Stephan Heilen

The structure of Paul’s Prognosticum, which he dedicated to Maximilian I of Habsburg


(1459 – 1519), the sovereign of his home province Zeeland, is as follows:

Prefatory letter
– praise of Maximilian
– praise of divination
– attack on opponents of astrology
– request for Maximilian’s benevolence and attention

Introduction to the astrological treatise


– explanation of the difficulty of the task
– prayer for divine assistance

Ch. 1: astronomical and astrological data


– the conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter in Scorpio, November 1484
– important contemporary conjunctions and eclipses: 
• total solar eclipse in Aries, March 1485
• conjunction Saturn-Mars in Scorpio, November 1483 
• conjunction Jupiter-Mars in Scorpio (without date)
– important earlier conjunctions in world history: 
• those preceding the Flood, Jesus Christ, and Muhammad 
• those of 848 CE , 1365 CE , 1425 CE , 1464 CE
– the vernal equinox on March 10, 1484
– the preceding conjunction of the luminaries on February 26, 1484

Ch. 2 – 4: the conjunction of November 1484


– ch. 2: its general effects
– ch. 3: its specific effects on individuals with different horoscopes
– ch. 4: its effect on the history of religion: birth of a ‘minor prophet’

Ch. 5: the solar eclipse of March 1485


– its effects on kings and private individuals
– time and place when and where its effects will be strongest

Ch. 6: combined effects of conjunction and eclipse on various social groups


(the Christian Church, monastic life, Jews, kings and princes, private individuals)

Ch. 7: remedies, both physical and spiritual, against these malign celestial influences

In this comparatively long treatise which runs to forty-three pages in the editio princeps, Paul
quotes a variety of ancient and medieval astrological authorities. He mentions Abdalla

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Paul of Middelburg’s use of the Mathesis 109

(al-Khwārizmī), Albumasar (Abū Ma‘shar), Anthonius de monte ulmo (­Antonio da Mon-


tolmo), Firmicus (sc. Maternus), Hali or Halirodoan (‘Alī ibn Riḍwān), Haliabenragel (’Alī ibn
Abī-l-Rijāl), Hermes (a pseudepigraphic work), Messehala (Māshā’allāh), and Pt(h)olomeus
(Ptolemy). The highest number of references is, not surprisingly in the context of conjunc-
tionist astrology, to Abū Ma‘šar and Māšā’allāh. What strikes the reader, though, is that the
actual number of quotations from these two authors is comparatively low, not more than a
handful, while the borrowings from Firmicus Maternus amount to roughly two hundred.
They are drawn from all eight books of the Mathesis (with an emphasis on the first, third, sixth
and eighth) and distributed over all parts of Paul’s Prognosticum. These omnipresent borrow-
ings are all the more striking in view of the fact that Firmicus is explicitly referred to by Paul
only once (ch. 4, f. <b6>r), and – more importantly – that Firmicus is not an authority on
historical astrology which was developed after his lifetime by Persian and Arabic scholars.11

II. ­Paul’s borrowings from Firmicus: classification and examples

Paul’s borrowings are typically short, from a string of words to a few lines which are
always reworked somehow. At closer inspection, one finds that the imitation of F ­ irmicus
occurs on various levels: besides the numerous, more or less literal quotations of chunks
of text, there are also resemblences in the overall structure, in stylistic features, in central
ideas, and in the use of historical examples.
The structural parallels are obvious: Firmicus arranged his Mathesis in seven books
according to the number of the planets, preceded by another book for the apologetic
introduction, which makes a total of eight.12 Accordingly, Paul structures his Prognos-
ticum in seven chapters preceded by a preface.
Paul’s style is, through the sheer mass of his borrowings from the Mathesis, largely
characterized by that of Firmicus which, in its turn, is rhetorically elaborated, abundant,
and prolix.13 The most prominent stylistic feature of the Mathesis is its heavy use of the
genetivus inhaerentiae.14 In extreme cases this tendency results in expressions such as

11 The earliest remotely comparable case that I know of is a work on English law published in the year
1114 under the significant title Quadripartitus. Its unknown author openly imitated the l­ anguage
and style of the Mathesis. For more details, see Rinaldi, SIC ITUR (see note 1), pp. 33 – 34.
12 Firmicus explicitly refers to this structure in Math. 8.33.1.
13 For details, see Wolfgang Hübner, Art. ‘Firmicus Maternus’, in: Restauration und Erneu-
erung. Die lateinische Literatur von 284 bis 374 n. Chr., ed. Reinhart Herzog (Handbuch
der lateinischen Literatur der Antike 5), Munich 1989, pp. 84 – 93, at p. 85.
14 See Leopold Henri Wijermans, De genitivus inhaerentiae in het Latijn, Diss. Nijmegen
1949 (on Firmicus: pp. 35 – 38). Franz Boll, Art. ‘Firmicus’, in: Paulys Realencyclopädie der
­classischen Altertumswissenschaft, vol. VI, 2 (1909), col. 2365 – 2379, at col. 2375, speaks of
“die geradezu ungeheure Vorliebe des F. für den sog. Genitiv der Inhaerenz”.

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110 Stephan Heilen

inmortalem aeternae perpetuitatis ordinem (Firm. math. 7.1.2). Those sections of Paul’s
Prognosticum that our author wrote without using material from the Mathesis vary in
stylistic elaboration depending on their content: Technical sections, especially lists of
astronomical data correlated with historical events, lack adornment,15 others such as the
dedicatory preface are rhetorically elaborated in long periods.16 More details of Paul’s
style will become clear shortly, especially in chapter IV below.
A central idea of Firmicus is that astrologers must abstain from analyzing the empe­
ror’s horoscope (math. 2.30.4 – 5), both because that would be a capital crime (2.30.4) and
because there is no hope of making a true prediction since the emperor is exempt from
stellar influences (2.30.5). Paul takes over the second of these two points, extends it to both
the emperor and the Pope and expresses it with words borrowed from the Mathesis. The
verbal correspondences between both texts are underlined in the following synoptic table:

Table 1 17 18
Paul. progn. 1404 – 1504 Firm. math.
f. <b8>r quamobrem summo pontifici vt fertur 2.30.5 sed nec aliquis mathematicus verum
nouello17 atque imperatorie maiestati frederico aliquid de fato imperatoris definire potuit;
tercio18 uerenda maxime et metuenda erit [scil. solus enim imperator stellarum non subiacet
futura solis eclipsis], nisi forte ab astronomorum cursibus et solus est, in cuius fato stellae
iudiciis excipiendi essent, nam cum totius orbis decernendi non habeant potestatem. cum
sint domini, non subiacent stellarum cursibus enim fuerit totius orbis dominus, fatum eius
neque ullam in eis decernendi potestatem habent, dei summi iudicio gubernatur.
sed fatum eorum dei summi gubernatur iudicio.

As to historical examples, the most conspicuous case is in Paul’s preface. It contains –


besides a captatio benevolentiae addressed to Maximilian, remarks on the difficulty of
the task, and a prayer for divine assistance – also a vehement polemic against potential
detractors of astrology. Paul adduces the example of the ancient philosopher Plotinus

15 This is particularly true of the first chapter of Paul’s Prognosticum which lays the technical
foundations for the following interpretation of the data.
16 Suffice it to quote one example from the preface to Maximilian I of Habsburg (f. a2r) which
contains hyperbaton, hyperbole, litotes, parallelism, metaphors, etc.: Cum enim persepe tuarum
innumerabilium uirtutum, quibus mirifice abundas, meas ad aures multorum ex ore fama peruen-
erit, princeps magnanime, ut una omnium uoce feratur te inter ceteros etatis nostre in omni uirtutum
genere prestantissimos non mediocrem locum obtinere, fieri non poterat, quod ego bonarum artium
studiis incumbens te profecto doctorum patronum, sapientum decus, studiosorumque firmissimum
columen tanquam quoddam celeste numen non colerem, diligerem summaque in reuerentia haberem
uehementerque gauderem tali principi subditum esse, neque quidem equum fore [exspectes putavi vel
sim.] quod, antequam has tuas prouincias in Italiam reuersurus derelinquam, te prius non salutarem.
17 After Pope Sixtus IV had died on August 12, 1484, Giovanni Battista Cibo succeeded him
as Innocent VIII on August 29, 1484.
18 Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor from 1452 to 1493, father of Maximilian.

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Paul of Middelburg’s use of the Mathesis 111

who was allegedly punished with horrible illness and miserable death for his arrogant
disbelief in astrology. This polemic, which runs to roughly half a page in the editio prin-
ceps (f. a3v), is largely composed of chunks of literal, unacknowledged quotations from
the first book of Firmicus where the same historical example is adduced and elaborated
at greater length.19 The correspondences are again underlined:

Table 220 21 22 23
Paul. progn. 1404 – 1504, f. a3r-v Firm. math. 1.7.14 – 22 (and other ancient parallels)
Verum non aliter cum his 20 agendum Cic. div. 1.1 et populi Romani et omnium gentium
censeo quam cum illis, qui ea, firmata consensu.
que omnium gentium firmata sunt Macr. somn. 2.16.11 ignem ipsum, de quo calor in alia
consensu ut ignem esse calidum transit, quis neget calidum?
negare non formidant atque instar Firm. math. 1.7.14 Ad te nunc singularem virum
[f. a3v] plotini temerarii philosophi Plotine veniemus.
fati vim percipient, qui cum Ibid. 1.7.19 Longum est enumerare, quid de rebus
fatalis dispositionis potestatem singulis senserit, qua se ratione fatali sorti subtraxerit,
seuera argumentatione turbauerit qua vim istam, idest stellarum atque fati, sententiarum
seque summis honoribus et argumentatione turbaverit.
dignitatibus constitutum fatali Ibid. 1.7.21 ut ista gravis morbi continuatione confectus
sorte 21 subtractum putarit, grauis et tormentis propriis coactus ac verae rationis auctoritate
morbi tormentis funesteque convictus vim fati potestatemque sentiret.
calamitatis continuatione confectus Ibid. 3.3.21 totum, quicquid ei vel honorum vel
uim fati potestatemque sensiit et dignitatis conlatum fuerit, miseriarum atque infelicitatis
totum, quicquid ei dignitatum uel incursione mutatur.
honorum collatum fuerit, miseriarum Ibid. 1.7.20 primum membra eius frigido sanguinis torpore
atque infelicitatis incursione riguerunt et oculorum acies splendorem paulatim extenuati
mutatum fuit. nam primum uniuersi luminis perdidit, postea per totam eius cutem malignis
eius corporis membra frigido humoribus nutrita pestis erupit, ut putre corpus deficientibus
sanguinis torpore rigentia pestifera membris corrupti sanguinis morte tabesceret; per omnes
exulceratio deformabat, atque dies ac per omnes horas serpente morbo minutae partes
ita per singulos dies serpente viscerum defluebant, et quicquid paulo ante integrum
morbo minute uiscerum partes uideras, statim confecti corporis exulceratio deformabat.
colluuione tabefacte defluebant, Ibid. 1.7.21 Sic corrupta ac dissipata facie tota ab illo figura
ut sic dissipata facie corruptaque corporis recedebat et in mortuo, ut ita dicam, corpore solus
corporis forma ab humana figura superstes retinebatur animus.
discedebat.22 Istius itaque seuere Ibid. 1.7.22 Sensit itaque etiam iste vim fati et excepit
pestis acerbitate confectus proprio finem, quem illi stellarum ignita iudicia decreverant,
exemplo cunctos homines docuit et istius valitudinis acerbitate confectus proprio
uim potestatemque 23 fatorum nulla exemplo, non sermonis licentia cunctos homines docuit
posse ratione contemni. potestatem fatorum nulla posse ratione contemni.

19 Firm. math. 1.7.14 – 22. On this passage, see Paul Henry, Plotin et l’occident. Firmicus
­Maternus, Marius Victorinus, Saint Augustin et Macrobe, Louvain 1934 (Spicilegium Sacrum
Lovaniense. Études et documents, vol. 15), pp. 25 – 43, who gives an analysis of Firmicus’
source (­Porphyry’s Vita Plotini), references to earlier secondary literature, and the retrospec-
tive diagnosis of Plotinus’ disease as leprosy.
20 I.e. the detractors of astrology.
21 This reading will be discussed below, chapter III (before table 4).
22 This reading will be discussed below, chapter III (before table 4).
23 This reading will be discussed below, chapter III (before table 4).

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Although Paul’s use of Firm. math. 1.7.14 – 22 is obvious, he has rearranged the ancient
text substantially. The most prominent modifications are shortenings and syntac­tical
changes. In addition, he splits paragraph 1.7.21 in such a way as to quote first its s­ econd
half and then its first half (Firmicus has: … retinebatur animus, ut ista …). Paul further
includes one borrowing from Math. 3.3.21 and two borrowings from other ancient texts
of astronomical and astrological content, Cicero’s De divinatione and Macrobius’ com-
mentary on the Somnium Scipionis.
It is difficult to judge whether Paul intended to dissimulate his substantial borrowing
from Firmicus by not dropping the ancient senator’s name until much later in a different
context 24 or whether he thought the source was so well known as to need no explicit
reference. It will be good to differentiate between the Mathesis as a whole and the brief
passage containing the polemic against Plotinus. In the absence of printed copies of
the Mathesis (the editio princeps was published in 1497), the low number of available
manuscripts in 1484 seems to exclude that there existed a widespread knowledge of
­Firmicus’ entire astrological work.25 The polemic against P­ lotinus, however, had a broad
diffusion of its own, independently of the full copies of the Mathesis, and must there-
fore have been rather well known to late medieval and early modern educated readers.
In the 12th century, for example, William of ­Malmesbury quotes that polemic in his
Polyhistor;26 in the 13th, Vincent of ­Beauvais quotes it in his Speculum historiale IV 8;27
and in the 14th century, Francesco Petrarca – to whom we shall return shortly – made
several references to it, especially in his Triumphus Fame III 46 – 50.28
Paul seems to aim at two effects: to cause anxiety about the near future by ­adducing
an impressive historical example of the consequences of disregard of astrology, and to
make his addressee inclined to hire the author as his astrological adviser. Towards the
end of his text, Paul will resume this strategy from a different angle: In the context
of illness caused by the impending alignments (conjunction and eclipse), he will give
detailed pharmaceutical instructions for the preparation of remedies against the celestial
influences. By emphasizing the need to adjust the recipe to the individual complexion
and horoscope of the person that wishes to protect himself or herself, Paul implicitly

24 See below at the beginning of chapter V.


25 According to Rinaldi, SIC ITUR (see note 1), pp. 27, 51, and 235 – 251, a total of 34 manus­
cripts from the eleventh to fifteenth centuries is extant and not mutilated in the section
regarding Plotinus (Firm. math. 1.7.14 – 22).
26 Rinaldi, SIC ITUR (see note 1), p. 34, note 42.
27 Personal communication by M. ­Rinaldi.
28 Quoted by Rinaldi, SIC ITUR (see note 1), p. 45, note 79. On Petrarca’s numerous allusions
to the Mathesis see now Michele Rinaldi, Petrarca, Firmico Materno e la tradizione astrolo­
gica, in: Petrarca, l’umanesimo e la civiltà europea. Atti del Convegno Internazionale. Firenze,
5 – 10 dicembre 2004, a cura di Donatella Coppini e Michele Feo (Quaderni Petrarcheschi
17 – 18), Florence 2007 – 2008, pp. 679 – 705, at pp. 686 – 690 (with special regard to the
polemic against Plotinus see ibid., p. 688 with note 35).

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Paul of Middelburg’s use of the Mathesis 113

suggests that Maximilian should hire Paul as his personal astrologer and physician.
Paul’s extensive yet unacknowledged rewriting of Firmicus’ passage on Plotinus comes
close to plagiarism, but the potential offense is mitigated by the fact that Paul reworks
those textual borrowings and integrates them in his own lite­ral technique of creating a
ring composition with the concept of illness dominating both the beginning of his text,
with the intention of causing anxiety, and the end of his text, where he offers expert help.

III. ­Paul’s manuscript of the Mathesis

The fact that Paul interweaves so many and so substantial borrowings from Firmicus in
the text of his Prognosticum raises not only the question why he did so 29 but also how
he accessed the Mathesis. Both questions require a brief review of the fortune of the
Mathesis in the Renaissance.
A renewed interest in this work seems to have begun with Petrarca who included
­Firmicus in a prestigious canon of authors.30 Petrarca was hostile to astrology but
interested in the rhetorical passages of the Mathesis, especially the various proems and
the entire first book which prefaces the technical books II to VIII with a book-length
defense of astrology.31 A century after Petrarca, there is evidence of an abrupt, strong
increase in the interest in Firmicus. Our oldest copies of the full recension of the
­Mathesis in eight books are from the biennium 1467 – 1468.32 The few existing earlier
copies from the 11th to 14th centuries are profoundly different in that they contain only
books I to IV (they break off at different points within ch. IV .22). Around the middle
of the 15th century one or more old copies containing all eight books must have resur-
faced somewhere, giving rise to a feverish interest in studying and copying the newly
discovered books five to eight of this work.33 In the 11th century, the manuscript tra-
dition split up in two branches, a better ‘German’ one 34 called Γ and an Italian one of

29 I shall return to this later (see below after note 106).


30 Rinaldi, SIC ITUR (see note 1), p. 42, and Rinaldi, Petrarca (see note 28), p. 692.
31 Rinaldi, SIC ITUR (see note 1), pp. 47 – 48. See also Rinaldi, Petrarca (see note 28), p. 702,
who gives a more nuanced picture of Petrarca’s hostile attitude towards astrology which was
ambivalent between ideological rejection and intellectual curiosity. See also ibid., p. 703:
“Molto probabilmente all’origine dell’interesse che Petrarca nutriva per la Mathesis si colloca
l’esemplarità che egli riconosceva a Firmico quale rappresentante della cultura classica; Firmico,
infatti, non era certo una autore arabo o il solito astrologo contemporaneo […]. Firmico gli
aveva mostrato come fosse possibile scrivere de rebus coelestibus senza dover ricorrere al lessico
‘imbarbarito’ dalle cattive traduzioni mediolatine delle opere di Tolomeo e degli autori Arabi.”
32 Rinaldi, SIC ITUR (see note 1), pp. 8 and 53.
33 According to Rinaldi, SIC ITUR (see note 1), p. 103, it was in particular physicians (one
may think of Paul of Middelburg) and philosophers that were now interested in Firmicus.
34 Most of its manuscripts are today in German libraries, but many of them were written elsewhere.

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114 Stephan Heilen

inferior quality 35 which was called ∆ by the first modern editors, Kroll, Skutsch, and
Ziegler.36 For the establishment of the Itala recensio ∆, the humanist environment of
the Aragonese court at Naples was of central importance.37
In the last decades of the 15th century, Firmicus was by various humanists expli­citly
praised for his eloquence. In 1454, Giovanni Aurispa announced the Mathesis to A ­ ntonio
Beccadelli (Panormita) with the following words: Leges enim librum eloquentissimum; cf.
Pico della Mirandola, Disp. adv. astr. div. vol. I p. 74 Garin: Mitto alia multa, in q­ uibus
semper multae eloquentiae, exiguae semper sapientiae hominem deprehendes. Already
earlier Petrarca had referred to Iulius Firmicus Maternus, astrologus nescio an verior
ceteris, sed profecto cunctis ornatior, quos ego legerim (Seniles 8.1, from the year 1366).38
However, the success of Firmicus in the late fifteenth century was deplorably brief.39
The peak was reached with the publication of the editio princeps of the Mathesis in Ven-
ice in 1497 by Simone Bevilacqua and that of the Aldine edition in 1499 by Francesco
Pescennio Negro.40 The text of Firmicus was now circulating in large numbers, but already
during the first decade of the 16th century the new stylistic ideal of Ciceronianism took
the lead, at the expense of Firmicus who had already suffered a first blow by Pico della
Mirandola. Soon after the turn of the century the fortune of Firmicus faded and the
Mathesis was relegated amidst the many texts without literary ambitions such as rep-
ertories, ephemerides and translations from Arabic compilations. Paul of Middelburg
wrote and published his Prognosticum roughly in the middle of that period of scholarly
interest in the Mathesis, when complete manuscript copies containing all eight books
were rare, objects of high demand and avid reading.
It has not been asked so far which of the two branches of the manuscript tradition
Paul was following, Γ or ∆. ­The following examples provide first clues for the assump-
tion that he was following the Italian branch ∆:

35 This branch contains many humanist interpolations and conjectures; see Rinaldi, SIC ITUR
(see note 1), p. 24.
36 Iulii Firmici Materni Matheseos libri VIII, eds. W[ilhelm] Kroll, F[ranz] Skutsch
et ­K[onrat] Ziegler, 2 vols., Leipzig 1897 – 1913 (repr. Stuttgart 1968, with addenda by
K. ­Ziegler). The sigla Γ and ∆ were continued by the second modern editor, Monat: Firmicus
Maternus. Mathesis, texte établi et traduit par P[ierre] Monat, 3 vols, Paris 1992 – 1997.
Unless otherwise specified, I shall quote from the text of Firmicus from the earlier edition.
37 Rinaldi, SIC ITUR (see note 1), p. 8.
38 Non vidi; I quote from Rinaldi, Petrarca (see note 28), p. 690.
39 In this paragraph, I closely follow Rinaldi, SIC ITUR (see note 1), pp. 86 – 87.
40 Excerpts from the Mathesis had been published already in 1488 – i. e. still years after the
completion of Paul’s Prognosticum – by Erhard Ratdolt in Augsburg (Rinaldi, SIC ITUR
[see note 1], p. 83).

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Paul of Middelburg’s use of the Mathesis 115

Table 3 41 42 43 44 45

Paul. progn. 1404 – 1504 Firm. math.


f. b1 efficiet petulantes lasciuos prauisque
r-v
8.6.4 Sunt enim natura petulantes, lascivi,
semper desideriis ac uiciosis uoluptatibus s­ emper desideriorum pravis ac libidinosis
implicatos.41 ­voluptatibus inplicati.43
KSZ44 app. crit.: desideriorum Γ desideriis Δ
f. <b8>v … aut incensa domo conflagrabuntur 8.17.8 … aut incensa domo conflagrabuntur aut
aut publica sentencia concremabuntur42 publica sententia flammis ultricibus concrema-
buntur.45
KSZ app. crit.: flammis ultricibus om. Δ

Interestingly, the apparatus critici of the two modern editions 46 both contain the
information that there are cases where Paul agrees with one specific manuscript of
branch ∆ against all the other – admittedly not very numerous – extant witnesses of
the Mathesis that have been collated by editors to the present. This manuscript is cod.
Neapol. V A 17 (N).47 It was written by Giovanni Pontano (1429 – 1503), who copied
the first, third, fourth, fifth and sixth quinios, and by a second hand that copied all
the remaining fascicles.48 The codex Neapolitanus is particularly valuable because two
large sections of books VI and VII (i. e. 6.23.4 – 6.29.23 and 7.16.5 – 7.23.9) are transmit-
ted in no other manuscript than this.49 Three instances of agreement between Paul’s
text and N against the remaining manuscripts of Firmicus that have been collated
by the editors can be found in Paul’s polemic against Plotinus: fatali sorte (ablative)
instead of fatali sorti (dative), discedebat instead of recedebat and uim potestatemque
instead of potestatem.50
Here are two more examples:

41 The subject of this sentence is the conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter in 1484.
42 About those individuals who have 13°  (the position of Mars during the eclipse of 16 March
1485 according to Paul) ascending in their horoscopes.
43 About those who are born with Haedus (the northern paranatellon of 20° Aries) rising.
44 See above note 36.
45 About those who are born with Lygnus (a paranatellon of Pisces) rising.
46 See above note 36. In the case of Kroll-Skutsch-Ziegler’s first volume (1897), see
the ­variae lectiones of N listed as an addendum in the Appendix Praefationis of the second
volume (pp. XXXVII–LXVII).
47 For the stemmatic collocation of N, see Monat, Firmicus (see note 36), vol. 1, 1992, p. 38,
and Rinaldi, SIC ITUR (see note 1), p. 25.
48 Ibid., pp. 112, 115, 117. The (probably identical) exemplar used by both scribes is lost, its pro­
venance unknown.
49 Ibid., p. 199.
50 See above notes 21, 22 and 23.

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116 Stephan Heilen

Table 4
Paul. progn. 1404 – 1504 Firm. math.
f. <a7> omni infamia maculationeque
v
1.7.25 omni infamiae maculatione pollutus
pollutum infamiae maculatione] infamia maculationeque N
f. <a8>v aliis talia innascentur ulcera, ut nulla 4.4.3 aliis talia nascuntur vulnera, ut nulla re alia
arte medica nullo ingenio nisi igneis sanari nisi ignitis sanari cauteriis possint
cauteriis possint vulnera] ulcera N possint N, om. reliqui codd.

However, Paul’s source cannot have been N. ­The reason is simple: Rinaldi has shown
that N was copied after 1488,51 and even if one doubted this terminus post quem, N is
still excluded as Paul’s source because of some obvious discrepancies:

Table 5
Paul. progn. 1404 – 1504 Firm. math.
f. a3r nunc directo cursu nunc retrocedendo 1.4.11 nunc directo cursu, nunc retrogrado, nunc
nunc statiua tarditate subsistunt statiua tarditate subsistunt
retrogrado] retrogradando N subsistunt]
­substituunt N
f. b3v vt sic per omnem uite statum pannis 8.11.4 ut sit per omne vitae spatium pannis male
male pendentibus nudi incedant pendentibus nudus
spatium AN : statum DGv
f. <b5>v quieta aëris moderatio caloris et fri- 1.7.16 aëris quieta moderatio cunctos incolas
goris mixta temperie cunctos incolas salubri salubri vegetatione sustentat
uegetatione sustentat aëris quieta moderatio om. N

The last example is striking because it is another borrowing from Firmicus’ polemic against
Plotinus which contained three significant correspondences between Paul’s text and N, yet
here the omission of three words in N (aëris quieta moderatio), which I found confirmed by
autopsy, is definitive proof that Paul did either not know N at all or that he did not work
with N alone. It seems that he worked with a manuscript of the Italian branch ∆ that was
closely related to N and has either not been collated to the present, or not completely col-
lated, or not correctly collated, or that is simply no longer extant. In order to solve this prob-
lem, I examined not only cod. Neapol. V A 17 (N) but also the following two manuscripts
which are known to be closely related to N: Vat. Pal. lat. 1418 (D) and Vat. Urb. lat. 263 (E).
D is the most important manuscript of the Itala recensio (∆) of the Mathesis.52 This
manuscript was written in Naples in 1467 by the otherwise unknown copyist Peter the

51 Rinaldi, SIC ITUR (see note 1), p. 115.


52 This is the judgement of Rinaldi, SIC ITUR (see note 1), p. 76, and Monat, Firmicus
(see note 36), vol. I, 1992, p. 29, who calls it “de loin le meilleur représentent de la famille

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Paul of Middelburg’s use of the Mathesis 117

German and belonged to Angelo di Giannozzo Manetti.53 From his family’s library it
came around 1550 to the library of Ulrich Fugger, from there to Heidelberg and even-
tually, in 1623, to the Vatican Library.54 It is particularly valuable because it contains, on
the margins, almost twohundred alternative readings (written by Manetti)55 derived
from other sources, thus representing almost an early modern ‘edition’ of Firmicus.56
Two sample passages, one short, the other long, have been collated by Kroll (Firm. math.
2.7.3 – 2.10.4 and 4.22.8 – 6.31.3), the rest of the Mathesis by a not so reliable helper, the
otherwise unknown Graeven.57
The other manuscript, E, was written and beautifully illustrated around 1472 by
Gundisalvus Hispanus for the duke of Urbino, Federico da Montefeltro.58 After the
death of the last duke of Urbino, Francesco Maria II della Rovere (1548 – 1631), Pope
Alexander VII had the entire library transported from Urbino to the Vatican Library in
the year 1657. Since Paul lived in Urbino in the 1480s and was personal physician and
astrologer to the duke, it is possible that this manuscript was his source. To the present,
only specimens of E have been collated (Firm. math. 2.7.3 – 2.10.4 and 4.22.8 – 5.1.38).59
Autopsy reveals that in Firmicus’ polemic against Plotinus D and E share all three
variant readings of both N and Paul that have been mentioned above: fatali sorte (abla-
tive) instead of fatali sorti (dative), discedebat instead of recedebat and uim potestatem-
que instead of potestatem.60 In the following five examples, the apparatus critici must be
expanded thus:

italique”. Note, however, that Monat consults its readings only occasionally, when the antiqui-
ores et mutili are defective.
53 Rinaldi, SIC ITUR (see note 1), p. 99. Cf. Simona Foà, Art. ‘Angelo Manetti’, in: Dizion-
ario biografico degli Italiani 68 (2007), pp. 604 – 605.
54 On cod. Vat. Pal. lat. 1418 see Rinaldi, SIC ITUR (see note 1), pp. 98 – 105 and 247
(number 28).
55 L. ­Banti, Agnolo Manetti e alcuni scribi a Napoli nel secolo XV, in: Annali della Scuola
­Normale Superiore di Pisa, ser. II, 8 (1939), pp. 382 – 394, at pp. 393 – 394 (non vidi; I quote
from Rinaldi, SIC ITUR [see note 1], pp. 11 and 104, note 240).
56 Rinaldi, SIC ITUR (see note 1), pp. 104 – 105.
57 Kroll-Skutsch-Ziegler (see note 36), vol. II, p. XX. ­Graeven overlooked at least some
variae lectiones; see below notes 60 and 66.
58 Rinaldi, SIC ITUR (see note 1), p. 84.
59 Kroll-Skutsch-Ziegler (see note 36), vol. II p. XX.
60 See above notes 21, 22 and 23. Kroll-Skutsch-Ziegler (see note 36) should have men-
tioned these variants of D in their apparatus because that passage of D was allegedly collated
by Graeven. Note that some other manuscripts of which sample portions have been collated by
Rinaldi, SIC ITUR (see note 1), share peculiar readings of N. ­For example, discedebat instead
of recedebat can be found in cod. Harleianus 2766 of the British Library, too (ibid. p. 72, note
136), and vim potestatemque can be found in cod. Vat. lat. 3425, too (ibid. p. 97, note 217).

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Table 4 above:
1.7.25 infamiae maculatione] infamia maculationeque NDE
4.4.3 vulnera] ulcera NDE possint ND, possit E, om. reliqui codd.

Table 5 above:
1.4.11 retrogrado] retrogradendo (-dando N) NDE subsistunt DE : substituunt N
8.11.4 spatium AN : statum DEGv
1.7.16 aëris quieta moderatio DE : om. N

Our result so far is, then, that Paul cannot have followed N alone, but he may well have
followed either D or E alone. Let us narrow this further down.
In chapter 2 Paul quotes Firm. math. 8.16.1 ex caede hominum et ex spoliis habebunt
vitae subsidia. According to Kroll, Skutsch, and Ziegler, the Italian manuscript branch
∆ has here a grammatically impossible varia lectio for caede, namely caedis. Autopsy con-
firms the reading caedis in the case of N (f. 191r) and D (f. 168v). Interestingly, Paul’s editio
princeps has cedib’ (i. e. caedibus). Is this an emendation of what he may be assumed to
have read in any manuscript of branch ∆ that was available to him, i. e. of caedis, maybe
an emendation guided by the intention of matching the following plural spoliis? Pro­
bably not, because E has the same reading, even the same orthography and abbreviation:
cedib’ (f. 156r). Since E is the only manuscript of Firmicus positively known to transmit
the ablative plural cedibus, it is a first clue for assuming that Paul, who lived and worked
at the court of Urbino while he was working on his Prognosticum, was using the manus­
cript that belonged to the library of the Duke of Urbino.
We shall be able to substantiate this assumption further. However, methodological
caution is advised. In view of the liberty that Paul takes in rearranging the text of F ­ irmicus,
it is important to watch out for significant readings shared or not shared by Paul and
E while not disregarding such discrepancies between their texts that can be explained
in various ways and are, therefore, not significant. One example for the latter: On f. c3r,
Paul says: omnia ex assiduis felicitatibus bona decernuntur et faciet Iupiter ille beniuolus,
ut ad omnes actus prospere sequatur euentus. This is an adaptation of Firm. math. 6.38.1
(about Mercury): omnia bona ex assiduis felicitatibus decernuntur, et facit ut omnes actus
prospere sequatur eventus. According to Kroll, Skutsch, and Ziegler as well as Monat,
all manuscripts of ∆ have prosper instead of prospere (Γ). Autopsy confirms that E has
indeed prosper. Since prosper … eventus makes good sense, too, one could take this case
as an argument against Paul’s dependence on E or any other manuscript of branch ∆. ­It
is important, however, to take the whole picture into account: The Mathesis contains
three more instances of prosper sequitur (-atur, -ebatur) euentus (1.7.36. 3.2.7. 5.3.16),
but it also contains nine other passages with the words prospere sequitur (-atur, -etur)
euentus (5.1.30. 5.2.6. 5.3.58. 5.5.5. 5.6.2. 5.6.5. 6.3.9. 6.5.4. 6.24.9). They all precede the
passage that is at issue here (6,38,1). It is obvious that the present case does not allow
any reliable stemmatic conclusions.

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Paul of Middelburg’s use of the Mathesis 119

So let us watch out for significant readings. A systematic checking of all borrowings
that Paul made from the Mathesis against E (of which only specimens had been collated
so far) led me to the discovery of the following case: In chapter six, Paul specifies the
diverse effects of the imminent conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter on individuals through
a casuistry in which he goes systematically through all the signs of the zodiac. In the
context of those individuals who had Aries ascending at birth or otherwise in a strong
position, Paul writes (f. c3v; with numerical distinction of the four syntactical units):
(1) aut enim fulminis ictu repentino mortis opprimentur occasu (2) aut equi ­calceantis
impetu aut equo deiecti misera corporis iactura morientur (3) aut scopulis periclitati aut
mari fluminibusue submersi peribunt (4) aut alterius nouelle et inaudite repentine mor-
tis patientur exitium.61
The source of the first part is Firm. math. 8.6.11 aut fulmine icti repentino mortis opprimun-
tur occasu. The apparatus criticus of Kroll, Skutsch, and Ziegler says nothing about fulmine
icti which is, within the Mathesis, a unique juncture. D (f. 165r) and N (f. 187r) read fulmine
icti, but E (f. 152v) has fulmine ictu. If Paul used any of the manuscripts transmitting fulmine
icti, it would be difficult to understand why he changed that reading to fulminis ictu. If he
used E, instead, fulmine ictu required emendation. He would then have changed fulmine
to fulminis, grammatically possible and the easiest emendation as long as one considers
E’s reading fulmine ictu in isolation, but less elegant than fulmine icti when one takes into
account the following words, too, which contain repentino mortis occasu: Paul’s combination
of two expressions consisting each of an ablative with a genetive attribute is somewhat clumsy
because the first ablative is causal, the second modal, and they are not clearly distinguished.
The second part of Paul’s sentence is most revealing for our purpose. Its source is Firm.
math. 8.13.4 aut quadrupedis animalis impetu, aut equi calce, aut deiectus equo morietur.
Kroll, Skutsch, and Ziegler inform the reader in their apparatus that ∆ has impetus instead
of impetu, but they are silent about equi calce aut. Their apparatus is confirmed by autopsy
of D (f. 168r) and N (f. 190v) which both read aut quadrupedis animalis impetus aut equi
calce aut deiectus equo morietur. In E, however, we find the unique reading aut quadrupe-
dis animalis impetu aut equi calceantis deiectus equo morietur (f. 155r). Paul seems to have
understood these words thus: ‘or he will die through the attack of a four-footed animal
or of a kicking horse <or> having been thrown from a horse’. However, a kicking horse
would be equi calcitrantis.62 The text of E means ‘of a horse that furnishes (someone) with

61 For elements (2) to (4), cf. also Firm. math. 8.15.5 in scopulis in quibus aliquando periclitati
fuerant, misera corporis iactura morientur, aut nati statim peribunt, aut propter incestum ­publica
animadversione plectuntur, ut novellae his et inauditae mortis inferatur exitium and 8,6,9 mari
fluminibusque (fluminibusue DEN, item Monat, Firmicus [see note 36]) submersi acerbis
­mortibus (fluctibus pro acerbis mortibus DEN, item Monat) interibunt.
62 The verb calcitrare is rare. According to Hey, ThLL III, c.  133,48 – 78 s. v. calcitro, there are
only fourteen ancient occurrences for the literal meaning that is at issue here.

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shoes’ – whom? Itself ?63 Paul realized that before deiectus equo the addition of aut was logi­
cally needed (therefore he wrote aut equo deiecti). But he did not realize that the missing
particle might be ‘hidden’ behind the letters -ant- of calceantis and that, -ant- being the
distinctive morphological element of the present participle, the participle as such was sus-
picious.64 The combination of the three facts that E is the only manuscript of the Mathesis
known to transmit calceantis, that this is a nonsensical reading, and that Paul took over
the same reading from one manuscript of the Mathesis, strongly indicates that this man-
uscript was E and that Paul coined his own expression after that of the codex Urbinas.65
The systematic comparison of all borrowings from Firmicus in Paul’s text with E did not
reveal any significant discrepancies. In addition, Paul never uses material from Firm. math.
6.23.4 associant to 6.29.24 domina fuerit and 4.17.6 et an dominus ipsius signi to 4.19.36
ex Lunae cursu dominus, two large portions of text that are missing from E. ­Even if many
manuscripts of the Italian branch ∆ have not been collated systematically to the present
and definitive proof is by way of principle impossible (our author could have used a lost
manuscript very closely related to E, or he could have used different manuscripts at diffe­
rent times), I shall henceforth base my argument on the most likely assumption, namely
that Paul’s source was the copy of Firmicus in the Urbino library.
Once this is agreed, some further influences of E on details of the text of Paul become
apparent, as well as emendations that Paul anticipated and that were made again centu-
ries later by the Teubner editors Kroll, Skutsch, and Ziegler. A few examples may suffice:

63 In antiquity a horse’s feet were furnished with shoes to be taken off and put on, not shod as
in modern times.
64 The reading calceantis in E seems to have originated from calce (maybe at the end of a line in
the exemplar) plus aut misread as ant. In a second step, someone may have ‘corrected’ equi
calceant to equi calceantis (or, less likely, there may have been – for whatever reason – a verti-
kal stroke in the exemplar that the copyist erroneously interpreted as ‫ן‬, the abbreviation sign
for -is that is frequently used in contemporary texts).
65 Another argument for the implicit conclusion that D was not Paul’s source is the following:
On f. <a7>v Paul writes […] quidque per omnem terrarum tractum mixtura ipsarum radiatio-
que equata comparatione perficiet, definiamus, which is adapted from Firm. math. 1.4.11 […]
definire postea, quid per omnem terrarum tractum mixtura ipsarum radiatioque perficiat?
While Paul and E have tractum, D has ambitum which is not recorded in the apparatus critici
of Kroll-Skutsch-Ziegler and Monat, Firmicus (see note 36) (nor in the Index of
Rinaldi, SIC ITUR [see note 1], p. 255) for any manuscript. Autopsy of D reveals that the
letters ambi- were ­written in rasura (probably replacing trac-) by Angelo Manetti, the owner of
the codex who made hundreds of addenda and corrigenda in D. ­Manetti seems to have made
the correction Marte suo, not following a manuscript authority. Maybe he thought of Suet.
Aug. 94.4 per omnem terrarum et caeli ambitum (in a prominent context with stars; less likely:
Sen. nat. 6.16.2 and Amm. 18.6.22). In any case, there are no ancient parallels for omnem terrarum
tractum. Since Manetti (*1432) died of plague in 1479 (Foà, Manetti [see note 53], p. 605), i. e.
years before Paul started working at the court of Urbino on his Prognosticum, it is impossible that
Paul used D – he would have found ambitum and written the same word in his Prognosticum.

