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The Use of Military Astrology in Late Medieval Italy: The Textual Evidence
Submitted to the Faculty of the
Department of History
School of Arts & Sciences
Of The Catholic University of America
In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements
For the Degree
Doctor of Philosophy
All Rights Reserved
Robert S. Hand
Washington, D.C.
The Use of Military Astrology in Late Medieval Italy: The Textual Evidence.
Robert S. Hand
Director: Katherine L. Jansen, Ph. D.
This study examines the thirteenth-century astrologer Guido Bonatti’s Liber Astronomicus as
a case study to investigate one aspect of the many practical applications of astrology in the later
Middle Ages. Specifically, it looks at the application of military astrology to analyze Bonatti’s
use of his source material in relation to his own practice. The dissertation develops a
methodology to discern the astrologer’s practice from his textual inheritance.
Bonatti was possibly the most important astrologer of the high middle ages. His work was an
encyclopedic, yet detailed survey of the entire field of astrological study in the Europe of his
day. He acknowledged his Arab sources but was not merely a compiler of their material. Like
many of his European contemporaries in other fields such as Thomas Aquinas, Albertus Magnus
and Roger Bacon, Bonatti put his own stamp on the field of astrology. Staying within the basic
traditions as he inherited them, he systematized and expanded often terse material, and
frequently innovated in certain applications of astrology.
By close and detailed examinations of Bonatti’s text and comparison with his sources, we
can see the changes that reflect his personal experience which in turn caused him to alter and
emend the tradition. From this we can distinguish the practitioner from the compiler of astrological materials. This study argues that such close internal textual analysis of the astrological
treatises themselves reveals the medieval uses of astrology far better than external narrative
sources. Ultimately over the course of this study it also becomes clear that in the area of
astrology Bonatti carried out the same kinds of intellectual synthesis and systematization that we
see in the works of notable contemporaries in other fields.
This dissertation by Robert S. Hand fulfills the dissertation requirement for the doctoral degree
in History approved by Katherine L. Jansen, Ph.D., as Director, and by Timothy Noone, Ph.D.
and Ronald Calinger, Ph.D., as Readers.
Katherine L. Jansen, Ph.D., Director
Timothy Noone, Ph.D., Reader
Ronald Calinger, Ph.D., Reader
I would like to thank Dr. Katherine L. Jansen
for the considerable time and effort that went into assisting me in the process of researching and
writing this dissertation and Dr. Timothy Noone and Dr. Ronald Calinger for their efforts on my
behalf as well.
In addition I would like to thank all of the faculty and staff at The Catholic University of
America with whom I have studied and worked for the last several years in the process of
attaining the M.A. and Ph. D. degrees in History.
I want especially to thank my wife Elyse not only for the intellectual stimulus she has always
provided but also for urging me to start on this process in the first place.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1. Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
The Thesis. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
A Brief Survey of the Literature. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
Source Texts. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
The Structure and Arrangement of this Study. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22
Chapter 2. The Divisions of Astrology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
Natural Versus Judicial or Divinatory Astrology. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
Five Topic Areas and Types of Writings in Medieval Astrology. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34
The Speculum Astronomiae. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36
The Introductorium . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41
Interrogations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44
Electional and Inceptional Astrology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47
Revolutions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51
Natal or Genethliacal Astrology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54
Chapter 3. The Kinds of Astrology that Became Acceptable as Defined by the Compromise of
the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60
The Early Medieval Position of the Church on Astrology through 1277. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61
Aquinas and the Compromise . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63
Roger Bacon and the Compromise. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 66
The Condemnations of 1277 and Astrology. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 76
Astrology in the Medieval University. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 84
Chapter 4. The General Evolution of Astrological Ideas as Evidenced in the Texts
An Overview of Change versus Tradition in Astrology. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 101
The Evolution of Astrological Ideas in General. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 101
The Firdaria – a Study in the Transmission of a Complex Astrological System. . . . . . . . . 115
Chapter 5. The Astrology of Conflict and Warfare Before Bonatti and the Life of Guido Bonatti.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 129
Bonatti’s Predecessors and Sources. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 130
Guido Bonatti’s Life and Its Relationship to the Astrology of Warfare . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 147
Chapter 6. Texts and Methods. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 158
The Authors and the Texts. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 158
The Ratdolt Edition and the Divisions of the Liber astronomicus. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 160
The Preparation and Editing of the Texts. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 164
The Relationship Between Interrogations and Elections. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 170
The Objective of the Remaining Chapters. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 173
A Final Note on the Material That Follows. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 183
Chapter 7. The Basics of Conflict Analysis in Interrogations and Elections. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 184
Definition of the Significators. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 185
Whether the Parties Will Come to an Agreement – Part 1
Without the Aid of a Mediating Party. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 187
Whether the Parties Will Come to an Agreement – Part 2
Agreement Involving a Mediator without Formal Litigation.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 198
Which Side Comes Out Better in a Settlement? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 201
The Qualities of the Mediator. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 205
The Role of the Sun and Moon in Supporting Either Side. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 207
Relations Between the Litigants and the Mediator. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 209
Indications for the Outcome of Litigation If There Is No Mediation. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 211
A Technique for Analyzing Conflict Peculiar to Bonatti. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 225
Bonatti’s Final Comment in §VI.2.7.9. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 229
Chapter 8. Interrogations and Inceptions Concerning Wars and Military Actions in General
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 232
Who is competent to ask about the outcome of a possible battle or war and how are the
significators of the two sides derived? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 233
Will the sides make peace before going to war or before there has been serious conflict?
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 241
The Sides Do Not Make Peace and Indications as To Which Side Will Win. . . . . . . . . . . 250
Chapter 9. Shorter Chapters on Warfare, §VI.2.7.22-28. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 266
Bonatti Chapter §VI.2.7.22. Which Side Has More Support. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 266
Bonatti Chapter §VI.2.7.24 – What Is the Cause for Which War Has Arisen, and Whether or
Not the Cause Is Just. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 273
Bonatti Chapter §VI.2.7.25. Concerning whether Armies Are Large or Small. . . . . . . . . . 281
Bonatti Chapters §VI.2.7.26 and §VI.2.7.27. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 283
Chapter 10. The Astrology of Siege Craft. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 294
A Siege Chart from Haly Abenragel. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 311
Bonatti’s Influence on Later Astrologers and a Modern Example of Bonatti’s Influence on
The Astrology of Siege Craft. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 317
Appendix — Dating Haly’s Chart. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 323
Chapter 11. Summation, Conclusions, and the Implications of this Study. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 327
Further Suggestions Concerning the Relationships Between Bonatti and his Sources. . . . 327
Summary and Concluding Remarks. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 332
Appendix I – An Introduction to Medieval Astrology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 334
The Basic Components . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 335
The Planets . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 335
The Signs of the Zodiac . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 342
Houses or Places . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 350
Combinations of the Basic Components. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 358
Conditions of the Planets by Themselves . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 358
Relationships Among the Planets . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 360
Relationships Between Signs and Planets . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 371
Two More Example Charts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 384
Appendix II – English and Latin Glossary of Astrological Terms . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 395
Appendix III – The Latin Texts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 440
Guido Bonatti – Chapters Pertaining to Warfare from Tractatus VI On Interrogations. . . . 440
§VI.2.7.9 – Capitulum nonum de lite seu controversia que fuerit inter aliquos quis /
obtinebit vel quis succumbet vel si component se ante litem vel non. . . . . . . . . . . 440
§VI.2.7.21. Capitulum vicesimumprimum de aliquo volente ire in exercitum vel ad
bellum seu guerram incipere / sive dux sive alter quicunque fuerit utrum vincat aut
non. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 443
§VI.2.7.22 – Capitulum vicesimumsecundum que pars habet plures auxiliatores. . . . . 451
§VI.2.7.23 – Capitulum vicesimumtercium de scientia victorie belli quis vincet. . . . . 452
§VI.2.7.24 – Capitulum vicesimumquartum que fuit causa quare surrexit illud bellum / et
utrum iusta vel iniusta. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 453
§VI.2.7.25 – Capitulum vicesimumquintum de magnitudine sive parvitate exercituum.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 454
§VI.2.7.26 – Capitulum vicesimumsextum ad sciendum universa instrumenta et alia que
spectant ad bellum. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 454
§VI.2.7.27 – Capitulum vicesimumseptimum qualiter debes aspicere significata
duodecim / domorum. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 455
§VI.2.7.28 – Capitulum vicesimumoctavum utrum futurum sit prelium inter exercitus an
non. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 457
§VI.2.7.29 – Capitulum vicesimumnonum utrum civitas vel castrum obsessum vel
obsidendum capiatur an non. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 458
Zahel: Interrogations on Conflict and War . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 461
§7.9 – De contentione duorum quis eorum vincet. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 461
§7.24 – De duce proficiscente ad bellum, aut alius quando pro eo sollicitus querit . . . 462
§7.25 – Questio utrum exercitus sit magnus vel parvus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 466
Zahel: On the Houses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 467
§Introductorium – Capitulum substantiarum duodecim signorum et quid significat / omne
signum. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 467
Haly Abenragel: Interrogations on Conflict and War . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 470
§II.35 Capitulum .35. in questione duorum litigantium / quis eorum vincet . . . . . . . . . 470
§II.39 Capitulum .39. in questione militum euntium ad inveniendum / aliquos milites vel
alios causa litigandi. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 471
II.42.1 Capitulum <.42.> in litibus et preliis et suis significationibus. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 472
§II.42.2. In questione regis vel principis vel cuiuslibet / alterius pro lite, rixis aut causis
quos habet unum cum alio . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 476
§II.42.3 In eo qui discedit ab obedientia regis, et fit ei / rebellis. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 482
§II.43 Capitulum .43. in guerra que elongatur quid erit de / ea et exemplum in hoc . . . 485
§II.44 Capitulum .44. in obsidendo et capiendo villas et quid / erit de statibus suis . . . 489
§II.45 Capitulum .45. in exemplo questionis facte per inimicum / qui ivit ad obsidendum
civitatem si habebit /10/ eam, vel non, aut quid erit de ea. / . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 494
The Book of Nine Judges on War and Conflict . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 495
§7.37 – De controversia vel causa. Zahel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 495
§7.38 – De causis vel controversiis. Aomar . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 495
§7.39 – De his que inter duos accidere solent . Alkindi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 496
§7.40 – De causis. Albenait . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 496
§7.41 – De causa vel controversia. Dorotheus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 496
§7.42 – Quis eorum vincet aut saltem sit forcior. Zahel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 497
§7.43 – Quis eorum vincet. Aomar . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 498
§7.44 – Quis cedat in causa. Alkindius . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 498
§7.45 – A quo pacis sumatur initium. Zahel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 498
§7.46 – Quis cedat in causa. Dorotheus. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 499
§7.47 – Quis potietur victoriam. Aristoteles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 500
§7.48 – De rege vel iudice cui eorum faveat. Zahel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 500
§7.49 – De eodem. Aomar . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 501
§7.50 – De iudicis fide. Alkindius . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 501
§7.51 – Cui rex faveat. Albenait . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 502
§7.52 – Utrum pax futura sit inter eos. Aomar . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 502
§7.53 – Pro qua re sit controversia. Aomar . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 503
§7.54 – Idem. Cum quo agenda sit causa . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 503
§7.55 – Idem. De fine cause et hora . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 503
§7.160 – De bello. Zahel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 503
§7.161 – De bello. Aomar . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 505
§7.162 – De bello. Alkindius . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 505
§7.163 – De bello et eius successu. Albenait . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 507
§7.164 – De ineundo bello. Dorotheus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 508
§7.165 – De bello et coniugio et ceteris similibus. Jergis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 508
§7.166 – De bello futuro inter duas civitates vel gentes facto. Aristoteles . . . . . . . . . . 508
§7.167 – De qualitate belli et modo. Zahel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 509
§7.168 – De infortunio et successu bellorum. Aomar . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 510
§7.169 – Idem de pugnancium strenuitate sive ignavia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 510
§7.170 – Idem de egressis a rege et qui rebelles fiunt . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 511
§7.171 – Rursum de bello. Alkindius . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 511
§7.172 – An congressor occumbat. Alkindius . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 512
§7.173 – De Pace atque concordia. Zahel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 512
§7.174 – De fine belli. Aomar . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 513
§7.175 – De fine belli. Alkindius . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 513
§7.176 – Quis et qualis sit mediator. Alkindius . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 514
§7.177 – De origine belli et utra pars sit iustior. Zahel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 515
§7.178 – Cui detur victoria de die, scilicet, egresso an de nocte. Alkindius . . . . . . . . . 516
§7.179 – Cui rursum parti primates faveant. Alkindius . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 516
§7.180 – Qua hora congressor aut adversarium pugnare incipiat quando fugere debeant.
Alkindius . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 516
§7.181 – De quolibet eunte ad bellum. Aristoteles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 517
§7.182 – In quo membro sit percussus. Aristoteles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 518
§7.183 – De consortibus et his quos exorasti, et de mittendis ad bellum ducibus, qui
utiliores / futuri eligandis, iumentorum necne aut rerum duarum que in operacionem /
veniunt dum due sint aut que pocior sit aut potissima et de equorum cursu. Aomar
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 518
§7.184 – De equitibus / ad depredandum missis. Albenalhait . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 520
§7.185 – De his quos / rebelles adversum dominos velle fieri estimamus. Alkindius
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 520
§7.186 – De quolibet utrum regem offendat. Dorotheus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 523
§7.187 – Idem de egressis a rege . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 523
§7.188 – De status urbis obsesse. Aomar . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 523
§7.189 – Utrum dedicione capiatur aut bello. Aomar . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 524
§7.190 – De urbium obsidione. / Alkindius . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 524
§7.191 – Que sit pacis condicio. Alkindius . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 525
§7.192 – Quando expugnabitur. Alkindus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 526
§7.193 – Unde quibus sit timendus Alkindus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 527
§7.194 – Idem de audacia civium . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 527
§7.195 – Que fuit dedicionis occasio. Alkindus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 527
§7.196 – Quibus plurima sint amminicula. Alkindus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 528
§7.197 – Quilibet iustior sit causa Alkindius . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 528
§7.198 – De castris expugnandis. Dorotheus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 528
Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 529
Chapter 1. Introduction
After the sixteenth century, a time in which a learned superstition, [astrology] (taught
according to the precepts of Ptolemy, and Paul of Alexandria) strove to learn the effects of
the stars, the writings of the Greek astrologers, having been collected in libraries, lay
neglected and despised by almost everyone for three centuries. Almost alone among those
texts carefully edited by philologists were those which were composed in verse. And these
were studied not because of the material discussed in them, but because of their form as
poetry. No one had the temerity to indulge in [the study of] the deceits of a mendacious
doctrine of pseudo-prophets the vanity of which was clear. The art and the books in which it
was taught were committed to oblivion. But while it seemed to learned men that they were
coming back to their senses [in ignoring astrology] they [actually] had begun to grow more
dim, because [they did not understand that] the long-lived errors of a bygone age are no less
necessary to the understanding of human affairs than its most remarkable discoveries. In fact,
if you take away astrology, [a subject] to which nearly all persons were addicted during the
reign of the Caesars, one at once cannot understand correctly many matters in both the
religion and the sciences of those times. If, however, one were to pursue this most difficult
subject reasonably so that its ancient and honored lineage among oriental mathematici might
be investigated, and so that the astonishing success of that spurious discipline might be
explained, the mind can scarcely guess how much light could be shed upon ancient cults and
character from such a study – Preface to the CCAG, Vol. I.1
I begin with this passage from the CCAG for three reasons: First, it illustrates a justification
frequently given for the study of astrology in history, that understanding the role of astrology in
ancient civilizations can serve to illuminate our study of the culture of those civilizations.
Franz Cumont, F. Boll, W. Kroll, et al. eds, Catalogus codicum astrologorum graecorum, Vol. I (Brussels: H.
Lamertin, 1898), v. Hereafter the volumes of this work are referred to as the CCAG.
Post saeculum decimum sextum quo erudita superstitio ex Ptolemaei Paulique Alexandrini praeceptis siderum
effectus discere studebat, scripta astrologorum graecorum acervatim in bibliothecis congesta per trecentes annos
ab omnibus fere neglecta despectaque iacuerunt. Quae versibus erant concepta paene sola a philologis accurate
edita sunt, non propter tractatam materiam sed propter poeticam formam. Doctrinae mendacis vanitate patefacta
pseudoprophetarum fallaciis nemo indulgere ausus est, et ars illa tota et libri, quibus docebatur, in oblivionem
adducta sunt. Sed dum resipiscere sibi videntur viri docti, potius hebescere coeperunt, cum praeteritae aetatis
errores diuturni non minus quam clarissima inventa ad rerum humanarum intelligentiam sint necessaria.
Astrologiam quidem, cui regnantibus Caesaribus omnes fere addicti erant, si sustuleris, iam multa cum in
religione tum in scientiis illorum temporum recte percipi non poterunt. Sin autem rem difficillimam sane
consecutus sis, ut priscae matheseos apud orientales excultae origines indagentur, ut insitivae illius disciplinae
mirus apud graecos romanosque proventus explicetur, vix ac ne vix quidem mens auguratur quantum cultus
moresque antiqui inde illustrari possint. – Unless otherwise noted all translations in this work are mine.
Second, it also illustrates a common view in older works in this field, that astrology had a
peak of influence in the Roman period, and a second, if brief, flowering in the early modern
period from about the time of the invention of the printing press into the early seventeenth
century, after which it nearly disappeared. It therefore implies that in the medieval period in
Europe astrology was not a significant social influence. Third, the publishing of the first tome of
the CCAG in 1898, along with the publication of Bouché -Leclercq’s L’astrologie Grecque in
1899,2 inaugurated the revival of the study of the history of astrology in modern times. There
was little of note prior to that time.
Regarding the second point above, that after Rome astrology had its main flowering in the
sixteenth century, this view understates the extent of the influence of astrology in the middle
ages (at least in the later middle ages). More recent scholarship shows that astrology’s influence
in the early modern period was the result of a broadening of the influence it already had in the
late middle ages.3 This expansion was enabled by the invention of the printing press and the
resulting development of a popular astrological literature consisting of almanacs and “shepherds’
calendars” which could not have been created without the printing press.4 However, on a more
learned level astrology flourished in the later middle ages. This will be discussed in detail below
and in subsequent chapters.
As to the first point in the CCAG passage, that the study of the history of astrology enables a
Auguste Bouché -Leclercq, L’astrologie grecque (Paris: Ernest Leroux, 1899). This work remains the most
complete study of Hellenistic astrology written despite its many limitations not the least of which is the author’s
complete contempt for its subject matter.
For astrology’s emergence in the later middle ages, see Charles Homer Haskins, The Renaissance of the
Twelfth Century (New York: World Publishing Co., Meridian Books, 1970) and by the same author Studies in the
History of Mediaeval Science (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1927), hereafter Haskins, Studies. There
are many editions and printings of both works in addition to the ones cited here.
For a description of this process in England, see Bernard Capp, English Almanacs, 1500-1800: Astrology and
the Popular Press (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1979).
greater understanding of the cultures in which it was practiced, this justification is still common
among historians and has considerable merit. However, it does engender a tendency to study
astrology from an outside point of view, outside of astrology that is. Consequently we have
studies of the influence of astrology in medieval literature, medicine, philosophy, architecture,
technology and so forth. Among historians of science we have studies of astrology that involve
delving deeply into the astronomical aspects of the subject in order to understand the technical
aspects of medieval astronomy rather than the astrology based upon it. And we have studies of
astrology in crisis as these crises reflect larger crises within culture. What we do not have to a
sufficient degree are studies of the internal evolution of the art of astrology itself as practiced
during that time. What ideas did astrologers consider important? What philosophical principles
did they rely on? What changes occurred in practice? This “externalist” approach to the study of
the history of astrology seems connected with a reluctance to get involved in the technical
aspects of the subject. This attitude is quite likely due as much to a lack of proper background in
the subject as it is to, in some cases, distaste for the material.5 Anyone who has studied medieval
astrology must come to the conclusion that its technical apparatus, its reasoning, as well as the
incredible detail that the student of the subject must master, quite apart from the astronomy,
cannot be easily mastered. As a result even for those who would limit themselves to an
An example of this attitude is found in an exchange between George Sarton and Otto Neugebauer on Drower’s
translation of the Book of the Zodiac, a Mandaean religious text that contains a good deal of astrology. Sarton
referred to the Book of the Zodiac as “a wretched collection of omens, debased astrology and miscellaneous
nonsense.” Otto Neugebauer responded in Isis shortly thereafter with his brief essay “On the Study of Wretched
Subjects.” Here he reacted to Sarton’s characterization of the subject matter of Drower’s book as follows: “Because
this factually correct statement does not tell the whole story, I want to amplify it by a few remarks to explain to the
reader why a serious scholar might spend years on the study of wretched subjects like ancient astrology.” Brilliant as
he was in the study of the history of ancient astronomy, Neugebauer never took the trouble to study ancient astrology
in itself. For Sarton’s original comment, see George Sarton, Frances Siegel, “Seventy-Sixth Critical Bibliography of
the History and Philosophy of Science and of the History of Civilization (to May 1950),” Isis 41, no. 3/4 (Dec.
1950): 374. For Neugebauer’s reaction see Otto Neugebauer, “The Study of Wretched Subjects,” Isis 42, no. 2 (June
1951): 111.
externalist approach, there is still much material that remains inaccessible.
In particular there is the question of the scope of penetration of astrology into medieval life.
The older historical literature, as exemplified by the CCAG passage, tended to minimize it. More
recently it has become apparent that astrology’s level of penetration was much more than
previously thought but it is still not clear exactly how great it was. If one examines the more
comprehensive astrological works themselves, one of which is the focus of the study presented
here, and examines the range of applications presented in the actual texts, and takes the contents
at face value, one could easily form the impression that absolutely nothing took place in the
middle ages without the intervention of an astrologer. Applications range from the more personal
such as choosing times to take a bath, put on new clothing, having sex with the objective of
conceiving a male heir, to such matters of state as choosing the time to crown kings and begin
wars. Clearly the truth is somewhere in between two views of astrology in the middle ages, one
that it had but limited influence, the other that it affected everything.
My work here will present research into a method that is somewhat different from what has
gone before, a method which may further enable scholars to determine for what uses astrology
was actually employed. It is quite independent of evidence from sources outside of the
astrological literature, yet it depends upon the actual employment of astrology by patrons, not
merely what astrologers claimed to be capable of. It requires close reading of the astrological
texts themselves. We must trace material from early authors through the later authors whose
works were based on those earlier ones, and then move on to yet later authors. The thesis is quite
simple. Techniques that were actually in use by an astrologer tended to evolve at his hands.
Practicing astrologers did not simply take what they were given and hand it down unchanged, at
least not in those applications where they were actually employed. By contrast, there were also
methods and procedures that were included in texts simply for the sake of making a text
“complete,” particularly in texts that Francis Carmody refers to as “encyclopedic.”6 Many of
these techniques seem to have been handed down from author to author with little evidence that
they were actually used. Such material shows no evolution and we have no examples of
interpretations in which they were used. In Chapter 4 I describe the nature and kinds of evolution
that may be found in astrological texts in some detail but suffice to say for the moment that
evolution and changes of method are to be found.
As a vehicle to demonstrate this method of textual analysis I have chosen the evolution of
military astrology from the late classical period through the later middle ages. Military
astrology, simply defined, is the application of any astrological technique in order to gain
advantage in warfare. It may include choosing times for taking military action, using astrology to
gain military intelligence, even finding times of good weather for doing battle. It is not, as I will
show in Chapter 2, a special branch of astrology. It uses methods from several branches of
I concentrate on the work of one astrologer, Guido Bonatti (c.1210- c.1290). While it is
likely that no astrologer was ever completely, or even primarily, a specialist in military astrology
to the exclusion of all other applications, Bonatti certainly used astrology for this application and
to a greater extent than any of his known contemporaries.7 In addition to his work being
Francis J.Carmody, Arabic Astronomical and Astrological Sciences in Latin Translation (Berkeley: University
of California Press, 1956). Part V of this work is entitled “The Encyclopaedic Period” and refers to the last flowering
of Arabic astrology from the tenth through the twelfth centuries. However, the concept can be applied equally well
to Latin astrological texts that attempted to cover all aspects of astrology.
Some of his predecessors were just about as involved but no European wrote on the subject on the scale that he
did. Al-Kindī is especially important, also known as Abu Yusuf Yàqūb ibn Ishāq al-Sabbah al-Kindī (c. 801–873
C.E.). His writings on warfare are quite comparable to Bonatti in scope although differing in detail. The Latin texts
of his writings relating to warfare are presented in this work newly edited from both early modern Latin editions and
manuscripts with English translations of the most important passage relating to the topic. Al-Kindī is one of
Bonatti’s sources.
comprehensive, he did not merely hand down from previous authors what he received from his
predecessors, at least not in the area of military applications; he added material of his own.
Thorndike writes:
Guido employs such classical authorities as Ptolemy, Hermes, and Dorotheus, but still more
such Arabian astrologers as Alcabitius, Albumasar, Messahala, and Thebit ben Corat. He
also states that he has made additions of his own, and many passages demonstrate that he
has made detailed practical application to the present problems of medieval life of the
principles of his art established in the past.8 [My italics]
Why do I focus on Bonatti? There are several reasons. First of all, Bonatti’s text (given
various names but commonly called the Liber Astronomicus) is far and away the most
encyclopedic text on the subject composed by a European in the middle ages.9 There are no texts
of comparable scope and length until the sixteenth century.10 In fact the only other single text
which compares to Bonatti is the Speculum of Francesco Giuntini (1523-1590).11 Girolamo
Cardano (1501-1576) also left behind a large corpus of work in the sixteenth century, all of
which taken together is equivalent to Bonatti’s work in its coverage, but Cardano’s writings do
not constitute an integrated work even if it is all taken together. It was written throughout his
life; it evolved considerably from his early work to his later work; and it was not conceived and
written as a single opus expounding a complete system. In addition Cardano changed methods
Lynn Thorndike, History of Magic and Experimental Science, 8 vols. (New York: Columbia University Press,
1923-58). This will be designated hereafter as “Thorndike, H.O.M.E.S.” The passage above is from H.O.M.E.S., vol.
2, 826-7.
I list the editions and manuscripts consulted elsewhere.
The only other comparable work by a European in the middle ages was Leopold of Austria’s text which has
much the same coverage as Bonatti’s but nowhere near the depth of explanation. It is, as its title suggests, a
compilation. Leopold of Austria, Compilatio Leupoldi ducatus Austrie filii de astrorum scientis decem continens
tractatus (Augsburg: Ergard Ratdolt, 1489). Leopold’s dates are not exactly known but he lived roughly at the same
time as Bonatti. I have found no references in either’s work to the other.
Francesco Giuntini (Franciscus Junctinus), Speculum astrologiae quod attinet ad iudiciariam rationem
nativitatum atque annuarum revolutionum (Lyons: Sumptibus Philippi Tinghi Florentini, 1573). There was another
edition ten years later which contains more material but much of the new material was on astronomy rather than
and extensively revised his earlier ideas. In short, he wrote no final summa of his astrology.
Bonatti and Giuntini’s works were such summae. The only earlier work comparable to theirs is
that of the North African, Haly Abenragel (fl. 1036 or 1062 CE),12 whose similarly encyclopedic
work was extremely influential especially in the period after Bonatti.13
A second reason to study Bonatti, however, is that his work was not merely encyclopedic.
The factor that Thorndike alludes to in the above quotation is related to another very important
reason for concentrating on Bonatti although a slight change of emphasis is in order to appreciate
Bonatti’s historical importance. Bonatti did not just adapt astrology to a European environment.
He also brought to bear a manner of thinking that is found, I would argue, only in European
astrology.14 Bonatti took theory passed on to him from such persons as Ptolemy and Abu
Ma‘shar, and made a concerted effort to rationalize the practice of astrology as well. Outside of
parts of Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos, most Hellenistic astrology15 consists of aphoristic statements that
are apparently to be taken exactly as presented without any inward understanding of the theory,
if any, involved. Outside of Abu Ma’shar, the same is true of Arabic astrology. And even in
Ptolemy and Abu Ma‘shar, the practical part of their work does not always show the impress of
their theory. Indian astrology appears to be worse yet in this respect. According to contemporary
masters of Indian astrology such as K.N. Rao (1931-) and B.V. Raman (1912-1998)16 persons
who want to become astrologers in India are sent to a master at a very young age to apprentice
‘Alī ibn abi ’r-Rijal. Known in Latin as Haly Abenragel, the editio princeps of his work was the Liber
completus in iudiciis stellarum quem composuit albohazen Hali filius abenragel, (Venice: Erhard Ratdolt, 1485).
The translation of this work from Arabic to Latin was accomplished at about the same time as the writing of
Bonatti’s work. It is, therefore, not clear that Abenragel was much of an influence on Bonatti.
I argue in the course of Chaps. 5-11 that Haly was not a major influence on Bonatti, at least not in the area of
military astrology.
Of course this does not apply to all medieval European astrologers.
For the use of ‘Hellenistic’ in the context of the history of astrology see note 44 in this chapter.
In both cases this information is from personal communications and public lectures. Both of these Hindu
astrologers actually came from families that had practiced astrology for generations.
themselves. In the course of their apprenticeship they memorize all of the classical works on
Hindu astrology, literally thousands of verses, or slokas, containing combinations (called
‘yogas’) of astrological factors.17 When a well-trained Indian astrologer comes to a judgement,
he or she18 can cite the exact verses of the astrological works from which their judgements come.
Bonatti, on the other hand, was not a theoretician in the way that Ptolemy and Abu Ma‘shar
were, but he always attempted to derive the theoretical bases of astrological principles and apply
them in a systematic manner. Also, when he came upon the judgements of his predecessors, he
attempted to understand the underlying rationale implicit in them and then, where possible,
extend that rationale to other, similar or related situations. And, where the judgements of his
predecessors were often given piecemeal and incomplete, Bonatti, based on his understanding of
the underlying principles, attempted to flesh out the missing parts of what he received to present
a doctrine more entire and complete. Bonatti was not in any modern sense a “scientist” but his
work does demonstrate a concern for order and reason insofar as it was possible to find it. Many
European astrologers followed him in this respect but Bonatti was the first. It is worthwhile to
compare Bonatti with the only other European astrologer of his time to compile a general
introduction to astrology, Leopold of Austria (fl. 13th century).19 As I will demonstrate in
Chapters 6-10 this search for underlying rationality was a major force in Bonatti’s adaptation of
the material that he received from the Arab astrologers. In this respect one might compare
Bonatti with European systematizers in theology and philosophy. Bonatti lived in the thirteenth
century. In this same century lived Albertus Magnus (c. 1210-1280), Thomas Aquinas
This is based on personal communications with both of these men.
There are and have been very important women in Hindu astrology.
Leopold of Austria’s work has a good deal of material on the technical astronomy of astrology but is nowhere
near Bonatti’s as a complete introduction to the astrological judgements. See p. 6, n. 10. Interestingly, he does cover
one area that Bonatti does not. The last portion of his work is on astrological magic.
(1225–1274), and Roger Bacon (1214/1220–1292). All three built upon material received from
the Arabs, adapted it and systematized it, Albertus an Aquinas in theology and philosophy,
Bacon, although perhaps not quite as deeply, in the sciences. I will show the same tendencies in
Bonatti, although astrology is not a subject that lends itself to systematization to the same degree
as theology, philosophy and the sciences. Nevertheless, Bonatti was as much a twelfth-century
European intellectual as these better known individuals of his time and one can see this in his
Third, although little is known about details of Bonatti’s personal life, he does appear as a
personality from time to time in chronicles and other works, making an appearance in Dante’s
Divine Comedy, specifically in the Inferno as one of those persons whose head was turned
completely backwards as punishment for spending a lifetime looking forward attempting to
predict the future.20 Bonatti was especially known for his employment by the tyrant Ezzelino da
Romano III (1194 -1259)21 and Guido I, Duke of Montefeltro (1223 - 1298).22 In this connection
Bonatti, himself, provides many details in the Liber Astronomicus. From references in his own
and other works we know that Bonatti was employed for his advice in military matters. Charts
pertaining to military matters are provided in his own work, and there are references in the
chronicles especially to Guido Montefeltro and his use of Bonatti’s astrology for military
planning. As far as we know Bonatti was the only astrologer he ever employed.
Fourth, Bonatti was unusual in that he cited his sources. It is typical of him in any discussion
of an astrological point to cite the opinions of his Arabic predecessors23 and then give his own
Dante, Inferno, Canto XX, 118. “Vedi Guido Bonatti.”
See p. 150.
See p. 9.
He cites no other Latin authors but does cite some Greek sources as they came to him through Arabic
intermediaries notably Vettius Valens (fl. second century CE), and Dorotheus of Sidon (fl. first century CE).
opinions which frequently diverge. While differing from predecessors is not peculiar to Bonatti,
he is unique in the scrupulous way he mentions them by name. Fortunately we have the work of
the great majority of these writers in Latin. Where we do not have those works, it appears that
Bonatti did not have them either but knew them only through other Arabic writers. Bonatti
shows no evidence of reading or writing Arabic, and must have relied completely on Latin
translations which he sometimes cites nearly verbatim and at other times closely paraphrases.
This enables us to compare Bonatti to his predecessors quite thoroughly. Bonatti’s attitude is
respectful but not exactly servile because, given the range and completeness of his knowledge it
would seem that he was uniquely qualified to state his own opinions.24
Why do I focus on military astrology? I have chosen this application of astrology for several
reasons. First of all, to a modern reader, the use of astrology for military applications might seem
to be one of the more improbable applications, perhaps one destined to be in the textbooks
simply as a matter of completeness.25 We do in fact know that astrology was used for this
purpose in the later middle ages, and that Bonatti was one of those who were employed to do
this. We have this both from his own work and independent historical records, nor was he the
only one. Therefore, if the thesis I am advancing is correct, we should expect to see evolution in
Bonatti’s use of his sources. The later chapters of this work are an extended inquiry into this
matter in which I present and compare the relevant texts from Bonatti and his sources.
The fourteenth-century Italian commentator on Dante, Benvenuto Rimbaldi, referred to Bonatti’s work as
follows: “Nam Guido fecit opus pulcrum et magnum in astrologia, quod ego vidi, in quo tam clare tradit doctrinam
de astrologia, quod visus est velle docere feminas astrologiam.” “For Guido [Bonatti] created a great and handsome
work on astrology which I have seen. In this work he transmits the doctrine of astrology so clearly that he seemed to
want to teach astrology to women.” See Benvenutus de Imola, Comentum super Dantis Aldighierii comoediam [sic],
vol. II (Florence: J. P. Lacaita, 1887), 90.
Actually there is even evidence for the use of astrology for military purposes, albeit largely for purposes of
propaganda, in modern times. See Ellic Howe, Astrology: A Recent History Including the Untold Story of Its Role in
World War II (New York: Walker and Company, 1967) also published in the United Kingdom as Urania’s Children.
Since we do know that astrologers were employed for military purposes, it is not my object
to prove that fact from the analysis of the texts; it is my object to show how the use of the
material caused it to evolve. We will see that a medieval Latin astrologer was not at all reluctant
to challenge the authority of his sources when he had actual experience in some area. The real
purpose of this exploration is to show how a scholar doing research into the possible applications
of medieval astrology can learn which techniques were actually used by an author and which
ones were simply passed along as part of an “encyclopedia.”
However, this presents a challenge to the scholar. It has been asserted from time to time “that
astrology is largely unchanged since Ptolemy.”26 This view betrays a lack of familiarity with the
subject resulting apparently from a superficial survey of the subject. When one goes into
astrological material more deeply, one finds a good deal of change and a fair amount of critical
disagreement among astrologers of the time with each other and with their sources. For medieval
astrologers Ptolemy was a revered and influential figure but the most casual comparison of
Ptolemy’s principal work on astrology, the Tetrabiblos,27 with the encyclopedic works of the
See “Views of modern philosophers. Mostly bad news for astrology” at Downloaded Feb. 6, 2012. This is an “expanded version of a
summary from Correlation 1995, 14(2), 33-34.” Correlation is an astrological journal of research which has at times
taken an extremely critical attitude toward astrology especially when Rudolf Smit was its editor. The passage in
question is from T.H. Leahey and G. E. Leahey, Psychology’s Occult Doubles: Psychology and the Problem of
Pseudoscience (Chicago: Nelson-Hall, 1983), 41-42. The position stated here is neither unusual nor infrequent in
literature critical of astrology.
The most commonly used translation of Ptolemy is that of Robbins. See Claudius. Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos,
translated by F. E. Robbins (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1954), hereafter Ptolemy, Robbins trans.
This is not a brilliant translation of the original Greek but it is certainly useable. Another commonly available
English translation is that of J. M. Ashmand, one edition of which is the following: Claudius Ptolemy, Ptolemy’s
Tetrabiblos, trans. J. M. Ashmand (Chicago: Aries Press, 1936), hereafter Ptolemy, Ashmand trans. Unfortunately
Ashmand’s is not a translation of Ptolemy’s original Greek but of a paraphrase attributed to Proclus (probably
actually done in the early Byzantine era). The difficulty with Ashmand’s translation, however, is not the accuracy of
the translation but that its English is a rather difficult early nineteenth-century British idiom with an idiosyncratic
technical vocabulary derived from medieval and early modern Latin translations of Ptolemy. Despite that and the
difficulties that these issues present, it is actually a much better translation than it is often given credit for. For those
wishing a definitive critical edition of Ptolemy’s Greek, see Claudius Ptolemy, Apotelesmatika, Wolfgang Hubner,
ed. (Stuttgart: Teubner, 1998).
middle ages, both Arabic and Latin, will show how much more there is to medieval astrology
than Ptolemy. This is not the place to go into how those changes came to be: all we need to
understand, as I have just stated, is that medieval astrology consists of much more than Ptolemy.
In Chapter 2 “The Divisions of Astrology” I refer specifically to the portions of medieval
astrology that are not based on Ptolemy.28
This imposes upon the scholar the need to master a great deal of technical astrology because
it is in the details of the techniques that one can see the evolution more clearly.29 However,
gaining a knowledge of astrological method is complicated by a lack of material explaining
medieval astrology and its methods to scholars. To assist in remedying this lack I have included
appendices introducing the basics of medieval astrology as they apply to military astrology as
well as a glossary of English terms and their Latin equivalents.
The Thesis.
The thesis argues that astrology evolved between Ptolemy and Latin the middle ages.
Second, a driving force behind that evolution was usage. Astrological techniques that were
actually employed evolved at the hands of those authors who used them. Third, methods and
applications that were not used did not evolve but were simply handed down as they were
without change. Fourth, only a close reading of the astrological texts consisting of a point by
point comparison of texts with their sources can show this evolution. Fifth and last, military
astrology was used and did evolve. Therefore, I have chosen it as the object of my case study to
In that chapter I describe a five-fold classification which encompasses the whole of medieval astrology and in
my description of each division I mention what it does or does not owe to Ptolemy.
It is good to report, based on recent conferences on astrology in the middle ages in which I have participated,
that scholars are beginning to attain this mastery.
show the impact of usage on the evolution of an astrological technique. To my knowledge no
one has analyzed astrological texts in precisely this way, at least no one with scholarly training.
It was my original intent to compare all of the military astrology in Bonatti with all of the
military astrology in his sources. This turned out to be a task that was beyond the limited scope
of a dissertation. More important, it turned out not to be necessary. The two areas of astrology
that are most relevant to military purposes (as I explain more fully in Chapter 2) are
Interrogations or asking questions, and elections or choosing times for action. Where military
applications for astrology turned up in other branches of astrology, Bonatti appears to have been
very derivative. Almost all of the work that we know he did in military astrology was with
interrogations and elections. However, as I continued my research I made a second discovery.
Tractatus VI of the Liber astronomicus contains his treatise on interrogations. Tractatus VII
contains his treatise on elections. Yet the originality that I have found in Bonatti is mostly in
Tractatus VI even though he appears to have been equally fluent in both forms of astrology.
What I found was that Bonatti and other authors who wrote on interrogations and elections
maintained the distinction between the two types of astrology for didactic purposes but in fact
mixed interrogations and elections more or less indiscriminately.30 In Bonatti’s case his material
on elections is extremely derivative. His material on interrogations contains a great deal of
innovative material along lines that I discuss in Chapter 4. However, these innovations apply
equally well to charts read as questions or charts chosen to take an action. In other words, the
two branches of astrology were not entirely distinct. Consequently the analysis presented in this
work is almost entirely in regard to interrogations. In Chapter 6 I present further material with
See Chap. 6, “The Relationship Between Interrogations and Elections,” p. 170.
textual examples by way of explaining the choice to concentrate on Tractatus VI first mentioned
A Brief Survey of the Literature.
The literature of the history of astrology began to grow enormously in the last decades of the
twentieth century and has continued to do so in the twenty-first. It is not my intention to give a
complete survey here but rather to confine myself to a brief discussion of works that have a
general importance to the field of the history of medieval and early modern astrology in general,
and then of the literature that directly pertains to the thesis of this work. I will also mention
problematical issues that the researcher in this field will have to cope with and how some of
them are, or are not, being remedied.
In any discussion of the literature relating to medieval astrology in general first place must be
given to Lynn Thorndike’s History of Magic and Experimental Science quoted just above.31
Thorndike was one of the first historians to provide a serious and comprehensive treatment of a
wide range of subjects in intellectual history previously regarded as suspect, if not completely
untouchable. These include astrology, alchemy, and magic. The work is particularly useful for
several reasons. First, it provides a comprehensive history of all these subjects in relation to the
intellectual history of the middle ages. Second, its coverage is almost entirely of the medieval
and early modern period ending in the seventeenth-century with the Copernican revolution and
the rise of early modern science. Third, it provides a wealth of information on manuscripts and
early modern printed editions of the writings of most of the major authors in these fields.
See p. 6.
Thorndike was also an energetic compiler of manuscript incipits. In this last respect Thorndike’s
work needs to be updated but overall there is still no single source that covers the material of
H.O.M.E.S. as completely. Fourth, he was one of the first medievalists to raise the middle ages
and the accomplishments of this period to the standing to which it is entitled, something much
more than a period of darkness between the end of the classical period and the early modern
period.32 As mentioned, there are aspects of the work which undoubtedly need updating but his
work is not likely to be superceded in the near future.33
A recent French work, Boudet’s Entre science et nigromance: astrologie, divination et magie
dans l'occident médiéval (XIIe-XVe siècle), provides the only real rival to Thorndike’s
H.O.M.E.S..34 While a work of a single volume cannot replace Thorndike’s eight volumes,
Thorndike’s position on this matter is most clearly shown in his textbook, Lynn Thorndike, The History of
Medieval Europe (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1917). Subsequent revisions and editions appeared up to 1956.
For those who might need a survey history of medieval astrology I recommend the following: A recent work
which is useful as an overview of the history of medieval astrology (as well as the history of astrology up to the
present time) is Nicholas Campion’s second volume of his two volume history of astrology, History of Western
Astrology, published in 2009. See Nicholas Campion, History of Western Astrology. Volume II, the Medieval and
Modern Worlds. (London: Continuum, 2009), hereafter Campion, History, vol.2. The first volume of this work
covered the origins of astrology and the ancient period. This work has two especially significant strengths. The first
is an obvious one, that it provides a survey of astrology in the context of medieval civilization. Second, it describes
the ideological conflicts engendered regarding astrology in the later middle ages and the early modern period which
led up to the decline of learned astrology in the seventeenth century. This is the greatest strength of this work.
Another general survey of the history of astrology is Peter Whitfield, Astrology: A History. See Peter Whitfield,
Astrology: A History (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2001). At first appearance this work seems like an unlikely
one to serve as a general reference work for scholars because it was produced in a coffee-table book format. The
negative consequence of this for scholars is that the book lacks the standard apparatus of references and citations that
one would expect in a completely scholarly work. However, the information that it presents is comprehensive,
informative and accurate. It is certainly useful as a general introduction to the subject and one can only regret the
decision of the publisher to omit the kinds of references scholars demand. It is clear from the erudition of the text
and the credentials of the author that he could have easily done so.
A work which does have all of the standard scholarly apparatus and which is frequently cited in works on the
history of astrology is Tester’s A History of Western Astrology. See Jim Tester, A History of Western Astrology
(Woodbridge: Boydell & Brewer, 1999). The main difficulty with this work is that Tester died before he could
complete it. Consequently it is not as comprehensive as the works cited above. However, given that limitation, it
remains one of the standard reference works.
Jean-Patrice Boudet, Entre science et nigromance: astrologie, divination et magie dans l'occident médiéval
(XIIe-XVe siècle) (Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne, 2006), hereafter Boudet, Entre science et nigromance.
Boudet’s book is one of similar depth vis-a-vis Thorndike but not quite as much breadth. Also, it
does serve to update the information contained in Thorndike. Boudet’s more specialized works,
Lire dans le ciel: la bibliothèque de Simon de Phares, astrologue de XVe siècle,35 and his edition
of Simon de Phares, Le recueil des plus célèbres astrologues de Simon de Phares36 are also
especially useful for scholars interested in medieval French astrology.
For England still quite useful is Wedel’s The Medieval Attitude toward Astrology
Particularly in England.37 Its strength is its coverage of tensions involving astrology and
medieval philosophy and theology on both the continent and in England. The second is a more
recent work, Hilary Carey’s Courting Disaster: Astrology at the English Court and University in
the Later Middle Ages.38 The most important contribution of this work is to show how late it was
in England, especially in comparison to Italy, that astrology became influential among royalty,
not in fact until the reign of Henry VII. John D. North’s Horoscopes and History is one of the
few works that go at all deeply into the technical aspects of the astronomy employed in
astrology.39 Also, his two major works on the cultural impact of astrology in medieval England
Jean-Patrice Boudet, Lire dans le ciel: la bibliothèque de Simon de Phares, astrologue de XVe siècle (Les
Publications de scriptorium (Bruxelles: Centre d’étude des manuscrits, 1994).
Simon de Phares, Le recueil des plus célèbres astrologues de Simon se Phares, ed. Jean-Patrice Boudet (Paris:
H. Champion, 1997).
Theodore Otto Wedel, The Medieval Attitude toward Astrology Particularly in England (New Haven: Yale
University Press, 1920), hereafter Wedel, The Medieval Attitude toward Astrology. It is also available online and in a
recent reprint.
Hilary M. Carey, Courting Disaster: Astrology at the English Court and University in the Later Middle Ages
(New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992), hereafter Carey, Courting Disaster. Also of interest is her earlier article
“Astrology at the English Court in the Later Middle Ages,” in Astrology, Science and Society: Historical Essays,
edited by Patrick Curry, (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 1987), 41-56.
See John D. North, Horoscopes and History (London: The Warburg Institute, 1986). In particular North
describes the mathematics of the most common house system of the later middle ages which he refers to as the
“standard system.” This system is first found in a work attributed to Rhetorius in the sixth or seventh centuries but
was not commonly used until after 800 C.E.
are his Richard of Wallingford: An Edition of His Writings and his Chaucer’s Universe40 have
not been surpassed.
For astrology on the Spanish peninsula there is no one comprehensive work but a start in that
direction is the recent work by Michael Ryan, A Kingdom of Stargazers.41 Given the role of
medieval Spain in the translation of astrological works from Arabic into Latin, it is regrettable
that there is not a specialized work on the translation movement itself. Haskins’ work Studies in
the History of Mediaeval Science contains a good deal of information on the subject, as does
Thorndike’s H.O.M.E.S, and there are also a number of journal articles which deal with special
aspects of the matter.42
There are and have been a number of scholars whose works are essential to the study of
medieval astrology, although much of their work is in the area of primary sources both in
creating critical editions and translations of these. The first of these is David Pingree.43 His
principal area of concentration was Hellenistic astrology44 but he also wrote on Hindu as well as
medieval astrology.45 The work of Charles Burnett, who has worked closely with Pingree, is
John D. North, Richard of Wallingford: An Edition of His Writings. 3 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976)
and Chaucer’s Universe (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988). Carey’s studies of medieval English astrology
owe much to North as Carey readily acknowledges.
Michael A. Ryan, A Kingdom of Stargazers: Astrology and Authority in the Late Medieval Crown of Aragon
(Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2011).
For example see Paul Kunitzsch, “Translations from Arabic (Astronomy/Astrology): The Formation of
Terminology,” Bulletin du Cange: Archivum latinitatis medii aevi 63 (2005): 161-168.
His dates are 1933 – 2005.
In the study of the history of astrology the term “Hellenistic” is used somewhat differently. Commonly the
Hellenistic period is said to extend from the death of Alexander the Great until the deaths of Anthony and Cleopatra
after the battle of Actium in 30 BCE. In science and astrology, however, the conquest of the Hellenistic world by the
Romans did not mark a cultural break. The end of the Hellenistic age in astrology is marked decisively by two
events, the triumph of the Church in the fourth century C.E. and the conquest of much of the Eastern Empire by the
Muslims in the seventh century. It is this usage that I follow here.
The following works by David Pingree, both by himself and in collaboration, are cited in this study. First are
three original book length works by Pingree: with E. S. Kennedy, The Astrological History of Masha’allah
(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1971), hereafter Kennedy and Pingree, Astrological History; The
Thousands of Abu Ma ‘Shar (London: The Warburg Institute, 1968), hereafter Pingree, Thousands; From Astral
Omens to Astrology: From Babylon to Bikaner (Rome: Istituto italiano per l’Africa et l’Oriente, 1997), hereafter
especially influential in the field, but has focused much more on medieval astrology and culture,
especially Arabic astrology. Along with Keiji Yamamoto and Michio Yano, Burnett is engaged
in creating critical editions of Arabic and Latin astrological texts with English translations. Dr.
Burnett is also the author of many journal articles on the interaction of astrology and medieval
culture several of which are cited here.46
Thorndike’s H.O.M.E.S. is still the standard reference for Italian astrology as it contains
Pingree, From Astral Omens. Second there are editions and translations of ancient and medieval works: Abu
Ma‘shar, Albumasaris de revolutionibus nativitatum, edidit David Pingree (Leipzig: Teubner, 1968), hereafter Abu
Ma‘shar, De revolutionibus, Pingree ed.; Dorotheus of Sidon, Carmen astrologicum, ed. David Pingree (Leipzig:
Teubner, 1976), hereafter Dorotheus, Pingree ed.; Hugo of Santalla, The Liber Aristotelis of Hugo of Santalla, ed.
Charles Burnett and David Pingree (London: Warburg Institute, 1997), hereafter Hugo of Santalla, Burnett and
Pingree eds.; Hephaestionis Thebani Apotelesmaticorum Libri Tres, 2 vols.(Leipzig: Teubner, 1973), hereafter
Hephaestio, Pingree ed.; Picatrix: The Latin Version of the Ghayat Al-Hakim (London: Warburg Institute, 1985),
hereafter Picatrix, Pingree ed.; Vettii Valentis Antiocheni anthologiarum libri novem (Leipzig: Teubner, 1986),
hereafter Valens, Anthology, Pingree ed.; The Yavanajataka of Sphujidhvaja, 2 vols. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press, 1978), hereafter Yavanajataka, Pingree ed. Finally there are articles: “Abū Ma'shar Al-Balkhī,
Ja'far Ibn Muhammad,” in Dictionary of Scientific, Biography, ed. C. C. Gillespie, vol. 1, 32-39, hereafter Pingree,
“Abū Ma'shar”; “Al-Qabisi” in Dictionary of Scientific Biography, ed. by C. C. Gillespie, vol. 11, 226, hereafter
Pingree, “Al-Qabisi”; “Classical and Byzantine Astrology in Sassanian Persia,” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 43 (1989):
227-239, hereafter Pingree, “Classical and Byzantine Astrology”; “The Fragments of the Works of Al-Fazari,”
Journal of Near Eastern Studies 29, no.2, April 1970: 103-123, hereafter Pingree, Al-Fazari; “Māshā. Allāh” in
Dictionary of Scientific Biography, ed. C. C. Gillespie, vol. 9 (New York: Scribner, 1981), 159-162, hereafter as
Pingree, “Masha.allah”; “Political Horoscopes from the Reign of Zeno” (Dumbarton Oaks Papers, 30 (1976)):
133-150, hereafter Pingree, “Political Horoscopes.”
The following are works by Charles Burnett, both by himself and in collaboration, cited in this work. First is
an original book length work in collaboration with Gerrit Bos, Gerrit Bos, and Charles Burnett, Scientific Weather
Forecasting in the Middle Ages: The Writings of Al-Kindi (London: Kegan Paul International, 2000), hereafter Bos
and Burnett, Scientific Weather Forecasting. Second, as with Pingree, there are editions and translations of ancient
and medieval works: Abu Ma‘shar, The Abbreviation of the Introduction to Astrology, eds. Charles Burnett, K.
Yamamoto & M. Yano (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1994), hereafter Abu Ma‘shar, Abbreviation; Abu Ma‘shar On Historical
Astrology: The Book of Religions and Dynasties (on the Great Conjunctions) trans.Charles Burnett. Keiji Yamamoto
(Leiden: Brill, 2000), hereafter Abu Ma‘shar, On Historical Astrology; Al-Qabisi (Alcabitius), The Introduction to
Astrology, Editions of the Arabic and Latin Texts with an English Translation, eds. Keiji Yamamoto, Michio Yano
and Charles Burnett (London: Warburg Institute Publications, 2004), hereafter Al Qabisi, Warburg ed.; Hugo of
Santalla, The Liber Aristotelis of Hugo of Santalla, eds. Charles Burnett and David Pingree (London: Warburg
Institute, 1997), hereafter Hugo of Santalla, Burnett and Pingree eds.; Charles Burnett, Al-Kindī: Iudicia. The Two
Latin Versions ( London: Private Edition, 1993), hereafter Al-Kindī, Iudicia. Finally, I have cited three articles:
“The Astrologer’s Advice in Matters of War” in Mantova e il rinascimento Italiano. Studi in onore di David S.
Chambers, ed. G. Rebecchini, P. Jackson, (Mantua, 2011): 251-258, hereafter Burnett, “The Astrologer’s Advice in
Matters of War”; “Hugh of Santalla” in Medieval Science and Technology, eds. Livesey and Wallace Glick, 231-2
(New York: Routledge, 2005), hereafter Burnett, “Hugh of Santalla”; Charles Burnett, “Al-Kindi on Judicial
Astrology: ‘the Forty Chapters’,” Arabic Sciences and Philosophy 3 (1993): 77-117, hereafter Burnett, “Al-Kindi on
Judicial Astrology”.
extended studies of quite a number of medieval and early modern Italian astrologers including,
Bonatti, Cecco d’Ascoli (1257-1327), Pietro d’Abano (c.1257-1316), Andalo di Negro (fl. early
1400's), Giuntini (1523-1590), Antonio de Montulmo (d. c.1400), Luca Gaurico (1475-1558) and
Two studies which are useful in the study of the background of medieval astrology are, first,
Valerie Flint’s The Rise of Magic in Early Medieval Europe.48 Its particular value is its
summation of the positions taken by the Church, its councils, and important figures in early
medieval history of the church in relation to astrology. Laura Smoller’s49 History, Prophecy, and
the Stars, on the other hand, focuses on a technique peculiar to medieval astrology, the use of the
conjunctions of the planets Jupiter and Saturn to make long-range forecasts of historical
change.50 This is a technique mentioned frequently in this work and is of great importance in
understanding the way medieval writers thought about history. Smoller’s book is most useful as
an introduction to this topic.
As for studies pertaining to the medieval application of astrology to warfare, there is little to
report. In addition to the primary sources themselves in the original Latin and Arabic, and some
English translations,51 the only academic paper of which I am aware is an article by Charles
For the career of Michael Scot, see also Lynn Thorndike, Michael Scot (London: Thomas Nelson, 1965). Scot,
as his name suggests was not an Italian but a good part of his career took place in Italy and Sicily in connection with
the Emperor Frederick II.
Valerie I. J. Flint, The Rise of Magic in Early Medieval Europe (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press,
1991), hereafter cited as Flint, Magic.
Laura Ackerman Smoller, History, Prophecy, and the Stars: The Christian Astrology of Pierre D’ailly, 13501420 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994), hereafter cited as Smoller, History, Prophecy, and the Stars.
See Chap. 2.
In particular there is a translation by Robert Zoller of Bonatti on the subject of war but Zoller gives no
commentary on the material. It is only a translation. See Robert Zoller, “The Astrologer as Military Advisor in the
Middle Ages and Renaissance,” Astrology Quarterly 62(3) (Summer 1992): 33-8; 63(1) (Winter 1992): 15-26; 63(2)
(Spring 1994): 35-45; 63(3) (Summer 1993): 16-22. A booklet version of this may be obtained from [May, 28, 2013]
Burnett, “The Astrologer's Advice in Matters of War.”52 This paper consists of Latin texts
extracted and translated from the work of the Arab astrologer al-Kindī with English translations
and minimal commentary.
My work here is not primarily intended to be an introduction to the use of astrology in
medieval warfare but it has been necessary to make it also serve that purpose. One cannot see the
evolution of the techniques without a good deal of introduction into the logic of the astrology
behind them. The evolution of the methods is often contained in subtle uses of astrological
technique even while the broad outlines of the material remain the same or similar from author
to author.53 However, the end result is that this study is, to my knowledge, the first
comprehensive discussion of medieval military astrology ever written. The field of the history of
astrology, especially in the area of its actual application, is one that scholars only recently have
begun to enter and there is much still to be done. That there is no preceding work on military
astrology demonstrates just how much work there is yet to be done on astrology in medieval
Source Texts.
One of the difficulties facing scholars interested in the study of medieval astrology has been
the availability of the Latin and Arabic texts themselves. This situation is changing very rapidly.
I have already mentioned the work of Charles Burnett and his colleagues in producing good
editions of the Arabic texts along with their Latin translations. However, in the area of other
Burnett, “The Astrologer’s Advice in Matters of War.”
See Chap. 4 for a discussion of this issue in the section entitled, “The Evolution of Astrological Ideas in
General,” p. 101.
Latin texts we do not yet have critical, or even decently edited, modern editions and, until
recently, one had to travel to libraries all over Europe and America to find either manuscripts or
copies of early modern printed editions of the Latin texts. This situation has at least been much
improved by the availability of digital images of early modern printed editions of these works
and even of manuscripts. In the last ten years European libraries have been placing digital
images of Latin astrological texts online available for downloading.54 However, the work of
creating critical editions of the Latin texts is still in its early stage. Burnett’s work has been
focused on editions of the Latin translations of Arabic texts, and Latin compilations derived from
Arabic authors. We have at present no critical editions of works of completely Latin authorship
such as that of Guido Bonatti, the focus of my work here.55 Therefore, it has been necessary to
check early modern printed editions against multiple manuscripts to establish the extent to which
these early printed editions are reliable. The early printed editions vary considerably in quality
and some of them are quite defective.56 In Chapter 6 I describe the process by which I have
For non-commercial use only. Libraries in Spain, Germany and Switzerland have been especially helpful in
this regard.
One apparent exception to this statement is the edition of Hugo of Santalla’s Liber Aristotelis. However, this
is not in fact a work originally written in Latin but rather a compilation of translations of Arabic works. See Hugo of
Santalla, Burnett and Pingree eds.
Some examples of early modern printed editions that are seriously defective are the following: Antonius de
Montulmo, De Iudiciis Nativitatum (Nuremberg: Johannes Petreius, 1540). Typographical errors abound and in
some instances entire paragraphs appear to have been transposed out of place and in one case repeated in two
different locations. Another group of texts are all of the early modern printed editions of the Latin translations of
Omar of Tiberias (‘Umar Ibn al-Farrukhân al-Tabarî fl. c.762 C.E.), a very important early Arab astrologer and an
influence on Bonatti. One edition is the following: Omar of Tiberias, De nativitatibus (Basel: Iohannes Hervagius,
1533). This edition is bound in with a number of other short works. Then there is a 1503 edition entitled Omar
Tiberiadis astronomi preclarissimi liber de nativitatibus et interrogationibus, edited with an introduction by Luca
Gaurico (Venice: Ioannes Baptista Sessa, 1503). This edition appears to have been the foundation of the 1533
edition above because every error in the 1503 edition is faithfully reproduced in the 1533 edition and a few more
added. Finally there is also a 1525 edition designated the Liber de nativitatibus et interrogationibus (Venice, 1525)
edited by the same Luca Gaurico who introduced the 1503 edition. In the 1525 edition he appears to have decided to
“correct” the errors of the 1503 edition because he severely edited the text of the 1503 edition. The edited text of the
1525 edition is very coherent and free of typographical and copying errors but it does not seem to have been entirely
faithful to the original Latin translation of John of Seville (or anyone else for that matter). It is, therefore, also not
useable. These are the most defective Latin texts that I have encountered.
edited and corrected the Latin texts in an effort to produce, if not full critical editions of these
texts, at least texts that are reasonably free of misleading errors. Early modern printed editions
and manuscripts that have been used in this work are listed in the bibliography.57
Finally, it is necessary to mention one other very important edition of an Arabic text with its
two major Latin translations that is up to scholarly standards, Richard Lemay’s edition of Abu
Ma‘shar’s Greater Introduction (as it is commonly called) which was completed shortly before
his death in 2004. It is designated in his edition by one of its Latin names: Liber introductorii
maioris ad scientiam judiciorum astrorum.58
The Structure and Arrangement of this Study.
The present study is divided into two parts.59 After this introductory chapter Chapters 2 to 5
consist of surveys of the historical issues, an understanding of which is necessary for this work.
Chapter 2 deals with the various branches and subdivisions of astrology beginning with a
discussion of the usefulness of the common division of astrology into “natural” and “judicial.”
In the area of English translations of these works we have two problems. First, outside of the English
translations produced by Burnett, Yamamoto and Yani, these translations, including several of my own, are based on
early modern printed editions which have not yet been adequately checked against manuscripts. The second is that in
two cases at least there is evidence of haste in the translation process, and, therefore, inaccuracy. Aside from Burnett
and his colleagues who have produced excellent translation, the following persons have been active in producing
English translations of medieval Latin astrological texts. First, Benjamin Dykes has clearly produced the greatest
quantity of translations. These include the only complete English translation of Bonatti’s Liber Astronomiae (see
Guido Bonatti, Book of Astronomy, translated by Benjamin Dykes, Ph.D., 2 vols. (Golden Valley, MN: The Cazimi
Press, 2007). In addition to Bonatti his objective is to produce translations of all available Latin texts of Arabic
works on astrology. Dykes is one of the translators for whom haste has been a problem. All of his translations have
been produced in only a few years since 2007, some using Latin texts that are in extremely bad condition. Another
translator who has produced translations of both Latin and Greek astrological texts is James H. Holden. Classically
trained and personally interested in astrology, over many decades Holden has translated ancient and medieval texts
for his own use.These are now coming into print. Robert Zoller, whose translation of Bonatti on war is cited on p.
19, n. 51, has translated a number of others work but he is the other translator for whom haste appears to have been a
Abu Ma‘shar, Liber Introductorii maioris ad scientiam judiciorum astrorum, 9 vols., ed. Richard Lemay
(Naples: Istituto Universitario Orientale, 1995-96).
The chapters are, however,numbered consecutively.
The main purpose of this chapter, however, is to give the reader an idea of how the medieval
authors themselves divided astrology into five categories: general introductions (introductoria);
the answering of questions (interrogations); the choosing of times (elections), predicting
influences as they pertain to the collective, that is, nations, peoples, religion, etc. (revolutions)
and finally the branch with which most persons are familiar, the astrology of charts erected for
the moment and place of birth of an individual (nativities).
Chapter 3 is a discussion of a significant compromise that came into being in the period
between the early introduction of Arabic astrology into Europe in the twelfth century and the
early fourteenth century. The initial reaction to Arabic astrology was quite hostile, based on the
Church’s position on astrology from the late classical period through the early middle ages.
However astrology was an integral part of the body of knowledge that came into Europe from
the Islamic middle east. Much of that body knowledge (but possibly astrology more than any of
the other parts) had to be made consistent with and acceptable to Christian theology. The
compromise on astrology is well represented by the positions of Aquinas and Albertus Magnus
as well as by Roger Bacon, although Bacon’s position will be shown to have been a bit too
extreme to entirely fit in the compromise. Next I discuss the initial negative reaction to a good
deal of the new learning, including Aquinas, but also astrology, as it culminated in the
condemnations of 1277 by the archbishop of Paris, Etienne Tempier. Finally I discuss how the
compromise as it related to astrology took a stable form in the universities of Italy, France,
England and Spain.
In the first section of Chapter 4 I discuss the evolution of astrological ideas as shown in the
texts (mentioned briefly above), how astrological ideas did and did not evolve and how these
may show evidence of what astrologers actually did for their clients. The main points of the
thesis summarized above are expanded in greater detail here. In the second part of this chapter I
give an extended case study of an elaborate technique of prediction in natal astrology which
seems to have been carefully transmitted but which did not evolve at all and consequently seems
to have been transmitted faithfully, complete with misunderstandings.
Chapter 5, consists of an introduction to Bonatti and his sources in the area of military
astrology, as well as a discussion of the life of Guido Bonatti and references to him in medieval
chronicles which clearly demonstrate his involvement with military applications of astrology.
In Chapter 6 several purposes are served as this chapter is introductory to all of the chapters
that follow. First it is an introduction to the astrological literature I examine in the later chapters
of this work, which works I have studied and a brief discussion of the editions and manuscripts
used. Second, there is an introduction to the Liber astronomicus, itself, and a discussion of the
editio princeps used as the main source of Bonatti’s text, along with mention and discussion of
its relationship to manuscript versions. Third, I discuss the preparation and editing of the Latin
texts, which editions and manuscripts were used and the conventions used as to punctuation,
spelling, etc. Fourth, I explain further why I have selected Bonatti’s Tractatus VI on
interrogations as the focus of my study of the military astrology and the election material in
Tractatus VII. Fifth, I describe in further detail the objectives of the later Chapters 7 through 11
of this work. I have postponed that material to this chapter because of the groundwork that had
to be laid in the earlier chapters. In particular I describe five modes of change, alteration, and
innovation that are to be encountered in Bonatti’s work with respect to that of his predecessors
and how these arose out of Bonatti practical need to rationalize and systematize the material he
received from the Arab authors. Sixth, I introduce an important issue concerning military
astrology which is that it is about confrontations between opposing forces and how that affects
the assignment of houses and house rulerships.60
The analysis of the texts begins in Chapter 7. It is the first of four chapters which do so. This
particular set of texts deals with conflict in general, not merely military but personal and civil as
well.61 This is the first chapter in which I present detailed analyses of Bonatti’s material in
comparison with his predecessors. Even though the material is not limited to military conflict, it
serves as the foundation for all conflict and is therefore the foundation for what follows in
subsequent chapters.
With Chapter 8 I turn to matters that are completely military applications using the same
methods as I do in Chapter 7. The subject of this chapter is Tractatus VI, Part 2, House 7, chapter
2162 and its sources.
After Bonatti’s lengthy chapter on general military matters there come several short chapters
that cover more specific issues in military astrology. These are the focus of Chapter 9.63
In Chapter 10 I take up a very specific branch of warfare, sieges. This occupies a chapter of
its own in Bonatti which gives one some idea of the importance of siege warfare to Bonatti. I
have singled out this chapter, however, because in it Bonatti makes a fundamental change in the
astrology of siege warfare and gives one of his rare examples of an actual chart drawn from his
The conclusion is composed of two sections. The first of these draws some conclusions as to
which of Bonatti’s predecessors were actually sources and not simply predecessors The second
section contains my concluding remarks.
See my Introduction to Medieval Astrology in the appendix, [page references]
This is in the notation that I introduce in Chap. 6. Chap. 7 deals with Bonatti §VI.2.7.9. See p. 164.
In the notation introduced in the previous note, Bonatti §VI.2.7.21.
Bonatti chapters §VI.2.7.22-28.
Chapter 2. The Divisions of Astrology
Natural Versus Judicial or Divinatory Astrology.
In this chapter I introduce and present the major categories and subdivisions of medieval
astrological practice as they are described in several medieval sources. However, before I begin
that discussion, I wish to discuss another mode of classification that has received a good deal of
attention in modern historiography. I refer to the categorization of a “natural” astrology as
distinct from, and distant from, “judicial” or “divinatory” astrology. A perusal of modern
literature on the history of astrology reveals that many scholars believe this to be a most
fundamental division within the field of astrology perhaps because it points to our modern
distinction between astronomy, a science and astrology, a pseudoscience. While the “natural vs.
judicial” astrology distinction has roots in very early attitudes toward astrology, I suggest that
this distinction is neither very well defined, nor is it consistent, and in the end appears to be more
of a matter of what kinds of astrology are approved of and what kinds are not, both in
contemporary and medieval writing. After a discussion of this distinction, I then present the
main material of this chapter, a fivefold categorization of the varieties of medieval astrology
derived from actual texts which, I believe, provides a firmer foundation for scholars trying to
make sense of the diversity of the literature and practice of medieval astrology than any division
of astrology into natural and judicial. In the next chapter I will again refer to the issue of what
kinds of astrology were acceptable and what kinds were not, only there I present it based on the
fivefold classification found in medieval texts, and the philosophical and theological issues that
actually formed the basis of this distinction.
