Hellenistic Astrology

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Hellenistic Astrology based on cultural translation

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<p>HELLENISTIC ASTROLOGY AS A CASE STUDY OF CULTURAL TRANSLATION</p> <p>By MOONIKA OLL</p> <p>A dissertation submitted to the University of Birmingham for the degree of MPhil(B) in Classics and Ancient History</p> <p>Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity College of Arts and Law University of Birmingham September 2010</p> <p>University of Birmingham Research Archivee-theses repository This unpublished thesis/dissertation is copyright of the author and/or third parties. The intellectual property rights of the author or third parties in respect of this work are as defined by The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 or as modified by any successor legislation. Any use made of information contained in this thesis/dissertation must be in accordance with that legislation and must be properly acknowledged. Further distribution or reproduction in any format is prohibited without the permission of the copyright holder.</p> <p>ABSTRACT</p> <p>This dissertation approaches Hellenistic astrology as a case study for 'Cultural translation' in the Greco-Roman world. 'Cultural translation' denotes here the transition of ideas and knowledge from one culture to another, making them available in the recipient culture by the translation in its broader sense, using recipients own already familiar intellectual and cultural concepts. The spread of Greek culture and the adoption of non-Greek elements into it during the Hellenistic times resulted in new hybrid Hellenistic culture based at Alexandria. Around the middle of the 2 nd century BC astrology in its Hellenized form appeared there as a fully developed set of doctrines that Classical authors argued to have been the discoveries of the Chaldeans. Astrology, however, was not taken over from Babylonia per se, but was an assimilation and invention at the same time. This has led some scholars to argue that Hellenistic astrology was an invention in its own right and its philosophical rational and doctrine of interpretation are Hellenistic Greek in origin. This dissertation, therefore, aims to discover what was 'Hellenistic' about Hellenistic astrology, to what extent it was a derivation from its Babylonian predecessor and through that to determine the role of the 'Oriental wisdom' in the Greco-Roman society.</p> <p>1</p> <p>CONTENTS</p> <p>INTRODUCTION ............................................................................................................................ 1 CHAPTER 1 ASTROLOGICAL LITERATURE, AD 0-200 ................................................................................ 5 1.1 PTOLEMY ........................................................................................................................ 5 1.1.1 Structure and content ................................................................................................................ 5 1.1.2 Philosophy................................................................................................................................. 8 1.1.3 Agenda and method ................................................................................................................ 13 1.2 VETTIUS VALENS ........................................................................................................ 16</p> <p>1.2.1 Structure and content .............................................................................................................. 17 1.2.2 Agenda and method ................................................................................................................ 19 1.3 MANILIUS ..................................................................................................................... 20</p> <p>1.3.1 Structure and content .............................................................................................................. 20 1.3.2 Philosophy............................................................................................................................... 21 1.3.3 Agenda and method ................................................................................................................ 22 1.4 DOROTHEUS OF SIDON ............................................................................................. 23</p> <p>1.4.1 Structure and content .............................................................................................................. 25 1.4.2 Agenda and method ................................................................................................................ 27 CHAPTER 2 EMERGENCE OF HELLENISTIC ASTROLOGY ...................................................................... 29 2.1 PSEUDOEPIGRAPHIES................................................................................................ 30 2.1.1 Nechepso and Petosiris ........................................................................................................... 