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On f. c4r, Paul says: aut enim abortabit frequenter aut difficilem edet partum, ut intra
matris uiscera laceratum pecus a medicis proferatur. The source is Firm. math. 3.6.12 magnas
difficultates et magna pericula patietur ex partu; aut enim abortabit frequenter aut diffi-
cile (difficilem E) edit partum, ut (ut Kroll, aut codd.) intra viscera eius laceratum pecus
a medicis proferatur. Paul anticipated Kroll’s emendation of aut to ut.
F. <b8>r: alios in conspectu populi crudeli necis atrocitate magno spectantium plausu et
fauore deperire faciet. This is a combination of Firm. math. 3.4.23 qui <in> conspectu populi
crudeli necis atrocitate depereant and 8.7.5 qui […] <cum> magno spectantium plausu ac favore
moriantur. The two words that Kroll, Skutsch, and Ziegler added in brackets, in and cum,
are indeed missing from E (and also from D and N). Paul is, then, the first philologist (to
my knowledge) to have emended the transmitted qui conspectu populi, even if indirectly.66
F. c3v: assidue tamen peregrinationis patientur incommoda et in extraneis et peregrinis
locis constituti extremum complebunt uite diem. Cf. Firm. math. 6.31.16 assiduae pere-
grinationis decernuntur incommoda, et in extraneis regionibus et in peregrinis <locis>67
constituti extremum conplent diem vitae.
F. c3v: inquieti erunt et turbulenti, inimicissimi pacis et quietis, clamosis et furiosis conten-
tionibus plebis animos inflammantes, intestina ac domestica bella furiosa mentis c­ upiditate
semper desiderabunt. Cf. Firm. math. 8.6.6 inquietus erit turbulentus popularis, et qui popu-
lum turbulentis semper seditionibus exagitet, plebis animos clamosis et furiosis c­ ontentionibus
inflammans, inimicus quietis ac pacis, et intestina ac domestica bella furiosa mentis cupidi­
tate desiderans. According to Kroll, Skutsch, and Ziegler (vol. II, p. 297) and Monat (vol.
III, p. 249), the manuscript family ∆ has inimicitus. This is not true in the case of all
three manuscripts that I checked. E has inimiciciis, N inimicitijs, and D inimicus ex corr.
(ex inimiciciis, ut vid.).68 Paul found inimiciciis in E. ­He emended this by way of conjec-
ture to what seemed closest to the transmitted sequence of letters and at the same time
­acceptable at the levels of grammar and content, inimicissimus, which had, in a second
step, to be changed to the plural to match Paul’s own syntax. Without knowledge of the
manuscript branch Γ, one could hardly arrive at a philologically more plausible emenda-
tion than the one that Paul made.
In conclusion, Paul took over some less obvious mistakes from E (e. g. difficilem in
the first example just given) and corrected other, more obvious ones. It would be an
interesting theoretical question of editorial technique whether those among his emen-
dations that were repeated by modern editors ought to be mentioned in the apparatus
criticus of a future edition of the Mathesis, especially because Paul made his emenda-
tions without saying that he was drawing on Firmicus.

66 He did, however, not add cum in the other passage.


67 Add. Skutsch.
68 The original reading, which is erased, was longer, and traces of the final -s are still visible.

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IV. ­Paul’s literary technique

The focus of the present investigation will now shift to an analysis of Paul’s literary
technique. My example will be a hymnic prayer, comparable – in terms of syntactical
complexity – to Paul’s polemic against Plotinus.69 It is from the end of Paul’s preface
which he conveniently modelled on one of Firmicus’ prefaces, namely that to book five
where the (at Paul’s time) recently discovered second half of the Mathesis begins. To
invoke divine assistance for his undertaking, he writes:

Table 6 70 71
Paul. progn. 1404 – 1504, f. a4v-<a5>r Firm. math.
Tu igitur, omnium conditor et
moderator deus, qui solem 7.1.2 convenio te iureiurando, Mavorti decus nostrum,
formasti et lunam, qui rapidos per fabricatorem mundi deum, […] qui Solem formavit
celi cursus ordinesque disponis, et Lunam, qui omnium siderum cursus ordinesque
qui per dies singulos immensam disposuit, […].
illam celi machinam eternis giris 5 praef. 3 quicumque es deus, qui per dies singulos
circumuoluendo celeri atque perenni caeli cursum celeri festinatione continuas, […].71
agitatione contorques quique 1.5.7 qui omnia perpetua legis dispositione composuit.
omnia perpetua legis dispositione ibid. 1.5.10 Mens enim illa divina animusque
infatigabili mobilitate sustentas, qui caelestis […] ignita ac sempiterna agitatione perpetuat72
solus imperator ac dominus, cui to[f. nec hoc officium aliqua fatigatione deponit, ut se ipsum
<a5>r]ta numinum potestas seruit, atque mundum omniaque, quae intra mundum sunt,
ad te supplex confugio, a te opem perpetua sui atque infatigabili mobilitate sustentet.
peto, te unicum adoro, te inuoco, tibi Verg. Aen. 1.663 ad te confugio et supplex tua
supplex manus tendo, te trepida cum numina posco.
supplicatione ueneror, ut numinis tui 5 praef. 6 et trepidationem animi vestra maiestate
presidio siderum tuorum uenerabilia firmate, ne numinis vestri praesidio destitutus ordinem
iudicia cursusque eorum efficaces non possim promissi operis invenire
influentias seruo tuo explicandas 1 praef. 7 uenerabilia iudicia.
reueles mentemque meam eterni 5 praef. 3 […] solus imperator ac dominus, cui tota
tui splendoris radio illustrando in potestas numinum servit, […] tibi supplices manus
uiam ueritatis dirigas: ingentium tendimus, te trepida cum supplicatione veneramur:
excita, linguam commoue, rectamque da veniam quod siderum tuorum cursus eorumque
prognosticandi uiam mihi ostende. efficacias explicare conamur.

Paul’s address to the Christian God takes the shape of a complex, rhetorically elaborated
syntactical unit. It is modelled after the prayer at Firm. math. 5 praef. 3, “einem höchst

69 See above ch. II, table 2.


70 This quotation continues below, after an omission of ten Teubner lines. Note that instead of celeri, E
has sceleri, which Paul easily emended. (Also D has sceleri, N has celeri; Kroll-Skutsch-Ziegler
and Monat, Firmicus (see note 36), do not record any ­variant reading for celeri).
71 E (f. 6r) has perpetua, which Paul easily emended.

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Paul of Middelburg’s use of the Mathesis 123

merkwürdigen Gebet an den einen Weltengott”,72 in which Firmicus invokes God as


father and mother of all and at the same time father and son to himself (omnium pater
pariter ac mater, tu tibi pater ac filius uno vinculo necessitudinis obligatus). The latter part
of this invocation curiously resembles the Christian concept of Trinity, thus making the
adaptation to a Christian context easy.73 Both prayers draw heavily on typical formal
elements of hymnic predication.
Firmicus’ complex sentence runs to twenty Teubner lines. It begins with a direct
address to God (quicumque es deus) that is reminiscent of hymnic polyonymy and fol-
lowed by nine relative clauses. Each of them is introduced by qui, comprises six to nine
words and ends with a verbal predicate in the second person singular. Then come two
invocations with formulaic, anaphorically phrased indications of omnipotence (solus
omnium gubernator et princeps, solus imperator ac dominus) followed by three more
relative clauses that begin – by way of polyptoton – with cui or cuius and end again
with verbal predicates, then two more invocations (this time they are introduced by
the personal pronoun tu), then two main clauses introduced by oblique forms of the
same pronoun (tibi supplices manus tendimus, te trepida cum supplicatione veneramur),
and eventually the author’s request that is expressed through an imperative: da veniam
quod siderum tuorum cursus eorumque efficacias explicare conamur.
Paul’s prayer is similarly structured: The initial invocation (tu … deus) is followed by
six relative clauses containing hymnic predications, then by six brief main clauses that
all refer by way of polyptoton to the initial tu (acc. te, abl. te, dat. tibi), with the first one
containing an intertextual reference to Vergil (more on this below), the second, third,
and fourth being non-referential, and the last two plus a subordinate final clause using
chunks of the text of Firm. math. 5 praef. 3 (see above). Eventually, the initial invocation
(tu … deus) is picked up by a tricolon of imperatives of growing length. The overall imi-
tation of the structure of Firm. math. 5 praef. 3 with its final culmination in the author’s
request is obvious, and the literal borrowings from that model are two, separated by
other elements.74 Paul’s final tricolon of three imperatives seems to be an hommage to
rhetorical amplitude rather than to the theological doctrine of the ­Trinity.75 It con-
tains no intertextual references but reveals, in its last and longest part, the important
fact that Paul considers his prognostication as a pious activity well within the limits of
Christian faith, even more: Paul invokes the Christian God, closely following Firmicus’
prayer, as the creator of the cosmos, as the creator of both the luminaries (qui solem

72 Boll, Firmicus (see note 14), col. 2373.


73 Interestingly, Paul never makes any textual borrowing from the famous prayer to the pagan
planetary deities in Firm. math. 1.10.14 – 15.
74 We found the same technique in Paul’s polemic against Plotinus (see table 2) where he split
Firm. math. 1.7.21 in two parts. On that occasion the sequence of the two elements was –
unlike here – inverted.
75 The Trinity is referred to neither here nor anywhere else in the Prognosticum.

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124 Stephan Heilen

formasti et lunam) and the planets (siderum tuorum), and therefore as the tutelary deity
of astrological prediction based on the movements of these heavenly bodies.76
Note that there are no traces in Paul’s Prognosticum of knowledge of De errore profa-
narum religionum, not surprisingly because the only surviving manuscript of that late
pamphlet of Firmicus (Vat. Pal. lat. 165, saec. IX /X) was unknown until its redisco­
very in the year 1559. In other words: For Paul of Middelburg, himself a cleric and later
bishop of Fossombrone, Firmicus was a pagan astrological author of late antiquity, and
Paul does not hesitate to use chunks of Firmicus’ praise of his pagan deity to address the
Christian creator. Interestingly, Paul interweaves material from another source into his
prayer, not from the Bible or some other venerable Christian source, but from Vergil’s
Aeneid, more precisely: from Venus’ address to her son Amor (Verg. Aen. 1.663) when
she asks him to kindle the flame of erotic love in Aeneas. Paul’s choice is obviously not
motivated by criteria of religious suitability but by the fact that Vergil’s line is part of
the most important text of classical Latin poetry.
Let us go into some more philological detail (in the order of Paul’s borrowings from
Firmicus). The words rapidos caeli cursus (Paul) is a mix of siderum cursus (math. 7.1.2)
and caeli cursum (math. 5 praef. 3) combined with the juncture rapidus cursus which
Firmicus never uses; see, however, his prominent reference in Firm. math. 1.3.2 to the
velocissimum siderum cursum caelique pronum rotatae vertiginis lapsum.77 Paul’s celeri
atque perenni agitatione is a free combination of celeri festinatione (5 praef. 3) with ignita
ac sempiterna agitatione (1.5.10). Paul’s eternis giris circumuoluendo is an intrusion of the
language of medieval and early modern astronomical or astrological handbooks because
both gyris and the ablative of the gerund circumuoluendo are unattested in the Mathesis.78
Special comment is needed with regard to the subordinate final clause ut numinis
tui presidio siderum tuorum uenerabilia iudicia cursusque eorum efficaces influentias seruo
tuo explicandas reueles. The apparatus criticus of Kroll, Skutsch, and Ziegler informs the
reader, with regard to siderum tuorum cursus eorumque efficacias, of variant readings: effi-
caces in Γ and cursusque eorum efficaces in D and E. ­The latter information is erroneous:
Autopsy reveals that both D and E transmit the same reading as N, namely efficacias.79
This means that Paul read (in E) siderum tuorum cursusque eorum efficacias and ended up
writing himself siderum tuorum uenerabilia iudicia cursusque eorum efficaces influentias.

76 Paul shares this attitude with other contemporary astrologers such as Lorenzo Bonincontri.
77 Paul may, in addition, have thought of Apul. mund. 1 p. 149,3 – 6 Mor. (Apulei Platonici
Madaurensis Opera quae supersunt, vol. III, ed. Claudio Moreschini, Stuttgart–Leipzig
1991): sed caelum ipsum stellaeque caeligenae omnisque siderea compago aether vocatur, non,
ut quidam putant, quod ignitus sit et incensus, sed quod cursibus rapidis semper rotetur.
78 For circumuoluendo, compare illustrando near the end of Paul’s invocation. Altogether, Paul’s
Prognosticum contains thirteen cases of the ablative of the gerund instead of a present participle.
79 This correction needs to be added to the numerous corrigenda of Kroll-Skutsch-Ziegler
(see note 36), see esp. vol. II, p. 555 and p. 563.

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His change of efficacias to efficaces influentias was probably meant to balance venerabilia
iudicia which he took over from the only passage in Latin literature where this juncture
is attested, Firm. math. 1 praef. 7. In other words: He added a unique juncture from the
proem of the entire Mathesis to a textual borrowing from the proem to its second part
(books V–VIII). In math. 1 praef. 7 Firmicus speaks of Emperor Constantine’s vene­
rable decision to make Mavortius, the addressee of the Mathesis, governor of the East of
the Roman Empire: Nam cum tibi totius Orientis gubernacula domini atque imperatoris
­nostri Constantini Augusti serena ac venerabilia iudicia tradidissent … Note the expression
domini atque imperatoris in this passage: it is possible that the almost identical expression
in Firmicus’ later passage (5 praef. 3), imperator ac dominus, which Paul quoted literally,
reminded our author of the prominent sentence of the proem to the first book (Firm. math.
1 praef. 7), thus inspiring the choice of venerabilia iudicia as a supplement in his own text.80
While the result of Paul’s rearrangement of the text, siderum tuorum uenerabilia ­iudicia
cursusque eorum efficaces influentias, consists of two nicely balanced parts containing
four words each, his change of efficacias to efficaces influentias was less happy. Efficacia
is a favourite technical term of Firmicus who uses it seventeen times. It is equivalent, as
Paul’s contemporary Giovanni Pontano saw, to Greek ἐνέργεια.81 Firmicus’ prayer (da
veniam quod siderum tuorum cursus eorumque efficacias explicare conamur) means: ‘Give
permission that I try to explain the courses of your constellations and their effects’. Unlike
efficacia, the noun influentia as well as the verb influere and morphologically related forms
are never employed in the Mathesis and therefore to be avoided by someone who aims at
imitating the style of Firmicus. Interestingly, Paul himself uses the noun influentia, which
has no entry in the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae, only here. Usually, he prefers words such
as effectus and decreta. On one occasion in his Prognosticum he uses efficacia.82 The choice
of the term influentia seems to be an unconscious tribute to his extensive readings of late
medieval Latin sources. In the Prognosticum, he uses forms of influere altogether fifteen
times, with a predilection for influxus and only two instances of influentia.
One last detail regarding this passage: Paul read on from § 3 of Firmicus’ preface to
the fifth book and encountered a few lines further down the words (§ 6) et trepidationem

80 Even if the two combinations of imperator and dominus in Firm. math. 1 praef. 7 and 5 praef.
3 refer to different figures (a human being and the world god respectively), Paul’s use of both
passages in the context of the Christian God is favoured by Constantine’s rôle in the history
of Christianity. Note that the combination of imperator and dominus occurs only one more
time in the Mathesis, again with reference to Constantine (1.10.13).
81 See Rinaldi, SIC ITUR (see note 1), p. 179, who quotes the respective passage of P ­ ontano’s
Commentationes in Ptolemaeum (on which see below note 109) thus: “Illud hoc loco monuisse
lectorem uolumus, quae Graece est ἐνέργεια nos et effectum et vim et operationem actionem-
que solere dicere; expressius tamen efficacia dicitur, quo uerbo usum saepissime videmus
Iulium Maternum”.
82 F. <a8>v minuentur tamen hec mala et efficaciam perdent.

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animi vestra maiestate firmate, ne numinis vestri praesidio destitutus ordinem non pos-
sim promissi operis invenire. From this passage he took over the otherwise unattested
expression numinis vestri praesidio. He may well have been inspired to combine the
two passages because trepidationem (§ 6) reminded him of trepida cum supplicatione
(§ 3).83 To suit his own context, he changed vestri to tui and the negative ne to a positive
ut. Now we understand better what inspired Paul to introduce into his own prayer a
subordinate final clause that has no precursor in Firm. math. 5 praef. 3.84

V. ­Astronomical and astrological borrowings

But let us now eventually come to another category of borrowings from the Mathesis,
namely such cases that are astronomically and/or astrologically significant. Some of
Paul’s borrowings from Firmicus required modification of specific words that would,
for one or another reason, be inappropriate in the new context. For example, Paul
begins his discussion of the effects of the total solar eclipse of 16 March 1485 thus:
Sol nanque ad sextumdecimum martii diem lune radiis quasi quibusdam obstaculis
perditus miseris mortalibus fulgida splendoris sui denegabit lumina.85 The underlined
words are literal borrowings from Firm. math. 1.4.10 who is referring to the solar
eclipse of 17 July 334 CE: cum Sol medio diei tempore Lunae radiis quasi quibusdam
obstaculis perditus 86 ­cunctis mortalibus fulgida splendoris sui denegat lumina. The small
yet important difference in Paul’s adaptation is – apart from a change of grammati-
cal tense (denegat/denegabit) – that he changes the unanimously transmitted cunc-
tis to miseris. As an astronomer, he knows that the umbra of any eclipse is limited
to a comparatively small part of the surface of the earth’s globe. As to the specific
eclipse in question (16 March 1485), he explicitly predicts that it will be total only in

83 These are the only two occurrences of trepid- in the fifth book of the Mathesis.
84 Paul elegantly passes over mistakes in his source, cod. E, which transmits Firm. math. 5 praef.
6 with formate instead of firmate and ordinis instead of operis. Note that all MSS read formate
(­firmate is an emendation by Skutsch) and that ordinis is equally found in D, where another
hand added uel operis, and in N. ­Paul quotes only numinis vestri praesidio from Firmicus’ sentence.
85 F. <b7>r; trans.: ‘For the sun will, on the 16th of March, be destroyed by the rays of the Moon
as if by certain obstacles and will therefore deny to the miserable mortals the glittering light
of its own brightness.’
86 According to Kroll-Skutsch-Ziegler (see note 36), the manuscripts of the Mathe-
sis read perditus with the exception of cod. Norimberg. V 60 (written 1468 in Hungary, see
Rinaldi, SIC ITUR [see note 1], pp. 77 – 78) and the editio princeps (Venice 1497) which
both read impeditus. The latter reading is adopted by Kroll-Skutsch-Ziegler r. I found
that D actually has impeditus, but the first letters (impe-) are smaller, written by a corrector;
therefore the original reading of D was probably perditus.

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Paul of Middelburg’s use of the Mathesis 127

limi­ted geographical areas of Europe, partial in others, and not visible at all in still
other parts of the world.87
Paul’s concern for astronomical accuracy is evident on other occasions, too, for exam-
ple when he admits that the exact day of the imminent conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter
in November 1484 can hardly be predicted with certainty due to the slow motion of
these two planets: cum uix coniunctionis diem certum et constitutum ob motuum tardi-
tatem habere possimus (f. <a8>v–b1r).
Paul’s famous prediction of a minor prophet, which Lichtenberger 88 would pla-
giarize a few years later, is the initial sentence of ch. 4: Prophetam quippe minorem
mira quadam scripturarum interpretatione fulgentem ac quadam divinitatis auctoritate
responsa proferentem, qui mortalium animas ad terram delapsas sue subiiciet ditioni,
prodigiosa hec constellatio nasciturum portendit. This is a free yet indisputable adaption
of Firm. math. 3.2.18: facit etiam pro qualitate signorum haruspices vates mathematicos
vera semper interpretatione fulgentes et quorum responsa sic sint quasi quadam divinita-
tis auctoritate prolata. This passage of the Mathesis is about Saturn in the ninth place
(locus) of the dodecatropos,89 the place of religion. Since the place of the conjunction
of 1484 will, according to Paul’s computations, be the fifth, the astrological conditions
are obviously different and Paul seems to be more interested in the language of ­Firmicus
than in quoting him in identical astrological circumstances. Besides, he was fully aware
that his decision to specify Firmicus’ term interpretatione with a reference to the Bible
(scripturarum) required a subsequent change of vera semper to mira quadam to avoid
compromising his orthodoxy.
From the same third book of the Mathesis comes the only explicit reference that Paul
makes to Firmicus in his long Prognosticum. It occurs again in Paul’s fourth chapter in
the context of the coming of a minor prophet. Paul says there: Denique de moribus eius
dicendum aliquid restat. Erit nanque Firmico teste diis et demonibus terribilis. signa multa
et prodigia faciet, eius quoque 90 adventum pravi demonum spiritus fugient, talique morbo
laborantes homines non vi verborum sed sola sui ostensione liberabit.
The model of this is Mathesis 3.4.27, where Firmicus discusses the effects of Mars in
the ninth place. In this context he says: si vero aut [aut om. E] in domo sua fuerit aut in
domo Iovis aut in altitudine sua <et> [et add. Aldina, om. E] Iuppiter in hora non fuerit
collocatus, faciet [facit E] diis terribiles, et qui omnia periurorum genera contemnant. Erunt
[erant E] autem omnibus daemonibus terribiles et quorum adventum pravi daemonum
spiritus fugiant et qui sic laborantes homines non vi verborum, sed sola sui ostensione

87 F. <b7>r. Paul had, in his annual prediction for 1481, fol. a4v, similarly specified the geographi­
cal regions in which the solar eclipse of May 1481 would be visible.
88 See above, introduction.
89 It is taken for granted that the reader of the present contribution be familiar with the main
doctrines of astrology.
90 I. e. et eius.

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liberent; […]. Again, the literal correspondences are obvious. Firmicus continues his
description for some more lines and eventually calls the astonishing individuals that
will be born in the aforementioned astrological conditions exorcistae.91
When we examine Firmicus’ astrological conditions we find that the first one, that
Mars be either in his own house ( or ) or in Jupiter’s house ( or ) or in his own
exaltation (), is fulfilled in Paul’s conjunction horoscope, because Mars is in Aries.
More importantly, however, the overall condition of the broader context of this passage
of the Mathesis, namely that Mars be in the ninth place (Firm. math. 3.4.26 – 27), is not
fulfilled: Mars was in decima (f. <b5>v), as Paul had correctly stated a few lines before
embarking upon the discussion of the prophet’s character.
Therefore Firmicus is, contrarily to what Paul asserts, not a witness (testis) for what
Paul says. Firmicus only suggested the wording, and Paul had better written ut verbis
Firmici utar. In the whole Prognosticum, Paul makes twelve different borrowings from the
same chapter 3.4 of the Mathesis on Mars in the single places, and these twelve passages
of Firmicus deal with five different places (the first, seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth).
This is sufficient evidence to conclude that Paul does not care to make the astrological
conditions of his borrowings from Firmicus suit his own parameters. One may further
ask why Paul makes only this one explicit reference to Firmicus, and why he makes it
here, not elsewhere. The reason is probably that the character of the prophet to come
is of central importance in Paul’s prediction of the future. He probably wanted to give
additional weight to this detail by referring to the – in the 1480s great – authority of
Firmicus Maternus.
We saw that Paul explicitly quotes an astrological effect from the Mathesis although
its condition is not fulfilled. This gives reason to suspect that Paul feels similarly free to
neglect the relationship between protasis and apodosis in the other direction, namely to
disregard the astrological effects taught by Firmicus when their conditions are fulfilled.
In search of a significant test case for our suspicion, we must keep in mind that Paul is
analyzing a conjunction horoscope based on the Arabic theory of the Great Conjunc-
tions which did not yet exist at the time of Firmicus. Hence, the passage of the Mathesis
that has the closest relevance to Paul’s purpose is in book six where Firmicus provides
(6.3 – 27) systematic information on the effects of all geometrical relations between two
of the seven planets that can occur in an individual’s horoscope. The section to look up
is obviously the one on conjunctions between Saturn and Jupiter, Firm. math. 6.22.2 – 3.
It is never quoted by Paul, maybe because Firmicus’ prediction for that alignment entails
exclusively positive things.92

91 Firm. math. 3.4.27: hi sunt, qui a vulgo exorcistae dicuntur [dicantur E].
92 Note that Firm. math. 6.22.2 – 3 is not missing from E where it occupies f. 108r-v. The large
lacuna of all manuscripts except N, i. e. 6.23.4 – 6.29.23, occurs a bit later at E f. 110r. Note also
that Firmicus ends his thoroughly positive predictions for individuals born under a conjunction
of Saturn and Jupiter with a brief statement that all these effects will be turned negative if Mars

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Paul modifies the text of Firmicus slightly to adapt it to his own context. For example,
in ch. 3 he goes through the various effects of the conjunction on individuals depending
on their different ascendents at birth, i. e. depending on the places of their natal charts
into which the imminent conjunction will fall. In the case of those who had Scorpio, the
sign of the conjunction, in the third place of their nativities, he predicts (f. b3v): Quibus
vero terciam ab horoscopo infortunauerit, irreligiosos faciet et perfidos, contra diuinitatem
irreligiosa uerba et sacrilega proferentes, rixas quoque et magna inter fratres certamina et
­crebras conflictationes. This is an indisputable combination of the following source passages:

(a) Firm. math. 3.2.7 faciet […] sacrilega contra divinitatem verba iactantes.
(b) Firm. math. 3.5.16 faciet periuros perfidos […] et qui contra divinitatem inreligiosa
proferant verba.93
(c) Firm. math. 3.3.12 faciet rixas pericula et magna semper cum inferiore certamina.
(d) Firm. math. 6.36.4 crebras causarum conflictationes exagitat [exagitat Aldina,
­excogitat ADEN, item Monat].

Firmicus’ predictions (a), (b), and (c) are part of chapters on the effects of Saturn (math.
3.2), Jupiter (math. 3.3), and the Sun (math. 3.5) in the various places. In other words,
Paul borrows, in the course of his casuistry based on the places, elements from similar
casuistries in the Mathesis which are equally based on the places. But the words that Paul
borrows refer specifically to Saturn in the third place (a), the Sun in the third place (b),
and Jupiter in the fifth place (c). They have nothing to do with what Paul professes to be
concerned with, namely the zodiacal signs in the various places (regardless of the planets!),
in this case: with Scorpio in the third place. If anyone had even the slightest doubt that
Paul was aware of this obvious astrological irrelevance, he or she would be convinced by
Paul’s change of cum inferiore (Firmicus) to inter fratres: while cum inferiore is motivated
by additional astrological conditions in the text of Firmicus that play no rôle in Paul’s
­reasoning, brothers are the traditional area of influence indicated by the third place which
he is talking about.94 Last, one may observe that borrowing (d) stems from an equally
irrelevant astrological context, namely the numbers of months that the Sun allots to Mars
when the Sun is the lord of times (temporum dominus).

aspects Saturn and Jupiter in a specific threatening manner (6.22.3). This is not applicable to
Paul’s conjunction because Mars was disconnected from Saturn and Jupiter (five places apart).
93 Since Paul uses the adjective irreligiosus twice, in the first instance together with perfidus,
Firm. math. 8.9.1 erit quidem inreligiosus et perfidus may also have been among his sources.
But this cannot be ascertained, unlike the three borrowings mentioned above.
94 In Firmicus’ prediction, instead, ‘conflicts with a person of inferior status’ make sense because
Mars (the inferior planetary deity) is there described as disturbing the effect of Jupiter by way
of a square aspect or opposition regarding the Moon.

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VI. ­Summary, final questions, and outlook

It is now time to summarize our observations, to broaden our perspective to include


the other astrological predictions written by Paul of Middelburg, and to ask some
important final questions.
As we saw, Paul has written a particularly long and elaborate prediction for the
years 1484 to 1504 in which he included hundreds of borrowings from the Mathesis,
apparently using the copy that is today cod. Vat. Urb. lat. 263 (E). Despite this heavy
debt, Firmicus is explicitly mentioned only once.95 Paul’s imitation of the Mathesis
is not limited to literal quotations. It also includes resemblences in the overall struc-
ture, in stylistic features, and in important prefatory themes such as polemic against
opponents of astrology and hymnic prayer to the divine creator of the cosmos. With
regard to his literal borrowings, Paul’s method comes close to plagiarism, especially in
his adaptation of Firmicus’ polemic against Plotinus. But comparison with Johannes
Lichtenberger, who indisputably (and quite shamelessly) plagiarized large portions of
Paul’s Prognosticum in his own Pronosticatio of 1488, shows that Paul’s method of lite­
rary composition does not deserve a similarly harsh verdict.96 Paul’s intention was not

95 See above at the beginning of chapter V.


96 See, for example, his adaptation of Paul’s prayer that has been analyzed above (table 6).
­Lichtenberger writes in his Pronosticatio, ed. pr. Heidelberg 1488, f. <Av>r (only discrepancies
from Paul’s text will be underlined): Tu igitur omnium conditor et moderator deus, qui solem
formasti et lunam, qui rapidos celi cursus ordinesque disponis, qui per dies singulos immensam
illam celi machinam eternis giris circumuoluendo celeri atque perhenni agitatione contorques
quique omnia perpetua legis dispositione infatigabili mobilitate sustentas, qui solus imperator
ac dominus, cui tota numinum potestas seruit, ad te supplex confugio, a te grana misericordie
tue peto. Te vnicum Boom adoro, expande pallium gratie tue supra me Ruth quia propinquus
es, te inuoco, tibi supplex manus tendo, te trepida cum supplicatione veneror, vt numinis tui
presidio siderum tuorum venerabilia iudicia cursusque [ed.: curcusque] eorum efficaces influen-
tias indigno seruo tuo Johanni lychtenberger explicandas [ed.: -ans] reueles mentemque meam
eterni tui splendoris radio illustrando in viam veritatis dirigas: Ingenium meum excita, linguam
commoue, rectamque pronosticandi formam mihi ostende. AMEN. ­The few additions that
­Lichtenberger made are of inferior stylistic quality: The integration of specifically Christian
terms (misericordia, gratia, amen) disturbs the rather classical homogeneity of Paul’s diction,
the imperative expande etc. disturbs the syntax, and the substitution (towards the end) of
viam with formam destroys the metaphor of ‘showing the way’. As to textual criticism, I feel
inclined to emend grana to gratiam. Note, however, that Lichtenberger’s German version,
which was published in Heidelberg after 1488 (I used the copy of the Bayerische Staatsbiblio­
thek München, Inc. s. a. 790), has “ich bitte von dyr das korgyn der barmhertzigkeit” (the
reprint from Mainz 1492 [BSB Inc. c. a. 2729] has “korngyn” instead of “korgyn”). I thank
the theologian ­Gebhard Löhr for suggesting to me that grana might be a reference to the
perls of the rosary (they were, in medieval Latin, called grana, and meditation on the mercy
of God is part of saying the rosary). Nevertheless it seems impossible to interpret grana thus
in the present context (peto). If emendation to gratiam is correct, then the German version

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Paul of Middelburg’s use of the Mathesis 131

to plagiarize but to deconstruct and recombine the text of the Mathesis, to employ the
same complex, rhetorically elaborate style, maybe even to surpass Firmicus – or, more
precisely, the imperfect text transmitted by the codex Urbinas – in the domain of astro-
logical prose literature. Paul applied his method of deconstruction and recombination
of the raw material of the Mathesis so thoroughly that one cannot find any ­borrowing
in the Prognosticum that extends over more than a handful of words while exactly
matching the ancient source. In addition, the astronomical computations and their
astrological interpretation are entirely Paul’s own work, based on expert application of
the doctrines of the Arabic authors which he names frequently. In view of this degree
of originality, there is no serious contradiction between Paul’s own literary technique
in the Prognosticum of 1484 and his later harsh condemnation of Lichtenberger who
had, as a matter of fact, taken over the astronomical data and entire pages of text from
Paul’s Prognosticum without acknowledgement.97
Paul succeeds in imitating the language of Firmicus largely, but not perfectly: In
the process of substantially rewriting his raw material, some elements of late medieval
vocabularly and grammar that are typical of contemporary astrological treatises creep
into the new text, such as influentia, gyrus, and the use of the ablative of the gerund
instead of the participle present.98 Some syntactical imperfections remain, too.
Interestingly, Paul’s heavy imitation of the Mathesis in the Prognosticum of 1484
has no counterpart in his earlier extant annual predictions for the years 1479, 1480,
1481, 1482, and 1483. But is has a counterpart in the following extant prediction for
the year 1486. Suffice it to adduce one example (progn. 1486, fol. <a8>r, on the chil-
dren of Venus): Incesto namque furoris ardore possessi ac nepharia mentis cupiditate
obcęcati promiscuę libidinis uiciosos concubitus ac illicitos turpiter patrabunt. This is a
combination of Firm. math. 6.31.82 incesto furoris ardore et nefaria mentis cupiditate
possessos ad filiarum concubitus venire conpellunt and Firm. math. 6.31.38 tales qui
promiscuae libidinis vitiosos concubitus proiecta mentis cupiditate desiderent. Unlike
Firm. math. 6.31.82, the last paragraph quoted here (6.31.38) is never used in the
Prognosticum of 1484. This indicates that Paul did not simply ‘recycle’ material from

must have originated as a translation of the already corrupt Latin text. A second emenda-
tion – from Boom to Deum – is tempting and seems supported by the German version (“dich
eyn eyngen got bette ich an”). But Boom occurs two more times in Lichtenberger’s text (fol.
Bir): The first instance (deum supplex exoro Boom altissimum, German version: “ich bitt got
andechtiglich”) indicates that Boom is semantically different from deum, the second (Quamuis
Boom noster Jhesus …, German version: “unser herr Jhesus”) indicates that it is undeclinable.
It is, however, not of Hebrew origin. Further research is needed to explain this term.
97 See Paul’s In superstitiosum vatem lucubratio, [Venice: Johannes and Gregorius de Gregoriis,
after Jan. 1, 1492], reprinted as Invectiva in superstitiosum quendam astrologum Johannem
Lichtenberger, [Antwerp: Gerard Leeu, after 1 Jan. 1492].
98 See above, chapter IV.

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his earlier prediction but added new material from the copy of Firmicus that he had
available in 1486 – most likely the same codex Urbinas (E) as in 1484, because Paul
continued living at the court of Urbino until he became bishop of Fossombrone
(near Urbino) in 1494.99
After 1486 Paul seems to have stopped publishing astrological predictions. It was only
much later, in December 1523, that the now 78 year old bishop intervened in a heated
debate and wrote one peculiar astrological text, an expertise dedicated to Pope Clement
VII in which Paul set out to proof that there would not be a deluge in 1524 (as many had
predicted).100 This one late astrological text shows no traces of the earlier aspiration to
imitate or even emulate the style of Firmicus. Paul’s style is now unpretentious, some-
what monotonous, characterized by the tenets and terminology of Aristotelian logic
and physics. One can only speculate why Paul abandoned his earlier exuberant style.
The decline of Firmicus’ fortune among humanists from the turn of the 16th century
onwards may have played a rôle in this.
Altogether, then, the Prognosticum of 1484 was a turning point in Paul of ­Middelburg’s
production of astrological prose, and it remains to ask what may have inspired our author
to create his new kind of Prognosticum. The answer will be twofold, first with respect
to its thematic scope and unusual length, and then with respect to its elaborate style.
As mentioned in my introduction, the extant printed astrological predictions of the
previous decade were all concerned with one specific year and comparatively short – with
one exception, John of Lübeck’s Pronosticum super Antechristi adventu Iudeorumque
Messiae. This text, which was written and published in Padua in 1474, runs to twenty-four
pages (roughly half the length of Paul’s Prognosticum).101 It contains a prediction for the
still distant conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter in 1504, the earliest and at the same time
most detailed extant prediction that has been written for that specific conjunction.102 It
is well possible that Paul, who became professor of astronomy in Padua in 1479, knew
the prediction of John of Lübeck which had been written and published in the same
city only five years earlier. Maybe Paul even made the personal acquaintance of the
much older John of Lübeck – if he was still alive.103 Since the effects of conjunctions of
Saturn and Jupiter last, according to the Arabic theory, for twenty years, the subject

99 It seems unlikely (though possible) that Paul had made additional excerpts on an earlier date
and worked from them when writing the prognosticum for 1486.
100 Prognosticum Reuerendissimi Patris Domini Pauli de Middelburgo Episcopi Forosempronien-
sis ostendens Anno MDXXIIII nullum neque uniuersale neque prouinciale diluuium futurum
Sancto domino nostro Clementi Pape vij dicatum, [Augsburg] [1524].
101 I used the copy of the Staatsbibliothek Bamberg, Inc. typ. M IV 13/4.
102 Unlike many other astrological authors, John of Lübeck seems to have published only this
one prediction.
103 Internal evidence of John’s Pronosticum suggests that the author was of advanced age when
he wrote it in 1474.

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and length of John’s Prognosticum may theoretically have inspired Paul of Middelburg
to write a similar conjunctionist prediction on the occasion of the first rare astronom-
ical occasion in his adult scholarly career.104 However, John cannot have inspired Paul’s
stylistic aspirations. John’s language is imperfect in many regards, a typical product of
the academic environment of late medieval universities, worlds apart from Paul’s ele-
gant pursuits one decade later.105
Who or what did, then, inspire Paul’s method of deconstructing and recombining
rhetorically elaborated passages from an ancient source? One possible answer is this:
Paul will have realized that Firmicus had worked similarly with regard to Cicero, the
classical master of eloquence.106 Firm. math. 1.1.3 – 4, for instance, is obviously, but
without acknowledgement (!), modelled on Cic. nat. deor. 1.2 – 4.107 That Paul was
aware of this intertextual dependence is almost certain in view of his own substantial
borrowing (f. <a8>r) from Cic. nat. deor. 1.42. But why did he care at all to elaborate
his text so carefully?

104 In 1484 Paul (1445 – 1533) was 39 years old.


105 John’s shortcomings are lexical and orthographical (e. g., of the Virgin Mary: absque maris
cohitu), grammatical (suus and sibi instead of eius and ei), syntactical (quod-clause instead
of infinitive with accusative), stylistic (word order, nominal sentences, poor periods), etc.;
besides, he is concerned with typical elements of the medieval religious discourse than are
absent from Paul’s Prognosticum, such as the devil (diabolus), prophetism, and apocalyptic
literature. Also, John’s work is not dedicated to a specific individual but takes the form of a
scholarly expertise preceded by a question that had been submitted to him, a question per-
taining to the arrival of the Antichrist. – Similar grammatical and stylistic imperfections
characterize the other extant printed predictions from that first decade (1474 – 1484), as far
as I can tell from those that I was able to examine.
106 Firmicus calls Cicero princeps ac decus Romanae eloquentiae (math. 2 praef. 2) and decus
­eloquentiae Tullius (8.5.3). Firmicus makes one more explicit reference to Cicero that is,
however, not literary but historical, regarding the murder of Cicero (1.7.41).
107 Compare, for example, Firm. math. 1.1.3 cum […] tanta sint hi omnes in varietate et dissensione
versati, ut longum et alienum sit […] singulorum enumerare sententias with Cic. nat. deor. 1,2
qui vero deos esse dixerunt, tanta sunt in varietate et dissensione, ut eorum infinitum sit enume­
rare sententiasursiv; compare further Firm. math. 1.1.4 nam alii et figuras his pro arbitrio suo
tribuunt et loca adsignant, sedes etiam constituunt et multa de actibus eorum vitaque describunt
et omnia, quae facta et constituta sunt, ipsorum arbitrio regi guberna­rique pronuntiant; alii nihil
moliri, nihil curare et ab omni administrationis cura vacuos esse dixerunt (sc. deos) with Cic.
nat. deor. 1,2 nam et de figuris deorum et de locis atque sedibus et de actione vitae multa dicun-
tur, deque is summa philosophorum dissensione certatur; quod vero maxime rem causamque
continet, utrum nihil agant nihil moliantur omni curatione et administratione rerum vacent,
etc. I owe this observation to Boll, Firmicus (see note 14), col. 2368, who also points to the
fact that Firmicus’ prayer to the planets (1.10.14 – 15) is “vollständig aus Cic. somn. Scip. 4, 9
zusammengeflickt”. Cf. Franz Boll, Paralipomena I, in: Philologus 69 (1910), pp. 161 – 177,
esp. pp.  170 – 172.