To return to the natural vs. judicial distinction, let us begin with some instances of modern
scholarship which make use of it. The article on “Astrology” in the old version of The Catholic
Encyclopedia, which is still to be found online, begins with the following statement.
The supposed science which determines the influence of the stars, especially of the five older
planets, on the fate of man (astrologia judiciaria; mundane, or judicial astrology) or on the
changes of the weather (astrologia naturalis; natural astrology) according to certain fixed
rules dependent upon the controlling position of stars (constellations aspects) at the time
under consideration.1
Another example is Jim Tester, an author often cited by contemporary scholars, in his History of
…‘judicial’ astrology — genethlialogy and the attendant judgments of the affairs of men —
might be rejected as wrong… [However,] what might be called scientific or natural astrology
was more or less universally acceptable: that is, the uses of astrology in medicine and in
meteorology and in alchemy… [N]o one could expect to alter the natures of metals (with
their ancient links with the planets) or to cure diseases or to understand and forecast the
weather and related phenomena, storm and flood and earthquakes and so on, without a
knowledge of [natural] astrology. This was not superstition; it was good science.2
And finally Arthur Versluis writes:
Astrology was traditionally divided into two categories of natural and judicial. Natural
astrology is represented in, for example, Culpeper's herbal — it works as a system of
classification via principles like Martial (fiery, warlike), Lunar (watery, feminine), Jupiterian
(generous, wealthy), and so forth. Judicial astrology like that practiced by William Lilly3
draws on the same principles but includes complex calculations regarding horoscopes, the
signs of the Zodiac, the twelve houses, planetary conjunctions, trines, sextiles. oppositions,
and so forth. A judicial astrologer might predict social upheaval, catastrophes, positive times
for holding events, synastry (whether a couple fits harmoniously together), financial trends.
career, and likely political outcomes.4
Insofar as one finds the distinction in medieval and early modern writers on astrology, what
corresponds to “natural” astrology was more acceptable and in some sense morally superior to
“Astrology” in The Catholic Encyclopedia (New York: The Encyclopedia Press, 1912-17). I cite this example
because it is typical of the modern literature that makes this distinction.
Jim Tester, A History of Western Astrology (Woodbridge: Boydell & Brewer, 1999), 178.
For the reference to William Lilly see p. 44, n. 59.
Arthur Versluis, Magic and Mysticism: An Introduction to Western Esotericism (Lanham: Rowman &
Littlefield Publishers, 2007), 97.
“judicial” astrology. It is held that the former generally dealt with planetary influences of an
admittedly occult nature but ones which otherwise could be regarded as “natural” powers even if
they were not completely understood. It is also generally stated that natural astrology deals with
either the phenomena of nature such as the weather, or with human beings in the mass as
opposed to individuals. “Judicial” astrology, on the other hand, was less acceptable because it
was seen as limiting human free will.5 But as stated above the distinction between natural and
judicial astrology is neither clear nor constant. Whatever astrological “influences” were
conceived to be, they were not usually considered as violating natural law or caused by demonic
forces. The notable exception to this is St. Augustine in the City of God, Book V where he states
that most if not all correct astrological predictions are the result of demonic intervention.6
However, even before Augustine there were attempts in both ancient writings to present
astrological influences in completely naturalistic terms. The ancient astrologer Claudius Ptolemy
in the first book of the Tetrabiblos, attempted to frame astrology, according to the physics of his
day, in terms of the action of the four primary qualities of Aristotle, the Hot, the Cold, the Wet
and the Dry in what would be best described as a mixture of Aristotle, Stoicism and Platonism.7
But see Chap. 3.
His omnibus consideratis non inmerito creditur, cum astrologi mirabiliter multa uera respondent, occulto
instinctu fieri spirituum non bonorum, quorum cura est has falsas et noxias opiniones de astralibus fatis inserere
humanis mentibus atque firmare, non horoscopi notati et inspecti aliqua arte, quae nulla est.
“When all of these matters are taken into consideration, it is believed not without merit, that when astrologers
give many wonderful truths as advice, that it happens because of the hidden instigation of spirits which are not good,
whose concern is to insert and confirm these false and noxious opinions about the astral fates into human minds. <It
is not> because of any skill at observing and inspecting horoscopes. That skill is nothing!”
The Latin is from Augustine, City of God, Book V, chapter vii. Downloaded from “The Latin Library” at, Jan. 17, 2012.
Liba Chaia Taub, Ptolemy’s Universe: The Natural Philosophical and Ethical Foundations of Ptolemy’s
Astronomy (Chicago: Open Court, 1993), 7-17.
In the medieval period the astrologer Ab Ma‘shar 8 attempted to rework Ptolemy’s physics to
support astrology more completely along Aristotelian lines. In the sixteenth century John Dee
made another effort in his Propaedeumata Aphoristica.9 Neither Ptolemy nor Abū Ma‘shar
completely succeeded at the task of creating a purely naturalistic theory of astrology even by the
criteria of their times, what I will call “normal astrology.” In the writings of Ptolemy and Abū
Ma‘shar, after working out their naturalistic theories, they move on to the complex apparatus of
the normal astrology of their times (i.e., the clearly judicial kind) without grounding said
apparatus very thoroughly on their theory. This is especially evident in Ptolemy where in Book I
he lays out the foundations of a naturalistic astrology and then seems to completely abandon it in
Books III and IV. Dee came closer to succeeding in creating a theoretical foundaton but the end
result had little resemblance to the normal astrology of his time nor could Dee’s theory have
been used to derive it. Dee’s naturalistic foundations for astrology were supplied by what
scholars have termed the “light metaphysic,” i.e., a metaphysical system based on the action of
beams of light.10
The astrological device or tool that is the source of the problems for those who would base
astrology on any kind of naturalistic foundation is the so-called “horoscope.” The horoscope or
Abū Ma‘shar is Abū Ma‘shar al-Balkhī (805-886) who was one of the most important Arab era astrologers,
known in Latin as Albumasar. (Latin strologers tended to convert names beginning with ‘A’ to ‘Al’ confusing the
initial ‘A’ with the Arabic article ‘al’.) For his role in influencing western philosophy see Richard Lemay, Abu
Ma‘shar and Latin Aristotelianism in the Twelfth Century: The Recovery of Aristotle's Natural Philosophy through
Arabic Astrology (Beirut: American University, 1962), hereafter cited as Lemay, Abu Ma‘shar.
See Wayne Shumaker, editor and translator, John Dee on Astronomy = Propaedeumata Aphoristica (1558 and
1568) (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978).
This tradition can be traced from Plotinus’ Neoplatonism, through to al-Kindī’s De radiis, to Roger Bacon’
Opus maius, and finally to Dee. A quick comparison between the opening theorems of the Propaedeumata and A;Kindī’s De radiis make the connection clear. See Wayne Shumaker, op. cit. Al-Kindī’s is the most completely
worked out philosophical discussion of this tradition. Dee’s is the only attempt at an application in astrology. See
Al-Kindī “De Radiis,” Archives d’histoire doctrinale et littéraire du moyen âge (1974): 215-259. For Bacon see
David C. Lindberg, “Roger Bacon on Light, Vision, and the Universal Emanation of Force,” in Roger Bacon and the
Sciences: Commemorative Essays, edited by Jeremiah Hackett, 243-276 (Leiden: Brill, 1997).
astrological chart is erected for the time, date and place of an event, and from this the astrologer
attempts to make judgements. While the astrological chart is commonly referred to as a
horoscope, especially in modern times, technically the word ‘horoscope’ refers to the rising
degree (or other points in the zodiac as well) which is to be used as a starting point for the
definition of astrological houses or places11 within the astrological chart, not the chart as a
whole. In earlier as well as in later astrology the chart as a whole was called the theme,12 figure
(for any kind of chart), or a genesis13 (for a nativity). However, while the astrological chart
should not properly be called a ‘horoscope’ because the use of the chart or theme is based on the
horoscope (rising degree or other point), any astrology that employs charts with such points can
properly be referred to as some kind of “horoscopic astrology.” For most of the history of
astrology, it has been horoscopic. The only time that astrology was completely without
horoscopic charts appears to have been in the earlier phases of development in Mesopotamia.
We do not have any indications of nativities with the rising degrees or signs indicated until the
Hellenistic era and none in cuneiform.14
Unfortunately for those who wish a clear distinction between natural and judicial astrology,
“Place” (latin locus, Greek topos τόπος) is the older term. “House” has multiple meanings in astrology and is
used in a confused manner even in medieval texts. See the entry HOUSE in the Glossary in the appendices.
From the O.E.D. “The disposition of the heavenly bodies at a particular time, as at the moment of a person's
birth.” It is derived from the Greek θέμα via the Latin thema, from a verb meaning to “to put, set, place, lay down.”
From the O.E.D., “Astrol. Nativity, horoscope. Obs.” Derived from the Greek γένεσις meaning “origin,
creation, generation.”
See Francesca Rochberg, Babylonian Horoscopes Transactions of American Philosophical Society
(Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1998), 51. This work supercedes the earlier work by A. Sachs,
“Babylonian Horoscopes”, Journal of Cuneiform Studies vol. 6, no. 2 (1952): 49-75. The earliest surviving natal
chart in cuneiform dates to Jan. 12/13, 410 BCE. Neither this chart nor any of the others has a computed rising sign
or degree. The chart gives only the positions of the planets in the signs. The true horoscopic chart does not appear to
have come into existence at that time.
The earliest surviving Hellenistic chart with a computed rising sign dates to 10 BCE although there is reason to
believe that the practice of computing truly horoscopic charts precedes that date. See O. Neugebauer and H.B. van
Hoesen, Greek Horoscopes (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1959), 10.
one cannot make the use or non-use of what I will call ‘astrological themes’ or ‘charts’ (rather
than ‘horoscopes’) the basis of the distinction between natural and judicial astrology, at least not
historically. Versluis’ description quoted above with the distinction between the two types does
not hold. Horoscopic charts were, for example, employed in medical astrology and weather
Others, along with Tester, have considered the application of astrology to be the
distinguishing feature between natural and judicial astrology. According to him natural astrology
is employed in medicine, meteorology, alchemy, and some would argue making forecasts of
mass behavior, plagues and even commodity prices. So as Sheila Rabin points out “there was no
fixed line of demarcation.”16
Nicholas Campion suggests that this distinction within astrology may have its earliest roots
(at least as far as we can tell) in Cicero’s On Divination.17 Cicero places the following words in
his brother’s mouth.
For there are two classes of divining: of these one is based on art, the other on nature. Now
then, what race or what nation is there which is not moved either by the predictions of
soothsayers, by interpreters of prodigies and lightning, by augurs, by astrologers, or by
casting lots (for these are for the most part based on art), or prediction by means of dreams,
or inspired frenzies (for these two methods are deemed natural)? Regarding these classes of
divining, I believe that it is necessary that one investigate the outcomes rather than the
causes. For there is a certain power and nature which announces the future both through the
In the case of medical astrology we have a specialized kind of chart based on the patient’s taking to his bed.
There are many texts on this subject. Two from times after Bonatti but quite traditional in their methods are Luca
Gauricus, Super diebus decretoris (Rome, 1546), and Nicholas Culpeper, The Astrological Judgment of Diseases
from the Decumbiture of the Sick (London: Nathaniel Brookes, 1655). For the use of astrological charts in weather
forecasting see Bonatti, Liber astronomiae, Tractatus X. For a modern discussion of medieval astrology used in
weather forecasting see Bos and Burnett, Scientific Weather Forecasting.
Sheila Rabin, “Pico on Magic and Astrology,” in Pico della Mirandola: New Essays, edited by M. V.
Dougherty (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 154.
See volume 1 of Campion’s two volume history, Nicholas Campion, The Dawn of Astrology, a Cultural
History of Western Astrology: The Ancient and Classical Worlds (London: Continuum Books, 2008), 186-7. Also
see an interview with Dr. Campion in which he makes the same point a bit more clearly in Garry Phillipson,
Astrology in the Year Zero, (London: Flare Publications, 2000), 115-6.
observation of significations over a long period of time and through some divine impulse and
Here the demarcation derives from the difference between a constant but passive observation of
phenomena which are potential omens (natural divination), and divination that requires some
kind of action on the part of the observer (divination by “art”). Horoscopic astrology falls into
the latter category, although one could argue that it would only fall into this category if the time
of the event is chosen at will as opposed to merely recorded and analyzed. As we shall see below
in some detail, charts of events whose times are not deliberately chosen, births, incidents,
accidents, etc., beginnings of seasons, new moons, and other astronomical events, are not the
result of deliberate choice but occur in the natural course of events. Therefore, even these could
be regarded as ‘natural’ divinations. However, charts erected for the asking of questions, or for
events whose times are deliberately chosen, would unambiguously qualify as divination by art.
Again we have a criterion which establishes a distinction not entirely in accord with the
distinctions employed by medieval authors as they appear in their writings.
On the other hand, if one were to regard the nature and kind of observation required for the
divinatory event as criteria, one would have another way of demarcating the two classes of
divination. A spontaneous portent, dream, or divine frenzy does not require a technique for
analysis.19 Casting an astrological chart, analyzing flashes of lightning or the flight of birds, to
say nothing of examining the entrails of animals, require specific methods or criteria of art.
Duo sunt enim divinandi genera, quorum alterum artis est, alterum naturae. Quae est autem gens aut quae
civitas quae non aut extispicum aut monstra aut fulgora interpretantium, aut augurum, aut astrologorum, aut sortium
(ea enim fere artis sunt), aut somniorum aut vatìcinationum (haec enim duo naturalia putantur) praedictione
moveatur? Quarum quidem rerum eventa magis arbitror quam causas quaeri oportere. Est enim vis et natura
quaedam, quae tum observatis longo tempore significationibus, tum aliquo instinctu inflatuque divino futura
praenuntiat. – Cicero, On Old Age. On Friendship. On Divination, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge MA: Harvard
University Press, 1923), 234-6.
This is τέχνη or technē in Greek being the equivalent of ars or ‘art’ in Latin.
These definitely would qualify as divination by art. According to these criteria there could be no
such thing as a natural astrology since the qualities of the planets, signs and their relationships
do not simply announce themselves to observers. If they did, there would never have been a
debate about the reality of astrological “influences.” In any case the demarcation of the two
categories is still not clear.
Continuing on, the author most commonly cited as the source of the distinction between
natural and judicial astrology (he certainly did write clearly about it) was Isidore of Seville.20 In
book III of the Etymologies we have the following in chapter xvii:
Concerning the Differentiation of Astronomy and Astrology. Now between astronomy and
astrology there is something of a difference. For astronomy is comprised of the revolution of
heaven, the risings, settings, and motions of the stars, and from what cause they may be so
drawn. Astrology, however, is partly natural and partly superstitious. It is called natural when
it follows the courses of the Sun and Moon or the fixed stations of the times of the stars.21
But that <kind of> astrology is called superstitious which the mathematici22 pursue, those
who make auguries in the stars and those who even dispose the individual portions of the
soul or body according to the twelve signs of heaven, and attempt to predict the nativities and
character of human beings by the course of the stars.23
Here the “superstitious” part of astrology is the part more commonly referred to later on as the
“judicial” part while that which distinguishes the “natural” part of astrology from astronomy is
not at all clear. In chapter X of the Didascalicon of Hugh of St. Victor we see a similar
distinction but with him we see some of what was thought of as the “natural” part of astrology
Although he did not use the word ‘judicial.’
stellarum certas temporum stationes. It is not quite certain what this phrase means. It could be a reference to
the times when the planets appear to stop moving from the point of the earth (stationes).
Literally ‘mathematicians’ but often used, and here clearly so, to designate ‘astrologers’.
De Differentia Astronomiae et Astrologiae. – Inter Astronomiam autem et Astrologiam aliquid differt. Nam
Astronomia caeli conversionem, ortus, obitus, motusque siderum continet, vel qua ex causa ita vocentur. Astrologia
vero partim naturalis, partim superstitiosa est. Naturalis, dum exequitur solis et lunae cursus, vel stellarum certas
temporum stationes. Superstitiosa vero est illa quam mathematici sequuntur, qui in stellis auguriantur, quique etiam
duodecim caeli signa per singula animae vel corporis membra disponunt, siderumque cursu nativitates hominum et
mores praedicare conantur. Isidore of Seville, Etymologiarum Sive Originum Libri XX, ed. W. M. Lindsay (London:
Clarendon Press, 1911), Liber III, chapter xvii, 6-16, hereafter Isidore, Etymologiarum, ed. Lindsay.
classified as astronomy.
Astronomy and astrology seem to differ in this respect. Astronomy takes its name from the
‘law’ of the stars, while astrology is so designated as if it were speech discoursing from the
stars. For ‘nomia’ is translated as ‘law’ and ‘logos’ as ‘speech’. Thus astronomy is seen to be
that which discourses of the law of stars and revolution of the heavens, its regions, circles,
the courses, risings and settings of the stars and which investigates why each of them is so
called. However, astrology is seen to be that which considers the stars according to the
observance of birth, death, or any other event whatsoever. Astrology is partly natural and
partly superstitious. It is natural in regard to the complexion of bodies, which are varied
according to the tempering of superior bodies, such as in health and illness, storms and calm,
fertility and sterility. It is superstitious in regard to contingent events and in those matters
which lie under free will. The mathematici deal with this part.24
One can see here that the distinction has more to do with licit and illicit forms of astrology than
with ‘natural’ and ‘judicial’. So one could go on at length here but I believe that the point has
been made: However much scholars and historians have made use of the distinction between
natural and judicial astrology, it is a difficult distinction to define clearly and not very helpful in
understanding the various categories of astrology as employed in the middle ages. It is not even,
as we shall see, very useful in itself for distinguishing between the licit and illicit forms and
applications of astrology.
Five Topic Areas and Types of Writings in Medieval Astrology.
A more sound method of categorization of the kinds of astrology derives from the actual
structure of the subject as it was presented in the texts of the time. It consists of a division of
De astronomia – Astronomia et astrologia in hoc differre videntur, quod astronomia de lege astrorum nomen
sumpsit, astrologia autem dicta est quasi sermo de astris disserens. nomia enim lex et logos sermo interpretatur. ita
astronomia videtur esse quae de lege astrorum et conversione caeli disserit, regiones, circulos, cursus, ortus et
occasus siderum, et cur unumquodque ita vocetur, investigans. astrologia autem quae astra considerat secundum
nativitatis et mortis et quorumlibet aliorum eventuum observantiam, quae partim naturalis est, partim superstitiosa;
naturalis in complexionibus corporum, quae secundum superiorum contemperantiam variantur, ut sanitas, aegritudo,
tempestas, serenitas, fertilitas et sterilitas; superstitiosa, in contingentibus et his quae libero arbitrio subiacent, quam
partem mathematici tractant. – Downloaded from [Jan. 27, 2012.]
medieval astrology into four main areas; these are interrogations, electional and inceptional
astrology (also known as katarchic astrology), revolutions, and natal or genethliacal astrology.25
Keith Thomas in his work Religion and the Decline of Magic, describes these four categories as
“general predictions” which “indicated the state of society as a whole,” “nativities,” which are
also required to do “elections,” and finally “horary questions.”26 These correspond in the list
above to revolutions, natal astrology, and electional or inceptional astrology, and
interrogations,27 respectively.
However, a more careful examination of the original texts reveals a fifth type which is both
separate from, and the foundation of, the other four. Without it the other four divisions have no
basis. I suggest this because writings of this type have been mis-classified. J.D. North makes the
error of referring to the introductory textbook of Al Qabisi or Alcabitius28 (d. 967 CE) as
“primarily a book of genethlialogy,”29 that is, a book on nativities. His textbook is not that; it is
an introduction to the entire syntax, grammar, and basic methodology of medieval astrology
which is foundational to the other four branches of astrology. It is, as it was called in one of its
Latin editions after the Greek, an Isagoge30 or an Introductorium after the greatest and most
extensive of these, that of Abu Ma‘shar, the Introductorium in astronomiam.31 I will use the term
These are in no particular order as this varies with both historians and original sources.
Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971), 287.
The term that Thomas uses for interrogations, “horary astrology,” is actually more commonly used in early
modern and modern astrology in the English language than the term “interrogations.” The earlier Latin sources used
Al-Qabisi, Warburg ed. Al-Qabisi will be consistently referred to in this work as Alcabitius, one form of his
Latin name.
John David North, Chaucer’s Universe (New York: Oxford University Press,, 1988), 194.
Al-Qabisi (Alcabitius), Alcabitii ad magisterium iudiciorum astrorum isagoge: Commentario Ioannis Saxonii
Declarate (Paris:1521).
As designated in the edition of Erhard Ratdolt, Augsburg, 1489 which is an edition of the Hermann of
Karinthia translation into Latin from Arabic. Abu Ma‘shar, Introductorium in astronomiam Albumasaris Abalachi
octo continens libros partiales, translated by Hermann of Karinthia (Augsburg: Erhart Ratdolt, 1489).
introductorium for this type of text in the remainder of this work.
The Speculum Astronomiae.
The Speculum Astronomiae, long attributed to Albertus Magnus (1193 or 1206 – 1280 CE),
provides a clear description of the five divisions of medieval astrology.32 Like Ptolemy in the
beginning of the Tetrabiblos, the Speculum begins by dividing the subject of astronomia (which
includes both astrology and astronomy) into two parts. The author begins in chapter 1:
There are two great wisdoms and each is called by the name ‘astronomy.’ Of these two the
first is subsumed in the knowledge of the configuration of the first heaven and the quality of
its motions about the poles of the equator of the day and of the heavens which are placed
under it33…
This and the description that follows in chapter 2 introduce the subject of what moderns (and
Isidore) would call astronomy. In the third chapter the Speculum continues;
“The second great wisdom which is likewise called astronomy is the knowledge of the
judgments of the stars, This is the link which ties together philosophy and metaphysics.”34
Note that the Speculum follows the common medieval practice using astronomia for both
astrology and astronomy and does not follow Isidore’s distinction. Astrologia was also used for
both practices. In making this first division of astronomia the Speculum closely follows the
beginning of Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos which begins as follows:
For the Latin text and English translation see Paolo Zambelli, The Speculum Astronomiae and Its Enigma
(Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1992). Albertus’ authorship was originally disputed by Pierre Mandonnet
in “Roger Bacon et le Speculum Astronomiae (1277),” Revue neoscolastique de philosophie 17 (1910): 313- 335.
Here he argued that Albertus was not the author of this work, but more recently Zambelli, Lynn Thorndike and
others have argued the case strongly for Albertus. More recently again the issue has been raised by Agostino
Paravicini Bagliani in Le Speculum Astronomiae, une énigme? Enquête sur les manuscrits, (Turnhout, 2001), and
Bruno Roy, “Richard de Fournival, auteur du Speculum astronomiae?” Archives d’histoire doctrinale et littéraire du
moyen âge. 67 (2000), 159-180. The thesis of the latter paper is based on a comparison between the Richard’s
Biblionomia and the Speculum Astronomiae. My thanks to David Juste of the University of Sydney for these
Duae sunt magnae sapientiae et utraque nomine astronomiae censetur. Quarum prima est in scientia figurae
caeli primi et qualitate motus eius super polos aequatoris diei et caelorum sub eo positorum… Zambelli, 208.
Secunda magna sapientia, quae similiter astronomia dicitur, est scientia iudiciorum astrorum, quae est
ligamentum naturalis philosophiae et metaphysicae. Ibid. 218-9.
Of the means of prediction through astronomy, O Syrus, two are the most important and
valid. One, which is first both in order and in effectiveness, is that whereby we apprehend the
aspects of the movements of sun, moon, and stars in relation to each other and to the earth, as
they occur from time to time; the second is that in which by means of the natural character of
these aspects themselves we investigate the changes which they bring about in that which
they surround.35
While the word ‘judgements’ (iudicia) is used, this does not necessarily mean judicial astrology
as we have seen it defined above. In chapter 4 the Speculum continues…
This science, therefore, is divided into two parts. The first is introductory and gives discourse
on principles of judgements. But the second division is fulfilled in the exercise of judging
itself. This second division is also divided again into four parts. The first part is about
revolutions, the second about nativities, the third about interrogations and the fourth is about
the selection of laudable times [elections]. To this last part is annexed that part which is
about images concerning which it has been said “the culmination of astronomy is the science
of images.”36 But with this part are associated the cursed books of necromancers on images,
illusions, characters, rings, sigils. This is because the necromancers borrow certain
astronomical observations for the sake of simulations in order to make themselves somewhat
deserving of belief. I shall disclose their poisons in what follows by the will of God, but now
I will return to the introductory portion <of astronomy> and the other parts in order
accordingly as I have promised.37
The “introductory” part is the introductorium as defined previously.
The following table shows the Speculum’s arrangement of topics under astronomia.
Ptolemy, Robbins trans., 5.
sublimitas astronomiae est imaginum scientia. The original passage is from the Latin translation of De
Imaginibus, where it is written “sublimitas autem et altitudo astronomie est imaginum scientia.” See Francis J.
Carmody, The Astronomical Works of Thabit B. Qurra (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1960), 180.
Dividitur itaque ista scientia in duas partes. Prima est introductoria et versatur circa principia iudiciorum.
Secunda vero expletur in exercitio iudicandi, et haec iterum divisa est in quatuor partes. Prima est de revolutionibus.
Secunda de nativitatibus. Tertia de interrogationibus. Quarta de electionibus horarum laudabilium, cui parti
supponitur pars illa quae est de imaginibus, de qua dictum est: «sublimitas astronomiae est imaginum scientia». Sed
isti parti associantur illi libri maledicti necromantici, de imaginibus, praestigiis et characteribus, annulis et sigillis eo
quod simulationis gratia sibi mutuant quasdam observationes astronomicas, ut sic se reddant aliquatenus fide dignos;
quorum venenum in sequentibus patefaciam nutu Dei, sed nunc revertar ad partem introductoriam et caeteras per
ordinem, secundum quod promisi. Ibid., 222.
Astronomia as a Whole
Astronomy (modern definition)
Astrology (modern definition)
The Exercise of Judgments
The italicized headings are our five divisions with the introductorium above the other four
divisions because they are all dependent upon it.
This classifying and dividing of the subject matter of astronomia/astrologia is not peculiar to
this work. It is found in at least two other sources in nearly identical form. The first source is
Peter of Abano’s Conciliator differentiarum philosophorum et precipue medicorum, Differentia
X. In this differentia Peter discusses the necessity of the knowledge and usage of astrology for
properly trained physicians. After stating that astronomia and astrologia are simply two words
for the same subject he introduces exactly the same divisions that I have described above in
connection with the Speculum.
[There is] the one [side] which is called the science of the quantities of figures, of the
ordering and of the movements of celestial bodies, or the science of the whole, and this
through its first differentiae. However through its second differentiae, as for example in the
effects of these movements and so forth, is touched a second part which is called the science
of judgements. This part is [also] twofold, one is called introductory to judgements, and the
other practical. This [second] is again divided into four parts. Of these one is about
revolutions, a second about nativities and their revolutions, a third about interrogations, [and]
a fourth about elections, to which division is also subjoined the science of images. Moreover,
the part concerning revolutions has three [further] divisions of which one is about the onehundred and twenty conjunctions, a second about the revolution of the year considered
according to the entry of the Sun into the beginning of Aries, or the conjunction or
opposition of the Sun [with the Moon] taken preceding, but the third division [is] about the
changes of the seasons, of the weather and [things] of this kind, as I have shown in the first
differentia of the Lucidator.38
The only difference between the Conciliator and the Speculum is that the Conciliator mentions
three subdivisions within the study of revolutions. This will be mentioned below in the
discussion of revolutiones annorum mundi.
Basically this same “taxonomy” of astronomy and astrology is also to be found in Nicole39
Oresme’s (c. 1320–5 – 1382) Livre de divinacions.40
One is astrology which, it seems to me also has six main parts. The first principally
determines the movements, signs, and measurements of celestial bodies through which with
tables one can know the constellations, future eclipses and similar things.
The second part is about the qualities, influences and natural powers of the stars, signs,
degrees, the signs of heaven and such things; when a star in one part of the signs of heaven
signifies, or has the virtue of changing heat to cold, dryness to moisture, and also other
natural effects. And this part is introductory41 to getting to judgments.42
The third part is about the revolutions of the stars and the conjunctions of the planets and
it is applied to three kinds of judgments. First, it is to know by means of the great
conjunctions the great events of the world, when there are plagues, great mortality, famines,
floods, great wars, changes of dynasties, the appearance of prophets, new sects, and changes
of this kind. Second, it is to know the quality of the air, changes of the weather from hot to
cold, from dry to moist, about winds, storms and other changes of this kind. Third is to have
judgment of the humors of the human body and matters such as the taking of medicine or the
The fourth part is about nativities, to make judgments mainly about a man’s fortune by
…una quidem que scientia dicitur quantitum figurarum, ordinationis et motuum corporum, vel scientia totius,
et hoc per eius primas differentias. Per secundas vero ut in suis effectibus et reliqua tangitur altera pars que dicitur
scientia iudiciorum. Que duplex existit, una quidem introductiva ad iudicia, altera exercitativa appellatur. Que et
iterum in quattuor separatur partes, quarum una est de revolutionibus, secunda de nativitatibus et earum
revolutionibus, tertia de interrogationibus, quarta de electionibus, cui et imaginum supponitur scientiam. Que autem
de revolutionibus tres habet partes, quarum una est de .120. coniunctionibus, alia de revolutione anni secundum
introitum solis in caput arietis considerata vel ex coniunctione seu oppositione solis precedente accepta, tertia vero
de mutatione temporum et pluviarum et huius, ceu Lucidatoris differentia monstravi prima. — I have used two
editions of this work as follows: Peter D’Abano, Conciliator differentiarum philosophorum et precipue medicorum
(Venice, 1496) and (Venice, 1520), fol.14r in both editions.
Nicole is the form of his first name in modern editions of his work, not Nicolas, although Nicolas is listed as a
Nicole Oresme, Nicole Oresme and the Astrologers: a Study of His Livre de divinacions, translated by G. W.
Coopland (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1952), hereafter Nicole Oresme, ed. Coopland. Oresme’s
French is given here exactly as it appears in Coopland’s edition without accents. No attempt has been made to
modernize the language.
The introductorium.
The French jugement is often used in astrology to mean something more like ‘prediction’ than ‘judgement’.
means of the constellations and configuration of his nativity.
The fifth part is about interrogations, to make a judgment and give a response regarding a
question by means of the constellation or <state of> heaven at the time of the question.
The sixth part is about elections for choosing the time to commence a journey or a task.
Under this division is contained that material which teaches the making of images,
characters,43 rings, and similar matters.44
Oresme’s material is even presented in the same order as in the Speculum, although not quite in
the same order as in the Conciliator. However, as much like the other two as Oresme’s
classification may be, Oresme does have rather different opinions about the merits of the subject
matter. The Speculum has a rather accepting attitude toward astrology (aside from magical
applications), and Peter of Abano45 has an extremely accepting attitude, while Oresme has little
patience with any of it except the portion that we would now call astronomy.
All medieval textbooks of astrology, whether introductory or encyclopedic,46 either consist of
an introductorium alone, or contain an introductorium early in the text with the remaining four
topic areas contained in the rest, not always neatly divided. So in the end we have five basic
kinds of text, 1) the Introductorium, 2) Interrogations, 3) Elections or Inceptions, 4) Revolutions,
The French is carettes which Coopland suspects means magical ‘characters’. This is supported by the Latin
passage from the Speculum where there is reference to characters at exactly the corresponding place.
L’une est astrologie, lesquelle, ce me samble, a aussi comme six principales parties. La premier determine
principalement des mouvemens, des signes, et des mesures des corps du ciel, par laquelle avec les tables on puet
savoir les constellacions et les eclipses avenir et samblables choses. La second est des qualitez, des influences et des
puissances naturelles des estoilles, des signes, des degrez, des signes du ciel, et de telles choses; comme une estoille
en une partie du ciel signifie ou a vertu de causer chault ou froit, sec ou moiste; et aussi des effects naturels. Et ceste
partie est introductoire pour descendre aux jugmens. La tierce est des revolucions des astres et des conjonctions des
planetes, et est appliquee a trois manieres de jugemens. Premierement, a savoir par les grans conjoncions les grans
avantures du monde, comme sont pestilences, mortalitez, famines, deluges, grans guerres, mutacions de royaulmes,
apparicions de prophetes, sectes nouvelles, et telles mutacions. Secondement, a savoir la qualite de l’air, les
mutacions du temps du chault en froit, de sec en moiste, des vens, des tempestes, et de telles mouvemens de choses.
Tiercement, a jugier des humeurs des corps humains et des choses comme de prandre medicine ou de choses
samblables. La quarte partie est de nativitez, a jugier principalment de la fortune de un homme par la constellacion
et figure de sa nativite. La quinte est de interrogacions a jugier et respondre d’une question par la constellacion qui
est ou ciel en l’eure de la demande. La sixte est de elections pour eslire heure de commencier un voyage ou une
besongne, et soubz ceste partie est contenue celle qui enseigne a faire ymages, carettes, aneaux, et telx choses. –
Nicole Oresme, ed. Coopland, 52-54.
He was in fact one of the leading figures in the astrology of his age.
See Chap. 1, for the meaning of the term ‘encyclopedic’ as applied to astrological texts, p. 5.
and 5) Nativities. Let us now look at each 42of these in turn briefly.
The Introductorium — The best way to describe the introductorium is to examine one of the
most basic of these, the introductory text of Abu Ma‘shar known in Latin as the Ysagoga Minor
and known in a modern edition as The Abbreviation of the Introduction to Astrology.47 So I
quote the summary of the contents of the seven chapters from the Abbreviation to exemplify the
basic structure of an introductorium:
This is the book of the abbreviation of the introduction, and it is of seven chapters. The
first chapter, on the natures of the signs, their conditions and their significations. The
second chapter, on the conditions of the planets in themselves, the size of their bodies,
and their conditions in relation to the Sun. The third chapter, on the twenty-five
conditions of the planets. The fourth chapter, on the good fortune of the planets, their
power, their weakness and their misfortune, the corruption of the Moon, and the
knowledge of their dodecatemoria.48 The fifth chapter, on the natures of the seven
planets, the characteristic of their significations over existent things, and the Lords of the
days and the hours. The sixth chapter, on a summary of the description of the lots. The
seventh chapter, on the knowledge of the years of the fardarat49 of the planets, the
different arrangements of their years, and the terms50 of the Egyptians.51
It should be noted here that in Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos, Book I performs the function of an
introductorium, although it has much less detail than the introductorium described here.
Regarding each of these sections it is not necessary that we go into the technicalities of exactly
what is meant by the “natures of the signs, their conditions, and their significations”; it is only
necessary to understand that the first chapter deals with the signs of the zodiac in and of
themselves, while the second chapter does much the same for the planets and their phase
Abu Ma‘shar, Abbreviation. Known in Latin as the Ysagoga Minor, it was written after Abu Ma‘shar’s more
extensive introductorium often referred to as the Greater Introduction or Introductorium in astronomiam as referred
to above. The shorter work differs from the longer in leaving out philosophical discussions and commentary
contained in the longer work, but as an introductorium it is typical.
See Glossary under DODECATEMORION.
See Glossary under FIRDARIA. Also see the last portion of Chap. 4, pp. 115 to 128.
See Glossary under ESSENTIAL DIGNITY.
Abu Ma‘shar, Abbreviation, 13.
relationships with the Sun. The third chapter is rather more technical than the first two
describing various relationships that the planets can have with each other and the ways in which
such relationships change, plus the significations of the particular kinds of changes. The fourth
chapter discusses various factors of placement within the chart that strengthen or weaken the
planetary virtues and make them more or less capable of producing a result. The fifth chapter
deals with the various qualities and significations of the planets plus their “rulership” over the
hours and days of the week. The sixth chapter deals with the astrological lots, often referred to as
“Arabic Parts” in later astrological literature. These are synthetic points typically created by
taking the arc between two planets, or other points in the chart, and adding that arc to the degree
of the zodiac rising in the east, the “horoscope” or ascendant.52 Finally, the seventh chapter deals
with an assortment of related issues having to do with the rulership of planets over periods of
years, a set of techniques most of which are found in Greek astrology, plus the planetary timelord system derived from Persian astrology and known as fardar noted above.53 These came into
Latin astrology as well but were not used as extensively as in Greek and Arabic astrology. By the
early modern period the principles behind these time-lord methods had ceased to be highly
regarded and the techniques fell out of use. Finally, one can find all of the normal
introductorium material in Bonatti, mostly in Tractates II and III with the remainder of the
material scattered throughout the Book.
When one contemplates the material even in an introductory text such as this one above from
Abu Ma‘shar, it is obvious that the potential scope of applications for medieval astrology was
huge. When one looks more closely at some of the lists given in introductoria, that initial
See LOT in the Glossary.
See Chap. 4, pp. 115 to 128 and the Glossary under FIRDARIA.
impression is very much heightened. The following is a table derived from Al-Biruni54 in an
introductorium known as The Book of Instruction in the Elements of the Art of Astrology,55 a
typical example of an introductorium. It gives a list of items in various categories signified by
the sign Aries. The list is derived from several separate tables for Aries. The headings and
descriptions are verbatim from Wright’s translation.
Indications of Signs as to Morals and Manners – Laughing and talkative, kingly and
haughty, fond of poetry, sharp-tongued, lustful, brave.
As to Figure and Face – Medium height, thin, short-sighted, glance upcast, eyes dark, or
gray, or dark gray, nose and ears large, ugly mouth, hair, curly and reddish.
Colours, Classes, and Artisans – White and reddish. Reddish white. Kings, bankers,
coiners, blacksmiths, coppersmiths, butchers, shepherds, spies and thieves.
As to Cities and Territories – Babylon, Fars, Palestine, Adharbaijan, Alan.
As to Places – Deserts, pasturing places for beasts of burden. Wood-sheds, places where
fire is used, thieves’ dens, places where jewelry is manufactured.
Trees and Crops. Water, Wind and Fire, Jewels and Furniture – [No “trees and crops”
indicated for Aries] Fire is used. Copper, iron, lead; helmets, diadems, crowns and
Sickness and Disease – At first very strong, afterwards weak and liable to disorders,
especially in the head such as baldness, blood to the face, rashes, lepra and scab,
limbs worn out, phlegmatic, sweet-smelling.
As to Various Animals – All hoofed animals, wild and domestic such as goats and sheep;
also rams and deer.56
The other eleven signs also have the same kinds of tabulations as do all of the planets. Similar
lists and tabulations are found in many of the other more comprehensive introductoria from the
Arabic period 57 through to the modern period. While they differ somewhat in content, the scope
Abū al-Rayhān Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Bīrūnī (973-1048).
Al-Biruni, The Book of Instruction in the Elements of the Art of Astrology, trans. R. Ramsey Wright (London:
Luzac and Co., 1934), hereafter Al-Biruni, Book of Instruction. It contains the Arabic with an English translation.
This work was never translated into Latin. It is, however, typical of longer introductoria.
Al-biruni, trans. Wright, 217-224
The Arabic period in the history of astrology begins with the earliest works written in Arabic in the eighth
century through to the twelfth century. Although there were Arabic texts on astrology written after that time through
to the modern period, nothing after the twelfth century had any impact on Latin astrology. Works written during this
of the significations is always on this level of detail. Interestingly the variations in these lists of
significations suggest that this was an area where individual authors, both early and late, felt free
to “correct” their colleagues and predecessors.58
Such is the form of text designated both here and in the actual literature as the
Interrogations — When we turn to our second division of the five, interrogations, we really
begin to see just how extensive the range of applications medieval astrology could be. It should
be noted here that this very important part of the medieval astrological canon is not covered at all
by Ptolemy. The principle of this branch of astrology is that an astrologer can erect a chart for
the moment in which a client (known in Latin astrology as the querens or interrogator, or in
English, the ‘querent’) asks a question, or for the moment in which the astrologer receives
written notice of such a question. The question, it was believed and is believed by modern
astrologers as well,59 can be answered by examining the chart of the time of the inquiry as
described above according to a complex set of rules.60 In the texts themselves, typical questions
are presented according to the twelve houses of the chart.61
period are taken to include not only works written in Arabic but also Persian and Hebrew, as well as late Greek texts
written after the Arab conquest of the seventh century.
See J. Lee Lehman, The Book of Rulerships: Keywords from Classical Astrology (West Chester, PA: Whitford
Press, 1992). This is a compilation by a modern astrologer which cross-references the significations of the signs,
planets and other astrological entities compiled from a number of early modern English sources which are in turn
based on the medieval tradition. The material in this book shows both the variations and the similarities of this kind
of material from author to author.
While interrogational astrology was not as popular after 1700 as before texts of varying complexity and detail
continued to be written up the mid-twentieth century and from the 1980s on there was renewed interest in the subject
based on the reprinting of seventeenth-century English texts on the subject most notably William Lilly, Christian
Astrology Modestly Treated of in Three Books, first ed. (London, 1647) reprinted in facsimile in 1985 by the Regulus
Press, London. Many new texts derived from medieval interrogational astrology are now in print.
For a modern work on the subject, which is more learned than most and strongly based on the medieval
tradition, see Patricia Dunn, Horary Astrology Re-Examined (Bournemouth, UK: The Wessex Astrologer, Ltd.,
For a discussion of ‘houses’ or ‘places’ in astrology see Appendix I.
Fig. 1 at the right gives the
significations of the twelve houses in a
form common in medieval and early
modern manuscripts and editions. This
particular one is from John Gadbury, The
Doctrine of Nativities, 1658.62 While the
diagram is from a late text, the material in
it is completely in accordance with the
earlier medieval tradition.
As one can see, each house has several
Fig. 1 – Significations of the Houses
potential significations, and in the method of interrogations they can be combined in all possible
combinations of houses taken two at a time multiplied by all of the possible significations of
each house. The diagram presented here from Gadbury does not completely reflect the number
of each house’s significations. More complete listings can be found in any of the introductoria.
The result is that the number of possible questions that an interrogational chart could answer
range into the hundreds and cover nearly every aspect of human life. Central to this dissertation
is the use of interrogations to answer questions about warfare and military strategy.
Interrogations are not a branch of astrology well-represented in Greek astrology. It has been
a subject of debate among scholars as to whether interrogations were a part of Greek astrology at
all. David Pingree contended that interrogations were unknown by Greeks and that the method of
John Gadbury, ΓΕΝΕΘΛΙΑΛΟΓΙΑ or The Doctrine of Nativities (London, 1658), 36. The image is from the
author’s own copy.
interrogations came into the Arabic canon from Indian astrology in the middle ages.63 Others
have questioned his position based largely on evidence that Pingree himself has presented. The
opposing position is not yet represented in the journals but it is as follows.64
The only text from the Greek period that seems to have interrogations is the fifth book of
Dorotheus of Sidon.65 The original Greek text was in verse and is generally dated to the first
century C.E. Our problem is that this text as we have it is not as it was originally written. The
Arabic translation that we have is from a Pahlavi (Middle Persian) translation of a Greek
original. Somewhere in the process the text was heavily emended and edited until what we have
today is a very rough paraphrase of the original with much new material. For example, there are
references to Roman emperors that lived after the first century.66 There is a reference to the
astrologer Vettius Valens who live in the second century C.E.67 There are charts that date to late
antiquity, centuries after Dorotheus, and finally there are a number of interpolations referring to
Islam. Pingree’s argument is that all of the references to interrogations were also later Islamic
interpolations. The other side of this argument is represented by Dorian Gieseler Greenbaum
who has worked closely with Charles Burnett of the Warburg Institute.68 She maintains that
Pingree is incorrect because some of the passages relating to interrogations in the Arabic version
are found in quotations of Dorotheus’ original Greek verse in Hephaistion’s Apotelesmatika.69
Based on my own investigation of Pingree’s assertion that “This branch of astrology
For Pingree’s position see Pingree, From Astral Omens, 21 and 35-36.
My knowledge of this based on personal discussions with scholars in this area of concern as well as my own
Dorotheus, Pingree ed. , 262-322. See especially chapters 17, 29, 33, 34, and 35 of Book V. All page
references are to the page numbers in Pingree’s English translation.
A reference to Diocletian, ibid., 237.
Ibid., 246, 265.
From personal communications.
See Hephaestio, Pingree ed. This edition of Hephaistion, from which Greenbaum derives her position, was
edited by Pingree himself
[interrogations] was an Indian invention,” first to be found Sphujidhvaja’s Javanajataka70
written in the third or fourth centuries CE, I have to agree with Greenbaum that Pingree’s
position does not seem plausible, but for a different reason. Anyone who is familiar with early
Arab era interrogational astrology can see immediately that the passages in the Javanajataka,
while they do refer to astrological interrogations, have no methodological similarity or affinity
with the Arabic style of interrogational astrology, whereas there is considerable similarity
between the material of the Arabic Dorotheus and later Arabic interrogational material.71
Electional and Inceptional Astrology — Elections and inceptions comprise katarchic
astrology, the application of astrology to the analysis of beginnings.72 Unlike interrogational
astrology, this type of astrology is well represented in pre-Arabic material, not only in texts such
as Dorotheus, but also in surviving individual charts.73 It is also, like interrogations, not covered
See Yavanajataka, Pingree ed.
Here is an example from Arabic Dorotheus and another Arabic source, Sahl Ibn Bishr. First Dorotheus:
A chapter. If you want to know the matter of a theft that has been committed or something that has been lost,
whether he will possess it [again] or not.
…There were some of the ancient scientists who looked concerning the matter of theft from the four cardines,
and if one of them was asked about a theft or something lost he would look concerning what was stolen or lost
from the ascendent, and at the midheaven for the owner of the goods, who is the one from whom these goods
were stolen and who is seeking them, and for the matter of the thief from [the sign] opposite the ascendent, and
the shelter of the thieves [for] what they stole [and] where they put the goods from the cardine under the earth. –
Dorotheus, Pingree ed., 296-298.
Here is a passage from Sahl Ibn Bishr one of Bonatti’s sources in a recent English translation by James Holden.
Whether or not the Querent will get back what was Stolen.
If you have been asked about a robbery, whether or not the Querent will get back what [was stolen], put the
ASC [ascendant] and its ruler and the Moon for the Querent, i.e. the one who has suffered the robbery, and the
7th and its ruler for the robber, and the MC [midheaven] for the things stolen; but the angle of the earth [imum
coeli] for the place of the robbery.
Sahl Ibn Bishr, The Introduction to the Science of the Judgments of the Stars, translated by James H. Holden
(Tempe, AZ: American Federation of Astrologers, 2008) 74.
See below in the section on elections for additional discussion of this word.
For example see Pingree, “Political Horoscopes”
at all by Ptolemy. An election consists of choosing a time favorable for the beginning of an
enterprise or for taking an action. An obvious application might be, for example, picking the
time for the coronation of a ruler. An inceptional chart on the other hand is a chart erected for the
moment that something happens or begins to happen without its having been chosen for
astrological reasons. A chart may be erected for any kind of incident or event whatsoever, an
earthquake, a weather event, or the outbreak of war. If one erects such a chart with the idea of
examining the astrological indications and what possible indications they might have for the
future, this is an inceptional chart. An electional chart is erected for a time chosen intentionally,
whereas an inceptional chart is erected after the fact of an event that happened without the
necessary intention to choose a particular moment.74 Since every election is also an inception, it
can be argued that the elections are a subset of inceptions. In any case the methods are identical.
Here again there are possible elections or inceptions that involve every one of the twelve
houses and all of their significations in every possible combination of houses taken two (or
more) at a time. Here again, therefore, we have a vast number of possible applications including
military ones as we shall see.
Many sources often lump interrogations together with elections and inceptions under the
heading of katarchic astrology. This makes some sense in that the techniques of the two branches
are similar. It also makes sense if we assume that book V of Dorotheus is completely authentic.
In the chapters where the issue is the posing of a question, the choosing of a time is also mixed
in without a clear sense that one is dealing with two different kinds of astrology. Here is a
A modern example might be to examine the chart of the moment of the launching of the Titanic to see what
the chart might have to say about the fate of the ship. More recently astrologers have looked at the chart of the
wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton. See also the example just below of examining the chart of the actual
moment of a theft to see what kind of person the thief was.
passage from Dorotheus from Book V in which the issue is again something stolen.
Look, and if it is a time when goods are stolen or lost or gone astray or if you are asked about
this when, [as for] the two luminaries, each one of them is aspecting its lord from trine,75
then it indicates that these goods will be recovered quickly without pain or trouble.76
Note that there are two possible ways of dealing with the lost goods. The first is to erect a chart
for the moment of the theft which is then treated as an event or inceptional chart. The second is
to ask a question about the matter which is an interrogation. This blurring of categories between
interrogations and elections is found in every author on the subject of interrogations and
elections that I am familiar with and must be understood. I bring this issue up again in Chapter
677 with several more examples of this in medieval astrology.78
However, the problem with this merger of the two categories, interrogations and elections,
under the heading ‘katarchic’ is that the word (also spelled ‘catarchic’ in English) is derived
from the Greek καταρχή (katarchē) which in fact means ‘beginning’. The chart which is erected
in an interrogation represents no real event except the reception of a question; nothing begins, a
moment is not chosen. In fact in medieval interrogations it was considered necessary that the
querent not choose the moment. From Guido Bonatti we have the following statement:
It seemed to the ancient sages … that the astrologer ought not to examine [a question] for
himself in order that he may not be deceived regarding his own concerns, because it
hardly ever fails to happen that he will be bothered by the state of the ascendant;
Therefore it is necessary that he should ask another astrologer in the manner previously
A trine occurs when two planets are roughly 120E apart. See ASPECT in the Glossary and Introduction to
Medieval Astrology beginning on p. 360.
Dorotheus, Pingree ed., 296.
See Chap. 6, the section entitled, “The Relationship Between Interrogations and Elections,” on p. 170.
See also Chapter 7 and subsequent chapters.
Visum est sapientibus antiquis… quod astrologus non debet aspicere sibi ipsi ne forte decipiatur in re sua,
quoniam vix fiet quin ipse habeat aliquem remorsum de ascendente. Unde oportet quod ipse interroget alium
secundum modum predictum. – Bonatti, Radtdolt ed., fol. 106v.
The astrologer who asks a question on his own behalf first of all lacks the detachment to analyze
objectively and, second, he is likely to know what the rising degree signifies at any given time
and therefore he will not ask a question at a truly random time. In other words, he is likely to
“elect” a moment for an interrogation. Therefore the astrologer (according to Bonatti) should
obtain the services of another person who either asks a second astrologer on behalf of the first
astrologer, who may then, if he chooses, look at the chart for himself, or, even better, have a
second party ask the question of a second astrologer and have the second astrologer do the
It is also important that the querent approach the question with solemnity and reverence, not
moved by light or trivial causes. Again we have Bonatti.
The second consideration is about the manner which anyone who desires to ask a
question of an astrologer ought to observe. It is such that when he wishes to ask an
astrologer about present, past, or future events, it is becoming that he observe this mode
of asking, to wit, he ought to pray to the Lord God from whom every good makes its
beginning and he should pray to God with complete devotion and a contrite spirit that He
grant to the querent that he might come to the knowledge of the truth of those matters
about which he intends to ask. Then he should go to the astrologer with this aspiration for
the truth concerning that about which he wishes to ask and concerning which he proposes
to ask. He should hold his intent about this question in his heart for a day and a night or
more, and untouched by any change of mind (as many ignorant people sometimes are
wont to do). In this manner He who has spoken, He who has granted that you may seek
grace, will cause you to find the answer.80
An election, on the other hand, requires that something really happen at the elected moment. A
king might be crowned, a business begun, a military engagement commenced, and so forth. An
Secunda consideratio est in modo quem debet servare quilibet qui vult aliquid querere ab astrologo. Et est ut
cum ipse vult interrogare astrologum de presentibus aut preteritis seu futuris oportet eum hunc modum querendi
servare videlicet quod ipse debet deprecari dominum deus a quo omne bonum ducit exordium et omni devotione et
spiritu contrito ipsum exorare quod ipse concedat ei eum pervenire ad cognitionem veritatis eorum de quibus
interrogare intendit. Deinde ad astrologum cum hac veritatis debet ire intentione de quo vult quesiturus et de quo
interrogare proposuerit et cuius intentionem retinuerit in corde suo per diem et noctem vel plus non quolibet mentis
motu tactus sicut aliquando plures imperiti facere consueverit, sicut alias dicitur, et sic qui dixit qui dedit ut gratias
queras addet ut invenias. – Bonatti, Ratdolt ed., Tractatus 5, Second Consideration, fol.77r.
inceptional chart also is by definition a real event because something must have happened.
Revolutions — Revolutions are periods of time begun and ended by a particular astronomical
event which demarcates a cycle in which some planet or pair of planets have gone through all
360E of the possible angular relationships with the beginning of the zodiac (in the case of a
single planet) or each other (in the case of two planets). For example, the period from one new
moon to the next is a revolution; also, the day-night cycle,81 and the year are both examples of
revolutions.82 The time between two successive conjunctions83 of any pair of planets with each
other also constitutes a revolution. An especially important conjunctional cycle was the one
between Jupiter and Saturn whose cycle lasts about 20 years from one conjunction to the next.84
There were two major applications of the technique of revolutions. The first application
employed the type of planetary cycle just described. These were used to predict events
associated with kingdoms, religions, commodity prices, weather,85 plagues, and other events
In the revolution of day and night, the Sun crosses the upper meridian of a place marking apparent noon, and
then goes through a complete 360E cycle of angular relationships to the upper meridian of that place.
In the case of the year, at least in astrology, the year begins with the Sun apparently crossing the vernal point
and then moving though a complete cycle of 360E with respect to that point until it returns again to it beginning the
subsequent year; in other words, it is the cycle of the seasons.
As used here ‘conjunction’ means two planets coming to the same degree and minute of the zodiac.
Technically this is a ‘bodily’ or ‘corporal’ conjunction. See Appendix I.
A further bit of explanation is warranted here. From the point of view of the earth all of the planets except for
the Sun and the Moon will appear to stop their forward motion in the zodiac, turn around and go backwards
(retrograde) for some time and then stop again and resume forward motion. If this happens while two planets are
making a conjunction, then the conjunction will seem to occur not once but three times in quick succession. This
happened in 1980 and 1981 with Jupiter and Saturn. From the point of view of the earth Jupiter and Saturn first
appeared to be conjoined in longitude on Dec. 31, 1980 at 189° 29' or 9Ez 29' in astrological notation, then again on
Mar. 4, 1981 at 198°06' or 18°z06', at which point both planets appeared to be going backward with respect the
zodiac. They came together for a third time on July 24, 1981 at 194°56' or 14°z56' again moving forward. The time
intervals between the first and second conjunctions, the second and third conjunctions and the first and third
conjunctions of this time period do not constitute revolutions in the astrological sense because the angles of
separation between Jupiter and Saturn did not go through a complete cycle of 360E. Rather they came together,
separated a bit, came back together, separated again a bit, and then came together for the third and last time in one
particular group of apparent conjunctions. However, nearly twenty years later Jupiter and Saturn came together again
on May 28, 2000 at 52°43' or 22°s43'. Between this date and the dates and in 1980 and 81, Jupiter and Saturn had
gone through all 360E of the cycle. The interval between 1980 and 200 comprised a complete revolution.
Also referred to in the Conciliator.
associated with populations rather than individuals.86 The other application of revolutions was to
the charts of individuals based on the return of the Sun to the place in the zodiac where it was
located at the individual’s birth which occurs on or about the birthday each year.87 These two
different kinds of revolutionary astrology were called in Latin “revolutiones annorum mundi” or
“revolutions of the years of the world,” as opposed to “revolutiones annorum nati” or
“revolutions of the years of the native,” ‘native’ meaning the individual whose chart is to be
analyzed.88 However, when the term ‘revolutions’ is used without qualification, it usually refers
to historical, political and mass astrology rather than nativities. Both kinds of revolutions were
applied in the matter of warfare although the revolutions of the years of the world were more
important in this application.
The first place where we clearly see revolutiones annorum mundi is in Book II of Ptolemy’s
Tetrabiblos.89 However, it needs to be stated that Ptolemy’s methods are much simpler than the
medieval methods described in Arabic and Latin texts. Ptolemy’s methods are based on charts
erected for new moons, full moons, eclipses, and the moment of the entry of the Sun into the
sign of Aries the beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere often referred to as the vernal
ingress. This is one of the subdivisions of “revolutions” mentioned in the Conciliator passage.
The Arabic method of revolutions, however, adds to Ptolemy the method of the “Great
Conjunctions” which revolve around the conjunctions (or “coming together”) of Jupiter and
Kennedy, Pingree, Burnett, et al. also have employed the term “historical astrology” because indeed,
planetary cycles, especially of Jupiter and Saturn were used to “predict” history long in advance. See Kennedy and
Pingree, Astrological History and the introductory material to Abu Ma‘shar, On Historical Astrology. For an
example of a medieval historian who applied these techniques see Laura Ackerman Smoller, History, Prophecy, and
the Stars: The Christian Astrology of Pierre D’ailly, 1350-1420 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994).
The calendar, whether Julian or Gregorian, does not perfectly match the Sun’s annual cycle of 365.2422 days.
Therefore the moment of the solar revolution for each year may be one day on either side of the calendrical birthday.
This branch of the astrology of revolutions is considered to be part of the doctrine of Nativities (see below) as
also indicated in the Conciliator passage
Ptolemy, Robbins trans., 117-219.
Saturn and the changes of these in the signs. It also includes lesser conjunctions such as those of
Mars with Saturn, and Jupiter with Mars. This is the material referred to in the Conciliator as the
“120 conjunctions.” None of this conjunctional material is to be found in Ptolemy.90 However,
the medieval material involving vernal ingresses, new and full moons and eclipses of the Sun
and Moon found in Book II of the Tetrabiblos are definitely the foundation of the medieval
material. A Latin version of the text of Abu Ma‘shar, known in Latin as the Flores covering
much the same material as Book II of Ptolemy, shows this. It begins: “It is necessary that you
know the Lord of the Year. The knowledge of this matter is obtained according to the time of the
entry of the Sun into the first minute of the sign of Aries.” 91
Since the method of the revolutions of the years of the world was designed to make
predictions for the nation and government as well as the general population, it impinged on the
application of astrology to military matters. This arises out of the fact that cities, nations, and
peoples were assigned by ancient and medieval astrologers to the rulership of signs and planets.
While we find this in book II of Ptolemy, it was not a doctrine peculiar to Ptolemy, although the
various authors differed in their assignments.92 Because of this relationship of the signs and
planets to nations, a king or leader whose kingdom was indicated by a planet or sign favorably
situated in the annual chart for the beginning of the year might decide to make war upon a
neighbor whose sign or planet was not so well placed.
Finally the method of revolutions applied to the world, the revolutiones annorum mundi, was
See Chap. 1, n. 46 above regarding Abu Ma‘shar’s On Historical Astrology. This is the most important text on
revolutions involving the conjunctions of the superior planets (Mars through Saturn). Very little of the material
contained in this work is found in Ptolemy or any other Greek source for that matter.
“Oportet te primum scire dominum anni. Et scientia huius rei scitur hora introitus solis in primum minutum
signi arietis.” – Abu Ma‘shar, Tractatus Albumasaris Florum Astrologie (Augsburg: Erhard Ratdolt, 1488), fol A2r.
As an example of another astrologer of the same period of Ptolemy assigning nations to signs we have Vettius
Valens also in the second century C.E. For the Greek see Valens, Anthology, Pingree ed.
the least controversial part of astrology in the middle ages. The historian of medieval Florence,
Giovanni Villani, who disapproved of most applications of astrology, demonstrates in his
Cronica that he not only approved of this use of astrology but that he understood a good deal
about it.93 In the seventeenth century, well into the period of the general decline of astrology, we
have the following comment from William Ramesey in the dedicatory epistle to Book IV of his
four books on astrology. I have reproduced his typography because of the manner in which it
shows his emphasis.94
My Lord, this is the ASTROLOGIA MUNDA, the Pure Astrology, which the Patriarchs and
the Antient Fathers studyed and contemplated; by which the Babylonians, Arabians, Syrians,
Egyptians, Grecians, Persians and Lacedemonians ruled and became famous and glorious to
the whole World, and therefore, (My Lord) as being the chief and most exquisite part of
these my undertakings, I have placed it last, that so it might not be attempted by any that are
unacquainted with the preceding Discourses, which serve but as it were Introductions
In the beginning of the first chapter of Book IV he adds the following:
We shall desire the Studier and Well-willer to this most Heavenly and delectable Art
seriously to consider and weigh the subsequent Rules, since this general part, and it only
[italics mine] (as you have sufficiently heard) is to be accounted ASTROLOGIE in its purity
without fallacy or abuse.96
Natal or Genethliacal Astrology — The application that is most commonly associated with
astrology in the popular mind, the use of astrology to analyze and make predictions based on the
charts of the births of individuals is called Natal or Genethliacal Astrology. It is the application
of astrology covered the most fully by Ptolemy in Books III and IV.97 Such charts are known as
Giovanni Villani, Nuova Cronica, 2nd edition, vol. 3, ed. Giuseppe Porta (Parma: Fondazione Pietro Bembo,
U. Guanda, 2007), 392-396.
Any emphasis I have added is noted.
William Ramesey, Astrologia Restaurata; or Astrologie Restored: Being an Introduction to the General and
Chief Part of the Language of the Stars (London: Robert White, 1653), 209-10.
Ramesey, 213.
Here the medieval material is vastly more elaborate and detailed than Ptolemy even though Ptolemy is clearly
the foundation.
nativities (nativitates in Latin). The methods used in nativities are more elaborate than those in
the other branches of astrology and are often peculiar to nativities. For this reason it is
appropriate that natal astrology be constituted as its own branch of astrology. However, that said,
the chart of the birth of a human being is in fact an inception, a katarchē. Ptolemy in the second
chapter of book III of the Tetrabiblos, refers to the birth of an individual by this very word.
κα γρ εÆ τ¬ν μ¥ν •ρχ¬ν –ν τις εÇποι, τ¬ν δ¥ òσπερ καταρχ²ν…
“For if one should call the one [conception] ‘source’ and the other [birth], as it were,
The underlined words in Greek are “source” and “beginning” respectively.
However, if one judges only from the sheer quantity of space devoted to the several branches
of medieval astrology in the middle ages, natal astrology was not the dominant form of astrology
but neither was it a minor branch. Although documentary evidence is not clear, one suspects that
the lack of accurate birth data was a factor in this.99 Interrogations do not require birth data.
However, elections, on the other hand were said not to be as effective if the astrologer did not
also take the birth chart of the one for whom the election was being performed. The following
passage from Laurentius Bonincontrius raises the issue.
“Elections succeed then, Ptolemy says, when they agree with the natal chart…”100
Ptolemy, Robbins trans., 224 (Greek), 255 (English).
Complete birth data requires the time of day and place of birth as well as the date.
This comes from the Centiloquy. Verse 3 points in this direction and verse 7 is explicit. But see below for the
authenticity of the Centiloquy. They are as follows:
III. Whosoever may be adapted to any particular event or pursuit, will assuredly, have the star indicative thereof
very, potent in his nativity.
VI. It is advantageous to make choice of days and hours at a time well constituted by the nativity. Should the
time be adverse, the choice will in no respect avail, however favourable an issue it may chance to promise.
Ptolemy, Ashmand trans., 153. The Centiloquy, or Karpos in Greek, was believed in the Middle Ages to have been
written by Ptolemy. In modern times it is generally agreed that the work was actually written in Arabic, translated
into Greek and from both the Arabic “original” and the Greek into Latin. See Francis J. Carmody, Arabic
“If the nativity is known, begin your works in that hour in which that sign ascends which
rose in the nativity…”101
Nonetheless, elections were not entirely dependent on an accurate natal chart.
A further indication that the availability of accurate birth times was an acknowledged
problem is the fact that most of the texts on natal astrology begin with various techniques for
verifying, correcting, or even “finding” birth times.102
As far as our interest in the military applications of astrology is concerned, natal astrology
was obviously somewhat relevant for the simple reason that the likelihood of victory or defeat in
battle would be shown, according to the canons of natal astrology, by predictive indications in
the charts of the ruler, the commander, or other important persons involved in a battle. While we
have few indications of natal charts in use in military astrology, we do know that the potential
use of natal astrology to attack or subvert the rulership of a monarch was a major factor in the
occasional prohibition of astrology during the Roman imperial period.103
The methods of medieval natal astrology were derived from a mixture of sources both Greek
and Arabic. However, the organization of medieval natal astrology was strongly influenced by
books three and four of Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos. The following table lists the topic headings in
natal astrology from the Tetrabiblos104 on the left and from a sixteenth century work on
Astronomical and Astrological Sciences in Latin Translation, 16.
Tunc electiones proficiunt, inquit Ptolemaeus, cum convenerint cum natali….Cognita nativitate, incipe opera
tua ea hora, qua illud signum ascendendit. quod in nativitate ascendebat… – Laurentius Bonincontrius, Tractatus
Electionum (Nuremberg: Iohannes Petreius, 1539), fol. m2r. This edition is bound in one volume with Johannes
Schoener, Opusculum Astrologicum (Nuremberg: Iohannes Petreius, 1539).
For an example of this in a text on nativities see Johannes Schoener, De Iudiciis Nativitatum Libri Tres
(Nuremberg: Ioannes Montanus and Ulrich Neuber, 1545), fols. Ar-A3v, hereafter refered to as Schoener, De
The best source for this material is Frederick Henry Cramer, Astrology in Roman Law and Politics
(Philadelphia, PA: American Philosophical Society, 1954), passim, especially 99 and 111.
Ptolemy, Robbins trans.
nativities, Johannes Schoener’s De iudiciis nativitatum libri tres, on the right.105
Comparison of Topic Headings in Ptolemy and Schoener.106
1. Of Parents
2. Of Brothers and Sisters
3. Of Males and Females
4. Of Twins
5. Of Monsters
6. Of Children that are not Reared
7. Of Length of Life
8. Of Bodily Form and Temperament
9. Of Bodily Injuries and Diseases
10. Of the Quality of the Soul
11. Of Diseases of the Soul
12. Of Material Fortune
13. Of the Fortune of Dignity
14. Of the Quality of Action
15. Of Marriage
16. Of Children
17. Of Friends and Enemies
18. Of Foreign Travel
Brothers and Sisters [This section subsumes
Ptolemy’ topics 2, 3 and 4.]
19. Of the Quality of Death
Those Who Have Not Grown [subsumes Ptolemy’s
5 and 6.]
[Covered under the section below on Death]
Form, Figure and Constitution of the Body
Impediments & Infirmities of the Body of the
Qualities of the Soul of the Native
Impediments of the Soul
Fortune and Wealth of the Native
Honor and Dignity of the Native
Native’s Magistery* and his Work
Sexual Unions
Children and Their Relationship Toward the Parents
Natives’s Friends and Enemies
Natives’s Foreign Travels and Journeys
Religion and Faith [Not found in Ptolemy.]
Qualities of the Native’s Death
* Derived from the Latin magisterium which denotes much more than profession. It includes a general sense of those
ways in which an individual is exceptional or talented.
Schoener’s debt to Ptolemy is quite clear.
The arrangement is based on an order in time.107 In the Tetrabiblos matters that precede one’s
birth in time are taken up first, hence parents. Then matters that have to do with the time
surrounding the birth come next, brothers and sisters etc. Matters that deal with the subject’s
Schoener, De iudiciis, Book I. For an English translation of the first book see Johannes Schoener, On the
Judgments of Nativities, Book I, translated by Robert Hand (Reston, VA: ARHAT Publications, 2001). Schoener’s
dates are 1477-1547.
Ptolemy’s topic headings are derived from the Ptolemy, Robbins trans. The topic headings from Schoener are
derived from headings in Schoener, De iudiciis, somewhat edited for the purposes of the table.
This is explicitly stated by Ptolemy, Robbins trans., 235-7.
birth and viability (i.e., ability to survive) follow including the evaluation of life expectancy.
This is followed by methods for describing the subject’s physical make-up or constitution, a
major theme of medical astrology, followed by a similar discussion of the native’s “soul” or
what we would describe as character and behavior. With both of these topics there is also
discussion of diseases of the body and soul. All of the foregoing constitute book 3 of the
Tetrabiblos. Book 4 of that work takes up topics that pertain to the subject’s later life (assuming
that he or she does survive into adulthood). Here the temporal order is not so obvious except for
the placement of the discussion of death at the end. Also, note that the discussion of marriage, or
more accurately “sexual unions” (as Schoener has it) does, and logically so, precede the
discussion of children.
Many earlier medieval authors did not follow Ptolemy quite as closely. But even when the
order of topics is changed, the same topics are covered. Bonatti, in Tractatus IX, varies the
Ptolemaic arrangement slightly but for the most part follows it.
In conclusion, this fivefold classification of astrological texts into introductoria,
interrogations, elections, revolutions and natal astrology is comprehensive. There are some topic
areas that do not appear at first glance to be included in the above. Examples that might be
offered are the applications of astrology to magic,108 medicine, and weather forecasting.109
However, on closer examination, as is made clear in the Conciliator, Differentia X, it becomes
evident that these are merely specific applications of one or more of the above five. All three of
See Picatrix, Pingree ed. and Francis J. Carmody, “De imaginibus” in The Astronomical Works of Thabit B.