30 2.1.2 Abraham .................................................................................................................................. 33 2.1.3 Asclepius and Hermetic astrology .......................................................................................... 37 2.2 2.3 HISTORICAL AUTHORS ............................................................................................. 38 DATING .......................................................................................................................... 39</p> <p>2</p> <p>CHAPTER 3 ORIGINS OF HELLENISTIC ASTROLOGY .............................................................................. 43 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 BABYLONIAN ASTROLOGY ..................................................................................... 44 BABYLONIAN ELEMENTS IN HELLENISTIC ASTROLOGY ................................ 50 ASTRONOMY AND MATHEMATICS ......................................................................... 55 PHILOSOPHY ................................................................................................................ 58</p> <p>CONCLUSION .............................................................................................................................. 61 BIBLIOGRAPHY .......................................................................................................................... 66</p> <p>APPENDIX ONE....................MEMORY STICK APPENDIX TWO.......................MEMORY STICK APPENDIX THREE.......................MEMORY STICK APPENDIX FOUR ....................MEMORY STICK</p> <p>3</p> <p>ABBREVIATIONSBNJ Worthington, I (ed.), 2007-date, Brills New Jacoby , online: Brill (http://www.brillonline.nl)</p> <p>CCAG</p> <p>Cumont, F., Boll, F., Kroll, W. et al. (eds), 1898-. Catalogus Codicum Astrologorum Graecorum, 1-12, Brussels.</p> <p>FGrH</p> <p>Jacoby, F. Die Fragmente der griechischen Historiker, Berlin 1926-1930, Leiden 1954-1958, online: Brill (http://www.brillonline.nl)</p> <p>HAMA</p> <p>Neugebauer, O. 1975. The History of Ancient Mathematical Astronomy, 1-3, Berlin and New York.</p> <p>JHS</p> <p>Journal of Hellenic Studies</p> <p>JNES</p> <p>Journal of Near Eastern Studies</p> <p>LSJ</p> <p>Liddell, H.G., Scott, R., Jones, H.S and McKenzie, R. 1925. A Greek-English Lexicon, 9th ed. Oxford.</p> <p>4</p> <p>INTRODUCTIONIn the Hellenistic period, as Rome became the most direct threat to the Greeks, replacing the former Persian empire, Greek interest in the cultural and intellectual aspects of Rome and the Romans declined and focused on the Eastern civilizations. 1 Greek curiosity about Oriental wisdom was nothing either new or revolutionary and the cross-cultural relations between Greece and its eastern neighbours during the pre-Hellenistic period have by now been well examined.2 Although Greece was at first considered to have been rather isolated from the Orient and from Zeller (1856) onwards Greek philosophy was for a long time held to have been self-generated despite the gradually accumulating contrary evidence, comparisons between Hittite, Akkadian, Ugaritic and Syrian material and Pre-Socratic Greek philosophic ideas have successfully demonstrated that the latter had their origins or were at least influenced by the former. 3 Alexander the Great's conquests from Greece to Afghanistan and Egypt merely renewed and strengthened these already established contacts. The situation was, nevertheless, a great deal different than before. Alexanders death resulted in the creation of large kingdoms controlled by Greek monarchies. 4 Greek culture spread in these areas but at the same time Greek and non-Greek elements became intrinsically fused, producing a new hybrid Hellenistic culture based at Alexandria. Johnson has noted that 'among the most far-reaching of the achievements of</p> <p>1 2</p> <p>Momigliano 1990: 2, 18. See for example Hegyi 1982 on the relations between Greece and the Orient between the 9 th and 6th centuries BC, Burkert 1992 on Near Eastern influences in Greece during the Archaic period, West 1971 and Burkert 1962 &amp; 2004 on Oriental influences on Greek philosophy, and West 1997 on west Asiatic elements in Greek poetry and myths.</p> <p>3 4</p> <p>Burkert 2004: 51. Seleucids in the Middle East, Ptolemies in Egypt, Antigonids in Macedonia, Attalids in Anatolia; and later also Greco-Bactrian, Indo-Greek and Pontus kingdoms.</p> <p>1</p> <p>Alexandria was its ability to take the received wisdom of the Hellenistic world and synthesise it into new ideas'.5 Thus next to the classic sciences arose what are nowadays called pseudo-sciences, most notably astrology in its various forms. This dissertation approaches Hellenistic astrology as a case study for 'cultural translation' in the Hellenistic world. The term 'Cultural translation' is used in various disciplines, including cultural studies, political science, literary studies, anthropology, in somewhat divergent meanings, basically denoting the mediation processes between different cultural practices, the 'translation' of one culture or its elements within another. As D'hulst has pointed out it is used as a metaphor and 'we cannot be sure that it is underpinned by a common theory, nor that it is being approached in comparable ways within the disciplines concerned'. 