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One would expect a deeper reason than the availability of a copy of the ­Mathesis
and the observation that Firmicus had similarly ‘recycled’ material from Cicero.
Paul’s biographical circumstances lead the way to a tentative answer. In 1481 Paul had
resigned from his position at the University of Padua to enter the service of Federico
da M­ ontefeltro, duke of Urbino.108 This change implied a transition from a typical
university environment to one of the foremost humanist courts of Europe. The duke’s
famous library contained, besides the codex Urbinas of the Mathesis (E), also another
noteworthy manuscript: the dedication copy of Giovanni Pontano’s Commentationum
in centum sententiis Ptolemaei ad Federicum Urbini ducem liber primus, dated 1477
(now cod. Vat. Urb. lat. 1393).109 In this ‘brand new’ work Pontano, one of the most
prominent humanists of the late 15th century, pursued not only the goal of explai­ning
the aphorisms attributed to Ptolemy but also the ambitious, typically humanistic goal
of reforming the astrological vocabulary through direct comparison with the Greek
sources and by recuperating the language of the two Latin ancient authorities on
astrology, Manilius and particularly Firmicus Maternus.110 Federico da Montefeltro
made frequent visits to Naples and had personal encounters with Pontano. On the
other hand, Paul was not only personal physician and court astrologer to Federico but
is reported to have read scientific works to the duke during the months preceding the
latter’s death.111 In view of these close contacts and scholarly conversations between the

108 On this extraordinary individual see Gino Benzoni, Art. ‘Federico da Montefeltro’, in:
­Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani vol. 45, Roma 1995, pp. 722 – 743. For the entire lineage
of the Montefeltro see Gino Franceschini, I Montefeltro, Milano 1970.
109 The work was written between 1474/1475 and 1477 and replaced the older transla-
tion with commentary of the pseudo-Ptolemaic Centiloquium by George of Trebizond
(1395 – 1472/1473). A critical edition of Pontano’s commentary by Michele Rinaldi is
forthcoming. On its reception, see Michele Rinaldi, Due capitoli sulla fortuna delle Com-
mentationes in Ptolemaeum di G. ­Pontano: le Eruditiones ad Apotelesmata Ptolemaei di
Agostino Nifo e il Libellus de diffinitionibus et terminis astrologiae di O. ­Brunfels, in: Mene
10 (2010), pp. 201 – 216.
110 For more details, see Rinaldi, Due capitoli (see note 109), p. 207, who refers to the ­analogous
pursuits of other humanists such as Ermolao Barbaro, Girgio Valla, Poliziano, A. ­Galateo and
Giovanni Pico della Mirandola. A precious analysis of Pontano’s stylistic and lexical imita-
tion of the astrological language of Firmicus is available in Rinaldi, SIC ITUR (see note 1),
pp.  178 – 192.
111 See Vespasiano da Bisticci, Comentario de la Vita del Signore Federico, Duca d’Urbino,
in: Id., Le vite, edizione critica con introduzione e commento di Aulo Greco, vol. 1, Florence
1970, pp. 355 – 416, at p. 383: “Di geometria et d’arismetrica n’aveva buona peritia, et aveva
in casa sua uno maestro Pagolo, tedesco, grandissimo filosofo et astrolago. Et di geometria
et d’arismetrica aveva bonissima notitia. Et non molto tempo inanzi che si morissi, si fece
legere da maestro Pagolo opere di geometria et d’arismetrica, et parlava dell’una et dell’altra
come quello che n’aveva piena notitia.” I owe this reference to Patrizia Castelli, Gli astri e
i Montefeltro, in: Res publica litterarum 6 (1983), pp. 75 – 89, at p. 79.

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three men it is likely that Paul knew and read Pontano’s Commentationes. If so, this
reading may have inspired Paul to abandon his earlier habit of writing ‘typical’ annual
predictions in the rough, unadorned language of the late medieval versions of Arabic
authors. The novelty of Paul’s undertaking – even compared to Pontano – was the
imitation of Firmicus’ language and style not in theoretical works such as Pontano’s
Commentationes but in practical applications. What may further have inspired our
author – possibly with a view to John of Lübeck’s earlier work – was the opportunity
of making his new stylistic début on a special occasion, namely that of the upcoming
rare conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter. This was the best possible occasion for ­writing
a new kind of extensive prediction that combined the astrological theory of the Arabs
and the rhetorical tradition of the ancient classics as represented by the only extant
Latin astrological prose manual.
We do not know the exact chronology of Paul’s composition of the Prognosticum
with regard to Federico da Montefeltro’s death on September 10, 1482. If Paul started
working on the Prognosticum before that date, he may have been planning to dedicate
the work to Federico. If so, the original plan must have entailed a slightly different
­preface, personalized for Federico instead of Maximilian, and a handwritten dedication
copy instead of a printed one.112 Note, however, that Paul’s annual prediction for 1483,
which must have been written after Federico’s death,113 is still in the ‘old’, less adorned
style.114 This seems to indicate that the Prognosticum was written later.
On the other hand, Paul’s new text must have been largely finalized at the time when
he left Urbino for a prolongued visit to Louvain in 1484115 because from that moment
onwards until the date of publication (August 31, 1484) he would no longer have been
able to access the codex Urbinas (E) of the Mathesis which appears to have been his
source. Since the Prognosticum contains several allusions to Paul’s conflict with his former
student Giovanni Barbo which broke out in 1483,116 it is likely that the text was mostly

112 Federico was famous for not allowing printed books into his library.
113 Annual predictions for the next year were usually written at the end of the current year, and this
one is explicitly dedicated to Guidobaldo (1472 – 1508), the eleven-year-old son of Federico.
114 This prediction does not lack a certain degree of stylistic elaboration (esp. in the preface
which contains, among other details, some verses from Ovid’s Fasti). However, the typical
highly rhetorical elements of the style of Firmicus are absent from it, and I could not detect
any borrowing from the Mathesis.
115 I was not able to determine the exact date when Paul left for Louvain. It seems to have been
no earlier than May 1484 because Paul is reported to have baptized Julius Caesar Scaliger
who was born on the 23rd of April 1484. See Paolo Sambin, Il dottorato padovano in
medicina di Paolo da Middelburgo (1480), in: Quaderni per la storia dell’Università di
Padova 9 – 10 (1976 – 1977), pp. 252 – 256, at p. 253, note 4 (I thank Claudio Marangoni
and Daniela Marrone of the University of Padua for generously sending me a copy of
this article).
116 More on this in my article that is mentioned above in note 1.

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written in late 1483 or early 1484. No matter if Paul’s original intention had been to
dedicate the Prognosticum to Federico da Montefeltro, his final choice of Maximilian
of Habsburg (1459 – 1519), who was in 1484 Count of Zeeland, Paul’s home province,
was certainly appropriate: Maximilian was, despite his young age, known as a keen
supporter of the arts. Therefore Paul had good reason to hope that his ambitious and
innovative literary enterprise would please the sovereign.
But he seems to have aimed at a second effect, too, namely arousing the r­ eader’s
emotions. The core information of Paul’s prediction could have been given in a
much more concise manner. Although Paul pretends to be aiming at brevitas,117 he
actually does the opposite by indulging in endless details of the allegedly imminent
total licentiousness of people of all social groups (including clerics) and of count-
less pitiable forms of misery and death. Since these predictions are all very general
in tone, i. e. without references to names, places and exact times, they are of little or
no practical value. What they are able to effect, instead, is to stir up emotions in the
reader, to inculcate in him fear, fascination with unrefrained human behaviour, and
the expectation that everything will be turned upside down. In such a scenario the
sovereign will need expert advise if he hopes to keep control of the situation – the
advise of Paul himself.
In short, the author’s reason for drawing so heavily on the Mathesis seems to have
been twofold, with both aspects closely linked to each other: one idealistic and aesthetic,
i. e. to please the addressee’s literary taste in keeping with the latest trend among Italian
astrologically interested humanists, the other practical and psychological in keeping
with the author’s need for a new patron.
There are open questions for further research: Does any archival material exist
that could shed more light on Paul’s activities and personal contacts at the court of
Urbino in 1483/4?118 And do any early modern imitations of Paul’s endeavour exist,
either in printed works or in manuscripts? To the present, I did not find any.119 Future
research will have to verify and deepen the insight at which the present study arrived:
that Paul’s Prognosticum is a unique attempt at combining for a broad readership one
scientific and one humanistic goal that were both fashionable but separately pursued
at his time, more precisely: at combining, in the field of practical applications,120 the

117 He uses the expression que breuitatis gratia missa faciemus three times (with small variants).
On one occasion he says perpauca tamen predicta sufficient operis breuitate hoc exigente.
118 The starting point for such research is Castelli, Gli astri (see note 113). Castelli seems to
have collected all the available evidence, which is little with regard to Paul of Middleburg
(ibid., pp. 78– 86). However, a new investigation with special attention to the questions that
have been raised here might turn up useful details.
119 Lichtenberger’s Pronosticatio can certainly not be counted as one because he is neither inte­
rested in rhetorical style nor in scientific accuracy.
120 I. e. predictions for concrete events as opposed to theoretical manuals and commentaries.

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Arabic astrological theory of the Great Conjunctions with the rhetorical language
and style of Firmicus Maternus, the only preserved ancient Latin prose astrologer;
that this attempt originated in particularly favorable circumstances at the court of
Urbino; and that it remained unique partly because of the disparate competences
needed to accomplish the task, partly because the larger public – at which printed
editions naturally aim – was more interested in a scholarly less ambitious but enter-
taining mix of astrology, medieval prophetism and woodcuts such as that created by
Johannes Lichtenberger than in scientific perfection (astronomical and astrological)
and rhetorical elaboration without pictures and prophetism such as that pursued by
the humanist Paul of Middelburg.

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H. ­Darrel Rutkin

Astrology, Politics and Power in 16th-century Florence:


Giuliano Ristori’s Extensive Judgment on Cosimo
I’s Nativity (1537)

On 1 June 28th, 1537, Giuliano Ristori completed writing up his judgment or interpre-
tation of Cosimo I de’ Medici’s nativity or birth horoscope at the very beginning of
his long and successful reign (1537 – 1574). This extensive document, which remained
unpublished until 1989, may be used to open a window on to several of astrology’s central
roles in 16th century Florentine political life at the very highest levels, and at a pivotal
moment in her history, namely, the final transition from Republic to institutionalized
Medici dominance as hereditary dukes.2
Who were the main participants in this astrological act? First, the astrologer: Giuliano
Ristori (1492 – 1556) was a Carmelite monk and a leading member of his mother church,
the famous Santa Maria del Carmine in Florence, home to the Brancacci chapel and
its important paintings by Masaccio.3 In the colophon to the 1537 horoscope, Ristori
describes himself as Messer Giuliano Ristori from Prato, a Carmelite theologian and

1 This paper closely reflects my talk. For more relevant bibliography, see my Teaching Astrol-
ogy in the 16th Century: Giuliani Ristori and Filippo Fantoni on Pseudo-Prophets and
Other Effects of Great Conjunctions, in: From Masha’allah to Kepler: the Theory and Prac-
tice of Astrology in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, ed. Charles Burnett and Dorian
­Greenbaum, Lampeter, Wales, forthcoming. I would like to thank Charles M. ­Rosenberg for
a very helpful correspondence about Cosimo’s medal. All translations are mine unless other-
wise noted.
2 Much has been written on Florentine political history. I refer the reader (i. a.) to Eric
Cochrane’s lively account in his Florence in the Forgotten Centuries, 1527 – 1800, Chi-
cago 1973. Raffaela Castagnola also discusses the political context in the introduction
to her edition of the text of Ristori’s horoscope for Cosimo: Un Oroscopo per Cosimo I, in:
Rinascimento 29 (1989), pp. 125 – 189, as does Henk Th. van Veen, Cosimo I de’ Medici
and his Self-Representation in Florentine Art and Culture, Cambridge 2006.
3 For the information here, see Charles B.  ­Schmitt, The Faculty of Arts at Pisa at the Time of
Galileo, pp. 243 – 272 (originally published 1972), and Id., Filippo Fantoni, Galileo Galilei’s
Predecessor as Mathematics Lecturer at Pisa, pp. 53 – 62 (originally published 1978). Both
are reprinted in his Studies in Renaissance Philosophy and Science, London 1981; Claudia
Rousseau, Cosimo I de Medici and Astrology: The Symbolism of Prophecy, PhD disserta-
tion, Columbia University 1983, and Janet Cox-Rearick, Dynasty and Destiny in Medici
Art: Pontormo, Leo X, and the Two Cosimos, Princeton 1984.

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140 H. ­Darrel Rutkin

professor of theology.4 He went on to teach astrology and mathematics at the Univer­


sity of Pisa from 1543 to 1550. During this time, Francesco Giuntini, another Carme­
lite theologian and Ristori’s most famous pupil, studied Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos with him
in 1548, before taking his doctorate in theology there in 1554. Ristori also taught at the
universities of Florence and Siena. His teaching manuscript for the entire course on
Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos is extant and deserving of further study.5
Besides Cosimo’s horoscope there is other evidence for Ristori’s astrological prac-
tice. For example, he made annual prognostications for 1528 and 1529, one of which was
printed. Also, in 1534, Ristori was intimately involved in determining the astrological
timing for placing the cornerstone of Florence’s new and massive fortress, the Fortezza
da Basso.6 We know that several astrologers in an official capacity made election horo­
scopes suggesting different dates to set the stone. To break the deadlock, the political
advisor, historian and former papal legate, Francesco Guicciardini, went to Bologna to
consult the astrologers there; in particular, Ludovico Vitale, a professor at the university
and himself a prolific author of annual prognostications.7 Ristori’s timing was chosen as
the best. Finally, and soon before interpreting Cosimo’s horoscope, Ristori’s fame had
spiked due to his accurately predicting Duke Alessandro de’ Medici’s violent death.8
The client was Cosimo I de’ Medici (1519 – 1574), the second duke of Florence and the
first grandduke of Tuscany. He ruled Florence from 1537 until he died, and should not be
confused with his distant forebear, Cosimo il Vecchio, pater patriae, who died in 1464.
Our Cosimo was the son of the famous condotierro, Giovanni delle Bande Nere, who had
died in battle during Cosimo’s youth. On his distant cousin, Duke Alessandro de’ Medici’s

4 “Allo illustrissimo Signore, il Signor Cosimo de’ Medici, duca della Repubblica Fiorentina,
Messer Giuliano Ristori pratese e teologo carmelitano salute”, Castagnola, Un Oroscopo
(see note 2), p. 133.
5 This is the focus of my Identifying Pseudo-Prophets (see note 1) and in part my The Use and
Abuse of Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos in Renaissance and Early Modern Europe: Two Case ­Studies
(Giovanni Pico della Mirandola and Filippo Fantoni), in: Ptolemy in Perspective: Use and
Criticism of his Work from Antiquity to the Nineteenth Century, ed. Alexander Jones,
­Dordrecht 2010, pp. 135 – 149. This and the other teaching MSS for Ristori’s course (inclu­
ding those with his successor Filippo Fantoni’s changes) deserve much greater attention.
6 John R. ­Hale discusses this episode within its political context in The End of Florentine
­Liberty: The Fortezza da Basso, in his: Renaissance War Studies, London 1983, pp. 31 – 62,
esp. pp.  48 – 50.
7 For more on Vitale, see Fabrizio Bonolì and Daniela Piliarvu, I lettori di astronomia
presso lo studio di Bologna dal XII al XX secolo, Bologna 2001, pp. 129 – 130. For more on
the ­Guicciardini family and astrology, see Raffaela Castagnola. I Guicciardini e le scienze
occulte: L’Oroscopo di Francesco Guicciardini, lettere di alchimia, astrologia e cabala a Luigi
­Guicciardini, Florence 1990.
8 For more on the murder itself, see Stefano Dall’Aglio, L’Assassino del duca: Esilio e morte
di Lorenzino de’ Medici, Florence 2011.

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Astrology, Politics and Power in 16th-century Florence 141

early and violent murder on January 7th, 1537, Cosimo was elected to succeed him two
days later at the ripe old age of 17. Six months later, on June 28th, the 45-year-old Giuliano
Ristori interpreted the natal horoscope of the now 18-year-old newly elected leader of
Florence at the unstable beginnings of what would prove to be a long and successful reign.
Nobody knew this at the time, however, and we must bear this in mind to get a proper
sense of contemporary tensions and anxieties, hopes and fears at the end of June, 1537.

I Private Political Advice

This leads to the third main protagonist, and the star of our show, the horoscope itself.
Its extensive interpretation literally gives voice to the moment and its private political
dynamics, which are usually inaccessable to our direct historical vision.9 In this essay,
I will explore the horoscope and how it was used in two main respects – public and
private – beginning with Ristori’s private communication to Cosimo and his political
advisors. The highly articulated structure of the interpretation will itself give us valu-
able insights into the relevant concerns. Preserved today in a manuscript miscellany at
the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence (Pluteo 89 sup. 34, ff. 133r–186r), the
interpretation of the horoscope runs to 107 folio pages, which translates into 56 printed
pages in its modern publication by Raffaela Castagnola.
The text begins with a fascinating and I would argue richly Machiavellian prologue,
and a detailed discussion of how Ristori determined Cosimo’s famous Capricorn ascen­
dant – the beginning and foundation of the judgment – and his ruling planet, Mercury,
which rules the nativity with the great participation of Jupiter and Saturn (pp. 133 – 135).10
According to his baptismal records, Cosimo was born in Florence on 12 June, 1519 at 1
and 2/3s hours, Florentine style, and thus on the Julian calendar date, June 11th, at 1 and 2/3s
hours after sunset. Ristori slightly rectified the horoscope to allow Cosimo’s Saturn, also
in Capricorn, to fall in the first house and not the twelfth, a much stronger placement.11
The interpretation’s structure closely but not slavishly follows that in Ptolemy’s
­Tetrabiblos, Books III and IV. ­The first part deals with Cosimo’s body, its complexion
and illnesses, the quantity of his life and the timing of his death (pp. 136 – 149). ­Ristori
treated Cosimo’s death in some detail, including his time, place and type of death,

9 This is an extremely cursory characterization of an extremely interesting astrological interpre-


tation at an extraordinarily tense and subsequently eventful moment, and thus well worthy
of further analysis.
10 It is purely coincidental that the folio numbers of the manuscript and the printed pages of
Ristori’s text almost exactly coincide (ff. 133 – 186; pp. 133 – 189). The identifying numbers
for what follows are to the printed edition except where indicated by the letter f.
11 Rousseau, Cosimo I and Astrology (see note 4), discusses this in depth; pp. 71 – 72 for the
baptismal records, pp. 79 – 80, for Ristori’s thirty minute rectification.

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142 H. ­Darrel Rutkin

predicting in the end that Cosimo would most likely live to be 78 years old, rather longer
than his actual 54 years (pp. 144 – 149). The second part analyzes Cosimo’s mind, its
strengths and weaknesses, and his actions (pp. 149 – 156). Finally, the third and longest
part of the horoscope, on the accidents of fortune, treats material wealth and political
dignity, marriage and children, friends and enemies, and foreign travel (pp. 156 – 189).
I will discuss two of these accidents below.
Furthermore, a striking feature of Cosimo’s nativity is that, in addition to a primary
focus on astrology, Ristori also used two other interpretive arts – physiognomy and
cheiromancy – to support his astrological analysis. In turn, this indicates Ristori’s inti-
mate relationship with Cosimo, whose face and hands he must have examined closely,
looking for meaningful corporeal signs.12
Ristori used many authorities explicitly: Ptolemy primarily – both the Tetrabiblos
and the Centiloquium – with two of his commentators, an anonymous Greek, and one
Ristori calls Africanus here, but Punicus in the teaching manuscript for his Ptolemy
course at Pisa, which most likely refers to Haly Abenragel. Ristori also refers to many
Arabic writers, including Haly Abenrudian, Albumasar, Albubater, and Aomar, and
to two Jewish writers, Abraham ibn Ezra and a different Abraham Giudaeus. Perhaps
surprisingly, Ristori only refers to two Latins, Firmicus Maternus from late antiquity,
and the 13th-century Guido Bonatti. In addition to naming these authorities, Ristori
often gives precise book titles and the relevant chapters on which he drew, thus very
usefully showing his work. He also used several predictive techniques, including the part
of fortune and other Greek and Arabic parts. For particularizing the timing of future
events, however, he mainly used two techniques, directions and annual revolutions.
Ristori articulates his views on astrology, knowledge and power in the prologue,
which he begins by locating astrology at the pinnacle of knowledge, with a focus on
its practical side:
[…] and especially what is called judicial [astrology] (iudiciaria) should hold the
highest position of all [sc. the sciences],13 since it is oriented to the governance and rule
of human affairs. Wherefore, what kingdom, what state, what republic or family was or
ever will exist which, seeing to what extent the heavens (il cielo) inclines and disposes,
did not know how, with the greatest counsel, to arrange and execute well the fulfill-
ment of their affairs. The stars do not force other things, and the heavens do not compel,
such that we are completely unable to dispose and act upon our choices on our own.14

12 I do not know of other examples of physiognomy and/or cheiromancy with a horoscope. For
physiognomy in relation to natural philosophy and medicine, see Jole Agrimi’s collection
of essays, Ingeniosa scientia nature: Studi sulla fisiognomica medievale, Florence 2002.
13 This first clause is more properly a paraphrase than a translation in order to make the earlier
sense coherent with the text discussed here.
14 “[…] meritano dico di tenere il principato di tutte, e di queste due la pratica maggiormente che
iudiciaria si dice, poiché ella è ordinata al governo e reggimento delle cose umane. Perché qual

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Astrology, Politics and Power in 16th-century Florence 143

The language and intent here emphasize both the importance of astrological know­
ledge and the strong but incomplete constraints on our ability to act, within an explicitly
political context. Ristori then turns to discuss Cosimo’s extraordinary virtù, a theme
with strongly Machiavellian resonances.15
To exemplify Ristori’s interepretive style and some of the horoscope’s more interesting
content, we should look briefly at two chapters of Part III on the accidents of Fortune,
beginning with chapter three on marriage (pp. 174 – 177). It begins thus:

Illustrious signore, I find five matters to consider concerning the case of marriage, and I
wish to speak about them fully and distinctly. First, whether your excellency will take a
wife or not; secondly, if one or more; third, at what time; fourth, if she will be fortunate,
and finally about “amore disordinato,” [or immoderate love]. Coming to the first, that
is, if your excellency will take a wife or not, I say that, since the moon is not only away
from the sun’s rays but is waxing and luminous, and under the power of Jupiter [sc. since
­Cosimo’s moon is in Sagitarrius and Jupiter rules Sagitarrius], according to Ptolemy’s opin-
ion [in Tetrabiblos IV, 4] and that of his commentators, your excellency will take a wife.16

Ristori then provides corroborating evidence from other astrologers, including Aomar,
Albubater and ibn Ezra, to support his interpretation.
Often Ristori lays out the interpretations of different authorities and then makes
his own judgment. Considering the timing of Cosimo’s marriage, Ristori reviews the
various opinions of Ptolemy, his commentators, Firmicus Maternus, Haly Abenragel
and Albubater, among others, based primarily on directions and annual revolutions.

regno, quale stato, qual repubblica o famiglia fu o sarà mai, che vedendo a quanto l’inclina e le dis-
pone il cielo, non sappino con ottimo consiglio bene ordinare e eseguire i processi delle loro cose?
Non violentano altrui le stelle e non ci sforza il cielo in modo che noi non possiamo intera­mente
di noi disporre e operare a nostro arbitrio”, Castagnola, Un Oroscopo (see note 2), p. 133.
15 For an insightful but problematic and thus not wholly reliable interpretation of Machiavelli’s
use of astrology, see Anthony Parel, The Machiavellian Cosmos, New Haven 1992. I will
treat the Machiavellian dimensions of Ristori’s prologue in vol. 3 of my monograph, Reframing
the Scientific Revolution: Astrology, Magic and Natural Knowledge, c. 1250 – 1800; Volume I
(Medieval Structures [1250– 1500]: Conceptual, Institutional, Socio-Political, Religious and
Cultural); Volume II (Renaissance Structures [1480 –1500]: Continuities and Transformations);
Volume III (Early Modern Structures [1500 –1800]: Continuities and Transformations).
16 “Cinque cose, illustrissimo Signore, trovo da considerate circa il caso de’ mariaggi volendo
parlarne a pieno distintamente. Prima se Vostra Eccellenzia prenderà moglie o no, secondo
se una o più, terzo in che tempo, quarto se ella sarà in essi fortunata e ultimo dello amore
disordinato. E venendo alla prima, cioè se Vostra Eccellenzia prenderà moglie o no, dico che,
essendo la Luna non solamente fuora de’ raggi ma crescente e luminosa e nelle forze di Giove,
secondo la mente di Tolomeo [in IV cap. 4] e degli interpreti suoi, che Vostra Eccellenzia
prenderà moglie”, Castagnola, Un Oroscopo (see note 2), p. 174.

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144 H. ­Darrel Rutkin

He concludes that, although astrologically Cosimo is strongly inclined to marry, in this


case in particular, the timing wholly depends on his will, since there is no astrologically
definitive moment (pp. 175 – 176). In fact, Cosimo married Eleanora of Toledo almost
two years later to the day, on June 29th, 1539. There was also probably an astrological
dimension to the timing of the wedding, but I have no evidence for this beyond the
strong likelihood that there was, based on numerous contemporary parallels, including
those Monica Azzolini discusses in her valuable book on astrology in Milan.17
Chapter five on friends and enemies (pp. 181 – 186) is one of the most interesting chap-
ters in a political context because Ristori names names and analyzes political dynamics,
but only for those people whose explicit astrological information he possessed in his
own personal geniture collection. Ristori begins by explaining what to look for gener-
ally in comparing horoscopes: first, the relationship between the luminaries (the sun
and moon); secondly, between the ascendants, and thirdly, the parts of fortune.18 Then
Ristori analyzed the particulars of Cosimo’s main political relationships, beginning
with the three most powerful figures of the day in Europe: his holiness, Pope Paul III
Farnese, a committed enemy of Cosimo and the Medici; Francis I, King of France; and
Charles V, Holy Roman Emporor and the most powerful ruler in Christendom. He
was also Cosimo’s overlord and protector.
With the pope, Ristori says that friendship for Cosimo will always be difficult
because their natal suns and parts of fortune square each other, and their ascendants
are unrelated.19 Likewise, with Francis I, although their moons are in a positive sextile
aspect, their suns and ascendants are squared and thus indicate a weakness in friend-
ship.20 With Charles V, on the other hand, Ristori is much more positive, noting that
there will be a profound love and affection for each other due to their having the
same ascendant in Capricorn. Nevertheless, their friendship will remain imperfect

17 The Duke and the Stars: Astrology and Politics in Renaissance Milan, Cambridge, MA 2013.
18 “Tolome dice nel Quadripartito [cap. 6] che prima dobbiamo conferire le geniture de’ parti­
culari domestici di Vostra Eccellenzia con la genitura di quella e vedere in che modo stanno
i luminari, gli ascendenti e le parti della fortuna insieme l’un verso l’altro, e da essi poi far
giudizio della amicizia e odio tra voi”, Castagnola, Un Oroscopo (see note 2), p. 182.
19 “Della Santità di N. S. ­Paulo III: Per quanto addunque, venendo al particulare della figura
del Papa e dell’Eccellenzia Vostra si può vedere, difficilmente converrete seco in qualunche
sorte d’amicizia si voglia, non convenendo insieme i luminari del tempo nelle geniture
vostre e riguardandosi di quadrato l’un l’altro i vostri Soli; oltra che le parti della fortuna
parimenti sono quadrangulate l’una all’altra e gli ascendenti sono in segni al tutto disciolti
tra loro”, ibid., p. 182.
20 “Di Francesco re di Francia: Ben potrebbe l’Eccellenzia Vostra aver qualche parte d’amicizia
vera con Francesco re di Francia, riguardandosi l’uno l’altro di sestile aspetto i segni della Luna.
Ma sendo quadrangulati l’uno all’altro i luoghi del Sole e gli ascendenti in segni opposti, né
convenendo insieme i luoghi della parte di fortuna, deboleza d’amicizia dimostra; e finalmente
nell’altre cose non converrete insieme a nulla”, ibid., p. 183.

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Astrology, Politics and Power in 16th-century Florence 145

due to a squared relationship between their suns, and their having discordant parts of
­fortune.21 Ristori completes this chapter by discussing Cosimo’s friendship with three
nearby dukes: Francesco Maria della Rovere, duke of Urbino, Federico II Gonzaga,
duke of Mantua, and Ercole II d’Este, duke of Ferrara; and with the three Florentine
cardinals: Giovanni Salviati, Cosimo’s maternal uncle, Niccolò Ridolfi and Antonio
Pucci (pp.  183 – 184).
We should always bear in mind the great political value of this insider information
regarding the young ruler’s body, mind and character, his role in contemporary poli­
tical dynamics, and predictions as to when he would likely die. Further, Ristori states
several times that he is giving an honest evaluation, warts and all, which would make
the information – including weaknesses, problem areas and their timing – even more
valuable, especially to Cosimo’s enemies.22 For this reason (among others), the higher
level astrologers had geniture collections of powerful political figures, past and p­ resent,
for analytical and comparative purposes.23 We just saw evidence that Ristori had one
also, and we will see in a moment how these sorts of comparisons could be used to
brilliant effect in the public arena. As far as I know, Ristori’s collection no longer exists.

II Public Political Dimension

Composed at a critical moment in Florentine political history, Ristori’s extensive astro-


logical interpretation was never published at the time and seems to have little circu-
lated in manuscript. Thus it was essentially a highly classified private document, filled
with valuable political information. Capitalizing on its strengths, however, powerful
features of Cosimo’s nativity were circulated widely soon after at court, in the city, and

21 “Della Maestà Cesarea Carlo V Imperatore: Ma con Cesare converrà solo Vostra Eccellen-
zia in amore e affezione avendo il medesimo ascendente l’uno e l’altro. Non converrete già
nella amicizia perfetta né nella utile, percioché i luoghi della Luna non convengono insieme
in parte alcuna e i segni del Sole sono quadrangulati tra loro, né si concordano i luoghi della
parte della fortuna. Per la qual cosa mi pare di poter dire che solo nella affezione dell’animo
e nelle parole converrete insieme”, ibid., p. 183.
22 For example, in the introduction to the interpretation: “[…] Essa mi comandò ch’io, lasciate
tutte l’adulazioni e ciurme delle quali sogliono esser nutriti e dilettarsi quei principi che della
lor salute han poca cura, dovessi più diligentemente ch’io potevo conietturare tutti li accidenti
di sua vita”, ibid., p. 133.
23 See Anthony Grafton, Geniture Collections: Origins and Uses of a Genre, in: Books
and the Sciences in History, ed. Marina Frasca-Spada and Nick Jardine, Cambridge 2000,
pp.  49 – 68.

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146 H. ­Darrel Rutkin

beyond; in particular, his Capricorn ascendant, in an image that still adorns prominent
Florentine buildings.24
Drawing on striking parallels with the nativities of Charles V – the current Holy
Roman Emperor and Cosimo’s protector – and the ancient Roman emperor, Augustus
Caesar, Cosimo used the distinctive image of Capricorn, the goat-fish, on his personal
emblem or impresa, which first debuted as a medal, and soon after and very publically
appeared as a device at his 1539 wedding. Cosimo subsequently used this astrological
image throughout his long reign to advertise his providentially ordained leadership,
and thus symbolically project his power in Florence and beyond.25
One of the earliest public expressions of Cosimo’s impresa is perhaps the most inte­
resting as well, namely, his first medal, by Domenico dei Vetri (or di Polo), which was
commissioned and struck between October 1537 and January 1538, thus soon after
Ristori interpreted Cosimo’s horoscope. Above the image of Capricorn as a goat-fish
are a distinctive set of eight stars representing the constellation, Corona Borealis – the
Northern Crown or Crown of Ariadne – which culminated above the zodiacal sign
Scorpio that occupied the midheaven of Cosimo’s nativity. This auspicious location
represented royalty, thus symbolically crowning his nativity.26
In addition, the culminating point in Cosimo’s horoscope was also very near to
where the Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn had occurred in 1484 at 20 degrees
of Scorpio.27 This portent of incomparable greatness thus further increased the sym-
bolic power of Cosimo’s nativity, while linking it closely to broader views of his des-
tiny asso­ciated with the return of the Golden Age and Saturn’s reign of peace and

24 I rely extensively on Rousseau’s evidence and analysis in this section, especially her first
chapter; Cosimo I and Astrology (see note 4).
25 Van Veen, Cosimo I (see note 2), refers often to Capricorn in his first chapter, Dynasty and
Destiny, but he rather assumes its significance than discusses it. The limitations of the index
makes the book much less user friendly than necessary. For example, there is no index entry
for “Capricorn,” yet he discusses various examples over many years at (e.g) pp. 8, 9, 20, 22,
24 (5x!), 26 and in fnn. 82, 89 and 90. There is also no index reference to astrology, which
he also does not discuss directly.
26 Rousseau, Cosimo I and Astrology (see note 4), discusses this material in depth at pp. 15 ff.,
and the identification of this constellation at pp. 22 – 28. She focuses primarily on Francesco
Giuntini’s interpretation of Cosimo’s unrectified horoscope to build up her interpretation,
since the M. C. in Giuntini’s horoscope is 20o of Scorpio, whereas it is 12o in Ristori’s.
27 Stephan Heilen discusses this conjunction in detail in his Paul of Middelburg’s Prognosti-
cum for the Years 1484 to 1504, to be published in the proceedings of the conference, From
Masha’allah to Kepler: the Theory and Practice of Astrology in the Middle Ages and the
Renaissance, ed. Charles Burnett and Dorian Greenbaum (forthcoming). Rousseau, Cosimo
I and Astrology (see note 4), discusses the significance of the conjunction at pp. 17 and 24 ff.

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prospe­rity.28 The impresa’s motto also emphasized the fateful nature of Cosimo’s rule:
Animi ­Conscientia et Fiducia Fati; “Self Confidence and Faith in my Fate.”29
Furthermore, the general astrological potency of Cosimo’s nativity was significantly
augmented by the striking structural and historical parallels between his horoscope and
career and those of Charles V and Augustus Caesar, both of whom also had horoscopes
with Capricorn rising.30 Indeed, the phrase Fiducia Fati in Cosimo’s motto was taken
directly from Suetonius’s life of Augustus, where Suetonius informs us that Augustus
was born under Capricorn. Augustus too used this symbol throughout his extended
rule, including placing it prominently on the standards of his Roman legions.31
Together with this powerful structural similarity, the striking historical compari-
sons strongly confirmed the fateful nature of Cosimo’s horoscope, in particular the
remarkable “coincidence” that Cosimo’s stunning victory over the Florentine exile army
at M
­ ontemurlo took place on the very same day, August 1st, as Octavian’s decisive vic-
tory over Mark Antony’s forces at Actium in 31 BC. ­Likewise, Cosimo’s election after
the murder of his cousin Alessandro was seen to mirror Octavian’s rise to power on
the murder of his adoptive father, Julius Caesar.32 Augustus also publicized the power­
ful central feature of his horoscope, the Capricorn ascendant, in a coin that Cosimo
used as at least a partial model for his own impresa and related medal 15 centuries later.
Cosimo also used the same device with the goat-fish and stars soon after at his
very public state wedding to Eleanora of Toledo on June 29, 1539. We know this from
­Pierfrancesco Giambullari, who, that August, published a detailed description of the
festivities and decorations, including the impresa, in which he explicitly identified the
stars as Ariadne’s Crown and gave the essence of the motto, fiducia fati.33 Giambullari
dedicated his published description, the Apparato et feste, to Giovanni Bandini, the
­Florentine ambassador to Charles V, whose own symbolic representation as Augustus was
also a prominent presence at the wedding, as we can also see in Giambullari’s description.

28 For relevant contemporary views on the Golden Age, see ibid., ch. 2: Astrology and the Myth
of the Golden Age: Ancient Precedents and Medici Applications, and Michael J. ­B. Allen,
Nuptial Arithmetic: Marsilio Ficino’s Commentary on the Fatal Number in Book VIII of
Plato’s Republic, Berkeley 1994, ch. 4: Jupiter, the Stars, and the Golden Age.
29 This is Rousseau’s translation at p. 83, note 40, Cosimo I and Astrology (see note 4).
30 Rousseau discusses these parallels throughout chapter 1; ibid.
31 For Augustus’s famous horoscope and its contemporary usage, see Tamsyn Barton’s Power
and Knowledge: Astrology, Physiognomics, and Medicine under the Roman Empire, Ann
Arbor 1994, pp. 40 – 47, and her Augustus and Capricorn: Astrological Polyvalency and
Imperial Rhetoric, in: Journal of Roman Studies 85 (1995), pp. 33 – 51.
32 For the comparisons, see Rousseau, Cosimo I and Astrology (see note 4), pp. 38 – 39.
33 For a valuable translation and study of Giambulari’s text, see A Renaissance Entertainment:
Festivities for the Marriage of Cosimo I, Duke of Florence in 1539, ed. Andrew C. ­Minor and
Bonner Mitchell, Columbia, MO 1968, p. 124: “In the fifth [lunette] was seen the heavenly
Capri­corn, with the eight stars of the crown of Ariadne, and there was his motto: F­ IDUCIA FATI”.

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Finally, 15 years later, Paolo Giovio, who had also attended the wedding, published a
woodcut and interpretation of the Capricorn image – but without the stars and with a
different motto – in his highly influential and oft-reprinted dialogue on amorous and
military imprese of 1555.34 In the text, he explicitly disscussed the parallels with Charles
V and Augustus, including the conspicuous dating of Actium and Montemurlo. Claim-
ing that the original impresa had no motto, he offered his own: Fidem Fati Virtute
Sequemur, thus emphasizing the same theme of Cosimo’s fateful rule, but with a twist
emphasizing his profound virtù. In this way, Giovio further publicized the Capricorn
motif, which Cosimo used throughout the remainder of his long and successful reign.
Cosimo and his advisors thus used the potent astrological imagery, derived from
Cosimo’s nativity, to symbolically project his power as a leader in Florence and beyond,
and thus shape political opinion in the public sphere, in part by showing that Cosimo’s
destiny was cut from the same celestial cloth as Charles V’s and Augustus Caesar’s. More
powerful models would have been difficult if not impossible to find. Needless to say,
the accumulation of historical parallels (including Actium and Montemurlo) greatly
strengthened the persuasive force of the striking structural similarities in their nativities.

III Magical Usage

Continuing in the public sphere, I would like to conclude by making a suggestion. The
early Capricorn-Corona medal was certainly a symbolic projection of Cosimo’s power to
a broader public, but I believe that there could also have been an overtly magical dimen-
sion, with the medal functioning literally as an astrological talisman. In this somewhat
speculative interpretation, the impresa’s image, when impressed on the medal, would
cause it to become a talisman – an imago astronomica – if it were made of a particular
metal and struck at an astrologically propitious time.35 The image itself of the Capricorn
goat-fish with the eight stars of the Northern Crown coheres perfectly with Marsilio
Ficino’s theory of the design and fabrication of talismans, as published in his popular and

34 Paolo Giovio, Dialogo dell’imprese militari et amorose, Lyon 1559, pp. 51 – 52. For more
on Giovio, see T. ­C. Price Zimmerman, Paolo Giovio: The Historian and the Crisis of
Sixteenth Century Italy, Princeton 1995.
35 For everything you ever wanted to know about medieval talismans, but were afraid to ask,
see Nicholas Weill-Parot’s immense and insightful, Les “images astrologiques” au Moyen
Âge et à la Renaissance: Spéculations intellectuelles et pratiques magiques (XIIe–Xve siècle),
Paris 2002. Now see also Mary Quinlan-McGrath, Influences: Art, Optics, and Astro­
logy in the Italian Renaissance, Chicago 2013. Two of the most influential texts were Albertus
Magnus’ authentic De mineralibus, and the third book of Marsilio Ficino’s De vita libri tres,
the famous De vita coelitus comparanda.