Qurra (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1960), 167-232.
Again see Bos and Burnett, Scientific Weather Forecasting.
these applications also depend upon material to be found in the introductoria. Astrology’s use in
magic is primarily an application of elections as the Speculum makes quite clear.110 Medical
astrology is largely derived from natal astrology. It consists of material on the constitution and
diseases of the body stemming from Ptolemy, Book III. And to this is added the previouslymentioned form of inceptional chart based on the patient’s taking to his or her bed.111 And
finally, weather forecasting used the naturalistic qualities of the planets as described by
Ptolemy112 in combination with the method of the revolutiones annorum mundi. Abano makes it
very clear that weather forecasting is an application of revolutions.
The division of astrology into ‘natural’ and ‘judicial’, I have argued, is at best not terribly
useful. In addition, the larger issue of what parts of astrology, if any, were licit or illicit depends
largely upon when one looks, and whom one examines. With the possible exception of the early
middle ages, when support for astrology in the West was at a low, astrology had its supporters
and detractors throughout the period. The fivefold classification system that I have described
here is not based on either modern or medieval attitudes regarding the legitimacy of astrology
and its applications; it is a based on what one finds in the actual works, whether such works are
encyclopedic covering the entire field, or are intended as expositions of one of the particular
branches or categories.
See the passage from the Speculum Chap. 2, p. 37.
This was called a ‘decumbiture’.
The ‘hot’, the ‘cold’, the ‘wet’, and the ‘dry’, for example.
Chapter 3. The Kinds of Astrology that Became Acceptable as Defined by the Compromise
of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries.
In the previous chapter I presented material that demonstrates that the categorization of
applications of astrology in medieval writings was somewhat beyond the simple and widely held
differentiation of astrology into natural and judicial astrology. I also briefly discussed the
division of astrological applications into licit and illicit. In this chapter I show the progression of
astrology from a nearly total rejection by the Church in the earlier middle ages to a conditional
acceptance in the later middle ages. The terms of that conditional acceptance were a
compromise, the basic outlines of which were set forth by Thomas Aquinas, among others. This
compromise was never fully satisfactory to everyone but it did hold for the most part until the
early modern period and the scientific revolution.1
In this chapter I concentrate on four subject areas which illustrate the issues, evolution, and
content of the medieval compromise on astrology. After a brief summary of the attitude toward
astrology before the later middle ages, I introduce the basic outlines of the compromise as
defined by Aquinas.2 This is followed by a discussion of his English contemporary Roger Bacon
and his effort at defining an acceptable astrology. Then I take up the Condemnations of 1277 that
laid out the challenges that astrology presented to orthodoxy. Finally I present a discussion of the
compromise as it appeared in its most institutionalized form as astrology was studied in
Two excellent secondary sources for the medieval debate on astrology are as follows: Flint, Magic, 92-101,
128-146 and Smoller, History, Prophecy, and the Stars, 25-42. Flint covers the early middle ages and shows how
astrology did not in fact die out in that period and how the status of astrology in the early middle ages paved the way
for its revival in the twelfth century. Her thesis is very much reinforced by an article by David Juste, “Neither
Observation nor Astronomical Tables: An Alternative Way of Computing the Planetary Longitudes in the Early
Western Middle Ages,” in Studies in the History of the Exact Sciences in Honour of David Pingree, ed. Charles
Burnett, Jan P. Hogendijk, Kim Plofker, Michio Yano (Leiden: Brill, 2004), 181-222. Smoller, on the other hand
concentrates upon the later middle ages.
I do not maintain here that Aquinas was the sole author of this compromise. Albertus Magnus was equally
important. See Theodore Wedel, The Medieval Attitude toward Astrology, 65-71.
medieval universities. However, there, even in the midst of an astrology that appears to have
been made safe for orthodoxy, I will present one interesting indication that in practice the
compromise was not completely adhered to even in circles where one might have expected it to
The Early Medieval Position of the Church on Astrology through 1277.
In the early middle ages, prior to the “Renaissance of the Twelfth Century,” the Church’s
position on astrology was uniformly hostile. For the Church astrology was closely connected
with late antique, non-Christian, religion.3 Beginning with some of the early Christian apologists
such as Justin Martyr and Tatian, the entire idea of planetary influence (other than as demonic
influence) was rejected.4 The most elaborate Christian attack on astrology came from Augustine
in The City of God, Book V. While very few of Augustine’s arguments were original, being
mostly derived from Cicero, one of his most important contributions to the anti-astrological
polemic was an argument (not derived from Cicero but possibly following Tatian) that the only
reason why astrologers were ever correct in their predictions was because they had the assistance
of demons.5
I intentionally do not refer to late classical religion as “paganism.” The word ‘pagan’ derives from the Latin
root word pagus which is simply a country district. The adjectival form paganus came to mean “rustic, unlearned”
and in ecclesiastical Latin ‘heathen’ and ‘pagan’ in the sense of non-Christian but with the pejorative association of
boorish and peasant-like. (Lewis and Short, Latin Dictionary entry under paganus. The Word ‘peasant’ according to
the O.E.D. comes from the same Latin root. There is nothing rural or unlearned about the non-Christian religions of
late classical antiquity.
For a general discussion of the early Christian attitude toward astrology see Nicholas Campion, The Dawn of
Astrology, 267-289.
His omnibus consideratis non inmerito creditur, cum astrologi mirabiliter multa uera respondent, occulto
instinctu fieri spirituum non bonorum, quorum cura est has falsas et noxias opiniones de astralibus fatis inserere
humanis mentibus atque firmare, non horoscopi notati et inspecti aliqua arte, quae nulla est. – Augustine, De civitate
Dei, Book V.7.
Early medieval church councils also took a very hostile position with regard to astrology.6
However, when one consults the texts of these condemnations, it is evident that they were, as the
expression goes, “beating a dead horse,” because the astrological ideas and practices that they
condemned were a far cry from the much more complex art that one finds in late classical
astrology, the descendant of which flourished at that same time in Arabic world. Wedel
describes the problem with respect to John of Salisbury (c. 1120 –1180), “Even astrological
texts, other than Firmicus Maternus, were unknown to the Latin world. John of Salisbury
probably had little more acquaintance with actual astrologers than did Burchard of Worms, or
Rabanus Maurus.”7 John of Salisbury is of particular note in this regard because he wrote his
attack on astrology just as the new material from the Arabic world was beginning to come into
the West. As Wedel also states:
John of Salisbury, in effect, saw in astrology little more than a dangerous philosophical
doctrine. He is distinctly at a loss in dealing with it as a science. He would probably have
been unable to define exactly where he drew the line between a legitimate science of
astrology, useful in predicting the weather, and that impious mathesis which he condemns
with rhetoric as forceful as that used by Augustine … John of Salisbury stands at the close of
the first period in the history of medieval astrology.”8
There is an incident that also illustrates the attitude of the Church in this same period just
before the revival of learning in the West, just before John of Salisbury in fact. Gerard the
Archbishop of York (d. 1108), who was believed to have been a student of astrology among
These councils and their decisions are discussed in considerable detail in Flint, Magic, 89-132.
Wedel, The Medieval Attitude toward Astrology, 40.
Wedel, ibid. John of Salisbury’s comments on astrology are to be found in Book II of his Policraticus,
especially the later chapters. None of his material shows any direct knowledge of the kind of astrology found in the
middle east of his day. See John of Salisbury, Ioannis Saresberiensis Episcopi Carnotensis Policraticus, vol. 1,
edited by Clemens C. I. Webb (London & New York: Henry Frowd, 1909), 101-169.
other such subjects, was rumored to have possessed a copy of Julius Firmicus Maternus’.9
Maternus’ work on astrology was supposedly found under his pillow when he died, resulting in
his being denied burial within the cathedral walls.10 At this point in time, before the arrival of
translations of astrology texts from the Arabic, the mere possession of an astrology text was
enough to cause one to be suspected of heresy.11
The influx of new astrological material from the Arabic world changed matters considerably
but neither completely nor immediately. It did not at the time, nor ever afterward, completely
eliminate the old suspicions that were held against astrology. However, the entry of the new
material did bring about changes in discourse on the subject. One of the persons most
responsible for the West’s change in attitude was Abu Ma‘shar (mentioned in Chap. 1) whose
contribution in this respect I have described in Chap. 2.12 For the present it is sufficient to say
that his reworking of the philosophical foundations of astrology made it possible for the West to
accept astrology as a natural science rather than as a mass of ancient superstitions.
Aquinas and the Compromise.
To illustrate the position formulated by Aquinas, let us look briefly at two passages from a short
Julius Firmicus Maternus, Matheseos libri VIII, 2 vols., ed. Kroll and Skutch (Stuttgart: Teubner, 1968). This
was one of only two major works written in ancient times in Latin and it was all the West had of the late classical
tradition in astrology, the other being Manilius’ Astronomica. Neither of these would have been sufficient to rebuild
the understanding of astrology in the Latin world. That awaited the translations from Arabic.
There are many accounts of this incident including Flint’s Rise of Magic. The particulars here are derived
from Thorndike, H.O.M.E.S., vol. 1, 689-90.
One of the first, if not the first, translation of a complete work of astrology from Arabic is that of Abu
Ma‘shar’s Abbreviation of the Introduction to Astrology by Adelard of Bath (fl. 1116–1142). The exact date of the
translation is unknown but with Adelard’s dates, it was not more than a generation or so after Gerard’s death. See
Abu Ma‘shar, Abbreviation.
See pp. 29, 35, 51 and elsewhere in this work.
work entitled De iudiciis astrorum,13 and a passage from the Summa Theologiae14 in which he
discusses the debate over the question as to whether astrology is or is not a ‘licit’ form of
In the shorter work, Aquinas follows Augustine in the City of God and other works quite
closely, seeming to reject all but the most completely physical and natural correlations between
the movements of the heavenly bodies and terrestrial events such as weather forecasting and
certain uses in medicine. However, in this work he maintained that attempting to make use of
astrology for predicting events concerning individual human beings was likely to involve
demons and pacts made with demons. The will is free and any influences coming from celestial
bodies cannot restrict the will. He quotes Augustine II Super Genesim ad litteram.
It must be acknowledged [that] when true statements are made by astrologers, they are
spoken from some deeply hidden impulse which ignorant human minds suffer from, because
when it happens that human beings are to be deceived, it is the working of unclean and
seductive spirits by which it is permitted to know some truths about temporal things.15
Interestingly enough, this same passage is also quoted in the Summa passage. However, in
the Summa passage Aquinas additionally makes a statement that became the standard
justification for a considerable part of the traditional corpus of astrology. Again, I do not say that
Aquinas was the source of this doctrine; only that he is an instance of one who supported it and
obviously the most influential. Given his stature in the later middle ages his acceptance of these
principles established its orthodoxy.
Latin text downloaded from on July 26, 2012. This site is part of
Corpus Thomisticum website which contains the complete works of Aquinas in Latin. The edition is based on the
Textus Leoninus Romae 1976 editus.
Summa theologica, 2. 2. 95. 5 Downloaded from [July 26,
2012.] See previous note for the details.
Fatendum, quando ab astrologis uera dicuntur, instinctu quodam occultissimo dici, quem nescientes humane
mentes patiuntur ; quod cum ad decipiendos homines fit, spirituum immundorum et seductorum operatio est, quibus
quedam uera de temporalibus rebus nosse permittitur. – derived from De Genesim ad litteram, Book II, 17.37.
To the second objection which is this, that astrologers frequently make true predictions from
the consideration of the stars, this happens in two ways.
The first way is because many human beings follow corporeal passions and on that
account their actions are predisposed according to the inclination of the heavenly bodies.
Moreover, there are a few, that is, only men who are wise, who may moderate inclinations of
this kind by Reason. On this account astrologers predict true things in many cases, especially
in events which happen [to people] in common, which depend upon a multitude.
In the other, [this happens] because demons involve themselves.16
The last line is followed by the same quotation from Augustine cited above.
Aquinas’s “first way” had the consequence of allowing astrological prediction for mass
behavior, and even forecasts for individuals as long as it was made clear that the stars only
indicated predispositions which could be overcome by Reason. Since Reason was not subject to
the stars, any attempt to deny free will and make predictions on that assumption made astrology
operate from a “falsa et vana opinione”, and therefore, made it (in such an application) “divinatio
superstitiosa et illicita.”
It is tempting to see an evolution in Aquinas’ position between the two works, but we do not
know the date of the De iudiciis. However, there may be another factor that accounts for the
apparent difference. According to some references De iudiciis was addressed ad quendam
militem ultramontanum, “to a certain knight from over the mountains,” which suggests that the
recipient was a lay person. The passage from the Summa was clearly written for other
theologians. It is impossible to know whether there was a change of position on Aquinas’s part
or simply a difference in the intended readership. In any case Aquinas’s position on astrology is
representative of the Church’s compromise on the subject.
Uno quidem modo, quia plures hominum passiones corporales sequuntur, et ideo actus eorum disponuntur, ut
in pluribus, secundum inclinationem caelestium corporum, pauci autem sunt, idest soli sapientes, qui ratione
huiusmodi inclinationes moderentur. Et ideo astrologi in multis vera praenuntiant, et praecipue in communibus
eventibus, qui dependent ex multitudine.
Alio modo, propter Daemones se immiscentes.
Roger Bacon and the Compromise.
Roger Bacon, Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas were of the same generation and all
three were part of the same process of bringing the new learning transmitted from the Arabs into
the mainstream of European thought. However, Bacon’s involvement with astrology was much
greater than either of the other two. And unlike Aquinas and Albertus Magnus, Bacon never
exerted a great deal of influence on orthodox theology, remaining a controversial figure even
after the retraction of the Condemnations of 1277 in 1325. At some point Bacon appears to have
been imprisoned for his views although it is not certain exactly when and for how long, nor is it
even certain that it happened. A recent work suggests that the proximate cause of Bacon’s
imprisonment (which the author of that maintains did happen) was his position regarding the
influences of the planets upon the life of Christ.17 As such his imprisonment would have
happened somewhere between Nov. 1277 and 1279, very close in time to the Condemnations of
It is not my purpose here to debate the question of Bacon’s imprisonment, whether it
happened or when; I mention this only because it places Bacon’s work, and the difficulties it
may have raised for him, squarely in the middle of the period in which astrology was moving
toward acceptability according to the terms of the compromise that we have seen exemplified in
Aquinas. There was a consensus emerging among many persons in the Church. Astrology could
be acceptable, if it did not contradict free will, did not invoke demons or refer to any kind of
intelligence in the stars, if it was used primarily for forecasting matters such as mass behavior,
A summary of the different views on when and if this happened and for what reason is given in an article by
Paul Sidelko, “The Condemnation of Roger Bacon,” Journal of Medieval History 22, no. 1 (1997): 69-81.
It is widely believed that Girolamo Cardano (1501-1576) was imprisoned late in life for similar reasons. See
Henry Morley, The Life of Girolamo Cardano, of Milan Physician, vol. 2 ( London: Chapman and Hall, 1854), 294
historical patterns, or natural events such as the weather, success of crops and the like, if
planetary influence was not held to affect directly the intellectual soul and also if astrology was
not used to examine spiritual and religious doctrine. Here I examine briefly the ways in which
Bacon did and sometimes did not conform to this emerging consensus.
Bacon’s writings on astrology are found in several places in his writings. The most
comprehensive account is found in the Opus maius, the Opus minus, the Opus tertium and his
introduction and commentary to the Secretum secretorum.19 In all four of these we find the same
material, somewhat reworked in each case but basically the same. While the arrangement and
emphasis change somewhat in these several works, the material is structured as follows.
First, in all of these works astronomy20 is classified as a branch or subdivision of
mathematics. In each of these works there is a discussion of the usefulness of mathematics,
including astronomy, to religion and philosophy. The discussion below is primarily derived from
the Opus maius.
Having made it clear how mathematics is necessary for both divine and human wisdom, it is
still necessary for the certification of the preceding statements to render certain cavils to the
contrary void and empty and that certain saying of saints be expounded upon so that all doubt
is taken away concerning the usefulness of mathematics. And the cause for which
mathematics is most especially attacked is because of the judgements of astronomy.21
Roger Bacon, The 'Opus Majus' of Roger Bacon, edited with introduction and analytical table, by John Henry
Bridges, volume 1 (London: William and Norgate, 1900), 238-269, 376-403, hereafter Bacon, Opus Majus, ed.
Bridges. This is the edition with a third volume in which Bridges placed corrections and emendations. The material
in the Opus maius is not the only place where Bacon has deals with astrology. For most of the Opus tertium and the
Opus minus see Roger Bacon, Opera quaedam hactenus inedita, vol. 1, edited by J. S. Brewer (London: Longman,
Green, Longman and Roberts, 1959), 26-8, 44-49, 106-7, 209-12, 320. For the portion of the Opus tertium that
contains most of the astrology see Roger Bacon, Part of the Opus Tertium of Roger Bacon Including a Fragment
Now Printed for the First Time, edited by A. G. Little (Aberdeen: The University Press, 1912), 1-9. For the Secretum
secretorum see Roger Bacon, Secretum secretorum cum glossis et notulis, vol. V, Opera hactenus inedita Rogeri
Baconi, ed. Robert Steele (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1920), 1-24.
To simplify things I refer to astrology and astronomy throughout this discussion as ‘astronomy’.
Manifestato quomodo mathematica necessaria est sapientiae tam divinae quam humanae, adhuc necesse est ad
certificationem praecedentium, ut evacuentur quaedam cavillationes in contrarium et exponantur quaedam dicta
sanctorum, ut omnis dubitatio tollatur circa mathematicae utilitatem. Et illud in quo maxime percutitur mathematica
Bacon then proceeds to deliver an extended attack on the misunderstandings of the positions of
Church fathers and other religious authorities which has led to this difficulty. Central to this
discussion is the word pair mathēsis and mathesis, differing in the length of the middle ‘e’.
Sometimes the words are spelled matēsis and mathesis. Most commonly and in most places in
Bacon, the art designated with the long ‘e’ in the middle is the false mathematics and the art
designated with short ‘e’ in the middle is the true science.22 More important than words used,
there are four characteristics of the false art. First, the false art denies free will.23 Second and
third, it involves demons and spirits, and the use of “circles, figures, characters which
completely void of power, and foolish incantations.”24 Fourth and last, they resort to fraud.25
Bacon goes on to cite various authorities both astrological and non-astrological who
condemn these practices. These include Aristotle, Avicenna, Ptolemy, the Haly who was the
est propter judicia astronomiae. – Bacon, Opus Majus, ed. Bridges, 239-39.
The etymology that Bacon and others give for these words is false. The Greek word μάθησις (mathēsis) in fact
designates “the act of learning, getting of knowledge” and “education, instruction,” Liddell and Scott. There is no
word with an eta (short-e) in the middle whether the preceding consonant is a tau or a theta, with or without
aspiration. Bacon later corrected this error in his own work where he gives the correct definition for mathēsis, and
drops the other word. Bacon, Secretum secretorum, 2-3. In this same passage he mentions the correct usage of the
word from Cassiodorus, de Scienciis secularibus.
The history of the two words, used whichever way they are used, goes back a long way. The oldest pejorative
use of the word mathēsis that I am aware of is to be found in Isidore, Etymologiarum, ed. Lindsay, LXXI De
nominibus stellarum, 39 where he refers to persons who “per subputationes noxias, quae mathesis dicitur, eventus
rerum praescire posse conentur. . .” See Isidore, Etymologiarum, ed. Lindsay. According to Thorndike (H.O.M.E.S.,
vol. 2, 319) the usage can also found in Michael Scot. John of Salisbury also makes this distinction in Book I, 9. See
John of Salisbury, Ioannis Saresberiensis Episcopi Carnotensis Policraticus, 2 vols., edited by Clemens C. I. Webb
(London & New York: Henry Frowd, 1909), 49. In Albertus Magnus’ Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew we
have another instance of the usage. See Albertus Magnus. Ennarrationes in Evangelium Matthaei (I-XXX), vol. 20 of
the Opera Omnia, ed. August Borgnet. (Paris: Vives, 1893), 61.
Et ponit per virtutem constellationum omnia de necessitate contingere, nihil ad utrumlibet, nihil a casu nec
fortuna, nihil a consilio, de bonitate tamen essentiae, … — Bacon, Opus Majus, ed. Bridges. vol. 1, 240.
Nec solum damnant quantum ad principale, scilicet propter errorem quem habent de coelestibus, sed quia
mathematici isti daemones advocant in adjutorium coelestium dispositionum per conjurationes et sacrificia, quod est
omnino nefandum, atque nihilominus maculant suas considerationes in coelestibus per circulos et figuras et
characteres vanissimos et carmina stultissima, et orationes irrationabiles in quibus confidunt. — Ibid., 241.
Praeterea fraudes.operum adjungunt, scilicet per consensum, per tenebras, per instrumenta sophistica, per
subtilitatem motionis manualis, in quibus sciunt illusionem esse,
et multa stultis miranda faciunt per haec in quibus virtus coeli nihil operatur, et ideo sibimetipsis contradicentes,
quod coelo attribuunt coram aliis, apud seipsos sciunt non habere veritatem. — Ibid.
commentator on Ptolemy,26 Messahalla, and Abu Ma‘shar. Haly’s commentary on Ptolemy’s
Centiloquy and the Centiloquy itself are especially important because both Haly and the pseudoPtolemy27 (who wrote the aphorisms of the Centiloquy on which Haly comments) state that what
they present about astrology is between the necessary and the impossible,28 that is, it is
contingent and not predetermined. Bacon contends that what the fathers condemn is astral
determinism.29 This discussion of the legitimacy of stellar influences, affecting but not
determining, occupies several pages of the text. Finally he comes to the same position that we
find in Aquinas, that the stars affect the body by way of its physical constitution and
temperament type.30 He then goes on to formulate one of the centerpieces of the astrological
compromise, that astrological predictions are much more effective for “kingdoms and cities”
than for individuals.31 Then a bit further on in the text he states once again that celestial bodies
may be used to forecast changes in health and physical condition.
See below in the discussion of the university curriculum of Bologna.
Ptolemy did not write the Centiloquium, see below.
et hec iudicia que trado tibi sunt media inter necessarium et <im>possibile: quod dixi hec iudicia esse inter
necessarium et <im>possibile hoc est apud eum qui rerum naturas
et stellarum opus considerat. – ‘Alî ben Ridwân ‘Alî ben Ja’far, Abu ,l-Hasan (d. 1068). The edition consulted here
is contained in an omnibus publication along with many other works including the same author’s commentary on
Ptolemy’s main work, the Quadripartitum or Tetrabiblos, Ali ben Ridwan, “Centiloquium” in Quadripartitum
Ptolemei (Venice: mandato ac sumptibus heredum nobilis viri Domini Octaviani Scoti, 1519), fol. 97r . One word of
warning, however, It appears that the Latin text contained in all of the printed editions I have found is badly edited.
The worst example pertains to this very issue. The Latin reads as follows, “…hec iudicia que trado tibi sunt media
inter necessarium et <im>possibile…” with the addition of the ‘im’ prior to ‘possibile’.The logic requires the
emendation and this logic is confirmed by a manuscript of the Centiloquium (Pseudo-Ptolemy, “Centiloquium, with
the Commentary of Haly Ibn Ridwan,” in Harley 13, fol. 141r: British Museum, c1290-16th century) as well as by a
quotation of the same section by Roger Bacon in Opus Majus, ed. Bridges vol. 1, 242.
Sed illi qui sic vera tuentur ut falsa reprobant condemnant mathematicos magicos, qui non philosophantur sed
tam philosophiae quam fidei contradicunt. . . — Roger Bacon, Opus Majus, ed. Bridges, vol.1, 246.
This refers to the doctrine of the four humors, yellow bile (choleric), blood (sanguine), phegm (phlegmatic),
and black bile (melancholic). The discussion of these affects occupies pp. 249-251.
… potest astronomus peritus non solum in naturalibus sed in humanis rebus multa considerare de praesenti et
futuro et praeterito, et ideo saltem super regna et civitates potest judicare per coelestia et secunda coelestium quae
per virtutes speciales coelorum renovantur, ut sunt cometae et hujusmodi, quia facilius judicium est super
communitate quam super singulari persona. Nam judicium communitatis est judicium universale, et astronomus
potest bene in judicia universalia. Ibid., 251.
And if the [astrologer] wishes to consider carefully and without error the times of
conceptions and the nativity of individual persons in order that the rulership of the celestial
virtues at those times may be known, and carefully consider when the celestial bodies will
come to those dispositions according to the individual parts of each age, he can make a
sufficient judgement with regard to all things that are natural such as illness and health, and
matters of this kind, and when they ought to happen and how they will end according to what
authors not only of astronomy but also of medicine, such as Hippocrates, Galen, Haly, Isaac
and all authors prescribe.32
These issues occupy the next few pages in the Opus maius, then Bacon moves into what may
have been more problematical territory, the use of astrological reasoning to strengthen the
arguments for Christianity as the only valid faith.33 With this we come to the first actual
discussion of astrological doctrine. This is preceded by a discussion of the basics of the
symbolism of the planets and houses such as one finds in typical astrological introductoria.34
Then begins Bacon’s discussion of the method of conjunctions35 as derived from Abu Ma‘shar’s
De magnis coniunctionibus, as it was known to the Latins. It is derived from Tractatus Primus,
Differentia Prima, and Differentia Quarta,36 of the Latin text.
In the astrological charts employed in the method of conjunctions, Jupiter stands for religion
in general. When Jupiter is appropriately placed in the chart and is combined in a particular way
with any one of the other six planets, it indicates something of importance is to be expected
regarding the type of religion associated with that particular planet. If the conjunction is one of
the more important ones, such as the ones involving Jupiter and Saturn that are supposed to
Et si velit considerare diligenter et sine errore horas conceptionum et nativitatem singularium personarum, ut
sciatur dominium coelestis virtutis ad horas illas, et diligenter consideret quando ad eas dispositiones venient
coelestia secundum singulas partes aetatis cujuslibet, potest de omnibus naturalibus, sicut de infirmitatibus et
sanitate et hujusmodi judicare sufficienter, quandocunque debent occidere et qualiter terminari, secundum quod
auctores non solum astronomiae sed medicinae, ut Hippocrates, Galenus, Hali, Isaac, et omnes auctores determinant.
– Roberg Bacon, Opus Majus, ed. Bridges, 251.
Ibid., 253.
See Chap. 2.
Revolutiones annorum mundi. See Chap. 2.
See Abu Ma‘shar, On Historical Astrology, vol. 2, 10-19, 28-9. The first section introduces the method of the
great conjunctions, the second relates the planets to major religions.
occur every 960 years, or the lesser one that occurs every 240 years, this can be an indication
that a new prophet or teacher will appear in the period governed by the conjunction which affects
the religion associated with the planet connected with Jupiter. Abu Ma‘shar assigns the planets
the planets as follows:
Saturn — Judaism
— No single associated religion as it governs all religions.
— “the worship of fire and a pagan faith.”37
— “the worship of the stars, idols, and statues.”38
— “a pure faith and unity such as the faith of the Saracens…”39
Mercury — “signifies the Christian faith and every faith in which there is obscurity,
weightiness and difficulty.”40
— “signifies doubt, turning about, change and also denial and mistrust in the
faith because of the swiftness of the corruption of the Moon and speed of its
motion, and the shortness of its stay in a sign.”41
Bacon adopted this schema but transformed the logic so that Christianity would emerge as the
best of faiths, not surprisingly. Here is Bacon’s equivalent of Abu Ma‘shar’s list.
— Judaism.
— As with Abu Ma‘shar Jupiter has no associated religion as it governs all
— “…they say that he signifies the Chaldean law which teaches the adoration of
fire of which nature is of Mars in power and effect.”42
— “The Egyptian law is signified which considers that the host of heaven be
worshipped whose prince is the Sun.”43
— “…is said to signify the law of the Saracens which is completely pleasureloving and venereal…”44
— “…then is the law of Mercury. For Mercury has respect, as they say, to the
Deity and oracles of prophets, to belief, to prayer, and especially when it is
…significat culturam ignium et fidem paganam. Abu Ma‘shar, On Historical Astrology, vol. 2, 28.
…significat culturam stellarum et ydolorum et sculpturarum. – ibid.
…significat fidem mundam et unitatem ut fides Sarracenorum. – ibid.
…significat fidem Christianam et omnem fidem in qua fuerit occultatio et gravitas et labor. – ibid.
…significat dubitationem, volutionem, mutationem, negationem quoque et suspitionem in fide, et hoc fit
propter velocitatem corruptionis Lune et celeritatem motus eius et paucitatem more eius in signo. – ibid.
…dicunt ipsum significare super legem Chaldaicam, quae docet adorare ignem, cujus naturae Mars est in
naturali potentia et effectu. – Bacon, Opus Majus, ed. Bridges, vol. 1, 256.
…significatur lex Aegyptia, quae ponit coli militiam coeli, cujus princeps est Sol. – ibid.
…significare dicitur super legem Saracenorum, quae est tota voluptuosa et venerea… – ibid.
joined to Jupiter because then it signifies the number of a psalm and the
number of divine books. And they say that the law of Mercury is more
difficult to believe in than others and presents many difficulties above human
intelligence. This is in agreement with the difficult movements of
— “This will be a foul Law of corruption which will violate all other laws and
suspend them, even the Law of Mercury for a time. For the Moon, as they say,
signifies nigromancy and lies, and therefore the Law of the Moon will be one
of nigromancy, magic, and deceit…because it is the Law of Antichrist”46
The relationship of the two lists is obvious, however, Bacon has reinterpreted the connections of
Venus and Mercury. Where Abu Ma‘shar treats Venus as a benevolent planet signifying the
purity and unity of Islam, Bacon sees Venus as indicative of what Europeans believed was the
soft and luxurious lifestyle of the Middle East. And where Abu Ma‘shar interpreted the difficult
astronomical movements of Mercury as indicating the obscure, complex and convoluted
theology of Christianity, Bacon makes this a virtue. Furthermore, in the material that
immediately follows, Bacon justifies his elevation of the Law of Mercury by pointing out
something that is in fact astrologically true about Mercury and Virgo. Mercury rules47 both
Gemini and Virgo as its principal signs, but in Virgo Mercury is both in its major rulership
(domicile) and its exaltation;48 therefore Mercury has a stronger connection with Virgo than with
Gemini. Mercury ‘rejoices’ in Virgo.49 The sign Virgo, not surprisingly, was associated with the
…tunc est lex Mercurialis. Mercurius enim habet respectum, ut dicunt, ad Deitatem et oracula prophetarum et
credulitatem et orationem, et maxime quando conjungitur ei Jupiter; quoniam tunc significat numerum psallendi et
numerum librorum divinorum. Et dicunt, quod lex Mercurialis est difficiIior ad credendum quam aliae, et habet
multas difficultates supra humanum intellectum. Et hoc convenit propter motus Mercurii difficiles… – ibid., 256-7.
The theory of Mercury in medieval planetary dynamics was among the most complex of the planets. The
position of Mercury in medieval charts more often differs significantly from that computed by modern theory than
that of any other planet except for the Moon.
…haec erit lex corruptionis et foeda quae violabit omnes alias leges et suspendet eas, etiam Mercurialem ad
tempus. Luna enim, ut dicunt, significat super nigromantiam et mendacium, et ideo lex Lunae erit nigromantica et
magica et mendosa …quod haec est lex Antichristi… – ibid. 261-2.
For the meaning of ‘rule’ see RULERSHIP in the Glossary. This is DOMICILE RULERSHIP also defined in the
See EXALTATION and RULERSHIP in the Glossary.
See REJOICE in the Glossary.
Virgin Mary, an association Bacon exploits here. In addition, as Bacon points out, eastern
traditions of astrology, including the Jewish, associate an image with the first ten degrees of
And they say that this law is that of a prophet who is to be born of a virgin according to what
the ancient Indians, Chaldeans and Babylonians have taught, that in the first face50 of Virgo
there ascends a most pure virgin who is to rear a child in the land of the Hebrews whose
name is Jesus Christ.51
In fact in the Beginning of Wisdom an introductory work on astrology by Abraham Ibn Ezra
there is a description of an image associated with the first face of Virgo as follows:
There ascends also in its [Virgo’s] first face a beautiful virgin with long hair holding in her
hand two spikes of wheat. And she sits on a seat and nurses a little boy giving him milk and
urging him to feed.52
There is of course no mention of the “land of the Hebrews” or the name “Jesus Christ” but the
iconography is clearly from the same tradition that Bacon cites. However, in this same section
Bacon does something that raises a possibly difficult issue with regard to the emerging
consensus about licit and illicit astrology. In his discussion of Virgo the sign, the Virgin Mary,
and Mercury he discusses the view of one group that Christ’s human nature could have been in
some way affected or expressed by the planets at his birth.53 He concludes that we should respect
their wisdom in acknowledging the true faith even if they fall somewhat short of perfect
A face is a ten degree division of a sign. See FACE in the Glossary.
Et dicunt, quod haec lex est prophetae nascituri de virgine, secundum quod omnes antiqui Indi, Chaldaei,
Babylonii, docuerunt quod in prima facie Virginis ascendit virgo mundissima
nutritura puerum in terra Hebraeorum, cui nomen Jesus Christus… – Bacon, Opus Majus, ed. Bridges, vol. 1, 257.
Ascendit quoque in prima facie eius virgo pulchra: et sui capilli longi habens in manu sua duas spicas: ipsaque
sedet super sedem unam et nutrit puerum parvulum ipsum lactando ad comedendum incitando. This is from the Latin
translation of Ibn Ezra associated with Peter d’Abano. See Abraham ben Meïr Ibn Ezra, Abrahe Avenaris Judei
astrologi peritissimi in re iudiciali opera (Venice: ex officina Petri Liechtenstein, 1507), fol 9v.
Bacon, Opus Majus, ed. Bridges, 267-8.
orthodoxy in this matter.54
Although Bacon is not the only Latin authority to cite Abu Ma‘shar’s association of
religions with indications of conjunction charts (Pierre d’Ailly following Bacon subscribed to
this doctrine as well),55 in the thirteenth century this could have been a dangerous use of
astrology because it may have been interpreted as subordinating Christ and Christianity to the
action of the stars. This doctrine was not specifically condemned in 1277 but it would not require
too much of an extension of the principles embodied in them to apply to this doctrine. Here
Bacon pushes boundaries of the emerging compromise, even if he was followed in this respect
by others.
After this discourse on the relationship of the planets to the major sects of the world, Bacon
enters upon a lengthy discussion of the need for calendar reform. But he returns again to
astrology as such and to the issues of the relationship of the planets to sects and the connection
of Mercury and Virgo with Christianity. This later section in Book IV56 is described by Bacon as
part of a longer treatise that he hopes to write which he did not complete, and in it he returns in
greater detail to some of the matters raised in the earlier part of Book IV. However, while in the
previous section he stayed within the terms of the compromise for the most part, in this later part
he goes into matters that were more controversial, the legitimacy or otherwise of certain
practices which could be, and usually were regarded as magical.57 Previously Bacon made a
Sed quicquid dicunt in hac parte, hoc ad regulam fidei reducendum est, ut a catholica veritate non discordet.
Et licet omnia et ad plenum non sufficiant ostendere secreta istius sectae, tamen an sit haec secta, et qualis sit in
universali, pulchre attestantur, ut satis admirantes sapientiam eis datam facile excusemus eorum ignorantiam, quia
defecerunt a plena certificatione ritus Christiani, cum in eo non fuerant instructi. – Bacon, Opus Majus, ed. Bridges,
Smoller, History, Prophecy, and the Stars, 62.
Bacon, Opus Majus, ed. Bridges, 376-403.
This was one of the applications of astrology specifically condemned in the Speculum. See Chap. 2.
reasonable case for a kind of astrology that was natural and not magical, that was not fatalistic,
that did not compromise freedom of the will, that was derived from completely natural
principles, and which did not rely on spirits or demons for its efficacy. In this section, however,
he begins to discuss the possibility of modifying astrological influences so that they can be
mitigated or improved. In particular he advocates the study of the power of the sounds of words
and advocates the study of these and their effects so that the Church under the direction of the
Pope could use these as weapons against the Antichrist, or, more immediately, against any
possible alliance between the Saracens and the Tartars which could prove to be quite dangerous
for Christianity. Bacon realized that this was very close to the kind of magic that he condemned
earlier in the book and that it was generally regarded as an illicit form of magic, but he believed
that the danger justified at least the study of this power. This may be where Bacon came closest
to violating the terms of the emerging compromise, and by associating the magical power of
words with astrology he might have actually made matters more difficult for more moderate
proponents of the cause of astrology.
However, to conclude this brief discussion of Bacon and astrology, for the most part he does
observe the compromise; he does separate the licit from illicit forms of astrology and does
adhere to the idea that only a naturalistic astrology which allowed for freedom of the will could
be permitted. At the same time his advocacy of the study of conjunctions to gain information on
the development and fate of sects, including Christianity, and his advocacy of the study of the
possible magical power of words, Bacon showed how easily one could slip over the line between
the licit and illicit forms and applications of astrology as defined in the emerging compromise.
The Condemnations of 1277 and Astrology.
Nevertheless, problems for the acceptance of astrology remained. While it could be argued
that Islamic astrology, which came from a monotheistic culture that was, if anything, more
stringent regarding implications of polytheism than Christianity, elements of Neoplatonism and
Aristotelianism that were not compatible with Christianity remained in astrology. These, I
believe, were the main force behind the Condemnations of 1277 by the Archbishop of Paris
Etienne Tempier insofar as they pertained to astrology.58 Of course, these condemnations were
repudiated in 1325 because some of the teachings rejected in the articles were teachings of
Aquinas and by 1325 Aquinas’ teachings had become established orthodoxy with Aquinas
himself canonized in 1323. However, the repudiation of the articles of 1277 as a whole did not
necessarily mean the repudiation of the articles that pertained at least in part to astrology. These
articles may have been considered just as important to orthodoxy and astrology after the
repudiation than they were beforehand.
In the 219 articles there are 22 articles that pertain to astrology, free will, and destiny, or that
make statements regarding the celestial spheres and soul. Of these article 21 is especially
The Latin texts that follow were originally taken from are from Université de Paris, Chartularium
Universitatis Parisiensis sub auspiciis consilii Generalis Facultatum Parisiensium; ex diversis bibliothecis
tabulariisque collegit et cum authenticis chartis contulit Henricus Denifle; auxiliante Aemilio Chatelain, 4 vols., ed.
Heinrich Denifle and Emile Chatelain (Paris: Sorbonne, 1891), 543-555. However, I later revised the Latin from the
edition of David Piché, La condamnation parisienne de 1277 (Paris: J. Vrin, 1999). However, I did not follow the
practice of that edition in using the letter ‘u’ for all occurrences of ‘u’ and ‘v’. I use ‘v’ for the consonantal use and
‘u’ for the vowel following the same convention that I have employed in all of the Latin texts cited in this work. See
Chap. 6, p. 167.
Following Grant I have used the numbering of Piché and the original Chartularium. Whatever usefulness
Mandonnet’s renumbering may have for other disciplines, the proposals regarding astrology are just as scattered in
Mondonnet’s renumbering as they are in the original system of the Chartularium. The translations are influenced by
Grant, and Fortin and O’Neill but I have made considerable changes in these which I believe are justified from an
astrological context. See Edward Grant, A Source Book in Medieval Science (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University
Press, 1974), 45-50. Also see Ralph Lerner and Musin Mahdi. “Condemnation of 219 Propositions,” Ernst L. Fortin
and Peter D, O’Neill trans., in Medieval Political Philosophy: A Sourcebook, 335-354 (New York: Free Press of
Glencoe, 1963).
interesting because instead of challenging statements made by astrologers, it actually affirms a
position taken by Abu Ma‘shar, in his Introductorium Maius, Book I. In this section of his book
Abu Ma‘shar refutes arguments made by foes of astrology.59 In what is called in Latin the secta
tertia (there being ten groups or “sects” of persons opposed to astrology), this “sect” argues that
the planets could only refer to what is necessary or impossible. They could not give indications
for what is merely possible or contingent.60 In a lengthy argument Abu Ma‘shar rejects this
position and affirms that planets can give significations for what is merely possible or
contingent. The position taken by the secta tertia is exactly the one also rejected in article 21.
Thus in this instance at least Tempier and his colleagues agreed with Abu Ma‘shar
21. That nothing happens by chance, but everything happens by necessity, and, that all future
occurrences which will come to be, will do so according to necessity, and whatever will not
come to be, it is impossible that it will be, and that nothing happens contingently when all
causes are considered. — Error, because the concourse of causes is by definition chance as
Boethius said in the book, The Consolation [of Philosophy].61
In fact, Abu Ma‘shar’s argument for the contingency of astrological significations appears to be
one of the factors that made the astrology coming into the West from the Muslim world more
acceptable. His arguments are also reflected in the commentary on the first verse of the pseudoPtolemaic Centiloquy by Ali ben Ridwan (Haly) mentioned above. This commentary on the
Centiloquy was required reading for medical students at Bologna and possibly Padua and
There is no English translation of this text at present. For the Latin see Abu Ma‘shar, Liber Introductorii
maioris, vol. 5, 36-39.
This argument appears to be based on Aristotle’s On Intepretation, chapter 9 where this issue is raised
regarding future events in general.
Quod nichil fit a casu, sed omnia de necessitate eveniunt, et, quod omnia futura, que erunt, de necessitate
erunt, et que non erunt, impossibile est esse, et quod nichil fit contingenter, considerando omnes causas. — Error,
quia concursus causarum est de diffinitione casualis, ut dicit Boetius libro de Consolatione.
See p. 88 for a discussion of this work.
Anything that implied fatalism of course had to be rejected as with article 21. It is
inconsistent with both Islam and Christianity, and the charge of fatalism has always been one of
the most severe charges leveled at astrology even though it has been repeatedly answered, by
Abu Ma‘shar among others. Articles pertaining to the freedom of the will include those
numbered 6, 88, 106, 132, 133, 143, 162, 194, 195, 206, and 207, all of which raise this concern
among other issues.
6. That when all of the celestial bodies return to the same point, which happens in 36,000
years, the same effects that exist now will return.63
This is the apokatastasis (•ποκατάστασις) of the Stoics.64 If the planets determine all things,
then a return to the positions where they were before will produce exactly the same effects.
88. There is nothing new unless heaven [i.e., the astronomical heaven] is varied with respect
to matter of things subject to generation.65
106. That the immediate efficient cause of all things is an orb.66
132. That an orb is the cause of the doctor’s will to heal.67
Numbers 106 and 132 use the word orb (orbis) to indicate one of the circles involved in
planetary or stellar motions. All three of the preceding treat astronomical motions as efficient
causes without which nothing can occur in the sublunary sphere. The next several articles repeat
this theme.
Quod redeuntibus corporibus celestibus omnibus in idem punctum, quod fit in xxx sex milibus annorum,
redibunt idem effectus, qui sunt modo.
A passage from Nemesius referring to the Stoics demonstrates the principle of apokatastatis. — “The Stoics
say when the planets return again to the same celestial sign, at length and breadth, where each was originally when
the world was first formed, at set periods of time they cause conflagration and destruction of existing things. Once
again the world returns anew to the same conditions as before; and when the stars are moving again the same way,
each thing which occurred in the previous period will come to pass indiscernibly [from its previous occurrence].” –
A. A. Long and D. N. Sedley, The Hellenistic Philosophers, vol. 1 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987),
Quod nichil esset novum, nisi celum esset variatum respectu materie generabilium.
Quod omnium formarum causa effectiva inmediata est orbis.
Quod orbis est causa voluntatis medici, ut sanet.
133. That will and intellect are not moved into act by themselves, but by a cause without end,
namely, the heavenly bodies.68
143. That the diverse conditions among men are signified by the diverse signs [signis] of
heaven both with regard to spiritual gifts and termporal things.69
Grant assumes that signis means zodiacal signs in the technical sense. Fortin and O’Neill do not
make that assumption, nor do I. The word is ambiguous since signum is both a term of art as in
‘zodiacal signs’ and an ordinary language term designating anything that “signifies.”
162. That our will is subject to the power of heavenly bodies.70
194. That the soul wills nothing unless moved by something else. For this reason the
following is false: the soul wills of itself. — An error if it is understood that a soul that is
moved is moved by desirable end or an object in such a manner that the entire reason that for
the will behind that motion is the desirable end or object.71
This proposition is not especially astrological, but it does deny free will because there is no
chance for choice.
195. That fate, which is the disposition of the universe, does not proceed immediately
according to divine providence but according to the mediating motion of superior bodies, and
that this fate does not impose necessity upon inferiors, because they have contrariety, but
upon superiors.72
This does not actually deny free will, or at least it allows some degree of indeterminacy to
inferiors because of their contrariety. However, it does require that divine providence be
mediated by the movements of the heavens. This was unacceptable. Here are two more passages
Quod voluntas et intellectus non moventur in actum per se, set per causam sempiternam, scilicet corpora
Quod ex diversis signis celi signantur diverse conditiones in hominibus tam donorum spiritualium quam
rerum temporalium.
Quod voluntas nostra subiacet potestati corporum celestium.
Quod anima nichil vult, nisi mota ab alio a se. Unde illud est falsum: anima seipsa vult. — Error, si
intelligatur mota ab alio scilicet ab appetibili vel obiecto, ita quod appetibile vel obiectum sit tota ratio motus ipsius
Quod fatum, quod est dispositio universi, procedit ex providentia divina non inmediate, set mediante motu
<corporum> superiorum; et quod istud fatum non imponit necessitatem inferioribus, quia habent contrarietatem, set
that appear to severely limit, if not deny, the freedom of the will.
206. That [a proposition] assigns health, illness, life and death to the position of the stars and
the aspect [aspectui] of a fortunate planet, saying that if a fortunate planet aspects someone,
he will live; if a fortunate planet does not aspect [aspexerit] him, he will die.73
207. That at the time of the generation of a human being in his body, and, as a consequence
his soul which follows the body, there is in a human being a disposition derived from the
order of superior and inferior causes which inclines him to particular kinds of actions and
events. – Error, unless it is understood [only] regarding natural events, and [only] by way of
Another difficulty that many of the rejected articles raise are hints that there is something alive,
and conscious in the heavenly bodies, souls or spirits, as it were, reminiscent of the ancient gods
who either were the stars themselves, or who controlled the movements of particular stars. A
tendency to treat astrology as some kind of naturalistic science, derived from Ptolemy, Abu
Ma‘shar and others, allowed medieval astrologers to bypass this problem. It also resulted in the
rejection of certain kinds of astrology that implied the notion that the planets were living,
ensouled beings or that they were associated with intelligences capable directly influencing
human free will.75 This was mentioned in chapter 2. The articles that demonstrate this problem
are numbered 30, 74, 92, 94, 95, 102, and 213.
Quod sanitatem, infirmitatem, vitam et mortem attribuit positioni siderum et aspectui fortune, dicens quod si
aspexerit eum fortuna, vivet; si non aspexerit, morietur. – Neither Grant, nor Fortin and O’Neill seem to be aware
that aspectus, and aspicio are astrological terms of art usually translated as ‘aspect’ both in noun and verb forms. It
indicates that something. possibly the Pars Fortunae, [see appendix] forms a favorable angular relationship in the
zodiac to some important point in a nativity. Or the Latin is a play on words which does not work in English here
because our technical term is derived from Latin and not ordinary language words such as “look at”, “glance”, “see”,
Quod, in hora generationis hominis in corpore suo et per consequens in anima, que sequitur corpus, ex ordine
causarum superiorum et inferiorum inest homini dispositio inclinans ad tales actiones vel eventus. – Error, nisi
intelligatur de eventibus naturalibus, et per viam dispositionis.
The literature on the details of this subject is vast and need not concern us here. The origin of the difficulty
was an ancient notion that the planets were themselves gods. The idea that the planets could be associated with
intelligences that operated as efficient causes of the planets’ motion was not generally a problem. It was only
problematical if they were regarded as direct causes of human behavior or fate over and above the intellective soul
and free will.
30. That superior intelligences [note the plural] create rational souls without the movement
of heaven mediating.76
74. That the motive intelligence of heaven sends influences into the rational soul just as the
body of heaven send influences into the human body.77
These two actually represent two problems. The first is imputation of intelligence to the motive
power of heaven, and the other is the idea that the rational soul is subject to celestial influences.
This problem will be discussed further below.
92. That the heavenly bodies are moved by an indwelling principle which is soul; and that
they are moved by soul and the appetitive power as in an animal. Just as an animal seeking to
attain something is moved so also is heaven.78
94. That there are two eternal principles, namely, the body of heaven and its soul.79
95. That there are three principles in the heavens: that which is subject to eternal motion; the
soul of the heavenly body; and the first moving principle as something desired. — An error
as it pertains only to the first two. 80
102. That the soul of heaven is an intelligence, and that celestial orbs are not the instruments
of that intelligence but the organs, just as the ear and the eye are organs of the sensitive
213. That nature, which is the principle of motion in heavenly bodies, is a moving
intelligence. – An error, if one understands this concerning an intrinsic nature which is act or
The remaining articles do not group themselves as clearly as the above, so I will put them
together here. These are 59, 65, 161, and 196.
Quod intelligentie superiores creant animas rationales sine motu celi ; intelligentie autem inferiores creant
vegetativam et sensitivam motu celi mediante.
Quod intelligentia motrix celi influit in animam rationalem, sicut corpus celi influit in corpus humanum.
Quod corpora celestia moventur a principio intrinseco, quod est anima; et quod moventur per animam et per
virtutem appetitivam, sicut animal. Sicut enim animal appetens movetur, ita et celum.
Quod duo sunt principia eterna, scilicet corpus celi, et anima eius.
Quod tria sunt principia in celestibus: subiectum motus eterni; anima corporis celestis et primum movens <ut>
desideratum. — Error est quoad duo prima.
Quod anima celi est intelligentia, et orbes celestes non sunt instrumenta intelligentiarum set organa, sicut auris
et oculus sunt organa virtutis sensitive.
Quod natura, que est principium motus in corporibus celestibus est intelligentia movens. – Error, si
intelligatur de natura intrinseca, que est actus vel forma.
59. That God is a necessary cause of the movement of superior bodies in the joining together
and the separating that involve the stars.83
This proposition would make the will of God directly and completely accessible by observing
planetary movements. This is clearly not acceptable from either the Christian or Islamic points of
65. That God or an intelligence does not infuse knowledge into a human soul in sleep, unless
there is celestial body mediating.84
Here again the mediation of planetary bodies is necessary for the divine to accomplish some
particular thing.
161. That the effects of the stars upon free will are hidden [occulti].85
Here we have a problem with language. Occultus certainly means ‘hidden’, but it also means
something more like the modern use of the word ‘occult’. In any case it means that a human
being cannot know what effects the stars may be producing upon the will and therefore cannot
really possess free will.
196. It is a property of the dignity found in superior causes to be capable of making mistakes
and bringing forth monstrous things, apart from the <usual> end of such productions, since
nature is also capable of doing so.86
This seems to imply that “superior causes” are flawed and able to err. This is not consistent with
the idea that all defect in action exists only in the sublunary realm. This was a notion that had
already become the standard doctrine.
Quod Deus est causa necessaria motus corporum superiorum et conjunctionis et divisionis continentis in
Quod Deus vel intelligentia non infundit scientiam anime humane in sompno, nisi mediante corpore celesti.
Quod effectus stellarum super liberum arbitrium sunt occulti.
Quod dignitatis esset in causis superioribus, posse facere peccata et monstra preter intentionem, cum natura
hoc possit. — My thanks to Dr. Timothy Noone of the Catholic University of America for this translation. Fortin and
O’Neill have here “That it pertains to the dignity of the higher causes to be able to commit errors and produce
monsters unintentionally, since nature is able to do this.”
These are the issues raised by Condemnation of 1277 as they pertained to astrology.
However, the prestige and sophistication of the scientific and philosophic material coming in
from the Arabic world was sufficient to make Latin theologians and philosophers want to
incorporate what they could of this learning even while rejecting the parts of it that could not be
reconciled with Christianity. For this reason the compromise came into existence. Astrology
could be considered acceptable within limits because of a change of attitude which was enabled
by the naturalistic approach presented by Abu Ma‘shar and earlier by Ptolemy. Wedel describes
the change in the point of view. Astrology, he says,
…was denounced as a manifestation of pagan impiety. The arrival of Aristotle and of
Arabian science changed all this. Astrology was accepted by the scientists of the Church in
theory, and virtually in practice. The champions of astrology, however, were not bold enough
to confront the traditional teaching of the Church with one diametrically opposed. Hence,
instead of attempting a substitution of doctrines, they contented themselves with a
superposition. The early Church had made no distinction between a true and a false
astrology. The Church of the thirteenth century, by making just this distinction, was enabled
to entertain an enthusiasm for the moderate science of Ptolemy, and to preserve, at the same
time, pious scorn for astrological magic, and that manifestation of judicial astrology which it
loosely defined as prediction per certitudinem.87
So the Compromise contained the following elements: First, Astrology is not entirely illicit.
It is licit insofar as it does not deny free will, or attempt to make such specific predictions for
individuals so that it effectively subordinates Reason (the rational soul) to stellar influences but
not otherwise. Second, a licit astrology is one that entirely works on the basis of natural forces
and laws. This precludes any idea that the stars themselves (both planets and fixed stars) are
ensouled beings capable of directly affecting free will.88 As such stellar influences work only
upon material things including the human body. This is why medical applications of astrology
Wedel, The Medieval Attitude toward Astrology, 117.
See n. 80 above.
were considered licit. Third, any use of, or reference to, spiritual or demonic entities in the
practice of astrology renders that practice ‘illicit’. Fourth, the astrology of mass behavior and
natural events including weather, crops etc. is entirely licit because it is based on natural effects
as medieval thought understood them.
It is important to realize there were few, if any, in late classical (including Christian)
antiquity or the middle ages who asserted the complete nonexistence or falsity of planetary
influence of the kind that we see beginning in the early modern period up to the present.89 The
main question was as to their nature and the domain of their effect.
Astrology in the Medieval University.
Let us now look to see how the Compromise manifested in the universities. In the
“Renaissance of the Twelfth Century,” to use Haskins’ term, astrology, at least learned astrology
requiring an advanced knowledge of astronomy, was one of the subjects that was acquired from
the Arabs. We have already noted above that there were survivals of the astrology of antiquity
but these did not constitute a coherent, or sophisticated discipline of the kind we find in classical
antiquity or the medieval Islamic world. So the revival of astrology as it came to be in medieval
Europe was the one of the results of the importation of learning from the Islamic world.
While the translation movement that led up to this revival of learning took place largely
outside of the universities, it was inevitable that astrology would eventually become part of
university life if not always an official part of the curriculum. It was also inevitable that this
astrology would be shaped by such events as the Condemnations of 1277 (despite the retraction
Of course modern Science does not deny gravitational influence but gravitation as we know it was not known
in the middle ages.
of 1325) and the Compromise I have described.
Also, quite aside from the newfound acceptability of astrology that arose from its association
with rest of the learning from the Arabic world, it was probably inevitable that astrology would
come into the medieval university for reasons solely based on the Latin tradition carried over
into the early middle ages from classical antiquity. Astronomia was one of the subjects of the
Quadrivium, and at this time the words astrologia and astronomia, as we have seen, had not yet
become separate. It is true that the distinction that would later separate the two terms does go
back quite far, at least to Isidore of Seville, (see Chap. 2) and possibly back to Ptolemy himself
but, as of the later middle ages, the two terms were both likely to be used for both of what are
now distinct subjects. Most commonly astronomia was used for both.90
I will now focus on the surviving evidence concerning university curricula and astrology and
what this evidence tells us about the depth and degree of the penetration of astrology into later
medieval university life and how it reflected the Compromise. I limit this discussion to the
evidence from Italy, France, England, primarily, with a few words about Spain. These are the
regions and nations which had the most developed university systems in the thirteenth and
fourteenth centuries.91 I will start then with Italy, not necessarily because the source material
associated with Italy is the oldest but because the sources are most explicit about the contents of
the curriculum. In this curriculum, as well as in the evidence from the universities of other
nations, we see the evidence of the effect of 1277 and Post-Aquinas compromise as the end
Among historians of medieval science the virtual equivalence and interchangeability of the terms astrologia
and astronomia is well established. See Richard Lemay, “The Teaching of Astronomy in Medieval Universities,
Principally at Paris in the Fourteenth Century,” Manuscripta 20:3 (1976): 197-217.
As we will see a principal source of evidence regarding the University of Bologna dates from the early
fifteenth century but is presumably a codification of the state of affairs prior to that date.
Our two major sources concerning Italy are from the universities of Bologna and Padua and I
start with Bologna for which our chief source is the Statuti of the university for 1405.92
Thorndike93 in his reporting of the Statuti reduced the Latin text to tabular form but as the text is
brief, I present it in its entirety.94 However, first it needs to be noted that in the Statuti, this
course of readings in astrology was given as part of the medical curriculum. It was not a
curriculum of study unto itself. 95 The course described is divided into four years. (I have
italicized the references to each year in which the texts were to be read.
On astrology, in the first year first of all one should read the On Fractions and Whole
Numbers of Algorismus.96 When these have been read, the first book of Euclid’s geometry
should be read along with the commentary of Campanus.97 When this has been read, the
Alfonsine Tables should be read along with the Canons.98 When these have been read, the
Theory of the Planets99 should be read.
In the second year first of all one should read the treatise on the sphere. When this has
Carlo Malagola, Statuti delle Università e dei collegi dello studio bolognese (Bologna: N. Zanichelli, 1888),
Lynn Thorndike, University Records and Life in the Middle Ages (New York: Columbia University Press,
1944), 281-2.
The Latin text from Malagola follows – In astrologia in primo anno primo legantur Algorismi de minutis et
integris, quibus lectis, legatur primus geumetrie [sic] Euclidis cum commento Campani. Quo lecto, legantur tabule
Alfonsi cum canonibus. Quibus lectis, legatur theorica planetarum. In secundo anno primo legatur tractatus de
sphera, quo lecto, legatur secundus geumetrie [sic] Euclidis, quo lecto legantur canones super tabulis de lineriis.
Quibus lectis, legatur tractatus astrolabii Messachale. In tertio anno, primo legatur Alkabicius, quo lecto legatur
Centiloquium Ptolemei cum commento haly. Quo lecto legatur tertius geumetrie, [sic] quo lecto, legatur tractatus
quadrantis. In quarto anno primo quadripartitus totus, quo lecto, legatur de urina non visa. Quo lecto, legatur dictio
tertia almagestii.
Thorndike, ibid. and Paul F. Grendler, The Universities of the Italian Renaissance (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins
University Press, 2002), 410-11.
Grendler mentions that there were several treatises ascribed to one Algorismus, a name ultimately derived
from Persian mathematician al-Kwarizmi (c.780-c.850). This work is almost certainly not by him but more likely by
Sacrobosco also known as John of Holywood (c. 1195 – c. 1256) who is also the author of the de Sphera which is
also listed in this curriculum.
According to Malagola this was the commentary by Campanus of Novara (c. 1220–1296).
According to Malagola, this is most likely the edition with the canons of John of Saxony (fl. 1327-1355) who
along with his teacher (also referred to in this curriculum), John of Linières (c.1300-c.1350) (dates according to
Grendler, 411) put the Alfonsine Tables into the form in which they were commonly used throughout the later
middle ages up to Copernicus. For John of Saxony and John de Linières, see Thorndike H.O.M.E.S. vol. 3, 253-267.
For a description of what was done to make the Alfonsine Tables more useful see Boudet, Entre science et
nigromance, 283-5.
Theorica Planetarum was a name used for a number of treatises on the theory of planetary motion. One was
written by Campanus of Novara but this is almost certainly not that one. See Grendler, 411.
been read, the second book of Euclid’s geometry should be read. When that has been read,
the Linières’ Canons on the Tables100 should be read. When this has been read, one should
read the Treatise on the Astrolabe by Messahalla.101
In the third year Alchabitius102 should be read, and when that has been read, Ptolemy’s
Centiloquy along with the commentary by Haly.103 When that has been read, one should read
the third book of Euclid’s Geometry followed by the Treatise on the Quadrant.104
In the fourth year first of all, one should read the whole of the Quadripartitum105
followed by the Urina non visa (On Urine not Seen).106 When that has been read, one should
read the third dictio of the Almagest.107
Two things should be noted about this list. First, that while the Latin text uses the word
astrologia,108 of the fifteen works cited only four are on what we would now call astrology. The
rest are on astronomy and mathematical topics related to astrology. Of the four works which are
truly astrological (again in the modern sense) only one represents what one might call advanced
astrology, that is, astrology that is capable of being used for an actual application, and it is on a
branch of medical astrology, De urina non visa. I have relied on Thorndike’s account of the
work109 as information on the exact content of the work is not readily available; it exists only in
manuscript.110 It relates to the practice of diagnosing a patient’s ailment from erecting an
astrological chart or figure for the moment that a physician first sees the patient’s urine.
Malagola’s note indicates that this refers to the “Canones super tabulis de lineriis [which] constitute the rules
given by John of Linières or Lignières of Amiens for the use of the astronomical tables for the determination of
celestial motions.”
This is the treatise written by Masha’allah (fl. Baghdad, 762-ca. 815) which exists only in Latin translation
and is the basis of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Treatise on the Astrolable. See Pingree, “Masha’allah”.
Al-Qabisi, Abū al-Saqr cAbd Al-Azīz ibn cUthman Ibn cAlī (fl. c. 950). Latin forms include Alchabitius,
Alcabitius, and Alkabitius. See See Pingree, “Al-Qabisi.”
For a description of the Centiloquium see 88.
According to Grendler, 411, this may have been De quadrante by Campanus of Novara but there were a
number of other treatises on that topic as well.
This is the Latin name for Ptolemy’s four books on astrology now usually referred to by the Greek name,
This work is attributed by Thorndike to one William of England. (H.O.M.E.S., vol. 3, 603 and Isis, 13, no.1,
The third section of Ptolemy’s major astronomical work.
This is one of the instances in which astrologia is the general term rather than astronomia.
See Thorndike, H.O.M.E.S., vol. 2, 485-7.
I have located manuscripts of this work but did not deem it necessary for the purposes of this discussion to go
beyond what is available from secondary sources.
However, from the title of this work it is apparent that the treatise substitutes other criteria for
the erection of the figure because, as the title indicates, the treatise relates to an astrological
analysis of urine without its being seen by the physician. This is an example of the application of
astrology to the task of answering questions, interrogations, an application which was widely
considered suspect in certain quarters of the Church as we have seen in Chap. 2. I suspect this
use of interrogations was rendered acceptable by its medical context.
Otherwise, the texts cited fall into categories that were safe, the first of these being
Alcabitius’ introduction. This work teaches absolutely nothing about astrological application and
practice. It is simply an introduction to the ideas underlying astrology, and the natures of the
signs, planets, houses, and the relationships among all of these. It is a classic example of an
astrological Introductorium.111
The Centiloquy or Centiloquium is a collection of 100 aphorisms once attributed to Ptolemy.
It has long been recognized that it is not his work but rather the product of some medieval writer
whose identity is in dispute. An extensive commentary on the work also exists written, as it was
believed, by an Arabic writer, one “Haly,” or Abu'l Hasan Ali ibn Ridwan Al-Misri (d. 1068).112
As a collection of aphorisms the Centiloquy wanders all over the field of astrology from the
deeply philosophical to the completely practical. However, even with the commentary of “Haly,”
it cannot possibly have been used as a text for the teaching of applied astrology. In addition it
Again see chapter 3.
However, this is a matter of some dispute. According to Carmody and others, other candidates as author of
the commentary include Ahmad ben Yûsuf al-Misrî (ninth century), Abû Jacfar ben Yûsuf, ibn ad-Daya (dates
unknown) or Ahmad ibn Ibrâhîm (dates unknown). It is also believed that one of these three was actually the author
of the Centiloquy, itself. However, the Centiloquy was at some point translated into Greek and that version came to
be regarded regarded at the original, while what is now regarded as the original Arabic was held to be the translation.
In Greek it is known as the Καρπός (Karpos) or Fruits, being the “fruit” of the wisdom contained in Ptolemy’s
Tetrabiblos (as we know it) or in Latin the Quadripartitum.
specifically deals with portions of astrology that are not covered at all in the Tetrabiblos,
specifically the astrology of choosing times for taking action, that is, elections,113 and the use of
astrology in interrogations of which Urina non visa appears to be an example.
The last of these four works in the curriculum is the Tetrabiblos or Quadripartitum,
Ptolemy’s foundational work on astrology. It does cover many, but not all, of the basics of
astrology and, unlike Alcabitius’ work, even introduces two applications of astrology, the first as
it applies to the affairs of nations and peoples, the second to nativities, the use of an astrological
chart to analyse and predict for individual persons based on the time, date and place of birth.114
However, as a text it is so incomplete that one could not possibly learn the practical art of
astrology from it, even though it has always been an influential treatise. By contrast the Liber
astronomicus of Guido Bonatti, the focus of my work here, could indeed be used as a text for
virtually all of medieval astrological practice, allowing for the individual peculiarities of
Bonatti’s methods, and with the understanding that certain specialized branches of medieval
astrology are not covered in Bonatti’s work at all.115
So one can say that the Bologna curriculum of 1405 was an ambitious one in that all of the
works that were prescribed to be read were deep and complex. As Boudet points out, from the
third year genuine astrology occupies a major place in the curriculum but he wonders if the
reading could really have been done and completed in two years even of the four works listed.116
It does not appear that the curriculum was designed to produce practicing medical astrologers.
With its emphasis on the basics of astrology, what some modern scholars have begun to refer to
See chapter 3.
See chapter 3.
Most notably among these Bonatti does not discuss medical astrology at all nor does he explicitly describe
the use of astrology for the purposes of magic, though he does refer to the practice.
Boudet, Entre science et nigromance, 286.
as astrological “physics”117 one has to assume that the detailed knowledge of that subject was to
be obtained outside of the formal academic structure. This is quite possible because in the earlier
period in both Paris and Bologna, astrology lectures were often given on feast days (diebus
festivis) rather than ordinary teaching days (de mane diebus continuis et ordinariis).118 However,
the content of this extra-curricular teaching is undocumented.
Regarding the issues of 1277 and Compromise, all of this was connected to medical training
and none of it violated the principle that celestial bodies could only affect material entities such
as the human body itself.
Let us now turn to Padua. Siraisi in her study of the University of Padua has provided as
much information as possible about the curriculum there as it pertained to astrology.119 Most of
her material, however, appears to be derived from her study of Peter d’Abano whose personal
knowledge and practice of astrology was of an extremely advanced order.120 His major work, the
Conciliator,121 reveals a great depth of knowledge of astrology. Whatever works may or may not
have been part of the Padua curriculum, d’Abano himself seems certainly to have had a
command of most of the subject. He himself was responsible for putting into final shape the
Latin translations of the works of Abraham ibn Ezra (1089-1164)122 a Jewish astrologer who
This term and concept is prominently employed in Steven Vanden Broecke, The Limits of Influence : Pico,
Louvain, and the Crisis of Renaissance Astrology (Leiden: Brill, 2003), 18 and passim.
Boudet, ibid.
Nancy G.Siraisi, Arts and Sciences at Padua: The Studium of Padua before 1350 (Toronto: Pontifical
Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1973), 81-94.
It is alleged that Peter d’Abano also taught at Bologna for a time. Thorndike mentions this citing Mazzuchelli
who denied that he had ever taught at Bologna. However Thorndike mentions that a 1555 edition of Peter d’Abano’s
De venenis mentions his having taught there. Thorndike, H.O.M.E.S., vol. 2, 879. For Mazzuchelli see Giammaria
Mazzuchelli, “Notizie storiche e critiche intorno alla vita di Pietro d’Abano” in Raccolta d’opusculi scientifici e
fisiologici, vol. XXIII (Venice, 1741), xi.
See Chap. 2.
Often referred to in Latin Abenezra, Avenezra, Abraham and variations of these. For an introduction to the
history of Ibn Ezra’s works and translations see Raphael Levy, The Astrological Works of Ibn Ezra (Baltimore: The
Johns Hopkins University Press, 1927). More recent scholarship in this area is to be found in the works of Shlomo
wrote on every major branch of astrology. Familiarity with these works alone would have been
sufficient to have made d’Abano an authority. However, as Siraisi demonstrates, he was also
familiar with most of the Arabic sources available at that time as well.123
Siraisi presents a good deal of inferential evidence as to the nature of astrological study at
Padua before 1350, but in the end we do not have an actual curriculum such as the one contained
in the Statuti. Siraisi sums up the evidence for which works were actually studied at Padua as
part of an astrological curriculum, which was also, as in Bologna, part of the medical curriculum,
as follows:
The texts used by beginning and intermediate students of astrology at Padua as elsewhere,
were probably the Sphere of Sacrobosco and the Theorica planetarum, perhaps with the
addition of the treatise on the quadrant of Robertus Anglicus. To these, between about 1310
and sometime shortly after 1340, were apparently added the Alfonsine Tables, soon adapted
in a specifically Paduan edition. More advanced scholars had at their disposal the Almagest
and Quadripartitum of Ptolemy, a very wide range of Arab authorities in Latin translation,
and the astronomical writings of Peter of Abano.124
With the exception of the addition of the “astronomical writings of Peter of Abano” the basic
writings on astrology were even sparser than at Bologna. Unfortunately we do not know which
authors constituted the “very wide range of Arab authorities in Latin translation,” and whether
they were part of an established curriculum approved by whatever authorities gave such approval
and which ones were studied outside of the curriculum by those motivated to specialize. It is also
not clear from Siraisi how much of this survived Peter d’Abano.