6 For example, Harish Trivedi sees 'cultural translation' as the 'translation' of the culture of the migrants to the society to which they have travelled. 7 I, therefore, propose to look at 'cultural translation' from the point of view of the transition of ideas and knowledge from one culture to another. I have specifically chosen to use the word 'translation' here, instead of for example transmission or transition, since foreign ideas were made available to the recipient culture by translation in its broader sense, using the recipients own already familiar intellectual and cultural concepts. In addition, as Momigliano has pointed out, 'Greek remained the only language of civilization for every Greek-speaking man'.8 Hence, the Greeks' lack of proficiency in the relevant languages made them heavily dependent on the translations of foreigners themselves, just as Trivedi's migrants are responsible for the translation of their culture into modern western society. Momigliano, however, argues that 'the natives ... had a shrewd idea of what the Greeks wanted to hear and spoke accordingly ... when</p> <p>5 6 7 8</p> <p>Johnson 2000: 143. D'hulst 2008: 221. Trivedi 2007: 6. Momigliano 1990: 8.</p> <p>2</p> <p>there was no urgency, utopia and idealization abounded'.9 Thus 'translation' in the Hellenistic context was not a translation per se, but became a mixture of assimilation and invention, resulting in the intriguing phenomenon of 'mistranslation'. Tracing the 'mistranslations' could be one of the best tools for examining the history and processes of cross-cultural influences in the Hellenistic world. Hence, the study of the connections of Hellenistic astrology with, and possible derivation from, Babylonian astral omens can be used to investigate the transition and 'translation' of eastern culture into the western world. However, the aim of this dissertation is not explicitly to study the contacts between the two civilizations but to show Greek responses to, and representation of, Chaldean wisdom. It can thus be further used to examine the cultural expansion of Hellenistic tradition and how its social realities influenced cultural discourse. All this is done by moving, rather unconventionally, back in time. The first chapter seeks to establish a solid understanding of the most important doctrines, methods, and underlying rationale of Hellenistic astrology by analyzing astrological works written during the first two centuries AD: the Tetrabiblos of Claudius Ptolemy, Anthologiae of Vettius Valens, Astronomica of Marcus Manilius and Carmen Astrologicum of Dorotheus of Sidon. Unfortunately, no complete astrological text from the Hellenistic period has survived. Hence, chapter two, on the rise of Hellenistic astrology (first two centuries BC), depends solely on the fragments of earlier astrological authors in later compilations. This chapter aims to give an account of how astrology and its origins were portrayed in Greek and Roman literature as stemming from Chaldea. Chapter three finally examines the relationship between Babylonian celestial prognostication (with the main focus on the period between 600 and 300 BC) and Hellenistic astrology and tries to establish to what extent the claims made about the Chaldean origin of horoscopic astrology were true.</p> <p>9</p> <p>Ibid.</p> <p>3</p> <p>David Pingree has remarked that roughly corresponding to the three stages in the evolution of Mesopotamian astral omens and mathematical astronomy were three periods of transmission of these sciences, in their contemporary form, to other cultures, where they were usually modified so as better to suit the need of the recipient civilization. 10 The last chapter thus also seeks to determine what then were the needs of Greek civilization and the resulting modifications. In addition, several appendices have been attached to the dissertation on a memory-stick.11</p> <p>10 11</p> <p>Pingree 1982: 614. Appendix 1 includes documents describing the principles of astrology; Appendix 2 an idea-map of Ptolemy's Tetrabiblos and relevant documents; Appendix 3 fragments of Nechepso and Petosiris, Appendix 4 a timeline of Stoic philosophers, astrological writers and other relevant authors.</p> <p>4</p> <p>CHAPTER 1 ASTROLOGICAL LITERATURE, AD 0-200The aim of this first chapter is to give the reader a solid understanding of what constituted Hellenistic astrology. What were its fundamental practices and its underlying philosophical justifications? It furthermore seeks to establish the agendas and methods of the four authors who will be examined in this chapter and to see how it reflects the expected mentality of their audiences.</p> <p>1.1</p> <p>PTOLEMY</p> <p>The main reference work on astrology in ancient and medieval times, the Tetrabiblos 12 of Claudius Ptolemy, is in many ways the obvious starting point in the study of Hellenistic astrology.13 Being systematic, well-structured and fairly easy to comprehend, it sums up the...</p>