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Astrology, Politics and Power in 16th-century Florence 149

influential De vita libri tres, which was reprinted twenty times between 1489 and 1537.36
Although Ficino is primarily concerned with designing and manufacturing talismans
for medical purposes, the naked uses of power illustrated in the Secretum secretorum
and elsewhere would also be perfectly well served by the same theory.37
Briefly, in Ficino’s theory, which has deep roots in 13th-century works by Albertus
Magnus and others, the talisman’s designer should choose the proper image to sculpt
or engrave on a base of metal or stone at a powerful astrologically determined time in
relation, ideally, to both the user’s nativity and the talisman’s desired end. In this way,
the rays from the planets, stars and luminaries would directly irradiate the metal (or
stone) during its fabrication. A talisman thus made would absorb the relevant celestial
influences in its material substrate – as attuned by the inscribed image – in the process
of its timely manufacture. Made properly, it would then re-radiate the particular celestial
energy that it had absorbed toward the desired end, in this case Capricornian-Saturnian
and Scorpionic-Martial energies towards power political and military ends.
The stellar rays in Ficino’s theory were understood to act in terms of a geometrical
optical model of planetary influences, as first articulated by Alkindi in his De radiis stel-
larum, and further developed in the 13th century by such figures as Albertus M ­ agnus
and Roger Bacon. From the 14th century on, this richly articulated astrologizing Aristo­
telian system that provided the natural philosophical foundations for astrological prac-
tice was institutionalized in university curricula in Italy and throughout Europe.38 Due

36 Chapters III, 12 – 22 offer a mini-treatise on talismans. I discuss this fascinating and influential
text in greater detail in my The Physics and Metaphysics of Talismans (Imagines Astronomi-
cae) in Marsilio Ficino’s De vita libri tres: A Case Study in (Neo)Platonism, Aristotelianism
and the Esoteric Tradition, in: Platonismus und Esoterik in Byzantinischem Mittelalter
und Italienischer Renaissance, ed. Helmut Seng, Heidelberg 2013, pp. 149 – 173 and in Vol-
ume II of my forthcoming monograph. For more on the printing history of De vita, see
A. ­Tarabochia Canavero, Il ‘De Triplici Vita’ di Marsilio Ficino: Una strana vicenda
ermeneutica, in: Rivista di filosofia neo-scolastica 69 (1977), pp.  697 – 717. Rousseau, Cosimo
I and Astrology (see note 4), discusses the precision with which the fabricator of the medal
captured the image from the relevant star maps, pp. 22 – 23, with note 37: “Domenico’s great
care in rendering the constellation with astronomical precision in the die prototype actually
made its exact identification very simple for any observer with even a rudimentary knowledge
of the stars”.
37 See in particular, Steven J. ­Williams, The Secret of Secrets: The Scholarly Career of a
Pseudo-­Aristotelian Text in the Latin Middle Ages, Ann Arbor 2003.
38 For an overview, see my chapter, Astrology, in, The Cambridge History of Science, vol. 3: Early
Modern Science, ed. Lorraine Daston and Katharine Park, Cambridge 2006, pp. 541 – 561.
For a more detailed reconstruction, see my PhD thesis, Astrology, Natural Philosophy and
the History of Science, c. 1250 – 1700: Studies Toward an Interpretation of Giovanni Pico
della Mirandola’s Disputationes adversus astrologiam divinatricem, Indiana University 2002,
and vol. 1 of my forthcoming monograph.

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to the importance of timing in their manufacture, talismans were normally configured


as a somewhat controversial part of astrological elections.39
As we can now see more clearly, Ristori’s interpretation of Cosimo’s nativity – with
Guicciardini as his political advisor – took place in a particularly Florentine context,
with Ficino’s magical theory and Machiavelli’s political theory in the immediate back-
ground. Thus, this pivotal moment in European history and political culture seems
pointedly Janus faced, at the same time pointing backwards toward the political theory
embodied in the pseudo-Aristotelian Secret of secrets, where astrology and talismans
were key, and forward to Machiavelli’s and Guicciardini’s new more modern modes of
analysis, where astrology was also important in various ways, primarily nativities, revo­
lutions and elections. As we all know, astrology continued to be important in politics
well into the 17th century, and is still sometimes even found there today, as in the unex-
pected cases of Ronald Reagan and François Mitterrand.40
Astrology was thus woven deeply into the dazzling socio-political and cultural fabric
of 16th-century Florentine public life, even as more modern intellectual and ideological
forces were coming into play. Indeed, astrology was still taught in the finest European
universities throughout the 16th century and well into the 17th, often engaging with
and responding to new epoch-making scientific and geo-political discoveries, trans-
formations and reconfigurations. As we approach a critical mass of scholarship in our
increasingly accurate understanding of astrology’s numerous roles in medieval and early
modern European culture,41 I hope I have shown persuasively that Giuliano ­Ristori’s
detailed interpretation of Cosimo I de’ Medici’s nativity is a particularly valuable docu­
ment for historicizing and particularizing astrology’s multiple roles in premodern public
and private life, and that it is worthy of further attention.

39 As in the anonymous Speculum astronomiae (ch. 11). See my, Astrology and Magic, in: The
Universal Doctor: Albertus Magnus on Theology, Philosophy, and the Sciences, ed. Irven
M. ­Resnick, Leiden 2013, pp. 451–505.
40 For the early modern period, see my essay, Various Uses of Horoscopes: Astrological Prac-
tices in Early Modern Europe, in: Horoscopes and Public Spheres: Essays on the History of
Astrology, ed. Günther Oestmann, H. ­Darrel Rutkin and Kocku von Stuckrad, Berlin 2005,
pp. 167 – 182; for Reagan, see Joan Quigley, What Does Joan Say? My Seven Years as White
House Astrologer to Nancy and Ronald Reagan, New York 1990; and for Mitterrand, see the
21 Sep 2001 article by Stefan Steinberg, The ‘Tessier Affair’: Astrology Rehabilitated at
the Sorbonne University in Paris, on the World Socialist Web Site (http://www.wsws.org/
articles/2001/sep2001/sorb-s21.shtml).
41 Although Robert S. ­Westman generally points in the right direction in his long awaited
­magnum opus, many of the details are unreliable and all must be checked against primary
sources and the finest scholarship on the relevant issues, much of which he ignores; The
Copernican Question: Prognostication, Skepticism, and Celestial Order, Berkeley 2011.

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David Juste

A Sixteenth-Century Astrological Consultation

Introduction

In this paper I present and edit a private consultation – a judgement on a nativity – by


a professional astrologer of the second half of the sixteenth century. Very few of such
documents have been published and, generally speaking, they still belong to the terra
incognita of the history of astrology.1 They provide, however, one of the best documen-
tary evidence if we are to grasp the astrologers’ methods of working.
Unlike annual prognostications, which were published en masse from the late-­
fifteenth to the seventeenth century and beyond, consultations of individuals are
found in manuscript sources only. Because of their private, sometimes secret, nature,
they were not aimed at publication, circulation or even duplication. Moreover,
because of their rapid obsolescence, these documents do not keep well and there
is little doubt that chance is the main factor in their being found in public reposi­
tories today. Among the tens of thousands of such documents which must have once
existed, and putting aside judgements given as didactic or apologetic ­examples in
astrological handbooks and collections of horoscopes, about one hundred of them
seem to be extant in Latin.

1 There are no general studies of the genre and, to my knowledge, only two such Latin texts
have been published so far, namely Regiomontanus’s (?) judgement on Eleonora of ­Portugal’s
nativity written in 1451 (ed. Felix Schmeidler, Joannis Regiomontani opera collec­tanea.
Faksimiledrucke von neun Schriften Regiomontans une einer von ihm gedruckten Schrift
seines Lehrers Purbach, Osnabrück 1972, pp. 2 – 33), and Richard Trewythian’s on an anon-
ymous nativity of 8 March 1431 (ed. Sophie Page, Richard Trewythian and the Uses of
Astrology in Late Medieval England, in: Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes
64 (2001), pp. 193 – 228 [pp. 222 – 228]). For an analysis of particular judgements, see
Maxime Préaud, Les astrologues à la fin du Moyen Age, Paris 1984, pp. 73 – 94 (Conrad
Heingarter on Jehan de La Goutte in 1469), and Monica Azzolini, The Duke and the
Stars. Astrology and Politics in Renaissance Milan, Cambridge (Mass.)–London 2013,
pp. 103 – 114 (Raphaele Vimercati on Galeazzo Maria Sforza in 1461). See also the articles
by Wiebke Deiman and Darrel Rutkin in this volume. A Greek Byzantine example has
been discussed, edited and translated by Giuzeppe Bezza, Una natività a scopo didattico,
in: MHNH 1 (2001), pp. 291 – 336.

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152 David Juste

Most extant judgements on nativities belong to the period 1450 – 1600 A. D. With
a few exceptions, they stand alone in a single booklet, generally the very copy which
was presented to the client. They range in length from a few to over 200 pages, with
an average of 20 to 50 pages, and they can take the form of beautifully illuminated
manuscripts or hasty copies of poor quality. Not surprisingly, most of them concern
rulers, members of the nobility and the higher clergy, upper class officials and scholars
(including, on occasion, astrologers themselves), although it should be noted that a
number of them bear no names at all, neither the name of the client nor the name of
the astrologer, thus reinforcing their secretive character.
A judgement on a nativity is arguably the astrologer’s most complex work. It involves
a great deal of calculations, a thorough knowledge of astrological doctrines, the mas-
tery of the art of interpretation and the ability to build a consistent narrative. First,
the astrologer must cast the nativity (birth horoscope). This basically involves two
operations, namely the computation of the position of the planets and of the twelve
houses for the time and place of birth. Because most clients do not know their exact
time of birth, this will have to be re-calculated from the estimated time of birth
following rectification methods, like the so-called “animodar” or the “trutina” of
Hermes, among others. Then, the astrologer must determine the significators of the
nativity, i. e. the so-called “hyleg”, “alcochoden” and “almuten”, which also involve
a great deal of calculations. The astrologer is then ready to interpret the horoscope.
This is usually done by reviewing the topics associated to the twelve houses, i. e. the
general condition of the native, wealth, siblings, parents, children, health, marriage/
spouse, religion, honours, friends, enemies and death (the topic of the eighth house
is usually dealt with last). A complete judgement also includes various methods by
which the astrologer can examine specific periods of the life of the native. Two of
those methods are found in most judgements, namely directions and revolutions.
By the method of directions, a chosen significator (a planet, the ascendant, the mid-
heaven or the part of fortune) is given an imaginary movement of 1° per year along
the zodiac (sometimes backwards) until it reaches a significant position in the birth
horoscope by contact (conjunction) or aspect (sextile 60°, square 90°, trine 120° or
opposition 180°). Directions are deemed effective within one degree or a few degrees
before and after contact or aspect, something which requires complex calculations in
translating zodiacal intervals into time-span in the life of the client. The revolutions
allow the astrologer to examine in detail any year of the life of the native, from one
anniversary to the next, on the basis of the horoscope cast for the time of the return
of the Sun to the exact position (degree and minute) it occupied in the nativity. Some
judgements include dozens of revolutions, sometimes even for every year of the life
of the native. The amount of required calculations cannot be overestimated, for the
astrologer must, in each case, determine the exact moment of the return of the Sun
and cast the corresponding horoscope.

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A Sixteenth-Century Astrological Consultation 153

The document and the protagonists

The judgement under consideration is extant in a booklet (28 × 17 cm) of 22 folios now
at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich under the shelfmark Clm 27004.2
The astrologer’s name is given in the colophon: “Magister Wilhelmus Mysocacus
of Brussels wrote <this> in Deventer 16 March 1566” (“Scribebat Daventrie magister
Wilhelmus Mysocacus Bruxellensis anno domini 1566, Martii die 16”). Wilhelmus
Mysocacus (or Misocacus) is not unknown.3 He was born in Brussels in 1511 and spent
the first part of his life in the Low Countries, at least in Deventer, where he is attested
as an astrologer in 1565 and 1566. In 1568, when the Eighty Years War broke out, he fled
to Danzig (Gdańsk). There he issued an annual prognostication for the year 1571. This
prognostication must have impressed the city officials for, the ­following year, in 1572,
Misocacus was made town physician and astronomer by the Senate (with a yearly
stipend of 50 Marks). He held that position until his death in 1595 and published a
prognostication every year. Also known by him are a judgement on the comet of 1577
(Observationes astronomicae pertinentes ad novam cometam qui visus iam anno 1577,
published in Danzig in 1578) and four judgements on nativities found in manuscripts,
one for an anonymous client born of 30 December 1539 (Danzig, 1582),4 two for the
German astrologer Heinrich Rantzau (dated 24 May 1583 and 3 April 1584),5 and
one for Erik XIV of Sweden (completed in Deventer on 29 August 1565).6 The latter
was made the year before the judgement analysed here, which shows that Misocacus

2 Now available online on the website of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.


3 The most detailed account of Misocacus’s biography is Derek Jensen, The Science of the
Stars in Danzig from Rheticus to Hevelius, PhD dissertation, University of California at San
Diego 2006, pp. 28 – 36. See also Karl Schttenloher, Untergang des Hauses Habsburg,
von Wilhelm Misocacus aus den Gestirnen für das Jahr 1583 vorhergesagt: Eine verkappte
politische Flugschrift, in: Gutenberg Jahrbuch (1951), pp. 127 – 133; Günther Oestmann,
Heinrich Rantzau und die Astrologie: Ein Beitrag zur Kulturgeschichte des 16. Jahrhunderts,
Braunschweig 2004, pp. 52 – 53 and 122 – 123; Richard L. ­Kremer, Mathematical Astronomy
and Calendar-Making in Gdańsk from 1540 to 1700, in: Astronomie – Literatur – Volks­
aufklärung: der Schreibkalender der Frühen Neuzeit mit seinen Text- und Bildbeigaben,
Jena 2012, pp.  477 – 492 (pp.  480 – 483); D.  ­Kempkens, Der Erfolg der Prognostica auf dem
Buchmarkt in der frühen Neuzeit, in: Jahrbuch für Kommunikationsgeschichte 16 (2014),
pp. 5 – 27 (pp. 8 – 10 and passim).
4 MS Danzig, Bibl. Polskiej Akademii Nauk, 2253, f. 5r–48r, see Otto Günther, Katalog
der Handschriften der Danziger Stadtbibliothek, III, Danzig 1909, p. 224.
5 MS Vienna, ÖNB, 11449, s. XVI, f. 178r–185r and 195r-209r, see Oestmann, Heinrich
Rantzau (see note 3 above), pp. 53 n. 256, 122 – 123 and 140 – 145. I thank Günther Oest-
mann, who kindly sent me copies of both judgements.
6 MS Uppsala, Universitetsbibl., E 284, see Ingvar Andersson, Erik XIV och astrologien. En
översikt över materialet, in: Lychnos 1 (1936), pp. 103 – 130 (p. 124 and n. 6). My thanks to
Erik Niblaeus for translating the relevant passages for me.

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154 David Juste

was already well established as an astrologer, which does not come as a surprise, as
he was already 55.
The client’s name appears once, in the opening of the judgement: “Ioannes ­Sillyers
Machlinie” [Mechelen, present-day Belgium], born on 25 March 1514 at 10.32am
at “elevatio poli” 51°12’, which corresponds to the latitude of Mechelen. Nothing
is known about this “Joannes Sillyers of Mechelen”.7 Yet, a number of facts can be
inferred from the text. We learn that he received his master of arts at the age of 17
and his doctorate at the age of 25,8 but it is not said from what university or faculty.
He also appears to have been a lawyer or a legal advisor of some kind at the time of
the consultation,9 a charge he must have exerted at a senior level, for his relationships
to the king, prince and duke, even the duchess, are regularly alluded to. We might
see confirmation of this in Misocacus’s prediction that he will become bishop at the
age of 64 (10.24, see translation below). It is also certain that Joannes Sillyers was
a horseman who had to travel much as part of his duties. The text tells us that he
joined an equestrian military order at the age of 22 or soon after (6.7), his travels –
including long travels– are often mentioned (2.1, 3.1, 3.12, 6.7, 6.10, 6.13 – 14, 9.1 – 4 ,
10.14 – 15, 10.18 – 19) and Misocacus devotes an entire paragraph to the colours of his
horses (9.2), a paragraph which has been underlined in the text, most probably by
Joannes Sillyers himself (see below).
The judgement is clearly the presentation copy. It is written in Misocacus’s hand and
was presumably given or sent by him to his client on 16 March 1566 or shortly after.10
The circumstances of the consultation are otherwise unknown. We can only note the
geographical proximity between Deventer and Mechelen (c. 150 kms), which both
belonged to the same political entity (the Duchy of Brabant), even though we cannot

7 He does not feature in the National Biography of Belgium and further research to trace him
back was unsuccessful.
8 “Anno etatis huius nati 17 currente… Effecit ut natus honoraretur occasione doctrine sue et
magisterii, et factus est magister artium” (10.8); “Anno etatis 25 currente… hoc anno videtur
promotus ad doctoratus dignitatem et gradum” (10.10).
9 “eo quod natus sit profundus scrutator legis prudentie ac consiliarius” (1.3); “quatenus con-
siliarius existens” (2.26).
10 That Misocacus addresses Joannes Sillyers, and not a third party, is plain in the expressions
“super genethliaco tuo” and “libero arbitrio tuo” (both in 14.1). The whereabouts of the
manus­cript are otherwise unknown. Clm 27004 belongs to a group a manuscripts which
were acquired by the then Hof- und Staatsbibliothek of Munich between c. 1850 and 1881.
As far as I know, the manuscript has never been quoted in the secondary literature, besides
brief entries in the Catalogus Codicum Latinorum Bibliothecae Regiae Monacensis, II.4: Karl
Halm and Wilhelm Meyer, Clm 21406 – 27268, München 1881, p. 233, and David Juste,
Les manuscrits astrologiques latins conservés à la Bayerische Staatsbibliothek de Munich,
Paris 2011, p. 175. For Misocacu’s hand, I compared with the two judgements on the nativity
of Heinrich Rantzau (see note 5 above).

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be certain that Joannes Sillyers lived in Mechelen at the time of the consultation. It is
interesting to note, however, that Misocacus warns him about the danger of travelling
between 21 and 25 March 1566.11 The fact that this is the only prediction dated with
such precision is certainly no accident and suggests that Joannes Sillyers was meant to
pick up the judgement in Deventer and, perhaps, travel back home afterwards. In any
case, there is no evidence that Misocacus knew his client or that he knew him well. He
addresses him with the polite formulas “Domine vir ornatissime” (Exhortatio 1) and
“nobilis vir” (14.1), and there are no signs of familiarity between them. Also, while
Misocacus is aware of some basic facts about his life, as we have seen, he does not know
his circumstances in detail, as witnessed by paragraph 6.6, where he writes: “In the fif-
teenth year of the native, the direction of the ascendant reached the beginning of Leo
and changed sign and term. It meant for the native a change in status and place, perhaps
was he then sent to university”.12
From my point of view, this is why this judgement is interesting. It is an “average”
judgement, made by a town astrologer for a middle-class client who did not leave trace
in history. This contrasts with nativities for rulers and famous people, whose biography,
intentions, hopes and concerns are, to some extent, known to all, including the astro­
loger. As Anthony Grafton puts it, “astrologers found it hard to discuss royal genitures
as honestly as they could analyse the lives of private men like Petrarch”.13 The apparent
distance between Misocacus and his client makes it more likely that we are dealing with
a “honest” judgement, that is a judgement inferred from astrological theory, rather than
from previous knowledge of the life and circumstances of the client.
We are not informed about Joannes Sillyers’s reception of the judgement, but in
is interesting to note that a number of statements have been underlined in the text
(see 1.1, 1.3, 1.5, 2.8, 2.13, 2.16, 2.20, 2.30, 3.17, 6.12, 6.17, 6.20, 7.2, 9.2, 9.3, 10.3, 10.5, 10.8
and 10.10) and that, next to four paragraphs (9.2, 10.21, 10.24 and 11.2), the word “nota”
(“note”, “to be noted”) has been added in the margin by what is clearly another hand
(see Plate 4). The nature of the sections marked leaves little room for doubt that that
hand was Joannes Sillyers’s.

11 “Verumtamen in itineribus illius anni molestias percipiet circa finem revolutionis, circa diem
21 Martii anni domini 1566 usque in finem eiusdem revolutionis etatis 52 adhuc currentis,
idcirco caute sibi prospicere debebit ne cum equo periculum in itinere incurrat aut quovis
alio modo” (6.14).
12 “Anno etatis nati 15 currente pervenit directio ascendentis ad principium Leonis, mutavitque
signum et terminum. Nato significabat mutationem status et loci, forte tunc mittebatur ad
academiam” (6.6).
13 Anthony Grafton, Geniture Collections, Origins and Use of a Genre, in: Books and the
Sciences in History, ed. Marina Frasca-Spada and Nicholas Jardine, Cambridge 2000,
pp. 49 – 68 at p. 56.

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Plate 1  Joannes Sillyers’s horoscope and introductory tables (Munich, BSB, Clm 27004, f. 2r)

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Plate 2  Tables of directions, c. 3.7 (Munich, BSB, Clm 27004, f. 8r – wrongly numbered 7)

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Plate 3  Revolution of Joannes Sillyers for his 70th year, c. 6.20 (Munich, BSB, Clm 27004, f. 14v)

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Plate 4  Joannes Sillyer’s annotation in the margin, c. 10.24 (Munich, BSB, Clm 27004, f. 20v)

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The judgement

The judgement is clearly written, both in language and script, well-organised and care-
fully planned, as shown, for instance, by the cross-references.14 As far as I can judge,
the content and presentation are similar to other sixteenth-century judgements and
very close, especially in the layout, to Misocacus’s own judgements on the nativity of
­Heinrich Rantzau written in 1583 and 1584.

1. Horoscope and technical data

The first page displays the horoscope and a number of technical data in three tables (see
Plate 1). The horoscope is of course the central element of the whole piece and the arte-
fact from which the 44 pages of judgement derive. It is standard in every respect, with
the positions of the planets, lunar nodes, the part of fortune and the twelve houses, all
of which expressed in degrees and minutes. The central panel summarises the essential
data, i. e. the time of birth (25 March 1514 at 10h32am, a Saturday), which, we are told,
was rectified by Ptolemy’s animodar; the “defluxion” of the Moon, which was moving
away from the conjunction to Venus and towards the conjunction to the Sun;15 and the
indication of the geographical latitude: 51°12’. Compared with modern computation,
the planetary positions are correct within 1° (or so), which is remarkable, even by six-
teenth-century standards.16 Misocacus appears to have used Stöffler and Pflaum’s alma-
nac for 1499 – 1531 for the planets 17 and, most probably, the Tables of Louvain of 1528
for the houses, as shown in the tables below:18

14 See e. g. notes 2, 4, 6 – 7, 10, 26 – 27, 30, 32, 34, 40 and 42 to the edition in appendix.
15 On the Moon’s defluxion, see especially Firmicus Maternus, Mathesis, IV.2 – 16. Miso-
cacus considers this an aspect (see table of aspects and 2.33). His interpretation in 2.33, how-
ever, does not derive from Firmicus Maternus (see Mathesis, IV.13.10). See also the index to
the edition under “Defluxio”.
16 Note, however, that the Head and Tail of the Dragon have been inverted, a problem to which
I will return later.
17 Johannes Stöffler and Jakob Pflaum, Almanach nova plurimis annis venturis inservientia,
Ulm 1499 (March 1514).
18 Tabule perpetue longitudinum ac latitudinum planetarum noviter copulate ad meridiem alme
universitatis Lovaniensis ac plerumque aliorum necessariorum in nativitatibus requisitorum
Lovanii noviter impresse, Leuven (ex aedibus Gilberti I’ll Maes) 1528, sig. L3v. There are
slight discrepancies for the third and eleventh houses, whose positions should be below 26°
and 00° respectively. That Misocacus used the Tables of Louvain makes sense for Mechelen
(c. 25 kms northwest of Louvain) and is confirmed by the revolution for the 70th year in 6.20
(see note 27 below).

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Misocacus Stöffler/Pflaum Modern (Solar Fire Gold)


25 Mars 1514, 10:32am 25 March 1514, Noon 25 March 1514, 10:32am
Mechelen, 51°12’ 51° Mechelen, 51°02’
 24°38’  24°38’  25°00’ 
 14°20’  14°20’  13°45’ 
 20°00’  20°03’  19°07’ 
 14°00’  14°04’  13°41’ 
 27°20’  27°25’  26°36’ 
 25°25’  25°32’  24°21’ 
 02°47’  03°24’  02°01’ 
 09°53’ - 09°53’ - 11°10’ -

Misocacus Tables of Louvain 1528 Modern (Regiomontanus)


25 Mars 1514, 10:32am 25 March 1514, Noon 25 March 1514, 10:32am
Mechelen, 51°12’ 51° Mechelen, 51°02’
I 19°18’  20°  18°42’ 
II 08°50’  09°  08°10’ 
III 26°33’  26°  25°44’ 
X 20°00’  20°  18°52’ 
XI 00°09’  00°  28°48’ 
XII 18°51’  19°  17°58’ 

The horoscope is accompanied by three tables. The first one (“Anni domini et etatis
currentis”) gives the equation between the calendar years and the years of the life
of the client, something which allows dating directions in one glance. The second
table (“Aspectus planetarum”) lists all planetary aspects, except those to the Moon,
with the special mentions “futurus” (the opposition Saturn-Jupiter is in the making),
“cum receptione” (Saturn and Mars are in their mutual houses or domiciles), “parti­
liter” (the aspect is close, within 3°), “platice” (the aspect is loose). These mentions
“partiliter” and “platice” do not imply that Misocacus admitted orbs for the aspects,
as shown, e. g., by the sextile Jupiter-Venus (13° wide) and the trine Saturn-part of
fortune (over 16° wide). The third table (“Latitudo planetarum”) gives the latitude of
the planets and whether they are ascending or descending, something that M ­ isocacus
does not use much, except for the Moon which he referred twice in the table of direc-
tions in 3.7, and in 3.23.

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2. Introduction and “exhortatio”

The introduction repeats some of the technical data. The time of birth was reported
to be between the 10th and 11th hour in the morning (“before lunch”), which was
adjusted to 10.32am by Ptolemy’s animodar (Tetrabiblos, III.2). Misocacus fustigates
those who would rectify the chart by the so-called “trutina Hermetis”, because they
would find that the client was born between the 9th and the 10th hour, so c­ ontradicting
the reported time.
The animodar is a complex method, by which the estimated ascendant or mid-
heaven is moved to the degree and minute (disregarding the sign) of the planet which
has the most essential dignities in the degree of the syzygy (Full Moon or New Moon)
preceding birth.19 Here, the syzygy was a Full Moon (opposition Sun-Moon) and this
is the reason why Misocacus indicated, just below the central panel of the horoscope,
“preced<ens> 2944” (according to modern computation, that opposition took
place on 10 March 1514 at 9.21pm and the Moon was at 29°22’ Virgo). Following Ptolemy
(Tetrabiblos, III .2), in the case of an opposition, the degree of the planet above the
horizon must be chosen, i. e. the Sun at 29°44’ Pisces, a position in which leadership
in terms of essential dignities is disputed between Jupiter (domi­cile), Venus (exaltation
and triplicity) and Mars (triplicity and decan). Misocacus does not inform us about the
details of his calculations (there are varying methods to determine the ruling planet, as
well as disqualifying factors), but he clearly chose Mars, whose position is identical to
that of the mid-heaven (20°00’ – again disregarding the sign).
The introduction is followed by a brief “exhortatio”, where Misocacus warns against
all forms of astral determinism and makes it clear that the stars affect man’s body, but
not his soul and the power of his will. He borrows the often-quoted statement “the
wise man will dominate the stars”, here slightly modified into “the wise man… will easily
dominate the stars” (“sapiens… facile dominabitur astris”). This “exhortatio” is a diplo-
matic precaution typically found in astrological texts.

19 The animodar, as well as the “trutina Hermetis” and other rectification methods, are usually
discussed in the opening chapters of treatises on nativities, many of which were available in
print at the time of Misocacus. In this paper, I will refer to two influential authors (both of
whom were known to Misocacus knew, as will be shown below), namely Johannes Schöner,
De iudiciis nativitatum, Nürnberg ( Johannes Montanus & Ulricus Neuberus) 1545, see I.1,
f. 1r–2r, for the animodar; and Luca Gaurico, Isagogicus in totam astrologiam praedicti-
vam, reprinted in id., Opera omnia, Basel (Sebastian Henricpetri) 1575, vol. II, see Pars V,
­Tractatus  IIII, Caput 1, pp. 1064 – 1065, for the animodar.

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3. The significators of the nativity and the length of life (chapter 1)

In chapter 1, Misocacus lists the significators of the native, i. e. the planets which are
particularly strong. These include the so-called “almuten” (both Mars and Jupiter),
“hyleg” or “hylech” (Sun) and “alcochoden” (Sun again). The calculation of those is
highly technical and not less controversial.20
Misocacus first notes (1.1) that the most significant planet of the nativity is Mercury, to
whom Mars and the Sun are associated (“video Mercurium potenter gubernaturum vitam
huius nati, cui Martem et Solem collegas associamus”). The text tells us that this was deter-
mined on the basis of several parameters, including the ascendant, the five “places of the
hylegs” (“quinque loca hylegiorum”) and their almuten, the conditions and positions of the
seven planets, their “access” and “recess” and their mutual aspects. How Misocacus elected
Mercury, Mars and the Sun is not clear, because he does not give any detail about his method.
It should be noted, however, that no specific use of these was made in the judgement itself.
The almuten (1.2), which Misocacus calls “almuten spiritus”, is the planet that has the
most essential dignities in the five “hylegiacal places”, i. e. in the degree of the Sun, of the
Moon, of the ascendant, of the part of fortune and of the syzygy preceding birth. This is
determined by adding up the “points” of essential dignities owned by the planets in these
five places. Essential dignities are normally worth 5 points for the house (domicile), 4 points
for the exaltation, 3 points for the triplicity, 2 points for the term and 1 point for the decan.
The calculation for Joannes Sillyers, shown in the table below, gives the following results:
Jupiter 23 points, Mars 21, Sun 15, Venus 15, Moon 11, Mercury 3 and Saturn 2. This agrees
with Misocacus, although he says that Jupiter and Mars are equal (“pariter pluribus gaudeant
dignitatibus”), something which must be explained either by a mistake or by the interven-
tion of extra rules which we are not informed about. In any case, Misocacus was aware of
competing systems, as shown in the following paragraph (1.3), where he says that, accord-
ing to Petosiris and Nechepso, Jupiter would be the only “lord of the nativity” (“geniture
dominum”), a reference which I have not been able to trace down. The almuten is referred
to in the text only once, in chapter 2.17, dealing with the general complexion of the native.

House (5) Exaltation (4) Triplicity (3) Term (2) Decan (1)
Sun 14°00’      
Moon 02°47’      
AS 19°18’      
Part fortune 08°05’      
Syzygy 29°44’      

20 On the almuten, hyleg and alcochoden, see Schöner, De iudiciis nativitatum (see note 19
above), I.1, f. VIIr–Xr; Gaurico, Isagogicus (see note 19 above), V.VII.1 – 4, pp.  1077 – 1079.

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The hyleg and alcochoden (1.5) are both ascribed to the Sun, which is correct. In diurnal
nativities, the hyleg is the Sun if it is in the tenth house (which is the case here). The hyleg
is an important planet, which Misocacus uses in directions regarding health (c. 6). The
alcochoden is the planet that has the most essential dignities in the degree of the hyleg,
i. e. the Sun, again adding up the points of essential dignities. As can be seen in the table
above, the Sun leads with 8 points (exaltation, triplicity and decan), then Mars 5, Jupiter 3
and Mercury 2. The alcochoden is primarily used to determine the length of the life of
the native, which, according to Misocacus in the same paragraph (1.5), will be 70 years or –
should the native survive this– 84 years. According to astrological theory, each planet is
ascribed a number of “greater”, “middle” and “lesser” years, or 120, 69.5 and 19 for the Sun.
If the planet concerned is in an angle (houses 1, 4, 7, 10) without impediment, the ­number
of greater years applies, if it is in a succedent house (2, 5, 8, 11), the middle years, and if
it is in a cadent house (3, 6, 9, 12), the lesser years. The Sun is in an angle, but M
­ isocacus
elected the middle years (70 years) probably because the Sun is in square aspect to the
malefic Mars, which is a disqualifying factor. It should be noted, however, that the number
of years indicated by the alcochoden is indicative only and must be confirmed by other
predictive techniques (directions, revolutions…), as we shall see below.

4. General description of the native (chapter 2)

Chapter 2 provides a general account of the physical and moral characteristics of the
native. This is done first by analysing the condition of the four angles of the horoscope,
namely the ascendant (2.1), the mid-heaven (2.2 – 12), the descendant (2.13) and the lower
mid-heaven (2.14 – 15). In each case, Misocacus takes into account a range of parameters,
including the corresponding sign of the zodiac and its lord, the planet exalted therein, the
decan, the term, the aspects and, when relevant, the planets located therein. Misocacus
then turns to the complexion of the native (2.16 – 17) and, finally, to a cursory interpre-
tation of each of the planetary aspects as listed in the table on the first page (2.18 – 33).
This latter part is largely borrowed from Johannes Schöner’s De iudiciis nativitatum.21

21 See note 3 to the edition in appendix. On the other hand, Schöner is not the source for the interpretation
of the planets in the twelve houses (see De iudiciis nativitatum, II.4, f. LXXXVIv–XCIIr), which Miso-
cacus deals with in 2.1 – 15. For other borrowings from Schöner, see notes 22, 25 and 41 to the edition.

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5. Topics related to the twelve houses (chapters 3 – 13)

5.1. Methods of interpretation

Chapters 3 – 13 survey the topics represented by the twelve houses, as is common in most
judgements on nativities and in theoretical treatises on the subject. These chapters deal
respectively with the native’s fluctuations of wealth (“De fortune incrementis ac decre-
mentis”, c. 3); siblings (“De fratribus et sororibus nati”, c. 4); parents (“De parentibus
nati, patre et matre”, c. 5); illnesses and disorders of the soul (“De infirmitatibus et animi
perturbationibus”, c. 6); marriage (“De coniugio nati”, c. 7); children (“De liberis”, c. 8);
journeys, religion and dreams (“De itineribus et religione, somniisque”, c. 9); honours,
charges and dignities (“De honoribus, officiis et dignitatibus”, c. 10); friends and suppor­
ters (“De amicis et fautoribus nati”, c. 11); enemies and misfortune (“De inimicis et odio
natum persequentibus”, c. 12); and the type of death (“De qualitate mortis nati”, c. 13).
Misocacus’s method of interpretation is standard and consistent throughout. He
takes into account a range of parameters, including the planets located in the house(s)
concerned, the lord of the house(s) concerned (i. e., the planet ruling the sign in which
the cusp of the house falls), the aspects, etc. To take a brief and straightforward example,
here is what he writes about friends (c. 11):

The quality of friends is known from the nature of the planets which stand in the
­eleventh and first houses, and from the planets which rule the eleventh and first houses.
In the first house there is no planet, but the Moon rules that house. In the eleventh
house, I see Jupiter, and Venus is its lord. This means to the native many and suitable
friends, whose friendship is sincere and beneficial to him. The friends of the native will
be of the nature and complexion of Jupiter, Venus and the Moon (11.1).

Then (11.2) Misocacus lists the types of friends represented by the three planets con-
cerned ( Jupiter, Venus and the Moon), a section which is marked in the margin with
the word “nota”. The following chapter (c. 12) is dealt with in a similar fashion and also
includes a list of the types of enemies.
The space devoted to each topic varies considerably. The first house did not receive
a distinct chapter, but this is certainly because the physical and moral characteristics of
the native (i. e., the very meaning of the first house) are largely dealt with in chapter 2, as
we have seen. Other topics are neglected. This is the case for siblings (c. 4) and parents
(c. 5), which are given a few lines only, because, as Misocacus explains, astrologers have
erred on these matters, which should be inquired directly in the charts of the people
concerned. Likewise marriage (c. 7) is treated in a rather brief chapter, in which Miso-
cacus reveals perhaps more on himself than on his client. After lecturing Joannes Sillyers
on the distinction between legitimate and illegitimate union (7.1), he goes on to say that
the seventh house is under such bad condition, with Mars therein and Saturn retrograde

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as its lord, that the marriage of the native can only be damned (7.2). The condition of
the Moon and Venus –the planetary significators of the wife– does not alter the state
of affairs, the Moon being combust with a square aspect to Mars and Venus in aspect
to both Mars and S­ aturn. This leads Misocacus to conclude that “marriage is absolutely
refused to this native by the decree of fate” (“nato huic omnimode d ­ enegatur coniu-
gium fatorum imperio”), a sentence that the client underlined. In the third and final
paragraph, Misocacus goes one step further: “Should he take a wife one day (which I
doubt will happen at all), he would find her rebel, fierce, greedy…”, followed by a long
list of adjectives of the same kind (7.3). This interpretation is the reason why the topic
of children follows immediately (c. 8), in what takes only a few lines to say that since
the native will not have a legitimate wife, he will not have legitimate children either,
and astrologers do not consider illegitimate children, because some people have that
way more children than it can be believed.

5.2. Directions, revolutions and profections

Three topics received considerable attention and, not surprisingly, these concern the
native’s wealth (c. 3), health (c. 6) and honours (c. 10). For each of these, Misocacus
provides not only a general account of the kind we have seen above, but also an exten-
sive review of the directions (“directiones”),22 which take up altogether almost half of
the whole judgement. As said above, by the method of directions, a chosen significator
is given an imaginary movement of 1° per year until it reaches a significant position
in the birth horoscope by contact or aspect. The chosen significators are the part of
fortune in chapter 3 (wealth); the ascendant, the Moon and the hyleg (i. e. the Sun) in
­chapter 6 (health); and the mid-heaven and the Sun in chapter 10 (honours). In each
case, Misocacus first provides two or several tables, listing all directions from birth
to old age, together with the corresponding age of the native (see 3.7, 6.3 and 10.7 and
Plate 2). The significant positions include the seven planets and the lunar nodes, as well
as a set of fixed stars 23 and the boundaries of the signs of the zodiac. In 3.7, M
­ isocacus
explains that he directed the part of fortune not only opposite to the order of the
twelve signs (“contra successione 12 signorum”), which, he says, most astrologers
do, but also in the order of the signs (“cum successione 12 signorum”), following the

22 On directions, see Schöner, De iudiciis nativitatum (see note 19 above), III.1 and 3 – 6, and
Luca Gaurico, Directiones, progressiones sive inambulationes ascensoria tempora horimea
horarum constitutio, Roma 1560.
23 Canis Minor, Canis Maior, Cor leonis, Cervix Leonis, Media Pleiadis, Dorsum Leonis,
Cauda Leonis, Aldebaran and Hircus. In his tables, Misocacus indicates the nature of each
star (characterised by a combination of two or three planets) and its magnitude (“maiestas”).
For the corresponding interpretations, see 3.12, 3.18, 3.20, 6.19, 10.19 and 10.26.

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opinion of a certain Franciscus, described as “a franciscan monk of pious memory”,


and of Luca Gaurico.24
Misocacus then interprets each direction as listed in the tables, something he does as
thoroughly for the past as for the future of the client. Here again, a range of parameters
are taken into account, including the nature of the planets and of the significant posi-
tions involved, the aspect and the position of the point “hit”, especially in the terms. A
good example is given in 10.24, in what appears to be one climax of the judgement and
a passage marked in the margin with the word “nota” (see Plate 4):

In the year 64 of the life of this native, the direction of the mid-heaven will reach the
sinister sextile to Venus in the term of Mars, and because Venus stood in the tenth
house in the nativity, in her exaltation, in the house of Jupiter, in the term of Mars, it
will then confer the insignia of a great name and honour. It means (“Operatur”) that,
in that year, he [the native] will be splendidly decorated with the sacred ornaments and
that he will be elevated to the dignity of superior functions (“presulatus”) –provided
he himself would wish and not refuse that dignity absolutely– or, again, that he will be
promoted and raised to the dignity of a high office. I myself conjecture that the native
will be raised to the episcopate through the patronage of a famous woman… (10.24).

Directions are the main predictive method used by Misocacus, but not the only one. He
also resorts to revolutions (“revolutiones”),25 which he seems to consider essentially rele-
vant to health issues, since they feature in chapter 6 only. Misocacus sees them mainly as a
secondary factor to directions and he did not calculate them systema­tically.26 He alludes to
them in very general terms for the 16th (“et habuit tunc impiam revo­lutionem”, 6.7), 28th
(“eo quod tunc feliciorem habuerit revolutionis figuram”, 6.8), 32th to 36th (“Veru­mtamen
revolutiones prefatorum annorum meliora promittebant”, 6.9), 40th (“sed revolutionem
habuit satis idoneam”, 6.11), 52th (“sed iterum per felicem revolutionem impediuntur”, 6.14),
58th (“Habebit tunc etiam revolutionem mediocriter malam”, 6.16), 64th (“Attamen revo­
lutio illius anni erit satis grata”, 6.18) and 84th years (“habebitque tunc similiter miseram
revolutionem”, 6.21). In four cases, however, Misocacus is more explicit. On the 48th year

24 Misocacus might refer to Luca Gaurico, Tabulae de primo mobili quas directionum vocant,
Roma (Antonius Bladus) 1557, f. 27v–28v (reprinted under the title Super tabulis directionum
Ioannis Monteregiensis quoddam supplementum, Roma (Vincentius Luchinus), 1560, same
folios), where the two options are discussed. Both systems were, however, already common
before Gaurico. I do not know who that Franciscus was.
25 On revolutions, see Schöner, De iudiciis nativitatum (see note 19 above), III.1 and 11 – 15,
and Luca Gaurico, Tractatus iudicandi conversiones sive revolutiones nativitatum, Roma
(Vincentius Luchinus) 1560.
26 As made clear by his own statements: “ac interdum annuis revolutionibus interiectis” (1.6);
“et interdum aliquarum figurarum revolutionum” (6.1).