In medieval France, at the University of Paris in particular we find another center of
astrological and astronomical studies. Given the events of 1277 which I have discussed earlier in
Sela. See especially Shlomo Sela and Gad Freudenthal, "Abraham Ibn Ezra's Scholarly Writings: A Chronological
Listing," Aleph, no. 6 (2006): 13-55. Ibn Ezra was also an author of biblical commentaries and was a major figure in
medieval Jewish intellectual history.
Siraisi, Arts and Sciences at Padua, 84.
Siraisi, Arts and Sciences at Padua, 94.
this chapter, one must note that the study of astrology did survive the condemnations of 1277 in
Paris. And while the condemnations were repealed in 1325, it is fair to say that the objections
raised to certain aspects of astrology were not a major factor in bringing about the repeal. As has
been often stated, the primary reason for the repeal was the conflict between the doctrines
condemned in 1277 and the teachings of Aquinas which by 1325 were well on their way to
becoming established orthodoxy.125 So despite the retraction of the condemnations of 1277, one
could easily see why persons interested in astrology in Paris might have wanted to be somewhat
circumspect. Yet this does not seem to have been entirely the case as we shall see from an
instance in John of Saxony’s commentary on Alcabitius.
Astronomical studies (in the modern sense) flourished at Paris. It was in Paris, as I have
already mentioned, that the astronomical tables created under the aegis of Alfonso X (12211284) el Sabio of Castile, usually known as the Alfonsine Tables, received the form in which
they were used as the standard method of computing astronomical positions until early modern
times. The form that they had in the original Castilian version did not lend itself readily to
practical use.126 This work of improvement was performed by Jean de Murs (fl. first half of the
thirteenth century), Jean de Lignères (dates unknown) and John of Saxony.127 The latter two we
have already encountered in connection with the curriculum described in the Statuti. Thorndike
devotes an entire chapter to Jean de Murs in the third volume of H.O.M.E.S.128 In him we find an
individual who had quite a varied career in astrology, astronomy, music and mathematics, but it
See for example Edward Grant, A Source Book in Medieval Science (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University
Press, 1974). 47.
See José Chabás and Bernard R. Goldstein, The Alfonsine Tables of Toledo (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic
Publishers, 2003), 243-306.
Boudet, Entre science et nigromance, 283.
Thorndike, H.O.M.E.S., vol. 3, 294-324.
is not very clear what his exact role was in creating the final form of the Alfonsine Tables other
than that he seems to have had one. From the evidence of the Statuti we see Jean de Lignères as
an astronomer (again in the modern sense) who created one of the two commonly used sets of
canons for the Alfonsine Tables. However, John of Saxony, the creator of the other commonly
used set of canons for the Alfonsine Tables, and his relationship with astrology is another matter.
I have already referred to the fact that John of Saxony wrote a commentary on Alcabitius’ purely
astrological work, that his commentary became a standard part of the early editions of that work
and is referred to in the Statuti. However, as Boudet notes, John of Saxony’s commentary
contains a few surprises. Most of the commentary adheres very closely to the original text, adds
little genuine content or explanation but does elucidate the structure and organization of the
original text. However, in the introduction to his commentary he gives a spirited defense of
astrology against the “sects”129 of those who speak against it in which he makes his own
favorable judgment about astrology very clear. Then, at the end of the commentary on
Alcabitius’ Dufferentia prima130 John includes something that has nothing whatsoever to do with
subject matter of Alcabitius’ text,131 a discussion of the chart of an interrogation entitled
“Interrogatio de absente, utrum vivat aut ne,” (“An Interrogation concerning someone missing:
whether or not he is alive.”)
We do not know whether or not this chart is from John of Saxony’s own experience but it is
an example of exactly the kind of astrology that provoked the wrath of astrology’s opponents in
the Church. Yet here it is in a commentary on the otherwise theologically safe introduction to
Clearly based on the Abu Ma‘shar material mentioned earlier in this chapter.
Alcabitius’ introductorium in the Latin version is divided into five differentiae.
This is aside of course from being about astrology.
astrology of Alcabitius. In this digression from pure commentary, after an analysis of the chart
quite typical of medieval interrogational astrology, John concludes that the missing person is
dead and has been slain by his wife’s lover! Boudet makes an ironic comment, “L'astrologue
n'est plus ici divin, mais devin et détective privé”, “the astrologer here is no longer a divine, but
a diviner and a private detective.”132
Clearly at least one of the persons who was involved in the creation of the perfected version
of the Alfonsine Tables, John of Saxony, practiced or at least understood astrology at a level a
bit beyond that of someone who had simply learned astrology from a curriculum such as the one
given in the Statuti. However, as evidential as this may be as to the level of one person’s
knowledge of astrology, it does not give us any more information about the actual curriculum of
astrology at the University of Paris. We cannot know from this to what degree more advanced
forms of astrology were or were not studied at the University of Paris. However, we can surmise
that something of the sort was being studied somewhere close by because Charles V (1338 –
1380) surrounded himself with astrologers and amassed a considerable library on the subject,
which included a copy of Bonatti’s work.133 All of this was much to the dismay of Nicole
Oresme who attempted to wean Charles away from his apparent dependence on astrology.134
However, to conclude my comments about the University of Paris, the most obvious
contributions, the improved versions of the Alfonsine Tables, and John of Saxony’s commentary
on Alcabitius, what we do know of the activity at Paris seems in accord with the Compromise.135
Turning to England we have a rather different situation than what we find in Italy and
Boudet, Entre science et nigromance, 282-3.
Boudet, Entre science et nigromance, 305-11.
For a detailed study of Oresme and astrology see Nicole Oresme, ed. Coopland.
Aside, of course, from John of Saxony’s interrogation chart.
France. Oxford, as a university, does not seem to have had a formal program that involved
astrology, officially at least. Rashdall mentions that there were “frequent allusions to courses of
astronomy apparently more extended than what was included In the ordinary arts course” and
that there was one instance of someone “admitted to practice in astronomy” in the sixteenth
century.136 It is not clear from Rashdall how much of this was astronomy and how much was
astrology. However, this activity seems to have been focused in one particular college, Merton,
which was definitely a center of astronomical and astrological activity.137 For example, someone,
or some group of persons, at Merton recast the Alfonsine Tables for the longitude of Oxford.
Most of the activity was in the first half of the fourteenth century at about the same time as the
astronomical work (in both senses of the term) in Paris. Among the better-known figures
associated with this group was Richard of Wallingford about whom J.D. North has written
One figure, however, stands out as having particular interest for the discussion here, John of
Ashendon, variously referred to as Eshendon, Eschenden, Eschuid, and many other variations.139
(I use the form ‘Ashendon’ in this discussion.) His major work, the Summa astrologiae judicialis
de accidentibus mundi, is the first major, original work by an Englishman on the subject of
astrology.140 It is an introduction to the study of the revolutiones annorum mundi, already
Hastings Rashdall, The Universities of Europe in the Middle Ages, 3 vols., edited by F. M. Powicke and A.
B. Emden (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1936), vol. 3, 160-161 and note.
For a general overview of Merton’s role, see Carey, Courting Disaster, 58-78.
See the following works by J.D. North: Richard of Wallingford and the Invention of Time (New York:
MacMillan, 2005); Richard of Wallingford: An Edition of His Writings, 3 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976); and
Chaucer’s Universe (New York: Oxford University Press,, 1988). This last work in interesting because it reinforces
what we know about the status of Alcabitius’ text in medieval astrology. It appears to be the only Latin text on
astrology translated into middle English.
Thorndike, H.O.M.E.S., vol. 3, 324-46. Thorndike prefers the form Eshendon, Carey uses the form
The one printed edition uses the form of his name, Eschuid. See Eschuid, Summa astrologiae judicialis de
accidentibus mundi (Venice: Franciscus Bolanus, 1489).
described in Chap. 2 as related to mass events and behavior not having any bearing on individual
persons.141 This is a use of astrology explicitly mentioned by Aquinas as acceptable in the
passage from the Summa theologiae because it had little to do with individual freedom of the
will. Mass behavior was apparently viewed as something derived from the emotions of the
members of a group and therefore less immediately affecting the intellect. It is significant, I
believe, in that it is the only astrological work to come out the Merton circle, or from any other
source in England until the Elizabethan Age, and it is in an area of astrology, theologically
speaking, quite safe. Ashendon’s Summa was derived in its basics from the earlier work by Abu
Ma‘shar According to Thorndike, it is a rather long-winded work and as a result other authors
based shorter works upon it, or in one case, John de Ponte, simply abridged the original.142
While North in Horoscopes and History, and Carey in Courting Disaster show evidence of
the practice of nativities in England in this period and before,143 we have no evidence of its
having been taught as part of the official university curriculum at Oxford. The most that we can
say is that Oxford students got no more, and probably not as much, of an introduction to
astrology as students in Bologna, Padua, or Paris and it was similarly in accord with the
As for the Kingdoms of Spain, we know from the works of Haskins,144 Thorndike145 and
other scholars, that the Spanish peninsula was the center of the movement to translate Arabic
See chapter 3.
Thorndike, H.O.M.E.S., 330
North mentions several charts of events and nativities a bit earlier than our period in connection with the
reign of king Stephen, specifically Geoffrey of Anjou, the father of Henry II and Henry II, himself. These are
interesting because they are very early examples of Arabic style astrology in England. See J.D. North, Horoscopes
and History, 104-5. Carey discusses the same charts but her material is largely derived from North’s work. Carey,
Courting Disaster, 30-31.
See Haskins, Studies.
Lynn Thorndike, H.O.M.E.S., vol. 2, 14-49, 66-98, 307-337.
works into Latin and that among these were many of the major works of Arabic astrologers. If
one examines Haskins or Carmody simply to list the number of translations of astrological works
that were made on the Spanish peninsula, one will quickly discover that the majority were done
in Spain although not entirely by Spaniards. Some were done by persons who came from
elsewhere in Europe including Adelard of Bath from England, Hermann of Karinthia, Robert of
Ketton and others. Then there is one of the most prolific of the astrological translators, John of
Seville, about whom we know little except that he was of Spanish origin. In other cases scholars
who were fluent in Latin but not in Arabic worked with native Spaniards who were fluent in
Arabic but not Latin. The latter would translate the Arabic into medieval Castilian, and the Latin
scholar would translate the Castilian into Latin.146
Neither Boudet or Ryan’s A Kingdom of Stargazers147 show any indication that astrology
was part of the curriculum of medieval Spanish universities. Astrology in the Spanish kingdoms
seems to have largely been a matter or royal patronage. From Ryan we can add Pere el
Ceremoniós (r.1336-1387)148 and Joan el Caçador (r.1387-1396) of Aragon to the
aforementioned Alfonso X of Castile.
By the mid-fourteenth century astrology appears to have found a stable position within
medieval intellectual life. In theory at least, as long as an astrologer kept the terms of the
compromise, there was not likely to be any difficulty.149 But we do have to ask the question; how
well did the terms of the Compromise actually limit and define what astrologers did and what the
Haskins mentions this practice. Haskins, Studies, 13-18.
Michael A Ryan, A Kingdom of Stargazers: Astrology and Authority in the Late Medieval Crown of Aragon
(Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2011).
Pere is also mentioned in this respect by Boudet, Entre science et nigromance, 314.
See pp. 83 to 84 in this chapter for the summary of the terms of Compromise.
art was used for? Did astrologers keep to the terms of the Compromise and if not were they
punished as a result? This is a larger question than can be answered in this work, but it is clear
from a few cases that whether or not the compromise accurately defined the scope of astrological
activity. The case of John of Saxony in his commentary on the first differentia of Alcabitius is a
case in point.150
One figure who has been reputed to have gotten into difficulty for going beyond the bounds
of the Compromise was Peter d’Abano mentioned in Chapter 2. The facts in his case, whether he
was tried once, twice, or at all, ever found guilty as charged etc. are extremely murky. Thorndike
came to the conclusion that he was tried once and acquitted but he does not find evidence of a
second trial.
The situation of Cecco d’Ascoli (1257 - 1327) is another matter. He was clearly tried on
some charge or other, was found guilty of heresy, and was burned at the stake. What is not clear
is exactly what he was supposed to have done.151
One astrologer who clearly went outside of the bounds of the Compromise was one Antonio
de Montulmo (fl. late fourteenth century) who not only wrote on astrology152 but also composed
a treatise entitled Liber intelligentiarum de occultis et manifestis.153 According to Thorndike this
treatise was one of those “cursed books of necromancers on images, illusions, characters, rings,
sigils” as the author of the Speculum Astronomiae put it.154 What is interesting is that, according
to Thorndike, Montulmo appears to have attracted no attention on the part of the inquisition. So
here we have a clear example of an astrologer well after the working out of the Compromise who
See p. 93 of this chapter.
On d’Ascoli see Thorndike, H.O.M.E.S., vol. 2, 948-968.
See Chapter 1, p. 21, n. 56
Bibliothèque nationale de France MS 7337. See Thorndike, H.O.M.E.S., vol. 3, 604-610.
See p. 37.
did not adhere to its terms. This again raises the question as to the extent that the terms of the
Compromise determined which applications of astrology were actually used. The application of
astrology to warfare as we find in Bonatti, his use of interrogations to gain information of great
specificity certainly went beyond the application of astrology solely to those aspects of human
behavior which are influenced by the physical body. Of course, it could be argued that Bonatti
lived during the period when the Compromise was coming into being and may not have yet
achieved its final form. However, Bonatti was a contemporary of both Aquinas and Bacon and
clearly was alive when the condemnations of 1277 were issued. It is also clear on an examination
of the contents of Tractatus I that Bonatti was not philosophically ignorant of the issues that
astrology raised.155 Yet he did not adhere to important elements of the Compromise.156 It is also
clear from Dante’s description of Bonatti in Hell that he was regarded in the next generations as
having gone outside of the boundaries of acceptable astrology. However, the continuing
popularity of his work in manuscript and later in printed editions containing astrology that often
went beyond the scope of the Compromise suggests that Compromise did not effectively limit
the scope of the applications of astrology. As interesting and historically significant as the
Compromise may be, for historians it cannot serve as a reliable guide to the applications for
Tractatus I is a philosophical defense of astrology against its critics.
A possible example of Bonatti going far outside of what was acceptable is contained in story that Thorndike
recounts about his making an astrological image for a poor apothecary with whom he played chess. Bonatti made a
wax image of a ship to bring him good fortune. The apothecary was told to put it in a secret place and keep it there,
never to remove it. Afterwards, the apothecary did grow wealthy but then became afraid of the possible magic
involved. The apothecary confessed the matter to a priest who told him to destroy it the image. This he did, and he
became poor again. He asked Bonatti, so the story goes, to make another image. Bonatti told him that the image was
not magic, but “had derived its virtue from constellations that would not recur for another fifty years.” Bonatti may
not have regarded this as magic, but it is clear from the Speculum astronomiae and other sources that the Church
would have considered this magic, and illicit. The problem is that the ultimate source of this story is not known.
However, it does give us some further information on Bonatti’s reputation with respect to applications of astrology.
Thorndike cites as his source the following: Muratori, Rerum Italicarum Scriptores, revised edition, Fasc. 20, 1903,
p. 105. (I have reproduced the citation exactly Thorndike as gives it.) I have not been able to locate this particular
edition. See Thorndike, H.O.M.E.S., vol. 2, 835.
which astrology was employed in later medieval life without corroboration from other sources.
We are still left not knowing what the relationship was between astrology described in the
“encyclopedic texts” and astrology in actual practice beyond the few instances I have cited
I propose that the methods described in the later chapters of this work, the close reading of
astrological texts and the comparison of parallel material from author to author, will help
historians to determine more exactly the scope of the actual practice of later medieval astrology
and do so from within the texts themselves independently of sources outside of the astrology.
Chapter 4. The General Evolution of Astrological Ideas as Evidenced in the Texts
An Overview of Change versus Tradition in Astrology.1
The Evolution of Astrological Ideas in General.
The historian of astrology must understand the ways in which medieval astrological texts
were conservative and the ways in which they were not. As mentioned, it has been stated more
than once that “that astrology is largely unchanged since Ptolemy,”2 and it is true that the
conservatism of medieval astrology was dissimilar in this respect to the methods of modern
research and scholarship. The faithful transmission of tradition was often (although not always
as we shall see) valued more highly than innovation or new discoveries. Authorities were cited
to give material increased credibility and material was also transmitted without attribution
(although transmitted nonetheless) in the same apparent spirit of preserving the tradition.
Sometimes transmissions were made with astonishing fidelity to the original texts, virtually
quotations, whether the source was cited or not. Whole paragraphs complete with metaphors and
imagery would often move from author to author with little change except for copying errors.
This kind of transmission was common in both Hellenistic and medieval astrological works as
well as works in the Hindu tradition.
Yet there was change and evolution, as this and later chapters will argue. Contrary to
assertions of some, the astrology of the Latin Middle Ages and the astrology of Claudius
Ptolemy are very different as I have already shown in Chap. 2. There are times and there are
authors in which we see a good deal of new material which seems to have no origin except the
Some of this material has been presented previously in a paper as yet unpublished given at the Warburg
Institute in Nov. 2008. Here it has been substantially revised and augmented.
See p. 9.
experience (and possibly theorizing) of individual astrological authors. As the tradition was
transmitted from author to author I find that the changes can be grouped into two major
categories both of which in turn have two subdivisions. The two major categories consist of
material which evolved little if at all and those that show evolution in various and significant
ways. The first category, as stated above, may be subdivided into two subdivisions, material that
did not evolve at all, and material that did change somewhat but not in a way that fundamentally
altered either methods or doctrine. The second major category, material which did clearly
evolve, likewise as stated, has two divisions. The first involves changes in methods and doctrine
but do not alter the fundamental, medieval tradition. The second subdivision involves radical
change that did lead to alteration of the medieval tradition. Each of these is described below.
Starting with my first major category, that of astrological doctrines that evolve very little if at
all, the first, most conservative subdivision shows the highest degree of constancy from author to
author. It is clear that some, if not many, authors copied material from earlier authors, often
without attribution, simply to fill in the gaps in areas which were outside the range of the
authors’ own experience. This is especially found in the “encyclopedic” texts of the kind
described earlier. Given the range of topics and applications in the astrological tradition no one
could ever possibly have practiced every aspect of the astrological art. So to fill in the gaps in
personal knowledge an author would take whole passages from previous authors. In Johannes
Schoener’s De iudiciis nativitatum, Book II3 (1545) we find an example of this type of
transmission in which not only the words were faithfully copied but even an error in the edition
of original text from which the material came:
Schoener, De iudiciis, fol. 84r. See Chapter 2, p. 57.
In secunda, victus eius erit ratione servorum, aut pro dando bestias ad victoriam, et quod inde
lucrabitur, modicum erit…
[The ruler of the sixth house]4 …in the second house, his livelihood will be in the manner of
servants, or from providing beasts for victory, and what profit he makes from this will be
From an edition of Haly Abenragel the same passage.5
…in secunda: victus nati erit ratione servorum: aut pro dando bestias ad victuram: et quod
inde lucrabitur modicum erit…
The two passages are nearly identical except for the underlined words, eius – nati and ad
victoriam – ad victuram. However, the phrase in Schoener, “ad victoriam” where Haly has “ad
victuram” makes no sense. The Haly passage also makes little sense, however, because there is
no documented root word for victuram which works in this context.6 However, there are two
possible solutions for this. Another, later, edition of the Haly text7 has ad vecturam which does
makes sense as vectura means ‘hauling’. So while the Schoener passage reads “dando bestias ad
victoriam”, “providing beasts for victory,” with the correction from the later edition of Haly we
The ruler of a house is a planet that has a strong relationship to the sign in the house. When a planet is in such
a sign, it benefits from that placement and is said to be “essentially dignified.” When it is not in such a sign, it still
has an influence on the affairs represented by the house occupied by that sign in which it is dignified. Houses in turn
are a twelve-fold division of the chart, usually distinct from the signs, which enable the astrologer to assign
particular areas of the chart to particular areas of life. See the section in the Introduction to Medieval Astrology in
the appendix and the Glossary under DIGNITY, RULERSHIP, and ESSENTIAL DIGNITY.
Ali ibn abi +r-Rijal [Haly Aben Ragel], Preclarissimus liber completus in iudiciis astrorum quem edidit
albohazen haly filius abenragel (Venice: Erhardt Ratdolt, 1485), f77v. Hereafter this will be referred to as Haly
Abenragel, Ratdolt ed.
This is based on my having consulted Du Cange, Latham, and Lewis and Short. See Charles Du Fresne sieur
du Cange, Glossarium mediae et infimae Latinitatis, 10 vols. (Niort: L. Favre, 1883); R. E. Latham, Revised
Medieval Latin Word-List from British and Irish Sources (London: Oxford University Press, 1980); Charlton T
Lewis, and Charles Short Harper’s Latin Dictionary. A New Latin Dictionary Founded on the Translation of
Freund’s Latin-German Lexicon (New York: American Book Company, 1907). I have also used the computer
implementations of Lewis and Short on Perseus and a stand-alone software implementation, Diogenes.
Haly Abenragel, Albohazen Haly filii Abenragel libri de iudiciis astrorum (Basel: Henrichus Petrus, 1551),
205. This edition was substantially edited so as to bring the Latin into closer accord with the standards of humanistic
Latin. This often damaged the meaning of the original Latin translation but in this case the editing may have
improved the text. I have referred to this edition throughout this work because sometimes the editors, who were a bit
closer to the medieval astrological tradition than I, may have understood obscurities in the original text. At other
times they “improved” the Latin where they could to no effect and transmitted many serious obscurities unchanged.
have “dando bestias ad vecturam”, “providing beasts for haulage.” The second solution is to
suggest that original text in Haly had “dando bestias ad victuriam” where victuriam could have
easily been read as victoriam simply by reading a ‘u’ as an ‘o’ in a manuscript. This would
translate as “providing beasts for food.”8 Both readings, ad vecturam and ad victuriam, fit the
astrological symbolism which Schoener’s does not.9 Since much of this portion of Book II in
Schoener is lifted verbatim from the Latin translation of Haly’s work, not always accurately, the
“correction” in the Schoener of victuram, vecturam, or victuriam to victoriam does at least result
in a proper Latin noun even if the wrong one. It also seems that the copying or editing in
Schoener was done deliberately but unintelligently. While such wholesale copying, as we see in
Schoener, is considered unacceptable in modern scholarship (it is plagiarism), in its day it was
merely an instance of passing on the tradition. And we see here how it has the additional bonus
of enabling the historian to repair damaged transmissions of text from one author to another.
The above example involved a technique which was clearly employed by medieval
astrologers, namely the analysis of what it means when the ruler of one house is found in another
house. This kind of material is found in most, if not all, textbooks of medieval astrology and
often the material is original. I have no clear evidence as to why Schoener only copied earlier
material but it is probably a sign that he was personally not an active practitioner, merely a
compiler. As such this is a simple example of how one can judge what an astrologer actually did
in practice from internal evidence in a text.
Then there are the “fossils,” once living parts of the astrological tradition that had by the
See entry under victuria in Du Cange. My thanks to Dr. Katherine Jansen for this possible reading of the text.
The point of the text here is to show a blending of the significations of the second house, source of income,
with the sixth house which has a range of meanings. According to Al-biruni and many other sources, the sixth house
denotes, among other things cattle and slaves. See Al-Biruni, Book of Instruction, 275.
medieval Latin period fallen out of use. Two examples of these are subdivisions of zodiacal
signs faithfully described in most medieval textbooks, both Arabic and Latin, but hardly, if ever,
used either in actual examples of charts, or in descriptions of more advanced methods that might
have employed them. These are the divisions of the signs of 30Einto nine equal parts of 3E20',
and into twelve equal parts of 2E30'. In the form in which they appear in medieval astrology they
appear to come from Hindu astrology where they are to found to this day as basic tools of Hindu
astrological practice.10 They are known as navamsas and dwadasamsas respectively in the Hindu
texts, and as novenaria or novenae for the ninefold division and dodecatemoria,11 duodenaria12
or duodecimae13 for the twelve-fold division in medieval Latin astrology. In the sixteenth century
the duodenaria do make a come back in an older form as found in Greek texts where they are
designated in Latin by the name dodecathemoria (the plural form of the Greek) with an
additional ‘h’.14 This reappearance of the technique in the early modern period in Schoener may
be due to the influx of Greek texts from Byzantium which might have made the technique again
briefly fashionable. However, the usage in Schoener is the only instance I have found.15
Now let us turn to our second category of conservative transmissions, text that contains
Varaha Mihira, The Brihat Jataka of Varaha Mihira, N. Chisambaram Aiyar trans. (Madras, India: Minerva
Press, 1905), 5-6. The descriptions given here can be found in any basic text of Hindu astrology.
This is simply a latinization of the Greek word δωδεκατημόρια (dōdekatēmoria). The additional ‘h’ after the
‘t’ was no doubt to force the reader to give a hard ‘t’ pronunciation rather than the ‘tz’ pronunciation common to the
letter ‘t’ preceding an ‘e’ or an ‘i’.
Used by Hermann of Karinthia in his translation into Latin of Abu Ma‘shar’s Greater Introduction. See Abu
Ma‘shar, Liber Introductorii maioris, vol. 8, 88.
Found in John of Seville, Epitome Totius Astrologiae (Nuremberg: Ioannis Montanus and Ulric Neuber,
1548), fols. Br- C2r. It is used throughout the descriptions of the signs here.
See O. Neugebauer and H.B. van Hoesen, Greek Horoscopes (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society,
1959), 6. There is a description of what appears to be the older form of the dodecatemoria in the introductory
glossary of terms provided by the authors.
In Schoener’s, De Iudiciis Nativitatum, fols. 4v-5r there is an introduction to the method which closely
parallels the kind of material found in earlier medieval Latin texts. However, scattered through the text are
aphorisms which actually employ this method. This is what is unusual in Schoener’s presentation. No other author of
which I am aware gives any indication of its use. There are two examples from Book I, fol. 14v. There are other
examples in Schoener as well.
material that is so much a part of basic astrological method as used in this period that it is also
transmitted faithfully from author to author but not verbatim and not unintelligently. The original
source material is often amplified with commentary and explanation. There are frequent
examples of chart interpretations which employ these methods to demonstrate their use
(especially in early modern texts) and these examples are often from the authors’ own times.
However, little or none of the material is genuinely new. There is some change, however, that
may have occurred due to shifts in theory that occurred as the result of the influence of Abu
Ma‘shar’s reforms. Abu Ma‘shar (according to Richard LeMay)16 made astrology systematically
Aristotelian. Prior to his time, insofar as astrology had a coherent philosophical basis, it was
based on a mixture of Pythagorean, Stoic, Platonic, Hermetic and Aristotelian principles derived
from late classical philosophy. Ptolemy himself, although he is often characterized as an
Aristotelian, exhibited exactly that kind of mixture.17 So Ptolemaic methods that depended on
particular non-Aristotelian principles were modified somewhat to bring them into accord with
Abu Ma‘shar’s Aristotelian “reform.”
The following is an example in a technique derived from Ptolemy in the one area of natal
astrology which attempts to deal with an individual’s psychological makeup and personality, as
opposed to his or her “destiny.” Antonius de Montulmo (d. c.1400) in his discussion of the
medieval version of this technique refers to it in the title of his chapter, “De natura, intellectu,
sensu, ac moribus nati.”18 Here he describes the traditional method for deriving the basic
character traits of an individual from the birth chart. In Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos, Book III the
Lemay, Abu Ma‘shar and Latin Aristotelianism. See especially the first part of the book.
This is well described in Taub, Ptolemy’s Universe. See especially the early chapters.
Antonius de Montulmo, De iudiciis nativitatum (Nuremberg: Johannes Petreius, 1540) chapter 9.
equivalent chapter is entitled in the Robbins translation as “Of the Quality of the Soul.”19 ‘Soul’
as used here means something more like what we would call ‘mind.’ The Latin reflects this.
Montulmo’s Latin title translates as “On the Nature, Intellect, Understanding and Character of a
Native.” A close comparison of the two texts reveals that Montulmo’s material is based on, and
in fact is closely derived from Ptolemy. Here is an example of the soul-type dominated by Saturn
in combination with Mars, one of the most dramatic descriptions in this entire category. First
from Ptolemy.
Saturn, allied with Mars, in honourable positions makes his subjects neither good nor bad,
industrious, outspoken, nuisances, cowardly braggarts, harsh in conduct, without pity,
contemptuous, rough, contentious, rash, disorderly, deceitful, layers of ambushes, tenacious
of anger, unmoved by pleading, courting the mob, tyrannical, grasping, haters of the
citizenry, fond of strife, malignant, evil through and through, active, impatient, blustering,
vulgar, boastful, injurious, unjust, not to be despised, haters of mankind, inflexible,
unchangeable, busybodies, but at the same time adroit and practical, not to be overborne by
rivals, and in general successful in achieving their ends. In the opposite positions he makes
his subjects robbers, pirates, adulterators, submissive to disgraceful treatment, takers of base
profits, godless, without affection, insulting, crafty, thieves, perjurers, murderers, eaters of
forbidden foods, evildoers, homicides, poisoners, impious, robbers of temples and of tombs,
and utterly depraved.20
But if Saturn signifies about the native’s spirit,21 and Saturn is well-disposed, as has been
described, and he is joined especially bodily, or by aspect, with Mars, or sharing in rulership
with Mars well-disposed, or bodily joined to some fixed star of a nature similar [to Mars] of
the first or second magnitude within the terms as described previously, this signifies that the
native’s soul22 will possess gross intelligence; he will be daring, desiring to obtain victory
quickly in everything; he will hold on to hostilities, and never be obedient to anyone, nor will
he ever absolve himself of any sin which he has committed so that he will be tenacious in his
malice, crude without any piety, and will throw himself into everything, and wherever fear is
Περ ποιότητος ψυχ ς (Peri poiotêtos psuchês). Ptolemy, Robbins trans., 332-333.
Ptolemy, Robbins trans., 343.
Usually the word anima, translated as ‘soul’, was used. But here the author uses spiritus, translated as ‘spirit’.
There is no obvious reason for the change in terminology.
Here Montulmo reverts anima as his term for ‘soul’.
intense; he despises everything; he will be a sower of discord, will love strife and put it forth,
and he will be a traitor; he will freely perform barbaric acts, be full of lies, and he will bear
the worst kind of envy; he will regard kings, princes, and nobles with hatred; he will be a
completely rustic boor, completely iniquitous, and he will do harm to mankind, nor will he
fear on any account; he will involve himself with many things and will commit nothing to
completion; [he will be] hasty and sudden in his own actions, and not able to sustain
anything, and he will prosper in all things of the sort [that do not require persistence]; he will
delight in hypocrisy, and will wish to seem to be good.
But if they are both badly disposed, and in contrary and unsuitable places, it signifies that
the native will be desirous of things belonging to others, a plunderer, a brigand, a robber on
the highways, and wishes to live entirely by evil gain; nor will he fear God, nor anything
holy; he will be a blasphemer, nor will he love any of his own friends, and will be a deceiver
of all persons, a betrayer, and thief and robber; he will be an assassin and a bloody murderer;
he will steal things which are in churches; he will even go to tombs and drag out the bodies
of the dead so that he may have their clothes; he will adore demons, and on this account he
will delight in necromancy; he will commit incest and adultery, and he will not dream or
think of anything except harming people; every evil and every iniquity will seem a comfort
to him; he makes sport of, in fact he will rejoice in, every iniquity, every malicious act which
can be thought of so that such a native will be obstinately the worst.
And if one of these planets should be well-disposed, and the other planet unfortunate, it
increases the malice of the first signification, and remits the malice of the second
signification, and in this way you will judge correspondingly.23
Montulmo is the more wordy of the two, but the two passages clearly describe the same general
kind of character (or lack thereof).
Quod si Saturnus significabitur spiritus eius, et fuerit bene dispositus, ut dictum est, et fuerit coniunctus
corporaliter maxime, vel per aspectum Marti, vel secum particeps in dominio bene disposito, consimili vel alicui
stellae primae vel secundae magnitudinis corporaliter sit coniunctus, infra terminos superius dictos, significat quod
anima nati erit grossae intelligentiae, erit audax, subita volens in omnibus victoriam obtinere, retinebit inimicitias, et
nunquam alicui obediet, nec unquam excusabit se peccato quod fecit, ita erit pertinax in malicia, rudus absque aliqua
pietate, et mittet se ad omne, et ubicunque fuerit intensus timor omnia vilipendet, erit seminator discordiarum, et
rixas amabit ac rixas ponit, erit proditor, et libenter faciet baratarias, plenus mendacris, et portabit unam pessimam
invidiam, habebit odio Reges et Principes ac nobiles, erit totus rusticus, totusque iniquus, et nocebit hominibus, nec
timebit de aliquo casu, de multis se intromittet, et nihil ad executionem mandabit, festinus et subitus in factis suis,
nec aliquid poterit tollerare, et his omnibus talibus prosperabitur, delectabitus in hypocrisi, et volet videri bonus.
Sed si ambo fuerint male dispositi, et in locis contrariis et disconvenientibus, significat quod natus erit homo
desiderativus rerum alienarum, depraedator, malendrinus, et spoliator in viis, et vult vivere ex omni lucro malo, non
timebit Deum, nec aliquem sanctum, erit blashemator, nec amabit aliquem amicorum suorum, et omnium
personarum, deceptor, proditor, fur, atque latro, erit siccarius et humani sanguinis interfector, depraedit res quae sunt
in ecclesiis, imo ibit ad sepulturas, et extrahit corpora mortuorum ut habet vestes, adorabit daemones, et hac de causa
se in Nigromantia delectabit, committet incestus et adulteria, nec aliquid somniabit nec cogitabit nisi hominibus
nocere, et omne malum et omnis iniquitas solatia sibi videbuntur, et ludit, imo gaudebit omni iniquitate, omni
malicia quae excogitari posset, ita quod talis natus erit pessimus inobstinate.
Et si unus eorum fuerit bene dispositus, et alter infortunatus, augebit maliciam primi significati, et remittit
maliciam secundi significati, et sic proportionaliter iudicabis. — Montulmo, De iudiciis, fol. Kr
The difference lies in the model of the soul itself. Here is the beginning of Ptolemy’s passage
on the quality of the soul.
Of the qualities of the soul, those which concern the reason and the mind are apprehended by
means of the condition of Mercury observed on the particular occasion; and the qualities of
the sensory and irrational part are discovered from the one of the luminaries which is the
more corporeal, that is, the moon, and from the planets which are configurated with her in
her separations and applications.24
Here is the parallel passage from Montulmo. It is much more complex and contains an important
Regarding a native’s nature, understanding and character, the astrologer is obliged to
investigate by means of an exact method because many factors come together here for
consideration. Where should you look first? First you should look at this according to the
three powers of the soul, because one is a vegetative power, the second is a sensitive power,
and the last an intellective power. In the second book of De anima, the Philosopher explains
what each one of these three powers is. First, the principal significators25 of the vegetative
power are the ascendant, the Moon, and the almuten26 of the ascendant, also [any] planet
which is in the ascendant (especially if has any dignity in that place), the lords of the
triplicity27 of the ascendant, and the place that has been chosen as the Hyleg.28 However, the
principal significators of the sensitive power are the Moon, the almuten of the ascendant,29
also a planet that is in the ascendant, and that luminary which has authority.30 Finally, the
principal significators of the intellective power are Mercury, the Almuten of the ascendant,
and the Moon.
[All of this is so] even though Ptolemy (and others) have principally considered the
places of Mercury and the Moon. They consider the place of Mercury for the native’s reason
and intellect. They consider the Moon in so far as it concerns the complexion and harmony
which the body has with regard to the soul, because the soul, when it possesses the proper
dispositions and instrumentality operates properly within the body and within the reason.
Ptolemy, Robbins trans., 333.
‘Significator’ is the astrological term of art in both Latin and English for a planet with a special ability to
signify something in a chart. See SIGNIFICATOR in the Glossary.
A kind of ruler. It is that planet which has the most dignity in the position of the ascendant. See ALMUTEN in
the Glossary.
See TRIPLICITY in the Glossary.
A point in the chart that is supposed to have the strongest effect in determining the basic vitality of the chart.
See HYLEG in the Glossary.
The original text had sunt ascendens Lunae in Almuten ascendentis. I have amended it as it appears above. In
medieval manuscripts Lunae would have been written Lune which is not very different in poor lettering from Luna.
The word ‘in’ in medieval manuscripts can be written as in ‘i’ with a long-mark over it as ī. The tironian symbol for
et looks like a 7. Again it would be easy to confuse the two symbols given poor lettering.
The Sun in a daytime chart, the Moon in a nighttime chart.
Whence it was Ptolemy’s intention that the Moon signify these passions of the body, that it
should signify merriment, agility, so that the body would be obedient to the soul. Whence it
will be necessary to consider the soul in causing the operations of the sensitive power,
because without sensation being directly or indirectly involved, understanding could not
occur in created beings.31 On that account Ptolemy considered the place of the Moon, and of
Mercury when one had to understand the operative power of the intellect.
According to his intention, it [also] seemed that one should consider the ascendant,
because it signifies the native’s body, and also the Almuten of the ascendant because it
signifies the native’s body and the disposition of the native’s soul. According to the
disposition of the aforesaid factors, and their places, the astrologer can make a judgement of
the matter [of the native’s soul, etc.] from the powers just described. All of these have been
connected because the intellective power presupposes the sensitive power, and the sensitive
power presupposes the vegetative.32
At this point it should be noted that it is not necessary here to understand the complexities of the
process and the astrological technical language used. The differences between Ptolemy and
Montulmo are contained in the ordinary language portions of the material.
Putting aside for the moment the fact that Montulmo’s description of the method of deriving
information about an individual’s character is much more detailed, there are, as I have stated
above, two different models of the soul here as well. Ptolemy’s model has two levels, “reason
Many thanks to Dr. Timothy Noone of The Catholic University of America for his assistance in this passage.
Subtili via debet Astrologus investigare, de natura, sensu, ac moribus nati, quoniam multa conveniunt hic
considerando unde debes primo scire, quod hoc debes primo videre secundum tres potentias animae. Quia quaedam
est potentia vegetativa, quaedam sensitiva, quaedam intellectiva, et quae sit unaquaeque patet a Philosopho secundo
de anima. Principales significatores primo vegetativae, sunt ascendens, Luna et Almuten ascendentis, et planeta qui
fuit in ascendente, maxime si hic dignitatem aliqua habuerit, ac domini triplicitatis ascendentis, et locus qui fuerit
electus Hyleg. Principales vero significatores potentiae sensitivae, sunt Luna Almuten ascendentis, et planeta qui
fuerit in ascendente, et luminare cuius fuerit auctoritas. Potentiae vero intellectivae principales significatores sunt
Mercurii Almuten ascendentis, et Luna.
Et licet Ptolemaeus et alii principaliter consideraverunt locum Mercurii et locum Lunae. Considerant locum
Mercurii pro ratione et intellectu nati, et Lunam considerant quantum ad complexionem et harmoniam, quam habet
corpus ad animam, quoniam anima habendo debitas dispositiones et instrumenta in corpore debite operatur, et in
ratione. Unde ex intentione Ptolemaei fuit, quod Luna significaret has passiones corporis, et significaret hilaritatem
et agi-litatem, ut id sit obediens animae, unde necessarium erit considerare ipsam ad faciendum operationes
potentiae sensitivae, quia absque sensu mediate vel immediate, non poterit fieri intellectio in creatis. Ideo
Ptolemaeus considerabat locum Lunae et Mercurii cum sciendi operativam intellectus nati.
Videtur iuxta eius intentionem, quod debes considerare ascendens, quod significat corpus nati, et etiam Almuten
ascendentis, quod significat corpus et dispositionem animae nati, et secundum dispositionem praedictarum, et eorum
locorum de hoc potest Astrologus de praedictis potentiis nati iudicare. Ista quidem omnia sunt annexa, quia potentia
intellectiva praesupponit sensitiva, et potentia sensitiva praesupponit vegetativa. – Montulmo, De iudiciis, fol. Kv.
and the mind” which he relates to Mercury, and the “sensory and irrational part” which he relates
to the Moon. Montulmo has a tripartite division which is clearly derived from Aristotle’s De
anima, the division of the soul into the vegetative, animal or sensory, and the intellective. These
three divisions, or “powers” as they are referred to in Montulmo, are signified by groups of
astrological symbols including the ascendant (completely ignored by Ptolemy), the almuten of
the ascendant, planets in the ascendant (both of which were also ignored by Ptolemy), the Moon,
and Mercury.
The source of the twofold model of the soul found in Ptolemy is not easy to find in
Hellenistic sources. An examination of Julia Annas’ Hellenistic Philosophy of Mind 33 revealed
no major tradition which held such a view, neither Aristotle, nor the Stoics, nor the Epicureans.
However, one can find such a model of the soul in the Corpus Hermeticum specifically in Book
XII, “Discourse of Hermes Trismegistus: On the mind shared in common, to Tat.”34 That this
doctrine of the twofold soul may stem from this source is supported in Iamblichus, On the
The true situation in this regard must be explained to you at some length, on the basis of
Hermetic concepts. For as these writings tell us, the human has two souls: one derives from
the primary intelligible, partaking also of the power of the demiurge, while the other is
contributed to us from the circuit of the heavenly bodies, and into this there slips the soul that
sees god. This being the case, the soul which descends to us from the (celestial) realms
accommodates itself to the circuits of those realms, but that which is present to us in an
intelligible mode from the intelligible transcends the cycle of generation, and it is in virtue of
it that we may attain to emancipation from fate and ascent to the intelligible gods.35
Julia E. Annas, Hellenistic Philosophy of Mind (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press,
Brian P. Copenhaver, Hermetica: The Greek Corpus Hermeticum and the Latin Asclepius in a New English
Translation, with Notes and Introduction (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992).
Iamblichus, Iamblichus: De Mysteriis, trans. John M. Dillon, Emma C. Clark, and Jackson P. Hershbell
(Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature, 2003), 319-321. Further explanation of sources of this doctrine in
Iamblichus is contained in n. 440 at the bottom of the p. 319 in this edition. Inge in his Philosophy of Plotinus also
cites an attribution of the doctrine of the two-level soul to Numenius. However, he also acknowledges that this was a
It is impossible to say exactly from whom Ptolemy derived this model, but it does appear to
have been current in his time. The Aristotelian tripartite model described in Book II of De anima
was also definitely known in Ptolemy’s time but Aristotle’s philosophy was not yet the dominant
force that it became in the middle ages at the hands of Arab and later Latin philosophers.
However, after the end of classical antiquity his system was the most complete and
comprehensive system of philosophy of any that had survived from the classical era; it became
the tool for the synthesis of all knowledge and understanding in the middle ages. This also
happened in astrology as Lemay has shown. After Abu Ma‘shar all astrology in the Middle East
and Latin West came to be reformulated in terms of Aristotle’s philosophy. This includes the
physics, the astronomy (mediated by Ptolemy) and even the psychology. The shift between
Ptolemy and Montulmo shows this change. I will not deny that Montulmo exhibited considerable
originality. I have found no other author who gives such a coherent argument as to why
Ptolemy’s model was incomplete and needed to be modified along Aristotelian lines but the fact
remains Montulmo’s teaching on the soul was not new doctrine. It was the adaptation of a
Ptolemaic model to Aristotelian psychology. And in the end even within the Aristotelian
astrology of Montulmo’s day, there were other astrologers who continued to adhere to a
Ptolemaic model quite unchanged from Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos.36
Now we come to the first of our two modes in which the texts did truly evolve, changes and
additions to traditions without fundamentally changing the outline of the material. Here we see
evolution of such a kind that leads us to suspect that the individual astrologers involved must
wide-spread doctrine in later Greek philosophy. See William Ralph Inge, The Philosophy of Plotinus, vol. 1
(London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1918), 94.
For example, see Johannes Schoener, De iudiciis nativitatum, fols. 32r-35r.
have engaged the material quite seriously and found it necessary to modify and augment what
the tradition had handed down to them. They did this even while maintaining the basic structure
of their sources. It is this kind of textual evolution that I am most concerned with in this work
because, I believe, it tells something about which parts of astrology were those with which any
particular astrologer worked. Otherwise, Bonatti and others received a tradition which they
respected but did not see fit to alter in its fundamentals.
But change did have to occur for the following reason. No written text, not even
“encyclopedic” texts, can completely encompass all of anyone’s experience in the application of
a complex craft such as astrology; direct personal transmission through long apprenticeship was,
and is, the only way that a practitioner can pass on personal experience in the execution of such a
craft with any completeness. The main difference between astrology and other medieval
professions is that the academic training in astrology was more basic and introductory than that
of law or medicine and the apprenticeship was likely to be with a single practitioner rather than a
institution such as a law firm or hospital.37
However, in the transmission of medieval astrology from the Arabs to the Latins there is
little evidence that any Latin astrologer actually studied with an Arabic master of the art. It is
clear that the Latins learned astrology completely from books translated from Arabic into Latin38
which included even texts originally in Greek (mostly Ptolemy). There were two Latin texts in
the middle ages that had survived from the Roman period, Julius Firmicus Maternus’ Matheseos
The matter of how astrologers received their training is an area that awaits further research. The lives of
medieval astrologers are poorly documented which presents difficulties for the modern researcher.
The literature in this area is quite large but one can get a good start with the following works. Thorndike,
H.O.M.E.S., vol. 2; Haskins, Studies; Campion, History, vol.2, 29-43.
libri VIII and the astrological poem of Manilius, the Astronomica.39 These were not unknown to
the Latins of the middle ages but (as I have previously pointed out)40 were not sufficiently
complete to provide a foundation for a continuous transmission of the ancient astrological
tradition especially in view of the fact that the astronomical texts necessary to do astrology were
all in Greek and literacy in Greek was not widespread in the early middle ages. The direct,
personal transmission of the astrological tradition in the West was broken in the early middle
ages. Therefore, anything that we find in Bonatti and others that either differs from, or is added
to, what is contained in the translations from Arabic must be derived either from their own
experience or the experience of their immediate teachers, also Latins. Again, from the evidence
of surviving curricula in the universities, it does not seem likely that any astrologer would have
gained new information about the practical applications of astrology from a university education
with the possible exception of applications to medicine, a subject not widely covered in the
major texts surviving from the period. There were, however, specialist texts in this area. These
have already been noted in Chap. 2. Therefore, it is likely that, in the case of Bonatti at least, his
new material was the result of two factors. The first was his own personal experience which he
could not have had unless there was in turn a demand for the specific applications in which he
felt the need to make changes and additions to the tradition. The second arises out of the first. I
have already spoken of Bonatti’s search for the underlying rationale of the material he received
as demonstrating a tendency of European thinkers to systematize and rationalize. I remind the
reader again that Latin astrologers received their material from Arab authors almost if not
See Julius Firmicus Maternus, Matheseos and Manilius, Astronomica, trans. G. P. Goold (Cambridge, MA:
Harvard University Press, 1977).
See Chap. 3, p. 62, n. 9.
entirely from the written word as translated into Latin. Bonatti and all other astrological authors
who followed him and actually practiced the art did not have the kind of detailed knowledge that
they might have gotten in the Hindu manner from sitting at the feet of a master in long
apprenticeships. Bonatti and those who followed him had to derive this knowledge by a rational
extension of the necessarily somewhat fragmentary information they received from translations.
And they were likely to do this only in subject areas within astrology that they, personally,
Finally we come to the last category, that is, completely new material that involved
fundamental change in the medieval tradition. However, we do not find such material until the
early modern period, specifically from the mid-sixteenth century on. By this time the decline of
astrology and its influence in western thought had already begun. We see it in authors such as
Brahe, Kepler, Placidus de Titis, Morinus, and Maginus and Dee. The new material came about
as astrologers attempted to deal with the criticisms of astrology leveled by critics. It is arguably
not the result of astrologers having to develop new material to deal with the demands of patrons.
It is the result of the breakdown of the tradition coming about from increasing attacks on the
validity of astrology. However, this is a discussion best left to another time and place.41
The Firdaria – a Study in the Transmission of a Complex Astrological System.
The previous part of this chapter has studied the various ways in which astrological doctrines
were transmitted and often evolved as a result, and sometimes did not. In the last portion of this
chapter I present an example of a technique which did not evolve, at least not in the Latin
Thorndike’s H.O.M.E.S. volumes 7 and 8 deal with this issue very comprehensively. For a more recent
treatment see Broecke, The Limits of Influence.
tradition. Furthermore, the particular way in which the method was introduced may have led to
its rapidly becoming a “fossil” technique in the way in I have used that term earlier in this
chapter. This is a predictive system based on what were known as fardār (pl. fardārāt) or in one
its many Latinized forms firdaria.42
Prediction by firdaria is an instance of a predictive technique not well represented in the
astrology of the Middle East and West, at least not after the Greek astrologers of antiquity most
notably Vettius Valens.43 It is a technique in which planets are assigned rulerships over periods
of time rather than over objects, persons, patterns of events and so forth which are the more
usual objects of planetary rulership. Generally these periods are known as planetary periods, and
the planets that govern each of these periods has no one name in the Arabic-Latin tradition. The
only name we have for such planetary lords over periods of time in western astrology (outside of
“time-lords” which is a modern term) is one derived from the Greek, chronocrator
(χρονοκράτωρ).44 Chronocrator systems are found prominently in Vettius Valens Book IV,
where in chapter 745 the word chronocrator is used in the Greek text. In Valens taking account of
all of the variations there are many dozens of such systems; however, in the Indian astrological
literature there may be hundreds of such systems.46 The periods of time assigned to the several
planets vary in the extent to which they can be derived from genuine astronomical cycles with
Other forms include fridaria, alfridaria (anglicized as alfridary, pl. alfridaries), alphardaria, and alfardaria. The
‘al’ prefix, of course, is simply the article in Arabic.
See reference just below.
See Ptolemy, Robbins trans., 452-3. Also in a Latin setting, Julius Firmicus Maternus, ed. Kroll, Book II, 75.
Chonocratorem dixerunt Graeci temporum dominum. The term is also found in an early modern source, Junctinus,
Speculum, 1573, 164, where he describes the same system that is found in Maternus and in fact quotes firmicus
verbatim. Ptolemy’s system of chronocrators is quite different from Maternus which tells us that the word
chonocrator was not intended to be limited to one system.
Valens, Anthology, Pingree, ed., volume 1, 156.
No one to my knowledge has ever tallied all of the systems in Indian astrology. For a description of the most
important of these see Varaha Mihira, Brihat Jataka of Varaha Mihira, N. Chisambaram Aiyar, trans. (Madras,
India: Minerva Press, 1905), 80-90.
some such systems having no apparent basis in planetary astronomy.47
According to Pingree and others the firdaria come from a complex body of Sassanian Persian
lore involving planetary rulerships assigned to long periods of historical time in which cycles of
many years are divided up and given to the rulership of individual planets and signs of the
zodiac.48 These were a part of the same tradition that produced the theory of the great
conjunctions described by Abu Ma‘shar and others. However, whereas the method of the great
conjunctions is based on a somewhat idealized form of genuine astronomical cycles, the periods
of which the firdaria are an example were not strongly anchored in astronomy even though they
were used along with other cycles to account for very long periods of history. They were a part
of historical astrology.49 However, the system of firdaria that we are concerned with here was
employed not in the theory of revolutiones as applied to history but was actually a part of the
doctrine of nativities.50
The system of fardārāt (to use the original term) that gave rise to the firdaria consisted of a
family of cycles. The largest of these is the “mighty fardār”of 360.0 solar years and also the
smaller “big”, “middle” and “small” fardār. The last is the one that is of interest here because it
was brought into the study of nativities. It seems to have two forms. The one employed in
historical study assigned rulerships and periods to the planets and the two nodes in the order of
their exaltations, Sun, Aries, 19 years; Moon, Taurus, 9; Dragon’s Head, Gemini, 3; Jupiter,
This is especially true of the system mentioned previously which is found in Varaha Mihira.
For the principal reference on this subject see Pingree, Thousands.
For a summary of these see Pingree, Thousands, 59-68.
In fact in all of the works that I am aware of the complete system of firdaria are described only in texts and
sections of texts that deal with nativities, specifically the portions of such texts that deal with the revolutiones
annorum nati. See Ali ibn abi +r-Rijal [Haly Aben Ragel], Preclarissimus liber completus in iudiciis astrorum quem
edidit Albohazen Haly filius Abenragel (Venice: Erhardt Ratdolt, 1485), fols 99r-102v; Schoener, De iudiciis, fols.
Cancer, 12; Mercury, Virgo,13; Dragon’s Tail, Sagittarius, 2; Mars Capricorn, 7; and Venus,
Pisces, 8. These terms of years are listed in many introductoria in the sections in which the
significations, qualities and periods of the planets are introduced. Among these is the Isagoga of
Alcabitius in its second chapter (or differentia as the section is termed in the Latin version of the
text). However, in the transition from historical astrology to nativities a change is introduced.
Instead of the rulerships of the planets allocated according in the order of their exaltation signs,
in nativities they are allocated according to the order of the circles of the planets starting with the
Sun in daytime births and the Moon in nighttime births. (For the purpose of convenience I will
refer to this variant of the fardārāt as firdaria even though technically the terms are equivalent.)
The problem that I present here is the matter of the order of the firdaria in day births as
opposed to night births. It is not until much later in the medieval period that we find the
complete sequence of planetary rulerships spelled out for both day and night births. This has
actually led to some confusion among modern astrologers and historians of astrology trying to
determine what is the proper sequence of rulerships for both day and night births.51
The source of the use of firdaria in nativities appears to be a work from the Arabic
astrological tradition but one which did not come into the Latin tradition until relatively late in
the middle ages.52 It was not among the works translated into Latin in the twelfth century. I refer
to Abu Ma‘shar’s treatise on solar revolutions known in Latin as De revolutionibus. It is a
treatise on revolutiones annorum nati. It was first translated into Byzantine Greek, then from the
Greek into Latin but in the Latin translation it was attributed to Hermes Tresmegistes rather than
See Steven Birchfield, The Firdar, (accessed Nov. 7, 2012).
According to Carmody, the Arabic text was originally translated into Greek in the thirteenth century and then
into Latin presumably a bit later in that century. The oldest surviving Latin manuscript is Bibliothèque National MS
73202. See Francis J. Carmody, Arabic Astronomical and Astrological Sciences in Latin Translation, 95.
Abu Ma‘shar. The Latin version is not complete but it does contain all of Abu Ma‘shar’s
material on the firdaria. A complete presentation of the firdaria as Abu Ma‘shar had them in De
revolutionibus is also to be found Haly Abenragel. In fact it is clear that the Latin translation of
Abenragel is a Latin translation of exactly the same work as the De revolutionibus of “Hermes.”
Abenragel’s text is either Abu Ma‘shar verbatim or an extremely close paraphrase. However, the
complete text of Abenragel did not become available in Latin until after Bonatti. Bonatti’s
source is clearly Alcabitius and here is the problem.
In the Latin version of De revolutionibus and in the Greek original53 the Abu Ma‘shar begins
as follows:
Each of the seven wandering stars and also the Head and Tail of the Dragon have certain
years whose limits are fixed, and each planet disposes of the native according to its own
firdaria. The firdaria of the Sun is ten years, however, of Venus eight, of Mercury thirteen, of
the Moon nine, of Saturn eleven, of the Jupiter twelve, of Mars seven, of the Head [of the
Dragon] three, and of the Tail [of the Dragon] two, which are altogether seventy-five years.
For diurnal54 nativities, whenever that may be, the Sun has the disposition of the first
firdaria, then Venus, the Mercury, then the Moon, then Saturn, then the others according to
the order of their circles. However, in nocturnal nativities the Moon has the first firdaria,
then Saturn, then Jupiter, then Mars according to the previous order. Yet when the
disposition of this kind comes to any planet, that planet by itself only disposes of the first
seventh part of the years of its firdaria, then the rest of the planets participate with it in the
signification of good or bad things according to the seventh part of the years of the firdaria of
each planet. And the beginning [of each firdaria] will be from the planet which possesses the
firdaria but [then] the planet which is the next after it55 shares first, then the next one after
that one, and so must it be understood regarding the rest in sequence. The reason for the
associations of the rest of the planets with the one is because the years of firdaria of each
planet were derived from the dignities which the planets have in the signs. The Head and the
Tail dispose alone according to their disposition, not sharing with any of the planets, after the
See Steven Birchfeld who quotes a translation from the Byzantine Greek version done by Robert Schmidt. See
Abu Ma‘shar, On Solar Revolutions, Robert Schmidt trans. and ed., (Cumberland MD: Golden Hind Press, 1999).
Birchfield does not give page citations.
Reading diurnis for diurna.
In the order of the circles.
completion of the years [of the other planets] because they do not have domiciles…56
So clearly the firdaria of the Dragon’s Head and the Tail go after all of the true planets have
completed their firdaria their periods constituting the last five years of a seventy-five-year cycle
in the diurnal sequence. What about the sequence in nocturnal births? The text here does not
completely enumerate the nocturnal sequence. While there is a definite clue in this text that the
firdaria of the Dragon’s Head and Tail also take the last five years in a night birth, Abu Ma‘shar
does not explicitly state this until later in the Latin edition.57 When Abu Ma‘shar does get to an
explicit description of the nocturnal sequence, it is eight pages later of double-column Latin text.
Here he mentions once again the firdaria of the Dragon’s Head and Tail and then states the
And in diurnal nativities the aforementioned nodes58 dispose after Mars, but in nocturnal
nativities they dispose after Mercury.59
Unusquisque septem erraticorum caput etiam et cauda draconis habent quosdam annos determinatos, et
quilibet planeta disponit natum secundum suam Ferdariam. Solis quidem Ferdaria sunt anni decem. Veneris autem
octo, Mercurii tredecim, Lunae novem, Saturni, undecim, Iovis duodecim, Martis septem, capitis tres, et caudae duo,
qui simul sunt omnes anni septuaginta quinque. In diurna quidem nativitatibus habet dispositionem primae
Ferdariae, sol quandocunque fuerit, deinde Venus, deinde Mercurius, deinde Luna, deinde Saturnus, deinde alii
secundum ordinem circulorum suorum. In nocturnis autem nativitatibus habet primam Ferdariam Luna, deinde
Saturnus, deinde Iupiter, deinde Mars secundum priorem ordinem. Veruntamen quando huiusmodi dispositio
pervenerit ad aliquam planetarum, planeta ipse disponit septimam partem tantum annorum suae ferdariae, deinde
reliqui planetae communicant ei, in significatione bonorum sive malorum secundum septimam partem annorum
uniuscuiusque ferdariae. Et initium quidem erit a planeta habente ferdariam, communicat autem sibi primo qui est
post ipsum propinquior, deinde alius qui post illum, et sic erit intelligendum subsequenter de aliis. Causa vero
societatibus reliquorum planetarum cum uno est, pro eo quod anni ferdariae uniuscuiusque planetae extracti fuerint a
dignitatibus, quas habent planetae ipsi in signis. Caput vero et cauda soli secundum propriam dispositionem
disponunt, non communicantibus eis aliquibus planetis, post complementum videlicet annorum pro eo quod domos
non habent… — Pseudo-Hermes, “De Revolutionibus Nativitatum Libri Duo,” in In Claudii Ptolemaei
quadripartitum enaratio ignoti nominis, quem tamen proclus fuisse quidam existimans. Item Porphyrii philosophi
introductio in Ptolemaei opus de effectibus astrorum. Praeterea Hermetis philosophi de revolutionibus nativitatum
libri duo, incerto interprete, ed. Hieronymus Wolf (Basel, 1559), 264.
The Greek text does the same. See Abu Ma‘shar, De revolutionibus, Pingree ed. The general introduction to
the firdaria are on pp. 181-2, but the placement of the nodal period at the end of the planetary firdaria is not until p.
The Head and Tail of the Dragon.
Et in diurnis quidem nativitatibus disponunt praedicti noti, post Martem: in nocturnis vero post Mercurii. De
revolutionibus, 272.
In the order of the circles of the planets, if we begin with the Moon, the last planetary period
would be Mercury. So in nocturnal charts the periods belonging to the Dragon’s Head and Tail
come again after all of the planets at seventy years making up the last five of the seventy-five.
The following tables illustrate the complete system of Abu Ma‘shar.
Table I — Major Periods
Diurnal Charts
Nocturnal Charts
Table II — Lengths of the Minor Periods
u Total Period
11 yrs. 1/7th
12 yrs.
7 yrs.
10 yrs.
8 yrs.
13 yrs.
9 yrs.
1 yr. 6 mos. 26 days
1 yr. 8 mos. 17 days
1 yr. 0 mos. 0 days
1 yr. 5 mos. 4 days
1 yr. 1 mo. 22 days
1 yr. 10 mos. 9 days
1 yr. 3 mos. 13 days
Note the major periods of the Caput (l) and Cauda (L) take up the last five years in both the
nocturnal and diurnal sequence. Now here is Alcabitius’s description of the technique.
And the disposition of the firdaria is according to this, that is, if the nativity is diurnal the
Sun will command its disposition in the beginning of life according to the quantity of his
years which are ten. After this, the planet which succeeds the Sun,60 which is Venus, the
years of whose firdaria are eight. After Venus [comes] the planet which succeeds her, which
is Mercury and the years of his firdaria are thirteen, then the Moon and the years of her
firdaria are eight, then Saturn and the years of his firdaria are eleven, then Jupiter and the
In the order of the circles.
years of his firdaria are twelve, then Mars, the years of whose firdaria are seven, then the
Head, the years of whose firdaria are three, and after this the Tail and the years of its firdaria
are two. The years gathered together become seventy-five years. After this the disposition
reverts to the Sun and [it proceeds] similarly up to the last of the planets.
If, however, the nativity is nocturnal, the disposition begins from the Moon and she
disposes of the years of her firdaria which are eight, in a like manner planet after planet just
as we said previously in [the case of] the Sun. And when a planet disposes of the years of his
firdaria, he disposes of the first seventh part alone by himself, that is, of a seventh part of his
own firdaria, then the planet which succeeds him participates with him in the second seventh.
After this the third planet which succeeds the second participates with him in the third
seventh part. [This continues] until the planet which is before him participates with him in
the last seventh part of the years of his firdaria. There is a judgement about the nativity for
each planet as it participates with another.61
Just as we saw with Abu Ma‘shar’s text, the nocturnal sequence is not explicitly given. However,
unlike the Abu Ma‘shar’s text, the nocturnal sequence is never given. Nor is there an explanation
as to why the periods of the Dragon’s Head and Tail come last. A comparison of the Latin with
the English translation from the Arabic indicates that the Latin translation is quite faithful to the
Arabic original.62
Here is Bonatti’s version of the same material from Tractatus IX.
Chapter Three. On the Years of Firdaria and Their Dispositors.
The ancient sages considered certain [periods of] years in nativities which are note called
Major, Middle, nor even Minor;63 they called them the years of the firdaria, that is, years
Et ex hoc dispositio alfirdariet. Hoc est, cum fuerit nativitas diurna, preerit in initio vite dispositioni eius
firdarie Sol secundum quantitatem annorum firdarie eius, qui sunt decem; post hec planeta qui succedit Solem, qui
est Venus, cuius firdarie anni sunt octo.; et post Venerem, planeta qui eam succedit, qui est Mercurius, et anni eius
firdarie sunt tredecim; deinde Luna, et anni eius firdarie sunt novem; deinde Saturnus, et anni eius firdarie sunt unde
undecim; deinde Iupiter, et anni eius firdarie sunt duodecim; deinde Mars cuius anni firdarie sunt septem; deinde
Caput, cuius anni firdarie sunt tres; et post hec Cauda, et anni eius firdarie sunt duo. Fiunt anni collecti simul quique
et septuginta anni. Post hec revertitur dispositio ad Solem, et similiter usque ad ultimum planetarum. Si autem
nativitas nocturna, incipiet dispositio a Luna, disponetque annos firdarie eius, qui sunt octo, similiter planeta post
planetam, sicut prediximus in Sole. Cumque disposuerit planeta annos firdarie sue, disponet proprie primam
septimam solus, id est, septimam partem firdarie sue, deinde participatur ei in septima secunda planeta qui eum
succedit; post hec participatur ei in dispositione in septima tertia tertius planeta, qui succedit secundum; et donec
participetur ei qui est ante eum in ultima septima ex annis eius firdarie. Et est unicuique, cum participatur alteri,
iudicium super nativitatem.— Al-Qabisi, Warburg ed., 343-4.
Ibid., 133-5.
This is a reference to another and more ancient system of periods of time allocated to the planets. See
which are disposed. For each planet disposes his own part of a native’s life in this manner,
namely, that of whatever kind a nativity may be, the disposition of the firdaria will begin
from the luminary which possesses authority,64 and that luminary will dispose of a native’s
life according to the quantity of the years of its firdaria, but not without the participation of
the other planets.
If the nativity is diurnal, it will begin from the Sun (which is the diurnal luminary) which
disposes of a native’s life according the quantity of the years of his firdaria which are ten, but
with the participation of all of the other planets. However, the Sun himself will have
sovereignty and especially in the first seventh part of those years. In the second [seventh]
part Venus, which succeeds the Sun in the order of the circles,65 will participate with the Sun
in the disposition of the native’s life. In the third seventh part Mercury, which succeeds
Venus in the order of the circles, will participate with the Sun. In the fourth seventh part the
Moon, which succeeds Mercury in the order of the circles, will participate with the Sun. In
the fifth seventh part Saturn, which succeeds the Moon going around the circle [to the
beginning again] in the order of the circles, will participate with the Sun. In the sixth seventh
part Jupiter, which succeeds Saturn in the order of the circles, will participate with the Sun.
In the seventh and last seventh part Mars, which succeeds Jupiter in the order of the circles,
will participate with the Sun and Mars is the seventh planet from the Sun.66
After this Venus, who succeeds the Sun in the order of the circles, will dispose of the life
of the native according to the quantity of the years of her firdaria, which are eight, and all of
the other planets will participate with her in the disposition of those years, namely, each
planet according to its own seventh part as had been described regarding their participation
with the Sun.
Then Mercury will dispose according to the quantity of the years of his firdaria, which
are thirty, and the other planets will participate with him, namely, each of them according to
his seventh part of those years.
Then the Moon will dispose according to the quantity of the years of her firdaria, which
are nine, and each of the other planets will participate according to his seventh part of those
Then Saturn will dispose according to the quantity of the years of his firdaria, which are
eleven, with the participation of the other planets as had been described regarding to the Sun.
Then Jupiter will dispose according to the quantity of the years of his firdaria, which are
twelve, with the participation of the other planets as had been described regarding the others.
Then Mars will dispose according to the quantity of the years of his firdaria, which are
seven, with the participation of the other planets as had been described above.
Then Dragon’s Head will dispose according to the quantity of the years of its firdaria
which are three. Then the Dragon’s Tail will dispose according to the quantity of the years of
its firdar which are three. After this the disposition reverts back to the Sun doing [again] just
as has been described successively up to the end of the native’s life.
See Glossary under LUMINARY OF THE TIME.
Again going around to the beginning of the circle by way of Saturn.
On the Nocturnal Nativity.
But if the nativity is nocturnal, the disposition will begin from the Moon which is the
nocturnal luminary, and it will be done in all ways and throughout everything just as has
been described when the disposition begins from the Sun both as regards the participation of
the planets with her and their succession in the order of the circles.67
In the exposition of the years of the firdaria we find four main topics, the last of which is found
only in the original account of Abu Ma‘shar They are as follows.
Capitulum tercium de anni firdarie et ipsorum dispositoribus.
Consideraverunt sapientes antiqui quosdam annos in nativitatibus qui non dicuntur maiores neque medii nec etiam
minores, verum vocaverunt eos annos firdarie id est annos dispositos. Nam quilibet planeta disponit suam partem
vite nati secundum suam partem annorum firdarie in hunc modum, videlicet quoniam qualiscunque fuerit nativitas,
incipiet dispositio annorum firdarie a luminari cuius fuerit auctoritas et illud disponet vitam nati secundum
quantitatem annorum sue firdarie, non tamen sine aliorum planetarum participatione.
Nam si nativitas fuerit diurna, incipiet a Sole quod est luminare diurnum qui disponet vitam nati secundum
quantitatem annorum sue firdarie, qui sunt decem, cum participatione tamen aliorum planetarum omnium sed ipse
obtinebit principatum et maxime in prima septima parte illorum annorum. In secunda parte participabit cum eo
Venus in dispositione vite nati qui ipsi succedit in ordine circulorum. In tercia septima parte participabit cum eo
Mercurius qui succedit Veneri in ordine circulorum. In quarta septima parte participabit cum eo Luna que succedit
Mercurio in ordine circulorum. In quinta septima parte participabit cum eo Saturnus qui succedit Lune circulariter in
ordine circulorum. In sexta septima parte participabit cum eo Iupiter qui succedit Saturno in ordine circulorum. In
septima vero septima parte atque ultima participabit cum eo Mars qui succedit Iovi in ordine circulorum et est
planeta septimus a Sole.
