Although there have been three previous English translations of this influential work over the last several centuries, these have not been cognizant of the larger astrological context in which this work was composed; nor have they done justice to Ptolemy's dense and highly elliptical Greek style. Accordingly, these earlier translations are frequently inaccurate as to astrological detail. The goal of this new translation is to capture the nuances of Ptolemy's theoretical and practical reworking of the Hellenistic astrological tradition.
Book I first argues eloquently for the possibility and usefulness of astrology, and then proceeds to explicate the special natures of the planets, fixed stars, signs, and configurations within the context of contemporary natural philosophy; Ptolemy also gives his justifications for the use of a tropical zodiac here. By an extension of the "familiarization" concept, he similarly attempts to give a scientific explanation for the four modes of rulership and dignification: domicile, exaltation, trigon, bound. Bk I concludes with an itemization of the factors that modify a planet according to its quality and its power.
An excerpt from Bk II of Ptolemy's Hypotheses of the Planets is appended to this unit of translation. This treatise is of importance for seeing how Ptolemy understood the workings of the ether and the transmission of planetary impulses through it; it is furthermore remarkable for the doctrine that the planets have souls and are self-moved.
Book II deals with "universal" or "mundane" astrology, the study of events that affect countries, cities, or large groups of people, to which natal astrology is subordinate in Ptolemy's view. His central procedure concerns the study of eclipses and the planet ruling the eclipse. He uses the trigon ruler of the eclipse degree to determine the region of the world that is affected, the duration and extent of the eclipse to determine the time at which the events will occur, the class of persons or animals affected from the characteristics of the sign of ruling planet, and the quality of the event from the nature of the ruling planet itself, supplemented by planets that are configured with this planet. He details the study of the eclipse with a study of the new moon of the year. He concludes the book with an investigation of weather prediction, based on the nature of the signs themselves and various kinds of meteorological phenomena.
Book III begins Ptolemy's treatment of natal astrology. After an introductory discussion of the conception chart vs the birth chart, and instructions for chart rectification based on the prenatal lunation, and criticism of earlier chart reading approaches, he sketches out his general systematic treatment of individual topics in the native's life, based on the identification of the place(s) in the chart that has/have most relevance for the topic, and the determination of the planet that has the most modes of rulership over this/these places. This general dispositor, called the "almuten" in the medieval tradition, appears to be an innovation on Ptolemy's part, at least as it was understood by the Arabian astrologers. Within this general approach, Ptolemy employs a variety of special considerations that are pertinent to certain topics, many of which were traditional devices for investigating topics. Book III deals with the topics of parents, siblings, the prediction of male or female nativities, twins, monstrous births, children that go unreared, length of life (in the standard manner but employing his own refinement of the determination of directed arc between the significator of life and malefic planets or their rays), bodily form, bodily injuries and diseases, quality of soul (in a manner "idiosyncratic to him" according to Hephaistio's commentary), and mental illness.
Book IV continues Ptolemy's approach to topics by investigating the kinds of events that befall the native after his birth: namely, wealth and material good fortune, honors & rank, occupation, marriage, children, friends & enemies (relying heavily on synastry), travel, and quality of death. At the conclusion of the fourth book Ptolemy presents a hierarchical scheme of time-lord procedures, beginning from the planet ruling each of the seven ages of man, then employing a directive procedure from each of the five universal significators of the chart, supplementing this with a study of profections, solar returns, and transits.
This new translation also includes the anonymous commentary and the scholia of Demophilus, here translated into English for the first time. TOP