Firmicus Maternus

Thanks to Professor H.M. Hine, School of Greek, Latin and Ancient History, University of St. Andrews, Scotland, who wrote;

Julius Firmicus Maternus wrote a treatise on astrology, entitled Mathesis , around A.D. 334-7, and this page is from Book 2, chapter 29, sections 8-10. ... This page first continues a discussion of antiscia (planets "casting shadows" on each other in an astrological sense), and then gives the start of an account of how to cast a horoscope, explaining the location of the planets at the birth of an unamed person who subsequently had a political career. The following pages explain how to interpret the horoscope so as to predict the events of the career. The diagram is meant to assist understanding of the text; it is labelled "Loliani genitura", "the horoscope of Lollianus", but nowadays the horoscope is known not to belong to Lollianus (a mistake of the early printed editions, and maybe, for all I know, of late manuscripts; Lollianus is an historical figure who is mentioned elswhere in the work) but to Ceionius Rufius Albinus, who was born on 14 March A.D. 303 around 9 p.m. (see O. Neugebauer ...) and became prefect of the city of Rome.

I am not terribly well up on ancient astrology, but the diagram represents the position of the planets in the various signs of the zodiac at the moment of the man's birth, as described above in the Latin text. The traditional astrological/astronomical symbols are used for the planets, and for the zodiacal signs, which are represented by the twelve right-angled isosceles triangles that occupy the outer band of the diagram, between the the outer square and the inner square; the symbols for the sun, moon and planets are written in the relevant constellation's triangle (so, bottom right, you see the symbol for the sun, a circle with a dot in it, and in the same triangle the symbol for Jupiter to its left, and the symbol for Pisces, whose triangle it is, just above it). The various criss-crossing diagonal lines drawn between various pairs of constellations represent the links and conjunctions that are important for casting the horoscope, as Firmicus explains in the following pages.

See also:
Rare and Antiquarian Book Collection of Armagh Observatory
Historical Resources and Information

Last Revised: 2010 February 22nd