Post hec disponet Venus que succedit Soli in ordine circulorum vitam nati secundum quantitatem annorum sue
firdarie qui sunt octo et omnes alii planete participabunt cum ea in dispositione illorum annorum scilicet quilibet
secundum suam septimam partem ut dictum est de participatione ipsorum cum Sole.
Deinde disponet Mercurius secundum quantitatem annorum sue firdarie qui sunt tredecim et participabunt cum
eo alii scilicet quilibet eorum secundum suam septimam partem illorum annorum.
Deinde disponet Luna secundum quantitatem annorum sue firdarie qui sunt novem et participabit scilicet
quilibet eorum secundum suam septimam partem eorum annorum.
Deinde disponet Saturnus secundum quantitatem annorum sue firdarie qui sunt undecim cum participatione
aliorum sicut dictum est de Sole.
Deinde disponet Iupiter secundum quantitatem annorum sue firdarie qui sunt duodecim cum partipatione
aliorum planetarum ut dictum est de aliis.
Deinde disponet Mars secundum quantitatem annorum sue firdarie qui sunt septem cum participatione aliorum
planetarum ut dictum est supra.
Deinde disponet Caput Draconis secundum quantitatem annorum sue firdarie qui sunt tres.
Deinde disponet eius Cauda secundum quantitatem annorum sui firdarie qui sunt duo. Post hec revertitur
dispositio ad Solem sic faciendo ut dictum est successive usque in finem vite nati.
De nativitate nocturna.
Quod si nativitas fuerit nocturna, incipiet dispositio a Luna que est luminare nocturnum, et fiet in omnibus et per
omnia ut dictum est quando incipit dispositio a Sole tam de participatione planetarum cum ea quam de ipsorum
successione in ordine circulorum. . . . — Bonatti, Ratdolt ed., fol. 391v.
First, all three authors give the lengths of the firdaria of each planet. These are in accord with
the “small” fardār described above. Second, each author describes the sequence of principal
rulers in both diurnal and nocturnal births. However, only Abu Ma‘shar gives us any information
about the complete sequence in nocturnal births as well as the logic for placing the periods of the
Dragon’s Head and Tails at the end. They do not have the same kind of relationship with the
signs of the zodiac that the planets have, and, implicitly as well, they are not part of the sequence
of the order of the circles. Abu Ma‘shar does not give the complete nocturnal anywhere in his
text, but he is the only one who gives the reader the necessary information to deduce the
complete nocturnal sequence correctly.
Third, each author describes the principle of subdividing the firdaria of each planet (but not
the Dragon’s Head and Tail) into seven equal divisions each of which are ruled by the planet
having the principal rulership succeeded by each of the other planets (not including the Dragon’s
Head and Tail) in the sequence of the order of the circles going from the sub-period of the Moon
back to the sub-period of Saturn when necessary.
Fourth, only Abu Ma‘shar among these three authors gives several pages of interpretations
for life-events in every one of the sub-periods of every one of the firdaria, at the end of which he
finally described what happens with periods of Dragon’s Head and Tail in a nocturnal chart. It
seems evident either that Abu Ma‘shar or, if he is not the actual source of this method, the
original source intended that the system of firdaria was to be used and probably employed them
We have no idea whether Alcabitius actually used this technique. We do not have a complete
text by him on the subject of nativities; we have only his introductorium. His account of the
system is very close to Abu Ma‘shar except for the missing explanation as to why the periods of
the Dragon’s Head and Tail go at the end of the seventy years made up from the planetary
firdaria and why their periods alone are not subdivided. We cannot say for certain that Alcabitius
completely understood the method although I suspect that he did. We know that the method was
known in the Arabic tradition. We have a complete and correct account of the method in AlBiruni Book of Instruction68 and the complete account in Haly Abenragel.
Bonatti’s exposition of the method is certainly longer in words than that of Alcabitius, but if
one examines carefully, all Bonatti has done is to state explicitly what Alcabitius clearly implies.
It is characteristic of Bonatti to leave as little to the imagination of the reader as possible so it is
interesting to speculate as to why Bonatti never filled out the nocturnal sequence. Most of the
extra verbiage in Bonatti is taken up by stating much more explicitly how each of the firdaria are
subdivided into sevenths and the sequence of the sub-rulers. When he finally gets to the
nocturnal sequence, he only states that one should begin with the Moon and then do just as one
does in the diurnal sequence. The only hint that Bonatti actually knew the correct sequence is his
reference as follows: “just as has been described when the disposition begins from the Sun both
as regards the participation of the planets with her and their succession in the order of the
circles.” Anyone who understands the “order of the circles” would know that the Dragon’s Head
and Tail are not part of that sequence. However, it would still be unclear as to where they would
go in the sequence.
All of this suggests that the method of firdaria had become a fossil technique for the
astrological traditions that had come into the Latin West. There is only one other account of the
firdaria that came into the West and that is the one contained in the compilation of Hugh of
This work was never translated into Latin. See Al-Biruni, Book of Instruction, 255-6. There is no
interpretative information in this work but the technique is described completely.
Santalla (fl. early twelfth century) known as the Liber Aristotelis.69 Unlike Alcabitius and
Bonatti, Hugo’s account contains a complete set of interpretations but it does not include Abu
Ma‘shar’s account of the placement of the periods of the Dragon’s Head and Tail at the end of
the sequence for firdaria in nocturnal charts. As with Alcabitius and Bonatti, Hugo’s text is mute
on the subject. The interpretations in Hugo’s text, unlike those of Haly Abenragel, do not appear
to be taken directly from Abu Ma‘shar. Not surprisingly they are similar but Hugo’s text is
clearly not merely a different translation of the Arabic original. These interpretations appear to
have come from a different source. There is no evidence that any astrological author in Bonatti’s
time was aware of Hugo’s compilation.
In conclusion, first, there is the peculiar coincidence that in what appears to be the original
text describing the material, that of Abu Ma‘shar, namely, the placement of material regarding
the nocturnal sequence of firdaria is in a location in the text far removed from the introductory
material on the firdaria. This made it likely that another author skimming the text for material to
be used in an introduction (Alcabitius) would overlook it and leave it out even he did understand
the complete system. However, it is not clear that Bonatti completely understood the method.
However, given his tendency to amplify the descriptions of his sources, which is evident in this
instance, it seems strange that Bonatti would have not made the difference between the diurnal
and nocturnal sequence complete, correct and explicit unless he did not know the correct
nocturnal sequence. It is my sense that he simply included the firdaria for the sake of
completeness, not necessarily expecting anyone to actually use it (the hallmark of a fossil
Hugo of Santalla, Liber Aristotelis, 113-121.
Second, in the one author of this period who did describe the entire system, Haly Abenragel,
the text, as I have stated above, is so obviously taken directly from Abu Ma‘shar, that one is
justified in believing that for him, too, firdaria were a fossil technique but that he included more
of the “fossil.”
Recall from Chapter 4 that techniques that do not evolve from author to author are either
techniques that are so foundational that no one dares to innovate or deviate (not common), or are
fossil techniques handed down and preserved for the sake of completeness. Bonatti's treatment of
firdaria suggest that for him, unlike the material on military astrology, firdaria were a fossil
Chapter 5. The Astrology of Conflict and Warfare Before Bonatti and the Life of Guido
In this chapter I perform two tasks. First, I describe the astrologers who preceded Bonatti
concentrating both on those who established the framework of practice in which he worked and
those who wrote about the application of astrology to military purposes.1 Second, I present a
biographical study of Bonatti, concentrating on incidents in his career that demonstrate his
involvement in military astrology, and in at least one instance, astrology as applied to political
However innovative Bonatti may have been, he came from a well-established tradition both
with respect to astrology in general and military applications in particular. The individuals whom
I describe below are all persons who wrote on military astrology or closely related subjects. All
of them also wrote on the subject of interrogations and elections, although one of these, Abu
Ma‘shar, was not known in Bonatti’s day primarily for his work in these two areas of astrology.2
It is important to note that all of these authors were available in Latin translations except for
Theophilus of Edessa whose influence upon Latin astrology was indirect. There is no evidence
that Bonatti had any knowledge of Arabic.
This is whether or not it can be established that all of these actually were a direct influence upon Bonatti.
Carmody lists four treatises on elections none of which were ever printed and which exist only in a small
number of manuscripts. – Carmody, Arabic Astronomical and Astrological Sciences in Latin Translation, 92-106.
Bonatti’s Predecessors and Sources.
Dorotheus of Sidon (fl. between 25 and 75 C.E.) — As stated in previous chapters, two of the
principal components of military astrology are the methods of interrogations and of elections.3
Therefore, it would seem reasonable to look for the earliest applications of astrology to warfare
and conflict in works on these divisions of astrology. Such is indeed the case. There is mention
of predicting warfare in Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos, Book II, a text which forms the foundation of the
medieval method of revolutions.4 However, as stated in Chap. 2,5 this method is mostly used to
predict the likelihood of war during a period of time governed by a particular revolution, not, for
the most part, to derive information that could be used in military intelligence and strategic
planning. These functions within military astrology are almost completely peculiar to
interrogations and elections.6
The earliest work in which we see elections and interrogations discussed is that of Dorotheus
of Sidon. This is contained in a poetic treatise originally written in Greek consisting of five
books. For this reason it is often referred to as the Pentateuch. Pingree in his edition of the
Arabic version of the Pentateuch refers to it as the Carmen astrologicum.7 Little is known about
Dorotheus’ life, and his dates have not been definitely established, but Pingree in the preface to
his edition of the Arabic translation of the text states that from the internal evidence of
astrological charts contained in the text his probable floruit is between 25 and 75 CE.8 I have
See especially Chap. 2, pp. 44 and 47 respectively.
Revolutiones annorum mundi.
See p. 51.
I have, however, mentioned in Chap. 2, p. 56 the relatively minor role of the astrology of nativities in this
Dorotheus, Pingree ed. Pingree’s preface, introduction and commentary are all written in Latin.
Ibid., x. “E quibus omnibus apparet Dorotheus ab anno fere 25 usque ad annum 75 floruisse.” The phrase “e
quibus omnibus” refers to the astrological charts just mentioned.
discussed the difficulties that this text presents in a previous chapter.9 However, anyone who is
familiar with the methods and apparatus of medieval astrology will immediately recognize that it
owes as much or more to the method of Dorotheus of Sidon than it does to the more well-known
Claudius Ptolemy. Arabic authors cite him frequently, often under a variant of his name, as
In Book V, the book of the Pentateuch, which contains all of the electional and
interrogational material (the rest of the work being on nativities), a chapter which Pingree
designates as V33 is entitled in his translation of the Arabic “A chapter in which is the
clarification of the matter of two adversaries, if they argue and plead before a judge, which of the
two will be successful and which of the two will be defeated.”10 This is one of the passages in
Book V which is clearly interrogational rather than electional. It begins, “Look if you want to
know this at the hour in which you are asked [italics mine] to the ascendent as the ascendent
indicates the matter of incitements and the commencements of quarrels.” The phrase in italics
contains the signature of a passage which concerns an interrogation. The chapter is not on
warfare as such but, as we have seen in Chap. 2 and will see again in Chap. 7, the logic and
methodology of civil suits and other nonmilitary conflicts are identical with the logic of
answering the question “who will win the battle?” As I will show in Chap. 7 and thereafter,
Dorotheus’s method is very similar to the method employed by Bonatti and his predecessors.
There are of course many differences in detail and a few somewhat more important differences
in method, but the general approach clearly belongs in the same tradition as the later medieval
works on the same subject and of course that of Bonatti. This passage from Dorotheus is, as far
Chap. 2, p. 49.
Dorotheus, Pingree ed., 292-295.
as anyone knows, the earliest of any on this subject. At the very least we may conclude that it
represents a very early stage in the evolution of the tradition. The Pentateuch in the Greek
version is one of the oldest surviving books on horoscopic astrology. Only the poem by Manilius
is older and probably only by a generation or two. Of the two texts Dorotheus has had the much
greater impact on the evolution of later horoscopic astrology. It is also worth pointing out that
there is much more material attributed to Dorotheus of Sidon than what is contained in the
Arabic version of the Pentateuch. Much of it is contained in a Latin translation of material
compiled from Arabic sources known as the Liber novem iudicum.11 This text is quite important
to this study because it contains a good deal of material on the astrology of conflict and warfare,
much of it from Dorotheus, one of the nine “judges.” The Liber novem iudicum was the sole
direct source of Dorotheus available to the West. The Arabic version of the Pentateuch was
never translated into Latin. Pingree’s translation into English is the first translation of that work
into any European language.12
Theophilus of Edessa (c.695 - 785 C.E.) – Theophilus is important in this discussion because
he is the only author that we know of who wrote an entire treatise devoted to military astrology.
The full title of this work is entitled Θοφίλου φιλοσόφου πόνοι πρ καταρχäν πολμικäν καÂ
¦πιστρατίας κα τυραννίδος (Theophilou philosophou ponoi peri katarchôn polemikôn kai
epistrateias kai turannidos), or The Works of the Philosopher Theophilos on Inceptions of
Conflicts, Expeditions and Reigns, The surviving portion of this work is to be found in the
CCAG Vol. 5, part 113, and CCAG Vol. 11, part 1.14 Most of this work has not been translated
See below for further discussion of this work.
Outside of the original Greek of course.
pp. 233-37.
pp. 204–66.
with the exception of the very beginning contained in Vol. V, part 1.15 The work also does not
seem to have been translated into Arabic.
Theophilus’ material appears to have been derived from a number of sources including
Indian, Sassanian, and Greek. Not having access to this work, it is not clear what the proportion
of each tradition is to the final result but it does seem evident that most of the Sassanian material
is derived ultimately from the Greek tradition. It is not so clear whether the Indian material
originates from Indians themselves or the Greeks. Greek sources that seem more or less evident
in his work as a whole include Dorotheus, Hephaistion (whose material seems to be largely
derived from Dorotheus), and Rhetorius who appears to have lived in the sixth or seventh
century.16 Pingree in his article “Classical and Byzantine Astrology in Sassanian Persia” states
that Theophilus “depended heavily on the Sanskrit Brihadyātrā of Virahamira …written in about
Theophilus became closely associated with the caliphs Al-Mansur (714 - 775 C.E.) and his
successor Al-Mahdi (744 or 745 - 785 C.E.). 18 In particular he appears to have become the chief
astrologer to Al-Mahdi.19 Prior to that we find that he was learned in Greek and Syriac to the
James H. Holden, History of Horoscopic Astrology: From the Babylonian Period to the Modern Age (Tempe,
AZ: American Federation of Astrologers, 1996), 105-7. Holden has been translating Greek and Latin astrological
texts for years and has only recently begun having the bulk of them published. This particular book contains many
interesting fragments of ancient astrological texts in English. See Chap. 1, p. 22, n. 57.
For a discussion of this issue, see Rhetorius, Rhetorius the Egyptian, trans. Holden (Tempe, AZ: American
Federation of Astrologers, 2009), ix-x.
Pingree, “Classical and Byzantine Astrology”. The material on Theophilus is contained on pp. 236-37. This
article is the best source we have on Theophilus’ sources. The Hindu source mentioned here has been edited by
Pingree but never translated into a Western language. However, given the doubts about Pingree’s ascription of the
method of interrogations to Hindu sources in the Yavanjataka, I am a bit skeptical that persons more familiar with
the technical methods of Hindu versus Hellenistic astrology will agree with his evaluation.
A useful source for those seeking information about Theophilus life and influence is contained in the Latin
preface to the CCAG entry in Vol. 5, part 1.
astrologorum . . . Al-mahdii principem, CCAG, Vol. 5, part 1, 230. These words are taken from a Latin
translation of Bar Hebraeus cited in this preface. See Gregory Bar Hebaeus, Historia Compendiosa Dynastiarum
(Oxford, 1663), 147-148.
extent that he translated “most elegantly” Homer from Greek to Syriac.
Theophilus’ work was definitely known but he is seldom referred to by later astrologers. I
know of only two references. One is in Sahl ibn Bishr (whom hereafter I will refer to by one
form of his Latin name Zahel) and the other is Haly Abenragel. The Zahel reference is in the De
significatione temporum, in the chapter on the seventh house, Capitulum signi septimi ad
tempora sue horas belli ex dictis Theophili.20 However, the passage in question seems to be more
about predicting whether war was imminent than seeing the outcome, or picking a time. In Haly
Abenragel’s In iudiciis stellarum, chapter 42, Pro muliere si est pregnans vel non (“On women,
whether or not she is pregant”) there is a also a reference to Theophilus on that subject.21
Omar of Tiberias (d. c. 815 CE) – Full name Abū Hafs ‘Umar ibn al-Farrukhān al Tabarī,
known in Latin as Omar or Aomar. He is significant historically for two reasons. First, he
translated an existing Pahlavi translation of the Greek text of Dorotheus Pentateuch into Arabic
and contributed to Dorotheus becoming a major part of the Greek, Sassanian synthesis that was
medieval Arabic astrology. (See Dorotheus above.) Second, according to Pingree, he was one of
the “masters of calculation” who was present at the computation of the electional chart for the
founding of Baghdad mentioned below under Masha’allah.22
Only one complete work has come to us in Latin, his De nativitatibus et interrogationibus
sometimes with and sometimes without the interrogations portion.23 However, additional
Zahel, Omnibus ed. of 1493, fol. 142r.
Haly Abenragel, Ratdolt, fol. 15v.
See note 28 below.
Omar of Tiberias, Omar Tiberiadis astronomi preclarrissimi liber de nativitatibus et interrogationibus, trans.
John of Seville (Venice: Ioannes Baptista Sessa, 1503). According to Carmody this is the editio princeps and as such
leaves much to be desired. A better text of the Latin is needed. Later editions are worse either adding more mistakes
and faithfully preserving the existing ones, or as in the case of the 1515 edition, edited until the Latin made sense
even if that meant omitting sections and changing the sense of the original.
material attributed to Omar that is not found in De nativitatibus is to be found in the Liber novem
iudicum which is discussed below.
Masha. allah. (c.762 - 815 C.E.) – (Messehalla with many variants in Latin). The Fihrist
records the following.
Ibn Athrā, whose name Mā Shā’ Allāh, [sic] was Misha, which means yithro. He was a Jew,
and lived from the time of al-Mansūr to the time of al-Ma’mūn. He was a man of distinction
and during his [sic] period the leading person for the science of judgments of the stars.24
Masha’allah was one of the many important astrologers at the court of al-Mansūr (714 - 775
C.E.), and assisted the astrologer Newbakht25 in establishing the astrological chart of the
founding of Baghdad. This is described in Al-Biruni’s work known in English as the The
Chronology of Ancient Nations.26 Pingree writes that according to one Al-Ya‘qūbī “the work was
done ‘in the presence of Nawbakht, Ibrahīm ibn Muhammad al-Fazārī (sic!),27 and (‘Umar ibn
al-Farrukhān) al-Tabarī, the munajjimīn, the masters of calculation.’”28
Masha.allah was an important influence on Bonatti’s astrology, although not especially on its
military applications. He was one of the major astrologers of the early Islamic period of
astrology. His list of known works is extremely extensive although, strangely enough, most have
not survived in Arabic but survive mainly in medieval Latin translations.29 What made him
important to Bonatti in all respects regarding interrogations is that his work, variously entitled
variously De receptione, De receptionibus planetarum, and De interrogationibus in Latin
al-Nadim, The Fihrist of Al-Nadim, Bayard Dodge trans. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1970), 650-
Also spelled Naubakht.
Al-Biruni, The Chronology of Ancient Nations, Dr. C. Edward Sachau trans. (London: William H. Allen and
Co., 1879), 262-3.
“(Sic)” is from Pingree not myself.
Pingree, Al-Fazari : 104.
See Pingree, “Masha’allah.”
translation, is one of the oldest and most influential works devoted entirely to interrogations.30
Masha’allah is also important for another reason. As an astrologer associated with the
Abbasid dynasty, a dynasty with strong Iranian cultural roots, Masha’allah31 was one of the
astrologers responsible for bringing Sassanian methods into what had been a mostly Hellenisticbased astrology. The result, which came into being in its mature form over the next couple of
generations, was the form of medieval astrology that was transmitted to the West beginning in
the twelfth century. The “Sassanian” methods included some of the following: the method of
revolutiones annorum mundi involving the great conjunctions (see Chap. 2); the emphasis on the
applications and separations of the planets known at least in Bonatti’s Latin as alitisal; and a
much greater emphasis on house rulership (as opposed to house occupancy).32 However, his text
on nativities does not show any Sassanian influence at all. Its style is such that it could have been
written by a Greek astrologer from the late antiquity.33 It shows little influence of Sassanian
astrological methods. Masha’allah was one of the most frequently cited authors from the Arab
period in later Latin astrology.
Abu `Ali al-Khayyat (c.770 - c. 835 C.E.) – Known in Latin as Alboali and as Albenait, both
names with many variations. We know very little about him except for what it says in the
I have worked with two editions Masha’allah, De receptione, John of Seville trans. (Nuremberg: Joachim
Heller, 1549) and “De Receptionibus Planetarum,” John of Seville trans, in an untitled collection of various works,
fols. 143r-148r (Venice: Bonetus Locatellus, 1493).
He was himself a Persian Jew.
Pingree himself mentioned this aspect of Masha’allah’s contribution in the Dictionary of Scientific Biography
article although he did not describe what it consisted of. My comments are based on my own studies.
The only edition of the Latin text is Kennedy and Pingree, Astrological History, Appendix 3. There are two
English translations: Masha’allah, On Reception trans. Robert Hand. (Reston VA: Arhat Publications, 1994). This is
a complete translation. There is also a partial translation in an appendix to James Holden’s translation of Abu ‘Ali alKhayyat. See Abu ‘Ali al-Khayyat, The Judgements of Nativities, trans. James Holden (Tempe AZ: American
Federation of Astrologers, 1988), 86-91.
He was Abū ‘Alī Yahyā ibn Ghālib, also called Ismā‘īl ibn Muhammad, a pupil of Mā Shā
Allāh and one of the most excellent of the astrologers.34
Aside from many references to him in Bonatti and elsewhere, he was known in the Latin west for
his book on nativities, and through portions attributed to him in the Liber novem iudicum (see
below) in which he is designated as Albenait. His work on nativities is very closely based on the
one by Masha’allah although it is either more complete or has survived in better condition.35 In
Bonatti Albenait and Alboali seem to be regarded as different individuals. It is only in recent
scholarship that we have come to know them as a single individual.36 Carmody, for example, has
an entry for Abu ‘Ali al-Khayyat but mentions Albenait only in conjunction with the Liber
novem iudicum.
Sahl ibn Bishr (fl. first half ninth century C.E.) – Known in Latin as Zahel or Zael. Like
Masha’allah, Sahl Ibn Bishr was a Jew. The Fihrist has the following:
Sahl ibn Bishr. He was Abū `Uthmān Sahl ibn Bishr ibn Hānī, also called Hāyā al-Yahūdī.
He served Tāhir ibn al-Husayn, the one-eyed, and later al-Hasan ibn Sahl,68 being both
learned and distinguished.
A corpus of five works survives in Latin in a translation by John of Seville, and portions in the
Liber novem iudicum. The five works, which are frequently found together are as follows:
Introductorius ad scienciam iudiciorum astrorum in interrogationibus, which is an introduction
to the basic astrological concepts needed to do either interrogations or elections (despite the use
of only the word interrogationibus in the title); the Quinquaginta praecepta, which is a
collection of further information needed for the above; De interrogationibus, his work on
Fihrist, 655.
For his work on nativities in Latin see Abu ‘Ali al-Khayyat, Albohali Arabis astrologi antiquissime, ac
clarissimi de ivdicijs natiuitatum liber unus, antehac non editus, Joachim Heller ed., John of Seville,trans.
(Nuremburg: Impressum in officina Ioannis Montani, & Ulrici Neuber, 1546).
From personal communications with David Juste.
interrogations proper, the Liber electionum, his main work on elections; and finally De
significatore temporis, a short work which is a miscellany on interrogations, elections and
revolutiones annorum mundi. Of these the works on interrogations and elections are the most
complete and systematic.
His influence was larger than the small amount of information we have about him might
suggest. He may have been the first author on interrogations and elections to classify questions
and elections according to the house of the quesited, that is, that entity or person about whom a
question is asked or with regard to which or whom an action is taken (in the case of elections).
After him this became the standard manner of writing about both subjects. By contrast
Masha’allah’s work on interrogations, De receptione (to use one of its common titles in Latin)
gives different types of questions in no particular order and intermixed.
In the area of interrogations Zahel (to use the Latin form) was Bonatti’s single greatest
influence not only as to content but also organization. In many of Bonatti’s chapters on
interrogations the outline of the material is identical or nearly so to Zahel’s. The main difference
between them is that Bonatti worked out the details much more completely and in the case of
military questions added a good deal of his own material and thought. Zahel influenced Bonatti
but Bonatti did not follow him slavishly.
Al-Kindī (d. after 870) – His full Arabic name was Abū Yūsuf Ya‘qūb ibn Ishāq al-Kindī and
was known in Latin as Alkindius or similar form. Of all of Bonatti’s precursors al-Kindī is the
most eminent in the history of ideas in general, possessing the greatest reputation in the history
of medieval Islamic culture of any of these astrologers. Unlike all of the others, his greatest
renown is outside of astrology, although his work within astrology was hardly superficial. In fact
it was al-Kindī who persuaded Abu Ma‘shar to drop his initial opposition to the study of Greek
thought and to see what it might do for the understanding of Islam.37 The Fihrist states his name
and then the following:
He was the distinguished man of his time and unique during his period because of his
knowledge of the ancient sciences as a whole. He was called "the Philosopher of the Arabs."
His books were about a variety of sciences, such as logic, philosophy, geometry, calculation,
arithmetic, music, astronomy, and other things. He was miserly.
We are mentioning him with the natural philosophers so as to indicate his preeminent
position in science. We shall mention everything that he compiled about all of the sciences if
Allah Almighty so wills.38
This is followed by a lengthy list of works. Gutas refers to al-Kindī as a polymath, a title he
certainly deserves as the list above also shows.39 A complete account of his importance to
medieval Islamic culture is beyond the scope of this brief introduction.40 However in brief, he
and a circle of scholars around him were prominent in the court of Al-Ma’mūn (813 - 833 C.E.).
In particular he and his associates were charged with both improving the Arabic of earlier
translations of Greek philosophical works and in making certain that the new translations were
made in proper Arabic style. He, himself, does not appear to have done any of the translations,
serving rather as an editor and commentator on translations made by others both within and
without his circle.41
His importance here is in regard to his astrological work. Al-Kindī’s astrological work fell
into the three following categories. First there are works of a philosophical nature that pertain to
astrology of which the most important in the later evolution of philosophy is De radiis
See below under Abu Ma‘shar
Fihrist, 615.
Dimitri Gutas, Greek Thought, Arabic Culture (New York: Routledge, 1998), 120.
For a survey of his life and work at length see Peter Adamson, Al-Kindi (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
2007). For a shorter introduction see J. Jolivet and R. Rashed, “Al-Kindī” in Dictionary of Scientific Biography,vol.
15, Supplement I, 261-66.
Al-Kindī’s circle and its work is described in Gutas, Greek Thought, 120, 145-7, 149-50.
stellarum.42 Second we have works on weather forecasting and meteorology,43 and finally a work
on interrogations and elections known in its only edition as The Forty Chapters.44 However,
virtually all of that work as it pertains to military applications is also to be found in the Liber
novem iudicum. (See below).
Al-Kindī’s writings on military astrology are the largest component of the material on
military astrology in the Liber novem iudicum. In fact his writings on the subject constitute the
largest body of material on that subject from any source with the possible exception of
Theophilus of Edessa. Bonatti’s material on the subject is extensive but not so much as alKindī’s. Yet it does not seem that al-Kindī was much of an influence on Bonatti. This is true
even though there is an area in which one might expect al-Kindī to have been particularly
influential on Bonatti, the astrology of siege craft. It is an area where al-Kindī is especially
strong but Bonatti does not mention him and in fact follows a method which he clearly
developed himself owing little to any of his predecessors. This will be explored further in Chap.
10. However, even though al-Kindī does not seem to have been much of an influence on Bonatti
in the astrology of warfare, al-Kindī’s writings in this area will have to be reckoned with in any
further exploration of the subject by whomever may be interested in the subject of military
astrology for whatever reason.
Abu Ma‘shar (787 - 886) (Albumasar in Latin) Full name in Arabic Abū Ma‘shar Ja‘far ibn
Muhammad al-Balkhī — Abu Ma‘shar was brought to the study of astrology by al-Kindī. The
A complete edition of the Latin text with critical apparatus is to be found in Al-Kindī, “De Radiis” Archives
d’histoire doctrinale et littéraire du moyen âge, eds. M. -T. d’Alverny and F. Hudry (1974): 215-259.
See Bos and Burnett, Scientific Weather Forecasting. An early modern edition of some of al-Kindī’s weather
forecasting material is in al-Kindī and Gaphar, Astrorum iudices Alkindus Gaphar de Pluviis imbribus et ventis: ac
aeris mutatione (Venice: Petrus Liechtenstein, 1507).
The only edition of this work by itself has been prepared in a preliminary edition. See Al-Kindī, Iudicia.
Fihrist has the following description.
He [Abu Ma‘shar] was at first a scholar of the Hadīth. His house was on the West Side by
Bāb Khurasan. As he was antagonistic to al-Kindī, he stirred up the populace against him,
accusing him because of his philosophical sciences. But al-Kindī played a trick on him by
means of a man who interested him in the sciences of arithmetic and geometry. Although he
entered into this study, he did not perfect himself in it, turning instead to the science of the
judgments of the stars. Then he ended his ill will for al-Kindī because of his interest in this
science, which was of the same type as the sciences studied by al-Kindī himself. It is said
that he learned about the stars after he was forty-seven years old. He was a man of a superior
type, with good judgment.
Abu Ma‘shar was possibly the most important of the Arabic astrologers for a number of reasons,
first for his thorough restructuring of the philosophical foundations of astrology on Aristotelian
lines.45 Bonatti in the Liber astronomicus makes a lengthy philosophical defense of astrology,
most of it closely derived from Abu Ma‘shar’s Introductorium maius, possibly the most
comprehensive introductorium of them all.46
Second, Abu Ma‘shar wrote the definitive work on the revolutiones annorum mundi usually
referred to as the Great Conjunctions.47 This was not merely another astrological work. It had
great impact on the medieval view of history in the Latin west. We find his methods applied, for
example in Giovanni Villani’s chronicle of Florence, the Cronica,48 where in Book XIII, chap.
In addition to Lemay’s work, Abu Ma‘shar and Latin Aristotelianism cited earlier in this work, see a critiques
of this work that does not completely alter Lemay’s central thesis. See Pingree, “Abū Ma‘shar.” Another analysis of
Abu Ma‘shar’s philosophical reworking of astrology, see Peter Adamson, “Abū Ma'šar, Al-Kindī and the
Philosophical Defense of Astrology,” Recherches de Théologie et Philosophie Médiévales 69, no. 2 (2002): 245-270.
There were two Latin translations made of the Introductorium maius, one by John of Seville and one by
Hermann of Carinthia. The first of these is very literal and translates everything in the original Arabic. The second
one is a much looser translation and almost a paraphrase of the Arabic but in much more elegant Latin. The John of
Seville translation was copied many times but never printed until the Lemay edition cited here. For a complete
critical edition of the original Arabic and the two Latin translations see Abu Ma‘shar, Liber introductorii maioris.
However a completely new version of this work is in preparation at the Warburg under the aegis of Charles Burnett
and his associates.
The modern edition entitled On Historical Astrology has been cited previously. The editio princeps is Abu
Ma‘shar. De Magnis Coniunctionibus (Venice: Erhard Ratdolt, 1489).
Villani, Nuova cronica, 392.
41 entitled “Della congiunzione di Saturno e di Giove e di Marti49 nel segno d'Aquario” (“On the
Conjunction of Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars in the Sign of Aquarius”) we find a treatment of the
astrology of the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn of 1345 that is clearly based on the
methodology of Abu Ma‘shar’s Great Conjunctions. Not only is Villani’s treatment derived
from that work, his treatment is a quite complete implementation of Abu Ma‘shar’s methods. In
a later part of that same chapter he poses the question of why one should study astrology in
connection with the past and he answers thus:
…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 elsewhere, 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.50
For Villani the astrology of the revolutiones annorum mundi was a technique for making sense
out of the past and extrapolating into the future.
Abu Ma‘shar is also the author of another work on revolutiones annorum mundi that came
into the Latin tradition as the Flores.51 Bonatti’s material on revolutiones annorum mundi is very
much derived from both works.
Finally, although this is not what Abu Ma‘shar is mainly known for, he did write on the text
on revolutiones annorum nati described in Chapter 4 in the material on firdaria.52
Liber novem iudicum (mid-twelfth century) – This is not a work by a single author. It is an
The form is ‘di Marti’ in the newest edition which was used in this work. Earlier editions had ‘di Marte’. The
cause of discrepancies here and elsewhere between the newest edition and older ones is that the new edition makes
no effort to modernize the Italian. Earlier editions made Villani’s Italian more modern.
“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 cronica assai potrà comprendere per comparazione di quelle
sono passate pronosticate delle future, aconsentiente Idio, . . .” – Cronica, p. 395.
The editio princeps of this work is Abu Ma‘shar, Flores Albumasaris (Venice: Erhard Ratdolt, 1488).
See pp. 115 to 128.
anthology although one which clearly attempted to include most or all of what each author wrote
on each subject. The format is not unique. There is more than one work with a similar title and
format.53 However, this work is the most complete and inclusive of the lot. In Carmody it is
designated as the Liber novem iudicum II, hereafter simply referred to the Liber novem iudicum.
It is a compilation of a number of Arabic sources on interrogations and elections and as such this
work is not to be found in Arabic at all. The sources were gathered, translated and assembled in
their Latin translations and the title is derived from the fact that the works of nine authors were
supposedly assembled into the collection. However, the Liber novem iudicum is not simply an
anthology. The entire work is broken down into the houses of the astrological chart and then
further into topics based on the questions that pertain to that house. This provides the basic
organization of the work. Under each topic are grouped the writings of each author that pertain
to that topic. In this way the reader is able to look up a house and its associated questions and
then see, one after another, what each author has to say on that topic thereby obtaining a variety
of viewpoints.
According to Burnett,54 the principal translator and compiler of this work was Hugh (or
Hugo) of Santalla who was also responsible for a translation of what appears to have been an
otherwise unknown work of Masha’allah which has come to us as the Liber Aristotelis.55 He
appears to have been assisted in this by Hermann of Carinthia, the same Hermann who produced
one of the two translations of Abu Ma‘shar’s Greater Introduction. Burnett seems not to be
certain about Hermann’s participation but there are some peculiarities of translation style in
Carmody, Arabic Astronomical and Astrological Sciences in Latin Translation, 7.
Burnett, “Hugh of Santalla.”
Mentioned previously in Chap. 4, p. 127.
some of the sections which suggest that he was involved.56
The nine “judges” are as follows: Masha’allah (Mesehella), Omar (Aomar), al-Kindī
(Alkindus), Sahl ibn Bishr (Zael or Zahel as I have been spelling the name), Abu `Ali al-Khayyat
(Albenait), Dorotheus, Jergis, and Aristotle (Aristoteles). That makes eight “judges”. The 1509
Liechtenstein edition and its 1571 reprint list “Ptholemeus” (Ptolemy) as the ninth judge but
there is no material explicitly from Ptolemy in the work. Dykes in the introduction to his English
translation of the work mentions Abu Ma‘shar as the ninth judge but there is nothing explicitly
by him either.57 Apparently our nine judges are actually eight. And since none of Masha’allah’s
interrogational material (aside from introductory material) is included in the main body of the
text, in most of the Liber novem iudicum there are only septem iudices. In two cases material
from the Liber novem iudicum can be found elsewhere. The Zahel material is simply another
translation from the Arabic by Hugh or Hermann of material that is also found in the translation
done by John of Seville. Al-Kindī’s material is also found by itself in the separate translation of
the Forty Chapters by Robert of Ketton.58 As far as the material on warfare is concerned Liber
novem iudicum has all of what is in the Forty Chapters,59 in addition to material that is not found
anywhere else. Jergis has not been identified for certain but Carmody believes that he might
have been “Georgius Antiochenus [11th c.], or Jirjis ibn al-‘Amid.” In any case we have little else
from his work. Aristotle, of course, is not the philosopher. The work is pseudo-Aristotelian. The
In several of the sections of the Liber novem iudicum forms of the word dux are used where in other passages
significator or dominus are used. This usage may also be found in Hermann of Carinthia’s Abu Ma‘shar. I do not
claim this to be definitive but it does at least suggest Hermann’s involvement in translating some of the passages of
Liber novem iudicum.
Book of Nine Judges, trans. Dykes (Minneapolis: Cazini Press, 2011), 7.
Burnett, “Al-Kindi on Judicial Astrology”, 78.
In his “Al-Kindi on Judicial Astrology” Burnett gives both the version from the Liber novem iudicum and
Robert of Ketton in parallel columns. There are a few paragraphs in which the two versions do not quite match but
for the most part they do. The Latin of the Robert of Ketton version is in much poorer condition.
material from Omar, Abu ‘Ali al-Khayyat, Dorotheus, Jergis, and Aristotle are not known in
Latin from any other sources. I discuss the Liber novem iudicum again in Chapter 6.
Haly Abenragel (d. after 1040). Known in Arabic as Abū l-Hasan Alî ibn abi’r-Rijâl – From
the first part of the Arabic name is derived his other most common Latin name Albohazen Haly.
Unlike our other authors, Abenragel was a native of the Maghreb in what is now Tunisia.
Despite the fact that his work was highly esteemed by later medieval astrologers, not much is
known about his life. His major and perhaps only work was the Kitāb al-barī fi ahkām an-nujūm,
the complete version in Latin of which is known as the Liber completus in iudiciis astrorum. The
original Arabic was translated at the order of Alfonso X into old Castilian by a Jew named
Yehūdā ben Mōshē and from that into Latin by Aegidius Tebaldis with the assistance of one
Petrus de Regio.60 The Castilian version was completed in 1256.61 This last date is significant
because it is directly in the middle of Bonatti’s projected lifetime. It is not known exactly when
the Latin version was completed, but even if it were completed very quickly thereafter, it is quite
conceivable that Bonatti would not have known about him.62 Nevertheless, I have included him
in my analysis of Bonatti’s predecessors in hopes that what I have found may make some
contribution to answering the question of Abenragel’s influence upon Bonatti.
His work is extensive and comprehensive but for the most part seems to be a compilation
without much originality (even of the limited kind that I do find in Bonatti) and at times not even
Carmody, Arabic Astronomical and Astrological Sciences in Latin Translation, 150.
A. R. Nykl, “Libro conplido en los juizios de las estrellas,” Speculum 29, no. 1 (1954), 88.
This would contradict Holden’s claim that Abenragel was a major influence on Bonatti. In Tractatus VI (on
interrogations), at least in questions of war, no “Haly” is mentioned. In Tractatus VII (on elections), there are
references to a “Haly” but this appears to be the author known in Latin as Haly Emrani who wrote a treatise on
elections which was quite influential, yet was never issued in a printed edition until a partial edition in the early
twentieth century. See José María Millás Vallicrosa, Las Traducciones Orientales En Los Manuscritos De La
Biblioteca Catedral de Toledo. (Madrid, 1942), 328-339. My own comparisons between Bonatti and Haly Emrani
suggest that Emrani was indeed Bonatti’s source. Jean-Patrice Boudet made a similar point in a presentation at the
Warburg in February 2008.
a very well ordered compilation. As I show in Chap. 8, for example, in the midst of his material
on interrogations involving warfare there is a chapter that more properly belongs in a discussion
of revolutiones annorum mundi since most of the material in it refers to revolutions not
interrogations and elections. The work is divided into eight parts. Of these the first part consists
of a bit of introductory matter and then interrogations involving the first through fifth houses.
The second part consists of interrogations involving the sixth and seventh houses. The third part
is about interrogations for houses eight through twelve. Given the fact the parts are roughly the
same length, it seems that a good deal of weight given to these houses six and seven. In fact, in
most works on interrogations there are more kinds of questions involving the seventh house than
there are for any other house, and interrogations involving illness and recovery (sixth house) is
the other large category due to their use in medical astrology. Parts four and five are devoted to
nativities, and in this application of astrology, the organization of Abenragel’s material is
different from most other sources including Bonatti. Most astrologers in the middle ages
organized their presentation of nativities along Ptolemaic lines, that is, issue by issue.63
Abenragel organized his discussion of nativities house by house just as he does with
interrogations and elections. Part six is the predictive portion of the doctrine of nativities,
especially the study of revolutiones annorum nati. This is the portion that contains the material
that is clearly derived from Abu Ma‘shar.64 Part seven is devoted to elections. Finally, part eight
is devoted to revolutiones annorum mundi and again we see material largely derived from Abu
Ma‘shar. In the end Haly Abenragel’s text covers all of the main divisions of medieval astrology
except that there is no comprehensive introductorium. Although there is a little of this in part
See Chap. 2, p. 56.
See Chap. 4, p. 29.
one, and more bits are scattered about the text, there is nothing systematic such as one finds in
introductoria of Abu Ma‘shar, Ibn Ezra, Alcabitius, al-Biruni and of course Bonatti.
All these astrologers may have influenced Bonatti, directly or indirectly, both within military
astrology as well as outside of it. Let us now turn to a discussion of Bonatti himself and various
issues that are relevant to an understanding of his work.
Guido Bonatti’s Life and Its Relationship to the Astrology of Warfare
It is not my intention in this section to discuss all aspects of Bonatti’s life. A definitive study of
his life is needed but this is not the place. Lynn Thorndike has devoted the better part of chapter
67 of volume 2 of H.O.M.E.S to a discussion of the life and works of Guido Bonatti.65 More
recently Benjamin Dykes has presented a biography of Bonatti in the introduction to his English
translation of the Liber Astronomicus.66 However, the main source of information for any serious
research into the life of Guido Bonatti is to be found in an Italian work Della vita e delle opere
di Guido Bonatti astrologo ed astronomo del secolo decimoterzo by Baldassarre Boncompagni.67
It was written in 1851 but it remains invaluable as a source in part because of its having
assembled much of the primary source material.68 It is not a biography in the usual sense. It is a
compilation of primary sources with minimal commentary by Boncompagni.
Not much is known about the details of Bonatti's life. Neither his birth nor death dates can be
H.O.M.E.S., volume2, 825-35.
Guido Bonatti, Book of Astronomy, Benjamin Dykes trans., 2 vols. (Golden Valley, MN: The Cazimi Press,
2007), xxxiv-xliv.
Baldassarre Boncompagni, Della vita e delle opere di Guido Bonatti astrologo ed astronomo del secolo
decimoterzo (Rome: Tipografia delle Belle Arti, 1851). This work is currently available on Google Books (Feb.
2013) hereafter referred to as Boncompagni, Bonatti.
Boncompagni’s Della vita has been used as a source by both Thorndike and Dykes.
established with certainty. Thorndike69 mentions a reference in Boncampagni70 which traces back
to the Liber Astronomicus Tractatus V, Consideration 141. In the midst of a discussion as to why
the fixed stars usually have a bad influence upon life, he pauses to discuss certain possible
exceptions such as persons who have lived a very long time.
…it happens sometimes that some persons have lived according to the greatest years of the
Alcocoden.71 I have not seen any such persons except one who was called Richard. He said
that he had been at the court of Charlemagne the King of France and that he [Richard] had
lived for four hundred years… and I saw Richard at Ravenna in the [year of] the era of Christ
We have no idea how old he was in 1233 but he was most likely not a child. Bonatti himself
refers to the battle of Valbona73 in 1277, and the Annales Forolivienses refer to a siege of Forlì in
May 1282 when French troops in support of Pope Martin IV laid siege to Forlì,74 discussed in
more detail below. Dante’s visit to the Inferno was supposed to have happened in the year 1300.
There are no unambiguous references to Bonatti between these two years, therefore his death
occurred between 1282 and 1300.
It is also not known whether he was born in Florence, Forlì or in the small Umbrian town of
Cascia.75 The problem need not detain us here. He may or may not have been a student or a
member of the faculty of the University of Bologna, but he certainly spent some time there
H.O.M.E.S., vol. 2, 826.
Boncompagni, Bonatti, 21.
See ALCOCODEN in the Glossary.
…accidit aliquando quod aliqui vixerunt secundum annos maximos alcocoden de qui/bus tempore meo non
vidi nisi unum qui vocebatur Ricardus qui dicebat sefuisse in curia Karoli Magni regis Francie et vixisse
quadringenti annis… et vidi Ricardum Ravenne era Christi 1233…– Bonatti, Ratdolt ed., fol. 99v.
See below, p. 155.
For a description of the siege as well as the citation from the Annales Forolivenses see p. 156 and n. 108 on
that page.
Boncompagni, Bonatti, 1-20. Also see Cesare Vasoli, “Bonatti, Guido” in Dizionario Biografico degli
Italiani, volume 11. Accessed Oct. 29, 2013,
guido-bonatti_%28Dizionario-Biografico%29/ and Augusto Vasina, “Bonatti, Guido” in Enciclopedia Dantesca.
Accessed Oct. 29, 2013, These
two latter sources give additional bibliography from more recent sources to supplement Boncompagni.
apparently encountering John of Vicenza in 1233.76 Bonatti himself refers to John in the Liber
astronomicus.77 Vasoli concludes in his article on Bonatti that the evidence suggests the
possibility that Bonatti at least studied with the medical faculty at Bologna.78
Our next event for which a date may be given is 1245 when he foresaw a conspiracy in the
annual revolution of the emperor Frederick II.79 The passage that mentions this is a discussion of
just how far past an angle80 a planet may be and still be regarded as conjoined with the angle.
I have, however, proved that a planet is in the angle nearly up to the full five degrees beyond
the cusp of any angle. For in a certain year in investigating the revolution of that year I found
Mars in the fifth degree beyond the cusp of the angle of the earth. It was in Capricorn and his
latitude was southern; that signified the murder of the Emperor of the Romans81 and at that
time I made it known to him, for he was then in Grosseto and I was in Forlì. Pandulfo de
Fasanella and Tibaldo Francesco and several other of his secretaries had formed a conspiracy
to kill him and none of his astrologers found this out because they did not believe that Mars
was in an angle. Mars had gone beyond the cusp of the angle by four degrees and 59 minutes
This second reference to 1233 established that Bonatti was at least a young adult by this time. Boncompagni
provides documentation concerning Bonatti’s stay in Bologna and this encounter. See Boncompagni, Bonatti, 22-24.
Bonatti, Ratdolt ed., Tractatus I, chapter 13,fol. 8v; Tractatus V, Consideration 141, fol. 100 r-v.
Cesare Vasoli, “Bonatti”.
Benvenuto da Imola, nel suo Comentum alla Divina Commedia, lo dice fisiologo insigne e medico rinomato,
oltreché astrologo: “Mirabilissimus astrologus, magnus phisicus, medicus excellens”, il che presupporrebbe
evidentemente studi giovanili di medicina, e non di leggi. Non siamo in grado di valutare l'attendibilità di
quest'ultima affermazione, dato che ignoriamo le fonti su cui si basava il commentatore della Commedia; la
notizia non appare tuttavia inverosimile, meglio adattandosi, in effetti, alla figura e all'opera del B[onatti] come
astrologo l'idea di un suo noviziato medico-scientifico, piuttosto che quella di studioso di leggi.
However, in a personal conversation with Kenneth Pennington, professor of Canon Law of the Catholic University
of America, mentioned that Bonatti’s discussion of lawsuits shows a good technical knowledge of Latin legal
vocabulary. This would seem to contradict Vasoli’s conclusion. However, for the present the matter will have to
remain undecided.
Frederick II Hohenstaufen is often listed as one of those who employed Bonatti as an astrologer. While there
was apparently contact between them, it is not clear to what extent he was in Frederick’s employ. That Bonatti
erected an annual revolution for Frederick implies that the relationship was something more than a fleeting
When a planet rises, culminates, sets or anti-culminates, at the exact moment of any of these events the planet
is said to be on the ascendant, the midheaven, the descendant or imum coeli respectively, all of which are angles.
Then it is carried beyond the angle by the earth’s rotation so that the angle has a greater degree of longitude than the
planet. Bonatti argues here, based on a common interpretation of a passage in Book III of Ptolemy, that the planet is
still to be considered on the angle until it is more than fives degrees away from the angle. See ANGLE in the Glossary.
Frederick II.
according to their opinion. However, [only] after a planet is distant from the cusp or arc82 of
any angle by five degrees is it called cadent from the angle.83
Of course, Bonatti was cutting it rather fine with his 4E59' out of 5E00', but I believe that most
astrologers even in his time would have regarded Mars as close enough to the angle to be
Another person who is mentioned as an employer of Bonatti is Ezzelino III da Romano, the
tyrant. Bonatti makes a number of references to him, mostly unfavorable, but he does appear to
have worked for him. Judging from the comment below, it is not entirely clear that he or the
other astrologers who worked for him had much choice in the matter. The reference is imbedded
in a discussion of a peculiar mode of application.85 This mode of application is called a “return
of virtue.”86 Apparently some astrologers did not take it seriously enough for Bonatti.
However, I myself have found some who seemed to me divergent from other astrologers and
had their own opinion. They did not believe that the return of virtue or disposition was
anything [worthwhile]. Such a one was the tyrant Ezzelino da Romano and also a certain
astrologer of his named Salio. I believe that Salio agreed with Ezzelino more out of fear
rather than because he believed it was true. I believe this because Ezzelino was holding a
brother of Salio’s in leg shackles whom Salio was fearful that Ezzelino would have him
linea. This actually means ‘line’ but not in the sense of a straight line. Since the actual cusp on the sphere is
an arc, I have translated linea as arc.
Ego tamen probavi quod planeta esset in angulo usque prope complementum quinque graduum ultra cuspidem
cuiusvis anguli: nam dum quodam anno ego investigare revolutionem ipsius anni inveni martem in quinto gradu
ultra cuspidem anguli terre et erat in capricorno et erat eius latitude meridiana et illus significabat interfectionem
imperatoris romanorum: et significavi tunc illud ei: erat enim ipse tunc grosseti et ego in forlivii: fueruntque inventi
pandulfus de fasanella et thebaldus franciscus et plures alii de suis secretariis fecisse coniurationem ut interficerent
eum: et nullus suorum astrologorum invenit hoc quia non credebant quod mars esset in angulo: transiverat enim
cuspidem anguli per quatuor gradus et .58. minuta secundum eorum opinionem, postquam vero planeta fuerit
elongatus a cuspide sive a linea alicuius anguli per quinque gradus dicitur cadens ab angulo. – Bonatti, Ratdolt ed.,
fol. 85r
In Dykes’ discussion of this incident he argues that this did not prove that Bonatti was in the employ of
Frederick II because “although Bonatti claims to have foreseen the plot, he never actually says he warned Frederick,
or was in a position to do so.”– Dykes, Bonatti, xxxvii. Unfortunately, Dykes misread the Latin because it is clear
that Bonatti did inform the emperor. Apparently Dykes misread et significavi tunc illud ei as et significavit tunc illud
An application occurs when one planet moves into an aspect (significant angular relationship) with another.
See ASPECT and APPLICATION in the Glossary.
See RETURN OF VIRTUE in the Glossary.
killed. He said that the Moon and any swift planet received the nature of that planet to which
it was being joined, and that each slow planet gave its virtue to the swift planet whether it
received the slow planet or not. He had many other erroneous opinions as well.87
The Salio referred to here is one Master Salio, Canon of Padua, who was not a minor figure in
medieval astrology.88 Ezzelino’s coercion of astrologers for their advice may have backfired in
the way Ezzelino met his in end. The life and times of Ezzelino, especially as it pertains to
astrology, is chronicled by at least three sources. The first is from the anonymous monk of
Padua,89 the second is Rolandinus Patavinus90 and the third is from a work of the fifteenth
century by Iacopo Malvezzi.91 The Monk of Padua and Rolandino both described Ezzelino’s
involvement with astrology; of the two sources Rolandino has considerably more material on
Ezzelino’s lifelong involvement with it. But it is the events leading up to Ezzelino’s death that
are most interesting for our purposes. Ezzelino clearly used astrology to gain an edge militarily.
But, as I have just shown, he seems to have terrorized his astrologers. His mother, according to
Ego tamen inveni aliquos qui videbantur mihi diversi ab aliis et erant in quadam sua opinione quod non
credebant quod redditus virtutis seu dispositionis esset aliquid sicut fuit tyrannus ycilinus de romano et erat quidam
eius astrologus nomine salionus quem credo assensisse sibi potius ex timore quam quod crederet ita esse. Et hoc
credo propterea quia ycilinus habebat quendam eius fratrem in compedibus de quo ipse timebat ne occideret eum. Et
dicebat quod luna et quilibet planeta levis accipiebat naturam illius cui iungebatur: et quilibet ponderosus dabat
virtutem suam levi sive reciperet eum sive non: et multas alias opiniones erroneas habebat. – Bonatti, Ratdolt ed,
fols. 68r, 68v. This passage in fact is part of Bonatti’s exposition on the subject of the return of virtue.
This appears to be the same Salio of Padua who was one of those who translated Albubatir (Arabic Abu Bakr)
from Arabic into Latin, and also a pseudo-Hermetic treatise on the fixed stars. Siraisi, Arts and Sciences at Padua,
79; Thorndike, H.O.M.E.S., vol. 2, 221n. For a modern edition of the treatise on the fixed stars see Hermes
Tresmegistes, “De Stellis Beibeniis,” in Hermes Latinus, vol. IV, part IV, ed. Paul Kunitzsch (Turnhout: Brepols,
2001),11-81. For an edition of the Albubatir or Albubater see Abu Bakr, Liber genethliacus, sive De nativitatibus
(Nuremberg: Johannes Petreius, 1540).
There are two modern scholarly editions of this work. The one more commonly cited is Luigi Alfredo
Botteghi, ed., Chronicon Marchiae Tarvisinae et Lombardiae, Rerum Italicarum Scriptores (RIS), vol. 8, pt. 3 (Città
di Castello: Tipi della casa editrice S. Lapi, 1914-1916). The other is from the Monumenta Germaniae Historica
(MGH). Anonymous, “Annales Sanctae Iustinae Patavini A. 1207-1270,” in MGH, Philip Jaffe ed., SS XIX
(Hannover: Impensis Bibliopolii Aulici Hahniani, 1866). In general the Latin editing appears to have been done
somewhat more carefully in the MGH version. I have therefore chosen to use the latter.
Rolandinus, Rolandini Patavini cronica in factis et circa facta Marchie Trivixane, vol. 8, pt. 1, RIS.(Citta` di
Castello: S. Lapi, 1903-1907).
Iacopo Malvezzi, Chronicon brixianorum ab origine urbis ad annum usque 1332 cited in Boncompagni,
Bonatti, 29-30.
Rolandino, was highly skilled in the subject and perhaps he also fancied himself to be skilled in
the subject as Bonatti implies.
The year 1259 proved to be Ezzelino’s last. In February of that year, according to Iacopo
Malvezzi,92 Ezzelino had a dream which concerned him greatly . He called forth his astrologers,
“nigromancers” and magicians to interpret the dream. Among the astrologers were Bonatti,
Canon Salio, Riprandino of Verona, Paul of Brescia and a certain “Saracen.” According to
Malvezzo they all agreed that Ezzelino’s forthcoming military expedition into Lombardy would
be successful and the beginning of a long period of great success. This of course is not what
happened. Malvezzi did allow, however, that Bonatti and the other astrologers may have
withheld the truth out of fear or hatred of Ezzelino, again as Bonatti implies. This may have had
a bitter consequence for Ezzelino.
In his entry for late August 1259 Rolandino describes the chart for the time that Ezzelino
chose, based on advice from his astrologers, to begin to move his troops out for the subsequent
campaign. Rolandino describes it in some detail enabling us to reproduce the planetary positions
for the date in question.93 It is enough to say that Rolandino’s information on the locations of the
planets was incorrect. Here is what he reports.
… the ascendant at that time was the sign of Sagittarius. The Sun was in Virgo, the Moon in
Scorpio, Saturn in Aquarius and Jupiter was the rearguard94 in Libra direct, [and] Mars [was]
in Leo and likewise direct, Venus in Cancer direct, Mercury in Leo direct, [and] the Head
and Tail of the Dragon in fixed signs.95
Cited in Boncompagni, Bonatti, 29-30.
I checked the computations for this date using a program described in detail in Chap. 10, p. 306, n. 31.
retroguardus. It is not clear what this term means. It resembles retrogradus, ‘backwards’, or ‘retrograde’, but
Jupiter was not retrograde on this date. I interpret it to mean something like “bringing up the rear”, “rearguard.”
…tunc fuit ascendens Sagittarii signum. Sol erat in Virgine, Luna in Scorpione, Saturnus in Aquario eratque
retroguardus Iupiter in Libra directus, Mars in Leone similiter et directus, Venus in Cancro directa, Mercurius in
Leone directus, capud autem et cauda Draconis in signis fixis.
Rolandino gives his own commentary on the astrology but there is one thing that he did not
know; the chart he describes was astronomically incorrect. Jupiter, Saturn and Mercury are in the
wrong signs and substantially so. Was this simply poor astronomy? I would argue not. We do not
have any charts computed by any of the astrologers present (unless Bonatti was present at this
time which is not reported by Rolandino): however we do have charts for other occasions
computed by Bonatti. His positions, at least for the planets, are in substantial agreement with
modern calculations within a degree or two for the Moon, Mars and Mercury,96 the rest within a
degree. It is not possible that highly trained medieval astrologers could have been so far off in
their calculations. However, an amateur could have easily made such errors. Rolandino states
that Ezzelino acted “according to the advice of his astrologers and wise men, with his own
[Ezzelino’s] foresight also confirmed.” 97 Ezzelino began his march, was wounded in the
subsequent campaign, captured and died in prison. One has to ask whether it was possible that
Ezzelino’s astrologers did not give him their best work out of fear of contradicting him? Whether
that would have had something to do with the failure of the campaign, I leave to others to decide.
We have four more instances of Bonatti’s personal involvement with military astrology. Two
come from sources other than Bonatti. Two come from Bonatti himself. I take these up in
chronological order.
The first of these is reported by Bonatti himself. His first major patron after the death of
All three planets were especially difficult to compute using medieval methods.
sua eciam provisione firmata. This phrase is ambiguous. It could refer either to provision in the sense of
planning which was made firm or it could refer to his foresight that this timing would work which Ezzelino which
was confirmed by the astrologers. Given the context of the astrology in the section I prefer the latter reading against
Berrigan’s English transltion “his
plans were settled.” See Rolandino, The Chronicles of the Trevisan March, translated by Joseph R. Berrigan
(Lawrence, KS: Coronado Press, 1980), 180.
Ezzelino, was Count Guido Novello.98 Novello was a leader of the Ghibelline faction in the
period of strife between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines. As such Bonatti aided him, it is
alleged, in the battle of Montaperti on September 4, 1260. Bonatti himself refers to this battle in
which he claims to have assisted in Novello’s victory against overwhelming odds. Here is his
It is true that I myself once made an election for the Count Guido Novello of Tuscany against
the Florentines who had expelled him from Florence and leveled all of the castles which he
held in Tuscany and despoiled him of all of his goods. The Florentines had on their side
3,200 knights, and perhaps 13,000 foot soldiers, 5000 or more of men working the balistas,99
and yet we overcame and vanquished them completely. This was in the valley of Arbia near
Montaperti. However, I had first asked a question as to whether we should obtain victory and
afterward we had a very strong election for going to the battle. I knew the end result of these
charts by means of private messengers sent to the battle that the outcome was bad,100 indeed,
the very worst.101
Whether Bonatti’s interrogation and election made a difference or not, what he describes here is
standard procedure in determining the outcome of a battle by astrology.
As a result of the battle of Montaperti, Guido Novello came back to power in Florence. But
many of the people who fled Florence after the battle of Montaperti went to Lucca where not
long afterward Novello moved to attack the city. This resulted in two astrological charts which
appear in Tractatus VI , chapters §VI.7.28 and §VI.7.29.102 The first of these addresses the
question as to whether there will be a battle or not outside the city, and the second whether there
For Novello and his involvement with Bonatti see Boncompagni, Bonatti, 34-6.
A type of catapult.
Presumably for the other side.
Verum est tamen quod ego elegi quadam vice comiti Guidone Novello de Tuscia contra Florentinos qui
expulerunt eum de Florencia et straverunt ei omnia sua castra que habebat in Tuscia et expoliaverunt eum omnibus
suis bonis. Qui habebat ex parte sua .3200. milites et forte .13000. pedites et .5000. balisterios et ultra; et tamen
debellavimus eos et vicimus ex toto. Et fuit hoc in valle Arbie apud Montem Apertum. Verumtamen ego habebam
primo per questionem quod debebamus obtinere et post habuimus electionem fortissimam in eundo ad prelium, et
sciebam exitum eorum per privatos nuncios missos ad illud qui erat malus imo pessimus. – Bonatti, Ratdolt ed., fol.
See Chap. 6 for more about my notation of the chapters in Bonatti’s and the others’ works. For the present,
the notation §VI.7.28 and §VI.7.29 means Tractatus VI, part 2, seventh house, chapters 28 and 29.
will be victory in a siege for the besieging party. The first of these is in the Introduction to
Medieval Astrology in the appendix103 and the second chart is described in Chapter 10, page
Bonatti’s second reference is to what he and other practitioners of the art of interrogations
believed to have been a particularly powerful indication in warfare. When at the beginning of a
battle the planet which rules the degree setting in the west (the descendant) is located in the first
or ascending house in the east, or when this happens in an interrogation about which side will
win, the attacking side (in an election) or the side of the querent (in an interrogation) will win.
He writes:
It is clear that the same thing can be said in elections. It happened to us in just this way when
we rode forth at Valbona. [At the time] the Ascendant was Taurus and Mars was in the
Ascendant;104 we conquered everyone who desired to resist us. However, [on the other hand]
if the lord of the first is in the seventh, that is the greatest [possible] debility for the querent,
and the greatest [possible] strength for the enemy because it signifies that the enemy will
overcome the querent.105
On another occasion we see a different way in which Bonatti could work to make certain that a
battle would be conducted under the proper conditions. This concerns a battle outside of the
walls of Forlì when Bonatti was working with Guido da Montefeltro, his last patron and the one
with whom Bonatti was mostly closely associated.106 The following is from Filippo Villani:
Futhermore it has been related in an old story that whenever Count Guido [da Montefeltro]
had made himself ready for the purpose of making war, Guido Bonatti would sit in the bell
See p. 384.
If the ascendant is Taurus then Mars rules the seventh house, Scorpio, the opposite sign.
Idem in electionibus videtur posse dici sicut accidit nobis quando equitavimus Valbonam. Fuit enim
Ascendens Taurus et Mars in Ascendente, vicimus enim omnes volentes nobis resistere. Si autem dominus prime
fuerit in septima quod est ei maxima debilitas et inimico maxima fortitudo significat quod inimicus vincet
interrogantem. – Bonatti §VI.7.21, lines 150-155.
Guido da Montefeltro (1223 – September 29, 1298) is a well documented figure whose exploits and
association with astrology can be found in most of the major chronicles of northern Italy during the thirteenth
century. He shares with Bonatti the dubious distinction of being a personage depicted in Dante’s Inferno, Canto
tower of Saint Mercurialis ready to examine the stars and forewarn the Count so that in that
moment in which he first heard the ringing of a little bell, [the Count] along with his men
would put on their arms, at the second ringing, they would ascend their horses, [and] at the
third bell, once they taken hold of their standards, they would ride forth.107
The final incident that can be related about Bonatti’s life shows how an astrologer might take a
difficult indication concerning the outcome of a war, in this case a siege, and turn it to
advantage. The story is related in the Annales Forolivienses.108 Bonatti and Guido da Montefeltro
were in Forlì besieged by a French army fighting on behalf of Pope Martin IV in an attempt to
put down revolts in northern Italy against the Pope’s authority over his domains. Montefeltro
saw that the situation was not good and that there was no hope of the siege being lifted. Bonatti
also apparently saw astrologically that the city would fall but found a way of turning matters to
their advantage. Everyone was told to leave the city and to take nothing except their arms. Only
the elderly, and at least some of the women, were to be left behind. This was done at the
appointed hour. Meanwhile the gate that the enemy faced was left open so that the French troops
could come in without difficulty. When they did, they were greeted by the women and offered
food, drink and refreshment as well as rest. So the city “fell.” However, scouts later reported
back to Montefeltro that the enemy was either asleep or full of food and drink. At this point the
armed citizenry re-entered the city and took the enemy completely by surprise. The result was
complete victory. The chronicle concludes the matter thus:
Wherefore it was done, so that, after a victory gloriously won by the Forlivians, the Gallic
Amplius relatum vetere fama est quandocunque ad quancunque rem bellicam se Guido comes destinatione
preparasset, tunc Guidonem Bonacti in campanili Sancti Mercurialis consideratur<um> sydera consedisse atque
premonuisse comitem ut, illo in momento quo tynnitum nole primitus audiret, una cum suis indueret arma, ad
secundum equos ascenderent, ad tertium raptis signis velociter equitarent. – Filippo Villani, Philippi Villani De
Origine Civitatis Florentie et de eiusdem famosis civibus, ed. Giuliano Tanturli (Padua: In ædibus Antenoreis,
1997), 405. Also recounted in Boncompagni, Bonatti, 7 with some different editing.
L.A. Muratori, ed., Annales Forolivienses, vol. XXII, part II, RIS (Citta di Castello: Giuseppe Mazzatinti,
1903), 36-8.
troops, once fair and great, were reduced to nothing by the courage and cleverness of the
brave captain of the people of Forlì and the counsel of lord Guido Bonatti, who was wounded
in the battle while carrying medicines. He foresaw it and described it all beforehand.109
This is the last certain recorded act of Bonatti’s life. Guido da Montefeltro joined the Franciscan
Order and Bonatti may have done so as well.110
The purpose of this chapter has been twofold. First, I have introduced the principal persons
who contributed to the tradition of military astrology of which Bonatti was a part. Second, I have
introduced Guido Bonatti, described evidence of his life and activity, and shown something of
his involvement with military astrology. I remind the reader that purpose of this work is not to
prove that Bonatti used astrology for military purposes. I have shown here that he did. The goal
is to show how his active application of astrology to military purposes caused him to consider, to
reflect, where necessary to alter, and where necessary to fill in the tradition as he received it.
Here again, let me state that this had to be done by any astrologer who actually endeavored to
apply material received from the Arab astrologer. Showing how this happened in practice is the
task of Chapters 7 through 10. In the next chapter, I return to Bonatti and to the authors from
whom his work may have been derived and discuss what texts I have used, as well the editions,
and manuscripts employed. The next chapter also includes other materials which are preparatory
for the later chapters of this work. There I also introduce a more detailed description of the kinds
of changes that Bonatti made in the material of his predecessors and the significance of these
Quo factum est ut post victoriam sic gloriose a Liviensibus peractam, gens gallica, iam pulchra et magna, ad
nichilum sit redacta, virtute et caliditate magnanimi capitani populi Liviensis et consilio domini Guidonis Bonatti,
qui vulneratus fuit in prelio, ferenda medicanda; et omnia previdit et ante dixit. – Annales Forolivienses, 38.
Thorndike, H.O.M.E.S., vol. 2, 828.
Chapter 6. Texts and Methods.
The Authors and the Texts.
This chapter lays out preliminary material necessary for the understanding of the textual
comparisons of Bonatti’s materials on warfare with that of his predecessors that follow in the
subsequent chapters. First, it is a discussion of authors who works have been employed in this
study: how they were selected, which works have been employed, and which editions and
manuscripts were consulted. I then follow up with a discussion of the textual methods, editing
procedures, spelling and punctuation conventions and such I employed in creating the versions
of the Latin texts which form the foundation of this study. Finally, I build on the discussion
sketched out in Chapter 4 to demonstrate the evolution of Bonatti’s material on warfare with
respect to his predecessors. To do this, I construct categories of change that are employed in the
final chapters of this study.
In Chapter 5 I introduced astrological authors whose work was important to Bonatti and the
traditions from which he came. Not all of the authors that I mentioned in that chapter, however,
were his direct predecessors. Of those mentioned the following are important to this discussion:
Dorotheus of Sidon, Omar of Tiberias, Abu ‘Ali al-Khayyat otherwise known as Albenait, Sahl
ibn Bishr or Zahel, al-Kindī and Haly Abenragel.1 In addition we have the two otherwise
unknown authors from the Liber novem iudicum, Jergis, and pseudo-Aristotle.
