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From Alexandria to Baghdād to Byzantium. The transmission of astrology

  • David Pingree
Article

Abstract

It is argued in this article that a series of texts preserved in various Greek manuscripts are epitomes of an astrological compendium assembled by Rhetorius at Alexandria in about 620 AD. It is also demonstrated that this compendium was utilized and frequently refashioned by Theophilus of Edessa between 765 and 775 and was made available by Theophilus to his colleague at thecAbbāsid court at Baghdād, Māshā' allāh. Māshā' allāh's works in turn strongly influenced the early development of Arabic astrology, and many of them were translated into Latin and Greek, thereby spreading Rhetorius' influence. A manuscript of Rhetorius' compendium was apparently brought to Byzantium by Theophilus' student, Stephanus, in about 790; from this archetype are descended the several Byzantine epitōmes and reworkings of portions of this text; some of these—pseudo-Porphyry, Ep(itome) III, Ep. IIIb, and Ep. IV—passed through the hands of Demophilus in about 1000, while two of the remainder—Ep. IIb andBer.—were the only ones to preserve the name of Rhetorius as their author.

Keywords

Classical Tradition Fourteenth Century Bright Star Arabic Text Book Versus 
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  1. 1.
    A number of examples of such transformations are discussed in D. Pingree,From Astral Omens to Astrology, from Babylon to Bīkāner, Serie Orientale Rome LXXVIII, Rome 1997.Google Scholar
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    One example consists of the disparate collections of omens found on the scattered tablets containing fragments of the ‘Ishtar’ section ofEnūma Anu Enlil, some of which have been published in E. Reiner and D. Pingree,Babylonian Planetary Omens, part 1, Malibu 1975; part 2, Malibu 1981; and part 3, Groningen 1998. An example in Greek is Hephaestio's Αποτελεσματικά, which survives in an “original” form (Hephaestionis Thebani Apotelesmaticorum libri tres, ed. D Pingree, Leipzig 1973), and in four epitomes (Hephaestionis Thebani Apotelesmaticorum epitomae quattuor, ed. D. Pingree, Leipzig 1974).Google Scholar
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    The Babylonian nativity omens, published by F. Rochberg under the titleBabylonian Horoscopes (Transactions of the American Philosophical Society LXXXVIII, 1, Philadelphia 1998), do not belong to the science of genethlialogy. For the relationship of the Babylonian omens to genethlialogy see Pingree,Astral Omens (as in n. 1)to Astrology, from Babylon to Bīkāner, Serie Orientale Roma LXXVIII, Rome 1997, pp. 21–29.Google Scholar
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    The earliest extant full discussion of catarchic astrology is to be found in the fifth book of Dorotheus' astrological poem, written in about 75 A.D. (Dorothei Sidonii Carmen astrologicum, ed. D. Pingree, Leipzig 1976), but the method undoubtedly is at least a century older.Google Scholar
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    Epitome IV 23.Google Scholar
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    Chapter 221 in manuscriptB, which corresponds to V 100, 6–9 in manuscriptR.Google Scholar
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    VI 23, 18–29 in manuscriptR.Google Scholar