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of the native (6.12), he notes that the hazardous direction of the Moon to Saturn’s opposi-
tion in the term of Saturn was mitigated by the “favourable revolution of the year 1561, in
which the Moon was supported by Venus and Jupiter” (“sed occasione felicis revolutionis
anno 1561, in qua Luna a Venere ac Iove iuvabatur”). Misocacus does not give further details
about this revolution, but what he says is correct. According to modern computation, on 25
March 1561 at 3.30am (time of the return of the Sun to 14°00’ Aries), Mechelen being the
assumed place, the Moon was at 21°25’ Cancer, in sextile to both Venus at 23°43’ Taurus and
Jupiter at 01°58’ Taurus. In the next paragraph (6.13), on the 50th year of the native, he says
that “Saturn transited the degree of the ascendant of the radix [i. e., the nativity] and stood
in square to the Sun at the time of the revolution” (“fecit Saturnus transitum per gradum
ascendentis radicis, stetitque in hora revolutionis in quadrato Solis”). Again, this is correct.
On 25 March 1563 at 3.15pm (Mechelen), Saturn was at 12°50’ Cancer and the Sun at 14°00
Aries, and Saturn transited the ascendant of the nativity on 7 June 1563. Yet Misocacus makes
mistakes as well. In 6.17, about the revolution of the 63th year of the native, he says that the
luminaries (the Sun and the Moon) are not impeded and afflicted by the malefic planets
(“Sed quia lumina maiora in revolutione istius anni non impediuntur neque affliguntur a
malis”). This is not correct, for on 24 March 1576 at 7.00pm (Mechelen), the Sun at 14°00
Aries was in the house of Mars and in square to both Saturn at 01°11’ Capricorn and Mars
at 05°02’ Capricorn, while the Moon was in Aquarius, the house of Saturn. In other words,
the luminaries, especially the Sun, were severely afflicted by the malefic planets. Finally, and
most importantly, Misocacus provides the horoscope of the revolution for the 70th year
(6.20, see Plate 3), which is another climax of the judgement, as it is meant to be the year of
the death of the native. Here is what Misocacus wrote:

In the year 70 of the life of this native, the direction of the Sun hyleg will reach the
sinister square to the Moon in the term of Jupiter. In the same year, the direction of
the ascendant will reach the radical position of the Tail of the Dragon, whose nature
is that of Saturn and Mars, in the term of Venus. The native will have then an unfor-
tunate, unpleasant and very miserable revolution, in which the sign of the eighth
house in the radix, i. e. Aquarius, will be the ascendant of the revolution, and both
luminaries will be afflicted by the malefic planets, in particular the Moon by an oppo-
sition to Saturn from the eastern to the western angle. The Sun will be impeded by a
dexter square to Mars, Mars being in the sixth house of the revolution and the Sun
in the second. Venus, the lord of the eighth house of the revolution, will be combust
under the rays of the Sun and Jupiter will be afflicted by the presence of Saturn in the
first house of the revolution and by a square to the Moon. This miserable revolution
announces to the native a year full of afflictions, as shown here in the figure of the
revolution… [then follow more configurations with a list of health problems]. More-
over, as we said in the beginning of this nativity, the lifespan must end in the year 70
of the life of the native. Therefore, I very strongly suspect that the present year will be
that of the death of the native.

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As indicated in the central panel of the revolution, the horoscope was calculated for 25
March 1583 at 3.49am. All planetary positions are correct and agree with Cyprianus
Leovitius’s ephemerides for 1556 – 1606, which Misocacus is known to have used while
in Danzig. As for the positions of the houses, they match exactly those of the Tables
of Louvain and are correct for the indicated time.27 Misocacus also reports the various
configurations accurately, with however one small mistake, namely that the Sun is in
the first (not in the second) house. This mistake hardly affects the interpretation.
Alongside directions and revolutions, Misocacus also uses profections (“profectiones”),
another predictive method by which a significator is given an imaginary movement
of one sign per year or per month in the order of the signs.28 Misocacus uses them on
a few occasions, mainly in chapter 6, where he mentions the profection of the ascen­
dant (6.4, 6.7, 6.8, 6.11, 6.14), of the Sun-hyleg (6.11) and of the mid-heaven (10.8). For
the most part, they seem to be, like revolutions, a secondary factor to directions, even
though no directions are referred to in 6.11, 6.14, 10.8.

Concluding remarks

This brief account does probably not do full justice to Misocacus’s judgement on the
nativity of Johannes Sillyers, but I hope to have given a sense of what a professional
astrologer does. I would like to conclude here with five general remarks and a problem
to which I discretely alluded earlier.29
First, the overall impression is that we are dealing with a decent and honest judge-
ment. Misocacus’s astronomical calculations are accurate and in general correct, and
his astrological interpretations are straightforward, sound and coherent as regards
astrological doctrine (as far as this can be judged). Second, and perhaps surpri­
singly, the judgement contains very few predictions per se. Misocacus focuses on
the nature and character of the native, including in his interpretations of directions,
which look more like descriptions of a climate or atmosphere surrounding the years
under consi­deration. He generally formulates his expertise in a neutral way (“this
configuration means that…”), but he uses the first person singular when it comes to
specific predictions (“I myself conjecture that the native will be raised to the episco-
pate…”, “I very strongly suspect that the present year will be that of the death of the

27 Cyprianus Leovitius, Ephemeridum novum atque insigne opus ab anno domini 1556
usque in 1606 accuratissime supputatum, Augsburg (Philippus Ulhardus) 1557, sig. EE1v.
On ­Misocacus’s Misocacus use Leovitius’s ephemerides in Danzig, see Kremer, Mathemat-
ical Astronomy (see note 3 above), pp. 481 and 483. For the positions of the houses, see the
tables of Louvain (note 19 above), sig. L3r.
28 See Schöner, De iudiciis nativitatum (see note 19 above), III.1.4 and III.7.
29 See note 16 above.

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native…”). This change in tone reflects, I believe, the attitude of an astrologer who
carefully distinguishes between what astrological doctrine allows him to say and his
guesses. Third, while many astrologers examine directions and revolutions from the
time of the consultation, Misocacus pays considerable attention to the past of his
client (more in fact than to his future), thus exposing himself to criticism –the c­ lient
can easily compare to what actually happened. Fourth, Misocacus does not give the
impression that he attempted to spare his client. In his account of directions, he
strictly follows astrological doctrine, without trying to undermine dreadful config-
urations or to sublime good configurations. Putting aside the entertaining p­ assage
on Joannes ­Sillyers’s spouse, where Misocacus seems to have lost his temper, bad
configurations are numerous throughout the judgement, especially regarding health
(see 3.17, 3.21, 6.5, 6.7 – 13, 6.17 – 21, 10.11 – 12, 10.21, 10.23). Fifth, it would be trivial
to look for ­Misocacus’s sources. Like any professional astrologer, he used many and
none. He is familiar with his material, he understands the underlying logic of astro-
logical interpretation and resorts to his personal experience as well as, undoubtedly,
to his own collection of horoscopes.30 As we have seen, few authors are quoted by
name and when this happens, it mainly concerns a specific issue subject to dispute:
Ptolemy’s animodar vs. the “trutina Hermetis” (central panel of the horoscope and
“Introductio” 2 – 3), Nechepso and Petosiris on an alternative method for determin-
ing the almuten (1.3), and both Luca Gaurico and a certain Franciscus on the “direc-
tion” of directions (3.7). Misocacus also borrows from at least two unnamed authors,
namely Johannes Schöner on the interpretation of the aspects and some other topics
(2.18 – 29, 9.1, 10.3 – 5 and 13.8) and Firmicus Maternus on the significance of the 63th
year of life (6.17). But there is more. In 13.8, Misocacus ascribes to Ptolemy the sen-
tence “Mortis qualitas ex athazir obviante, quem interfectorem nuncupant, depre-
henditur”. This sentence is not found in Ptolemy and is instead directly borrowed
from Johannes Schöner.31 Here Misocacus clearly manipulated his source, which he
attributed to a prestigious authority.
This leads to the problem. In the nativity horoscope, the Head and Tail of the Dragon
have been inverted (the Head should be in the third house and the Tail in the ninth house).
The Head of the Dragon is particularly benevolent, while the Tail is malevolent. The pre­
sence of the Head of the Dragon in the ninth house makes the native fortunate in travels
and apt to matters pertaining to religion,32 while the Tail in the ninth house means exactly

30 In 13.4, while discussing the type of death, Misocacus remarks that Joannes Sillyers’s confi­
gurations is found in countless horoscopes, especially in horoscopes of princes.
31 See note 41 to the edition.
32 As Misocacus writes, “presentia Capitis Draconis in nona, de natura Iovis et Veneris, con-
vertet horrores et molestias itinerum in gaudium et felicem exitum, facietque in suis operi-
bus fortunatum et in profectionibus assequi bonam famam, honorem et lucrum” (9.1) and
“Caput Draconis, de natura Iovis et Veneris, in domo nona significat constantem Christianum,

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the opposite.33 In other words, the Tail of the Dragon in the ninth house is hardly compa­
tible which what Misocacus knew about Joannes Sillyers (a traveller on horseback) and
with the prediction that he will become bishop. It is not difficult to understand Misocacus’s
temptation to manipulate astronomical data. At the same time, a mistake or a momentary
lapse of reason cannot be ruled out altogether and we must leave the astrologer the benefit
of the doubt, until comparison is made with his other extant judgements.

amatorem verbi Dei et opinionis veterum” (9.5). Compare with Schöner, De iudiciis nativ-
itatum (see note 19 above), II.4, f.. XCv: “Caput <in nona domo> facit devotos et praelatos,
in suis operibus fortunatos, in profectionibus acquirent famam, honorem et lucrum, sed erunt
infortunati in fratribus et sororibus, somnia eorum vera”.
33 Schöner, De iudiciis nativitatum (see note 19 above), II.4 f. XCv: “Cauda <in nona domo>
facit volubilem in fide et devotum, infortunatum in itineribus longis et in suo exercitio”.

Appendix. Edition of the text

Editing principles

Misocacus’s judgement on the nativity of Joannes Sillyers is here edited in full, on the
basis of the autograph and only known manuscript (Munich, Bayerische Staatsbiblio­
thek, Clm 27004).

1.  The text of the manuscript is followed, except for slight amendations indicated in angle
brackets < > for letters to be added and in square brackets [] for letters to be deleted.
2.  Punctuation has been modernised.
3.  Chapter and paragraph numbers have been added.
4.  Underlined sections indicate sections which are either underlined in the text or
marked in the margin with the word “Nota” (most probably by Joannes Sillyers).
5.  Italics are used for sections borrowed (more or less) verbatim from other sources.
These are indicative only and by no means exhaustive.
6.  The two horoscopes at the beginning and in 6.20 have been reconstructed without
changes, except for the house numbers which have been added (in Roman n ­ umerals)
for convenience.

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1420 0953
2525
2720
0247
1400
0805
Natus anno 1514 Martii
Die Hora Minuto
25 10 32
ante meridiem diei 
Erecta est figura per 2000
animodar Ptholomei
Defluxio Lune
a ad 

Elevatio poli 51°12’


preced. 2944

0953 2438

<Nativity of Joannes Sillyers of Mechelen>


Fig. 1
Anni domini et etatis currentis
Nativity Aspectus
of Joannes Sillyers planetarum
of Mechelen
1514 — 1 1544 — 31  cum  futurus
1515 — 2 1545 — 32   cum  cum receptione
1516 — 3 1546 — 33  cum  partiliter
1517 — 4 1547 — 34  cum  partiliter
1518 — 5 1548 — 35  cum  platice
1519 — 6 1549 — 36  cum  platice
1520 — 7 1550 — 37   cum  platice
1521 — 8 1551 — 38   cum  platice
1522 — 9 1552 — 39   cum  platice
1523 — 10 1553 — 40   cum  platice
1524 — 11 1554 — 41   cum  platice
1525 — 12 1555 — 42   cum  platice
1526 — 13 1556 — 43  cum  platice

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1527 — 14 1557 — 44   cum  platice


1528 — 15 1558 — 45  cum  partiliter
1529 — 16 1559 — 46  a  ad  
1530 — 17 1560 — 47
1531 — 18 1561 — 48
1532 — 19 1562 — 49
Latituto planetarum
1533 — 20 1563 — 50
1534 — 21 1564 — 51  0.32 S ascendens
1535 — 22 1565 — 52  0.55 N ascendens
1536 — 23 1566 — 53  0.40 N descendens
1537 — 24 1567 — 54  0.59 N descendens
1538 — 25 1568 — 55  2.30 N ascendens
1539 — 26 1569 — 56  1.57 S ascendens
1540 — 27 1570 — 57
1541 — 28 1571 — 58
1542 — 29 1572 — 59
1543 — 30 1573 — 60

<Introductio>

1 /2r/ Anno domini 1514, natus fuit D<ominus> Ioannes Sillyers Machlinie, die 25
Martii, hora decima, minutis 32 ante meridiem, diei Saturni, hoc est in festo Annun-
tiationis gloriose Virginis, inter decimam et undecimam horas ante prandium, verum­
tamen secundum artis legem (ut statim diximus) hora 10, minutis 32. 2 Et incede-
bat harmonia celestis huiusmodi per animodar Ptholomei verificata, veluti docetur
libro 3° Apotelesmatum, capite 2°,1 et concordat cum hora mihi oblata. 3 Qui vero
hanc nativi­tatis figuram erigent per trutinam Hermetis, hoc est per viam conceptionis,
turpiter labentur errore per integram horam ac ponent hanc nativitatem inter nonam
et decimam horas ante meridiem, non obstante quod illis vite offeratur nativitatis
hora inter 10 et 11 horas.

1
Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, III.2.

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Exhortatio

1 Nolim existimes, d<omine> vir ornatissime, quod ea, /2v/ que in hoc genethliaco
scripsimus, eo nos animo dixisse quod necessario eventura adseramus. 2 Nam sapiens si
modo voluerit facile dominabitur astris et abunde quidem potens est ut vel imminens
periculum ratione discutiat vel malum venturum liberrima voluntate declinet, neque
enim in animam nostram (que spiritus est) astra aliquid agere possunt, neque voluntati
nostre vim ullam adferre, sed solummodo in corpus, in quo ceu sacco anima delitescit,
vim suam explicant, idque per adfectiones naturales ad varia operandum inclinatur, ad
hec Deus ipse clavum manu tenens, astrorum influxus frequenter immutat, atque adeo
pro sua voluntate divina, operatur omnia in omnibus. 3 Ipsi ergo laus et gloria in secula
seculorum. Amen.

1. De vite moderatoribus, hylech et periodo

1 Equidem cum diligentius per[r]imor omnia ea, ex quibus rei astronomice periti
de planetarum dominatu in singulis nativitatibus iudicare pronunciareque solent,
nempe ascendens, quinque loca hylegiorum et almuten super eis, item constitutiones
et positus septem planetarum, accessus, recessus et aspectus illorum ad invicem,
­quibus omnibus ad amussim pensiculatis, video Mercurium potenter gubernaturum
vitam huius nati, cui Martem et Solem collegas associamus. 2 Verumtamen Mars et
Iupiter erunt almuten spiritus, eo quod isti pariter pluribus gaudeant dignitatibus,
cum essentialibus tum accidentalibus, in quinque locis hylegiorum. 3 Porro Petosiris
et Neceppo Aegiptiorum reges et vates celeberrimi, solum Iovem ponunt geniture
dominum, quod verisimile est, eo quod natus sit profundus scrutator legis prudentie
ac consiliarius. 4 Interim neque minus de Mercurii, Martis ac Solis complexionibus
carebit, sed quo plures fuerint vite gubernatores eo convenientius natus ad plures
digni­tates aptus invenietur. 5 Sol preterea erit hylech et alcochoden simul, eo quod sit
in decima domo in exaltatione propria, ideo vite et annorum nati prorogator cense-
bitur, dabitque illi annos vite 70, quos si (Dei /3r/ presidio) supervinxerit, perveniet
ad annum etatis 84 currentem, observandum tamen quod sub intervallo tam longe
etatis interdum incidet in discrimina vite, necnon in notabiles egritudines, pericu­
losasque infirmitates, de quibus postea suo loco latius tractabimus. 6 Etenim nedum
ex prefatis significatoribus solummodo verum etiam ex tota denique celi harmonia
diligenter perlustrata cum directionibus et profectionibus, precipuorum significatorum
figure, necnon cum discussione totius geniture, ac interdum annuis revolutionibus
interiectis, integram curabo scribere nativitatem, favente Deo, unde prius in genere,
deinde in specie disseremus apotelesmata.

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2. De vita et moribus nati generaliter

1 Inprimis video horoscopare Cancri signum, Lune domum, signum exaltationis Iovis,
in fine secunde decurie, ac cum principio tertie decurie, sub termino Iovis, necnon in
felici aspectu Iovis, cum diametro Martis, trigono Saturni dextro, ac trigonis Mercurii
et Veneris sinistris, hominem mihi presagiunt mediocris stature, eruditi ingenii, anime
bone, stipatum amicorum copia, barba subnigra, superciliis nigris, oculis nigritantibus
vel admodum citrinis, facie denique honesta, corpore modesto non obeso (licet ascen­
dentis signum sit frigidum et humidum, unde raro inspissari debeat, refrenatur enim
crassities signi ascendentis, a planetis per aspectus circumdantibus horoscopum), sed
redditur corpus nati ad honestam mediocritatem ac iustam proportionem, unde ingenium
locum habeat cum sapientia et prudentia, sed implicabitur aliquando litibus variis et
bellis, significant tamen post diversa pericula ut plurimum victorem hostium, qui multa
tentabit, precipue itinera longa et exteras regiones perlustrabit, etiam longinquiores, ad
bellum etiam properabit ac strenuum militem se exhibebit, et /3v/ in gratiam nobilium
ac ducum exercitum perveniet, eo quod Martem habeat in exaltatione propria, sed in
multis periclitabitur, variisque quatietur incommodis, quandoque etiam in paupertate
et miseria, et licet lucri causa bellum accesserit, vel quodam naturali amore investigandi
bellorum exitus, ac varios eventus belli, nihil tamen inde ditior vel habilior fiet, circum-
dabitur etiam periculosis in aquis, periculosis in casu, periculosis a malis hominibus, in
colica passione, in pudendorum ac vesice vitiis, utrobique victoria (Dei presidio) evadet,
donec tandem Deo iuvante ad altissimum dignitatis gradum pe<r>veniat, nimirum
postquam variis sollicitudinibus, distracto animo, et tempore multo cruciatus fuerit,
semper tamen perseverabit in subtili ingenio, quamquam interdum tardiusculo paulo,
eritque placidus, suavis, quietus et quandoque iracundus, qui cum stomacho infestabitur
malos quosque, sed cuius ira citissime placatur et cum populo gravi laudabitur, ac propter
moderatam gravitatem et ingenii prudentiam eo promovebitur, ut publicis quibusdam
officiis prelatus, ex illis victum et vite necessaria habeat, siquidem ad magnas dignitates
promovebitur, unde laudem et eximiam gloriam assequetur.
2 Pisces in medio celi, in tercia decuria, cum hexagono Martis sinistro, sextili Iovis
dextro, cum presentia Mercurii et Veneris, quoque cuspidem medii celi, Sole ac Luna
existentibus in decimo domicilio, gratum efficient principibus et magnatibus ac viris
doctissimis, cancellario et consiliariis et nobilibus matronis ac delicatis veneris nitidulis
prolibus, cum quibus ut plurimum quotidianas conversationes et consuetudines multas
habebit, apud quos exaltabitur, ac in summo honore habebitur, tam apud nobiles mar-
tiales, a quibus ad equestrem ordinem excipietur, eques auratus efficietur, eo quod /4r/
Mars gradum medii celi aspiciat partiliter ab exaltatione propria, hinc a martialibus
e­ xaltabitur. 3 Item propter Mercurii presentiam prope cuspidem medii celi, apud ingenio­
sos mercuriales, philosophie prossesiones, mathematicos, arithmeticos, cancellarios et
omnis generis artifices ingeniosos propter ingenii sui culturam atque doctrine pruden-
tiam honorabitur et ad magisterii honores exaltabitur, imo Mercurius in medio celi natos

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sublimare solet ad cancellariatus dignitatem. 4 Et Venus in medio celi cum Mercurio


residens omnia suaviora decernit, decorem decori, virtutem virtuti, venustatem venus-
tati et prudentiam addit prudentie, quin et totum quod bonum ab Iove (ut sequitur),
Mercurio et Marte presitum est, vel a Sole adhuc donabitur, illud Venus polit, ornat,
venum exponit, ut magis ac magis placeat. Denique ut nichil sit rerum omnium quod
illi non donatum videatur. 5 Faciet interim Venus cum Mercurio ibidem ut eloquentia
ac singulari literatura plus celeris prepolleat, musicam teneat et cantus rationes sciat ac
pulcherrimas historias recitare valeat. 6 Item Mercurius in tam sublimi loco existens,
transitum facit a sextili Martis ad trigonum Saturni, significat quod hic natus regum
et principum internuncius efficietur et quod ad illorum consilium accitus maximos
ac summos honores consequetur, potissimum quia variis linguis ac modestissima elo-
quentia dotatus erit, ut patet ex partili constitutione Mercurii et Veneris in decimo
domicilio. 7 Item Venus in Piscibus, in signo proprie exaltationis ibidem, exaltatum
iri pronunciat apud nobilissimam matronam, apud quam utilissima assequetur officia,
dignitates et claros honores, ac publica munera pertractabit cum lucro et honore, et in
singulis actionibus suis plurimum commendabitur, et prefato inclite mulieris patro­
cinio in dies clarior ac honoratior efficietur ac veterum omnium fere compos efficietur.
8 /4v/ Item quia Pisces in medii celi culmine, Iovis domicilium, existentes, felices Iovis
radios, hexagonos dextros excipiunt, pronunciant natum plerumque exaltatum iri apud
consiliarios, apud quos sacro doctoratus pilleo ornabitur et ad magistratum evehetur,
quorum patrocinio facilem auram, laudem et altissimum nomen sibi vendicabit, unde
tandem lucrorum copiosa presidia sequentur, quia etiam ob egregia ipsius nati facinora
pleclarasque actiones, erit apud potentiores dignitate et gratia perspicuus. 9 Eadem fere
presagiuntur a Solis constitutione in decima domo, in signo exaltationis sue, quare apud
reges, principes et magnates exaltabitur, ac mirum in modum venerabitur, quippe qui
fideliter atque solenter regum ac principum negotia peraget et absolvere non cessabit,
quia de causa omnibus amicis suis oportunus existet, et consanguinitatis sue decus
eximium efficietur. 10 Item ob eandem Solis constitutione maximas amicitias apud reges,
principes et magnates inveniet, quem etiam potentiores summo favore et benevolentia
prosequentur, quippe qui mutuam cum nobilibus inibit benevolentie necessitudinem. 11
Rediget quoque prefata Solis constitutio natum imperiosum, audacem, mag<na>nimum,
munificum, sed honoris appetentem, fere nihil humile regitantem et nullius preterquam
laudis avarum, quare singulas actiones suas eo dirigere conabitur, ut reipublice prosit,
sibique laudem et claritatem pariat. 12 Item Lune positus in decima domo, defluens a
Veneris presentia ad locum Solis, a nobilibus mulieribus, reginis, inclitis matronis et
duxissa, favores eximios decernit ac honores a communi vulgo denotat, et potissimum
inclite mulieris vel duxisse necessitudinem inire faciet, cuius favore et patrocinio offi-
cium aliquod utile et honorigerum sortietur, muliebribus quippe negotiis admodum
occupatus, lucrorum copiosa presidia et cum honoribus laudem sibi comparabit et in
singulis actionibus suis commendabitur et apud utriusque sexus nobiles in magno pre-
cio habebitur ac honorabitur.

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13 /5r/ Capricornus, signum exaltationis Martis, in occasu, in fine secunde decurie,


necnon in principio tertie decurie, sub termino Veneris, cum presentia Martis, prope
cuspidem septime domus, ac trigono scilicet Iovis dextro et hexagono Saturni sinistro,
ac sextili Mercurii et Veneris sinistro, faciet latenti pulsari invidia, postea tamen ­quieta
ratione componetur, verumtamen post multa inequabilitatis incommoda, interim
ingenio­sum semper efficiet et acutum mentis investigationibus adornatum, sed damni­
ficabitur eius coniugium, unde vix unquam (ut reor) uxorem ducet, attamen de coniugio
postea suo loco latius disseremus,2 absconsi cuiusdam doloris vel incommodi sermenta
sustinebit, ac infinitis quasi animi doloribus quandoque fatigabitur, presertim in iuventa,
sed processum temporis, et in senecta, maxima felicitatis incrementa consequetur, unde
maxima lucra et quotidiana incrementa ac magnifice dignitatis insignia pollicentur.
14 Virginis signum in imo celi, in tertia decuria, sub termino Iovis, cum trigono
­Martis dextro, ac Mercurii et Veneris diametro, cum oppositione Solis ac Lune ad
quartam domus, pro temporum varietate et incremento iuxta conditionem incommo-
dorum, sic et abundantiam augebit atque fortunam, ac tandem aliis preficietur adeo, ut
archana et secreta illi concredantur et negotia maxima, que nonnisi optimis viris dari,
consueverunt. 15 Diameter Mercurii, Veneris, Solis et Lune ad quartam domum faciet
in iuventa dispergere patrimonii substantiam, multisque laboribus fatigari, sed tandem
reddetur omnibus partibus secundus ac aliis necessarius, atque extrema senectutis spacia
perveniet, bonoque sepulture decorabitur honore.
16 Quantum vero ad complexionem huius nati attinet, dicimus choleram predomi-
nari, unde cholericus censebitur, sed a subdominante pituita maxime contemperabitur
in illo cholera, unde assiduo conatu mul/5v/ta dissimulare poterit, que ad cholericam
complexionem pertinent, unde calidi et sicci cholerici vocantur, sintque tales pro-
clives ad ebrietatem ob stomachum et calidum cerebrum, idcirco in promptu sunt
iracundi et proni ad verbera, ubi vero a subdominante pituita hec contemperantur, ut
caliditas cerebri reddatur, humectior facit, tunc optimam complexionem, ut natura
rationis norma multa stimulare poterit, que alias precipitantur, et indiscrete cholera
suadente perficeret, quare iam non iracundus, aut verbere, vel ebriosus vocabitur, eo
quod virtutum autoritate omnia hec vitia superet, inclinabitur quidem faciliter ad
iram, redibit item faciliter ad gratiam, disponitque hec temperata complexio natum
aptum ad consilia et ad prudenter dispensanda publica negotia ratione temperamenti
et caloris. 17 Et quia in precedentibus Martem cum Iove appellavimus almuten spiri-
tus, idcirco post bonam dispositionem, qua a Iove ad consilia aptus redditur (?), addit
etiam Mars audaciam, non eam qua temere abutuntur martiales, sed talem, scilicet,
circumspectam prudentem, cum qua maxima tractabit atque prostituet posteris suum
nomen, factis suis agregiis et celeberrimis, maxime in persecutione malignantium et
impiorum hominum. Hactenus de complexione dicta sufficiant.

2 See chapter 7 below.

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18 Ceterum 3 de aspectibus planetarum ad invicem, talia recitantur apotelesmata,


inprimis a diametro Saturni a Iovem futuro, exitia rerum agendarum multa decernun-
tur et post gravia ac periculosa iuventutis incommoda, vite finis cum prosperitate succedet,
et commodis, candetque post nebulam Phoebus.
19 Saturnus sextilis aspectus ad Martem (cum receptione) natum acceptum faciet
magistratui et senibus, necnon equestri ordini, decernitque in futuro maxima lucra et
quotidiana commoda.
20 Saturni trigonus cum Venere partiliter, Venere existente in dignitate sua, natum
efficit manifestum, pium, /6r/ pudicum, bone conversationis, et fame, sed qui a vilibus
personis invidie labe pulsetur, sed tarde, vel potius nunquam, faciet uxori copulari.
21 Saturnis trigonus cum Mercurio partiliter natum in rebus agendis doctum, pru-
dentem et sapientem significat, bonum virum, eruditum, cordatum, ingeniosum, aptum
ad disciplinas capescendas, publicis prepositum computis aut fiscalibus rationibus, vel regis
scribam aut consiliarium, aut alterius principis, ex quibus magna illi conferantur subsidia
facultatum, potissimum quia Mercurii sydus in domo decima collocatur.
22 Saturni trigonus cum parte fortune platice rei familiaris congerende pollicetur occasio­
nem, unde accessio bonorum ex agricultura et ex rebus hereditariis sive stabilibus, utpote
edificiis, prediis; rerum cuiusdam principis saturnii vel senescentis patrocinio aliquam
afferet utilitatem, alioqui honorifice et lucrigere legationis munera et aliorum lucrorum
presidia, non tamen sine sudoribus atque maxima difficultate et quapiam moru­la, sed in
iuventute significabat voluntariam paterne facultatis iactu­ram non mediocrem.
23 Iovis trigonus cum Marte platice, Marte existente in exaltatione propria et in domo
septima, natum hunc audacem reddit, periculis variis se exponentem in iuventa, ab hosti­
bus apertis circumdabitur, a quibus Deo favente eximetur, hinc erit honoris cupidus et
victorie, eritque fidelis administrator rerum domini sui vel domine, ob que consequetur
maxime dignitatis insignia, cui maximi honores crebris iudiciis conferentur.
24 Iovis hexagonus cum Venere platice, et in aptis figure locis, gratiam significat
venustatis, bonis assotiat, et honestis ac magnatibus amore coniungit, fidumque consor-
tis affectum demonstrat, patrimonii et dignitatis augmenta, que et amicorum causa sibi
m
­ erito, conferentur, significat preterea quod patrocinio cuiusdam inclite mulieris ad
altum digni­tatis fastigium cum honore et quotidiano lucro sublimabitur.
25 /6v/ Iovis vero sextilis aspectus cum Mercurio platice ostendit natum sane ingenio­
sum, prudentem, cordatum, intelligentem, sapientem, prudentiam legis amplectantem,
in summa acerrima ingenii postetate fulgentem, omnia negotia prospere exequentem,
omnibus prepositum potentissime occasione promotionis sue atque doctrine merito
digni­tatis et qui semper ex suis actibus laudetur et placeat publica officia sua vite trantando.

3 Sections in italics (2.18 – 21, 23 – 25, 27 – 29) are borrowed from Schöner, De iudiciis nativ-
itatum, II.2. Paragraphs 19, 24, 25 and 28 are taken from the trine aspect (sextile aspects are
ignored by Schöner).

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26 Iovis hexagonus cum parte fortune placite decernit, quatenus consiliarius


existens, principum vel magnatum patrocinio munera rerum quippe mobilium et
divitias opulentissimas, sortietur etiam amicorum favore. Et quod a potentioribus
suscipiet officia utilissima unde illi non mediocris divitiarum cumulus accedet,
rediget preterea ille celorum influxus natum hunc fortunatum, felicem, laudatum
atque honoratum.
27 Martis tetragonus cum Sole ex angulis, utrisque in exaltatione propria existen-
tibus angulariter, Sole superior<i> existente, multa mala decernit, in iuventa morbos
acutos, in adolescentia pericula a quadrupedibus necnon ab equis calcitrosis, unde
in crure minantur vulnera, similiter ab inimicis in capite cruentosam cicatricem
infliget et metuendum dextro oculo periculum. Ille infaustus celorum influxus magni
cuiusdam mavortii principis seu militis inimicitias, odia et seditiones obnunciat, et
­aliorum periculorum vite discrimina nimium metuenda, nimirum anno etatis eius 28
currente,4 solet preterea talis celorum influxus significare fortunarum rapinas, furta
et expilationes ab inimicis martialibus, ac in bello multas adversitates obnunciare, ac
fere infinita metuenda discrimina, et quandoque destruere publica officia, in quibus
antea natus fuerat constitutus.
28 Martis sextilis aspectus cum Venere platice mulierum causa labores portendit,
nihilominus tamem assidua lucra ac a quadam nobilissima matrona opimum et utile
officium, eo quod Venus in decima, propria exaltatione, constituatur, quapropter duxisse,
principis mulieris patrocinio ad a<l>tissimum dignitatis gradum necnon ad officium
lucrigerum cum honore sublimabitur.
29 /7r/ Martis vero hexagonus cum Mercurio platice, nati animum ad sapientiam
provocat, computus et rationes publicas administrare facit et in his laudatum illum reddit,
et ut in omnibus negotiis fortiter agat, unde prosperos semper consequa<n>tur eventus,
literarum officia directe secreteque tranctando.
30 Martis oppositus aspectus ad partem fortune obnunciat iacturas et bonorum
distractiones ex rapinis servorum vel militum sive latronum expilationibus, seu quovis
alio furto, quin etiam militarum virorum patratu 5 plurima dispendiorum genera ob
inimicitias gravas, excitabitque plerosque invidos suis opibus inhiantes, obnunciat
preterea damna in equis et quadrupedibus magnis eo quod pars fortune a Marte t­ ali­ter
afflicta duodecimam domum inhabitet. Solet insuper ibidem adversam fortunam
significare propter arrestacionem vel captivitatem, et occasione, pravarum mulierum.
31 Solis quadratus aspectus cum parte fortune platice fortune detrimenta minatur ex
litibus, ac dispendia infert odio potentiorum sive propter iram regis, bonorum iacturas
decernit, aut ob arrestationem vel exilum aut captivitatem a potentioribus incommoda,
et falcultatum detrimenta nato presagit.

4 See 6.8 and 10.11 below.


5 Read “patrata”.

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32 Veneris constitutio cum Mercurio partiliter gratiam et donum diversarum lingua-


rum nato decernit, blandiloquentiam, eloquentiam et amatorem musice artis efficit, quem
et musice studium teneat ac musicis instrumentis quandoque moduletur, qui delectatur
pictis tabulis et statuarum pulchritudine capiatur, tapetes et ornamenta variegata diligat.
33 Defluxio Lune a Venere ad coniunctionem Solis significat natum appetere magno­
rum virorum, regum ac principum utriusque sexus conversationem, apud quos etiam in
maxima estimatione reputabitur ac sublevabitur ad summos honores, eo quod eadem
constellatio in decima domo contingat, Venere ac Sole existentibus in exaltatione ­propria,
quapropter natus interdum ambassiator, /7v/ legatus aut internuncius et inter reges et
principes utriusque sexus constituetur, perficietque negotia illi commissa honorifice
atque prudenter. Hactenus de hac nativitate in genere dicta sufficiant. Sequuntur iam
queda<m> apotelesmata in specie.

3. De fortune incrementis ac decrementis

1 Quia significatores et dispositores partis fortune, necnon domus secunda, bene adficti
sint et in oportunis ac fortibus locis figure, presagiunt natum fortunatum iri in vita sua. 2
Inprimis Sol, dominus secunde domus, in decima, benigno aspectu trigono ­sinistro irrorans
domum secundam, fortune incrementa portendit favore regum ac principum utriusque
sexus et magnatum, ducum, comitum, quorum patrociniis interdum locu­pletabitur, item,
occasione Lune, dispositricis partis fortune, divitiarum affluentiam favoribus nobilium
matronarum, regine, duxisse et aliarum nobilium mulierum. 3 Siquidem Luna in domo
decima multiplicat honores, dat utilitatem a magnis principibus utriusque sexus, similiter
a vulgo comuni, item ex rebus aquaticis et occasione legationum longorum itinerum. 4
Attamen pars fortune in domo duodecima, in q­ uadrato sinistro Lune, minatur aliquando
detrimenta in locis aquosis et in peregrinationibus longinquis, dispendia maiora compen-
diis et, propter lites cum nobili muliere vel plebecula, aut arrestationes <aut> fortunarum
expilationes. 5 Item que Saturni natura bona circa incrementa fortune denunciantur in
precedentibus ostendimus, a trigono Saturni ad partem fortune, legito ibidem.6 6 Que
autem de Martis complexione mala presaguntur, etiam in precedentibus diximus.7
7 Sequuntur quedam particularia ex directionibus partis fortune. Hanc igitur direxi
utraque via, nempe contra successionem signorum, ut semper fieri assolet, et cum succes-
sione signorum, secundum opinionem prestantissimi viri et profundi astrologi, scilicet
Francisci, monachi francisciani quondam pie memorie, necnon secundum opinionem
viri prestantissimi, Luce Gaurici, episcopi Civitatensis reverendissimi, quorum in hac
directione opinionem imitari volui. /8r/

6 See 2.22 above.


7 See 2.27 – 30 above.

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Directio  contra Directio  cum


successionem 12 signorum: successione 12 signorum:
 sinistrum. 7.0  sinistrum 7.0

 30 9.30  sinistrum 7.10

 sinistrum 12.25  14.30

 sinistrum 14.0  dextrum 20.15

 sinistrum 24.36  sinistrum 21.20

 sinistrum 35.0  sinistrum 24.0

30 36.30 0 27.30

 sinistrum 38.0  sinistrum 31.0

 sinistrum 38.28 Canem Minorem, , prime 41 31.0

 40.0 Ad Canem Maiorem, de natura , prime 45.30

 sinistrum 43.20  sinistrum 46.50

 45.40 Cor , , prime 48.0

 30 54.36  sinistrum 47.30

 sinistrum 59.30 Cervicem , , secunde 48.30

 62.0  dextrum 60.30

 sine lati<tudine> 67.30 0 69.10

 cum latitu<dine> 69.30  81.30

 30 68.30  sinistrum 89.15

 69.25

 70.0

 sinistrum 70.30

 sinistrum 72.28

 dextrum 75.0

 30 82.15

8 Ex tabulis istis directionum apprime videre licet quando accedent nato fortune
8

incrementa aut decrementa. Plane ex utraque directionis tabula constat quod non
crescent fortune commoda ante completionem anni etatis 21 inclusive, sed ab anno etatis
eius 15 currente usque in annum 21 inclusive fortuna extitit illi prorsus contraria, unde ex

8 Read “prime maiestatis” (see infra).

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furto vel rapina iacturam fortune passus est, et a commilitonibus mercurialibus, videlicet
constudentibus, furtim quedam ablata sunt, potissimum anno etatis quintodecimo
labente. Deinde anno 16 similiter, neque ullo pacto habuit prosperum fortune successum
usque in annum etatis eius 21 inclusive.
9 Anno etatis eius 22 currente creverunt fortune commoda per senescentes fautores,
statim postea per homines mercuriales, philosophie studentes, quibus forte prelegendo
prefuit, cum honesto fortune augmento. Duravit hec felix fortune influentia usque in
annum etatis nati 24 inclusive.
10 Anno etatis eius 25 dilabente arrisit illi fortuna favore no/8v/bilium, tam mulierum
quam virorum, eo quod prefata directio sortis fortune cum successione signorum prius
pervenit ad trigonum Veneris sinistrum et contra successionem signorum pervenit ad
hexagonum Solis sinistrum sub Veneris termino. Idcirco ab anno etatis eius 25 currente
cepit prefata fortune progressio lucra conferre et dignitatis insignia a potentioribus.
Etiam ab eo tempore cepit maiorem consuetudinem ducere cum nobilibus quam antea
unquam consueverat, cum fortune incremento, etenim prefata directio ad hexagonum
Solis attestatur semper substantiis et honoribus nati cum corporis salubritate et mentis
tranquillitate. Verumtamen a directione medii celi videtur favores nobilium contraxisse
ab anno etatis 23 currente, unde substantie emolumenta et honoris commoda erumpe-
bantur. Duravit hec influentia bona usque in annum 27 inclusive.
11 Anno etatis nati huius 28 labente pervenit directio partis fortune (cum successione
signorum) ad primum punctum Leonis. Status et fortune mutationem significabat,
impedimenta quedam impendebant usque in annum etatis 31 inclusive.
12 Anno etatis nati 32 defluente pervenit directio sortis fortune (cum successione
signorum) ad trigonum Lune sinistrum sub Iovis finibus. Occasione alicuius officii ac
favoribus nobilium mulierum divitias corrasisse apparet et, occasione alicuius lucrigere
legationis, in qua plus solito venerabatur, fortune ampliationem portendebat. Eodem
anno labente pervenit prefata directio ad stellam fixam Canem Minorem, de natura
Martis et Mercurii. Oblatratores nato obstrusit occasione bone fortune sue, et invidos
martiales ac mercuriales, et in itinere aliquas difficultates, sed tandem natus contra emu-
los suos victoriose prevaluit. Duravit hec ambigua celestis influentia usque in annum
etatis 34 inclusive.
13 Anno etatis nati 35 currente pervenit directio partis fortune (contra successionem 12
signorum) ad trigonum 9 Lune sinistrum sub Mercurii termino. Iterum ratione /9r/ ali-
cuius legationis et profectionis fortune commoda denunciantur et quod natus locuple-
tari debebat favore nobilium mulierum ac vulgi absque nimio sudore et ex consequenti
apud exteras nationes plus solito venerabatur, apud utriusque sexus nobiles. Duravit hec
constellatio usque in annum etatis eius 36 inclusive.