For Zahel I look at his material on interrogations pertaining to the seventh house, to be found
in any manuscript or edition that contains his De iudiciis or De interrogationibus, the two most
See chap. 5 for their biographies.
common Latin titles of his work in interrogations. The same material in a different translation is
found scattered throughout the Liber novem iudicum discussed below. The edition that I have
consulted is in the Liber quadripartiti Ptholemei, fols. 127r-138r (Venice: Per Bonetum
Locatellum: Octaviani Scoti, 1493), hereafter referred to (following Carmody)2 as the “Omnibus
edition 1493.” This edition contains quite a number of astrological works, most printed for the
first time. I have also consulted two manuscripts which contain the same work. The first is from
the Vienna State Library, 5414 ( fifteenth century), fols. 106v-132v, hereafter cited as Vienna
5414. The second is from the British Library, Harley 5402 (dated between 1160-1340), cited as
Harley 5402.
For Haly Abenragel I have used three early printed editions: Haly Aben Ragel,
Preclarissimus liber completus in iudiciis astrorum quem edidit Albohazen Haly filius Abenragel
(Venice: Erhardt Ratdolt, 1485) which is the editio princeps, and two later versions. These are
Haly Abenragel, Preclarissimus in iudiciis astrorum albohazen haly filius abenragel noviter
impressum et fideliter emendatum etc. (Venice: Ioannes Baptista Sessa, 1503), and De iudiciis
astrorum (Basel: Henrichus Petrus, 1551),The last of these editions is based on the 1485 edition
but the Latin has been “improved” to a “better” standard of humanist neo-Latin. It is somewhat
useful where the 1485 edition may have an obscure reading but with its “improvements” it may
in fact have created more obscurity than it removed. As much as possible I have relied on the
1485 edition with a few corrections from the 1503 edition. Still, however, serious textual work
needs to be done on Abenragel’s work incorporating the Arabic original, the old Castilian
version, and the various Latin manuscripts.
Carmody, Arabic Astronomical and Astrological Sciences in Latin Translation, 13.
For the remainder of the sources on astrology and warfare the source is the Liber novem
iudicum. From this comes all of the work on warfare and conflict attributed to Dorotheus,3 Omar,
Abu ‘Ali al-Khayyat, Jergis, pseudo-Aristotle and al-Kindī. The only complete version of the
work that I have been able to locate is again from the Vienna State Library, 2428 (twelfth
century), hereafter referred to as Vienna 2428. There are two printed editions, the later being a
reprint of the first. The older one is Liber novem iudicum, (Venice: Petrus Liechtenstein, 1509)
in the possession of the Bavarian State Library and the later one is a resetting of that first edition
and was printed along with the 1571 edition of Haly Abenragel mentioned above.4 Both of these
omitted a number of sections which are found only in Vienna 2428.
For Bonatti I have used the edition of 1491, printed in Augsburg by Erhardt Ratdolt, also in
the possession of the Bavarian State Library, cited previously, and another manuscript from the
Vienna State Library, 2359. I have corrected the Ratdolt edition where Vienna 2359 had a better
The Ratdolt Edition and the Divisions of the Liber astronomicus.
I have mentioned in a number of places the division of the Liber astronomicus into ten treatises.
Other editions such as the 1550 edition have the work divided into six parts and the manuscripts
often have a different ordering of the sections. This ambiguity derives directly from Bonatti
himself. Here is his description of the content of Liber astronomicus from the introduction
Except for the one chapter from the Arabic version of the Carmen astrologicum cited in Chap. 2, p. 49.
Here the work is given a different title, Compendium duodecim domorum coelestium, ex clarissimis et
vetustissimis authoribus, 411-586, but it is exactly the same work
The above sources contain all of the material that survives from the medieval period on the astrology of
warfare except Theophilus of Edessa whose work survives only in Greek fragments. It is clear from my research that
he had no direct influence on Bonatti.
placed before first chapter of Tractatus I.
I have divided this work into six parts. Of these parts the first is a general introduction.6
Interrogations are the second part, elections the third part. Revolutions of the years of the
world are the third part and I have also included the conjunctions. The fifth part is about
nativities, and the sixth part is about rains and showers.
And in the introductorium I proceed in this manner. In the first treatise I treat of the
profit that we can obtain from astronomy and the judgements of the stars, and regarding the
confirmation of these, I will speak of the nobility of astronomy, and I will refute those who
wish to contradict the [value of] the judgements of the stars or elections, and about [other]
matters which pertain to this topic. In the second part I discuss the division of the circle of
the signs7 and in what manner they are so ordered and that there are none but the twelve, and
why their denomination has come to be what it is and about the accidents which [pertain] to
this. In the third part I will say what happens to the seven planets in and of themselves and
what happens to [each] one of them because of another and about those matters which
pertain to the eighth sphere. In the fourth part I will give intimations concerning certain
conjunctions and give an exposition of certain topics. In the fifth [I will speak] about certain
considerations which befall judgements. Afterward in the sixth part I present the part about
judgements;8 in the seventh elections; in the eighth revolutions;9 the ninth nativities and the
tenth and last treatise the changing of the seasons or rains and showers.10
Although I have consistently referred to Bonatti’s opus as the Liber astronomicus, the full title of
the Ratdolt edition of 1491 is Tractatus astronomie decem continens tractatus astronomie. I do
not know whether that edition is the first rendition of the work to treat it as a work of ten
sections but this has become the standard way of dividing the work,11 and the division is
introductorium generale.
orbis signorum, the ecliptic.
These are the revolutiones annorum mundi.
Et divisi hoc opus in sex partes. Quarum prima est introductorium generale. Secunda sunt interrogationes.
Tercia electiones. Quarta annorum et mundi revolutiones et includuntur etiam coniunctiones. Quinta de nativitatibus.
Sexta de pluviis et ymbribus.
Et in introductorio sic incedam quia primo tractabo de utilitate quam possumus consequi de astronomia et de
iudiciis astrorum, et de ipsius confirmatione dicam similiter de eius nobilitate et obviabo quibusdam volentibus
iudiciis astrorum vel electionibus contradicere et de pertinentibus ad hoc. Secundo tractabo de divisione orbis
signorum et quomodo sic sunt ordinata et quod non sunt nisi duodecim et quare sic fiat eorum denominationem et de
accidentibus ad hoc. Tercio dicam quod accidit septem planetis in semet ipsis et quid accidit uni eorum ab altero et
de his que ad octavam speram spectant. Quarto innuam de quibusdam coniunctionibus et expositionem quorundam
capitulorum. Quinto de quibusdam considerationibus que cadunt in iudiciis. Sexto postea ponam partem iudiciorum.
Septimo electiones. Octavo revolutiones. Nono nativitates. Decimo et ultimo temporum revolutiones sive pluvias et
imbres. — Bonatti, Ratdolt ed., fol. 1v.
The Venice edition of 1506 has the same title and mode of division but it appears to be nothing but a resetting
of the Ratdolt edition.
certainly justified by the introduction. It is interesting, however, that the 1550 edition, which
divides the work differently, omits the introduction which might raise the question as to whether
the introduction is part of the original. However, the question is easily answered for two reasons.
The first is that the introduction is written in the first person, and in it Bonatti refers to his own
nephew. Second, the introduction, albeit omitting some of the material of the introduction to the
Ratdolt edition, is to be found in manuscript Vienna 2359 complete with the section dividing up
the treatises. I do have to acknowledge, however, that if one were to take the text of the entire
Liber astronomicus and create anew the divisions into major subject areas and chapters, one
could easily derive more divisions than ten. For example Tractatus VIII consists of a treatment
of two unrelated areas of astrology, revolutiones annorum mundi and an enumeration of all of
the synthetic points known as lots or parts,12 a subject normally found in an introductorium
rather than as a separate subject in is own right.13 In this study I have chosen to adhere to the
division into ten for one reason; the Ratdolt edition of 1491 has been used more than any other
version as a reference by scholars, most notably Thorndike, although Boncompagni used the
1550 edition.
Finally a comment on the quality of the Ratdolt edition of 1491 is in order. Many of the early
modern editions of astrological works either were based on poor manuscripts or were the result
of extremely inaccurate typesetting. I mentioned a few extreme examples of this in Chapter 1.14
Fortunately the Ratdolt edition of Bonatti is not among these. There are very few passages where
the Latin does not make sense or where the Latin has something that is astrologically incorrect. I
See LOTS in the Glossary.
Abu Ma‘shar and Alcabitius both have separate portions of their introductoria devoted to lots.
See p. 21, n. 56.
have made some changes and additions to the Ratdolt text based on Vienna 2359 as mentioned
above but for the purposes of this work, the Ratdolt edition would have been sufficiently
accurate as the basis for this study without any emendation. This is not to say that there would
have been no textual difficulties but none severe enough to make this study impossible. By
contrast this would not have been the case if one only had the editions of the Liber novem
iudicum. In the two printed editions (which appear to be identical, flaws and all) there are
portions of the text that are completely corrupt and the Latin untranslatable, quite aside from the
considerable omissions.
The editor of the Ratdolt edition is known. He is named in the work itself. The explicit of the
edition begins as follows:
Liber astronomicus Guidonis Bonati de Forlivio explicit feliciter magistri Johannis Angeli
viri peritissimi diligenti correctione.15
The Book of Astronomy of Guido Bonatti of Forlì has ended auspiciously with the careful
correction of that most expert man, Johannes Angelus.
Angelus himself was an astrologer of some reputation and knowledge. He would have had the
knowledge to ensure that the text rendered the astrology with reasonable accuracy. Dykes in the
introduction to his English translation raises a distinct possibility that only a critical edition of
Bonatti would resolve16 the question as to what extent Angelus’ “corrections” modified the
original intent of the Latin? This is not a question that can be answered at present. All that is
needed is to know that the Ratdolt edition of 1491 is sufficient for my purposes, amended with
corrections that I have made from Vienna 2359.
Bonatti, Ratdolt edition, fol. 406v.
Bonatti, Dykes trans., xxxiii.
The Preparation and Editing of the Texts.
My intention for this project has been to create useable texts not critical editions. In each case I
began with one of the early modern editions mentioned above and then checked these against
manuscripts. If the manuscript copies generally agreed with the printed edition, I used the edition
as the basic text which I then corrected where necessary from manuscripts. In one instance I had
only a partial modern edition and several manuscripts.17 In another instance, the Liber novem
iudicum, the printed editions were seriously defective in two respects; as mentioned above they
were incomplete and significantly corrupt. The manuscript cited above, Vienna 2428, was used
instead as the basis for my rendering of the text rather than either of the two editions.
Occasionally with the Liber novem iudicum the editions had better readings but not often.
Variations between the manuscript and the printed edition are noted. When the editions appeared
to be reasonably accurate, I used manuscripts to judge how much agreement there was on the
content, different paragraphs, different ordering and such.
Therefore, the Ratdolt edition 1491 was the source of the basic text for Bonatti. For Haly
Abenragel the Ratdolt edition of 1485 was used as the source for the basic text. For Zahel the
omnibus edition of 1493 was used, and for the Liber novem iudicum the manuscript Vienna
2428.18 In each case the chapters are designated using a system based on one that Charles
Burnett has employed. All chapter and section headings are numbered even where they are not in
the original as in the case of Zahel. Each section number begins with a ‘§’. Bonatti requires the
most elaborate numbering system because of his tendency to have many levels of division. In the
This was the work of Haly Emrani (as he is known in Latin) on elections which turned out not to be an
important source for my work here. While he was a major influence on Bonatti on elections, his work contains
almost nothing on military astrology. See p. 145, n. 62.
In addition to being complete, Vienna 2428 also was one of the most readable manuscripts I have seen,
written in a clear hand and in good condition.
last chapter I gave an example, §VI.2.7.29. This means tractatus VI, part 2, seventh house,
chapter 29. Not all of the tractates have “parts”. So the Roman numeral is always the tractatus
number and the last two digits are always a section of some kind and a chapter number. So the
complete scheme is Tractatus, [part], [section], and chapter, the brackets indicating a division
which is sometimes present and sometimes not. Always, however, the roman numeral indicates a
tractatus and the last number a chapter. It is important to recognize my use of the Ratdolt 1491
edition as a standard for the numbering because of the differences in arrangement between this
edition, other editions, and the manuscripts mentioned earlier in this chapter.
In Zahel a typical number will be something like this §7.9 which means seventh house, ninth
chapter. It is much simpler because Zahel’s text is divided only into sections pertaining to each
house and then chapters on particular questions within that house. However, in the editions and
manuscripts of Zahel there are no section or chapter numbers only headings. Sections of chapters
sometimes have their own headings so that in Zahel a third number may indicate a titled portion
of a larger chapter. So in Zahel following the pattern a complete scheme is house number,
chapter, and [subsection]. In the Liber novem iudicum the same numbering convention is
followed as in Zahel.
In Haly Abenragel the chapters are numbered in the editions according to each section
number which is always a Roman numeral. Therefore, §II.39 means part 2, chapter 39.
The lines are numbered within chapters (rather than by page or folio) as these are found in
the editions mentioned or in the case of the Liber novem iudicum, the manuscript Vienna 2428,
with the line breaks indicated as in the original with the following exception. When a word is
broken at the end of a line in the edition or manuscript, I include the entire word as part of the
line on which the first portion was located. Each line number in my transcriptions begins at the
first whole word of the relevant line of the edition or manuscript. This was done to render the
Latin of my transcriptions more readable for, rather than reproduce the line breaks as in the
original, each line break is designated by the ‘/’ character and every fifth line numbered as
follows, /10/, meaning line 10 of the section in question. There will of course be other
differences between my transcriptions and the originals used as the basis for numbering the lines
because of changes suggested or required from other editions or manuscripts. These differences
are noted. Also, of course, the line lengths have changed because of expanding the original
paleographic abbreviations. The folio numbers of the printed editions (and sometimes of
manuscript folios as well) are indicated in the Latin texts.19 The purpose of all of this is to make
reference back to the Latin editions or manuscripts as easy as possible in the absence of critical
editions which would normally serve as a reference.20 All cross-referencing between authors will
be accomplished by using the notation described and the line number of the Latin texts as they
have been edited here in this work.
When conflicting readings occur among the texts, I have employed the following methods. If
the texts contradict each other in some significant manner, I have used the reading that is most
consistent with what I understand to be the logic of the astrology involved and, where possible,
is also supported by other authors discussing the same material.21 If two texts have materials that
In the case of the Ratdolt 1491 edition of Bonatti, the folios were numbered according to their position in a
signature and not all of them at that. Fortunately, someone numbered the folios on the top center of each recto of
each folio in the Bavarian State Library copy and I have used those rather than the signature-based folio numbering
system printed on bottom left of the recto folios. For this reason I strongly urge anyone following my work to use
that copy which is available in digital form Bonatti, Ratdolt ed. Accessed February 2013,
All of the editions that I have used and Vienna 2428 are readily available in digital form.
Basing the correctness of a reading on its astrological sense is often a better way to select the best reading
from multiple conflicting sources than is the use of the reading found in the most manuscripts. However, it requires a
knowledge of the subject. I have found several times in critical editions of Latin texts in astrology and in other
related subjects readings based on the latter criterion that were clearly incorrect from the point of practitioners. I
make this point only to stress that critical texts in these or any other highly technical subject areas require manuscript
complement each other, i.e., one text adds something to another which does not cause a
contradiction, I use both readings and add a note to that effect. I have not attempted to “correct”
seriously ambiguous portions of the texts where there is no clue either from other printed
editions, manuscripts, or from my knowledge of medieval astrology22 on which to base such
corrections. In such cases I let the texts stand and have simply noted the ambiguities.
Fortunately, in most cases this has not been a major problem. Usually where the manuscripts
give readings that differ from the printed texts, or from each other, the readings differ only in the
exact language, i.e., grammar, exact words used, and in differing but equivalent idioms, not in
the overall meaning of the material.
Aside from removing ambiguities from the text as much as is possible, the main task of my
editing has been as follows. First of all, as mentioned above, I have expanded the medieval
paleographic abbreviations (which are just as abundant in the earliest printed editions as they are
in the manuscripts). Second, I have altered the punctuation to conform to modern standards and,
where desirable, have broken up long sentences with periods where the Latin clearly indicated
that one could do so, not however, otherwise altering the text. Third, I have brought the usage of
the letters ‘u’ and ‘v’, and ‘i’ and ‘j’ into conformity with the following standard. I use ‘u’ for
the vowel, ‘v’ for the consonant, and I have replaced all j’s with i’s.23 Regarding the classical æ
and œ, if the original simply has ‘e’ where classical Latin would have either of those, I retain the
‘e’. If the text either has ‘ae’, ‘æ’ or ‘ę’, I use ‘ae’ as appropriate. I have treated ‘œ’ similarly.
Otherwise, I retain the spelling as employed in the original. There is no effort to make the
skills plus considerable knowledge of the subject matter.
I have been extremely careful in using my own knowledge to “correct” the texts.
I am aware, however, that many modern editors of Latin texts have a different standard for the usage of the u
and v.
spelling of the original text conform to classical Latin standards except where the original text
has already been so treated (which seldom happens in the earliest printed editions). Fourth, I
have capitalized all proper names of individuals and places and the names of months when they
occur. Some texts followed this practice, others did not. I have also capitalized the names of the
planets (including the Sun and Moon when referred to as planets), other miscellaneous
astrological points, and the signs of the zodiac. I have not capitalized the words ascendens,
descendens, imum coeli, and medium coeli (and its variants). In this I have followed the practice
of the Warburg Alcabitius edition. Fifth I have replaced Roman and Arabic numerals with the
Latin words when they are used either to designate ordinal numbers, replacing, for example, .5a.
or .va. with quinta, or to designate cardinal numbers where modern editing of English would also
use words rather than numerals, i.e., small numbers are rendered with words, large numbers with
numerals. Where positions of planets and houses are given I have retained the numerals.
The chapters that follow analyze and compare the material on warfare and present the
material of Bonatti’s texts in the same sequence as in the original even though one might feel
that Bonatti’s logic in the division of chapter topics is not always clear. Although the chapters on
interrogations are grouped according to the houses of the chart to which they are related (in
which respect Bonatti follows Zahel and the Liber novem iudicum), Bonatti seems to have made
little attempt to group the questions in any particular order within the sections nor do his
chapters represent mutually exclusive topic presentations. There is a considerable quantity of
repeated material. In Zahel most of the chapter topics in Bonatti on warfare are compressed into
one chapter. Only the chapter on the size of the two contending armies (see table below) is
separated out in Zahel. Other texts, some of which may not be direct sources for Bonatti, break
the topics out into more or fewer chapters than Bonatti. The following list presents Bonatti’s
chapters in the order of the presentation of the questions along with indications of what other
kinds of questions are contained this section on seventh house interrogations. I have indicated
the chapters that relate to the question of conflict and warfare with an asterisk.
Table I – A Listing of the Contents and Order of the Section on the Seventh House in Bonatti.
Tractatus VI – Seventh House Interrogations.
§VI.2.7.1-8: Chapters 1- 8: Introduction to seventh house questions, and questions relating to
marriage, marital relations and the possibility of children.
* §VI.2.7.9: Chapter 9: Concerning a Lawsuit or Dispute Between Parties: Which Side Will
Win or Lose, or Whether or Not They Settle Before the Dispute Begins. [Personal
conflicts rather than war.]
§VI.2.7.10: Chapter 10: On Buying and Selling.
§VI.2.7.11-18: Chapters 11-18: Chapters on finding lost objects, and dealing with thieves
and theft.
§VI.2.7.19: Chapter 19: On Contracting an Association Among Persons and <the Nature of>
Their Participation.
§VI.2.7.20: Chapter 20: If Someone Were To Go [to See] Some Man, Will He Be There or
The beginning of the main group of questions concerning warfare.
* §VI.2.7..21: Chapter 21. Concerning Anyone Who Wishes to Muster an Army or to Begin
a Battle or War, Whether He Is a Commander or Any Other Person Whatever, Will He
Be Victorious or Not.
* §VI.2.7.22: Chapter 22. Which Side Has More Support.
* §VI.2.7.23: Chapter 23. Concerning Knowing Victory in War, Who Will Win.
* §VI.2.7.24: Chapter 24. What Is the Cause for Which War Has Arisen, and Whether or Not
the Cause Is Just.
* §VI.2.7.25: Chapter 25. Concerning whether Armies Are Large or Small.
* §VI.2.7.26:Chapter 26. How to Have Knowledge of All of the Implements and Other
Things That Pertain to War.
* §VI.2.7.27: Chapter 27. How You Should Look At the Significations of the Twelve
* §VI.2.7.28: Chapter 28. Whether or Not There Will Be a Battle Between Armies.
* §VI.2.7.29: Chapter 29. Whether or Not a City or Castle Which Has Been, or Is to Be
Besieged, Will Be Taken.
The end of the section on warfare is followed by Chapters 30-33 on hunting and fishing.
The Relationship Between Interrogations and Elections.
As mentioned in Chapter 2, Pingree maintained that the method of interrogations was
imported into medieval Arabic astrology from Indian sources. I do not need to repeat that
discussion here. However, in that same part of Chapter 2 I gave an example of a text from a
Greek source which addressed both applications at the same time: that is, the method of
analyzing the chart is to be used whether the chart is an interrogation or an election.24 The texts
refer both to one asking a question, a ‘querent’, and one who is taking an action that leads to the
beginning of something, the initiator of the action.25 This can be found in both texts on
interrogations and texts on elections. Here is an example from Haly Emrani’s text on elections.
Ascendens itaque et dominus eius et pars fortune sunt significatores incipientis vel querentis
Planeta autem naturaliter signatus rem incipiendam vel quesitam, et domus rei incipiende vel
quesite et eius dominus sunt significatores illius rei incipiende vel quesite.26
The Latin terms which designate the two different roles are in italics. I have done the same in the
English translation which follows:
The Ascendant, therefore, and its lord and the Part of Fortune are the significators of the one
See p. 49.
I use the term ‘initiator’ or inceptor throughout the following chapters as the analog in elections and
inceptions of ‘querent’ in interrogations.
Haly Emrani, Vatican City, BAV, Barb. lat. 182, s. XV, fol. 126v, col. 1.
who is making a beginning or of the querent.27 Moreover the planet which is assigned
according to its nature to the matter which is to be initiated or to the quesited, and the house
of the matter which is to be initiated or to the quesited, and the lord of that house, are the
significators of the matter which is to be initiated or of the quesited.
Here are more examples from Bonatti, the first from §VI.2.7.21.
In addition you ought to know that the significators, to wit, the lord of the first and the lord
of the seventh, can have [different] relative strengths and weaknesses in the same house
position.28 And these strengths and weaknesses are [such] that if the lord of the seventh is in
the first, it is the greatest [possible] debility and for the lord of the first the greatest [possible]
strength. It signifies that the querent will overcome his enemy and there will be no defense
for that enemy against the querent. It is clear that the same thing can be said in elections. It
happened to us in just this way when we rode forth at Valbona. [At the time] the Ascendant
was Taurus and Mars was in the Ascendant; we conquered everyone who desired to resist us.
However if the lord of the first is in the seventh that is the greatest [possible] debility for the
querent, and the greatest [possible] strength for the enemy because it signifies that the enemy
will overcome the querent.29
Immediately after the italicized line in the text, we have an example drawn from Bonatti’s own
experience30 which involves either an electional or event chart31 which demonstrates his point
rather than an interrogation. All of the astrological information in the section surrounding this
passage can be applied equally to interrogations or elections. For example in lines 159-163 of the
same passages he states, “Likewise, see that the lord of the first does not fall in the eighth house,
because if that happens…” This makes no sense in an interrogation where one does not “see that
the lord … does not …” In an interrogation one would note that a dangerous circumstance was
present. The phrase “see that the lord does not…” implies choice, i.e., election.
The term ‘quesited’ is the English word corresponding to quesitus. We have previously introduced the term
‘querent’ as a translation of querens. It is much less clumsy to write ‘quesited’ than “the matter about which a
question is asked.” See also QUERENT and QUESITED in the Glossary. Unfortunately, there is no correspondingly
simple English term which translates res incipienda although in some later texts ‘quesited’ is used in elections as
eodem … positione loci.
Lines 146-155 from “Preterea scire debes quod significatores …” to “…vincet interrogantem.”
See p. 155.
We do not know whether the attack at Valbona was intentionally elected or that Bonatti looked at the chart
afterward. Given the difficulties involved in casting charts in medieval times, it is quite likely that Bonatti elected
the time for the attack. However, we have no other evidence either way.
Another example, from the same chapter.
For this reason if you see him [Saturn] in any one of the angles at the time of a question or
the beginning of a battle, proclaim that the battle will be intense, cruel and of long duration.32
Again in lines 220-226.
Say the same thing if Mars is in Capricorn or Aries at the time of a question or at the
beginning of a battle but the battle will not be so completely terrible. In addition see whether
Mars is the significator of either of the sides; if he is himself the significator of the querent,
or the one who begins [the battle], or of those who help him, and Mars is also direct, it
signifies that those [who fight] on the side of the querent will be good fighters and ones who
have no intention of flight in their hearts.33
And finally in this chapter lines 235-238.
And if at the time either of a question or of the beginning of a battle, Mars is in the tenth, the
war will be one of renown and last so long that its renown will be spread abroad through
many lands both diverse and distant.34
I could continue to multiply the examples but the point has been made: wherever the logic of a
question could be applied to the choice of a time for taking action, the logic was to be applied to
an appropriate election just as much as to an interrogation.
We have so many examples of this in Bonatti that we can say with confidence that wherever
the logic of the situation made the analysis of a chart suitable either for an interrogation or an
election, Bonatti did both, and most of his original material is to be found in the chapters in
Tractatus VI on interrogations where he mixes both modes of analysis in the formulating of what
can be either an interrogation or the election of the beginning of an action. This application of
the same method of interpretation to both interrogations and elections has this consequence for
the thesis of this work. It shows that when we evaluate Bonatti or any other author for originality
Lines 214-215 from “Unde si tu videris eum…” to “…crudelitatem atque prolixitatem belli.”
Lines from “Illud idem dicas si fuerit Mars…” to “…et qui non proponunt in corde suo fugere.”
Lines from “Et si fuerit tunc Mars in decima…” to “…per plures regiones et diversas et longinquas.”
in the treatment of interrogations and elections, we cannot afford to treat the two categories as
fully separate. The very fusion of the two techniques that I have illustrated in the passage above
is absolutely typical of his material on interrogation; the two techniques are taught in
There is material in Tractatus VII, the part of the work on elections, which is genuinely
different from the material in Tractatus VI: however, it is mainly in the introductory material,
that is, material that must be followed in all elections regardless of the topic. Just as there are
general considerations one must observe in asking a question, so there are general considerations
that one must observe in choosing a time. However, the material specific to the issues of each
house is very similar in interrogations and elections except that in Bonatti everything is much
more thoroughly worked out in his material on interrogations in Tractatus VI. The principle is
very simple. If a chart answers an interrogation as to the success or failure of a pending action,
then the chart of the time of an election with similar characteristics will indicate success. In
Chapter 5 I mentioned an incident from Bonatti’s own life history concerning the Battle of
Montaperti about which he writes, “I had first asked a question as to whether we should obtain
victory and afterward we had a very strong election for going to the battle.” The two techniques
were used in tandem. Neither Bonatti nor any of the other authors who wrote on interrogations
seemed to see the great distinction between the two applications that Pingree sees.
The Objective of the Remaining Chapters.
Since this chapter is a general introduction to the texts and the analyses that follow, this is
the place to identify more completely what I look for in the textual comparisons. I have made it
clear in Chapter 1 that I am looking for innovations and change in Bonatti vis-a-vis the tradition
and his sources. I have discussed in that chapter the reasons why that change was likely to take
place, namely, the need to fill in the gaps on material received from the Arab authors necessary
to apply the methods in practice. In Chapter 4 I described the general kinds of changes that occur
in the evolution of astrology. And in that same section I placed Bonatti in the context of changes
that occur within a tradition, as opposed to revolutionary changes that fundamentally challenged
the astrological “paradigm” if I may use that word in this context. I again refer the reader to
Thorndike’s observations about Bonatti and innovation quoted in Chapter 135 which I repeat here
for the reader’s convenience.
Guido employs such classical authorities as Ptolemy, Hermes, and Dorotheus, but still more
such Arabian astrologers as Alcabitius, Albumasar, Messahala, and Thebit ben Corat. He
also states that he has made additions of his own, and many passages demonstrate that he has
made detailed practical application to the present problems of medieval life of the principles
of his art established in the past.
My thesis stated in Chapter 1 is that this occurs in those parts of astrological practice which he
personally utilized. In Chapter 4 I mentioned one method, the firdaria, where there is ample
evidence that he did not use the method and transmitted it solely to complete his encyclopedic
work.36 His discussion of the firdaria is merely a wordy paraphrase of Alcabitius, who, in turn
paraphrased Abu Ma‘shar somewhat incompletely. Warfare, as I have demonstrated in Chapter 5
is an area in which Bonatti did practice, did gain experience of his own, clearly contemplated
what he had from his predecessors, rearranged it, altered it and added to it as dictated by the
needs of practice and also, apparently, a desire to pass his experience and understanding on.
Again, however, he did this in the context of a well-established tradition, albeit one that he and
his contemporaries had acquired from the middle east entirely in written form, which I submit, is
See p. 6.
See p. 115.
the problem. I have previously stated that it was unlikely that any European astrologer, whose
texts we have today,37 ever had the chance to study directly with one of the masters of the Arabic
astrological tradition. We cannot rule out the possibility that the translators who worked in Spain
and Sicily did have the assistance of local persons who had a practical knowledge of the art but
we have no definite knowledge of this. So let me summarize the kinds of change that do underlie
divergences between Bonatti and his predecessors and/or sources and how these illustrate the
manner in which Bonatti attempted to fill out what he received in order to transmit a more
complete doctrine to his successors.
One way in which Bonatti introduced change was by way of clarification. For example, the
retrogradation38 of a significator was universally agreed to be an impediment to the success of
whatever the significator signified. In a close examination of the original texts one can see hints
of why this might be so. However, his sources were unclear as to the nature of the impediment.
A completely practical need to find the underlying principle behind whatever a retrograde planet
might signify in particular cases appears to have driven him to find one. As a result Bonatti made
a considerable advance over his predecessors in formulating an hypothesis that suggested what
the behavior of anything signified by retrograde planet might be. Thereby he was able to offer
more precise descriptions as to how retrogradation impeded a significator, what kinds of events
it would signify and what outcome would result.39
A second way in which Bonatti introduces change in the tradition as he received it is to take
a technique used by his predecessors in an unsystematic manner and to structure its use
Adelard of Bath may be an exception and we also have a original text by John of Seville who almost certainly
studied with Arabic practitioners. See John of Seville, Epitome totius astrologiae (Nuremberg: Ioannis Montanus
and Ulric Neuber, 1548).
See RETROGRADATION in the Glossary.
See p. 247.
according to the system implied in practice. For example, in his sources we are generally
informed that for an aspect40 to involve “reception” improves its effects.41 Exactly how there is
improvement is not clear in his sources. That a combination may be more “beneficial” does tell
us exactly how it is beneficial. Bonatti takes the idea of aspect and reception and creates a
hierarchy of “goodness” and “badness,” or effectiveness, that depends on the presence or
absence of reception in an aspect or conjunction. Specifically, according to Bonatti, it affects
how easily or with how much difficulty, a combination of planets in an aspect or conjunction
will bring about a desired result.42
Third, Bonatti takes material which his predecessors have placed in one context and uses that
same material in other contexts where it makes sense to do so. Any recorder of an astrological
method who takes something received from predecessors uncritically and does nothing with it
(something that happens in texts which merely copy their sources) simply transmits without
alteration, or amendment. This is characteristic of astrological compilations by those who do not
apply a particular method. However, any practitioner is likely to see ways in which a method can
be applied differently from the applications provided by his sources. For example, a description
of judges according to planetary types given in §VI.2.7.9 is very similar to descriptions given of
mediators employed in settling disputes in wars and battles in later chapters making the
appropriate changes in such descriptions according to the application. Bonatti does this. Such
descriptions are based on those found in his predecessors but differing in the details. Bonatti
simply extended the logic of a general system of planetary types to any situation where it could
A combination of two planets or signs making a significant angle to each other in the zodiac. See ASPECT in
the glossary.
See RECEPTION in the glossary.
See pp. 188 and 192.
be applied and does not limit application of these planetary types specifically to the instances
presented in his sources.43 This is something only a practitioner would be likely to do and report
the result if he found that it was useful.44
Fourth, Bonatti also expanded and added detail to principles that his predecessors mentioned
quickly in passing. An example of this (among many) is to be found in Chapter 8 of this work.
Where the other authors make a simple mention of a retrograde significator, Bonatti presents an
elaborate discourse on each possible house placement of said retrograde significator.45 I have
mentioned above how Bonatti fleshed out the idea of what retrogradation indicates for a planet
and what it signifies. In this instance he built on that idea by explicitly stating how the house
placement of a retrograde significator might affect how a planet “manifests” differently
according to each house placement. In some cases the details in Bonatti’s descriptions may be
due to his own experience; in others he may be generalizing from a principle that he has
discovered. It is not always clear which.
An important point needs to be made here. In the course of expanding and working out the
details of principles, Bonatti also avoided or at least minimized the use of an aphoristic style
commonly found in all periods of astrology, the “If-Then” statement composed of a protasis (if)
followed by an apodosis (then). While it is not inherent in the logic of the protasis-apodosis
statement, as employed in astrology, conditional aphorisms of this type are frequently quoted by
astrologers as received from an authority (whether or not the authority is identified) with little or
See p. 198.
One may question the effectiveness of astrological practice but it is true that in such practice practitioners do
have the experience of finding that practices do or do not “work” however one may define that word.
See p. 247.
no further explanation. Unfortunately many aphorisms of this kind make no sense theoretically46
and seem to report findings based on actual astrological experiences but apparently based on
very few such experiences, possibly only one example. Here is an example from Johannes
Saturn, the Sun, the Moon, and the Dragon’s Head in the same degree in the Ascendant, the
native will be a hermaphrodite.47
This requires that there be an eclipse of the Sun exactly conjunct Saturn and the rising degree in
a nativity. Of course this astrological event must happen at sometime but one would be very
unlikely ever to see an example of it in practice. It is an extremely rare event and there is no
logical or theoretical principle that suggests that such a combination should have such a result. In
general early Islamic astrology did not have many such aphorisms, although Hellenistic
astrology did. Ptolemy’s Centiloquy (which was actually written by an Arabic author)48 was
composed almost entirely of such statements. They are also frequent in the real Ptolemy in the
Tetrabiblos.49 Haly Abenragel abounds with them as do later Latin authors. Also, this type of
aphoristic statement is the basis of most “yogas” or aphorisms about combinations found in
Hindu astrology. Bonatti’s search for principles does not entirely prevent the aphoristic style and
its rigid, non-systematic way of presenting astrological doctrine, but he does it less. Even when
Some might wonder if the words ‘theory’ and ‘theoretical’ are appropriate with respect to something as
apparently unscientific (by modern standards) as astrology. If one means by a theory something that is implied
reasoning from previously established principles, then astrology does have a body of theory although clearly the
‘theory’ is based on symbolic relationships rather than mathematical ones. Astrological theory more closely
resembles the principles of grammar in natural languages which enable one to state something that has never been
said before that can still be understood by others.
Saturnus, Sol, Luna, et Caput draconis Lunae, in eodem gradu in ascendente, natus erit hermaphrodius. –
Schoener, De iudiciis, fol. 19v. Capitalization and punctuation as in the original.
See p. 88.
“For if Saturn is quartile to the sun [sic] from a sign of the opposite sect, or or is in opposition, in the solid
[fixed] signs he causes death by trampling by a mob…” Ptolemy, Robbins trans., 433. Even though Ptolemy was the
exemplar of a theoretically consistent formulation of astrology, there is no theoretical basis for this interpretation.
Yet Ptolemy’s aphorisms have been handed down from age to age by generations of astrologers.
Bonatti does use this style of presentation, he generally makes it clear by context how the
aphorism could be derived from principle. This is one of Bonatti’s most important innovations
over his predecessors. He treats astrology as a set of techniques based on principles, not as
received wisdom that cannot be altered, amended or extended.
Fifth, we have substantial innovations within the tradition, i.e., developing new techniques
based on the tradition or changing a commonly applied method in an important way. I mention
an example of each: first, the elaborate lot computation at the end of §VI.2.7.9, a technique
which to my knowledge and according to Bonatti’s own words is not to be found elsewhere.
Second, he significantly alters the method of assigning significators in siege warfare in
§VI. This second change in the tradition is clearly derived from his experience. The first
may be as well or is based on some obscure theoretical notion that Bonatti evolved himself. We
do not know which.
To summarize here I tabulate the ways in which Bonatti introduces change and the kind of
change that goes with them. I refer to these throughout the remainder of this work as “modes of
change.” I recognize, and the texts will show, considerable overlap among the modes of change
that we find in Bonatti.
1) Revise and clarify earlier material.
2) Organize and systematize.
3) Integrate and also expand applications by taking methods or interpretative schema from
one application that could logically be applied to another application, making appropriate
changes, and doing so explicitly.
4) Augment the tradition by working out on a practical level the theoretical implications of
principles which have been stated only as principles in his sources. These modifications
See Chap. 10.
are quite possibly based on his own experience and he avoided aphoristic statements
based on authority which have not clear basis in principle.
5) Innovation by making genuine changes within the tradition or applying a traditional
method in a new way.
All of this I believe is because Bonatti, as a practitioner of the astrology of warfare, had to
confront the existing literature of the astrology of warfare on a practical level. In addition he also
wanted to transmit the “doctrine” of astrology very clearly and completely. This quality in
Bonatti’s work is what inspired the comment by Benvenuto da Imola, that he transmitted “the
doctrine of astrology so clearly that he seemed to want to teach astrology to women.”51 In the
chapters that follow I point out the changes and innovations that Bonatti made in what he
received from his predecessors. I will place these in the contexts of the kinds of changes
described above, sometimes referring to each category by number as in the table above, but as
much as possible making explicit exactly how these changes exemplify the needs of a
practitioner as described above. As I make clear in these later chapters, many of the changes
made by Bonatti do overlap the categories described above, so the reader should not consider
these categories as hard-and-fast or mutually exclusive. But they do, I believe, cover quite
completely the changes and innovations that Bonatti made in the astrology of warfare as he saw
them required both by his desire to create a more comprehensive order in the astrology that he
received, and the manner in which he perceived the underlying principles in practice. One thing
must be understood. In Bonatti we do not have a proto-scientist. We have an intelligent user of a
technology, a technology based to some degree on the interaction of hypothesis and experience
p. 10, n. 24.
but not in the very systematic way that one finds in the modern physical sciences.52
A Particular Facet of the Interrogations and Inceptions Covered in the Remaining Chapters.
In Bonatti and all of his sources matters of conflict are considered to be related to the seventh
house: that is, the question is to be resolved by an analysis of the relations between astrological
factors related to the first house, the querent (or the one asking the question)53 or the initiator of
the action, and those related to the seventh house which signifies the opponent in the conflict, the
quesited.54 Here is part of Zahel’s passage on the seventh house from his introduction:
The seventh house is the Angle of the West and it signifies…battles and conflicts,
opposition…[things] which happen between two parties, …that person about whom a
question is asked… This sign is the enemy of the Ascendant and every planet which is in this
sign is opposed to the Ascendant.55
The factors connected with the first and seventh houses may include planets which have
rulership in either house, planets which occupy either house, and planets which aspect other
planets in either house. The planets which have the strongest rulership over the first and seventh
houses are the significators of the querent or initiator, and the opponent, respectively. Other
planets and houses not directly related to these do play supporting roles but they are analyzed
purely in terms of how their functions relate to the principal question or action. This last point is
extremely important because it enabled astrologers to use a rather small set of symbolic entities
This relates to a common misundertanding about astrology. In the modern sense of the word ‘science’
astrology is not a science. It is a pre-scientific technology with some basis in ancient and medieval science.
See QUERENT in the Glossary.
Again see the Glossary.
Septima domus est angulus occidentalis et significat … prelia et contentiones et contrarietates … que fuerint
inter duos, illum quoque … qui queritur … hoc signum est inimicum ascendentis, et omnis planeta qui in eo fuerit
opponitur ascendenti. – Omnibus ed. of 1493,, fol. 123r. Note the reference to the seventh house as a sign, signum.
This is strong evidence that Zahel used the signs as houses, rather than the house system that Bonatti used which
came into general use after Zahel’s time.
to deal with a bewildering array of possible questions and applications.56 While each of these
entities had an invariant core of symbolism and signification attached to it, in the many questions
and matters with which astrologers had to deal each entity would be interpreted somewhat
differently according to the application. In particular the planets had two sets of significations,
general ones which always could be applied, and specific ones that depended on where a planet
was in a chart, which houses it ruled, and how these houses pertained to the issues of the chart
under analysis. This seemingly excessive flexibility may appear to be a serious problem for those
who attempt to master the logic of medieval astrology but in fact there are rather definite rules
that govern how each of these works in a particular situation.
Bonatti and his sources and predecessors introduce the astrology of conflict at the personal
level: cases at law and other personal conflicts, rather than warfare or battles between armies.
Interrogations and elections involving personal conflict are used by these authors to describe the
basic elements which can be applied to all conflicts whether civil and personal, as in lawsuits, or
collective as in warfare. In all of the sources which discuss conflict at any level of detail the
chapters on civil conflict are located separately from those on military matters but, as Bonatti
makes clear in his chapter on lawsuits, the reason why there are separate chapters on warfare in
these writings is that the specifics of military conflict introduce many elements in addition to
those that arise in personal conflict. Military astrology includes much of the astrology of
personal conflict but the astrology of personal conflict reveals the logic of conflict in a simpler
These entities included the seven planets, twelve signs and a few other points such as the rising degree
(Ascendant), culminating degree (Midheaven), the nodes of the Moon (Caput and Cauda Draconis) and a point
known as the Lot or Part of Fortune. This last was one of a category that actually contained hundreds of points but
the Part of Fortune was the only one used extensively in interrogations and elections at least in medieval Latin
astrology. See PART and PART OF FORTUNE in the Glossary.
A Final Note on the Material That Follows.57
In what follows the reader may take one of two approaches. One may review the evidence
presented in the following chapters and take note of the material that Bonatti adds (indicated
clearly in subsequent chapters) without attempting to follow the astrology particularly closely.
Alternatively, if one desires to follow the astrology, I have provided two tools in the appendix,
an “Introduction to Medieval Astrology” especially oriented toward the kinds of astrology
discussed in this work, and an English-Latin Glossary of medieval astrological terms. These two
sources should supply the reader with knowledge of medieval astrology to follow the logic of
what follows, albeit with some effort.
The material that follows in this and subsequent chapters relies on a close reading of the original texts. As a
consequence the material goes deeply into medieval astrological method. For those who may have difficulty
following the text I have several recommendations. The first is a work by J. C. Eade, The Forgotten Sky. See John
Christopher Eade, The Forgotten Sky: A Guide to Astrology in English Literature (Oxford; New York: Oxford
University Press, 1984). Eade’s intention was to write an introduction to medieval astrology sufficient to enable
students of English literature to understand astrological references in English literature. It is chiefly an
introductorium with some emphasis on nativities. It is not a bad foundation, although it is weak in the kinds of
astrology that are central to this work, interrogations and elections. J. D. North’s work, Horoscopes and History
referred to in Chapter 1 (see Chap. 1, p 16) delves deeply into some of the more technical aspects of the astronomy
of astrology, but does not have much information about the interpretative practices of medieval astrology.
Chapter 7. The Basics of Conflict Analysis in Interrogations and Elections.
This chapter concentrates upon Bonatti §VI.2.7.9 entitled “Concerning a Lawsuit or Dispute
Between Parties: Which Side Will Win or Lose, or Whether or Not They Will Settle Before
Formal Litigation.”1 In addition, we will examine passages in our other authors that parallel
Bonatti's chapter that could be his sources. The material from this chapter and my commentary
serve two purposes: an in-depth discussion of the astrology of interrogations and elections that
pertain to personal and civil conflicts, and a general introduction to all conflict between parties,
including warfare. As I have already stated, virtually all of the astrological method presented in
§VI.2.7.9. is directly applicable to warfare and only requires small changes for the inherent
differences between personal, civil conflicts and conflicts between armies. This is not only an
opinion derived from extensive comparisons between this chapter and the ones purely related to
warfare; Bonatti himself makes this very point at the end of §VI.2.7.9. Therefore, this chapter’s
commentary and analysis will be more extensive because it is foundational to all of the main
points of conflict astrology in their most basic form. Much of the material in the later chapters
merely repeats what is contained here and, where it does not, that material will provide the
content of the later chapters of this study which follow. Finally, my commentary on this and
subsequent chapters will not only compare Bonatti’s methods with those of his predecessors; it
will serve to show by examples the particular kinds of changes that one sees in Bonatti with
respect to his predecessors, changes which were described and categorized in the last chapter. I
The Latin for all of the passages pertaining to war is provided in the appendices of this work. The notes for
each passage provide the relevant section headings and line numbers within each section along with the incipit and
explicit of each Latin passage.
will in addition describe why each of these changes is important in the terms that were also laid
out in the last chapter.
So let us begin then with the analysis of Bonatti §VI.2.7.9 and the comparison with his
sources and predecessors. I have broken the chapter up into sections according to topic to aid in
following the structure and comparisons made within each section.
Definition of the Significators.
Bonatti - 7.1:2 In regard to litigation or another dispute which is engaged in between parties,
or for which preparations for engagement have been made, if one of the parties wishes
assurance from you, and asks you a question as to which side should win, [do as follows]
at the hour in which you are asked by the querent about the matter. For the querent look
at the Ascendant, its lord, and also at the significatrix,3 to wit, the Moon. For the
adversary look at the seventh house and its lord.4
These lines state the basic principle as to what houses and planets indicate the principals in a
conflict (the ‘significators’) and they do so in a standard manner. I compare now the passage
above with some of Bonatti’s main sources and predecessors. I do not give examples from all of
them here because there is considerable consensus on the subject.
Zahel - 7.1: If you are asked about a dispute which exists between two persons [as to] which
of them will win and obtain victory, place the Ascendant and its lord and the Moon for
the querent and the seventh and its lord for the opponent.5
Albenait - 7.1: If a question is asked regarding a conflict and to what end it will come, for the
querent we place the Ascendant and its lord, and the star from which the Moon is
separating. To the adversary, however, are generally given as rulers the seventh and its
Passages quoted from each author are numbered sequentially in this and the following chapters for reference
purposes. See previous note referring to the Latin texts.
Strictly speaking a masculine planet is a significator, and a feminine planet is a significatrix.
Lines 1-7 of chapter §VI.2.7.9, from the heading “Capitulum nonum de lite…” to “…dominum pro
The Latin for all of the Zahel passages referred to in this chapter are from John of Seville translation, §7.9
headed “De contentione duorum…”. This passage consists of lines 2-5 from “Et si interrogatus…” to “…dominum
eius contentori.”
lord, and the star to which the Moon is applying.6
In the Albenait passage we do have a common variant regarding the Moon. Bonatti and Zahel
simply assign the Moon to the querent or the plaintiff. Albenait and others give the Moon to both
sides by assigning the last planet from which the Moon has separated to the querent or plaintiff,
and the next planet to which the Moon applies to the defendant or adversary. In the next passage
from Dorotheus we have the same variant. In fact, the next text and Albenait’s are nearly
identical. Interestingly enough, as we will see in the following chapter, Bonatti employs this
same variant in §VI.2.7.29 and Zahel in §7.24, their first chapters respectively on specifically
military applications.7 There is no apparent reason why in this instance Bonatti and Zahel have
treated personal and civil conflicts differently than warfare.
Dorotheus - 7.1: If a question is asked regarding a conflict between two parties, namely, to
what end will the conflict come, we set the Ascendant and its lord in charge for the
querent and also the star from which the Moon is separating. For the adversary we set the
seventh house and its lord in charge and also that star to which the Moon is applying.8
A reminder concerning Dorotheus is in order here. We have at least two bodies of work
attributed to the Greek author Dorotheus of Sidon;9 the material in the Liber novem iudicum, and
the Arabic translation of the Pahlavi version of the Greek original.
One indication that the “Dorotheus” of the latter work is not the same as the Greek
Dorotheus can be seen in the following passage from Pingree’s English translation of the Arabic
text of the latter.
Albenait, Liber novem iudicum section §7.40, lines 2-6 from “Pro controversia rursum…” to “…applicat Luna
universaliter dominentur.”
See Chap. 8, pp. 233 to 238.
Dorotheus, Liber novem iudicum section §7.41, lines 2-6 from “Hic si questio detur…” to “…cui Luna applicat
The life and work of Dorotheus is discussed beginning on p. 130.
Look if you want to know this at the hour in which you are asked to the ascendent10 as the
ascendent indicates the matter of incitements and the commencements of quarrels. If you
find the ascendent [to be] a hard [fixed] sign, then it indicates that the seeker of the right
will be keen in his request and will not turn away from his argument. If the ascendent is a
sign possessing two bodies, then it indicates that the seeker of the right will be between
two selves and that he will regret his quarrel. If the ascendent is a tropical sign, then it
indicates that this quarrel will not be finished and will have no end… See the condition
of the defendant in the seventh sign.11
The Moon is given no role in the older, presumably original, Dorotheus but even in this earlier
work we have already the assignment of the ascendant to the plaintiff and the setting sign to the
defendant. So we see here that the oldest and most universally accepted principle in this
technique is this assignment. A difference between the Greek Dorotheus and the medieval work
attributed to him is that the text which is derived from the Greek version does not use planets
that rule the houses as significators. It simply refers to the houses themselves. It is not yet clear
when the extensive use of house rulers becomes widespread but it is found in both medieval and
Hindu astrology, so the usage must be quite early, just perhaps not in Dorotheus.
Finally one must note that Bonatti’s method is identical to Zahel’s. We see no change or
alteration here on the part of Bonatti. This part of the doctrine was sufficiently simple and
complete for there to be no opportunity or necessity for addition or change aside from the
different usages of the Moon here between Bonatti and Zahel on one hand and the source
mentioned on the other.
Whether the Parties Will Come to an Agreement – Part 1
Without the Aid of a Mediating Party.
On the face of it there seems little about this section that would make it remarkable. In all
A variant spelling of ‘ascendant’, actually more correct vis-a-vis the Latin but not as common as ‘ascendant’.
Dorotheus, Pingree ed., 292-3.
matters regarding possible conflict, astrologers were interested in whether or not the sides would
come to some kind of agreement. In this respect, however, personal conflict is treated differently
from warfare by both Bonatti and our other authors. The first question to be resolved in the
presentations on personal conflicts is whether the conflict can be resolved without formally
instituting litigation, not whether the side of the querent will be victorious. The institution of
litigation in personal conflict is the functional equivalent of actually beginning conflict in
warfare. It is not so much that these two parallel processes are treated differently as the order of
treatment is different. In warfare the first question that is asked is which side will win, in
personal conflict the question is can the conflict be resolved. What differentiates Bonatti and the
others, however, is how much more systematic Bonatti’s treatment of conflict resolution is than
any of our other authors. Bonatti employs the device of reception of one or both significators by
the other more extensively than the other authors, and uses it to create a hierarchy of
effectiveness and ease whereby the two sides may reach an agreement, assuming that there are
any indications at all that an agreement can be reached.
Briefly, reception of one planet (or significator) by another exists when one of two planets
forming an aspect12 is the ruler of the sign of the other by either domicile or exaltation. If Mars
has formed an aspect with a planet in Aries, then Mars receives that second planet by domicile
rulership.13 As the first passage below makes clear two planets can receive each other. For
example, if Mars is in Leo in trine aspect (120E) to the Sun in Aries, they both receive each other
by domicile, Mars being the domicile ruler of Aries and the Sun the domicile ruler of Leo. This
See ASPECT and CONJUNCTION in the Glossary.
There are a number of considerations that can alter the effectiveness of the reception of one planet by another.
For a more complete account of reception see RECEPTION in the Glossary as well as DOMICILE and EXALTATION.
is called a perfect, mutual reception.
Bonatti begins with the mutual reception between the significators of the two sides.
Bonatti - 7.2: See whether the lord of the Ascendant, or the Moon, is applying to the lord of
the seventh, or the latter is applying to either of these by the trine or sextile aspect with
mutual reception; [if so,] the parties will easily come to an agreement among themselves
without the involvement of anyone else.14
Trines and sextiles between significators were supposed to be the strongest possible indications
of a harmonious outcome and of general benefit to all. Mutual receptions improve the indications
of these aspects and in fact improve the indications of all aspects as shown repeatedly below.
Zahel - 7.2: After this look at both planets to see whether they are being joined together to
each other by the sextile or trine aspect. [If so] the two sides will be reconciled before
any contention.15
Here we see our first divergence between Bonatti and Zahel, small though it is. This is shown in
the italicized text in the Bonatti passage. While all of the texts agree that significators of the two
sides applying to each by sextile or trine aspect (as opposed to square or opposition) makes it
likely that the two sides will agree with a minimum of difficulty, only Bonatti and one other
source mentioned below emphasize the role of mutual reception in making this part of the
condition. That other text is the following from Omar in the Liber novem iudicum.
Omar - 7.1: The lords of the Ascendant and the seventh equally preserve the manner of, and
the final ending of concord or, preferably, of mutual reconciliation. The aspect of either
of these by trine, sextile, or conjunction, and common reception bring about peace.
Indeed, reception disposes of all of the business more quickly and honorably.16
I assume here that what the Omar text refers to as “common reception,” or communis recepcio17
in Latin, is the same as what Bonatti and others refer to as mutual reception described above.
Bonatti §VI.2.7.9, lines 8-10, from “Et vide si dominus Ascendentis…” to “…sine alterius intromissione.”
Zahel §7.9, lines 5-7 from “Post hec aspice si ambo…” to “…ante contentionem.”
Omar, Liber novem iudicum, §7.52, lines 2-6, from “Modum atque finem…” to “…omnia disponit negotia.”
Using the spelling of the manuscript recepcio rather than the standard receptio.
Given the context it seems very likely that it is, or something very similar. The only other
possible interpretation of ‘common reception’ is a condition closely related to mutual reception
but not precisely identical to it. This happens when planet A is a ruler of planet B according to
domicile rulership and Planet B is the ruler of planet A by exaltation rulership. An example of
this would be Saturn in Sagittarius sextile to Jupiter in Libra preferably with Jupiter applying.
Sagittarius is the domicile of Jupiter and Libra is the exaltation of Saturn.
In the next passage Bonatti proceeds to a level of refinement that is not found in any other
source. It involves one of the significators receiving the other significator but not the other way
Bonatti - 7.3: But if one significator receives the other and the one received does not receive
the receiving planet, they will [also] agree without lawsuit, but not without the
involvement of others, and those others who become involved will mostly be on the side
of the party whose significator receives the other party’s significator.18
This material from Bonatti is entirely italicized because Bonatti is the only one of our authors
who mentions what happens when the reception is not mutual, or in both directions,19 that is,
when the significator of side A receives the significator of side B but not vice versa. It is said to
give an advantage in the negotiations to the side A. The idea behind it is not unique to Bonatti
but its application in this context is. It is the sort of thing that one might expect either of a
practitioner or the direct student of one (as opposed to a compiler). If an astrologer actually
engages in answering a particular type of question and attempts to deal with it entirely in terms
of material he has learned from the writings of others, it quickly becomes evident when there are
gaps and omissions in said writings. The natural result for a practitioner is to fill those gaps by
Bonatti §VI.2.7.9, lines 10-13, from “Si vero unus receperit…” to “…significator receperit alium.”
The reception described above between Jupiter and Saturn is an example of a two-way reception that is not
mutual but which might meet the requirements.
bringing in material from other areas of inquiry and trying to apply them to a situation that has
been encountered but not satisfactorily handled in the existing texts or to fill the gaps from his
experience. As I have stated elsewhere,20 Bonatti concluded either on the basis of theory or
experience that the presence or absence of receptions, whether mutual or one way only, had to be
systematically applied in all such questions as these. No one else among his sources used
receptions systematically. Aside from the Omar text cited above, there is no other mention of
reception in this particular application. The closest anyone comes is in Haly Abenragel who
states the following as a general case.
Haly Abenragel - 7.1: In every case in which there is reception and fortunes, the cause is
strengthened in peace and in friendship, if God wills it.21
But in Haly Abenragel reception is not employed as part of a systematic hierarchy of aspect
effectiveness in bringing about the resolution of conflict. In the passages Bonatti - 7.2 and 7.3 we
have an example of two kinds of change by Bonatti, an increase in systematization and the
integrative use of methods from one interpretative schema and applying it to another.22 As we
will see again further on, this material is also an example on Bonatti’s part of taking ideas that
are theoretically implicit in other authors but working it out in detail so that all possible
situations will be covered, a goal which any practitioner would be happy to achieve. Again, we
do not know how much of this was derived from theory and how much from practice but the
goal is to increase the practical power of the technique. What Bonatti did is as follows. If a
mutual or common reception between two significators is better than a reception of only one of
the significators by the other, then one is obliged to state what that difference is, not merely to
See Chap. 6, p. 176.
Haly Abenragel §II.35, lines 114-16, from “Et in omni causa…” to “…si deus voluerit.”
These were listed as the second and third modes in Chap. 6.
state that the first is “better” than the second.
There are, however, mentions of reception in other contexts, especially as it involves the
favoritism of a judge to one side or the other. These will be described below. Bonatti continues:
Bonatti - 7.4: If the significators are joined by the square or opposition aspect with
reception, or by a trine or sextile without reception, the parties will agree but first they
will litigate.23
This passage again refers to this hierarchy of effectiveness among aspects which I have not
found outside of Bonatti.24 It is most completely described in §VI.1.2.25 The paragraphs in that
section are headed as follows: “About Those Things Which Come Easily,”26 “About Those
Matters Which Happen Quickly,”27 “About Those Things Which Happen With Petition,”28
“About those Things Which Happen With Petition, Great Application and Effort,”29 “About
Those Things Which Happen with Effort but Which Come to Completion with Difficulty, If at
All.”30 The first category involves applications by trine or sextile both with reception. The
second involves trines without receptions and sextiles with reception. The third involves squares
with reception and sextiles without reception.31 The fourth involves a square without reception or
an opposition with reception.32 This category requires a great deal of work, effort, petition, etc. to
make things happen. The fifth and last category involves the opposition without reception and no
Bonatti §VI.2.7.9, lines 13-15 from “Et si fuerint iuncti…” to “…concordabunt sed prius litigabunt.”
Mentioned previously on p. 188.
Bonatti, Ratdolt edition, fol. 104r.
De his que veniunt leviter.
De his que fiunt breviter.
De his que fiunt cum petitione.
De his que fiunt cum petitione studio et labore.
De his que fiunt cum labore tamen vix perficiuntur.
In the categories which refer to ‘petition’, petition (petitio) signifies an intentional and possibly strenuous
effort to ask for or seek the result. Such things do not happen as easily, quickly or spontaneously without effort on
the part of side signified.
The Ratdolt edition omits the reference to the opposition having reception while square does not. However,
the logic requires it and Vienna 2359 explicitly has it.
other supporting factors. Here the matter is accomplished hardly at all and with the greatest
effort. This requires some further explanation.
There are two basic ways planets can be joined by body or aspect. The first occurs when two
planets are moving so that they will occupy the same degree of the same sign. This is the bodily
conjunction more often referred to simply as ‘conjunction’. The second is when two planets are
moving into one of the significant angles or aspects, referred to as aspectual conjunctions, or
more simply, aspects. In the material that follows the bodily conjunction is left out because the
“goodness” or “badness” of bodily conjunctions depends upon what planets make the
conjunction. Typically, however, the bodily conjunction of significators is a good sign of some
positive result although not necessarily positive for both sides. The aspectual conjunction is the
more tricky mode of joining. The aspects fall into two broad categories, ones that indicate
harmony and ones that indicate problems.33 The best aspect is the trine (120E), followed by the
sextile (60E), both of which are “good,” the sextile less so than the trine. Then we have the two
“bad” aspects, the square (90E) and the opposition (180E), the square being less difficult than
opposition. When reception is present in an aspect, it is treated in §VI.1.2 lifting the aspect one
level of goodness. The following table illustrates the effect.
Level 1
Level 2
Level 3
Level 4
Level 5
Level 6
Trine with reception.
Trine without reception = Sextile with reception.
Sextile without reception = Square with reception.
Square without reception = Opposition with reception.
Opposition without reception.
No aspect or conjunction at all.
Neither Bonatti nor anyone else completely deals with mutual receptions in this schema but
See p. 360.
presumably the presence of one of these would boost the quality of the aspect somewhat more.
The above table shows the complete scheme. However, the hierarchy of “goodness” and
effectiveness in bringing about peace according to the aspects formed by the significators in this
chapter is similar to the one §VI.1.2 but there is a difference for which I have no explanation. In
the passages that we have here he groups the aspects a bit differently into the following
categories. The first and best is the formation of a trine or a sextile by the significators with
reception, preferably mutual. The second is the formation of a trine or sextile without reception
or a square or opposition with reception. An implicit third category is the formation of a square
or an opposition without reception of any kind and this presumably leads to no agreement at all
at least not without a mediator. However both here and in §VI.1.2 reception promotes an aspect
up one level of goodness. The first part of the text above is clearly an example of the application
of this hierarchical system of aspect effectiveness, albeit a modified form of it.
Then Bonatti continues:
Bonatti -7.5: The [eventual] agreement will always begin from the side whose significator is
less slow and which commits its disposition to the other. It is better if each significator
receives the other.34
This principle, that the side signified by the swifter significator will make the first movement
toward agreement is a principle found here and in the material involving warfare in Bonatti and
the other sources. This is because, as we will see below in this chapter and the next, slower
significators are (all things being equal) stronger than more swiftly moving significators. Here
are some of our other authors on that theme.
Zahel - 7.3: Know that the beginning of peace will be according to that planet which pushes,
that is, from the one that seeks a joining, which is the swifter planet, and from the planet
Bonatti §VI.2.7.9 i, lines 15-18, from “Et incipiet concordia…” to “…uterque significator receperit alterum.”
which is cadent if it is the swifter.35
Dorotheus - 7.2: Furthermore the origination and initiative of the peace making proceeds
from the swifter and applying star. 36
Haly Abenragel - 7.2: Know that the initiative for peace and agreement will come from the
planet which gives its power to the other planet, or from the swifter of the planets, or
from the planet37 which is cadent from an angle.38
Note that the Haly Abenragel is almost identical with the Zahel and is most likely derived from
Zahel. Haly Abenragel uses Zahel as much as Bonatti, but tends not to follow Zahel’s
organizational structure.
Finally, to conclude this section on the effects of the various aspects of the significators with
and without reception, Bonatti mentions once again problems that occur when one significator
receives the other but the other does not receive the first.
Bonatti - 7.6: If a swift planet is joined to a slow one and does not receive the slow one, but
the slow planet receives the swift one, it signifies that the receiving planet wishes to come
to an agreement even if the swift planet39 does not wish to do so and that side [signified
by the swift planet]will not stand firm by the other.40
We have seen that if both significators do not receive each other but only one receives the other,
that the parties will agree without litigation but others will become involved who will mostly
favor the receiving side. We have also just seen that the side signified by the more swiftly
moving significator seems to be at a disadvantage in the whole matter. Bonatti concludes this
section by describing what happens when one side has both advantages: that is, one side has the
more slowly moving significator and that significator receives the swifter one. The result is not
Zahel §7.9, lines 17-19 from “Et scito quod initium pacis…” to “…cadenti si fuerit levior.”
Dorotheus, Liber novem iudicum §7.41, lines 17-18, “Amplius pacis origo atque exordium a leviori stella
atque applicante procedit.”
Here are more instances of significators referred to as if they were the sides they signify.
Haly Abenragel §II.35, lines 26-29 from “Et scias quod initium pacis…” to “…cadens fuerit ab angulo.”
These are two instances of astrological writing that refer to a significator as if it were the person or side
signified. We find this in translations from the Arabic and here also in an original Latin composition as well.
Bonatti §VI.2.7.9, lines 18-20 from “Si levis iungatur ponderoso…” to “…nec stabit per eum.”
what one would expect from the logic shown in the previous instances. One would expect that
the side signified by the swifter significator would cave in at once and enter into an agreement.
However, this is not what the text says. The text indicates that the side of the slower significator,
which also receives the other, will want an agreement and the other side will not, and the other
side will not stand by an agreement even if one is made. Since the logic of the previous
statements does not seem to support this result, and Bonatti does not provide any new supporting
logic to his position here, it is tempting to conclude that he saw this happen in practice.41
However, this has to remain conjectural.
In any case, clearly reception in both directions is better than reception in one direction only.
This subtlety is not found in any other source which is why I have italicized the entire passage.
This is certainly an example of a revision of the tradition even if we do not know its basis.
Finally Bonatti sums up this entire business of agreement before formal litigation with the
Bonatti - 7.7: If the aspect is a trine or sextile, and also if they are joined bodily in one sign,
as long as their aspect or conjunction is not impeded by any other planet (whether the
aspect or conjunction is with or without reception), the more so will they also reach
agreement without the involvement of any other.42
This summarizes the material involving trines and sextile (less a number of details mentioned
previously) and adds what happens with the bodily conjunction43 which had not been mentioned
up to this point. The conjunction was also not mentioned in §VI.1.2 in the description of the
relative “goodness” of aspectual conjunctions. There is nothing about this passage that is unusual
or peculiar to Bonatti. It represents material adequately covered by his sources.
It is also possible that the text here is corrupt but the same text occurs in Vienna 2359.
Bonatti §VI.2.7.9, lines 20-23 from “Et eo magis si fuerit…” to “…sine alterius intromissione.”
Two planets in, or close to, the same degree of the same sign.
Of the passages from Zahel and the others that parallel all of what Bonatti has presented in
this second section, I present in their entirety only Zahel and Omar – Zahel, because he is
Bonatti’s only acknowledged source in this matter, and Omar because his material is more
comprehensive than any of the others except Bonatti. Albanait, Dorotheus (both from the Liber
novem iudicum) and Haly Abenragel add nothing to these three. Haly Abenragel again especially
resembles Zahel, as is frequently the case.
Zahel - 7.4: If they are joined by the square or opposition aspect, they will not be reconciled
except after strife and contention. If both significators come together in one sign, there
will be peace between them without the involvement of another and without [any] other
person who would come among them for the sake of making peace.44
Omar - 7.2: For if the aspect, or this application proceeds from the square, opposition, or
conjunction but [in addition] also the application of the star from which the Moon is
separating to the one to which she45 approaches is likewise from the square, opposition or
conjunction, it judges [that there will be] conflicts and dissension in the controversy.
Thus, the origin of the legal case or litigation is generated by the application of these to
each other. I say that with things being the way we have already described, it brings the
most serious litigation, especially if there is no reception. If reception is present
[however], things happen more easily and with less tension. Indeed, if the application is
made by trine or sextile, it portends a slight and transitory kind of situation [of the kind]
that happens between friends.46
The Omar passage contains more specific material than anyone but Bonatti, but Bonatti’s
hierarchy of aspect effectiveness involving reception is absent in Omar. It is clear in this
particular area that Bonatti’s confrontation with the material from his predecessors caused him
either for theoretical or empirical reasons to systematize, rationalize and extend the tradition.
Zahel §7.9, lines 7-10 from “Et si fuerint a quarto aspectu…” to “…inter eos causa pacificandi.”
It is not entirely clear from the Latin whether this subject if the Moon is ‘she’, or the star (stella) from which
the Moon is separating. The latter reading would represent an unusual astrological principle. It is most likely the
Omar, Liber novem iudicum section §7.38 lines 12-21 from “Nam si aspectus vel applicacio hec de
tetragono…” to “…inter amicos fieri portendit.”
Whether the Parties Will Come to an Agreement – Part 2
Agreement Involving a Mediator without Formal Litigation.
The previous section concerned conflicts that could be settled by the parties themselves with
little or no litigation prior to an agreement. Now we turn to indications of conflict settled with
assistance of mediators and how effective they might be.
Third parties, i.e., judges, podestà or other officials, or others in authority, figure strongly in
astrological writing about personal conflict. They appear in two contexts, first, as we have it
here, as mediators trying to bring about a resolution with little or no formal litigation, and
second, as persons who function as judges in such a way that results in one side winning or
losing the case in a formal court or similar institution. In this section we look at the first
Bonatti - 7.8: After this look at the significator of the king, podestà, or judge. [This is] is the
lord of the tenth house. If it aspects a lord which is one of the significators, that is to say
[the lord] of the Ascendant or of the seventh, or if it is joined bodily47 to one of these, or
[also] if the lord of the Ascendant endeavors to be joined with the lord of the seventh, or
the lord of the seventh with the lord of the Ascendant, and the lord of the tenth house cuts
off their junction, the parties will not agree unless first they litigate in the presence of the
judge. This will be because of the judge, or other person in authority. He will not permit
them to settle, and will make them litigate perhaps for the sake of extorting something
from this.48
As the reader will see below, there is a general similarity among the texts. A mediator or judge
serving in that capacity will intrude upon the situation (as opposed to being invited) if the lord of
the tenth house (the significator of a judge or other mediator who is legally empowered) makes
an aspect to one of the significators of the two sides before the significators of the two sides can
make an aspect to each other. All of the texts imply the necessity of this but Bonatti49 is the only
The same as a ‘bodily conjunction’.