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    VI 40, 9–15 inR, though ascribed to Heliodorus, are found in Olympiodorus' commentary (ed. E. Boer,Heliodori, ut dicitur, in Paulum Alexandrinum commentarium, Leipzig 1962), on pp. 138–142. VI 5 is entitled: Σχόλια εἰς τὸν περὶ χρόνου διαιρέσως ἐκ\(\tau \overset{\lower0.5em\hbox{$\smash{\scriptscriptstyle\frown}$}}{\omega } \nu \tau o\overset{\lower0.5em\hbox{$\smash{\scriptscriptstyle\frown}$}}{\upsilon } \) Ηλιοδώρου\(\Sigma \upsilon \nu o\upsilon \sigma \iota \overset{\lower0.5em\hbox{$\smash{\scriptscriptstyle\frown}$}}{\omega } \nu \), but sentences 1–3 and 5–7 are also found in Olympiodorus' commentary (pp. 127–128). But in the primary manuscript of the uncontaminated form of the commentary, our manuscriptW (Boer'sA), no author was named by the original scribe, though a later reader has written in the name Heliodorus. This attribution, however, is impossible since it was pointed out by Pingree (pp. 149–150a of Boer's edition) that the examples in the commentary can be dated between May and August of 564. The authorship of Olympiodorus was suggested by J. Warnon, “Le commentaire attribué à Héliodore sur les Εἰσαγωγικά de Paul d'Alexandrie”,Travaux de la Faculté de Philosophie et Lettres de l'Université Catholique de Louvain II, 1967, pp. 197–217, and by L.G. Westerink, “Ein astrologisches Kolleg aus dem Jahre 564”,Byzantinische Zeitschrift LXIV, 1971, pp. 6–21.Google Scholar
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    Στίχοι Σἰς δώδεκα\(\mu \overset{\lower0.5em\hbox{$\smash{\scriptscriptstyle\frown}$}}{\eta } \nu \alpha \varsigma \) (Lines On the Twelve Months) edited by B. Keil,Wiener Studien XI, 1889, pp. 94–115.Google Scholar
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    This is derived from Dorotheus I 6, 2 and II 14, 4; see Dorotheus, ed. Pingree (as in n. 4) (Dorothei Sidonii Carmen astrologicum, Leipzig 1976), 325–326. Quoted on the same folio are several verses of Dorotheus: from II 18, 2–3 (pp 368–369) and from IV 1, 213 (p. 383).Google Scholar
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    D. Pingree,Albumasaris De revolutionibus nativitatum, Leipzig 1968, pp. VII–IX, and Idem, D. PingreeHephaestionis … epitomae quattuor (as in n. 2), Leipzig 1974). pp. V–VIII.Google Scholar
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    Pingree, “Horoscope” (as in n. 40), See his scholium or scholia on Porphyry 30 and D. Pingree, “The Horoscope of Constantinople,” in ΠρίσματαNaturwissenschaftsgeschichtiliche Studien. Festschrift für W. Hartner, ed. Y. Maeyama and W. G. Saltzer, Wiesbaden 1977, pp. 306–314.Google Scholar
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    S. Feraboli,Hermetis Trismegisti De triginta sex decanis, Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Mediaeualis CXLIV, Turnhout 1994. These chapters constitute Epitome V; see Pingree, “Antiochus and Rhetorius” (as in n. 22) Classical Philology LXXII 1977, pp. 219–220.Google Scholar
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    This lost manuscript ended its main body of excerpts from Theophilus' Περὶ\(\kappa \alpha \tau \alpha \rho \chi \overset{\lower0.5em\hbox{$\smash{\scriptscriptstyle\frown}$}}{\omega } \nu \) διαφόρων at VII. 1. Both manuscripts contain a statement:\(\tau o\overset{\lower0.5em\hbox{$\smash{\scriptscriptstyle\frown}$}}{\upsilon } \tau o\) τὸ κεφάλαιον\(\varepsilon \mathop \upsilon \limits^\prime \rho \varepsilon \overset{\lower0.5em\hbox{$\smash{\scriptscriptstyle\frown}$}}{\iota } \varsigma \) καὶ εἰς τὸ βιβλίον τὸ μαυρὸν εἰς φύλλον κ’ ἀπὸ\(\tau \overset{\lower0.5em\hbox{$\smash{\scriptscriptstyle\frown}$}}{\eta } \varsigma \) (“You will find this chapter in the black book on folio 20 from the beginning.”) (f. 82v L, f. 117 W).Google Scholar
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    Chapters 4–7.Google Scholar
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    Chapters 35–37.Google Scholar
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    VI 1–3. Numerous other chapters in the Περὶ\(\kappa \alpha \tau \alpha \rho \chi \overset{\lower0.5em\hbox{$\smash{\scriptscriptstyle\frown}$}}{\omega } \nu \) are influenced by Hephaestio.Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Springer 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Pingree
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of the History of MathematicsBrown UniversityProvidenceUSA

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