9 Sic for “hexagonum”.

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14 Anno etatis huius nati 37 dilabente pervenit directio partis fortune (contra succes-
sionem 12 signorum) ad extremum punctum Tauri sub Martis finibus, fortune et status
mutationem portendebat usque in annum etatis eius 38 inclusive.
15 Anno etatis eius 39 currente pervenit sortis fortune directio (contra signorum
ordinem) ad hexagonum Veneris sinistrum sub Saturni finibus. Honorigerum necnon
lucrigerum officium nato importabat inclite mulieris presidio, unde divitiarum et hono­
rum incrementa pollicentur et in posterum lucrorum copiosa presidia. Perseveravit
presens constellatio diutius eo quod medii celi directio eodem anno pariter pervenit
ad primum punctum Tauri sub Veneris finibus.
16 Anno etatis huius nati 40 labente pervenit prefata directio (contra signorum seque-
lam) ad hexagonum Mercurii sinistrum, etiam sub Saturni finibus. Partim ­occasione
proprii ingenii solertia, partim occasione mortuorum et ex computationibus vel ratione
literarum hereditariarum lucrorum copiosa portendebat presidia et in peregrinationibus
lucra, promittebat multo affluentiora dispendiis, sed circa finem eiusdem anni contra­
rium pollicebatur, veluti protinus sequitur.
17 Anno etatis huius nati 41 defluente pervenit directio partis fortune (contra succes-
sionem signorum) ad oppositum Saturni. Talis constellatio sane magnam supellectilem
sive fortunarum magnam congeriem dilacerare consuevit propter saturniorum rapinas,
furta et expilationes, quandoque propter ludos alearum et taxillorum cum saturninis, et
interdum, dum natus obsidem se exponit, spondetque /9v/ pro alio. Tunc enim natus,
propter invidos in eius facultates inhiantes, in periculis diffortunii discrimina pertulisse
videtur, cuius infortunii gemis partim minabatur facultatibus illius ab anno etatis 40
adhuc defluente, ac perseverabat infeliciter usque in annum etatis eius 45 inclusive,
interim semper diffortuniis obnoxius erat.
18 Anno etatis huius nati 46 currente pervenit directio partis fortune (cum succes-
sione 12 signorum) ad astrum Iovis et contra successionem signorum ad Canem Maiorem,
stellam fixam sic appellatam, prime maiestatis, de natura Iovis et Martis. Occasione iuris-
prudentie ac sapientie nati, decernebat quatenus alicuius magni principis iovii patrocinio
vel cardinalis aut episcopi munera rerum facultatum sortiebatur vel forte officium aliquod
honorigerum, unde tandem ei non mediocris divitiarum cumulus accessit, ceterum in
cunctis actionibus atque potentiorem negotiis administrandis, presens directio natum
redegit fortunatum, felicem laudatum et honoratum. Vicit quoque contra ablatratores
invidos, neque quisque poterat illi resistere. Et licet hic de quodam officio mentio fiat
non interim leditur autoritas officii de quo in precedentibus mentionem fecimus sub
anno etatis eius 39 currente,10 eo quod eius apotelesmata nondum expirarunt. Durabit
p<r>eterea presens felix effectus usque in annum etatis eius 54 inclusive cum prosperis
successibus in officiis suis.

10 See 3.15 above.

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19 Anno etatis nati huius 47 adhuc defluente pervenit directio partis fortune (cum
successione signorum) ad trigonum Solis sinistrum sub Saturni finibus. Significat quod
a rege seu potentioribus lucra contulerit et dignitatis insignia vel alicui preferture ab
rege vel potentioribus ingressus est, unde factus est ferme omnium veterum compos.
Perseverabit feliciter ac fortunate progrediendo usque in annum etatis eius 58 inclusive,
semper manendo in favoribus principum utriusque sexus.
20 Anno etatis eius 59 dilabente perveniet directio sortis /10r/ fortune ad Cor
Leonis stellam fixam taliter appellatam, de natura Martis et Iovis, primi honoris, luminis
fulgentissimi. Auspicio regis seu magni principis decernit copiosam affluentiam divi-
tiarum sive lucrorum egregia presidia et ex consequenti honores amplissimos perennes.
21 Anno etatis huius nati 60 currente perveniet directio partis fortune (contra
signorum 11 sequelam) ad tetragonum Martis sinistrum sub Mercurii finibus, et anno
etatis statim sequente, 61 etatis, perveniet cum signorum ordine ad quadratum Saturni
dextrum sub termino Martis. Hostiles sane erunt directiones obnunciant enim bonorum
iacturas et expilationes aut ab incendio gravia detrimenta per homines martiales et
saturninos aut forte spolietur a latronibus vel amittet facultates suas in bello. Incurret
enim plurima dispendiorum genera ob inimicitias graves et lites cum martialibus et
satur­ninis, ac fures illi callide insidiabuntur et alii inhiabunt opibus eius, caute tunc
sibi prospiciat, iacula 12 enim previsa minus feriunt. Perseverabit hec indigna constellatio
usque in annum etatis 62 inclusive.
22 Anno etatis eius 63 defluente perveniet directio sortis fortune (contra signorum
seriem) ad locum Solis sub Mercurii finibus. Dispendia decernit aliquando honorata
honoris gratia vel magni principis vel ut aliis liberalis et munificus videatur, interdum
etiam auget divitias favore regis et principum aut aliis occasionibus de dominio Solis.
Durabit tamen feliciter presens constellatio usque in annum etatis 67 inclusive.
23 Anno etatis huius nati 68 dilabente perveniet prefata directio (contra signorum
ordinem) ad locum Lune radicis, omissa latitudine Lune, sed adhibita Lune latitudine
perveniet anno etatis 70 currente ad locum Lune radicis. Significat quod iterum patro-
cinio nobilium mulierum augebit divitias, dabitque lucra a plebeis aut iterum nuncius
ab inclita muliere destinabitur et in legatione illa multum lucrabitur et plus solito
­venerabitur. Durabit ille felix effectus usque in annum nati 70 inclusive. /10v/ Hinc
postea namque amplius perveniet prefata directio ad infausta loca planetarum, licet
etiam vixerit usque in centesimum etatis annum.

11 “Signorum” written twice.


12 Andreas Capellanus, De amore, 1.6.220.

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4. De fratribus et sororibus nati

Solent astrologi (ut ordinem dicendorum observent) multa de fratribus et sororibus


hallucinari, sed que ad alium quam ad ipsum natum pertinent, ea difficulter ex nativi­
tatibus iudicantur, nec parem cum ceteris predictionibus certitudinem habent. De
fratribus igitur et sororibus nati si quis particularia scire desideraverit, hec ex propria
illorum genitura indagare necesse erit.

5. De parentibus nati, patre et matre

Hoc iudicium perinde est ut superius de fratribus et sororibus nati, neque adeo neces­
sarium est, ut pleraque alia, neque adeo certum, ut que de propriis effectibus e geni­
tura nati sumuntur, sed tamen cum geniture filiorum et parentum similitu­dinem
quandam et convenientiam occultam inter se habeant. Fit ut ex filiorum nativi­
tatibus cognoscantur etiam fere parentum dispositiones et status, dicunt econtra e
parentum genesi qualitas et accidentia filiorum, conversa ratione generaliter iudicari
possunt. Idque tum maxime cum significatores parentum sunt insigniter afflicti, ut
sepe fit in infaustis geni­turis, ubi vel mater in partu extinguitur vel infans ex materno
utero excinditur. Hec ideo de paren­tibus nati admonere libuit, ut ordinem (secun-
dum domorum rationem) observem. Ideoque si quis particularia de parentibus scire
velit, is multo certius hec ex propria illorum genitura deprehendet, sed illis dimissis
ad alia digrediamur.

6. De infirmitatibus et animi perturbationibus

1 Sub hoc capitulo de corporis infirmitatibus complectuntur fere omnia accidentia


vite nati que corpori et animo eius contingunt, veluti sunt corporis infirmitates, animi
commo­tiones, melancholice perturbationes, ire, tristicie et cure quotidiane que illi in
vita accidunt. Propterea plerumque longius protrahitur hoc capitulum cum explicatio­
ni­bus directionum hylegialium et interdum aliquarum figurarum revolutionum, veluti
in sequentibus dilucide patebit.
2 /11r/ Quia ascendens et Sol hylegium precipuum non sunt libera a malis, non
obstante quod domus sexta (que infirmitatis habitaculum vocatur) a malis non impe-
diatur, hinc claret quod corpus nati huius interdum proclive trahetur ad diversas
alterationes nunc ad calidas, nunc quoque ad frigidas, attamen non tam frequenter
languebit, ut ceteri interdum, eo quod sexta domus a malevolis non affligatur.
3 Preterea a directionibus ascendentis, Lune ac Solis hylech, corpus illius quandoque
diversis implicabitur symptomatibus, veluti statim in sequentibus patebit.

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Directio ascendentis: /11v/ Directio  hylech cum successione


signorum:
 0.25  sinistrum 4.0

 dextrum 6.50 0 11.30

 sinistrum 7.30  24.0

 sinistrum 10.10 Mediam Pleiadis, , 5e 26.30

0 14.20  sinistrum 27.36

 sinistrum 17.40 Hircum, , 1 e 29.0

Canem Minorem, , 1 e 18.40  32.0

Canem Maiorem, , 1 e 33.12  sinistrum 33.0

 sinistrum 34.0  sinistrum 34.30

Cervicem , , 2e 34.30 0 36.30

 sinistrum 34.30 Aldebaran, , 1e 42.15

Cor , , 1e 45.10  sinistrum 38.30

 defl<uentem> 48.36  sinistrum 50.30

Dorsum , , 2e 49.20  sinistrum 62.0

0 56.50  sinistrum 64.0

Caudam , , 1e 67.54 0 67.0

 70.0  sinistrum 69.30

 sinistrum 77.0  sinistrum 83.12

 dextrum 84.36

Directio  cum gradu a  0 Directio  contra successione


cum successione: signorum, quia hylech:
 10.30  sinistrum 36.30

 sinistrum 15.30  67.0

0 24.0

 38.0

Mediam Pleiadis, , 5e 42.30

 sinistrum 43.15

 47.30

 sinistrum 48.30

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 sinistrum 50.0

0 52.40

 sinistrum 55.0

Aldebaran, , 1e 56.30

Hircem, , 1e 58.0

 sinistrum 67.30

 sinistrum 74.0

 sinistrum 81.0

0 84.0

4 /11r/ Anno primo etatis labente, mense quarto currente, incidit in calida symptomata
de natura Martis propter directionem ascendentis ad oppositum Martis factam, n ­ ecnon
propter profectionem ascendentis eodem mense (nempe Augusti principio) ad tetrago-
num Martis dextrum peractam.
5 Anno quinto etatis labente pervenit directio Solis hylech ad quadratum Martis sinis­
trum sub Mercurii termino in signo igneo. Quapropter suscitavit vehementes calores
in universo corpore eius qui causam prebebant acutis morbis ac febribus tercianis cum
motu cholere. Era<n>t tunc maxime iracundie, et fletibus obnoxis, sed tandem Dei
presidio revalescebat.
6 /11v/ Anno etatis nati 15 currente pervenit directio ascendentis ad principium
Leonis, mutavitque signum et terminum. Nato significabat mutationem status et loci,
forte tunc mittebatur ad academiam.
7 Anno etatis sextodecimo labente pervenit directio Lune ad quadratum Martis
sinistrum. Eodem anno pervenit profectio ascendentis ad quadratos radios Lune et
Solis sinistros, ad Martis quadratum dextrum, et habuit tunc impiam revolutionem, ac
Mars revertebatur ad locum suum radicis. Ideo maximam alterationem complexionis
eius portendebat, excitabat enim egrotationem cholericam satis accutam, in periculo
erat, ut lederetur a quadrupedibus vel ab equo calcitroso in crure vel ima parte ventris,
ceterum itinera illius erant laboriosa, neque felicem successum percepit in itineribus
suis. Et oculo sinistro pericula minitabantur, aut forte in capite vel fronte non procul
ab oculo sinistro ab adversario ictum, vulnus aut cicatricem suscepit. Annus ille diver-
sis periculis erat obnoxius. Efficiebatur insuper eodem anno totus martialis, cholericus,
frequenter iracundus, verumtamen dexteritate ingenii prestantissimus. Quibus iam
elapsis tam animus et corpus eius in sanitate optata ornabantur multis modis, adeo ut
anno etatis sue 22 reperit multas honestissimas conversationes ac letissimas consue-
tudines habere cum nobilibus solaribus ac martialibus, unde postea adhesit equestri
ordini ac militaribus viris.

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8 Anno etatis huius nati 28 defluente pervenit di/12r/rectio Solis hylech ad trigo-
num Martis sinistrum sub Martis finibus. Effecit ut a principibus personis vel ordini­
bus qui sunt sub Martis felici dominio vocaretur ad militiam, unde videtur cum
­ceteris in armis resplenduisse tractationes bellorum, armorum expeditiones exercuisse.
Verum­tamen quia profectio ascendentis eodem anno 28 etatis pervenit ad tetragonos
sinistros Lune et Solis [sinistros], necnon ad quadratum Martis dextrum, item quia
tunc directio medii celi atti<n>git quadratum Martis sinistrum, hinc apparet quod
in horrida vite pericula fere incuberit et martiales homines fortiter sese opposuerunt
nato, ut vix e tantis discriminibus effugere valuerit. Annus erat atro lapillo notandus,
attamen Dei presidio impedentia pericula evasit, eo quod tunc feliciorem habuerit
revolutionis figuram.
9 Ab anno etatis huius nati 32 currente usque in annum etatis 36 inclusive venit
inprimis directio Solis hylech ad oppositum Saturni, postea pervenit directio ascen­
dentis ad quadratum Saturni dextrum. Denotabant illi occursus nato varias melan-
cholicas perturbationes et febrim quartanam. Eo quod Saturni oppositus aspectus
(cui Sol occurrebat) acciderit sub signo melancholico, Tauro, sub Saturni termino,
et versabatur tum Saturnus sub Sagittario, signo sexte domus radicis, idcirco diutur-
nas melan­cholicas infirmitates presagire debebat ex crassis lentis et contumacibus
humoribus, cum quadam discrasia et redundantia phlegmatum ac pituite crude et
aliorum infortuniorum cumulis, minabantur interim stomachi et capitis dolores,
ventris tormina, opilationes hepatis et scirrhum lienis, existimabat forte se hydropi-
cum futurum. Verumtamen revolutiones prefatorum annorum meliora promittebant,
unde (Deo dante) in meliorem partem tales influentie celestes evanuerunt. Ipse sane
in prefatis annis variam fortune mutationem expertus est saturniorum odio, qui
nato intendebant obiicere nigram sui nominis notam et indignam famam, preterea
actiones eius, studia et artes illius adeo differebantur, ut vix tandem cum detrimento
perficiebantur ac fere in ipsius perniciem /12v/ revertebantur, et consilia eius non
bonum sortiebantur eventum. In summa anni prefati plus incommodi quam com-
modi, plus fellis quam mellis nato intulerunt, potissimum anni 32 et 33 etatis eius
currentis, ­ceteri vero 34 et 35 currentes non tam indignas influentias dederunt, licet
vigor Saturni adhuc perseveraverit.
10 Anno etatis huius nati 37 currente pervenit directio Solis hylech (cum succes-
sione 12 signorum) ad primum punctum Geminorum ad Mercurii terminum, eadem
Solis directio (contra signorum sequelam, quia hylech) pervenit ad quadratum Saturni
sinistrum. Magnam vite et merum mutationem significabat, gravitates in itineribus et
interdum adhuc melancholicas cogitationes, sed status illius cepit redire ad meliora,
redibantque paulatim felices sanitatis ac prosperitatis successus et nebule perturbatio-
num abierunt, ac candere cepit post nebulam phebus et honoris insignia refloruerunt,
veluti postea suo loco dicetur.
11 Anno etatis nati 40 defluente pervenit profectio Solis hylech ad oppositum
­Martis et profectio ascendentis pervenit ad quadratos Lune et Solis sinistros, n ­ ecnon

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ad tetragonum Martis dextrum, sed revolutionem habuit satis idoneam. Alioqui maxi­
mam complexionis alterationem significare debebat et intemperiem calidam, sed ira-
cundie stimulus non caruit et inimicorum invidos insultus interdum tolerare debuit.
12 Anno etatis eius 48 currente pervenit directio Lune (cum successione signorum)
ad oppositum Saturni, etiam sub Saturni finibus. Clancularios et invidos inimicos
nato presagiebat, qui nitebantur acconitum porrigere nato et toxico perniciosissimo
deperdere, sed occasione felicis revolutionis anno 1561, in qua Luna a Venere ac Iove
iuvabatur, in meliorem partem conversa sunt omnia, nihilominus non sine melan-
cholicis animi perturbationibus, meroribus, tristiciisque, variisque curis quoti­dianis,
potissimum quia Saturnus erat dominus domus mortis in horoscopo, octave domus,
solet huiusmodi significatio Saturni, ex Scorpione, /13r/ nato decernere gonorrheam,
renum debilitatem, sive lapides vesice vel arenalem morbum, aut vicia circa pudenda
seu hemorrhoides, aut aliquam hernie speciem, podagram et phlegma­ticam egrota-
tionem, nisi per faustam huius anni revolutionem impedita fuissent, veluti predixi-
mus. Item istius Falciferi 13 diameter ad Lunam ex quadrupedibus et in aquis similiter
pericula minabatur, et ex animalibus venenosis. Similiter indignationem nobilissime
matrone excitare consuevit, que Dei favore omnia in meliorem partem abierunt.
13 Anno etatis huius nati 50 defluente fecit Saturnus transitum per gradum ascen­
dentis radicis, stetitque in hora revolutionis in quadrato Solis. Intrincecas 14 animi
perturbationes melancholicas nato portendebat, ob infirmitatem alicuius principis
aut forte domine sue. Eodem anno laboriosa habuit itinera et si per mare proficisci
debuisset naufragii discrimina incurrisset, quorum effectus tandem sine difficul-
tate evanuerunt.
14 Anno etatis eius 52 currente perveniet profectio ascendentis ad quadratum Martis
dextrum, necnon ad tetragonos radios Lune et Solis sinistros. Deberet hec profectio
notabilem complexionis alterationem presagire, sed iterum per felicem revolutionem
impediuntur prefati indigni effectus. Verumtamen in itineribus illius anni molestias
percipiet circa finem revolutionis, circa diem 21 Martii anni domini 1566 usque in finem
eiusdem revolutionis etatis 52 adhuc currentis, idcirco caute sibi prospicere debebit ne
cum equo periculum in itinere incurrat aut quovis alio modo.
15 Anno etatis nati 53 currente perveniet directio Lune ad primum punctum Gemi­
norum. Mutationem complexionis ad bonum portendit, eo quod de melancholico signo
transitum faciet ad signum sanguineum, unde bona corporis valetudine fruetur natus,
ac ad hilaritatem et mentis securitatem propensior erit.
16 Anno etatis huius nati 58 defluente perveniet direc/13v/tio ascendentis ad ­primum
punctum Virginis. Vite et status vel loci mutationem presagit, sed quia ingredietur
signum melancholicum animi melancholicas perturbationes, quotidianasque curas

13 I. e., Saturn.
14 Uncertain reading: “intrinsecas”?

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portendit. Habebit tunc etia<m> revolutionem mediocriter malam. Bono regimini


studeat ne in calidam intemperiem ruat.
17 Anno etatis huius nati 63 defluente perveniet directio Solis hylech ad quadra­
tum Mercurii sinistrum sub Saturni finibus. Contra natum criminationes varias,
accusationes, malum nomen et infamiam concitabit, quippe qui mercuriales sibi
­infensos audiet, qui de ipso perperam oblatrabunt. Siquidem 15 annus ille 63 e­ tatis
annus clima­tericus vocatur, ubi notandum quod septeni anni et noveni per omne vite
tempus multiplicata ratione currentes variis hominem periculorum discriminibus semper
afficiunt. Unde et 63 annus, quia utriusque numeri summam pariter excipit, androdas 16
appellatus est, novies enim septem anni 63 faciunt et rursus septies novem simili modo
anni fiunt 63. Quia itaque utriusque numeri cursus in hoc anno equata ratione con-
currit, grande semper periculi discrimen imponit. Si enim anni septeni et noveni (qui
hebdomatici a Grecis, atque enneatici, appellantur) gravia semper hominibus indu-
cunt pericula, quid annus faciet 63, qui utriusque numeri multiplicatam et invicem
sibi obligatam perficit summam? Hac igitur androdas 17 ab Aegiptiis dictus est, quod
omnem vite substanciam frangat atque debilitet. Quapropter provida prudentia opus
erit si hunc annum evadere velit, igitur magna diligentia versabitur natus in usu cibi
et potus ut tunc morbos effugere possit, qui de levissima hoc tempore occasione
existere solent. Sed quia lumina maiora in revolutione istius anni non impediuntur
neque affliguntur a malis, ideo minus metienda erunt prefata occulta mala. Ideo
dimissis illis transibimus ad alia.
18 Anno etatis huius nati 64 currente pervenit directio Solis hylech ad quadratum
Veneris sinistrum, /14r/ sub Saturni finibus. Significat quod occasione intemperantie
in cibo et potu vel medicine ratione subibit aliquid periculi sive mortis sive adverse
valetudinis vel etiam contentionis aut discordie cum nobili muliere vel cum pessima
meretrix, eo quod prefata directio duodecimam domum radicis incidet, in qua per
pravas mulieres contentiosa certamina denunciantur. Attamen revolutio illius anni
erit satis grata.
19 Anno etatis huius nati 68 currente perveniet directio ascendentis ad stellam fixam
Cauda Leonis appellatam, prime magnitudinis, de natura Saturni, Veneris et Mercurii.
Eodem anno perveniet directio Solis hylech (cum successione signorum) ad primum
punctum Cancri, signum videlicet humidum et frigidum, et contra successione signorum
perveniet ad astrum Martis, quod erit anno domini 1581. Reddetur nunc corpus nati
alterabile ad quandam discrasiam, efficieturque somnolentum, pigrum et torpidum ad
omnia munera subeunda et multis viciosis ac fluentibus humoribus in pectore gravabi-
tur ac senectute quodammodo premetur.

15 The section in italics is borrowed verbatim from Firmicus Maternus, Mathesis, IV.20.3.
16 Sic for “androclas” in Firmicus Maternus.
17 Idem.

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25

Revolutio pro anno etatis


eius 70 currente, incipiet
anno domini 1583 Martii
14 Die Hora Minuto
18
2
25 3 49 108
14 ante meridiem diei 
Defluxio Lune
a ad 

21 16
4 14

25

<Revolution of Joannes Sillyers of Mechelen (1583)>


Fig. 2
20 Anno etatis Revolution of Joannes perveniet
huius nati 70 currente Sillyers ofdirectio Solis hylech
Mechelen (1583)ad tetragonum
Lune sinistrum sub Iovis termino. Eodem anno perveniet directio ascendentis ad locum
Caude Draconis radicis, de natura Saturni et Martis, sub Veneris finibus. Habebit tunc
natus impiam et ingratam revolutionem ac miseram nimis, in qua signum octave domus
radicis, Aquarius, erit ascendens revolutionis et utrumque luminare affligetur a malis,
nempe Luna a diametro Saturni ab angulo orientis ad angulum occidentis, Sol impe­
dietur a quadrato Martis dextro, Marte existente in sexta revolutionis ac Sole versante
in domo secunda;18 Venus, domina octave revolutionis, erit sub radiis Solis combusta ac
Iupiter erit afflictus a presentia Saturni in prima domo revolutionis, necnon a diametro
Lune. Obnunciabit hec misera revolutio nato annum meroribus /14v/ plenum, ut patet
ex presenti revolutionis figura.
Et quia Luna in horoscopo 19 defluebat a coniunctione Veneris ad combustionem
­con­iunc­tionemque Solis, affligebatur a radiis Solis, ac modo quia Sol per directionem
perveniet ad quadratum Lune sinistrum, ostendet hoc anno tempus sui decreti et
cum eventu pericula iam producet, que in nativitate promittebat. Ideo inprimis nato

18 The Sun is in fact in the first house.


19 I. e., in the nativity.

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oculorum aciem aliquantisper hebetabit vel cecutientem efficient, et aliquam ingeret


alterationem acutam, deinde phlegmaticam non sine capitis et stomachi ac cordis
cruciatibus. Et quia Iupiter, in diametro Lune sub ascendentis domicilio, domino
octave radicis, Saturno coniungitur, apoplexiam vel cerebri involutionem irritabit.
Item quia directio ascendentis hoc anno perveniet ad locum Caude Draconis radicis
(ut statim diximus), minatur similiter nato pessimam egritudinem, ut ventris proflu-
vium vel disynteriam vel cholicam passionem, oculorumque aciem hebetare faciet,
quandoque in podice fistulas sive hemorrhoidas excitare solet, verum, quod magis
est, precavere debebit ne sibi loco medicine veneni pocula porrigantur. Itaque si
vitam suam charam habuerit, ­omnino indocti medici auxilium devitet, sobrie vivat,
ad dominum Deum suum refugium capiat, illi vitam corporisque salutem commen-
det, omnem spem suam in illo collocet. Veluti David propheta inquit: Deus 20 noster
refugium et virtus adiutor in tribulationis que invenerunt nos nimis. Preterea, quia in
principio huius nativitatis diximus, periodum terminari debere anno etatis nati 70
currente, /15r/ ideo multo magis suspectus est mihi presens annus de morte nati.
Quapropter metiendum erit quod ingredietur iam viam universe carnis et spiritum
suo reddet creatori.
21 Ubi vero (Dei presidio) hunc annum superaverit ad annum etatis 84 pertingere
poterit, tunc enim directio Solis hylech perveniet ad alios vite abscisores, nempe ad
quadratum suum sinistrum, et directio Lune eodem anno perveniet ad primum punctum
Cancri, habebitque tunc similiter miseram revolutionem, nimirum anno domini 1597.
Tam miserrima est mortalium conditio quod licet homo quandoque diutius vixerit,
mortem tamen effugere non poterit. Faxit igitur hoc Deus optimus, maximus pater
domini nostri Iesu Christi, quod cum sanctis eius preciosam mortem in conspectu
eius habeamus. Amen.

7. De coniugio nati

1 Antiquissimam et in maxima humani generis parte observatam coniugiorum rationem


fuisse unius maris et unius femine legittimam coniunctionem sacre litere testantur.
­Statim enim, post creationem hominum, expresse traditum est hoc mandatum: erunt 21
duo in carnem unam, id est inseparabiliter iuncti. Postea vero ex historiarum lectione
manifestum hoc quoque est quod quo queque gens plus honestatis et discipline habuit,
eo etiam coniungia habuerit ordinatiora et vagas libidines ac illicitas commixtiones
severius puniverit, ideo coniugiorum consideratio de tali coniunctione non de i­ llicitis
cohabitationibus et amoribus intelligi debet. Nam ubi plures uxores simul haberi possunt,

20 Ps. 45.2.
21 Gen. 2.24.

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qualis est nunc confusio barbarica apud Mahometanos et in maxima Aphrice parte
vel ubi ex constitutionibus plurimi reguntur in impuro celibatu vivere, non valet hec
doctrina, sed ibi ubi liberrimum est utrumque, ut olim apud omnes gentes, utrumque
liberrimum fuit omnibus.
2 Consideravi igitur septimum domum (que coniugii ha/15v/bitaculum voca-
tur) et planetas in illa, videlicet Martem ac Saturnum, dominum septime domus,
retro­gradum, quapropter prima fronte video damnari coniugium nati. Postea aspexi
Lunam ac Venerem, perpetuas coniugii virorum significatrices, etiam impeditas,
Lunam inquam a combustione Solis, vergentemque ad quadratum Martis sinis-
trum, et Venerem afflictam ab hexa­g ono Martis sinistro ab angulo septime domus,
ac consequenter impeditam a Saturno, domino septime, retrogrado, per aspectum
trigonum sinistrum. Ex quibus concluditur quod nato huic om<n>imode denega-
tur coniugium fatorum imperio.
3 Et licet aliquando duxerit uxorem (quod minime credo facturum), inveniet illam
rebellem, vindicte et dominii cupidam, rixosam, contumacem, violentam, sumptuosam,
ebriosam, infamem, tetricam, morosam, pertinacem et pigram, minime virtuosam. Unde
merito melius fuerit illi non ducere uxorem quam huiusmodi indomite bestie copulari,
de natura Martis ac Saturni retrogradi, quam perpetuam sibi habuisset mimicam. Item
de tempore coniugii atque aliis concurrentibus coniugii negotiis non erit necesse hic
multa recensere, eo quod uxore legittima carebit.

8. De liberis

Post coniugii considerationem apte sequitur iudicium de liberis. Supra autem dixi natum
non duxturum (!) legittimam uxorem, idcirco per consequens sequitur quod non opus
erit amplius querere de liberis legittimis quos ex coniugio suscepturus sit. Nam ille­
gittimos non considerant astrologi, cum eorum numerus adeo incertus esse possit, ut
quidam ex eo modo plures quam credibile sit susceperint. Transibimus ­igitur ad alias
et hactenus de quinte domus apotelesmatibus, que filiorum domicilium appellatur, et
gaudium Veneris, in qua Saturnus, ille commestor puerorum et inimicus nature, ver-
satur retrograde.

9. De itineribus et religione, somniisque

1 /16r/ Significatores itinerum et peregrinationis sumuntur a nona domo, planetis in


ea, necnon a Luna et Mercurio, Luna quidem, quia vagabunda est et velox, Mercurius
vero quia instabilis et versatilis est. In domo nona neminem planetarum comperi, preter
Caput Draconis Lune, de natura Veneris et Iovis. Luna, cum sit domina prime domus,
genera­liter presagit natum facturum itinera longa ad exteras regiones et, quia in ­decima

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domo versatur, significat nato itinera ex iussu regum et principum cum fortune incre-
mento. Preterea, quia Mercurius similiter in decimo domicilio versatur, honorifica i­ tinera
decernit et legationes ex parte regum et principum utriusque sexus. Eo quod Veneri
coniungitur in decima, ideo per nobiles mulieres ad longa itinera honorifica propelletur,
unde sibi laudem, gloriam et divitias parabit, et officia honorata, eritque quandoque
internuncius regum et principum. Item quia Saturnus, dominus none, retro­gradus est,
molesta nato itinera et meticulosa presagit, et in aquis quandoque h ­ orrida vite dis-
crimina aut naufragii infestissima incommoda. Attamen presentia Capitis D ­ raconis in
nona, de natura Iovis et Veneris, convertet horrores et molestias itinerum in g­ audium
et felicem exitum, facietque 22 in suis operibus fortunatum et in profectionibus assequi
bonam famam, honorem et lucrum.
2 Colores 23 equorum nato idonei ad equitandum per itinera, sive longa sive brevia.
Meliores sunt gilvus vel fulvus et fuscus, ad instar castanee premature. Mediocres
sunt pallidus, albus, griseus et variegatus, de natura Mercurii, quia ingularis 24 est;
ruffus vel rubeus color equorum, de natura Martis, quia in angulo septime versa-
tur, nato prorsus inimicus est et prorsus contrarius. Ceteri equorum colores nato
minime idonei sunt.
3 Dies magis apti ad inchoanda itinera sunt dies Veneris, Solis et Mercurii ac Lune,
Iovis vero mediocris censebitur. Alii vitandi sunt in inceptionibus itinerum, sive parvorum
sive longorum.
4 /16v/ Regiones et civitates Piscibus, Arieti, Tauro, Cancro et Leoni subiecte
­commode sunt nato, ut ibi vel res suas gerat vel habitet. Adverse vero sunt regiones et
civitates Scorpioni et Capricorno subiecte. Et hactenus de peregrinationibus.
5 Quantum ad religionem nati attinet, Caput Draconis, de natura Iovis et Veneris,
in domo nona significat constantem Christianum, amatorem verbi Dei et opinionis
veterum, quod probatur quia Iupiter ad nonam faustos radios proiicit, ut generalis reli-
gionis significator, ideo pium in religione et modestum hominem significat. Tantum de
hac consideratione hic dixisse sufficiat quam leviter tamen attingere voluimus, eo quod
mathematici nativitatum quas describunt iudiciis etiam hanc inserant.
6 De somniis nati pari forma dicimus. Propter Capitis presentiam in nona cum
felici Iovis aspectu, nati somnia decernuntur mantica, quibus plerumque respondet
eventus. Verumtamen, quia Saturnus illuc dirigit radios quadratos sinistros ac Mars
hexagonos sinis­tros, reddunt sepissime etiam somnia falacia, horribilia, terribilia et
inania ac frequenter ambigua, quibus interdum respondet eventus, interdum vero non.
Hanc de somniis brevem admonitionem addidi, secutus communem consuetudinem.
Cum talia somnia, que signifi­cant aliquid futuri, a temperamenti proprietate oriantur,

22 Schöner, De iudiciis nativitatum, II.4 (f. XCv).


23 The underlined section is marked in the margin with the word “Nota”.
24 Read “angularis”.

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nec repugnat hec doctrina cum sacris literis. Precepta autem de interpretatione incepta
et inania sunt et sepe interpretes fefellerunt, ac in Deuteronomio adseveratio ex iis,
nisi sint divina, manifeste prohibetur.

10. De honoribus, officiis et dignitatibus

1 Hec pars, cum sit magni momenti et usus in predictionibus genethliacis, diligen-
tiorem considerationem requirit quam pleraque ex precedentibus. Idcirco a signifi-
catoribus honorum inchoandum ratus sum. Sumitur autem significatio dignitatis
a luminaribus, Sole presertim, et planetis medietate suorum /17r/ orbium circum-
dantibus aut aspicientibus luminare utrumque, precipue Solem; deinde a medio
celi, domino eius, et planetis in medio celi constitutis. Hi significatores, si sint in
­proprio domicilio, exaltatione aut mutua receptione essentiali, honores, officia
­publica, ­amplas administrationes, dignitates, eximium favorem et benevolentiam
principum et magnatum conferunt.
2 Tres planetas in exaltatione propria conspicio, Solem, Martem et Venerem, et
quatuor in decima domo, medii celi culmine, Mercurium, Venerem, Solem et Lunam.
Habent igitur Sol et Venus ibidem duplicia dignitatis testimonia, videlicet ratione
domus ­decime et occasione proprie exaltationis. Decernunt igitur nato pariter maxi­
mos honores et eximiam prestantiam dignitatis. Nam planete benefici in decima domo
decernunt ­eximias dignitates. Iupiter, dominus decime, in undecima, radios felices
hexagonos dextros ad decimam transmittens, significat magnitudinem honoris et
dignitatum, efficit gubernatorem magnarum familiarum, vocat ad apicem dignitatis
iurisprudentie, dat et rerum sperandarum prosperum eventum, nato conciliat multi­
tudinem amicorum regum, principum et magnatum, quorum favoribus ad maxima
officia evehetur.
3 Sol in decima domo in exaltatione propria natum vocat ad statum honorabilem,25
necnon ad officia magna regum, principum et magnatum, efficitque loco regis et princi­
pum maxima autoritate fulgentem, in aulis principum se recipientem, et cum autoritate
ibidem gubernatorem et potentem, fere ultra suam conditionem.
4 Venus in domo decima, ibidem in exaltatione propria, nato decernit amorem a
regibus, principibus utriusque sexus, reginis, duxissis et potentioribus, amabitur ab illis
et maximam graciam apud illos inveniet, quorum favoribus et patrociniis ad maxima
dignitatis insignia sublimabitur, acquiretque divitias et honorifica officia lucrigera ab illis.
5 /17v/ Mercurius in decimo domicilio cum Venere constitutus Veneris naturam
induit, natum occasione sublimis eruditionis et eloquentie facit doctoratus pileo
adornari, variarum linguarum gracia dotari. In statu vero spirituali fecisset sacris

25 Sections in italics (10.3 – 5) are borrowed from Schöner, De iudiciis nativitatum, II.4.

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infulis coronari, quod facile (si voluerit) annis adhuc sequentibus, potissimum 64
etatis currente,26 assequi valebit, de quibus infra statim latius tractabo. Item Mercurius
­ibidem solet natum efficere regis cancellarium vel principum consiliarem, qui regum
et principum utriusque sexus secreta pertractabit, unde officia honorifica et lucrig-
era assequetur, publicis compitibus ac libris rationum preficietur, diliget et scientias
politiores, nempe arithmeticam, geometriam, mathematicam, astrologiam, musicam,
picturam, etc. Et und<i>que laudabitur propter virtutes suas, necnon propter dexteri­
tatem ingenii sui, veluti adhuc in precedentibus recitavimus.
6 De Lune significatis in domo decima in precedentibus sufficienter explicavimus.
Sed ad alia digredior.
7 Direxi preterea gradum medii celi, ut patet in presenti adiecta tabula. Solis gradum
in precedentibus direximus, ut patet in capitulo de infirmitatibus,27 in quibus patet quod
propter ingenii dexteritatem cepit laudari a primeva eius etate, eo quod directio medii
celi prius pervenerit ad astrum Mercurii, deinde ad stellam Veneris. Quapropter iste
constellationes natum fecerunt ingeniosum, eloquentem, facundum, sagacem, callidum
(!), versatum, qui astutam 28 vapido servavit sub pectore vulpem.

Directio medii celi:


 2.25  60.30

 7.0  sinistrum 61.28

 0 9.20  sinistrum 63.36

 cum lati<tudine> 19.30 0 66.30

 sine lati<tudine> 21.30 Aldebaran , 1e 69.0

 22.0  sinistrum 69.0

 sinistrum 27.0  sinistrum 81.25

0 36.15

 48.36 Tabulam directionis Solis in precedentibus


querito.
 56.30

8 Anno etatis huius nati 17 currente pervenit profectio medii celi cum suis influentiis
ad signum ascendentis, ad trigonos radios Mercurii et Veneris sinistros. /18r/ Effecit ut
natus honoraretur occasione doctrine sue et magisterii, et factus est magister artium.

26 See 10.24 below.


27 See 6.3 above.
28 Persius, Satirae, V.117.

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9 Anno etatis 21 defluente pervenit directio medii celi ad locum Solis radicis. Illo
anno cepit invenire graciam apud potentiores et nobiles, qui illum summo favore et
benevolentia prosequebantur, quippe qui mutuam cum illis inibat benevolentie neces-
situdinem, apud quos laudem et honoris beneficia consecutus est occasione eloquentie
ac prudentie sue, eo quod presens directio ceciderit sub Mercurii finibus.
10 Anno etatis 25 currente pervenit directio Solis ad astrum Iovis, etiam sub ter-
mino Iovis. Contulit inprimis nato corporis salubritatem et animi trancquillitatem
(!) et omne quodammodo felicitatis ordinem, hoc anno videtur promotus ad doc-
toratus dignitatem et gradum et consecutus est apud potentiores ioviales graciam
fac<i>lemque auram, utpote cum iureperitis, legum professoribus, cum quibus hono­
rigere federa amicitie iniisse apparet, unde laudis et honoris insignia sequebantur et
utilitatis profectus.
11 Anno etatis nati huius 28 currente pervenit directio Solis ad trigonum Martis sinis­
trum et directio medii celi pervenit quadratum Martis attingendo. Denotat inprimis
quod cum martialibus amicit<i>e federa inire ceperet, plus solito intrepidus, magnani­
mus et animosus factus, unde honores consecutus est et laudem. Sed ante finem huius
anni multa mala illi decernebantur a martialibus 29 ex inopinato, unde non speraverat, ut
fere in carceris incommoda ceciderit. Provocavitque etiam hec constellatio contra natum
lites, iurgia et mutuas simultates, quorum odiis plurima mala inopinata illi impendebant
cum fortunarum iactura atque dedecore. Nam tantis malis atque calamitatibus videtur
conquassatus ut quo se verteret penitus ignorabat.
12 Anno etatis eius 33 currente pervenit directio Solis ad diametrum Saturni, etiam
sub Saturni finibus. Iste falcifer Saturnus indignationem principam contra /18v/ natum
hoc anno irritavit et potentiores, plerosque saturninos aut senescentes quosdam, vel
magistratum alieno erga se animo provocavit, ac ipsorum persecutiones per invidiam
excitatas cum ipsius dedecore tolerare debuit, quin et alia male valetudinis, melancholi-
carum perturbationum incommoda multa et alti honoris deiectionem ac variam fortune
mutationem expertus videtur illo anno et sequenti anno saturniorum odio, de quibus
aliqua in precedentibus, a directione ascendentis in capitulo de infirmitatibus, adno-
tavimus.30 Sed et ioviales circa hec tempora sub amicitie specie dolis et insidiis illum
circumvenire conabantur, unde iudices iurisconsuli alieno contra se animo exerceban-
tur.31 Similem invidie casum videtur passus anno etatis eius 48 currente, de quo etiam
supra quedam recitavimus.
13 Anno etatis huius nati 34 currente et statim 35 succedente pervenit prius direc-
tio Solis ad hexagonum Mercurii sinistrum, deinde statim ad sextilem Veneris sinis-
trum. Erat ad scripturas et literarum studia solito propensior et ob egregias ingenii

29 “A martialibus” added in the margin.