Bonatti §VI.2.7.9, lines 23-30 from “Post hoc aspice significatorem regis…” to “…extorquendi aliquid inde.”
This may be perhaps because of his experiences in northern Italian politics.
one who seems to feel that this is not a good thing, that the judge will not permit a settlement
without litigation, and may do so from ulterior motives. Bonatti also details the variations of the
astrological arrangements that can indicate this in much greater detail than the other authors.
This additional detail may be derived from his own experience or it may be an instance of
Bonatti working out the theoretical implications of the principles involved. The part about the
judge attempting to extort something from one of the sides is clearly the result of experience
since there is no theoretical foundation for it. Nor is there one against it. This is clearly an
example of Bonatti augmenting the tradition based on theory and observation. Bonatti continues:
Bonatti - 7.9: Then look at the Moon and see if she transfers light between the lord of the
Ascendant and the lord of the seventh; and if the Moon does not transfer light between
them, see if another planet transfers light between them, because if [either condition] is
so, some persons will become involved who will make litigants agree even if they have
already begun to litigate.50
The above section deals with the Moon’s or other planet’s possible transfer of light51 between the
significators. His treatment of this is quite different from our other authors. The transfer of light
signifies the entry of mediators or other third parties who force agreement, as opposed in the
previous example to mediators or judges who want to force litigation. This not only provides a
contrast to Bonatti - 7.8, it also treats the transfer of light differently than our other sources. Our
other sources indicate that a transfer of light only indicates that emissaries go between the sides
to help establish agreement, not to serve as active mediators. In contrast, Bonatti - 7.9 makes
them active mediators. (See Zahel - 7.5 just below.) This is a subtle but not unimportant
variation from the point of view of the practitioner. Again Bonatti adds to the tradition in this
case mostly likely based on experience. Here are parallel passages from other sources.
Bonatti §VI.2.7.9, passages 8 and 9, lines 30-34 from “Deinde aspice Lunam…” to “…etiam si iam
incepissent litigare.”
Zahel - 7.5: If the lord of the midheaven aspects them and there is a joining together with that
lord before one of the significators is joined to the other, they will not make peace until
they come before the king. And if the Moon transfers light between them, the beginning
of peace will be [made] by the actions of legates.52
Note that the “king” here does not force litigation unlike Bonatti - 7.8.
al-Kindī - 7.1: However, the midheaven signifies a [possible] mediator for both sides. But if
a matter involving a dispute or conflict is brought [the Midheaven signifies] a judge. If [it
is a matter] of negotiation, [the Midheaven] assumes the role of the one who ministers to
the negotiation.53
Albenait - 7.2: However, if the lord of the midheaven aspects them or applies to them more
than they apply to each other, they will debate their differences in the presence of a king
and by his hand the matter will be concluded. If there is a transfer of light, they confirm
peace and concord by means of emissaries [sent] between them.54
Dorotheus - 7.3: If the lord of the midheaven aspects them while these same stars are
applying first between themselves, before peace is made in the sight of the king, either
the conflict is litigated or perhaps the litigation is [merely] discussed.55
Haly Abenragel - 7.3: If the lord of the tenth house applies to the significators before one of
them applies to the other, they will neither reach an agreement nor attain peace until the
quarrel comes before the king.
If the Moon transfers the light of one of the significators to the other, the agreement
will come to pass by means of a messenger or courier who will go back and forth
between them.56
There is one other passage that bears on this somewhat. It is another reference to what happens if
the Moon or third planet transfers light between the significators. The passage is from Omar.
Omar - 7.3: But if they are deprived of an aspect one to the other, as long as there is yet a
collecting or transferring of the light of both,57 this signifies making peace with a
mediator. The particular nature of the star collecting or, preferably, transferring [light]
Zahel §7.9, lines 10-14 from “Et si aspexerit eos dominus medii celi…” to “…per manus legatorum.”
al-Kindī, Liber novem iudicum §7.39, lines 7-9 from “Medium vero celum utriusque mediatorem…” to “…rei
ministerium vendicat.”
Albenait, Liber novem iudicum §7.40, lines 10-13 from “Si vero medii celi dominus eos respiciat…” to
“…pacem firmant atque concordiam.”
Dorotheus, Liber novem iudicum §7.41, lines 11-13 from “Eis quidem a medii celi domino respectus….” to
“…agitur aut forte discutitur.”
Haly Abenragel §II.35, lines 15-20 from “Et si dominus domus decime applicuerit ad eos antequam…” to
“…qui discurret inter eos.”
describes the nature of the mediator. Here, if there is a question about the mediator’s
condition and status, one will have to resort to that same star, for an oriental star
[signifies] a young man, an occidental star, older men.58 But if the star is neither oriental
nor occidental, it prefigures a man of middle years. Moreover, stars of this kind (neither
oriental nor occidental) depress the condition [of the mediator]. [A star is neither
occidental nor oriental] whenever that same star is distant more than ninety degrees from
the Sun up to one hundred eighty [degrees]. At that point it is perceived to be in the
opposition of the Sun.59
None of our other sources, including Bonatti, mention this matter of the mediating planet’s phase
with the Sun. Of course this definition of oriental and occidental only applies to planets. Sun has
a different way of being oriental and occidental.
Which Side Comes Out Better in a Settlement?
First we have general indications as to which side fares better in mediation.
Bonatti - 7.10: After this look at the lord of the Ascendant, which signifies the querent, and
the lord of the seventh which signifies the adversary; see which of them is stronger
because that one whose significator is stronger should prevail. The stronger one will be
that one which is in an angle, especially also if it is in one of its own dignities; and by
however much the dignity is greater and by however many more fortitudes one of them
has, by so much more will that significator be stronger, and especially if it is received in
the place in which it is [located], seeing that [the party signified] will be strong on his
own, and he will have allies who will assist him.60
As is discussed in the “General Introduction to Medieval Astrology” in the appendix, planets
were rated according to a system of fortitudes. This is the system referred to in the above
Zahel - 7.6: After this look at the place of both planets, namely, the lord of the Ascendant
and the lord of the matter, that is, of the seventh house, and the fortitude of these planets.
See ORIENTAL, OCCIDENTAL in the Glossary.
Omar, Liber novem iudicum §7.52, lines 7-17 from “Quod si alterno priventur aspectu…” to “…in Solis
oppositione cernitur.”
Bonatti §VI.2.7.9, lines 34-41 from “Post hoc aspice dominum…” to “…habebit auxiliatores qui iuvabunt
See also ESSENTIAL DIGNITY and related articles in the Glossary.
Through this method you will know the strength of those parties who have the quarrel,
for that side will be the stronger of the two whose significator is in an angle and which is
received. He will have the most support.62
The main difference here between Zahel and Bonatti is that Bonatti is slightly more detailed than
Zahel and a bit more wordy. Both of them base their statements upon principles that were
generally accepted regarding the outcome of conflict, whether civil or military, with or without
mediation. Other texts state the same basic principles.63 Here apparently Bonatti saw no practical
need for adding to the tradition.
So next we move on to the matter of which side will take the initiative in seeking a
settlement. The answer to this question has already been given in the discussion of reception
above in the paragraph designated Bonatti - 7.10. Here we get further elaboration on the subject.
Bonatti - 7.11: And if they should come to an agreement, as I have described, the initiative
for the settlement will come from the side [represented] by the swifter planet which is
also committing disposition to the other planet. For, if the lord of the Ascendant is the
swifter planet, and the lord of the seventh is the slower, the [initiative] will come from
the side of the querent. But if the lord of the Ascendant is the slower and the lord of the
seventh is the swifter, the initiative for the agreement will come from the adversary. Also,
a planet which is cadent64 from an angle is said to be weaker unless another planet which
is in a strong place supports and receives it.65
Bonatti’s main variation with respect to the others is that he mentions a way in which a cadent
planet can be restored in strength if well-placed planets make favorable aspects to it (“supports”)
and receive it. No other author makes this point, although it is implicit in the tradition. Not all of
Bonatti’s innovations come from a heavy reliance on receptions but many of them do. He is not
Zahel §7.9, lines 14-17 from “Post hec aspice locum utrorumque planetarum…” to “…habebit plures
Albenait, Novem liber iudicum §7.40, lines 13-17 from “Demum inter duces uter eorum forcior notandum…”
to “…gaudebit amminiculis.” Dorotheus, Liber novem iudicum §7.41, lines 14-17 from “Sic enim forciorem in causa
designant…” to “… pluribus gaudebit amminiculis.” Haly Abenragel §II.35, lines 20-26 from “Postmodum aspice
loca domini ascendentis…” to “…plures auxiliatores habebit.”
See CADENT in the Glossary.
Bonatti §VI.2.7.9, lines 41-47 from “Et si debuerint componere, sicut dixi…” to “…in loco forti et recipiat
the source of the idea of reception, of course, but he used receptions much more systematically.66
This is another example of Bonatti’s systematic application of reception to the use of aspects as
discussed previously.
Zahel - 7.7: Know that the beginning of peace will be according to that planet which pushes,
that is, from the one that seeks a joining, which is the swifter planet, and from the planet
which is cadent if it is the swifter.67
Zahel differs somewhat from Bonatti. He omits the reception and mentions cadency as a problem
for the swifter planet only. Otherwise Zahel is completely typical.
So now we move on to our first principal indication as to which side gets the better of a
settlement. In the next passage Bonatti offers nothing that is not typical with one interesting
Bonatti - 7.12: Likewise, it is necessary for one to look and see whether the lord of seventh is
in the Ascendant because that signifies conclusively that the side whose significators are
the Ascendant and its lord, namely, the querent, will win and the adversary will give way.
And if the lord of the Ascendant is in the seventh, it signifies that the adversary will
prevail and the querent will give way; for, whichever of the significators is found in the
house of the other, defeat is indicated for the side signified.68 This will not only happen in
lawsuits, but in monetary cases; indeed, it will even happen in battles and wars,69
because always whichever side’s significator is found in the house of the other side is
said to be already defeated and is like unto a side which has [already] been conquered.70
The idea of reception is implicit in Ptolemy in Book III in which he mentions five forms that affect the “mode
of domination.” These are triplicity, domicile, exaltation, term and “phase or aspect.” The last differs from the
medieval practice which makes the decan or face the fifth mode of rulership. Apparently for Ptolemy a planet has
some degree of rulership over any degree which it aspects. Reception combines rulership by domicile or exaltation
with that of aspect to make a double mode of rulership. Reception, or alcobol as it is known in Latinized Arabic,
becomes a very important factor in Arabic astrology, although the details concerning its use vary somewhat from
author to author. Bonatti’s usage became the standard in European astrology. See Ptolemy, Robbins trans., 232-3.
Zahel §7.9, lines 17-19 from “Et scito quod initium pacis erit a planeta…” to “…si fuerit levior.”
The logic of this is as follows: First of all, for the lord of the seventh to be in the first house originally
required (using the oldest form of house division) that lord of the seventh be in its detriment, a severe debility.
Second, the first house signifies the strength and power of the querent. As long as its lord, the lord of the first house,
is not weak, any planet in the first house is under the power of the querent.
This is why this chapter is included in my study of Bonatti’s military astrology. The logic of lawsuits and
battles is identical. This is stated again further along.
Bonatti §VI.2.7.9, lines 47-54 from “Item oportet prospicere…” to “…dicitur esse iam victus et est victo
Bonatti in his chapters on civil conflict is the only one of our authors who generalizes this
explicitly from personal conflict to war, although others imply it. However, as we shall see in the
next chapter, this principle is in fact generally employed in military questions.
Here is Zahel.
Zahel - 7.8: Know that when the lord of the seventh is in the Ascendant, it signifies the
strength of the querent, and the lord of the Ascendant in the seventh signifies the strength
of the one about whom the question is asked because he is like a victor [in the quarrel].71
Aside from his explicitly extending the principle to warfare, otherwise Bonatti is simply more
verbose. Now we move on to a second principal indication as to which side gets the better of a
Bonatti - 7.13: Afterward, it is necessary that you see whether the lord of the Ascendant or
the lord of the seventh is retrograde because if the lord of the Ascendant is retrograde, it
signifies the querent’s weakness and that he will not be firm in withstanding the lawsuit
and that he will himself deny the truth and not confess it to the adversary, and will not
believe that he has right [on his side]. But if the lord of the seventh is retrograde, it
signifies weakness on the part of the adversary, and that he will run from the suit as fast
he can; he will also deny the truth and he will not believe that he has a good case.72
The main difference between Bonatti as opposed to Zahel and the others is the explicit nature of
his description of the effect of the retrograde significator. This is one of the instances specifically
mentioned in Chapter 6 of Bonatti taking what was generally conceived to be a difficulty for a
significator and making the exact nature of the difficulty explicit.73 For a practicing astrologer
merely to know that something is “difficult” is not worth much unless he knows the nature of the
difficulty. The Arabic texts do not usually spell out at least as pertains to retrogradation, so
Bonatti saw the need to do so. Here are corresponding texts from Zahel, Dorotheus and Haly
Zahel §7.9, lines 19-22 from “Et scito quod dominus…” to “…quia similis victo.”
Bonatti §VI.2.7.9, lines 54-61 from “Preterea opportet te videre…” to “…nec credet se habere bonam
See pp. 175 to ?.
Zahel - 7.9: And if one significator is retrograde, it signifies weakness and rout, and also
underhanded dealing and falsehood for that one whose significator it is, that is, if the lord
of the Ascendant is retrograde, it will be the querent’s weakness, but if it is the lord of the
seventh which is retrograde, it will be the weakness of the opponent.74
Dorotheus - 7.4: The retrograde motion of either significator shows weakness, cowardice and
fear on that side.75
Haly Abenragel - 7.4: When one of the significators is retrograde, this signifies weakness,
fear, destruction [for that side] and that there are lies about the querent.76 If the lord of the
seventh is retrograde, it signifies the weakness of the side with which the querent is in
We will see again that where everyone agrees that a retrograde significator is bad for the side
with which it is associated, making it weak but only Bonatti is more explicit about the nature of
what retrogradation signifies. It is not merely “evil”; there are specific phenomena associated
with it.78
So throughout these passages we see Bonatti adding to the tradition and making it more
explicit based on both theory and experience.
The Qualities of the Mediator.
Here we take up the question of the nature of mediators and judges in situations where
conflicts actually result in formal litigation or its equivalent.
Bonatti - 7.14: Look also at the significator of anyone who may sit in judgement (whether he
Zahel §7.9, lines 22-26 from “Et si unus significator fuerit retrogradus…” to “…erit debilitas contentoris.”
Dorotheus, Liber novem iudicum §7.41, lines 25-26, “Alterutrius quidem ducum retrogradatio imbecillitatem
atque ignaviam et timorem sue partis ostendit.”
This is what all of the printed editions say. I suspect an error in what was probably the original source for all
of these. It makes more sense to put the part about lying at the end of the next sentence which concerns only the lord
of the seventh house when it is retrograde.
Haly Abenragel §II.35, lines 32-36 from “…et quando unus significatorum…” to “…cum quo contendit.”
See passages Bonatti - 7.14, Bonatti - 8.6,
is a king, podestà79 or judge) and is to pronounce sentence between them. [This
significator] will be the lord of the tenth house. [See] whether or not it aspects the
significators of the lawsuit. If the significator aspects them and is direct, he will proceed
according to the order of the law in the case and that he will strive to shorten the
proceedings and finish quickly. However, if the significator of the judge is retrograde, it
signifies that the judge or king or podestà in authority will not proceed in the case
according to the order of the law, he will not care to end it, and, indeed, it will be
prolonged longer than it should be according to law. The same must [also] be said
concerning the prolonging of a case if the lord of the Ascendant has separated from the
lord of the seventh, or if the lord of the seventh has separated from the lord of the
As we will see below when comparing Bonatti to the other sources, he is often not merely
verbose; he puts together all of what the other sources have to say about this issue. In addition
Bonatti again treats retrograde motion not merely as an impediment81 but as a specific
impediment which indicates that the one signified does not behave according to expectations.
Specifically the retrograde motion of the significator of one sitting in judgement makes the judge
not act as he should according to the letter of the law and to render judgement as expeditiously
as possible, but rather makes him not to follow the law and prolong the case gratuitously. Here
are other authors on the same subject.
Zahel - 7.10: Moreover, if the lord of the midheaven aspects them and it is retrograde, this
signifies the unjustness of the judges and that the quarrel will be prolonged. [It is]
likewise if one of the significators is being separated from the other (I call the lord of the
Ascendant and the lord of the matter the significators.)82
Dorotheus - 7.5: The lord of the tenth aspecting these lords will prolong the case or conflict
if that lord is retrograde. Also, if one of them is separating from the other and this
separation is from opposition or square, as long as the significators aspect each other
potestas. See R.E. Latham, R. E., Revised Medieval Latin Word-List from British and Irish Sources (London:
Oxford University Press, 1980), 362 under ‘potestas’.
That is, the faster of the two significators is moving away from aspect or bodily conjunction with the slower,
rather than applying. Bonatti §VI.2.7.9, lines 60-69 from “Aspice etiam significatorem iudicis…” to “…separatus a
domino Ascendentis.”
For a general description of what constitutes and ‘impediment’, see IMPEDIMENT in the Glossary.
Zahel §7.9, lines 26-29 from “Si autem dominus medii celi aspexerit eos…” to “…dominum ascendentis et
dominum rei.”
there will be delay.83
Haly Abenragel - 7.5: If a lord of the midheaven which is retrograde aspects the significator
of the one of the two sides, this signifies that the judge84 will do harm to the lord of the
significator,85 and that the conflict or lawsuit will be very prolonged. Likewise, if the two
significators, the lord of the Ascendant and the lord of the seventh house are separating
themselves, one from the other, this also signifies that the lawsuit or conflict will be very
In the passages just above from Zahel, Dorotheus, and Haly Abenragel, only Zahel suggests that
if the judge’s significator is retrograde that the specific problem is that the judge will be unjust
although not exactly in what manner. The others only suggest that the conflict will be prolonged
and that the judge may do “harm” of an unspecified nature to the side of the affected significator.
The Role of the Sun and Moon in Supporting Either Side.
According to Bonatti the luminaries, that is, the Sun and Moon, also can have a considerable
affect upon the two sides in a conflict. Several of our authors describe this in the passages which
Bonatti - 7.15: In addition, see whether the lord of the Ascendant has joined with the Sun or
Moon or either of them has joined with the lord of the Ascendant in such a way that no
other planet impedes their joining together (as long as [the joining] is not by bodily
conjunction with the Sun because that would signify the impeding of the matter unless the
planet is in the cazimi of the Sun since then the planet would become strong), or the lord
of the Ascendant is in the domicile of a luminary, or the Sun or Moon are in the
Ascendant; because, if it is so, it signifies strength for the querent. But if the lord of the
seventh house is disposed as I have described in regard to the lord of the Ascendant, it
Dorotheus, Liber novem iudicum §7.41, lines 28-30 from “Quos decimi dominus respiciens…” to “…litis erit
alcaydus. Du Cange says, “… ita Judices civitatum vocabant Saraceni Hispanici.” “…so the Spanish Saracens
name the judges of cities.” Du Cange, vol. 1, 170.
“lord of the significator” dominus significatoris. This does literally mean “the lord of the significator.”
However, what it means in this instance is the side signified by the significator. This is another example of the
merging of the significator with the signified referred to in note 37 above.
Haly Abenragel §II.35, lines 36-39, from “Et si dominus medii celi aspexerit illum retrogradum…” to
“…placitum illud prolongabitur multum.”
signifies strength for the adversary.87
Zahel - 7.11: Also know this about the Luminaries, that is, the Sun and the Moon; if one of
them is being joined to one of the significators, or a significator is in the domicile of one
of Luminaries, it will be stronger and more dignified.88
Dorotheus - 7.6: Either of the lights applying to either of the significators, or being [in the
same sign] with it, elevates its force and graces its side unless perhaps it is combust.89
Haly Abenragel - 7.6: You should know that if either one of the luminaries applies to either
of the two significators, or if one of these significators is in either house of the
luminaries, it will also have great power.90
The Bonatti passage adds considerable astrological detail. However, much of this is the result of
Bonatti’s desire to state explicitly what other authors assume the reader would already
understand. This is consistent with his apparent desire to instruct the reader as completely as
possible. Zahel implies that any joining by or to the Sun or Moon is good and does mention
combustion as a problem when the Sun is involved. Dorotheus also, besides Bonatti, makes the
exception about combustion. This is standard doctrine in medieval astrology; the bodily
conjunction of a planet with the Sun does not strengthen the planet but weakens it. This is what
is meant by ‘combustion’.91 Bonatti also mentions something else that is standard astrological
theory and that is that for the joining with a luminary (or any joining for that matter) to be
effective there must be no interruption in the joining process. That means, first of all, the joining
must be completed, that is become exact, with neither planet changing sign and also, neither
planet may either join to, or be joined by, another planet other than the joining which is of
Bonatti §VI.2.7.9, lines 69-76 from “Preterea, vide si dominus Ascendentis fuerit…” to “…significat
fortitudinem adversarii.”
Zahel §7.9, lines 29-31 from “Et scito quod luminaria…” to “…erit fortior et dignior.”
Dorotheus, Liber novem iudicum §7.41 lines 32-34 from “Alterum quidem luminum…” to “…forte sit
Haly Abenragel §II.35, lines 42-45 from “Et scias quod si aliquod luminarium…” to “…habebit maius posse.”
See COMBUST OR COMBUSTION in the Glossary.
interest. This is also standard medieval astrological practice but only Bonatti spells it out in
connection with this particular problem. Here again Bonatti tries to be as explicit as possible.
Relations Between the Litigants and the Mediator.
Let us first examine indications that favor the querent or plaintiff.
Bonatti - 7.16: Also, see whether the lord of the Ascendant is joined with92 the lord of the
tenth house. [If so,] the querent will request the aid of the judge (or whatever person it is
that must make a decision concerning the case). And perhaps, [it may be] that he will
strive to corrupt the judge so that the judge will propose a decision in the querent’s
favor. Also, if the lord of the tenth receives the lord of the second house from the
Ascendant, the judge will require some of the querent’s money. And if the lord of the
tenth house receives the lord of the Ascendant, the judge will acquiesce to the request of
the querent but if it is otherwise, it will not be so. Likewise, see if the lord of the tenth
house is a swifter planet than the lord of the Ascendant, and is joined to it; the judge or
podestà will do the querent’s business even if the querent does not petition.93
Zahel - 7.12: And if the lord of the Ascendant is being joined to the lord of the midheaven,
the lord of the question94 will seek assistance from the king. But if the lord of the
midheaven is being joined to the lord of the Ascendant, the king will give him aid
without his asking. If the lord of the seventh is being joined to the lord of the midheaven,
the adversary will ask for assistance from the king, but if the lord of the midheaven is
being joined to the lord of the seventh, the king will give aid to the adversary.95
Dorotheus - 7.8: Moreover, an application of the lord of the Ascendant with the lord of the
Midheaven rouses the querent to make a petition to the king. Contrariwise, the latter
applying to the former provides spontaneous favor from a king. And so the same thing
must be said regarding the lord of the seventh [as well].96
Note that the passages from Zahel and Dorotheus describe the matter for both the querent and
the adversary, whereas Bonatti only addresses the matter for the querent. Bonatti’s comment on
the status of the adversary are given below.
fuerit iunctus. The subjunctive perfect passive form stands in for a present passive. Usually this is clear but
here I need to be explicit. The phrase “is joined to” means is “applying to.” That continues through this section.
Bonatti §VI.2.7.9, lines 76-83 from “Et aspice si dominus Ascendentis…” to “…etiam ipso non petente.”
Again the identification of a significator with the side signified.
Zahel §7.9, lines 31-37 from “Et si dominus ascendentis iunctus…” to “…auxiliabitur rex contentori.”
Dorotheus, Liber novem iudicum §7.41, lines 37-40, from “Atqui orientalis domini…” to “…erit referendum.”
The basic principle is the same in all three of our sources. If the significator of either side
applies to the significator of the mediating judge, that side will overtly request the assistance of
the official. If the significator of the official applies to the significator of either side, on the other
hand, the official will give assistance to that side whether or not that side requests it. This is a
beautiful example of the basic assumption of medieval astrology, that the movement of the
planets as significators directly parallels that of the actual persons or groups which they signify.
The success or failure of an action does not depend upon static relationships among the planets,
signs and houses but upon the movements and the sequence of astronomical events which in turn
is paralleled on by events on earth. In this case whichever significator makes the application, i.e.,
moves toward a joining with another planet bodily or by aspect, the person or persons signified
by that significator takes the initiative. In such a case if the significator which is applied to
receives (in the astrological sense) the applying significator, that means that the person whose
significator is applied to will accept (receive) the initiative.97 This is what I mean by “parallels.”
However, in this instance Zahel and Dorotheus merely state the basic principle. Bonatti adds
detail not all of which is necessarily implicit in the astrology. Among the details which are
implicit in the astrology he mentions that the second house indicates the querent’s or plaintiff’s
money. Specifically, once again, Bonatti invokes the reception of the lord of the second house by
the lord of the tenth to explain that the judge may request money of the querent, whether in the
form of a fee or a bribe is not clear. This is the part that is not implicit in the astrology. It is quite
likely that this addition was based on Bonatti’s personal experience
Also note that the Bonatti passage above only deals with the querent/plaintiff. It says nothing
Note that in Latin the verb recipio means both to accept and receive.
about the other side, whereas the other two authors do explicitly mention that the same principle
must be applied to the other side. Bonatti does so in the next passage but in much more detail.
So let us turn to the indications for the adversary or defendant as described by Bonatti. We
have just seen Zahel’s and Dorotheus’ much briefer comments. They have nothing further to say
on the subject. Bonatti, as if frequently the case, has a good deal more to say on the subject.
Bonatti - 7.17: But if the lord of the seventh is joined with the lord of the tenth house, the
adversary will seek the aid of the judge or podestà. But if the lord of the tenth receives
the lord of the seventh, the judge will acquiesce to the entreaties of the adversary and
will allow himself to be corrupted and will offer his support, otherwise, not. But if the
lord of the tenth receives the lord of the eighth, the judge will accept the adversary’s
money. But if the significator of the judge, namely, the lord of the tenth house, is a
swifter planet than the lord of the seventh and is joined to him, then the judge or podestà
will strive to do something good for the adversary, even if the adversary makes no
request [of him].98
What Bonatti does is simply to apply the same logic to the other side that he applied to the side
of the querent/plaintiff. However, he adds a reference to lord of the tenth receiving the lord of
the seventh as well as the reception between the lord of the tenth and the lord of the eighth
(which signifies the adversary’s money). Oddly enough there is no mention in the former Bonatti
passage of the lord of the tenth receiving the lord of the first though the logic of the situation
implies that it should be the same mutatis mutandis.
Again Bonatti amplified and built upon his predecessors and added much more explicit detail
in his working out of the implications of the symbolism most likely based on his experience.
Indications for the Outcome of Litigation If There Is No Mediation.
Up to this point the discussion has been about mediated conflict. Now the discussion moves
Bonatti §VI.2.7.9, lines 83-90, from “Si autem dominus septime fuerit iunctus…” to “…etiam eo non
to the point of examining the outcome of conflict which goes into some kind of formal litigation.
If we apply the same logic as has heretofore been present, the previous discussions have been
about attempts to avoid conflict, whether civil conflict, war or battle, either through the efforts of
both sides by themselves or with assistance of some kind of mediator or judge. Conflict might
have already begun but resolution was sought before things got very far. In war this might have
consisted of preliminary skirmishes without an all-out commitment to war. Now in the material
that follows the assumption is made that none of this (if there has been any effort at
reconciliation at all) has worked and full-scale litigation or its equivalent follows, or full-scale
battle or war if we apply these principles, as in fact Bonatti and his predecessors did, to
First in the case of litigation (as opposed to warfare) one wants to ascertain which side the
judge will favor. These indications would apply to war only if, after extensive warfare neither
side having gained a clear victory brings in a third party to negotiate a peace. 7.6, 7.17, 7.16
Bonatti - 7.18: But as soon as you see the disposition and quality of condition100 of both
significators, namely, the lord of the Ascendant, and the lord of the seventh, and you see
that they do not wish to settle, and it does not seem to that they are settling, but rather
that they seem to want to litigate, see then if the lord of the tenth is joined to one of the
significators, namely, the lord of the Ascendant or the lord of the seventh, or one of them
is joined to it such that no other planet impedes their joining together. [If this is true,]
then the judge, or other one who will pronounce the decision, will be favorable to that
one with whose significator the lord of the tenth is joined; that is, if it is joined with the
significator of the first, the judge will be favorable to the querent; if it is being joined
with the significator of the seventh, the judge will be favorable to the adversary. If none
of these is joined with any other of these, the judge will be favorable but he will proceed
only according to the way of the law. But if it is joined to both with reception, as
sometimes happens, the judge will settle between them and he will make them agree
together whether they want to or not.101
As I show in subsequent chapters.
esse. This refers to essential dignity, the dignity that derives from the position of a significator in a sign. See
the English-Latin Glossary under DIGNITY.
Bonatti §VI.2.7.9, lines 90-100 from “Postea vero videris dispositionem…” to “…velint nolint.”
Zahel - 7.13: When you know the strength of each of the sides with respect to the other and
you know that the two sides will not be reconciled, look at the king or judge who will
judge between them according to the midheaven which is the significator of the king or
judge. Then see which of these significators, that is, whether [it be] the lord of the
ascendant or the lord of the seventh, the lord of the aforesaid midheaven aspects (which
is the significator of the king or judge). Know that the king or judge is with the side
which he aspects.102
The entire Bonatti passage above parallels what is only one sentence in Zahel. Partly this is due
to Bonatti’s verbosity but the passages in italics have no parallel in the Zahel. The first of these
is simply a general reminder that an application is valid only if no other planet becomes involved
before an application is completed. The second passage adds a subtlety in the behavior of the
judge that Zahel does not mention, one which is quite important.
I have referred to Bonatti’s extensive use of reception which is more than any of his
predecessors. They and Bonatti all agree that reception is “good” for an outcome with one
interesting exception of Bonatti 7.6 above, in which a slower significator receives the swifter
significator but not vice versa. In that passage Bonatti interpreted the reception as indicating the
eagerness of the side signified by the slower significator to reach an agreement which the other
side was unwilling to make or abide by if forced. It was noted at that point that this seemed to be
inconsistent with the generally positive effect of reception on an outcome. However, there is a
pattern in this which is found also in Bonatti passages 7.6, 7.17, 7.16 and 7.18. I mention it now
because in passage 7.18 the pattern is more explicit than in any of the previous passages. As I
have just stated, everyone agrees that reception improves an outcome (with the possible
exception of passage 7.6). However, something more important is now apparent. All of these
passages show that the significator that receives indicates a party that is trying to force or compel
Zahel §7.9, lines 38-43 from “Cumque noveris fortitudinem…” to “…cum eo quem aspicit.”
some particular result, be it settlement, getting money or a bribe, or in this case an agreement
between two sides that have no inclination to reach one. This is a generalization of a principle
that goes beyond anything in any of Bonatti’s sources. As Bonatti does with retrogradation, he
describes how it is “bad” for a significator, not merely content with agreement that is it “bad.”
Here he does the same for reception; he shows at least one particular way in which reception is
“good” and in Bonatti - 7.6 how it might not be so “good.” This feature of reception is not at all
implicit in the writings of his sources. It is another example of how Bonatti attempts to establish
underlying principles and in this case most likely based on his own experience. Now let us look
at one more passage from Dorotheus.
Dorotheus - 7.9: I say when one sees the power and testimonies in such an order that the
hope of peace is completely remote, we will learn about the judge from the lord of the
midheaven. Whichever of the significators the lord of the judge aspects more familiarly,
the judge will favor that side the more. But if the lord of the midheaven gives solace to
each side with its own aspect, and it receives either of the two significators, the judge
will surely adhere to the side [which is signified].103
This passage from Dorotheus mentions reception but comes to a different conclusion than
Bonatti. In Bonatti if the judge’s significator receives both the querent/plaintiff’s significator and
the adversary’s, the judge will compel a result. Dorotheus does not mention that possibility but
does mention that the judge will favor the side that his significator receives all else being equal.
Bonatti does not mention this likelihood although it is clear from his previous use of reception
that he would agree. However. this passage from Dorotheus shows no awareness of the principle
behind reception that Bonatti appears to see.
Omar - 7.4: Then, for the question as to which of the two sides the king will protect in a more
familiar manner, I believe that this can easily be answered in the following manner. For,
if the lord of the Ascendant and the tenth are found in like manner in the same sign, or if
Dorotheus, Liber novem iudicum §7.41, lines 40-44 from “Horum itaque potencia…” to “…ei profecto
the lord of the tenth aspects that same lord [of the Ascendant] from a trine or sextile, and
is received from his own place, this promises the favor of kings to the accuser.
Contrariwise, also, if the lord of the tenth aspects the lord of the Ascendant from a
square, opposition, or by bodily conjunction, as long as there is no reception, [the side
signified by the lord of the Ascendant] is depressed in that position by reverence for the
royal dignity, fear, and even some violence. If there is also reception, one must soften
these judgements. It will be necessary also to undertake the proper consideration
according to this method for the lords of the seventh and the tenth, in the same way as we
have just shown regarding the lords of the Ascendant and the tenth.104
This text from Omar does not have the same content as the Bonatti, but it stresses the nature of
the aspect between the judge’s significator and that of the querent/plaintiff and the adversary.
Bonatti does not mention the nature of the aspect, and Omar does not give such a large role to
reception in the matter. It does not appear that Omar was an influence upon Bonatti in this
instance. And again we see nothing like Bonatti’s generalization about the effects of reception.
Albenait - 7.3: If, therefore, these matters are understood in such an order, namely, that the
power of both sides is known, and no hesitancy remains concerning making peace, we
learn about the judge or king from the lord of the midheaven. Therefore, if it aspects
either of the significators, the judge or king will surely give favor to that side. However,
if he aspects both significators, he will adhere to the side [whose significator] receives
This passage is much more like that of Dorotheus stressing the aspect (but like Bonatti in not
mentioning the kind of aspect) between the judge’s significator and those of the principals in the
case and mentioning reception in the same role as in Dorotheus. In this passage Albenait sees
reception as indicating the judge’s adherence to one side or the other, not as indicating the
judge’s taking special initiative.
Haly Abenragel - 7.7: When you know the condition of the significators, one side against the
other, and you do not have a signification which indicates agreement, and you note that
the two sides will get neither peace nor agreement, look at the king or of the person who
gives judgment between them according to the lord of the midheaven. Whichever of the
Omar, Liber novem iudicum §7.49, lines 2-13 from “Deinceps quoque questioni…” to “…subire propriam
Albenait, Liber novem iudicum §7.51, lines 2-7 from “His taliter tali ordine…” to “…ei profecto favebit.”
significators of the two sides the ruler of the midheaven aspects, the ruler of the
ascendant or the ruler of the seventh house, judge that the king or judge will give aid, and
the aid will be for the side of the lord of the significator which the lord of the midheaven
Haly Abenragel’s material resembles that of Albenait without any reference to reception. It is
clear that all of our authors including Bonatti are coming from the same well of tradition but
only Bonatti seems to see an underlying principle beyond “goodness” or “badness.”
Next Bonatti begins his discussion of how the quality of a judge is shown in a chart. He gives
a great deal more detail than any of the other sources, detail which appears to be derived from
direct personal experience because it does not follow directly from astrological first principles
although consistent with them.
In this section we look at indications of the quality of the judge, quality as in ‘good’ or ‘bad’,
and quality as it pertains to the manner of judging, as well as indications concerning the outcome
of the conflict. But, first of all Bonatti addresses the general quality of the judgement rather than
the personal characteristics of the judge.
In Bonatti passages 7.19 and 7.20 below there are two sections. The first examines whatever
planets might be in the tenth house, looking at their essential dignity in that house, if any, and
giving a graduated description based on the degree of dignity following the system generally
used in medieval astrology.107 A planet could have more than one of these dignities and become
the ruler of the house from combining the fortitudes even if it is not the house or domicile
ruler.108 Such a planet in the tenth house is the most ideal, The lesser dignities of “bound,
triplicity, or face,” give a less desirable result as described.
Haly Abenragel §II.35, lines 53-60 from “Et quando hos status…” to “…quem aspicit dominus medii celi.”
I refer again to the entry in the Glossary under ESSENTIAL DIGNITY and related articles.
See ALMUTEN in the Glossary.
The second part is a reference to a peregrine planet (a planet having no dignities in its
position). The sources differ somewhat on what that means. In general a peregrine109 (foreign, or
strange) planet is a weak indication, a debility in fact, which suggests a stranger, foreigner, or
someone who is not connected with whatever system or network of relationships is in question.
If such a planet is received by its domicile or exaltation lords, the condition is strongly
improved. All of the descriptions below are plausible renditions of what it would mean for a
peregrine planet in the tenth house in the case of a judge.
Bonatti - 7.19: Then look at the tenth house which is the one who pronounces the decision,
and see if there is a planet in it; if that planet is the lord of the tenth, the judge will judge
that case as carefully and as quickly as he can with honor, unless that planet is Saturn.
But if it is the lord of the bound, triplicity, or face, he will judge the case but he will not
be so careful in the pronouncing of the decision. But if there is a planet in the tenth which
has no dignity there, and it is not received by the lord of the tenth house, that signifies
that the parties will not stand content with that judge (or whoever pronounces the
decision) because they both fear him, and they will come to agree on another judge and
stand by that judge’s decision.110
Zahel - 7.14: If there is a peregrine planet in the midheaven which does not aspect the
significators, and the lord of the midheaven does not aspect them, the two sides will
decide between themselves who will judge justly between them.111
Dorotheus - 7.10: Again, when a peregrine star occupies the tenth as long as it aspects the
significators, while the lord of the tenth itself is completely turned away from aspecting
the significators, these indications summon up a foreign but just judge.112
Albenait - 7.4: If a peregrine113 star occupying the midheaven aspects the significators, while
the lord of the tenth turns its aspect away from them, they will bring forth a foreign judge
who is a stranger.114
Haly Abenragel - 7.8: If there is a peregrine planet in the midheaven aspecting the
Lat. peregrinus. See PEREGRINE in the Glossary.
Bonatti §VI.2.7.9, lines 100-107 from “Deinde aspice decimam domum…” to “…et stabunt iudicio illius.”
Zahel §7.9, lines 44-46 from “Et si fuerit in medio celi planeta…” to “…iuste iudicet inter eos.”
Dorotheus, Liber novem iudicum §7.41, lines 45-47 from “Stella rursum peregrina…” to “…alienum iudicem
sed iustum advocant.”
In this instance aliena rather than peregrina.
Albenait, Liber novem iudicum §7.51, lines 8-10 from “Nam si stella aliena…” to “…extraneum iudicem
significators, with the lord of the midheaven not aspecting them, judge that the two sides
themselves will select someone who will judge between them.115
The other sources cite only the effect of a peregrine tenth house planet, not the effect of planets
of varying positive dignity.116 Once again Bonatti takes a teaching that is implicit in a general
way in Arab astrology and applies it explicitly to a particular situation. No other sources do this.
Next the sources discuss what each of the planets means when it is in the tenth house of a
conflict chart. Here we see Bonatti adding material to an even greater extent. First we have
Saturn as an indicator.
Bonatti - 7.20: And see also whether Saturn is the significator of the judge and is in the tenth;
that judge will not judge according to the law nor according to what he ought [to do]. If,
at that time, either Jupiter, the Sun, Mercury, Venus, or the Moon is joined to Saturn by
any aspect whatever (except by opposition) or [Saturn] is void in course,117 evil will be
spoken of concerning the judge but what is said will be quickly suppressed and will not
be spread about. But if any one of these planets is joined to Saturn by opposition, evil
will be said of the judge because of his unjust decision and that evil will endure for a
long time. But if at that time Mars aspects Saturn by the opposition or square aspect,
whatever condition Mars is in at that time, the judge or podestà will be maligned from
that time on. However, if Mars has an evil condition, he will be maligned with
defamation most blameworthy unless Saturn is then in Capricorn, because then Mars
restrains some of its malice, especially if Mars in good condition himself.118
Zahel - 7.15: If Saturn is in the midheaven, and he is himself the lord of the midheaven, the
judge will not judge justly, nor truly. If Mars impedes Saturn [under these conditions],
this judge will be reviled because of this judgement, and he will be defamed because of
Haly Abenragel - 7.9: If Saturn is in the midheaven, the judge will make a judgment that is
neither right nor true, and if Saturn is rendered unfortunate by Mars, the judge will be
severely accused and defamed because of this judgement.120
Haly Abenragel §II.35, lines 60-63 from “Et si in medio celi fuerit…” to “…qui iudicabit inter eos.”
Bonatti does the same thing in §VI.2.7.22 but completely changes the interpretations, treating these
significations very differently in war than in civil conflict. See Chap. 9, passage Bonatti - 9.6, p. 271.
This is not a term often applied to Saturn which has to be at the very end of a sign for this to occur. However,
what it means is that Saturn is applying to no other planet and no other planet is applying to Saturn until some
plzanet changes the sign it is in at the time of the question. See VOID OF or IN COURSE in the Glosssary.
Bonatti §VI.2.7.9, lines 107-117 from “Et vide etiam si Saturnus…” to “…maxime si fuerit boni esse.”
Zahel §7.9, lines 46-49 from “Si fuerit Saturnus…” to “…erit inde diffamatus.”
Haly Abenragel §II.35, lines 63-67 from “Et si Saturnus fuerit…” to “…pro hoc iudicio.”
None of our other sources have a planet by planet breakdown of the quality of the judge based on
whatever planet may be involved with Saturn in the tenth house.
As we can see from the above, Saturn in the tenth house is especially unfortunate even if it is
dignified there. The logic seems to be that when Saturn, as the more difficult malefic planet, is in
dignity, it is simply more capable of doing mischief. If aspected badly by Mars, the judge,
himself, is damaged. However, the Bonatti passage contains a great deal more detail than any of
our other sources and adds material, I can find no source for what Bonatti has written here.
Considering that Bonatti usually names his sources, this is another instance where he seems to
have augmented the tradition as he received it with material derived from a mixture of first
principles and personal experience. It is doubtful that he would have done either if he had not
had a practical reason to do so.
In medieval litigation judgements were not always accepted by either of the contending
sides. This contingency is provided for in the astrology. In the next passage Bonatti discusses the
result of a judgement which is unacceptable to the litigants.
Bonatti - 7.21: But if you find that the parties do not stand content with the previous judge
but that they would settle upon another judge for themselves as has been described, see if
there is any planet in the tenth for this reason; through that planet you will be able to
know the quality of the judge upon whom the parties will [finally] settle between
There is no parallel to this material in any of the other sources.122 It serves as an introduction to
the matter of looking at the other planets in the tenth house. Bonatti alone reserves these analyses
Bonatti §VI.2.7.9, lines 117-120 from “Si quidem inveneris quod partes…” to “…inter se partes.”
There are several other descriptions of judges and mediators in our sources, for example, in
Bonatti §VI.2.7.22 beginning at line 45 and in Zahel §7.24 beginning at line 155. But these are descriptions with a
different function and are quite different. See al-Kindī 7.176 in war a description of the mediator. lines 16-26. It uses
any planet which separates from one significator and applies to the other. If that planet is a benefic, [see BENEFIC
AND MALEFIC PLANETS in the Glossary] then there will be a successful mediation. The lord of that planet describes
the mediator. This is a different methodology. None of the descriptions contain any of Bonatti’s unique features.
for the situation when the parties in the conflict have already rejected the first judge and have
moved to a second one. This is an elaboration found nowhere else. The other sources simply
look at planets in the tenth house as a matter of course, but not for this specific application. So in
the passages that follow, for each planet understand that Bonatti describes the planet as it would
affect a second judge; the others describe the planet in terms either of a first judge or they make
no distinction.
Next we have Jupiter as an indicator.
Bonatti - 7.22: If Jupiter is there, the judge upon whom they settle will be a good one,
benevolent, just, and benign. In no way will he permit himself to be corrupted, neither by
gift nor by entreaty. He will proceed only in the path of truth.123
Zahel - 7.16: If Jupiter is in the midheaven, the judge will be just.124
Haly Abenragel - 7.10: If it is Jupiter, he will be good, just, truthful, and generally agreed
There are references to other planets in the tenth in one of our other sources but it is organized so
differently that I have chosen to put it at the end of this section for the sake of completeness
rather than comparison. However, the three above passages are obviously very similar except
that Bonatti, as usual, has more to say. He does not differ from Zahel and Haly, but he expands
the implications based on Jupiter’s characteristics.126 The parallelism with Zahel and Haly is very
evident and there is no such parallelism with our other sources: therefore, for the remainder of
this section we will only look at Zahel and Haly Abenragel along with Bonatti.
Next we see passages that describe Mars as an indicator.
Bonatti - 7.23: However, if it is Mars, the judge will be false, wrathful, unfaithful, not one
Bonatti §VI.2.7.9, lines 120-122 from “Quoniam si fuerit ibi Iupiter…” to “…solum via veritatis incedet.”
Zahel §7.9, lines 50-51 “Si vero Iuppiter fuerit, erit iudex iustus.”
Haly Abenragel §II.35, lines 68-69, “Et si fuerit iuppiter, erit bonus iustus veridicus et communis.”
As described in the General Introduction to Medieval Astrology in the appendix.
who loves justice, and [he will be] one who is quickly moved and changed from proposal
to proposal such that the newest error will be an error worse than the previous bad one
and the two parties will repent that they chose such a judge.127
Zahel - 7.17: If Mars is in the midheaven, the judge will be light,128 and the judgement of
great swiftness, intelligent and fast.129
Haly Abenragel - 7.11: If Mars is in the midheaven, the judge will be quick in his judgement,
intelligent, and angry.130
Clearly Bonatti’s opinion of a judge signified by Mars in the tenth house is much worse than the
other two sources. The other two describe a judge who clearly bears the qualities of Mars, but
Bonatti’s description is Mars with no redeeming merit. It would appear that Bonatti had some
bad experiences.131 Such a deviation from the tradition would be unlikely without personal
experiences behind it.
Next we have the Sun as an indicator.
Bonatti - 7.24: But if the Sun is in that location, the judge will have a good character, yet he
will let himself by dragged along by the entreaties of friends, be flexible to them, and will
give them a hearing and hope of [his] doing what they want; yet in the end he will judge
Only Bonatti describes the indications for the Sun in this situation. In the others this would be an
indication of the involvement of royalty and nothing else. Remember that Bonatti describes
indicators for a second judge when the first one has been rejected, not general indications for
Bonatti §VI.2.7.9, lines 122-125 from “Si vero fuerit Mars…” to “…eos elegisse talem iudicem.”
levis. I suspect an Arabicism here. In Arabic and in the Latin translations a word which means ‘light’, as
opposed to ‘heavy’, is often found where one would expect a word like ‘swift’. For example, the faster moving
planets are all referred to as levis, while the slower planets are referred to as gravis. This makes sense here because
the faster moving planets do have a “lighter” effect upon things, while the slower planets have a “heavier” effect.
However, regarding the qualities of Mars, one can reasonably expect Mars to be fast moving, but not ‘light’ in its
effects. The only problem is that we have other words here in this passage which mean fast moving.
Zahel §7.9, lines 49-50 from “Et si fuerit Mars…” to “…acutus et velox.”
Haly Abenragel §II.35, lines 67-68, “Et si Mars fuerit in medio celi, iudex erit levis acutus et iratus.”
This is a small example of the fourth and fifth modes probably derived from experience.
Bonatti §VI.2.7.9, lines 125-127 from “Si fuerit Sol erit…” to “…ultimo tamen iudicabit recte.”
judges. This is a genuine innovation in Bonatti and a departure from tradition.133 It could have
been derived from experience, from astrological theory or both. Whichever it may be, it is
another example of the result of Bonatti’s experience in practice.
Our next indicator is Venus which as the planet of love, art and beauty might seem to be an
odd planet to indicate a judge.
Bonatti - 7.25: If Venus is in that location, the judge will be just and have a good reputation
but he will not be very deep in [his understanding of] the law; nevertheless, he will judge
in good faith.134
Zahel - 7.18: And if it is Venus, the judge will be light, of good heart, and easily sustained.135
Haly Abenragel - 7.12: If it is Venus, he will be gentle, of good character, and compliant in
all matters.136
Just as Bonatti has a lower opinion of Mars in this situation than any of the other sources, so he
has a higher opinion of Venus.137 The other two clearly consider a judge signified by Venus to be
a lightweight. The Latin version of Zahel actually uses the word levis.138 Also recall that we are
now looking at the “inferior” as significators, planets which are frequently described as “levis”
which means both ‘swift’ and ‘light’. As the swift planets are also ‘light’, so are the persons
signified by them ‘light’ in contrast to persons signified by the Sun and the superior planets.
Next we have Mercury as an indicator of a second judge to whom the parties turn after an
initial failure.
The use of the Sun to indicate someone other than a king or ruler could be the result of the fact that Bonatti
lived in a part of Italy which was at that time largely devoid of monarchs. This was not the case in the Arabicspeaking world.
Bonatti §VI.2.7.9, lines 127-129 from “Et si fuerit ibi Venus…” to “…iudicabit bona fide.”
Zahel §7.9, lines 51-52. I quote the entire line here in Latin because of the peculiar use of words. “Et si fuerit
venus, erit levis et boni animi et leviter suscipitur.”
Haly Abenragel §II.35, lines 70-71, “Et si Venus, erit mansuetus bonorum morum et omnibus tractabilis.”
First mode, revision and clarification.
Zahel, Liber novem iudicum §7.48 is a bit different. It has “A Venere viri mollities et eius benignitas
denotatur,” lines 17-18.
Bonatti - 7.26: If Mercury is in the tenth, he will be a judge who has a good, sharp mind, and
quickly sees the matter of the case but he will judge according to how Mercury applies to
the [other] planets; if it is to fortunes, [he will judge] justly, if to malefics, unjustly; if
Mercury applies to no [other] planet, the judge will judge according to how he, himself,
finds the evidence.139
Zahel - 7.19: If it is Mercury, the judge will be sharp in vision. If the midheaven is in a
common sign, the first judge will not finish the judgement of the two sides until they go to
another judge.140
Haly Abenragel -7.13: If it is Mercury, the judge will be new at it, still learning, and
fraudulent in secret.141
Again Bonatti gives more detail and it is detail implicit in the nature of Mercury which gets its
qualities from the planets to which it applies.142 The principle that Mercury’s nature is derived
from the planet to which Mercury is applying is basic astrology.143 But no one else explicit
applies it to this situation. Zahel adds here something that is a bit different but actually does not
seem to have anything to do with Mercury and in fact may not have anything to do with it,
especially since Haly Abenragel states the same thing after Venus but also at the end of the
section.144 Haly Abenragel has a much more negative opinion than Bonatti and does not make
the qualification of the applications of Mercury. Bonatti clearly resembles Zahel (as usual) more
than Haly Abenragel but has more to say.
The Moon turns out to be something of a special case. So Bonatti next turns to the matters of
how one handles the Moon in these matters and why the Moon sometimes is and sometimes is
not an indicator.
Bonatti §VI.2.7.9, lines 129-132 from “Et si fuerit Mercurius in decima…” to “…quod ipse invenerit
Zahel §7.9, lines 52-54 from “Et si fuerit Mercurius…” to “…ad alium iudicem.”
Haly Abenragel §II.35, lines 69-70, “Et si Mercurius, erit novus adiscens fraudulentus in occulto.”
The fourth mode.
See Ptolemy, Robbins trans., 38-9.
Haly Abenragel §II.35, lines 71-73. “Et si signum medii celi fuerit commune, iudex ad quem primo ibunt non
expediet placitum, immo postea ibunt ad alium iudicem.” This apparent divergence between the two texts can be
explained by the lack of paragraph formatting in medieval texts.
Bonatti - 7.27: Also, in all of the aforesaid accidents the lord of the Ascendant, the lord of the
seventh and the [other] significators mentioned previously are considered without the
participation of the Moon; for even though she is herself a natural participant in every
matter, yet something is taken from her [in this kind of thing]. However, if the Moon is in
the tenth house the judge will be capricious, unstable, and will judge just as he sees fit,
not considering very much what the law may be, not caring what his decision may be, nor
what will be said concerning his decision, whether it is good or bad.145
Neither Zahel nor Haly Abenragel describes the Moon in this role. Only Bonatti does so. We
have to keep in mind that Bonatti uses this entire body of material to get indications for a second
judge. So the use of the Moon in this manner is unique in Bonatti although the description itself
is not unrelated to the general view of the Moon in medieval astrology, changeable, fickle and
somewhat unpredictable. Bonatti has taken his general understanding of the Moon and applied to
this particular situation. Recall from Chapter 3 that Roger Bacon saw the Moon in a similar
manner when he related the Moon to the arrival of the Anti-Christ.146 This is another example of
augmenting the tradition (the fourth mode of change) as well as the first mode (revision and
clarification) described in Chapter 6.147
This ends the material on the significations of the seven planets in the tenth house. However,
there is the additional source which I mentioned previously that has material that pertains to
planets in the tenth house. I append it below.
Omar - 7.5: You will get an understanding of royal support from whatever particular star
occupies the tenth. If no star is found in that location, the eleventh house itself, as if it
were a significator, denotes royal supporters. It will not be difficult to see to which side
the king and his own people are favorable, once this consideration has been undertaken.
Therefore generally it is permitted to speculate that if Mars in aspect to the Ascendant,
while strongly positioned, occupies any angle, he injects multiple controversies into a
conflict, especially [if he is] in any of his dignities and in a fixed sign, for then he
introduces long-lasting and constant dissension. In a bicorporeal sign discord will be
made calm. But in a cardinal sign Mars renews frequent conflicts which have already
Bonatti, lines 132-137 from “Et in omnibus supradictis…” to “…bonum seu malum.”
See Chap. 3, p. 72.
See pp. 175 to ?.
been mitigated. But if Saturn occupies the place of Mars as described and is in a fixed
sign, he brings a long-lasting, stable dispute to the controversy. For in a cardinal sign he
acts modestly, and in a bicorporeal sign, he does one evil thing and then another and
prolongs [the dispute]. Furthermore, Jupiter in any sign transforms things for the better
by mitigation. Venus for its part and the Moon act similarly in this manner but if located
with Saturn, because these stars are truly fortunate.148 Here if Mercury lays claim to the
place of the Moon, aspected by either of the infortunes, according to the nature of that
particular infortune by which Mercury is aspected, he attends upon the kind of conflict.149
A perusal of this passage in connection with the other passages on the same subject is sufficient
to establish that it comes from a tradition entirely different from the one which Bonatti relied
A Technique for Analyzing Conflict Peculiar to Bonatti.
Finally, near the end of this chapter we come to a rather long passage in which Bonatti
describes a technique which he clearly claims as his own. My research indicates that he is right
about this. Not only is he the only source for this method, I have discovered no one after him
who seems to have taken it up. It is an elaborate technique involving the method of Lots or
Parts.150 In the usual method of Lots the difference in the longitudes of two points (usually
planets) is taken and the result is added to the longitude of the Ascendant. The general formula
for a lot is Lot = Ascendant + Point A - Point B. Bonatti’s “secret method,” as he terms it,
consists of an extremely elaborate application of the method. I discuss it because the material
shows just how much Bonatti seems to have given consideration to the astrology of conflict. I
The text appears to be saying that Venus and the Moon are especially effective at mitigating the effects of
Saturn under these conditions.
Omar, Liber novem iudicum §7.49, lines 13-31. from “Regia quidem amminicula ex stella propria…” to
“…naturam controversie genus administrat.”
In contemporary astrological literature these are often referred to as “Arabic Parts”. However, they are not
especially Arabic. This type of point was extremely important in Hellenistic astrology as well. See PART OR LOT in
the Glossary.
add that it is not especially necessary that the reader completely understand this method; I ask
only that the complexity of the method be noted and the fact that it is completely original. This is
one of the most remarkable examples of innovation in Bonatti even though it is not one of his
more influential ones. It is an example of the fifth mode of change as described in Chapter 6,
genuine innovation building upon, but going beyond, anything to be found in his predecessors.
A word on the notation used below; after a verbal description of each step in the process I
summarize the content of each step using ‘l’ to stand for the position of a lord or ruler. The
subscript identifies the house which said lord rules as in l1 for the first house, l2 for the second
house and so forth. I use ‘r’ to stand for the remainder left after each subtraction. The subscript
of r labels the value as the first, second , or third and so forth remainder as in r1, r2, r3, etc. The
colon (‘:’) in each ‘if’ statement stands for the word ‘then’. The character ‘<’ stands for ‘less
Step #1 — Bonatti - 7.28: You should also consider a certain secret151 method, which I do not
remember having ever found in the sayings of the ancients. Yet I have tried it and found
it genuine; to wit, consider the position of the lord of the Ascendant and the position of
the lord of the second; take the lesser [value] from the greater and that which remains is
the remainder152 of the lord of the first and the lord of the second.153
If l1 < l2 : r1 = l2 - l1. If l2 < l1 : r1 = l1 - l2.
r1 = “remainder of the lord of the first and the lord of the second.”
All of the Latin of this passage is contained in §VI.2.7.9 lines 137-165 from “Considerabis etiam quoddam
secretum…” to “…de residuo domini septime et domini octave.” The passages which follow represent a complete
English translation of the Latin text.
There is some ambiguity in Bonatti’s use of language here in that he refers to the positions of the rulers of these
two houses with the word locus. The ambiguity is that this word sometimes means ‘house’ as in ‘place’. However,
since this entire method appears to be derived from the manner in which lots are computed, it is reasonable to
assume that Bonatti refers to the degree of the ecliptic occupied by each ruler. Also, when he refers to the “rulers” of
these two houses, does he mean the domicile ruler or the planets with the most dignity in the degrees of the
ascendant and descendant, i.e., the almutens? I have assumed that he means the domicile rulers of the ascendant and
Step #2 — Bonatti - 7.28 (cont.): Then consider the position of the lord of the seventh and
the position of the lord of the eighth and subtract the lesser [value] from the greater; that
which remains will be the remainder of the lord of the seventh and the lord of the eighth.
If l7 < l8 : r2 = l8 - l7. If l8 < l7 : r2 = l7 - l8.
r2 = “remainder of the lord of the first and the lord of the second.”
Step #4 — Bonatti - 7.28 (cont.): Take those two remainders and subtract the lesser from the
greater, and reserve that third remainder.
If r1<r2 : r3 = r2 - r1. If r2<r1 : r3 = r1 - r2.
r3 = “third remainder.”
Step #5 — Bonatti - 7.28 (cont.): Then take the position of the lord of the ninth and the
position of the lord of the twelfth, and subtract the lesser [value] from the greater and that
will be the remainder of the lord of the ninth and the lord of the twelfth.
If l9<l12 : r4 = l12 - l9. If l12<l9 : r4 = l9 - l12.
r4 = “remainder of the lord of the ninth and the lord of the twelfth.”154
Step #6 — Bonatti -7. 28 (cont.): Take that and the third remainder, subtract the lesser from
the greater and what remains will be the [arc of the] Degree Signifying Aid and The
Strength of the Querent or Quesited.
If r3<r4 : r5 = r4 - r3 : If r4<r3 : r5 = r3 - r4.
r5 = “[arc of the] Degree Signifying Aid and The Strength of the Querent or Quesited.”
Step #7 — Bonatti - 7.28 (cont.): Add this to the degree of the sign of the Ascendant and
project from the Ascendant just as you do in the [computation of the] Part of Fortune if
[the chart] is in the daytime. If it is nighttime, project from the opposite point[, the
descendant], and see in whose domicile, exaltation, bound, or triplicity that number has
ended. The planet which is the lord of that place and is stronger and more powerful in it
[than any other planet] will be what has been sought for, to wit, the planet which is the
helper of that one whose significator it more [powerfully] or better aspects to the minute,
or which is nearer to that position, provided that it has some dignity in that place and one
which makes it stronger. And this will be the more effective if [the aspect] is one with
It is not at all clear what the ninth and twelfth houses have to do with the matter here. It would have made a
more sense if they have been the lords of the sixth and twelfth but even so the logic would not have been clear.
However both the Ratdolt edition and the Vienna 2350 agree on the reading here.
Finally we have the Lot itself, as this is indeed a Lot computation.155
Lot = Asc. + r5
Day chart.
Lot = Des. + r5
Night chart.
The planet which has the most powerful rulership in that degree will give assistance to that side
which the ruler of the Lot is joined to more closely by aspect or bodily conjunction provided the
Lot ruler has dignity in the place of the significator and even more if is received by the
significator. Finally Bonatti concludes by raising two issues that could complicate the
Step #8 — Bonatti - 7.28 (cont.): But if both the remainders are equal, the indicating planet
will be signified in the [degree of the] Ascendant in the daytime but in the opposite
point[, the descendant,] by night.
If r3 and r4 are equal, then r5, the arc between them, is 0E. Very logically then the Lot becomes
the ascendant itself in a day chart, or the descendant itself in a night chart. It is characteristic of
Bonatti’s tendency to leave nothing to the reader’s imagination that he spells this out. To a mind
accustomed to modern mathematical notions this would be obvious. Bonatti now proceeds to
describe what one does with the various levels of rulership if the first choice for the ruler of the
Lot is not acceptable.
Step #9 — Bonatti - 7.28 (cont.): Also, when you do this work, always give preference to the
lord [of the sign. If that lord is impeded, work with the lord of the exaltation. If that lord
is also impeded, work with the lord of the term. Finally, if that lord is impeded work with
the lord of the triplicity.156 [All of this is so] because a planet in whose rulership157 the
degree (of any of the places which have been mentioned) should fall, or a planet which
aspects the most strongly, or a planet which has dignity in that place, which is nearest to
the degree will be the planet which signifies the cause of why and how the matters
described come to pass, and from what source.
See LOT in the Glossary.
In some situations in medieval astrology the triplicity lord is the more important, in other cases the term lord.
This apparently is one of the latter. The rationale is not clear.
Supplying dominio to the text.
Finally there is one more possible cause of difficult with the computation. It is always
possible that two successive houses will have the same ruler especially if one of them is in
Capricorn and the next one in Aquarius. Also, using the type of house computation favored by
Bonatti and most of the other medieval Latin astrologers, which North calls the “standard
system,”158 it is possible for a house to contain considerably less than 30E which makes it
possible in another way for two successive houses to have the same ruler. Here is Bonatti’s
Step #10 — Bonatti - 7.28 (cont.): But if the lord of the first and the lord of the second are
the same, it will be as if that place is the remainder of the lord of the first and the lord of
the second. And if the lord of the seventh and the lord of the eighth are the same, it will
be as if its place is the remainder of the lord of the seventh and the lord of the eighth.
Subtract then the lesser from the greater and do as has been described previously
concerning the remainder of the lord of the first and second and concerning the
remainder of the lord of the seventh and eighth.
If l1 = l2 : r1 = l1. If l7 = l8 : r2 = l8 .159
This extremely elaborate computation is unlike anything I have found anywhere else. Despite
its apparent complete lack of influence on subsequent astrologers, it is a strong indication that
Bonatti spent a good deal of energy thinking about the astrology of conflict, again a sign that he
was deeply involved in its use.
Bonatti’s Final Comment in §VI.2.7.9.
After all of this Bonatti concludes this chapter by restating the basic principle that all conflict
is to be dealt with using the same basic methods so the material of his §VI.2.7.9 applies to
military conflict as well as civil conflict.
See Chap. 2, p. 16, n. 39.
Conveniently, if the lords of the first and the second are the same planet, the lords of the seventh and eighth
will also be the same planet. Opposing houses always have cusps that are exactly opposite.
Bonatti - 7.29: Understand that what has been said in regard to lawsuits is the same for
battles, wars and all [other] controversies.160
Everything in this chapter on civil strife and conflict resolution is applicable to military matters
and warfare. The two sides in litigation, or other forms of civil conflict, become two generals
and their armies; the mediator and judge become third parties that try to make peace before war,
or kings who adjudicate between warring vassals. The same methods that describe the two sides
in civil conflict describe the two sides in military combat. The methods that are applied to
describe the qualities of a judge become the qualities of a king or other mediator. That is why
this material is so important to the understanding of the astrology of warfare, the subject of the
next three chapters.
In almost every part of this §VI.2.7.9 Bonatti has shown the characteristics that I described in
Chapter 1 and Chapter 6 which are the results of his application and practice. He shows a clear
desire to find and explain general principles underlying astrological indications. He does not
deem it sufficient to take the tradition as he found without explanation and, where necessary,
correction. In addition, he clearly amplified the tradition with experience from his own practice,
instances where it would have been difficult to derive his conclusions from the underlying
principles even as much as he seems to have expanded the understanding of these. Also, it seems
evident that he was driven by a concern to fill in the gaps that he found in the work of his
predecessors. This he did, I believe, so that those who followed him in the Latin world would not
be handicapped as he and his generation of astrologers in Europe were from not having had
direct access to the original masters of the art in the Arab world and oral tradition which might
have filled the lacunae in the written material. We will continue to see in the next chapters how
Bonatti §VI.2.7.9, lines 165-166 from “Quod dictum est in litibus illud…” to “…in omnibus controversiis.”
much Bonatti strove to fill those gaps with his written work.161
I wish to point out that if I have given the reader the impression that there is nothing in the other sources that
cannot be found in Bonatti, that is not a correct impression. Bonatti did not merely fill gaps; he also edited and
omitted material from the tradition as he received.
Chapter 8. Interrogations and Inceptions Concerning Wars and Military Actions in
In the previous chapter I discussed material on civil and all other types of dispute involving
individuals or small groups, lawsuits for example. In this chapter I show how the logic of the
astrology as applied to interrogations and inceptions in civil disputes is identical to the logic of
all other types of conflict including military actions. For this reason the material of the previous
chapter was also foundational to the understanding of the astrology of warfare, a point that
Bonatti himself makes at the end of his chapter on the subject.1 In this chapter I begin a
discussion of material from Bonatti contained in the chapters beginning with §VI.2.7.21 (the
subject of this chapter) through §VI.2.7.29, and corresponding material from his predecessors
that relates specifically to military conflict. However, some of it is repeated from the astrology
of personal conflict, usually with changes, some major, some minor. And of course there is much
material that is additional or is much expanded from simpler cases involving personal conflict.
Not only is this difference immediately clear in the first chapter by Bonatti on warfare, we also
again see a good deal of elaboration and innovation on Bonatti’s part, along the lines that were
introduced in Chapter 6 and demonstrated in Chapter 7.
As with the material in the previous chapter, it is obvious that Bonatti derived the outline of
this chapter from Zahel, and as before the discussion begins with the assignment of significators.
The chapter in Bonatti which I have designated as §VI.2.7.9.
Who is competent to ask about the outcome of a possible battle or war and how are the
significators of the two sides derived?
All of our sources discuss the second part of this question, but the first part is only answered
by Zahel and Bonatti, briefly in the Latin version of Zahel which appears in the Liber novem
iudicum §7.160, and in an elaborately expanded form in Bonatti.§VI.2.7.21. In Bonatti
§VI.2.7.9, on personal conflict, the question of who is competent to ask does not even arise; nor
does in his predecessors.2 In personal conflicts all of the authors, including Bonatti, seem to
assume that whoever asks the question is competent to do so. Apparently earlier material,
introductory to interrogations in general, on the competence of the querent is assumed to be
sufficient. Warfare should be a different matter, however, because large numbers of people are
involved not all of whom are competent to be querents. Yet Bonatti and Zahel are the only two
authors who raise the issue of competence in connection with warfare. And even in the case of
Zahel we find the reference to the problem clearly only in the Latin version from the Liber
novem iudicum. Recall that in Chapter 7 for Zahel I employed only the Latin translation
attributed to John of Seville as it appears in the 1493 “omnibus” edition and in manuscripts3
because, for the most part, the Latin of that version is in much better condition, and also the two
translations are sufficiently close so that one can usually ignore the differences. The same is true
for the material covered in this and subsequent chapters with this exception that I have noted.
Here are the two versions of Zahel translated into English which will be followed by the
equivalent passage from Bonatti.
Zahel - 8.1A, John of Seville trans. — If a leader setting out to a war asks a question, or
The general issue of competence in posing a question does arise in all of these works in the preliminary
material on interrogations. However, it has special impact in regard to conflict and warfare as I show in the
following material.