30 See 6.9 above.
31 “Exerriebantur” or “exeririebantur” MS.

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sui dotes plus solito venerabatur, quinetiam ob honorigeram legationem honores et


lucra decernebantur. Et in pertractationibus negotiorum principum per ingenii saga-
cis solertiam et suam inclitam sapientiam egregia honoris insignia consequebatur. Et
anno statim succedente 35 plus solito letior extitit et propensior ad iocunditates de
natura Veneris, insolito et magno capiebatur amore et cum Veneris nitidulis proli-
bus frequentiores consuetudines honestasque conversationes habuit. Annus ille erat
genialis, iocundus, letus atque salubris. Et resplenduerunt vestimenta eius et orna-
menta plus solito pulchiora, unde puellis et mulieribus studebat blanditiis, gestibus
et incessu omnibus modis placere.
14 Anno etatis eius 39 currente pervenit directio Solis ad hexagonum Lune sinistrum
sub Mercurii termino. Eodem anno pervenit directio Lune ad locum Iovis radicis sub
Iovis finibus. Natus illo anno res varias atque diversa negotia potentiorum cum lucro et
honore pertractabat et videtur arripuisse a rege vel principibus /19r/ honorifica ­itinera.
Quippe cui lucrigere et honorigere legationis munera demandabantur et secundam
habuit fortunam in officiis et in singulis propemodum actionibus suis laudabatur et
plus solito venerabatur, quinetiam ex patrocinio seu favore et benevolentia tam homi-
num superioris ordinis quam vulgi atque mulierum multam amicorum copiam experie-
batur. Lune vero directio ad locum Iovis, ut prediximus, eodem anno nato optimam
corporis complexionem, hilaritatem et mentis serenitatem contribuit, et lucrorum
copiosa presidia sive honorificum officium et altissima honoris insignia, cuius ratione
etiam honorigere legationis munera ei demandabantur, vel saltem potentis cuiusdam
adminis­trationis licentia sublevabatur. Durabit felix ille celorum influxus ad multos
futuros annos, usque 47 etatis inclusive.
15 Anno etatis eius 44 currente, prope finem, pervenit directio Lune ad trigonum
Martis sinistrum sub Iovis finibus. Effecit natum illo anno animosum, audacem, for-
tem, imperiosum, sagacem, industrium et agilem, honoris item et victorie cupidum. Et
apparet quod in milites aliquod dominium sortiebatur et mavortii principis auspicio
dignitatis et utilitatis officii accessionem, ob que ad crebra itinera propellebatur.
16 Anno etatis nati 48 defluente pervenit directio Lune ad oppositum Saturni. Apo-
telesmata huius decreti in precedentibus, in <capitulo> de infirmitatibus, querito.32
17 Anno etatis huius nati 49 dilabente pervenit directio medii celi ad locum Iovis
radicis. Eodem anno pervenit directio Lune ad hexagonum Mercurii sinistrum sub
Saturni finibus. Nato presagivit aliquem magistratum occasione sapientie atque pru-
dentie sue et oblatum munus alicuius officii utilissimi, unde lucrorum copiosa presidia,
laudem et bonum nomen sibi vendicabat, quinetiam ob ipsius facinora preclarasque
actiones erat apud potentiores dignitate et gratia longe perspicuus. Huiuscemodi
celorum influxus homines ex infima etiam atque ignobili prosapia oriundos ad clara
honoris insignia, imo suprema rerum fastigia, extollere consuevit /19v/ supra geniture

32 See 6.12 above.

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substantiam, et in statu ecclesiastico existentes ex interitu alicuius prelati opimum


beneficium, prelaturam vel ecclesiasticam hereditatem, ita genito contribuere solet.
18 Anno etatis nati 52 currente perveniet directio Lune ad hexagonum Veneris sinis­
trum sub Saturni termino. Illo anno inclite mulieris iussu itinera honesta suscipiet, unde
aliqua lucrorum presidia suscipiet, et cum maiori felicitate prosperis augebitur incre-
mentis et precedentibus bonis meliora decernentur adhuc tempora, item legationis hon-
origere munera ei demandabuntur et vulgus quoque natum magnis prosequetur hono­
ribus. Eodem anno currente 52 etatis perveniet directio Solis (prope finem illius anni)
ad hexagonum suum sinistrum sub Veneris finibus. Significat nato a rege sive nobilibus
aut potentioribus viris honores, qui forte a duxissa vel nobilissima matrona legationis
fungetur officio ad regem vel imperatorem, unde illi pollicetur dignitatis prero­gativa et
a nobilibus honores solito maiores. Quapropter occursus isti nato claritatem et emol-
umenta a principibus et superioribus ordinibus merito pollicentur.
19 Anno etatis eius 55 currente perveniet directio Lune ad hexagonum suum sinis-
trum sub Mercurii finibus. Significat quod illo anno res varias atque diversa negotia
solenter absolvet et ad itinera solito propensior erit toto ferme illo anno et apud exteros
venerabitur, eritque glorie cupidus et officii sive dignitatis occasionem expectabit et
a populis atque generosa quadam matrona advenient ei lucrorum copiosa presidia,
honoresque insolito maiores. Postea perveniet ad aliquas stellas fixas primi luminis,
Adebaran,  et  nature, ad Hircum Agitatorem,  et  complexionis. Caven-
dum ne complexio nati distemperetur per intemperata vini potationem, unde fama
illius aliquantisper ledatur.
20 Anno etatis huius nati 57 currente perveniet directio medii celi ad trigonum
­Martis sinistrum sub finibus Iovis. Significat quod a duce seu principe mavortio ho/20r/
nor magnus ei in rei militaris disciplina demandabitur, rerumque martialium curam
geret, intrepidus, imperiosus atque magnanimus, multa maiora facturus dispendia
quam compendia, a militibus venerabitur et a multis timebitur, non sine quorundam
odio et invidia, tamen postea lucrabitur, propter dignum aliquod facinus in rei mili-
taris disciplina, unde magnam sibi laudem comparabit, reperiet enim novum aliquod
stratagema vel traiiciendi machinas tormentales vel parandi hostibus insidias quibus
illos funditus pessundabit.
21 Anno etatis huius nati 61 currente perveniet directio medii celi ad diametrum
Saturni sub Saturni finibus. Iste infelix occursus contra natum irritabit saturninos,
qui de ipso perperam oblatrabunt et pariter in eius perniciem coniurabunt, quatenus
a suo officio vel magisterio detrudatur cum dedecore, fortunarum iactura atque gravi-
bus dispendiis, eumque potentiores omni prorsus dignitate atque honoribus spolient,
actiones preterea eius infeliciter cadent et ita differentur, ut vix tandem cum detri-
mento perficiantur. Apud agricolas et senes odio erit, subditi preterea et servi eius,
erunt sibi admodum infensi ac prorsus contrarii, qui dignitatibus eius et honoribus

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odio inextinguibili adversabuntur. Et 33 metuendum quod illustrissima domina eius,


quam matris loco charam habebit, chronicis egritudinibus affligetur, cui interni-
tionem afferet, unde natus illo anno erit tristis et lugubris et maximis melancholicis
curis detinebitur.
22 Anno etatis eius 62 currente perveniet directio medii celi ad hexagonum ­Mercurii
sinistrum sub Saturni finibus. Significat quod natus propter egregias animi dotes, sapien­
tiam eius atque prudentiam a mercurialibus honorabitur, forte adhuc honorifice lega-
tionis munera ei demandabuntur, et in suis actionibus plurimum commendabitur
propter ingenii sui dotes egregias.
23 Anno etatis nati huius 63 currente perveniet directio Solis ad quadratum Mercurii
sinistrum sub Saturni finibus. Significat quod mercuriales de nato perperam oblatra/20v/
bunt, conabunturque deiicere <eum> ab officiis suis mercurialibus, et coniicietur in lites
et altercationes varias, sustinebitque crebras calumnias de crimine falsi a mercurialibus,
seu de scripturis aut computationibus falsis, quare tum animum nati prefatus occursus
multis et gravibus persecutionibus involvet. De ipso anno videto in precedentibus, in
<capitulo> de infirmitatibus.34
24 Anno etatis huius nati 64 currente perveniet medii celi directio ad hexagonum
Veneris sinistrum sub termino Martis, et quia Venus in horoscopo in decima domo ver-
sabatur, in exaltatione propria, in domicilio Iovis, sub termino Martis, iam alti nominis
et honoris insignia decernet. Operatur 35 quod hoc anno sacris infulis insigniter deco­
rabitur et ad presulatus dignitatem evehetur – dummodo ipse voluerit neque hanc
dignitatem absolute recusaverit – aut rursus ad alti officii dignitatem promovebitur et
extolletur. Ego magis opinor sublimandum ad episcopatum inclite mulieris patrocinio,
unde clarior fiet in omnibus actionibus suis et ab omnibus plurimum commendabitur,
fietque illo anno fere omnium votorum compos et in tali felici statu honorifice perse-
verabit usque in annum etatis sue 67 inclusive.
25 Anno etatis eius 68 currente perveniet directio Lune ad hexagonum Solis sinis-
trum sub Veneris termino. Denotat quod natus illo anno cum potentioribus consortium
habebit utile et honorigerum et a populo plus solito venerabitur et occasione beneficii
vel officii sui fiet ditior et locupletior, pinguioris quidem fortune, ob ipsius sapientiam,
prudentiam, modestiam, atque preclaram ingenii sui naturam, unde regi, principibus
utriusque sexus et magnatibus placebit.
26 Anno etatis huius nati 70 currente perveniet directio medii celi ad hexagonum
Lune sinistrum, necnon ad stellam fixam Aldebaran appellatam, de natura , primi
honoris, sub Mercurii finibus. Nato a populo honores solito maiores decernit et circa
tempora finietur periodus.

33 The underlined section is marked in the margin with the word “Nota”.
34 See 6.17 above.
35 The underlined section is marked in the margin with the word “Nota”.

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11. De amicis et fautoribus nati

1 /21r/ Qualitas amicorum cognoscitur ex natura planetarum qui in undecima et


prima versantur et a planetis qui undecime et prime imperant. In domo prima nemi-
nem planetarum comperi, nisi Lunam ratione signi illi imperantem. In undecima
domo video Iovem et Venerem esse 36 eius imperatricem. Significat nato multos et
convenientes amicos et illorum synceram amicitiam atque illi utilem. Quapropter
amici nati erunt de natura et complexionibus Iovis, Veneris et Lune. 2 Quales 37 sunt
de natura Iovis: ecclesiastici, prelati, iudices, iurisperiti, consiliarii, provinciarum
prefecti, magnanimi, verecundi, advocati, nobiles, divites, honesti, religiosi. De
­Veneris natura: mansueti, compti, nobiles mulieres, duxisse, virgines veneris niti-
dule proles, phrygiones, musici, poete, pictores, leti, hilares, formosi, venusti in
gestibus. De Lune presidio: homines regine, nobiles matrone, vidue, plebs et qui
in assiduo motu sunt, ut naute, cursores, legati, nuncii. Hi sincero semper affectu
nato amicitiam exhibebunt.

12. De inimicis et odio natum persequentibus

1 Iudicium de inimicis sumitur ex consideratione planetarum qui in septima et duo-


decima domo versantur et a planetis qui luminaribus opponuntur, hoc discrimen
tamen observamus septimam et planetas luminaribus oppositos apertos inimicos
signi­ficare, duodecimam vero occultos persecutores. 2 In septima domo versatur
Mars, prope cuspidem septime, in domo Saturni. Igitur martiales et saturnici erunt
inimici nati aperti, et quia Mars aspicit Solem quadrato sinistro, duplicat aperte
inimicitias suas, etiam cum insidiarum laqueis in necem nati, unde perpetuo cavere
debebit a martialibus. 3 In duodecima domo neminem planetarum consideravi, nisi
solam partem fortune. Significat quod occultos habebit inimicos, qui nato insidia-
buntur propter divitias suas, ut fures et latrones, prave mulieres et meretrices. Quia
Mercurius duo/21v/decime domui imperat, etiam mercuriales occultos inimicos
portendit. 4 Erunt igitur inimici nati aperti martiales et invidi saturnici, inimici vero
occulti erunt mercuriales, fures, latrones et prave mulieres vel meretrices, qui insidia­
buntur crumene et pecuniis nati, saturnici insidiabuntur honoribus et dignitatibus
eius, martiales vero corpori et vite nati insidiabuntur. 5 De natura Martis: capitanei,
milites, superbi, audaces, inverecundi, contumeliosi, seditiosi, convitiatores, pre-
dones, iracundi, crudeles, bombardarii, vehementes, manu prompti, aperti quadam

36 “Esse” added above the line.


37 The underlined section is marked in the margin with the word “Nota”. This section can be
variously punctuated.

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temeritate, rixosi, tyranni, thrasones, effusores sanguinis, feroces in lacessendo. De


natura S­ aturni: senes, agricole, sordida opificia tractantes, avari, feneratores, sus-
piciosi, invidi. De natura Mercurii: acumine ingenii excellentes, studiosi, …afri,38
­solertes, sagaces, dolosi, callidi, instabiles, perfidi, mendaces, clam struentes fraudem
et periculosa consilia, infames, falsarii, falsi monetarii, hallucinatores. 6 Ab illorum
clanculariis insidiis summopere cavere debebit ne fraude et dolo circumveniatur. 7
Utrum natus inimicos et adversarios vincet, respondetur quod sic affirmative, eo
quod dominus duodecime versatur in decima domo; significat victoriam nati contra
inimicos et adversarios suos, non obstante quod interdum incidet in pericula valde
metuenda, Dei presidio ­evadet. 8 Plurima etiam pericula nato minantur de captivi-
tate, ideo valde circumspecte versandum in bello vel apud exteras nationes, nisi caute
sibi providerit inopinate in laqueum iniicietur, attamen iacula 39 previsa minus feriunt.

13. De qualitate mortis nati

1 Cum vero mors sit ultima linea rerum, que nulli parcit honori nec dignitati, que sceptra
non veretur nec docti ingenii acumen, ideo postremo libuit de eius qualitatibus aliqua
sub brevibus adnotare. Eius qualitas est duplex: naturalis, qua homo per se moritur, et
violenta, qua quis moritur gladio, ferro, lancea, strangulo, igne, morsu bestie vel /22r/ fere,
aut ex loco alto precipitatione vitam finit. Repentina vero mors est quiddam medium
inter naturalem et violentam mortem, sed violente propior. 2 Utrumque luminare in signo
violento, luminare temporis existente in quadrato Martis sinistro angulariter, terribilia
pericula violente mortis minantur, comprimitur Martis violentia et tyrannidis hexagonis
Veneris dextris, Martisque diameter ad gradum ascendentis reprimitur radiis hexagonis
Iovis sinistris. 3 Al<i>oqui anno etatis eius 28 currente periculum violente mortis incidisset
cum detrimento vite, potissimum quia Luna, domina ascendentis in horoscopo, defluebat
ad coniunctionem Solis. 4 Innumera fere sunt exempla talis positus in genituris etiam
maximorum principum, verumtamen per felices Iovis ac Veneris aspectus (ut diximus)
mors violenta fuit impedita (Dei presidio). 5 Cavere tamen adhuc debebit natus in annis
fatalibus, de quibus in capitulo de infirmitatibus mentionem fecimus.40 6 Caute etiam cum
equo suo se gerat in annis fatalibus, ne corruendo cum equo ab illo misere opprimatur
vel ab equo calcitroso percutiatur, unde mortis aculeum experiatur, propter Martem in
signo quadrupedum, in opposito ascendentis, necnon in quadrato Solis angulariter; ut
frequenter diximus, non ascendat equum cum vino maduerit. 7 Ubi diligenter sibi caverit,
violentam mortem favore Dei evadet, quod etiam presumitur et speratur.

38 I cannot read the first two or three letters of this word.


39 Andreas Capellanus, De amore, 1.6.220.
40 See chapter 6 above.

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8 De morte igitur naturali tale sit iudicium. Ait enim Ptholomeus: Mortis qualitas ex
athazir obviante, quem interfectorem nuncupant, deprehenditur.41 9 Apheta igitur Solis
anno etatis 70 currente habet sibi obviantem ath<a>zir, id est interfectorem. Similiter
eodem anno gradus ascendentis habebit sibi obvium interfectorem, unde nato presagitur
mors naturalis tunc affutura, veluti in precedentibus, in <capitulo> de infirmitatibus,
aperte docuimus.42 10 Non diu infirmabitur natus ante mortis adventum, forte morte
repentina spiritum reddet autori, portendi intelligitur ex imperfecta constitutione, que
violentam /22v/ mortem significatura fuerat. 11 Species mortis minatur ab apoplexia
vel angina vel ex cerebri involutione, vertiginem vocant. Quapropter tempestive dis-
ponat domini sue, ut non videatur subitanea vel repentina morte obire, sed provisa.
Nam iustus si preoccupatus fuerit, anima eius in refrigerio erit, quod nobis concedat,
qui sine fine vivit et regnat.

14. Conlusio finalis

1 Hec sunt, n<obilis> vir prestantissime atque colende, que e decretis fatorum super
genethliaco tuo scribenda inveneram, divine tamen maiestatis iuditio nihil derogando
aut libero arbitrio tuo quovis parto obvians detrahendo. 2 Et hoc inprimis protestatum
esse volo quod ea que ventura denunciavi pro omnipotentis Dei clementia mutabilia
esse cognoscam, predictiones enim astrologorum de ea sunt natura, ut evenire queant,
et eas evenire necesse non sit, semper esse cogitandum premoneo, predictiones astro-
logicas non esse divina oracula, sed sagacis et prudentis ingenii coniecturas, que (ut
mortalitatis nostre conditio, terrenarumque rerum Euripus fert) aliquando frustrari
possint. 3 Quis enim in tantis tenebris non interdum impingat? Quis in tot intricatis-
simi labyrinthi anfractibus non alicubi aberret? Non mireris igitur si interdum omnia
ad urguem non eveniant. Sunt, inquit Ptholomeus, magorum iudicia inter contingens
et necessarium ponenda et quidem facile sapiens dominabitur astris, ex quibus sane
patet nullum eventum esse necessarium et nihil in nos urgere astra, sed iam proclives
trahere quare si rationem ducem sequeremur et appetitum menti obedientem prebere­
mus, multa cavere possemus et vitia et infortunia que sunt vitiorum plerumque pene.
4 Sin vero naturam sequantur id agere quod in brutis fere, vale. 5 Itaque hanc nostram
vigilantiam et sedulitatem grato animo accipe.
Scribebat Daventrie m<agister> Wilhelmus Mysocacus Bruxellensis anno domini 1566,
Martii die 16.

41 This sentence is in fact borrowed from Schöner, De iudiciis nativitatum, I.16 (f. LXVv).
42 See 6.20 above.

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Index of technical terms

This index covers a selection of technical terms and does not take into account most
common words, such as ascendens, aspectus, astrum, directio, domus, exaltatio, figura,
medium celi, pars fortune, planeta, signum etc.

Alcochoden: 1.5
Almuten: 1.1, 1.2, 2.17.
Animodar: horoscope 1, Introductio 1.
Apheta: 13.9.
Apotelesmatum: 1.6, 2.18, 2.33, 3.18, 8, 10.16. Also Introductio 2.
Athazir: 13.8, 13.9.
Climatericus (annus): 6.17.
Combustio: 6.20, 7.2.
Combustus: 6.20.
Constellatio: 2.33, 3.13, 3.15, 3.17, 3.21, 3.22, 10.7, 10.11.
Cuspis: 2.2, 2.3, 2.13, 12.2.
Decuria: 2.1, 2.2, 2.13, 2.14.
Defluxio: horoscope 1, 2.33, horoscope 2. Also 2.12 (defluens), 6.20 (defluebat), 13.1 (defluebat).
Dispositor: 3.1, 3.2 (dispositrix).
Genethliacus: Exhortatio 1, 10.1, 14.1.
Genitura: 1.3, 1.6, 4, 5, 10.17, 13.4.
Gubernator: 1.4, 10.2, 10.3. Also 1.1 (gubernaturum)
Habitaculum: 6.2.
Horoscopare: 2.1.
Horoscopus (horoscopum): 2.1, 6.12, 6.20, 10.24, 13.3.
Hyleg (hylech, hylegium): 1 (title), 1.5, 6.2, 6.3, 6.5, 6.8 – 11, 6.17 – 21.
Hylegialius: 6.1.
Hylegius (adj.): 1.1, 1.2.
Latitudo: 3.7, 3.23
Moderator: 1 (title).
Nativitas: Introductio 3, 1.1, 1.6, 2.33, 4, 5, 6.20, 9.5.
Profectio: 1.6, 6.4, 6.7 – 8, 6.11, 6.14, 10.8.
Progressio: 3.10.
Prorogator: 1.5.
Radix: 2.23, 6.7, 6.9, 6.13, 6.18, 6.20, 10.9, 10.14, 10.17.
Revolutio: 1.6, 6.1, 6.4, 6.8 – 9, 6.11 – 14, 6.16 – 18, 6.20 – 21, horoscope 2.
Significator: 1.6, 3.1, 5, 9.1, 9.5, 10.1.
Terminus: 2.1, 2.13, 2.14, 3.10, 3.13, 3.21, 6.5 – 6, 6.9 – 10, 6.20, 10.10, 10.14, 10.18, 10.25.
Transitus: 6.13.
Trutrina Hermetis: Introductio 3.

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Katrin Bauer

Johannes Kepler between two Emperors

O weh uns, wenn es wahr, was man sich sagt,


Daß jener finstern Sternekund’gen einer,
Die Euern Hof zum Sammelplatz erwählt,
Mit astrologisch dunkler Prophezeiung,
Euch abgewandt von Euerm edeln Haus,
Gefahr androhend von den Nahverwandten.
O weh uns, wenn es so, und Ihr für Schein
Den wahren Vorteil aufgebt, Aller Heil.1

With these words Franz Grillparzer (1791 – 1872) characterized the influence of astrologers
on Rudolf II in his drama “Ein Bruderzwist in Habsburg” (1848). For him it was clearly
a bad kind of influence, since he speaks of a dark prophecy indicating danger that will
lead directly to fraternal strife. As will be shown in this article, however, from today’s
point of view the practice of giving astrological advice at the court in Prague must be
seen in a more nuanced light. This article examines Johannes Kepler’s (1571 – 1630) spe-
cial position between two Holy Roman emperors. As imperial mathematician, Kepler
served Rudolf II (1552 – 1612) as well as his successor Matthias (1557 – 1619) (and even
his successor Ferdinand II [1578 – 1637]). Rudolf and Matthias were brothers, and in the
first decade of the seventeenth century they began a struggle for the succession to the
imperial throne. This dramatic situation was later called the “fraternal strife” (Bruder-
zwist) – for example, in the title of Grillparzer’s drama, and Kepler, the court astrologer,
was involved in this scenario in a very interesting way.
As we know from numerous documents, Kepler was informed about the current
political affairs of the Empire and was asked for advice on different topics during his
residence in Prague from 1600 to 1612. Despite being neither an official counselor
nor a member of the privy council, Kepler had direct access to both the monarch and
his later successor, and could have influenced their decisions with his advice based
on astrological predictions.2 In fact the imperial mathematician himself stated this

1 Franz Grillparzer, Ein Bruderzwist in Habsburg. Trauerspiel in fünf Aufzügen, Stuttgart


1953, p. 18.
2 In her article on mathematicians in the courtly sphere Bauer warns that Kepler’s attempts
must not be seen as an efficient try to influence a monarch with political advice camouflaged
as astrological analysis to avoid bringing his behavior too close to theory absolutism and the
philosophy of enlightenment. I fully agree with her last point but will show that Kepler’s

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206 Johannes Kepler between two Emperors

o­ pinion in a letter.3 This indicates his important standing at court, and makes a more
detailed study desirable.
The main questions I wish to consider are: first, what role did Kepler play in the
years 1611 to 1612, when Matthias of Habsburg finally managed to succeed his brother
Rudolf II on the imperial throne? Secondly, how was astrological advice used in the
conflict, and what influence from an astrologer, such as Kepler, can be identified on
the fraternal strife?
First we should glance briefly at the historical situation of the emperor’s court
around 1611.4 These were troubled times for the Habsburg family as well as for the
whole empire. The sovereign had decided to move his residence from Vienna to Prague
a few years earlier in 1583.5 There Rudolf gradually retreated into his own shell, spen­
ding more and more time in his famous Kunstkammer on the Hradčany in Prague.6
People began to worry about his mental state because he did not seem to deal with
the political situation around him at all. In addition, he refused to appoint a successor
to the imperial throne, despite the fact that he had no legitimate children. The reason
for his refusal might have been a crucial prophecy made a few years earlier, which
said that, if Rudolf ever had legitimate children or appointed a successor, he would
be murdered; in some variations of this prediction he would be killed by a monk. For
this reason he never married or decided who should succeed him on the throne.7 But
neither the Habsburg family nor the empire could be satisfied by this policy, because
the political situation became more and more insecure during the first decade of the
seventeenth century, just before the Thirty Years War. Reasons for this dangerous
situation in continental Europe have been well discussed elsewhere and need not be
examined any further here.8

approach differed a little bit from the “Ehrenkodex des Astrologen” he himself may has cre-
ated his Tacitus-exegesis. See: Barbara Bauer, Die Rolle des Hofastrologen und Hofmath-
ematicus als fürstlicher Berater, in: Höfischer Humanismus, ed. August Buck (Mitteilungen
der Kommission für Humanismusforschung 16), Weinheim 1989, pp. 93 – 117.
3 Johannes Kepler, Brief an einen anonymen Adligen vom 1611, Nr. 612, ed. Max Caspar,
Johannes Kepler: Gesammelte Werke, vol. 16, Munich 1954, pp. 373 – 375.
4 See Otto Brunner, Das Konfessionelle Zeitalter, in: Deutsche Geschichte im Überblick.
Ein Handbuch, ed. Peter Rassow and Theodor Schieffer, Stuttgart 1973, pp. 284 – 316, esp.
pp. 293 – 299 (with references).
5 In Prague Rudolf resided on the Hradschin: Karl Vocelka, Rudolf II. und seine Zeit,
Vienna–Cologne–Graz 1985, pp. 94 – 97.
6 See Robert J. ­Evans, Rudolf II and his world. A study in intellectual history 1576 – 1612,
Oxford 1973, pp. 43 – 83.
7 See Anton Gindely, Rudolf II. und seine Zeit. 1600 – 1612, vol. 2, Prague 1865, pp. 325 – 327.
For Rudolf ’s mental state see Hans C. ­E. Midelfort, Verrückte Hoheit. Wahn und Kum-
mer in deutschen Herrscherhäusern, Stuttgart 1996, pp. 171 – 195.
8 See Fritz Dickmann, Der Westfälische Frieden, Münster 1998, esp. pp. 9 – 58 (with references).

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Johannes Kepler between two Emperors 207

Instead, the following question needs to be addressed: what caused the fraternal strife
in the house of Habsburg? The reasons for Matthias forcing his brother to appoint him
to the imperial throne are obvious.9 First of all, Matthias wanted to save the reign for
the Habsburgs. Secondly, it was necessary to arrange for the change on the throne in
advance of Rudolf ’s death to maintain the peace in central Europe. And last but not
least, Matthias had a personal interest, as the emperorship was the highest dignity one
could achieve at the time, apart, perhaps, from becoming pope. During the year 1606,
after successfully managing the Ottoman menace in Hungary, Matthias of Habsburg
expanded his alliances with the other archdukes of Austria against his brother, and they
signed a treaty without Rudolf ’s approval or even his knowledge.10 In this treaty, the
signatories agreed that Matthias should become the new emperor. In addition, Rudolf ’s
sanity was called into doubt.11 Whether this speculation is true or not cannot be exa­
mined here, but considering the many documents by eyewitnesses who doubted Rudolf ’s
sanity, it seems highly probable that he suffered from some kind of mental problem.
Although the alliance was confidential, Rudolf somehow got knowledge of it. In
the following years, events spun out of control: in 1608, Matthias attacked his brother
with military support in Prague, forcing him to sign the treaty of Lieben that included
many concessions to his enemy. Afterwards, Matthias took over power in Hungary,
Austria and Moravia. In May 1611 he was elected king of Bohemia, which meant that
he was designated to become the next emperor, and Rudolf was completely isolated in
the Hradčany in Prague, where he died in January of 1612. He was emperor until the
end but had no real power left.12
Throughout this dramatic scenario, Johannes Kepler served as imperial mathemati-
cian at the court in Prague.13 In 1601, a short time after he had arrived there, his patron,
Tycho Brahe (1546 – 1601), who had invited him, died. Before his death, however,
the Danish nobleman and current imperial mathematician introduced Kepler to the
emperor, who, in return, was willing to appoint him as the new imperial mathematician

9 See Bernd Rill, Kaiser Matthias. Bruderzwist und Glaubenskampf, Vienna–Cologne–Graz


1999, esp. pp. 121 – 133.
10 Ibid., p. 125. This contract was based on the agreements made in 1600 in Schottwien and
renewed in 1605 in Linz: Joseph Fischer, Der sogenannte Schottwiener Vertrag vom Jahre
1600. Ein Beitrag zur österreichischen Haus- und Reichsgeschichte. Nach bisher unbenützten
Archivalien, Fribourg 1897; Id., Der Linzer Tag vom Jahre 1605 in seiner Bedeutung für die
österreichische Haus- und Reichsgeschichte, Feldkirch 1808.
11 “Der menschenscheue Einsiedler in der Prager Burg war immer weniger imstande, die Geschäfte
zu führen; seit Beginn des Jahrhunderts zeigten sich geistige Störungen, sein krankhafter
­Argwohn gegen die anderen Mitglieder seines Hauses und seine nächsten Mitarbeiter lähmten
die Geschäfte.“ Brunner, Das Konfessionelle Zeitalter (see note 4), p. 295.
12 See Rill, Kaiser Matthias (see note 9), pp. 134 – 144.
13 See Max Caspar, Johannes Kepler, Stuttgart 1968, esp. pp. 133 – 241.

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208 Johannes Kepler between two Emperors

on Tycho’s death.14 While employed at court, he was responsible for completing the
Rudolfine Tables, which Tycho had begun, and were based on his many years of
systematic observations.15 In addition, Rudolf II, who was deeply interested in the
future development of his life, ordered numerous astrological elaborations on differ-
ent topics. He asked Kepler for nativities, elections, and astrological advice.16 This is
even more striking considering Rudolf ’s probably disturbed mental state. Despite
retreating increasingly into himself, he still wanted Kepler’s advice, so he must have
trusted him deeply.17
Some of the documents Kepler created for the Habsburg family have survived, but
many of them are unfortunately only known from references elsewhere, for example in
letters. My focus will be on four extant documents. During the fraternal strife, Kepler
gave advice to the emperor in a particular way. I will here examine three documents
that Kepler prepared for Rudolf and one letter to an anonymous nobleman in order to
show how astrologically informed political counsel was given at this time. With these
documents as examples, I especially want to offer insight into Johannes Kepler’s deve­
lopment, who – as I will argue – in his own self-perception was far more than simply
an imperial mathematician to the monarch.
The first document is entitled “Analysis of the conflict between Venice and Pope
Paul V”18, the second is a piece of astrological advice for Rudolf II,19 and the third has
the title “Analysis of the last phase of the fraternal strife.”20 All the titles were added by
the editor of the Gesammelte Werke and shall be used here for clarity of orientation.
The documents may be read in different ways: first, as advice for an emperor unable to
figure out how to deal with his ambitious brother, or with politics at all. Secondly, as
the attempt of a responsible counselor to retain Habsburg rule over the Holy Roman
Empire.21 And finally, as Kepler’s personal attempt to attain a better position at court.

14 Carola Baumgart, Johannes Kepler. Leben und Briefe, Wiesbaden 1983, p. 60.
15 The Rudolfine Tables were also meant to preserve Brahe’s and Rudolf ’s names for posterity:
Johannes Kepler, Tabulae Rudolfinae, ed. Franz Hammer, in: Johannes Kepler, Gesam-
melte Werke, vol. 10, Munich 1969.
16 See Johannes Kepler, Manuscripta Astrologica. Manuscripta Pneumatica, eds. Fried-
erike Boockmann, Daniel A. ­Di Liscia, et al., in: Johannes Kepler, Gesammelte Werke,
vol. 21.2.2, Munich 1997, esp. pp. 423 – 4 44.
17 See Baumgart, Kepler (see note 14), p. 83.
18 KGW 21.2.2 (see note 16), pp. 437 – 439. The editor wrote a few words about the document
in the ‘Nachbericht’ of this volume, pp. 592 – 594. She concentrated on Kepler’s discussion
of the use of traditional astrology and gave a short historical overview.
19 Ibid., pp.  439 – 4 41.
20 Ibid., pp.  441 – 4 44.
21 In contrary to Bauer’s theory that Kepler tried to secure a bonum commune it will be shown
in this article that he mainly took care for the remaining reign of the house of Habsburg and
thereby his own position. Bauer, Die Rolle des Hofastrologen (see note 2), pp. 110 – 117.

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Johannes Kepler between two Emperors 209

The letter Kepler wrote to an anonymous person in 1611 is an important key to under-
stand the three official documents.22 There he offers hints of his self-perception as a
political counselor, and helps us draw a fuller picture of how his role developed, since
it is chronologically the last document in this examination.
I will start with a brief look at the first document, which is not directly connected to
the fraternal strife, to demonstrate the principles of Kepler’s astrologico-political counsel
at an early stage of its development. The “Analysis of the conflict between Venice and
Pope Paul V” was commissioned by the emperor in 1606. It contains eleven paragraphs
of predictions concerning Venice’s current tensions with Rome.
The Venetian republic had enacted a law that forbade the selling of landed property
to anyone connected with the Catholic Church, and put all clergy under Venetian juris-
diction. The pope reacted by placing the republic under an interdict, and war seemed
unavoidable.23 For a dramatic setting like this, Kepler’s analysis of the situation is quite
short: it amounts to only about two folios,24 starting with a rejection of traditional
astrological methods: “Saepe declaravi, me non existimare, quod coelum se particula­
ribus cum voto immisceat.”25 Nevertheless, Kepler goes on to announce that they will
be used in the current document anyway, since this was what Rudolf had ordered.26 This
tension illuminates the situation of the imperial mathematician, who had to fulfill the
wishes of his patron, as well as his own ideas of scientific work.
For his astrological interpretation of the conflict, Kepler compared the nativity of
the current pontiff Paul V (1552 – 1621) with a horoscope cast for the foundation of
Venice. The first can be found in Kepler’s collection, while there is no hint of whether
he had ever cast one for la Serenissima.27 In describing the astrological impact on
Venice, the words “unde Cardanus dixit”28 indicate that Kepler had taken his infor-
mation from a horoscope cast by Girolamo Cardano (1501 – 1576) for Venice, so that
he would not have to cast one himself. Cardano was famous for his large collection
of horoscopes.29 On the one hand, this may show the respect that Kepler had for the
other astrologer. On the other, it could indicate that Kepler was not happy about

22 Johannes Kepler, Briefe 1607 – 1611, in: Gesammelte Werke, ed. Max Caspar, vol. 16,
Munich 1954, pp. 373 – 375.
23 For an overview of the historical situation see: William J.  ­Bouwsma, Venice and the Defense
of Republican Liberty. Renaissance Values in the Age of the Counter Reformation, B ­ erkeley–
Los Angeles 1968, esp. pp. 293 – 482.
24 See KGW 21.2.2 (see note 16), p. 439, n. 11.
25 Ibid., p. 437.
26 “Sed tamen, quia jubeor, dicenda est ab initio sententia astrologorum“, ibid., p. 437; and
Boockmann mentions this in her ‘Nachbericht’ to the same volume, p. 593.
27 Ibid., p. 594.
28 Ibid., p. 438.
29 See Anthony Grafton, Cardano’s Cosmos. The Worlds and Works of a Renaissance Astro­
loger, London 1999, esp. pp. 199 – 202.

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210 Johannes Kepler between two Emperors

providing the analysis requested by his emperor, and that he did not want to waste
too much time on it by casting the nativity for Venice himself.
The imperial mathematician compared the data from the horoscopes in a traditional
manner. He also cited another Italian astrologer, Luca Gaurico (1476 – 1558), who hap-
pened to have forecast that Venice would exist up to the year 1880, and “[dass] die
Restauration des Kirchenstaates durch Papst Julius II. zu Beginn des 16. Jahrhunderts
bis 1571, ja bis 1608, anhalten werde.”30
Although Kepler did a proper job of traditional astrology, there are two striking
points: first, Kepler had openly rejected traditional astrological methods in a work for
his emperor, who was known for his love of such things. It was presumably for this
­reason that Kepler interpreted and compared the nativities of city and pope very care-
fully, and cited two other astrologers within his forecast to support his scientific relia­
bility. Secondly, Kepler was asked for his opinion in a politically explosive situation.
Rudolf must have had great confidence in both his advice and discretion, which offers
valuable insight into Kepler’s position in Prague after becoming Brahe’s successor five
years earlier. It will serve as a significant point of comparison with the following docu-
ments for examining Kepler’s development.
The next document was most likely written in 161031 and deals with a number of
astrological questions. This was a normal way to ask for astrological advice. Rudolf
had probably sent Kepler a letter with questions, now lost, or asked him in a private
conversation face to face. It is again a very short document and does not on the face
of it seem very important. Kepler replied calmly to four questions in order to avoid
increasing his emperor’s fears. Boockmann interpreted this strategy in the following
way: Kepler wanted Rudolf to forget other, presumably more dramatic forecasts or
prophecies in the face of this more rational and calm approach.32 This may well be
true, but I think it is not the only reason why he wrote the document in the way he
did, as I will show.

30 KGW 21.2.2 (see note 16), p. 594. Kepler cited in his judicium Luca Gaurico, Tractatus
Astrologicus in quo agitur de praeteritis multorum accidentibus per proprias eorum geni­
turas ad unguem examinatis, Venice 1552, f. 6r. It is necessary to point out Kepler’s rejection
of great parts of traditional astrology, and his aim to reform the remaining parts. See Johannes
Kepler, Tertius Interveniens, in: KGW 4, p. 147; Judith V. ­Field, A Lutheran Astrologer:
Johannes Kepler, in: Archive for History of exact Sciences, vol. 31, no. 3 (1984), pp. 189 – 272,
esp. pp.  199 – 201 and 219 – 225; Gérard Simon, Kepler, Astronome, Astrologue, Paris 1979.
31 Boockmann briefly discusses this matter: KGW 21.2.2 (see note 16), p. 594.
32 “Aus Keplers Antworten kann geschlossen werden, wie der Kaiser von anderen Astrologen
stupende astrologische Hinweise und Deutungen zu politischen Ereignissen erhielt und sich
dadurch in abstruse Gedanken verstrickte, die Kepler mit seinem Schreiben zu zerstreuen
suchte, indem er den Kaiser bewußt bodenständig antwortete.” KGW 21.2.2 (see note 16),
p. 595.

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Johannes Kepler between two Emperors 211

It is obvious that Kepler must have been very familiar with the contents because
he did not feel the need to explain every detail. Thus there are many questions in this
docu­ment still left open. The monarch had asked for traditional astrological topics, as
can be seen indirectly in Kepler’s answer: Rudolf wanted his mathematician to compare
different signs of the zodiac,33 he was interested in the constellations of a forthcoming
date,34 he asked whether the murder of Henry IV of France had been predictable from
his nativity or not,35 and he sought some details of his own horoscope concerning the
conflicts of the previous years since 1607.36
For our purposes, the question about the French king’s death by violence, and a
quotation of Kepler’s concerning his own status are the most interesting aspects of the
document, so I will concentrate on them. Henry IV had been murdered in May 1610 by
a religious fanatic.37 Perhaps the emperor was thinking about the prophecy on his own
possible future death by violence caused by a monk when he inquired about g­ etting
more information on this topic. In addition, violent deaths were a popular area of
research among astrologers at this time,38 as the following example illustrates: in his
famous horoscope for Edward VI (1537 – 1553) Cardano missed predicting the young
king’s early death. He later felt the need to explain this failure in order to restore his
astrological reputation.39 Kepler’s situation seems comparable, since he was eager to
explain why he could not predict the French king’s violent death from the calculations
he made in his answer to Rudolf ’s astrological question,40 which today can be found in
Kepler’s collection.41 It seems that he wanted to rescue his reputation and to retain his
monarch’s confidence in his astrological skills. So, both the event itself and his imperial
mathematician’s erroneous prediction must have upset Rudolf.
In addition, Kepler took a big risk in a deeply problematic situation. He only wrote
a few words: “Derohalben wan Ich E<urer> K<aiserlichen> M<ajes<t>ät> gehaimer
rath wäre.”42 If only I were your majesty’s privy counselor. To utter these words required
a great deal of bravery because they indicate that he associated himself with a far better
position at court, since the emperor’s privy council was the most influential committee

33 Ibid., pp.  439 – 4 40.


34 Ibid., p. 440.
35 Ibid.
36 Ibid.
37 For details see Roland Mousnier, L’assassinat d’Henri IV, Paris 1964; Klaus Malettke, Die
Bourbonen, vol. 1: Von Heinrich IV. bis Ludwig XIV.  1589 – 1715, Stuttgart 2008, pp.  57 – 59.
38 See another example: Gauricus, Tractatus (see note 30), ff. 87r–115v.
39 See Grafton, Cardano’s Cosmos (see note 29), pp. 115 – 123.
40 Ibid., p. 440.
41 Johannes Kepler, Vier Solare für Heinrich IV. von Frankreich, in: KGW 21.2.2 (see note
16), pp.  132 – 134.
42 Ibid., p. 441.

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212 Johannes Kepler between two Emperors

in the empire.43 It had constant contact with the sovereign and was informed about cur-
rent matters. The privy council had moved with the emperor to Prague in 1583, where
new members were appointed and old members remained. The participants had to give
their professional opinion on different political topics in the form of a referendum.
Most of the members were noblemen. Heinrich Julius von Braunschweig-Wolffenbüt-
tel (1564 – 1613) played a key role in the privy council at this time. He had his emperor’s
full trust despite the fact that he was a Lutheran prince at a Catholic court. This indi-
cates Rudolf ’s confessional openness, which was a matter of principle.44 Furthermore,
even the members with more modest backgrounds received privileges that created a
status very close to nobility. The counsellor Johann Anton Barwitz (d. 1620), who was
responsible for managing the emperor’s private and foreign correspondence after 1597
may serve as an example. This was a strategically important position and temporarily
he was the only person who had access to the emperor.45 Thus becoming part of the
privy council would have seemed very attractive.
As noted earlier, the political situation at the beginning of the seventeenth century
was extremely unstable, as Kepler knew. He also knew that the emperor was very old
and had a bad constitution, that the succession to the throne had not yet been arranged,
and that clouds of war were gathering in the empire. In this situation, I think that he
tried to arrange for himself a stable position at court, which would have helped him to
remain in his position as imperial mathematician.
In contrast, there are indications that political change seemed possible around
the years 1610 and 1611. In 1611 Peter de Vischere wrote, in a letter addressing his
archduke Albrecht: “Ratet treulich, das die anwesende erzherzogen und ambascia­
dores nicht von hinnen weichen, es sei einige reformation und besserung zue werke
gerichtet, und dringt immer da sehr, das eine qualificierte in cose di stato et Guerra
erfahrene person in namen der samentlichen erzherzogen hieher in loco zu bleiben
verordnet werde, der macht habe, pro interesse domus zu reden, und zu dem die
gutherzige ain refugium haben, auch sich in allen zutragenden fallen bei ihm raths
erholen mögen.”46 Rudolf himself had renewed parts of the constitutional foundation

43 For general insight see Henry Frederick Schwarz, The Imperial Privy Council in the Sev-
enteenth Century (Harvard Historical Studies 53), Cambridge 1943; focused on Kepler’s
role and possible aims: Bauer, Die Rolle des Hofastrologen (see note 2), pp. 93 – 117.
44 See Schwarz, The Privy Council (see note 43), pp. 204 – 208.
45 See Oswald von Gschliesser, Der Reichshofrat. Bedeutung und Verfassung, Schicksal und
Besetzung einer obersten Reichsbehörde von 1559 bis 1806, Vienna 1942, pp. 153 – 154; see
Schwarz, Privy Council (see note 43), pp. 202 – 204.
46 Brief von Peter de Vischere an Erzherzog Albrecht vom 21. Dezember 1611, ed. Anton
Chroust, in: Briefe und Akten zur Geschichte des Dreissigjährigen Krieges in Zeiten des
vorwaltenden Einflusses der Wittelsbacher, vol. X: Der Ausgang der Regierung Rudolfs II.
und die Anfänge des Kaisers Matthias, Munich 1906, pp. 178 – 180, p. 179.

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Johannes Kepler between two Emperors 213

of the empire, and the removal of the court from Vienna to Prague might also have
fulfilled the hopes of some courtiers to enter the privy council. One example is
Andreas Hannewald (ca. 1560–ca. 1623), who became a member in 1606 after he had
served in different lower institutions. He managed to acquire some influence over
the emperor, especially concerning the latter’s relationship to his brother.47 Maybe
Kepler had similar plans.
In order to understand Kepler’s development, there are three notable facts to bear
in mind from this second document: first, even the failure to predict Henry IV’s
death did not compromise Kepler’s standing at court. Secondly, by proposing him-
self as Rudolf ’s privy councilor, Kepler revealed his great self-confidence, and that
he saw himself playing an important role for his monarch. Thirdly, he clearly wanted
to attain a secure position, in which he could outlast the current sovereign, and he
believed that it was within his reach. Other councilors remained in their position
even under the successor of their original emperor, as the example of Johann Georg
von Hohenzollern-­Hechingen (1577 – 1623), privy councilor to the emperors Matthias
and Ferdinand II, shows.
In November 1611, Rudolf asked his imperial mathematician for another astrolo­
gical analysis, this time of the situation in Hungary. He wanted to know whether his
brother Matthias would become more dangerous for him or not. After other conflicts
concerning Hungary and the Ottomans, Rudolf was finally forced to name his brother
governor of Hungary.48 The “Analysis of the last phase of the fraternal strife”, as it is
titled in the edition, is an acutely political document. As before, Kepler insisted on
rejecting traditional astrological methods. Instead, he announced that he would give
a more political than astrological kind of advice. Nevertheless, he started with a few
astrological topics: [1] the primary importance of cometary influences, [2] significant
aspects for the years 1611 to 1613 – i. e. four oppositions of Saturn and Jupiter – and [3]
the conclusion that, in the end, every development depends on the people involved.49
He had put forward this opinion in some of his earlier works, for example in his Tertius
Interveniens: “Astra inclinant, non necessitant.”50
Again, I will focus on a few points in this document: by interpreting the first oppo-
sition in a strongly political way, Kepler more or less openly advised Rudolf to appoint
his brother to the imperial throne. He explained why a potential successor must be
a member of the Habsburg family. All the other candidates would suffer opposition
from either the Catholic church or the Lutheran and Calvinist prince electors. In direct
connection to his explanations, he also mentioned the astrological prospects for Matthias

47 See Schwarz, Privy Council (see note 43), pp. 237 – 239.


48 For more details see Rill, Kaiser Matthias (see note 9), pp. 126 – 127.
49 See KGW 21.2.2 (see note 16), p. 441.
50 Johannes Kepler, Tertius Interveniens. Warnung an die Gegner der Astrologie, ed. Fritz
Krafft, Munich 1971, p. 140.

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214 Johannes Kepler between two Emperors

succeeding his brother.51 But this was a delicate and dangerous manœuvre! As noted
above, Rudolf was afraid that he might be killed as soon as he had a legitimate succes-
sor, and the problems Matthias caused previously did nothing to diminish his mistrust.
My interpretation of the imperial mathematician’s advice is that Kepler had his
­monarch’s fullest confidence, and could therefore say openly in his interpretations
what might have otherwise been misunderstood. Kepler tried to show that appointing
­Matthias would bring glory to the entire house of Habsburg. With this implicit inter-
pretation, the imperial mathematician made himself an advocate of the Habsburg family
and their interests. In this way, Kepler was able, on the one hand, to calm Rudolf down
and, on the other, he could prove afterwards to the prospective successor Matthias that
he had acted with complete loyalty to the house of Habsburg. The analysis of the first
opposition of Saturn and Jupiter, then, was a stroke of genius!
Kepler then connected the second opposition to the eastern menace by briefly dis-
cussing the Ottoman situation and Habsburg interests in Transylvania.52 The third
opposition appeared to anticipate conflicts with Spain,53 while there were several indi-
cations that the fourth opposition – expected for 1613 – pointed to great changes in
Christendom.54 In comparison with the previous documents, this one indicates a signifi­
cant development in Kepler’s position. He was now able to step out of the exclusively
personal relationship with Rudolf and thereby speak for the entire Habsburg family.
His interpretations of the four upcoming oppositions were all connected to different
members of the family, each of whom were possible successors to Rudolf. The first can-
didate was of course Matthias, but there was another eligible one, namely Ferdinand,
Rudolf ’s and Matthias’s cousin, who eventually succeeded Matthias in 1619.
From my point of view, there are two possible reasons why Kepler risked creating
such a document while facing a suspicious emperor: the first relates directly to the
previous developments – Kepler wanted to ascertain that he could continue being
the imperial mathematician. He tried to achieve this aim by calming Rudolf, while
at the same time making sure that he had a good position when the next emperor
arose. The second possibility relates to some political plans circulating at the court in
Prague in 1611. The privy council was in very bad shape due to Rudolf ’s disinterest in
politics in later life. As noted earlier, his relatives tried to gain some control over his
political activities and decisions. In this situation, the idea arose to appoint a special
privy councilor for the house of Habsburg, as mentioned above. This special councilor
should be informed about all important matters, and should help to moderate the
different interests and to arbitrate conflicts between members of the Habsburg family.

51 See KGW 21.2.2 (see note 16), pp. 442 – 4 43.


52 See Ibid.
53 Ibid., p. 444.
54 Ibid.

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Johannes Kepler between two Emperors 215

This post would have been very influential. As a link between the ruling family
and the privy council, this powerful post would have made Kepler very important
at the Habsburg court. My hypothesis is that Kepler knew of this plan, and that he
tried to get this position by portraying himself as an advocate of the entire house of
Habsburg, not only in 1611, but also in 1610, when he had indirectly asked for the
post of privy councilor.
Kepler’s relationships with important people in the imperial context ranged widely
and included members of well connected and powerful families. These contacts allowed
Kepler to gather information as well as to consolidate his position at court, as two
examples may demonstrate. In his early career, Kepler came into contact with Herwart
of Hohenburg (1553 – 1622) through his friendship with Michael Mästlin. Herwart was
chancellor for the duke of Bavaria, and had great influence on the imperial court. With
his political and scientific network and his interest in the natural sciences (Siegmund in
this respect calls him “Mittelsperson der Wissenschaft”55), he was the perfect patron for
the young Kepler, who benefitted greatly from this relationship. For example, Herwart
offered Kepler advice for his behavior at court and his relationship to the emperor.56
And in a letter Herwart wrote in 1602 to Barwitz, who handled most of the imperial
corres­pondence after 1597 and had direct access to the emperor, he recommended Kepler
as imperial mathematician because there was no one “et ingenio, et fundamentis artis
Matheseos, disem Magistro Kepler zuvergleichen.”57
I will now conclude my overview with a letter that Kepler wrote to an anonymous
nobleman in April 1611. The original letter is unfortunately lost, but its content has
been passed on to us in a copy made by Otto Struve.58 Kepler sent this letter to a per-
son closely connected to the emperor. He referred to the nobleman as “­Caesarianus”,59
someone accustomed to giving Rudolf advice. “Tuum igitur est, qui Caesari consulis,

55 Günther Siegmund, Der bayerische Staatskanzler Herwart von Hohenburg als Freund und
Beförderer der exakten Wissenschaften, Munich 1889, p. 20.
56 Siegmund states: “Nachdem von Kepler die Mitteilung eingelaufen ist, daß er ganz zu Tycho
nach Böhmen überzusiedeln vorhabe, giebt ihm Herwart einige Winke darüber, unter welchen
Bedingungen allein der Eintritt in den kaiserlichen Dienst ratsam sei.“ Ibid., p. 12.
57 Brief Herwarts von Hohenburg an Johann Anton Barwitz vom 23. Februar 1602, ed. Max
Caspar, in: Johannes Kepler, Gesammelte Werke, vol. 14, Nr. 207, pp. 214 – 215, esp. 214. In
1602 it did not seem certain that Kepler would succeed Brahe as imperial mathematician.
In the same letter Herwart suggested that Kepler should accept another post if he was not
appointed officially and paid properly.
58 See Otto Struve, Beitrag zur Feststellung des Verhältnisses von Kepler zu Wallenstein,
Petersburg 1860, pp. 11 – 12. Bauer assumed the nobleman could be Anton Barwitz who was
mentioned above. To me it seems highly probable that she is right: Bauer, Die Rolle des
Hofastrologen (see note 2), p. 105.
59 KGW 16 (see note 21), p. 373.

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216 Johannes Kepler between two Emperors

dispicere, an hoc sit ex usu Caesaris.”60 The nobleman seems to have been asked for
his opinion on crucial imperial political matters. Kepler explained to him that he
had been asked for an astrological analysis of the fraternal-strife situation by Rudolf
as well as by Matthias.61 As we saw above, the document he wrote for Rudolf still
exists, while the analysis Kepler mentioned for Matthias has not yet been found.
The origin of the questions lay in a French prophecy that was not specified in
the letter. Probably this was one of the prophecies of Nostradamus (1503 – 1566),
which were published in 1555 and were popular end-of-the-world literature in the
last quarter of the sixteenth and the beginning of the seventeenth century.62 But the
addressee of the letter must have been well informed about the topic, because Kepler
did not feel the need to explain it in more detail. This makes a tentative interpreta-
tion possible: perhaps the addressee was a member of the privy council with access
to the emperor and to important information about the state of affairs. In this case,
a more detailed description was unnecessary. In addition, it could have been too
dangerous to be more specific, as the content of the letter was in any case of acute
political interest. Coming back to the text: Kepler stated that from an objective
point of view, Matthias was – astrologically speaking – in a better position than
his brother. Any astrologer who could compare the nativities of the two opponents
would see that.63 “Breviter, censeo Astrologiam exire debere non tantum e senatu,
sed etiam ex animis ipsis eorum, qui hodie Caesari optima suadere volunt, adeoque
arcendam penitus a conspectu Caesaris.”64 Here again Kepler stressed his rejection
of traditional astrology, while at the same time offering political advice enfolded in
astrological interpretations. This shows on the one hand his awareness that Rudolf
would probably be more open to his advice as soon as he saw it was based on astro-
logical data. On the other hand it emphasizes Kepler’s remaining belief in the use-
fulness of some parts of astrology.
The imperial mathematician openly admitted a very important detail to the
addressee: even if the astrological situation was better for Matthias than Rudolf,
Kepler nevertheless composed a confident analysis for his emperor, “correcting” the
analysis for his sake.65 This is interesting for two reasons: first, it is astonishing that
Kepler was asked for advice by both parties. This confirms his reputation, his

60 Ibid.
61 “Ego rogatus a partibus, quas Caesari scio adversas, super astrorum decretis.“ Ibid., p. 374.
62 Kepler calls the prognosticator „illi Gallicus“: Ibid., p. 373.
63 “Haec si astrologus aliquis videret et perpenderet, et si penes ipsum simul esset alterutri con-
sulere: Matthiam quidem redderet confidentissimum, Caesar vero formidulosum.” Ibid.,
p. 375.
64 Ibid.
65 “Vicissim tibi quia Caesari fidus es, dicam ingenue, quod Matthiae et Bohemis nunquam sum
dicturus.” Ibid., p. 374.

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Johannes Kepler between two Emperors 217

prominence, and again the role he played for the entire house of Habsburg. S­ econdly,
it is surprising that Kepler openly told someone that he modified or would modify
his interpretation of astrological data in order to influence his clients. From his point
of view he did this only for the sake of the emperor, but it can hardly be recon­ciled
with his self-perception as a serious scientist. For me this shows that he had left the
sphere of science and entered the political arena. And it was very dange­rous to tell
someone about this in a letter, which could have been read by a third party. The former
point corresponds with another piece of information in the letter: Kepler warned the
reader that Rudolf had been easily influenced by suspicious advisers with obscurantist
opinions based on pseudo-astrological research in the past.66 He may be referring to
people like the former imperial mathematician, R ­ aimarus Ursus (1551 –1600), or other
charlatans who made a fortune from the emperor’s good will. As Kepler warned, this
kind of prediction should be avoided in Rudolf ’s presence, in favor of serious politi­
cal advice. And astrology should be removed not only from the privy council but also
from the heart of everyone involved in the political affairs of the empire. This would
have meant, however, that Kepler too should be removed from this sphere! The only
way to avoid his own dismissal would have been a change of positions, as he suggested
in the document of 1610.
This leads me to a general interpretation of the letter: I think that Kepler wrote to
someone he knew very well because he spoke frankly about highly charged political
and personal matters. In addition, the addressee, like the imperial mathematician,
must have been part of the emperor’s inner circle. Kepler did not have to explain
the content he was talking about, he simply assumed the requisite knowledge from
his addressee. In this letter Kepler portrayed himself as a scientist who rejected tra-
ditional astrology and obscurantist methods, but at the same time made clear that
he was also quite capable of being a political actor. And he emphasized that, in the
special case of Rudolf, he could use astrology as a tool to influence the situation in
a positive way. This required a high degree of responsibility on the astrologer’s part,
and Kepler showed that he was capable of solving that problem. But he implied that
he would need all the information he could gather about the situations he hoped to
influence. He would have needed another position at court to achieve this aim. By
stating these two arguments, Kepler followed his plan of 1610. He was the right man
to convince Rudolf – who was increasingly removed from current politics – of the
best course for him, his family and his empire!
To conclude I will now come back to the three questions I asked in the beginning
and propose some answers and attempts at answers. First: what role did Kepler play
in the years 1611 to 1612, when Matthias of Habsburg finally managed to succeed his

66 “Inter caetera hesterni colloquii, dixi uno verbo Astrologiam ingentia damna afferre Monar-
chis, si catus aliquis astrologus illudere velit hominum credulitati.” Ibid., p. 373.

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218 Johannes Kepler between two Emperors

brother Rudolf II on the throne? As imperial mathematician he was asked by his


sovereign for astrological advice in different situations. But at least from 1606, when
Kepler wrote the “Analysis of the conflict between Venice and Pope Paul V”, he dealt
with political matters important for the whole empire. This involvement only increased
and Kepler was asked for more detailed interpretations of current political affairs in
the following years, as the astrologico-political advice for Rudolf II and the “Analy-
sis of the last phase of the fraternal strife” show. In addition, he was also asked by the
opposing party for astrologico-political advice. Finally the letter he wrote to an anony­
mous nobleman in 1611 gives us an idea of his self-perception in his role as political
councilor. This leads me to a very important hypothesis which I want to stress again:
in my opinion, Kepler wanted to achieve the position of a privy councilor in the years
of the fraternal strife. The clues I have presented are [1] his quotation of 1610, where
he explicitly said that he wanted to be a privy councilor at the emperor’s court; [2]
the extraordinary extent of his knowledge about affairs at the imperial court; [3] the
image he created of himself as an advocate for the whole house of Habsburg in 1611;
[4] the implicit arguments he made in the letter to the anonymous nobleman; and
[5] his connections to many influential members of the high nobility, who were able
to support his aims.
The second question is: how was astrological advice used in the argument? A striking
fact is that Kepler insistently rejected traditional astrology. In the first document, he
nonetheless used it after his rejection in the introduction. But the astrological advice
of 1610 contains a greater amount of political than astrological interpretations. And the
document concerning the fraternal strife is arranged by astrological phenomena, but
deals principally with the political situation and possible solutions for current p­ roblems
based on logic and reason. Finally, Kepler told us in the letter that Rudolf could be
influenced by astrologers. This must, from Kepler’s point of view, make a prediction
from the stars an inconvenient basis for serious political counsel. Thus, my conclusion
is that Kepler used astrology as a vehicle for reaching his monarch with his advice. As
he knew, Rudolf respected advice based on predictions made from the stars. Therefore,
he embellished his political advice with an astrological veneer.
Coming to the third question: what influence from an astrologer like Kepler can be
identified on the fraternal strife? The historical development of the fraternal strife does
not support any kind of positive influence by Kepler’s astrological advice on the emperor.
In the end, Matthias forced his brother by military means to accept him as his successor
after the treaty of Lieben. When Matthias was elected king of Bohemia, he ignored
his brother’s wishes, and Rudolf was in the end isolated from political power. So far
the historical facts. But the documents we examined tell a different story. How could
both facets be unified? From my point of view, the differences between the ­brothers
were too big to be solved by an astrologer with no real political power. Rudolf was too
scared and Matthias was too ambitious. Kepler did his best to reconcile the parties with
the only tool he had: astrologico-political advice. With this aim he obviously failed.

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Johannes Kepler between two Emperors 219

But he had yet another ambition: I think that Kepler tried to secure his own position.
He knew that Rudolf was very old and that there would soon be a successor. With his
council for both parties in the fraternal strife, he made sure that he was available for
Rudolf as well as for his potential successors.
It seems to have been important for Kepler to portray himself as a councilor for
the affairs of the entire Habsburg family. This might also be why we find these docu­
ments in his collection. There are just a few extensive interpretations that survive in
Kepler’s collection. Boockmann thought it was because of the client’s prominence
that the analysis can still be found there. Why, then, is the analysis for Matthias
lost? Perhaps Kepler wanted to prove that he only did his best for his current mas-
ter. In contrast to Grillparzer’s image of astrologers at Rudolf ’s court, there is no
evidence that Kepler made any kind of dark prophecy or tried in any way to separate
the Habsburg ­brothers from one another. On the contrary, he must have seemed
so trustworthy that in the end remained court mathematician even under Matthias
and his successor Ferdinand II until his own death in 1630. Thus, perhaps Kepler
achieved at least one of his aims.

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Table of Astrological Symbols

 Saturn  Aries  Conjunction 0°


 Jupiter  Taurus  Sextile 60°
 Mars  Gemini  Square 90°
 Sun  Cancer  Trine 120°
 Venus  Leo  Opposition 180°
 Mercury  Virgo
 Moon  Libra
( Head (Tail) of the Dragon  Scorpio
 Part of fortune  Sagittarius
 Capricorn
 Aquarius
 Pisces

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Index of Names

Abraham Giudaeus, v. Abraham Judeus. Aquilinius of Aquila  107n.


Abraham Ibn Ezra  23, 23n, 48, 48n, 49, 49n, Aristotle  19, 50, 96.
50n, 51, 52, 52n, 53n, 54n, 55n, 59n, 60n, Aufseß, family  102.
142, 143. Augustus, Roman emperor  146, 147, 147n,
Abraham Judeus [Abraham Giudaeus]  142. 148.
Abū ‘Alī al-Khayyāṭ 20. Aurelius C.  107n.
Abū Bakr al-Ḥasan ibn al-Khaṣīb Avignon  43, 53.
[Albubater]  142, 143.
Abū l-Qāsim al-Balkhī  20. Baldi (Bernardino)  105n.
Abū l-Wafā’ al Buzajānī  21. Bandini (Giovanni)  147.
Abū Ma‘shar al-Balkhī [Albumasar]  20, 22, Baptista Piasii of Cremona  107n.
23, 24, 26, 31, 51, 52, 52n, 55, 55n, 56, 56n, Barbaro (Ermolao)  134n.
57n, 58n, 65, 69, 70, 70n, 71n, 72, 72n, 73, Barbo (Giovanni)  135.
73n, 77, 77n, 78n, 82, 109, 142. Barwitz ( Johann Anton)  212, 215, 215n.
Abū Naṣr al-Munajjim al-Qummī  22. Baudouin II, Latin emperor of
Abū Sahl ibn Naubakht  20. Byzantium 26.
Actium  147, 148. Baumholder 85.
Adelard of Bath  23, 23n, 55n, 105. Benedict Alignan, bishop of Marseilles  47.
Aix-en-Provence  43, 44, 48n, 50, 60n. Bertran Guilhem  44.
Albertus Magnus  148n, 149. Béziers 48n.
Albrecht VII, archduke of Austria  212. Boethius  19, 19n.
Albubater, v. Abū Bakr al-Ḥasan ibn al-Khaṣīb. Bologna  30, 36, 44, 44n, 64, 140.
Albumasar, v. Abū Ma‘shar al-Balkhī. Boniface VIII, pope  45.
Alcabitius, v. Qabīṣī. Bonincontri (Lorenzo)  124n.
Alessandro de’ Medici, duke of Florence  140, Brahe (Tycho)  207, 208n, 210, 215n.
147. Brambach 101.
Alexander VII, pope  117. Brussels 153.
Alfonso X, king of Castille  66.
‘Alī ibn Abī-l-Rijāl [Haly Abenragel]  22n, 23, Cardano (Girolamo)  209, 211.
49, 49n, 51, 55, 55n, 109, 142, 143. Casimir of Brandenburg-Bayreuth  85n, 101,
‘Alī ibn Riḍwān [Haly Abenrudian]  109, 142. 101n, 102, 102n.
‘Alī Imrānī [Haly Embrani]  51, 57. Cavaillon 44.
Alkindi, v. Kindī. Cecco d’Ascoli  63.
al-Andalus 50. Charles V, emperor  144, 146, 147, 148.
Andreas Capellanus  184, 202. Charles of Anjou, king of Sicily  81.
Andree of Brandenburg-Bayreuth (?)  102n. Cicero  112, 133, 133n, 134.
Antonio Beccadelli  114. Clement V, pope  43, 44.
Antonio da Montolmo  109. Clement VII, pope  106n, 132.
Aomar, v. ‘Umar ibn al-Farrukhān al-Ṭabarī. Cologne  90, 94.
Apuleius 124n. Constantine, Roman emperor  125, 125n.

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224 Index of Names

Constantinople 99. Frederick of Brandenburg-Ansbach-


Cosimo I de’ Medici, duke of Kulmbach  101, 101n, 102n.
Florence  139 – 150. Friedrich Albrecht of Brandenburg-
Bayreuth 102n.
Daniel of Morley  24. Fugger (Ulrich)  117.
Dante Alighieri  30.
Danzig  153, 169, 169n. Gabriel Pirovanus  107n.
Deventer  153, 154, 155. Galateo (A.)  134.
Dominicus Maria de Novara  107n. Galeazzo Maria Sforza, duke of Milan  151n.
Dorotheus 65. Galen 19.
Gaurico (Luca)  162n, 163n, 166n, 167, 167n,
Edward VI, king of England  211. 170, 180, 210, 210n, 211n.
Eleanor of Portugal, empress  51n. Geber, v. Jābir ibn Aflāḥ.
Eleanor of Toledo, duchess of Florence  144. Geoffrey of Meaux  63.
Elisabeth of Brandenburg-Bayreuth  102n. Georg of Brandenburg-Bayreuth  102n.
Erasmus of Rotterdam  106. George of Trebizond  134n.
Ercole II d’Este, duke of Ferrara  145. Georgius (Kotermak) de Drohobycz  107n.
Erik XIV, king of Sweden  153. Gerard of Cremona  50.
Ezzelino III, governor of Padua  34. Giambullari (Pierfrancesco)  147.
Gießen 85.
Federico II Gonzaga, duke of Mantua  145. Giles of Rome  55n.
Federico da Montefeltro, duke of Giovanni Aurispa  114.
Urbino  106, 117, 134, 135, 135n, 136. Giovanni delle Bande Nere  140.
Ferdinand II of Habsburg, emperor  205, 213, Giovanni Battista Cibo  110n.
214, 219. Giovanni di Luni, v. Johannes de Luna.
Ficino (Marsilio)  106, 148, 148n, 149, 150. Giovanni Villani  63 – 82.
Firmicus Maternus  97, 97n, 105 – 137, 142, Giovo (Paolo)  148.
143, 160n, 170, 190n. Girolamo Manfredi [Hieronymus de
Firmin de Beauval  64. Manfredis] 107n.
Florence  30, 34, 35, 63, 64, 66, 67n, 68, 70, Giuntini (Francesco)  140, 146n.
80, 139 – 150. Grümbach ( Johannes), v. Lichtenberger.
Forlì  30, 35. Guicciardini (Francesco)  140.
Fossombrone  97, 106, 124, 132. Guido Bonatti  29 – 41.
Francesco Maria II della Rovere, duke of Guido da Montefeltro, count of Forlì  35.
Urbino  117, 145. Guido Novello, count of Florence  34, 35, 39.
Francesco Pescennio Negro  114. Guidobaldo 135.
Francis I, king of France  144. Gundisalvus Hispanus  117.
Franciscus, franciscan monk  167, 167n, 170, Gutenberg ( Johannes)  97.
180.
Franciscus Guasconus  107n. Hagia Sophia  99.
Franciscus de Sirigattis  107n. Haly Abenragel, v. ‘Alī ibn Abī-l-Rijāl.
Frederick II, emperor  17, 25, 26, 33, 33n. Haly Abenrudian, v. ‘Alī ibn Riḍwān.
Frederick III, emperor  83, 90, 91, 98, 98n, 99, Haly Embrani, v. ‘Alī Imrānī.
110, 110n. Hannewald (Andreas)  213.

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Index of Names 225

Heidelberg  91, 100n, 117, 130n. John III of the Palatinate, archbishop of
Heingarter (Conrad/Konrad)  96 – 97n, Regensburg 87.
107n, 151n. John of Eshenden  63, 63n.
Heinrich Julius von Braunschweig- John of Lübeck  107n.
Wolffenbüttel 212. John of Murs  63, 63n.
Henry VI, emperor  33n. John of Saxony  20, 21n.
Henry IV, king of France  211, 213. John of Seville  23, 24, 69n.
Henry Bate of Mechelen  23n, 59n. John of Vicenza  30, 36.
Hermann of Carinthia  24, 26, 27. Julianus de Blanchis  107n.
Hermes  109, 152, 162, 162n, 170, 173, 204. Julius II, pope  210.
Herwart of Hohenburg  215, 215n. Julius Caesar, Roman emperor  147.
Hesse 85.
Hesse (Hans)  92, 104. Kepler ( Johannes)  67, 205 – 219.
Hieronymus de Manfredis, v. Girolamo al-Kindī [Alkindi]  20, 21, 22n, 51, 55n, 149.
Manfredi. Kistler (Bartholomeus)  100n.
Hugo of Santalla  26, 27. Knoblochtzer (Heinrich)  91, 100n.
Hugues Géraud, bishop of Cahors  43, 52. Kushyār ibn Labbān  20, 21, 21n.
Ḥunayn ibn Ishāq  21, 23. al-Khwārizmī 109.

Iacobus Yspanus  107n. Leovitius (Cyprianus)  169, 169n.


Ibn al-Nadīm  22, 22n. Leuven, v. Louvain.
Innocent IV, pope  33. Levi ben Gerson  64, 68.
Innocent VIII, pope  110n. Lichtenberger ( Johannes)  83 – 104, 106, 127,
Isidore of Seville  18. 130, 130n, 131, 131n, 136n, 137.
Lieben  207, 218.
Jābir ibn Aflāḥ [Geber]  50, 51n, 54, 54n. Lilly (William)  73, 73n.
Jacob ben Makhir ibn Tibbon [Prophatius Linz 207n.
Judeus]  47, 47n, 48, 57n, 61, 65, 65n, 66. Louis IX “the Wealthy”, duke of Bavaria-
Jehan de La Goutte  151n. Landshut  86, 86n, 87, 87n, 88, 89, 90, 103.
Joachim of Fiore  96. Louis I, count Palatine of Zweibrücken  101.
Johann Georg von Hohenzollern- Louvain [Leuven]  106, 135, 135n, 160, 160n,
Hechingen 213. 161, 169, 169n.
Johanna, countess Palatine of Luther (Martin)  99, 99n.
Zweibrücken 101. Lyons 43.
Johannes ab Indagine  103n.
Johannes Barbus  107n. Machiavelli  143n, 150.
Johannes de Glogau [ Johannes Macrobius 112.
Glogoviensis] 107n Mainz 100n.
Johannes de Lubec, v. John of Lübeck. Malines, v. Mechelen.
Johannes de Luna [Giovanni di Luni]  44, Manetti (Angelo)  117, 120n.
44n. Manfred, king of Sicily  80, 80n, 81.
Johannes Glogoviensis, v. Johannes de Glogau. Manilius 134.
Johannes Laet  107n. Marcus Gualterius  107n.
John XXII, pope  43, 44, 45, 46, 49, 53, 60n. Marcus Scribanarius  107n.

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226 Index of Names

Margarethe of Brandenburg-Bayreuth  102n. Paulus Alexandrinus  19.


Mark Antony, Roman emperor  147. Persius 196n.
Martin IV, pope  35. Peter (Master)  43, 47, 48, 49, 49n, 50, 50n,
Martinus Polichius de Mellerstadt  107n. 51, 56n.
Masaccio 139. Peter the German  116 – 117.
Māshā’allāh [Messahallah]  20, 49n, 52, 52n, Petosiris  163, 170, 174.
59, 69, 69n, 72n, 109. Petrarch [Francesco Petrarca]  112, 112n, 113,
Mästlin (Michael)  215. 113n, 114, 155.
Matthaeus Moretus  107n. Petrus Bonus Advogarius  107n.
Matthias of Habsburg, emperor  205, 206, Pico della Mirandola (Giovanni)  106, 114,
207, 213, 214, 216, 217, 218, 219. 134n, 140n.
Matthias Fibulator  107n. Pierre Després, archbishop of Aix-en-
Mavortius  122, 125. Provence  43, 50, 60n.
Maximilian I of Habsburg, emperor  98, 98n, Pietro d’Abano  50n, 55n, 60n, 63.
99, 108, 110, 110n, 113, 135, 136. Pisa  140, 142.
Mechelen [Malines]  154, 155, 160, 161, 168. Plotinus  110, 111, 111n, 112, 112n, 113, 115, 116,
Messahallah, v. Māshā’allāh. 117, 122, 123n, 130.
Meydenbach ( Jacob)  100n. Poliziano 134n.
Michael Scot  17 – 27. Porphyry  19, 19n, 111n.
Misocacus (Wilhelmus)  151 – 204. Prague  205, 206, 206n, 207, 210, 212, 213,
Montemurlo  147, 148. 214.
Montpellier  47, 48n. Prophatius Judeus, v. Jacob ben Makhir ibn
Moses of Trets  43 – 53, 61. Tibbon
Muḥammad ibn ‘Umar ibn al-Farrukhān  20. Ptolemy [Claudius Ptolemaeus]  19, 19n, 50,
51, 52, 52n, 54, 55, 55n, 58, 59, 59n, 60, 65,
Nechepso  163, 170. 72, 72n, 77, 77n, 96, 96n, 103, 109, 134, 140,
Neuss 90. 141, 142, 143, 160, 162, 170, 172, 173, 173n,
Nicolaus de Insula Mariae  107n. 203.
Nicomachus of Gerasa  19, 20. Pucci (Antonio)  145.
Nostradamus 216.
al-Qabīṣī [Alcabitius]  20, 20n, 21, 21n, 22,
Octavian, Roman emperor  147. 23, 23n.
Olympiodorus 19. al-Qaṣrānī 20.
Ottheinrich, v. Otto Henry.
Otto Henry [Ottheinrich], prince-elector of Rainhard the Lollard (or Nollard)  95, 96.
the Palatinate  87n. Ramesey (William)  73, 73n.
Rantzau (Heinrich)  153, 154n, 160.
Padua  34, 106, 107, 132, 134. Ravenna 35.
Pagolo 134n. Regiomontanus  151n, 161.
Pagolo di ser Piero  65, 66, 66n, 67, 68, 68n. Richard Trewythian  151n.
Paul III, pope  144. Ridolfi (Niccolò)  145.
Paul V, pope  208, 209, 218. Ristori (Giuliano)  139 – 150.
Paul of Middelburg  96, 96n, 97, 97n, 98, Robert Guiscard, duke of Sicily  80, 80n, 81.
98n, 99, 103, 104, 105 – 137. Robert of Mauvoisin  43 – 53.

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Index of Names 227

Roger Bacon  25, 26n, 73, 73n, 149. Thomas Aquinas  75, 75n.
Rudolf II of Habsburg, emperor  205 – 219. ‘Umar ibn al-Farrukhān al-Ṭabarī
[Aomar]  20, 51, 56n, 142, 143.
Sabellico (Marcantonio)  98n. Urbino  105, 117, 118, 120, 120n, 132, 135, 136,
Sahl Ibn Bishr [Zael]  22n, 24, 40n, 49n, 137.
56n. Ursula of Brandenburg-Bayreuth  102n.
Salio of Padua  34. Ursus (Raimarus)  217.
Salviati (Giovanni)  145.
Scaliger ( Joseph Justus)  106. Valbona 35.
Scaliger ( Julius Caesar)  135n. Valla (Giorgio)  134n.
Schöner ( Johannes)  162n, 163n, 164, 164n, Venice  98, 114, 208, 209, 210, 218.
166n, 167n, 169n, 170, 171n, 178, 194n, 195n, Vergil  123, 124.
203n. Vettius Valens  65.
Schottwien 207n. Viechtelberger 87n.
Secretum secretorum  149. Vienna 206.
Siena 140. Vimercati (Raphaele)  151n.
Sigmund of Heßberg  101, 102. Vincent of Beauvais  112.
al-Sijzī  20, 21. Vischere (Peter de)  212, 212n.
Sillyers ( Joannes)  151 – 204. Vitale (Ludovico)  140, 140n.
Simon Mestaguerra  35. Vitus Geroch  107n.
Simone Bevilacqua  114.
Sixtus IV, pope  110n. Wenceslaus Faber de Budweis  107n.
Soranus (Pseudo-)  18, 18n, 19, 20n. Windsberger (Erhard)  87.
Speculum astronomiae  46, 46n, 71n, 150n.
Strasbourg  90, 100n.
al-Ṣufī  22n, 27. Zael, v. Sahl Ibn Bishr.

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Index of Manuscripts 229

Index of Manuscripts

Bologna, Biblioteca Universitaria, AV.KK. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de


VIII.29, 107n. France  16204, 24n, 40.

Danzig, Biblioteka Polskiej Akademii Soest, Wissenschaftliche Stadtbibliothek  24,


Nauk  2253, 153n. 105.

Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Uppsala, Universitetsbiblioteket, E  284,


Plut.  30.22, 107n. 153n.
Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana,
Plut.  89 sup.  34, 141. Vatican, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana,
Pal. lat.  165, 124.
Heidelberg, Universitätsbibliothek, Cod. Pal. Vatican, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana,
Germ.  12, 86n, 87n, 88n. Urb. lat.  263, 105, 116, 130.
Vatican, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana,
Leipzig, Universitätsbibliothek  1466, 23n. Vat. lat.  1418, 105, 116, 117n.
London, British Library, Arundel  88, 107n. Vatican, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana,
London, British Library, Harley  2766, 117n. Vat. lat.  3425, 117n.
Vatican, Secret Archives, Collectorie  17, 43,
Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, 53.
Clm  10268, 17n, 18. Vienna, Österreichische
Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Nationalbibliothek  11449, 153n.
Clm  27004, 153, 154n, 156, 157, 158, 159,
171. Wolfenbüttel, Herzog August Bibliothek,
Guelf.  115 Noviss.  4°, 85n, 87n.
Naples, Biblioteca Nazionale, V A  17, 115, Würzburg, Universitätsbibliothek, M. ch.
116. fol.  130, 23n.

Oxford, Bodleian Library, Canon. Misc.  555,


24n.

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