See Chap. 6 for a discussion of the manuscripts used.
someone else who is anxious concerning this matter asks a question on his behalf
(because even if a king and a kingdom is stable, it is nevertheless possible that a leader
might be overcome and killed, and that another leader may come), put the Ascendant and
its lord and the planet from which the Moon is separating for the one who asks the
question or the one who begins [the battle] and put the seventh sign and its lord, and the
planet to which the Moon is being joined for the enemy. If, however, there is neither a
separation nor a joining of the Moon [with another planet], you should not employ the
Moon in this work.4
Zahel - 8.1B, Liber novem iudicum — One may examine entering upon wars and the success
of those fighting according to this method. For if the king himself, or at least some leader
of an army, or a prince who bears no less a concern for this kind of business, approaches
as an anxious questioner, the ascendant and its lord, and also the star from which the
Moon is separating assuming the rulership of the querent. But we entrust the enemy to
the seventh, to its lord, and also the star to which the Moon is applying.5
The italicized sections in the two translations raise the issue of who may ask such a question, but
the Liber novem iudicum version puts more stress on the possibility of more than one kind of
querent and the qualifications to ask the question. Then both versions of Zahel move to the
question of deriving the significators of the two sides. Yet even with Zahel it is surprising in
both versions just how quickly he disposes of the issue of the competence of the querent. I say
this because in personal and civil conflict the roles of the various persons in the conflict are well
defined. We have the plaintiff, the defendant, mediators, and judges or rulers acting as judges. In
military matters we have rulers who may or may not be personally involved in attack or defense;
we have military leaders of varying levels of command from minor officer to supreme
commander; we have kings acting as mediators; and finally we have persons who may be very
concerned for personal reasons about the outcome of a conflict as for example the citizens of a
city under siege, or a relative concerned for the safety of someone going to war. The issue of
who may be competent to ask the question is much less clear in military conflict because the
Zahel, §7.24, lines 2-9, from “Si te interrogaverit dux…” to “…non immittas eam in hoc opere.”
Zahel, Liber novem iudicum, §7.160, lines 2-6, from “Bellorum contractus et pugnancium…” to “…querentis
assumunt ducatum.”
matter concerns a collective rather than individuals or at most very small group of individuals. I
consider this lack of concern for the qualification of the querent surprising because in the texts
introductory to interrogations of our authors we have statements as to just how important the
issue of the competence (and honesty) of a querent is. A typical instance is from Zahel himself.6
Zahel - 8.2:…you should not make an examination except for a querent who comes to you
from necessity or grief, and who comes to you concerned with some difficulty. For
whoever comes to you knowingly as a cunning individual or one who is testing you, you
should not make an examination for him because a matter will turn out [correctly]
according to the quantity of the concern of the querent in the matter concerning which he
makes the interrogation… For then an interrogation will be more useful when a man asks
concerning himself, or sends such a one who asks for him who is [also] very concerned
about question of the former. Therefore, you must understand the intentions of human
beings because the consideration and the work is accomplished according the degree of
concern and the intention of the querent. For whoever asks and whose intention is
completely focused upon the question at his own timing, the places of the planets at the
time of the question signify his entire state of being in that whole time. Likewise, if his
intention is to ask about some matter of his in a year, or in a month, or in a day, or in any
such time, it will be so. Therefore, understand their intentions before the consideration
[of the question] because every [sincere] querent does not ask a question unless it
concerns that which is overwhelming in him according to the nature of the circle along
with his own condition concerning which he asks, namely, according to the complexion
of the circle along with his own state of being concerning anything fortunate or evil.7
The primary qualification of a querent is that he or she must have a level of concern so deep
about a question that his or her whole being embodies (so the theory goes) the planetary
arrangements of the time, the “nature of the circle” (natura circuli ) and the “complexion of the
And nearly identical material may be found in Masha’allah in the Liber novem iudicum.
…non aspicias nisi ei qui venerit ad te sperans aut sub necessitate aut tristis, et qui sollicitus vel cum labore
venerit ad te. Nam qui venerit ad te scienter quasi callidus aut temptator, non aspicias ei quia res exit secundum
quantitatem sollicitudinis interrogantis in re de qua interrogat. … Tunc enim utilior erit interrogatio, cum
interrogaverit vir de semetipso, aut miserit talem qui interroget pro ipso qui sit sollicitus de re illius. Scito ergo
intentiones hominum quia consideratio et opus fit secundum sollicitudinem et intentione interrogantis. Qui enim
interrogaverit et eius intentio fuerit in ipsa interrogatione in toto tempore suo, loca planetarum hora interrogationis
significant esse suum omni tempore suo. Similiter si fuerit eius intentio interrogare de aliqua re in anno suo vel in
mense aut in die, aut quolibet tali erit ita. Intellige ergo eorum intentiones ante considerationem quia omnis
interrogator non interrogat nisi de eo quod vincit in eo ex natura circuli eum esse suo, de quo interrogat ex
complexione scilicet circuli cum esse suo super aliqua fortuna vel malo. — Omnibus ed. of 1493, fols.127r-127v.
circle” (complexione circuli).8 As the above passage makes clear, according to astrologers a
person who is merely testing the astrologer or who is trying to mock an astrologer will ask a
question at a time when the planets indicate either the insincerity of the querent or that a question
asked at the time cannot be answered.9 Given the complexities of military matters which make
qualifying the querent unclear, along with the importance of the querent’s being so qualified, one
could see that the matter of competence should require somewhat more consideration in military
matters than we find even in Zahel and more so our other sources.
Now let us turn to the equivalent Bonatti passage:
Bonatti - 8.1: If there is a war between [any two] sides, or, as often happens, it is expected
that there will be one, and a person from one of the sides comes to you, and wishes to be
informed by you [as to] what can happen to him from such a war, you will [proceed as
follows:] The querent may be a king, emperor, marquis, duke, count, podestà, or any
other lay person, or a cleric (who may carry on a war in the place of a lay person). He
should be someone who is destined to be in command over an army. He may be a noble,
a man of the people or a peasant. As long as he already is or is about to be the leader of
an army, or of one side in the war, he is designated the commander10 of that army. [And
this is so] whether he has been appointed to engage in this war on his own behalf or on
behalf of another.11
In this passage Bonatti lays out in considerable detail what kinds of persons and leaders are
qualified to ask the question. A local peasant asking the same question would not be likely to be
a qualified querent, although he might be if he were asking whether a war would damage his
Note the use of the word ‘circle’ (circulus). This has the same import as ‘orb’ (orbis). ‘Orb’ was used in
several of the condemnations of 1277 to refer to a state of some aspect of a planetary condition. (I use both ‘aspect’
and ‘condition’ here in their usual non-astrological senses.) See Chap. 3, the section entitled, “The Condemnations
of 1277 and Astrology,” especially articles 102, 106, 132.
There are methods described in most texts on interrogations both medieval and modern that address this issue
explicitly. These need not delay one here except that the reader should know that medieval astrologers believed that
they could identify such querents from the charts of the questions themselves. a modern text on the subject wellreferenced to both medieval and early modern treatises on interrogations see Patricia Dunn, Horary Astrology ReExamined (Bournemouth, UK: The Wessex Astrologer, Ltd., 2009), 229-239.
Bonatti §VI.2.7.21, lines 3-10 from “Cum inter aliquos fuerit…” to “…in exercitum contra aliquem.” As one
can see upon examining the Latin, all of this would be a single and very clumsy sentence in English. I have broken
the sentence up in the translation.
village. Notice that official rank is not so much the issue as the reality of the querent as a leader.
Since Bonatti was certainly asked such questions by such querents, it is reasonable to assume
that he had given some thought to the matter.12 This is consistent with Bonatti’s general concern
to explicitly state relevant issues that his predecessors did not bother with. So in Bonatti,
concerned as he was to be explicit wherever possible, we should see a much more elaborate
statement as to who may be a qualified querent. However, Bonatti goes beyond even this level of
specificity in what follows.
Now we get to the matter of designating the significators. In the two versions of the
equivalent passage of Zahel we get a common variant on the usual assignment of significators in
conflict situations. However, if one looks carefully one can see that Zahel follows here a method
of assignment that is different from the one he and Bonatti used for civil conflict. In non-military
conflict Zahel and Bonatti assigned the first house and its lord to the querent along with the
Moon, and the seventh house and its lord to the adversary.13 As also noted in the previous
chapter, the other sources such as Albenait and Dorotheus followed a slightly different
procedure. They too assigned the first house and its lord to the querent or plaintiff and the
seventh and its lord to the adversary, However, they assigned to the querent or plaintiff, not the
Moon in general, but the planet that the Moon last separated from, while the planet to which the
Moon applied was given to the adversary. Here in the case of warfare Zahel follows the same
procedure as Albenait and Dorotheus in the case of civil conflict, not the one that he followed in
passage Zahel §7.9. Bonatti also follows suit here in §VI.2.7.21 with one very substantial
See Chap. 5.
See Chap. 7, p. 185.
Bonatti - 8.2: If the querent desires to commence war on someone, or to muster14 an army
against someone, and he asks you a question about these things, or asks a question on
behalf of one who is very concerned about that matter, and the querent is not that
emperor or king on whose behalf the question is asked, you will give the first house and
its lord to the querent. Also, look at which planet the Moon is separating from and
likewise give that planet to the querent. And to the adversary you will give the seventh
house, its lord, and the planet to which the Moon is joined.15
Bonatti handles the Moon in questions of warfare in the same manner as Zahel but makes an
exception, “…and the querent is not that emperor or king on whose behalf the question is
asked…” No other source makes that same distinction. The reason for this distinction will
become clear below. He goes on to elucidate.
Bonatti - 8.3: However, if the querent is an emperor, podestà, or a leader,16 and he asks with
regard to the events of his empire, his kingdom, or of a city which he rules, give him the
tenth and you will give his enemy the fourth. However, if he asks concerning private and
special affairs which do not concern any event involving his dominion, kingdom, or city,
you will give him the first house, the enemy the seventh house, and in all other matters
you will judge him just as [you would] any other individual person.17
If the querent is a king, emperor or other sovereign lord, and he asks the question regarding his
kingdom or domain, he is not assigned the first house and its lord as significators, nor does the
adversary get the seventh and its lord. In this case the querent is assigned the tenth house and its
lord, and the adversary gets the opposite house, the fourth, and its lord. The logic of this appears
to be as follows.
A sovereign ruler is on some level an embodiment of the state.18 He is not an individual
acting as an individual. The ruler of a state qua ruler, as we have seen in the previous chapter, is
Ire in exercitum.
Bonatti, §VI.2.7.21, lines 11-14 from “Et super his fecerit…” to “…Luna dabis adversario.”
In a civil or political sense, not as a military leader.
Bonatti, §VI.2.7.21, lines 14-17 from “Si autem fuerit imperator vel potestas…” to “…in omnibus aliis
iudicabis ei sicut alteri persone singulari.”
For the political philosophy underlying this notion see Ernst H. Kantorowicz, The King's Two Bodies: A Study
in Mediaeval Political Theology (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997).
signified by the tenth house and its lord. Also, since ‘opposition’ in the ordinary language sense
is symbolized by the opposition aspect of 180E, the opposite house, the fourth, and its lord go to
the adversary. To employ a hypothetical example which probably did not happen, in the Second
World War, if King George VI of the United Kingdom had asked an astrologer how the war was
going to turn out, the astrologer, following Bonatti’s methods, would have assigned King George
VI to the tenth house and its lord, and the Germans to the fourth house and its lord. On the other
hand, if General Montgomery had asked a similar question before the battle of El Alemain about
that battle, he would have been given the first house and its lord, and the Germans would have
been given the seventh house and its lord in the usual manner.
This is not a minor point. William Lilly (1602-1681), a much later source, but one whose
writings are firmly based on medieval principles, wrote the following:
So that in the first place therefore, When any Question is propounded, the Sign ascending
and his Lord are always given unto him or her that asks the question.
Secondly, you must then consider the matter propounded, & see to which of the
twelve houses it doth properly belong: when you have found the house, consider the Sign
and Lord of that Sign, how, and in what Sign and what part he is placed…19
From this and what we have already seen in the Chapter 7, assigning the wrong houses to a
querent and the quesited in an interrogation would be fatal to the accuracy of a judgement. So is
this a complete innovation on Bonatti’s part? When we examine the other authors we do find one
who mentions the midheaven as the place of the querent. It is Omar in the Liber novem iudicum.
I quote the passage in full because one must see the entire passage to see two things: first, that
Bonatti could have gotten the idea from Omar, but that, second, the application is very different.
Omar - 8.1: As often as (so Welis asserts) a question will be given concerning the business of
kings, he produces advice for kings from the Sun and the midheaven, and equally from
William Lilly, Christian Astrology, 124-4. Spelling, capitalization and punctuation as in the original.
their lords, to wit from the greater agreement of either of them, and also from places
which are more powerful. Therefore, it is necessary to establish this significator. Also
this must be done from directions with the degree of ascending just as from a hyleg. For
one must also derive the directions of peoples and of the subject common people from
the lord of the year, and from the place of the Moon and the rising degrees. Moreover, the
direction of Mercury (or rather of what it commands)20 in the revolution of the year or at
the time of the question cares for the scribes of a king or of princes, and also their
counselors. Also, the direction of Mars commands the leaders armies and of troops, and
of aristocrats. However, Saturn and its direction get the care of those who guard the
common people, the common people themselves, of citizens, and of soldiers in an
encampment. To Venus, therefore, we commend the king himself and the wives of
First there is the mention of one Welis22 who is Vettius Valens (c.120-c.175 C.E.) who wrote the
largest and most comprehensive astrological manual in Greek. However, he wrote nothing on
interrogations. He states that on the business of kings one must consult the Sun and the
midheaven. This is standard astrology. However, this passage from Omar shows no evidence that
it has anything to do with interrogations as such. All of the internal language and methodology
mentioned, directions, lord of the year, the revolution of the year, suggests that this passage
refers to the practice of revolutiones annorum mundi rather than interrogations. There is just the
one reference, “in the revolution of the year or at the time of the question,” and nowhere in this
passage is there a reference to the significator of an adversary. If this was indeed intended to be
about interrogations, it was clearly not specifically about war. However, Bonatti may have been
aware of this passage or may have come to similar conclusions on his own from the same logic.
In either case his putting together the standard first-house-versus-seventh-house procedure of
war and conflict with a method following the logic of the passage above and thereby seeing the
Dubious translation of pocius ductus.
Omar, Liber novem iudicum, §7.161, the entire section.
The letter ‘w’ is actually used in the manuscript to indicate something like our ‘w’ sound which in turn was
indicated in Greek by the letters ου [ou] which are the first two letters of his first and second names in Greek, in full
Ουεττιος Ουαλης [Ouettios Oualēs]. [Note: Greek accents omitted due to font issues.]
fourth house as the opponent of the king in warfare is at the very least a creative act of synthesis
if not a complete innovation. Since Bonatti’s clients included military leaders who were not
sovereign lords (Montefeltro and Novello) and one who was (Emperor Frederick II), we have to
conclude that this distinction between sovereigns as querents in matters of war versus military
leaders in general was a distinction that Bonatti would have had to make in practice. If Bonatti
were wrong about this, it would have had extremely bad consequences for his own work
according to astrological doctrine.23 Finally, as regards the handling of the Moon, there is no
reason to assume that the separation and application of the Moon were to be handled any
differently for sovereigns than for ordinary war-leaders but Bonatti is not explicit on that subject.
Even in this most basic matter of choosing the houses and significators for a military question,
Bonatti’s practical experience and need to make theory explicit have an impact on his teaching.
Will the sides make peace before going to war or before there has been serious conflict?
Here again Bonatti follows the same outline of topics as Zahel. However, here also there is a
major difference in the quantity of material. Bonatti’s discussion is at least more “prolix,” to use
his own term, but also it is more than that. Some of this is material that Bonatti repeats from
§VI.2.7.9; some of it is an expansion from what Zahel describes but with material that is not
found in Zahel. Here is the entire passage on this matter from Zahel from §7.24.
Zahel - 8.3: Also, you must understand that the superior planets are stronger than the inferior
planets in the matter of war. Therefore, look at both significators, that is, the lord of the
Ascendant, and the lord of the seventh. If they are joined by the trine or sextile aspect,
and one of them receives the other, there will be peace, and the initiating of peace will be
from the one pushing, that is, from the swifter planet. But if they are joined by the square
Unfortunately there are no worked out examples employing Bonatti’s logic, but then there are very few
worked out examples at all. At present I know of no one after his time who questioned his logic on this particular
or opposition aspect, and one of them receives the other, there will be peace after some
The beginning of this passage does not suggest that it is primarily about the likelihood of peace.
Zahel begins with a mention of the greater strength of the superior planets as significators (which
I will return to below) then moves on to discuss the possibilities of peaceful resolution and the
quality of such a resolution. As the passage from Bonatti just below shows, he presents the
comment on superior planets after the basic material as to whether there will be peace. The
greater power of the superior planets25 was also mentioned a number of times in Chapter 7 in the
context of indicating which side is likely to take the initiative toward making peace. However,
there they were referred to as “heavier” or “more ponderous” planets. Unless the inferior planets
in question are retrograde or near stations, superior planets are always slower26 than inferior
planets. However, here we see what was only implied in the previous material, that in general the
superior planets were considered to be better significators than the inferior planets.27 All things
being equal, one significator in military matters being a planet superior to the other significator
gave an edge to the side signified by the superior significator.28
Returning to the main points of this section, it is interesting that in the material on warfare
only Zahel, Haly Abenragel and Bonatti have passages on the likelihood of peace either before
actual conflict or very soon after some minor conflict. The other authors discuss this possibility
in their material on general conflict covered in Chapter 7 but have nothing further to say about it
Zahel, §7.24, lines 9-14 from “Et scito quod planete alteriores…” to “…erit pax post contentione.”
Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. See SUPERIOR AND INFERIOR PLANETS in the Glossary.
This is to be understood in terms of average motion. When inferior planets are near stations, they may move
more slowly than superior planets.
Moon, Mercury and Venus. Again see SUPERIOR AND INFERIOR PLANETS in the Glossary.
It is not only Bonatti and Zahel that explicitly make this point. The same point is made in the following
passages from the Liber novem iudicum, §7.163 lines 5-10 of Albenait and all of §7.164 of Dorotheus .
in the case of warfare. Their assumption appears to be that if things have gotten to the point of
asking questions about a war or choosing a time to start one, war will come to pass. The other
authors do, however, have a good deal to say on whether the war is a good idea or not, but peace
without war is something the other authors do not consider, except possibly by applying the
criteria that are used in civil conflict. So if Zahel and Bonatti introduced nothing new here over
and above the same topic in personal and civil conflict, then the other authors’ silence here in
chapters on warfare would not be significant. However, both Zahel and Bonatti do have
additional material on the subject, especially Bonatti. After comparing Zahel and Bonatti on this
point I will bring in the corresponding relevant passage from Haly Abenragel for comparison.
Although the passage on making peace is directly prior to the Bonatti’s passages on the
efficacy of the superior planets, I am separating them in this discussion for the present. Bonatti’s
discussion of peace before warfare begins as follows.
Bonatti - 8.4: See, therefore, whether the lord of the first house is joined with the lord of the
seventh, or the latter to the former, by the trine or sextile aspect with perfect reception,
namely, that one of them receives the other.29 This signifies that peace will be made
between them before [there is] a struggle. However, if they are joined by the quartile or
opposition aspect even though they do receive each other, or by a trine or sextile aspect
without reception, they will not achieve peace until they first do battle or engage in
conflict with each other.30
Note the similarity of this use of reception and aspects to his application of these in §VI.2.7.9,
lines 8-15 as they pertain to making peace. These were discussed at length in Chapter 7.31 As he
unus eorum recipiat alium. This implies that only one of them needs to receive the other rather than both of
them receiving each other. In §VI.2.7.9 the corresponding passage has receptione mutua which requires that each
planet receive the other. Receptione perfecta usually means the same thing. Both Ratdolt and Vienna 2359 agree on
the Latin here but all one would have to do is change unus eorum to unusquisque eorum to get “each of them
receives the other.” Given the vagaries of medieval paleography this would not have been an unlikely transcription
Bonatti, §VI.2.7.21, lines 21-24 from “Videas itaque si dominus prime…” to “…nisi primo prolientur vel
contendant simul.”
See passages Bonatti - 7.2, 3, 4 and 5, beginning p. 189.
does in the passage in §VI.2.7.9 Bonatti again refers to a hierarchy of “goodness” or efficacy for
making peace, giving aspects with reception more efficacy in bringing about peace than the
aspects without reception, such that best of all is the trine or sextile with reception, then the trine
or sextile without reception at the same level as the quartile or opposition with reception. The
omission of application by square or opposition without reception of any kind suggests that these
do not lead to peace. As in §VI.2.7.9 Bonatti is much more explicit about the details than Zahel
or anyone else. Bonatti then continues with his comments on the greater power of superior over
inferior significators.
Bonatti - 8.5: But after they have had a conflict or done battle with each other they will settle
between themselves and the initiative for the peace or settlement will come from the side
of the one whose significator is the swifter planet.
You should know that the superior planets, namely, Saturn, Jupiter and Mars, are
stronger in battles and wars than the inferior planets, namely, the Sun,32 Venus, Mercury,
and the Moon, and [that the superiors are] more stable and constant because of the
slowness of their motions, also because the inferiors apply to them and not they to the
inferiors. For this reason, in your inceptions for battles and wars, if you can do it, always
make the planet that you take as significator one of the superior planets, as will be
described elsewhere.33 However, if you cannot have a superior planet [as a significator],
take the best inferior planet that you can because it is better for you to have an inferior
planet which is fortunate than a superior planet which is unfortunate or impeded.34
Aside from some reorganization and a greater quantity of verbiage, Bonatti’s text on the superior
and inferiors is identical in content with Zahel’s. And as regards this description there is little in
either Zahel or Bonatti that is different either from each other or from material presented by
other authors discussed in Chapter 7.35
Usually the Sun is not considered as superior or inferior because its orbit defines the distinction. However, the
Sun is inferior to Saturn which rules the opposite sign Aquarius. In fact any planet is “superior” to any other planet
that is swifter, and inferior to any planet that is slower.
See p. 241 passages Bonatti - 8.8, 8.9.
Bonatti, §VI.2.7.21, lines 24-34 from “Sed postquam contenderint vel preliati…” to “…beatum quam
superiorem infortunatum sive impeditum.”
See Chap. 7 beginning at p. 241.
In the next section Zahel begins to discuss the problem presented when one of the
significators is retrograde. It is a sign that something will go wrong in the peace process. In this
instance I have again chosen to use the Liber novem iudicum version of Zahel’s text, §7.160,
because the Latin makes more sense in that translation than the John of Seville translation. The
various manuscripts and editions of the John of Seville rendition that I have consulted do not
help to clear up the obscurities of that version.
Zahel - 8.4: On the other hand, the retrogradation of either significator, its being situated in
a perverse place,36 or [if] that same significator is not received, these threaten that side’s
giving up.37 And it portends the [kind of] misfortune to come from that giving up
according to the nature and signification of the place of the significator. For, if the
significator traverses in the second, he keeps himself unharmed, but the enemy will
scatter his wealth and property. If the significator is in the sixth or twelfth, it will afflict
him while detained in prison with torture most grave. Traversing in the eighth, it is
entirely fatal. Also, the separation of either significator from the other [threatens] strife
and discord.38
Bonatti’s equivalent passage begins as follows:
Bonatti - 8.6: Afterward, inasmuch as you see that they will reach a peace, consider whether
both significators (namely, the lord of the Ascendant and the lord of the seventh) are
direct, because if it is so, the peace and concord which the two sides make with each
other will be firm and good, especially if the aspect is a trine or sextile. However, if
either of the significators is retrograde, the peace will be false and will be neither good
nor lasting, but rather the peace will be [made] with evil intent and guile, and the one will
strive to deceive the other. However, if one significator is direct and the other
retrograde, the one whose significator is retrograde will strive to deceive the other side
and move forward with evil intent and guile regarding the other. Also, see which place
[the retrograde significator] is in with respect to the [significator of the] other whom he
strives to deceive.39
Here we do see a difference between Bonatti and Zahel. In Zahel a retrograde significator
“in a perverse place…” Here John of Seville is much clearer. “in an unsuitable place with respect to the one
which receives it such as [the receiving planet’s] fall, or the sixth, eighth or twelfth place [from the receiving
planet].” That is what constitutes a “perverse place”.
tradicio. I prefer “giving up’ rather than “surrender” because surrender usually denotes prior warfare.
Zahel – Liber novem iudicum, §7.160, lines 14-21 from “Rursus utriuslibet ducis retrogradacio…” to “…litem
atque discordiam.”
Bonatti, §VI, 2, 7, 21, lines 34-43 from, “Postea considera ex quo videris ipsos pacificaturos…” to “…vide in
quo loco fuerit ab illo quem ipse nititur decipere…”
indicates harm in a general sense to the side signified by the retrograde significator. In Bonatti
the side signified by the retrograde significator is more likely to try to do harm to the side
signified by the direct significator (assuming that one significator is direct and the other
retrograde). We have already seen a similar logic in Chapter 7 regarding retrograde
significators.40 Both authors follow the logic of medieval astrology but Bonatti does so in a more
specific manner and uses his own formulation of the significance of retrogradation (which we
saw in the previous chapter) again here and in a manner consistent with what we saw in Chapter
7. Zahel here treats retrogradation only as a simple impediment, that is, something that does
harm to whatever a planet signifies. He does not distinguish between the effects of retrogradation
and the effects of other impediments, namely, to impede or hinder the action of significator in a
general and unspecified way. Bonatti, however, sees retrogradation as an impediment with a very
specific nature, that is, just as a retrograde planet moves backwards in a manner contrary to
normal planetary motion, so whoever is signified by such a planet will also move in a manner
that is contrary to normal behavior. Wherever in a peacemaking process one is supposed to move
in straightforward, direct manner, someone signified by a retrograde significator will behave in a
contrary manner. Recall that ‘direct’ is the opposite of ‘retrograde’ as well as a synonym for
‘straightforward’. Bonatti may have been a student of astrology from the Islamic world but in
this case he seems to have understood the logic of the astrology better than Zahel. It is certainly
obvious that Bonatti’s practice of astrology caused him to differ from his predecessors. This is
not to say that Zahel never treats retrogradation like Bonatti. The following passage gives an
instance where he does.
See Chap. 7, p. 247.
Zahel - 8.5: Whichever of the significators is retrograde and impeded, that one incites to
falsehood. And whichever of these is direct and fortunate, that one incites to truthfulness
and faith.41
Note, however, that Zahel allows any serious impediment to have that effect. Bonatti, on the
other hand, once treats retrogradation in his specific way wherever it is appropriate to do so and
differentiates it from other impediments. A consequence of this treatment of retrogradation is a
lengthy passage in which Bonatti discusses all possible house placements of a retrograde
significator and how this might indicate exactly what kind of treachery or guile one might expect
from someone signified by a retrograde planet. I have abridged the material somewhat in the
Bonatti - 8.7: If the retrograde significator is in the second house from the first house,42 as
soon as [the one signified by the retrograde planet] has made agreement with the other
side, and after he is confident with respect to the other side, he will steal [some kind of]
wealth43 from him.
And if the retrograde significator is in the third house from the first, the one signified
will perform some deception upon the other party because of that other’s sibling… But if
the first party does not have a brother, the second party will deceive him by means of
some other matters signified by the third house.
If the retrograde significator is in the fourth, the one signified by that significator will
seize the other party and will hold him in a subterranean, hidden prison until the former
carries off for himself what he intends; or he will take for himself a kingdom, … or other
real property44 in accordance with the nature of the conflict between them.
If the retrograde significator is in the fifth house, the one signified by that significator
will do to the other party the same things with a child or involving of a child that were
described in connection [with the third house] with respect to a brother or because of a
brother, or he will do something because of any other matter signified by the fifth house.
If it is in the sixth house, the one signified by that significator will hold and imprison
the other party in order to take away from him servants or smaller animals...
[The seventh house is intentionally omitted by Bonatti.] If the retrograde significator
Zahel, §7.24, lines 114-116 from “Et quisquis significatorum fuerit retrogradus…” to “…ipse provocat ad
veritatem et fidem.”
The first house here is not the literal first house. It is the first house if the querent is the one being deceived, or
the eighth house (second from the seventh) if the deceived party is the other side. This logic is carried on throughout
the following passages.
is in the eighth, the one signified by that significator will put the other party in prison,
and will cause him to die there, or he will kill him in some other manner.
And if the retrograde significator is in the ninth, the one signified by that significator
will send the other party on a distant journey and cause him to endure suffering there.
If the retrograde significator is in the tenth, the one signified will give the other party
into the hands of a ... magnate to harm him, or perhaps he will imprison him in a castle,
in a tower or in another place that is highly elevated.
If the retrograde significator is in the eleventh, the one signified will hand the other
party over to a soldier, or ... other magnate in order to extort something from him, or the
first party will hand the second party over to one of his own friends for the same reason
... If the retrograde significator is in the twelfth, the one signified will hold the other
party and detain him in a prison of the most extreme kind, ... or [it signifies] that the first
party will steal horses, cattle, camels, or other larger animals from the second party.
Also observe that the fourth house signifies prison, the seventh signifies imprisonment
or the one who is to be imprisoned, the eighth signifies the action of imprisoning,[and]
the tenth signifies him who is already imprisoned. Then look at the lord of the seventh
which signifies the one who is imprisoned. If that lord is retrograde, it signifies that he
will flee from prison. See then to which planet the lord is being joined first in its
retrogradation because, if it is joined to a fortune, it signifies a good outcome for him in
his flight.45
There is nothing similar to this detail in any other author which is why I have put the entire
passage in italics. I reiterate a point made elsewhere. This does not necessarily mean that Bonatti
did original empirical research in anything like the modern sense. It only shows that he was
willing to interpret what he believed he saw in original ways and to depart from the tradition, at
least on the matter of specifics. In this area of work at least he was not merely a compiler. Once
Bonatti had made his own, different interpretation of the “meaning”of retrograde significators,
he would have easily been able to assemble the descriptions given above. This is another
example of “theory” in astrology.46 The result is an enormous expansion of the material that
Bonatti acquired from his predecessors. A compiler or passive transmitter of astrological
doctrine would not have done this.
Bonatti, §VI.2.7.21, lines 43-73 from “…quia si fuerit in secunda a prima…” to …significat ei bonum in fuga
See Chap. 6, p. 178, n. 46.
I mentioned previously the third author with a passage containing material something like
Zahel’s, Haly Abenragel. Here is the passage.
Haly Abenragel - 8.1: If they have application from the trine or sextile and one of them
receives the other, it signifies that they both seek peace, and he who takes the initiative
for peace, is the one whose significator is lighter.47 If they apply from the square or
opposition and there is reception between them, the peace will [come to be] after
contention, and in this matter the opposition is stronger than the square.
If the one of these which receives is retrograde, or in its fall from exaltation, or in its
eighth or sixth,48 it signifies that one side will give assurances and then afterward kill the
other treacherously. If it is in the second,49 one side will commit an act of treachery
regarding the other’s substance. If it is in the twelfth or sixth, one side will give
assurances and then afterward take the other prisoner. If the one of the two planets which
is received is retrograde, it signifies that he whose significator it is, will flee after giving
There are differences, mostly of omission, between Zahel’s material and Haly’s but they are very
close. However, there is nothing like the detail in Haly that Bonatti gives. Also, this passage is in
a different context. Haly does not place this at the beginning of the discussion as to whether
there will or will not be war. Instead Haly proceeds directly to a discourse on what will happen
to the two sides in war. Zahel somewhat more tersely vis-a-vis Bonatti and Bonatti more
“prolixly” follow a more logical sequence. Haly places his material in a collection of loosely
associated materials regarding warfare with little logical sequence or order. This and many other
aspects of Haly’s presentations suggest that Haly, unlike Bonatti, and probably unlike Zahel,51
was a compiler who gathered up as much material as he could find and committed it to writing. I
have already mentioned Carmody’s classification of the works of Abenragel’s period, including
That is as in Bonatti, the eighth or sixth from the first or seventh which is to say the eighth or sixth for the lord
of the first, and the second or twelfth for the lord of the seventh.
That is the second from the first for the querent or initiator or the second from the seventh (the eighth) for the
adversary. This is an example of the use of relative houses which I discuss at length in Chap. 9, p. 286.
Haly, §II.42.2, lines 49-63 from “Et si habuerint applicationem de tertio vel sextili…” to “…fugiet post
We know too little about his life to be certain.
Abenragel’s, as “encyclopedic.” This term is suggestive even though Carmody intends it as label
of a chronological period in the development of Arabic astrology. HalyAbenragel was one of the
last major astrological authors of the flowering of Arabic astrology, and the inference one may
draw is that the authors of this period were neither expanding the subject nor making alterations
based on experience, or even reasoned conjecture. Haly Abenragel’s work is a major work in the
history of astrology because of the amount of material he preserved that might have otherwise
been lost but it is neither systematic nor well organized. It is also unlikely that Bonatti had
access to the Latin translation of his work. I have already presented some evidence on this point
in Chapter 652 and I will have more to say about this in my concluding Chapter 11.
The Sides Do Not Make Peace and Indications as To Which Side Will Win.
In the opening portions of the passages which pertain to the question of which side will win
in a war it is clear that Bonatti, Zahel and Albenait (Liber novem iudicum, §7.163) come from
the same tradition. Also, in the opening portions at least, all three are similar to Dorotheus (from
whom they otherwise frequently diverge). All four give the edge to the side that has the more
superior planet as its significator as I have already shown above in connection with Zahel and
Bonatti. The next criterion is the house location of the significators.
Zahel - 8.6: …if one of the significators is a superior planet and it is received in an angle, say
that the lord [indicated by] this significator will conquer unless the significator enters
Albenait - 8.1: Whichever of these significators is in an angle and received, surely conquers,
unless by chance it has entered into combustion, or the lord of the eighth applies to it.54
See p. 145.
Zahel §7.24., lines 23-26 from “Et si fuerit unus ex significatoribus…” to “…nisi ingrediatur combustionem.”
Albenait, Liber novem iudicum §7.163, lines 10-12 from “Qui vero de his ducibus…” to “…octavi dominus
eidem applicet.”
Dorotheus, Liber novem Iudicum - 8.1: Moreover, the superior stars give greater
effectiveness in this business than the inferior ones. However, of the two significators the
one which is stronger will obtain victory. Likewise, if either of the significators is one of
the superior stars while occupying an angle and being received, [that side] conquers,
unless by chance it has entered into combustion, or it applies to the lord of the eighth.55
Albenait does not here mention that the significator should be a superior planet but in the
immediately preceding passages he has already granted that, so angularity with reception is
another criterion to be added onto that of a superior planetary significator. He does raise another
matter, that the application of the lord of the eighth to the lord of the ascendant is a bad
indication. This also shows up in Zahel and Bonatti but their order of presentations is a bit
different. As is commonly the case, Bonatti and Zahel have a more similar organization. Also
note that in the passages as given here there is no reference to the seventh house which is an
angle. However, we know from previous references in both Chapter 7 and in this chapter that
placement in that house is detrimental to the interests of the querent to the highest degree.
However, we have seen that Zahel is aware of this and I would assume that Albenait and
Dorotheus were as well. I believe this omission is an artifact of the selection process by which
their texts were incorporated in the Liber novem iudicum, that is, passages may have been
excerpted without the complete original context. Finally, the text from Dorotheus contains a
brief comment that is intuitively obvious, “However, of the two significators the one which is
stronger will obtain victory.” All texts agree on that point but they disagree on exactly what
constitutes “stronger.” For example, al-Kindī after extolling the virtues of an angular significator
states the following:
al-Kindī, Liber novem iudicum 8.1: Likewise the one who is observed to be oriental,56 his
Dorotheus, Liber novem iudicum §7.164, lines 7-11 from “Superiores item stelle…” to “…aut octavi domino
See ORIENTAL and OCCIDENTAL in the Glossary.
greater vigor, constancy, and eagerness for fighting is praised. The more occidental
placement of the other discloses that he is weak, timid, and is unwilling to fight.
Furthermore, whichever of them occupies a place [in which he is] peregrine,57 it takes
away his industry in war and his wisdom in planning.58
Following this passage he discusses the effects of various planets in the second and eighth house
and their impact on victory. In al-Kindī and all of the others there is no mention of superior
versus inferior significators.
Here, finally, is the parallel passage in Bonatti.
Bonatti - 8.8: If the lord of the first house is one of the three superior planets and is in the
first, tenth, or even in the fourth if it is received (unless the planet which receives it is the
lord of the seventh or eighth house) even though the fourth house is far below the tenth
and the first [in virtue], it signifies that the querent will win out and hold his own against
his enemy unless the lord of the first is combust or is entering into combustion at the
Bonatti, first of all, does remove the seventh house from consideration as “angular” by explicitly
referring to the other angular houses. This reflects his tendency to be clearer and more
systematic than his sources. However, the italicized passage adds something to the sources. First,
he clearly mentions that reception of a first house significator by the lords of the seventh and
eighth is useless or even disadvantageous; second, he designates reception as the key, not
application as in Albenait, and third, he rates the three permissible angular houses in terms of
relative strength with the ascendant and midheaven as roughly equal and the fourth house as “far
below” them in efficacy. This doctrine is not peculiar to Bonatti and is generally acknowledged
in the medieval tradition;60 however, it is characteristic of Bonatti to mention explicitly at
precisely this point where the strength of a significator is very important.
See PEREGRINE in the Glossary.
al-Kindī, Liber novem iudicum §7.162, lines 11-15 from “Item cuius orientalitas deprehenditur…” to “
…bellorum industriam et consilium aufert.”
Bonatti §VI.2.7.21, lines 76-81 from “Et si dominus prime fuerit…” to “…intraverit tunc in combustionem.”
And is still so regarded in modern astrology. See Wilson, “Angles” in the Dictionary of Astrology, 6.
At this point in the discussion, three of our authors, Zahel, Albenait and Bonatti (the passage
from Dorotheus having gone no further on this matter) go into a detailed description of the
various contingencies that can happen even when the significator of a side is a superior planet,
contingencies which may or may not mitigate the “superiority” of a superior planet. The other
authors who do not use the criterion of superior versus inferior planets to the extent of these
three authors also do not have any of the following material.
In the following passage from Zahel I have divided the text into four numbered sections
corresponding to four different parts of the general discussion.
Zahel - 8.7: 1. Also, if the lord of the Ascendant is a superior planet and is cadent from the
Ascendant, and the lord of the seventh is in an angle and is one of the inferior planets,
you shall not judge that the querent will be overcome until you look at the planet to
which the lord of the seventh is being joined…
Zahel - 8.7: 2. …because if the lord of the seventh is being joined to a planet in an angle
which receives it, the enemy will conquer, overcome, and have power and victory over
the querent according to the quantity [of the strength]61 of that planet to which the lord of
the seventh is being joined.
Zahel - 8.7: 3. But if the lord of the seventh is strong and is joined to a cadent planet which
impedes it, the lord of the seventh, that is, the enemy, will not cease to have strength so
long as he holds out in his own, best place.62 When the enemy’s significator is moved
from that place, he is weakened and he will not cease to be weak until he, that is, the lord
of the seventh,63 is impeded by malefics or enters combustion; at that time the enemy will
be destroyed.
Zahel - 8.7: 4. But if the lord of the seventh, in the sign in which it is, is joined to no planet,
you move it to the second sign. After this, look at its joinings with [other] planets, and
you shall not judge according to the planets’ inferior strength64 but only by the goodness
of its place from the Ascendant, and according to its freedom from impeding planets, and
The only quantitas a planet can have is its essential dignity. Without further indication from the text, I have to
assume that this is what is referred to.
Since the significator here is strong in its position in the chart, the enemy signified by that significator must
not leave any place in which he is strongly situated.
Another example of the conflation of a significating planet with the side signified.
I believe this means a lack of essential dignity. Only the goodness of the house position is to be considered.
the assistance of the superior planets toward it.65
Summarizing, first, we have a statement to the effect that having a superior planet as a
significator is so advantageous that even if the significator is placed in cadent house, it does not
immediately vitiate the effectiveness of the superior planet. One must check to see what that
planet may be applying to. Second, if the lord of the seventh applies to a planet which is angular
and receives the lord of the seventh, then the lord of the seventh can win out over a cadent
superior planet ruling the first. The degree of victory depends on just how good that planet (to
which the lord of the seventh applies) is. Third, if the lord of the seventh is strong in its own
position but applies to a cadent planet which in some other way also impedes it (for example, by
aspecting from the square or opposition), then the side signified by the seventh will be in good
condition initially but as the significator moves away66 from that position either toward an
impeding planet or combustion, at the time it encounters the impeding planet or enter
combustion the enemy will be destroyed. Fourth, if the lord of the seventh applies to no planet,
then see to which planet it will first apply in the next sign, then judge according to that,
apparently paying no attention to the quality of the place into which the ruler of the seventh has
moved only paying heed to whatever application it makes.
This outline is broadly followed by Albenait and Bonatti as well.
Albenait - 8.2: 1. If indeed it happens that the lord of the ascendant is one of the superiors,
although it is adverse and cadent, even though the lord of the seventh dwells in an angle,
one must not judge, as it were, diffidently regarding the side of the querent before you
observe very attentively the star to which the lord of the seventh applies…
Albenait - 8.2: 2. …for a significator which applies to a star in an angle and is received will
Zahel §7.24., all four sections, lines 26-43 from “Si etiam fuerit dominus ascendentis…” to “…per auxilium
altiorum planetarum erga eum.”
The text is not clear but this probably refers to the planet’s motion in the zodiac in the period subsequent to
the question or election.
grant victory to its side according to the manner and the strength of nature of the star to
which it applies.
Albenait - 8.2: 3. Also the same lord of the seventh strong [but] applying to a star cadent
and corrupting, [that side] wins, however, only as long as the significator is well placed.
As soon as it soon as it recedes from there to the next place, it will certainly grow
weaker, namely up to the point where it becomes corrupt or combust, for then it will
Albenait - 8.2: 4. However, if the significator applies to no star in the sign in which it is
located, it is transferred to another sign. Once the ingress of this star has been observed,
one must note the stars to which it applies in that place.67
Zahel and Albenait are so similar they could be different translations of the same Arabic
original. Therefore, there is no need to comment on the Albenait text.
So let us look at Bonatti who, as I have said, follows to the same order but with changes. I
will divide his text into sections as well but the sections do not entirely correspond with Zahel
and Albenait.
Bonatti - 8.9: 1. Consider also now regarding these significators, to wit, the lord of the first
and the lord of the seventh, because although [the condition that the] lord of the
Ascendant is cadent from the Ascendant would be a great debility, nevertheless, if it is
one of the superior planets, it will have strength against enemies because of its being a
superior planet, and the adversary will have weakness because of its being an inferior
planet seeing that the lord of the seventh will be one68 of the inferior planets (which are
not as strong in an act of war as the superior planets). For this reason you ought not to say
to the querent will succumb because of this if you do not then first look at the planet to
which the lord or the seventh is joined; because even though a lord of the first (which is
one of the superior planets) may be cadent from an angle, and a lord of the seventh
(which is one of the inferior planets) may be in an angle, nevertheless the lord of the first
Albenait, Liber novem iudicum §7.163, all four sections, lines 12-22 from “Si vero orientis dominum…” to
“…quibus ibidem applicet notandum.”
Signs ruled by superior planets are always opposite signs ruled by inferior planets as the following table
will not on this account be less strong than the lord of the seventh…69
Bonatti - 8.9: 2. …unless the lord of the seventh is joined to another planet which makes it
stronger. For if the lord of the seventh is joined to a planet which is in a strong place, to
wit, in an angle, and receives the lord of the seventh, then it will make the lord of the
seventh stronger. And [then] you can say to the querent that he will succumb and that he
will be overcome by his enemy or adversary. However, if the lord of the seventh is being
joined to a planet which does not receive it, it is not strengthened by this joining to the
extent that the querent would succumb due to the lack of reception.70
Bonatti - 8.9: 3. However, if you find the lord of the first strong in an angle even though it
is joined to some planet cadent from an angle (which signifies hindrance or impediment
for the lord of the first), nevertheless, it will still be strong because the strength which
that lord possesses from the angle is greater than the debility which a planet cadent from
an angle brings to it. This strength will be durable as long as that lord is in that place
and degree which was an angle at the time or up to the point where it is distant from it by
15 degrees71 unless first its joining with the planet, which is cadent from an angle and
impedes it, is completed. Whenever a joining together between a lord and a cadent planet
is completed by degree, immediately that lord is weakened and one must fear that the
querent will succumb even though it goes well for him at the beginning, and the enemy
will become stronger even though it goes badly for him at the beginning.72
Sections 1 and 2 correspond perfectly with sections 1 and 2 of the Zahel and the Albenait. The
main difference is again due to Bonatti’s “prolixity.” He leaves as little to the imagination as
possible, one of his outstanding attributes. However, Bonatti’s third section (unlike Zahel’s) is
not about the ruler of the seventh. It is again about the ruler of the first. However, the passage
applies the logic of Zahel’s third section treatment of the ruler of the seventh to the ruler of the
first, and then draws the same conclusions for the ruler of the first that Zahel and Albenait did
for the ruler of the seventh under the same conditions. Bonatti, however, adds more detail about
Bonatti §VI.2.7.21, (I reference each of these sections separately because they are each much longer than the
corresponding sections of the other authors) lines 87-94 from “Considera etiam iam super istis significatoribus…” to
“…quam dominus septime…”
Bonatti §VI.2.7.21, lines 87-94 from “…nisi dominus septime iungatur…” to “…succumbat illa de causa.”
This is followed by a paragraph which applies the same logic to the lord of the seventh, as he has just done with the
lord of the first. The logic is identical.
Here again I believe that the reference to the actual motion of the planet in the zodiac.
Bonatti §VI.2.7.21, lines 106-116 from “Si quidem inveneris dominum prime…” to “…licet male successerit
ei a principio.”
timing information. The first italicized section in the Bonatti passage from “nevertheless” to “…
brings to it,” gives additional information about how much more a significator as a superior
planet does good than its applying to a cadent planet does harm. Neither of the other authors do
Returning to the text, in all three authors’ versions a significator is in decent shape as long as
it is in its position of strength. Bonatti is more detailed about what defines a position of strength
when he states in the second italicized sentence from “This strength will be durable…” to “…is
completed.” If the significating planet is between the degree of the angle and 15 degrees away
from it, it remains strong unless within that fifteen degrees the application to the impeding
cadent planet is completed. Whenever, the application is completed, either within or after the
fifteen degrees from the degree of the angle, the side of the querent or initiator loses strength and
the adversary begins to grow stronger.
Why does Bonatti depart here from Zahel and Albenait? On cannot say for certain but it is
consistent with Bonatti’s practice of systematizing the material of his predecessors. Through this
entire chapter when Bonatti makes a reference to the significator of one side and how it works in
various astrological situations, he then does so for the other side but only after completely
explicating matters for the first side, usually the side of the querent or initiator. This is what he
does here. Zahel and Albenait go back and forth unsystematically between the two sides. Bonatti
one again reorganizes the material of predecessors. I will return to this issue at the conclusion of
this chapter because what we see here is illustrative of what lies behind the difference between
Bonatti and his predecessors.
Returning to the astrology, in any case it is clearly bad for a significator, even if it is a
superior planet, to be in an application to a cadent planet, it will be far worse if that significator
is not a superior planet as is the case in of the third section of the Zahel text given above.
After this Bonatti has a paragraph where he applies all of the same logic to the lord of the
seventh house if it is the superior planet and cadent following his practice of always treating of
one side and then giving a similar treatment to the other in an orderly manner. Then Bonatti
gives his version of the fourth section that we presented from Zahel and Albenait. Note that
again, where Zahel and Albenait continue talking about the seventh house lord, Bonatti
continues with the first house lord.
Bonatti - 8.9: 4. However, if the lord of the first or seventh is not joined with any planet in
the sign in which it is located, see with which planet it will first be joined after its leaving
that sign in which it was [previously located], when it enters another sign. If it is [then]
joined to one of the superior planets by the trine or sextile aspect with reception, and that
lord of the first or seventh is strong in that place, to wit, in an angle or succedent from an
angle, or will be joined to fortunes by trine or sextile aspect without reception, or by the
square aspect or opposition with reception, it signifies that the one whose significator it
is, will overcome in this way; [he] will obtain everything just as he would wish, and
everything will be prosperous for him whether the lord in question is the lord of the first
or the lord of the seventh.
However if that joining should be by the square or opposition aspect with reception,
and the receiving planet [is] in a strong place, as I have described, or from the trine or
sextile aspect without reception, things will go somewhat prosperously, as it were, but
not perfectly so. However, if there is a joining by a square or opposition aspect without
reception, and that planet73 is cadent, combust or entering into combustion, it signifies
that everything will go adversely for him in the end of the matter whatever the beginning
may have been.74
Even allowing for Bonatti’s greater tendency for verbiage, there is much more detail here than in
either Zahel or Albenait. The most significant source of new information is the application of his
hierarchy of “goodness” of applications from the different kinds of aspects with and without
reception, something I have shown that Bonatti does systemically wherever it is applicable.75
This refers to the planet in the next sign that the significator applies to.
Bonatti §VI.2.7.21, lines 129-143 from “Si autem dominus prime vel septime…” to “…qualecunque
principium fuerit.”
See pp. 188 to 192.
Here again is that hierarchy of effective applications: The best situation is the application to a
superior planet by a trine or sextile with reception with the significator otherwise strong in the
new position. The next best is an application to one of the fortunes by a trine or sextile without
reception or a square or opposition with reception. Any of these mean the side of the significator
will win.
So given this ranking of applications, first, if the significator of either side makes no
application while it is in the sign of the time of the question or inception, it is moved into the
next sign to see what application it will first make there. Next, if the planet applied to in that next
sign is in a strong place (presumably stronger than the significator’s new place)76 and the
application is by a trine or sextile with reception, the result will be easily attained and good. If
the application is by a square or opposition with reception or by trine and sextile without
reception, things will go somewhat well but not as well as one might desire. Finally, if the
application is by square or opposition without reception, and the planet applied to is cadent,
combust or entering combustion, the whole matter will turn out badly even if it started out well.
Bonatti’s text describes much more completely the procedure for dealing with this situation in
which a significator does not apply to any planet in its own sign, and what kinds of application
within the next sign produce what kind of result than either Zahel or Albenait. This entire body
of material is an excellent example of Bonatti revising, clarifying, organizing, systematizing and
amplifying the material he received.
In the passages that follow Bonatti and Zahel continue their parallel course. There are details
that are different but the similarities outweigh them. We have both Bonatti and Zahel restating
Remember that the significator has changed signs in order to bring about this application.
the theme which we also saw in the chapter on personal conflict that the significator of one side
being the house of the other side is deadly to the interests of the first side and vice versa. This is
the place in his text in which Bonatti refers to the charge at Valbona.77
The next section I would like to discuss has to do with significations that depend at least
somewhat on whether someone is fighting in their own territory or someone else’s. This is
another section in which a relatively brief bit of material from Zahel becomes greatly enlarged
with additional detail by Bonatti.
Zahel - 8.8: If the lord of the ascendant is joined to the lord of the midheaven or the lord of
the midheaven is being joined to the lord of the ascendant, and the lord of the ascendant
is in the midheaven, it signifies the strength of the querent in his own kingdom, and that
he overcomes the one with whom he struggles, and this is even better if there is a
receiving planet in an angle because he will be unconquered, for no one will have power
over the querent, and the opponent will not have confidence in his [own] rulership, and
the querent will overcome that one who contends with him.
Likewise if the lord of the seventh from the ascendant is in the fourth or is it joined to
its lord, or the lord of the fourth is joined to it and there is a receiver in an angle, the
enemy will be unconquered, and no one will prevail with him and one fears for the
kingdom of the querent.78
Bonatti - 8.10: Thereupon consider whether the lord of the first is being joined to the lord of
the tenth or that lord to it, and along with this the lord of the first is in the tenth. This
signifies that if that war or that battle is in the querent’s district or region, he will be
strong, indeed, stronger than all of those will come against him, and that he will
overcome all of them unless perchance the multitude coming against [him] should have a
number beyond measure. He will also take the adversary or enemy captive who contends
with him. Also, better and stronger [this will be] if that lord which is the heavier (namely
the lord of the first house or the tenth house) is in the first or the tenth, or in the second
or the eleventh. This signifies that at that time he cannot be overcome; there will be no
one strong enough to be able to have power against him in the district or region.
If, however, the querent should be in another’s district, he will overcome his enemies
under the aforesaid conditions, but he will not be so strong; he could lose [some] of his
possessions or troops, yet there will be report and rumor that he has been the victor.
Nevertheless, he will not have power against so great a multitude as he would could have
had in his own district, but he will have power against an equal [force] or against a
See p. 155.
Zahel §7.24., lines 54-64 from “Et si iunctus fuerit dominus ascendentis…” to “…et timetur de regno
[force] greater than his up to a quarter or a third part larger.
However, if the lord of the seventh is in the fourth house (which is its tenth) or is
joined to the lord of the fourth, or the lord of the fourth is joined to it, and the slower
planet of the two is in an angle, to wit, the seventh or the fourth, or in the succedent to
those angles, namely, the fifth or the eighth, it signifies that, if the battle is in the district
of the enemy, he will not be conquered and that no one could have power against him. If,
however, the battle is in the district of the querent, one has doubts lest the querent lose
[fighting] from within his own district or kingdom.79
These two passages discuss further indications as what may assist one of the sides in a conflict in
obtaining victory especially if the side in question fights in its own territory. The first part of the
Bonatti text which is not italicized corresponds closely to the Zahel text.80 The matter at hand is
the positive effect of having an application between the lords of the midheaven and the
ascendant in either direction along with the lord of the ascendant in the midheaven. This is
supposed to make the querent or initiator unconquerable if the battle is fought in his own
However, where Zahel just mentions that the effect is stronger if the receiving planet is an
angle, Bonatti makes a much more explicit description and adds detail. He agrees with Zahel that
the receiving planet (which the logic makes clear must be the lord of the tenth) should also be in
an angle for best results, but specifies that it be in the first or tenth not merely in an angle.
Obviously the seventh would not do because that is the house of the opponent, nor would the
fourth because it is the tenth house of the enemy. However, with Bonatti’s clarifications both
agree that this arrangement makes the querent or initiator unconquerable. Then Bonatti goes on
to indicate to exactly what degree the querent or initiator would be weakened if he were not
fighting in his own territory. Zahel leaves that to the imagination; Bonatti is very explicit. The
Bonatti §VI.2.7.21, lines 171-192 from “Deinde considera si dominus prime iungatur…” to “…interrogator de
suo districtu seu regno.”
Recall that when an author describes a planet as “in the tenth house” or the “midheaven,” it means the same
side of the first house significator will be able to overcome any army that comes against it from
of the same size up to a quarter to one-third larger.
The remainder of the passage discusses the same issue precisely from the point of view of
the adversary. The main difference here is that Bonatti is, as usual, much more explicit. This is
another instance of how, when Bonatti contemplated his predecessors, especially Zahel, he
worked out in detail things that were either omitted entirely or handled in a sketchy manner by
his predecessors. Recall once that Bonatti and all other Europeans learned astrology from the
written word, namely, translations from Arabic which appear as if they were intended to be
supplemented by oral instruction. Bonatti clearly intends to make the written word supplant oral
instruction as much as possible.
Returning to Haly, much of whose work does seem to be derived from Zahel, let us examine
a passage that contains some of the elements of the indications in Zahel and Bonatti that I have
just presented. Here is the passage in question.
Haly Abenragel - 8.2: If the lord of the ascendant applies to the lord of the midheaven, or the
lord of the midheaven applies to the lord of the ascendant, it signifies the power and
success of the lord of the question, and that he will overcome his adversary. And this will
be better and more firm if both are in angles or if the one which applies is in an angle,
because this is a signification that he whose significator it is cannot be conquered by
anyone, nor will he apply to a status which can diminish his power.81
It is interesting because it contains the same material on the interaction between the first house
and seventh house lords and the references to positions in the angles indicating a strength that
cannot be overcome. However, what is missing is the requirement that the querent (or opponent)
be in his own territory in order for the maximum effect to occur. Bonatti in the passage just
discussed, of course, describes the effects of both the querent's presence in his own territory and
Haly Abenragel §II.42.2, lines 78-86 from “Et si dominus ascendentis applicuerit…” to “…de sui potentia
minui possit.”
not being so located. If Bonatti did have access to Haly’s work, a question that I have raised
before,82 then the most that one can say is that if Bonatti saw Haly’s text, he corrected it, at least
in terms of his own judgement, and expanded it. He did not merely transmit it.
At about this point the clarity of the organization becomes less clear in Bonatti. In the other
authors it is even less clear. Much of what Bonatti has here can be found in Zahel. The
differences are minor. There is a very long section on the evaluation of effects of Saturn and
Mars in connection with war charts. However, a passage on Saturn in both authors is worth
taking a moment to examine. It is another example of Bonatti taking material from his
predecessors and fleshing it out. First we have Zahel.
Zahel - 8.9: Know also that when Saturn is in an angle at the time of the question, if there is
nothing to give testimony to Saturn, it signifies a long time at war until the querent
withdraws. And this is all the more so if Saturn is retrograde because then the war will
start, stop, start again and do so often.83
Then Bonatti.
Bonatti - 8.11: Then look at the place of Saturn in a matter of war because his presence in the
angles in the matter of battle is evil; it signifies the intensity and cruelty of the war. For
this reason if you see him in any one of the angles at the time of a question or the
beginning of a battle, proclaim that the battle will be intense, cruel and of long duration.
Also, if Saturn is retrograde, he will impede even more, and make things worse whether
he has dignity or power in the angle or not. If Saturn is in the first, the battle will be
great and strongly fought by the side of the querent. If Saturn is in the fourth, the effect
will be less intense for either side. If Saturn is in the seventh, the battle will be fought
especially long and hard by the enemy’s side. If, however, Saturn is in the tenth, the
battle will be great, fought valiantly, cruelly, and will be renowned.84
There are a number of differences. First of all Bonatti does not see Saturn in the angles as
especially related to the querent or initiator. It is just an indication of the severity of the war.
See Chap. 5, p. 145.
Zahel §7.24., lines 81-84 from “Et scito quod saturnus…” to “…bellum tunc sepe reiterabitur.”
Bonatti §VI.2.7.21, lines 213-221 from “Deinde aspice locum Saturni…” to “…magnum forte crudele
Zahel sees Saturn retrograde as indicating a war that starts, stops, and starts up again. Bonatti
sees the retrograde Saturn as simply making matters worse. On this occasion Zahel seems to
emphasize the parallel between a planet going retrograde, stopping and turning direct again and
the war starting, stopping, and starting again. Usually Bonatti makes such parallels but Bonatti’s
treatment of the retrograde motion is simply to make its effects worse, i.e., here it is a general
impediment of an unspecified nature. In this case the two seem to have exchanged their positions
on retrogrades. However, what Bonatti does add is that when Zahel simply refers to Saturn in an
angle, Bonatti gives a specific interpretation for each angle. Saturn in the first makes the war
more intense for the side of first house. Saturn in the fourth is merely described as less intense
for both sides. Saturn in the seventh affects the adversary in exactly the same way that Saturn in
the first affected the querent or initiator. However, Saturn in the tenth makes the war extremely
intense for both sides, long, hard and cruel. Remember that in most astrological traditions Saturn
is the greater malefic85 and does the most harm if harm is to be done. Again we have much
greater specificity in Bonatti.
There is a good deal more of such material that one could derive from a comparison of
Bonatti and his predecessors which would show us more of Bonatti’s tendencies to systematize,
clarify and augment his sources but I believe that the point has been made for this particular
chapter of Bonatti §VI.2.7.21. Most of the change that we have seen in this chapter has been by
way of augmenting his predecessors, leaving as little to the imagination of the reader as possible.
We had at least one major innovation in the beginning of §VI.2.7.21 in which Bonatti explicitly
distinguishes between a querent who leads an army the field as opposed to a king or other head
of state who has the overall responsibility for taking care of his people.
This chapter has been about the basics of warfare, who wins, who loses, how the war goes, is
peace made, and by what means. In the next two chapters of this work I will present further
evidence that shows how Bonatti introduced change in his treatment of other topics pertaining to
warfare: the size of armies, the causes of war, more details on the meanings of houses in war
charts, what kinds of tools of war, animals, and other resources are to be used and so forth. The
last chapter of textual analysis of this kind, Chapter 10 deals with siege warfare, which it turns
out is a peculiar and distinct subset of military astrology in both Bonatti and his predecessors.
Here again Bonatti will be shown to have added, amended and in this particular case
significantly altered what he received from his predecessors. Consistently throughout we have
seen Bonatti alter the material that he received from his predecessors by adding material from his
own experience, identifying and applying first principles, and making all possible variations as
explicit as possible. In addition Bonatti implicitly86 systematizes their material, making
generalizations from it, and applying the consequences of his generalizations in applications
where his predecessors did not. Mere compilers did not do this; neither did his predecessors.
However, there is a larger issue here. It is clear that Bonatti respected his predecessors, but it
is also clear that he regarded himself as their equal. With Bonatti European astrology became a
tradition equal to, even if derived from, the Arab tradition. In this respect Bonatti may be
compared to the practitioners of other disciplines that Europe acquired from the Arabs. Once
having learned Arabic science and philosophy thoroughly, Europe took its own path. Bonatti
exemplifies this in astrology.
I say “implicitly” because Bonatti’s emphasis is on practice not theory. He does not for the most part expound
on theory.
Chapter 9. Shorter Chapters on Warfare, §VI.2.7.22-28.
This chapter discusses Bonatti’s chapters §VI.2.7.22 through 28, his shorter chapters on
warfare. Some of these chapters are completely derivative (mostly from Zahel); the material that
is innovative in the ways that I have been describing can easily be presented in the space of this
one chapter. However, there is also much material that is not derivative, that shows Bonatti as a
practitioner who modified his sources where he saw the need, added new methods where he
found it necessary, and who constantly searched for and applied first principles to extend and
amplify what he had received from his sources. And we continue to see him as a systematizer of
material from his sources. In these chapters Bonatti continues to show that he was not a mere
follower of his sources and that he regarded himself as a master astrologer in a lineage of master
astrologers, the first European of the middle ages to do so.
Bonatti Chapter §VI.2.7.22. Which Side Has More Support.
This is the first of this group of short chapters; it is based on Zahel §7.24, the same chapter
that I discussed in the previous chapter. In Zahel this material does not have its own chapter,
whereas Bonatti gives it one of its own. As usual Bonatti is more “prolix.” But that is not the
only difference. Bonatti, first of all, is also more explicit which helps to account for the prolixity.
Moreover, Bonatti introduces a completely new principle of judging the strength of the two sides
in a military conflict which I have not found in any other source and (unlike his completely
original use of the Lot methodology at the end of §VI.2.7.9), this new method is not introduced
once and then ignored. It is initially described in this chapter, is referred to again in chapter
§VI.2.7.25 and in a variant form involving only the Sun and Moon in chapter §VI.2.7.23. It is
discussed below.
The chapter is divided into two major sections. The first pertains to the title of the chapter,
indications as to which of the two sides has more troops, resources, allies and stamina.1 It begins
as follows.
Bonatti - 9.1: If you wish to know which of the sides signified has more people or is
supported by allies or auxiliary troops, see which of the significators is in its own greater
dignity, to wit, the lord of the first or the lord of the seventh, which better aspects its own
house, which is aspected by more planets,…2
Here is the corresponding passage from Zahel.
Zahel - 9.1: See the quantity of troops and auxiliaries from the aspect of the planets to the
significators and according to the presence of these in their domiciles.3
The main difference between these two passages is that (as usual) Bonatti is much more explicit.
It is in the next line that something different appears.
Bonatti - 9.2: …and which has more planets on its side [of the figure], namely, toward the
Ascendant [side] or toward the seventh [house side] because that side which is [set up]
in this manner will have more troops, allies or auxiliaries.4
What Bonatti is saying here is that regardless of which houses planets are in, the presence of
more planets in the eastern or rising side of the chart (houses 10, 11, 12, 1, 2 and 3) is an
indication of more support as described above for the querent or initiator’s side, and
correspondingly the presence of more planets on the western or setting side of the chart (houses,
4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9) is an indicator of greater support for the adversary’s side. In chapter
§VI.2.7.23, regarding which side will obtain victory, Bonatti makes a similar statement
regarding the Sun and Moon. As the entire chapter is quite short I present the entire chapter.
The second section, discussed below, has nothing to do with the entitled subject of the chapter. It concerns the
conditions of peace and the kind of person who will be involved in the making of peace.
Bonatti §VI.2.7.22, lines 2-5 from “Si quidem volueris scire…” to “…qui aspiciatur a planetis pluribus…”
Zahel §7.24, lines 131-133 from “Et aspice multitudinem militum…” to “… in domibus suis.”
Bonatti §VI.2.7.22, lines 5-7 from “…et qui plures planetas habeat…” to “…seu plures auxiliatores.”
Bonatti - 9.3: In [order to gain] knowledge of victory in war, you should also see which of
the ones who do battle ought to be the victor. You should look at whether the Sun and
Moon are located from the cusp of the tenth house5 to the cusp of the fourth house6 on the
ascendant side, or from the cusp of the fourth house to the cusp of the midheaven on the
setting side. The Sun and Moon should be free and clear [of malefics], fortunate, but also
strong because they will signify victory in war according to the side on which they are
located. If they are located on the Ascendant side, they signify victory for the one who
asks the question or is beginning the action. But if they are on the setting side, they
signify victory for the adversary. However, if the Sun and Moon are unfortunate and
weak, they will signify the contrary because the party on whose side they are located will
succumb [to the other.] 7
While a majority of planets on the rising side of the chart gives more support to the querent, it is
the presence of the Sun and Moon on this side that grants victory, according to this second
passage, assuming that they are both not badly aspected by malefics, i.e., by square or
opposition, and fortunate by sign and house. If all of the latter are not true, or predominantly so,
the presence of the Sun and Moon on one side or the other of the chart is actually a debility.
Then in §VI.2.7.25 entitled “Concerning whether Armies Are Large or Small” the original
statement about the planets on one or the other side of the chart is repeated.
Bonatti - 9.4: …see whether there is a greater number of planets on the occidental side [of
the figure] (that is from the Angle of the Earth up to the tenth house on the setting side)
than on the side of the east (that is, from the angle of the tenth down to the fourth on the
rising side). That signifies in a second way a greater quantity of people on the side of the
adversary. But if the number [of planets] on the rising side [of the figure] is greater that
on the setting side, it signifies a smaller number of people on the side of the adversary
even though for the previously described method the army of the adversary would be
signified as large, and contrariwise for the side of the querent.8
Aside from reversing the emphasis and starting with the adversary, it is exactly the same
principle as in §VI.2.7.22. The idea behind this principle apparently is that as the ascendant
stands for the querent or the initiator of the action and the descendant for the adversary, so the
The midheaven.
The imum caeli.
Bonatti §VI.2.7.23, the entire chapter.
Bonatti §VI.2.7.25, lines 11-17 from “…vide si ex parte occidentis…” to “…et e contra ex parte querentis.”
entire ascending side of the chart, to a lesser degree, is also related the querent or initiator, and
the entire descending side to the adversary. This might seem obvious until one looks at the
meanings of the houses on the eastern and western sides of the chart. For some of the houses this
makes sense; for others it does not. This must be kept in mind as we look at the rest of this
chapter which does in fact deal with the individual significations of the twelve houses, and again
we will see more material on the houses in connection with chapters §VI.2.7.26 and 27. For the
present let me observe that although Bonatti’s principle about the eastern and western
hemispheres of the chart can be inferred from the principles of houses and the overall meanings
of the rising and setting (eastern and western) hemispheres of the chart, it is rather unusual and
had not been used in connection with warfare. This would appear to be a genuine innovation
within the tradition. I cannot say whether it is derived from theory or experience although it is
such a simple principle to apply, it would be obvious in practice if it did not appear to correlate
with actual outcomes. Of course, the experiences even of an astrologer such as Bonatti who was
clearly deeply involved in the practice of astrology for military matters, are not a scientific data
sample in the modern sense. Nevertheless, it is doubtful that he would have held to such a
principle if it did not conform to his experience.
Chapter §VI.2.7.22 has to do with the functions of the succedent9 houses and their roles. The
Zahel and the Bonatti versions are virtually identical and therefore I give just the Zahel version
as it is, as usual, more brief.
Zahel - 9.2: Place the second sign and its lord as significators of the troops of the querent,
and the eighth and its lord as significators of the troops of the enemy, and eleventh sign
and its lord as significators of the auxiliaries and the ministers of the king, but fifth and
its lord as significators of the condition of the city and of those who are in it.10
Houses 2, 5, 8, and 11. See also SUCCEDENT HOUSES in the Glossary.
Zahel §7.24, lines 133-137 from “Et pone signum secundum…” to “…et eorum qui sunt in ea.”
This usage of the succedent houses also is to be found in al-Kindī in the Liber novem iudicum
§7.162, and §7.196 and appears to be part of the standard lore of military astrology. There are
items that are worked out in more detail in Bonatti with respect to Zahel, but they are relatively
minor and I pass over them here.
After this section Bonatti turns to the process of making peace and what kind of person it
will be who becomes involved in this process. There are some interesting differences between
Bonatti and Zahel, even though the structure of the section follows Zahel quite closely. Bonatti
begins as follows:
Bonatti - 9.5: But if you find that they are likely to make peace, look at the planet at that
time to which [the significators of ] the chief commanders or field officers11 of the armies
commit their disposition, and which signifies that person who involves himself regarding
the arrangement and making of peace between them; …12
The Zahel is as follows.
Zahel - 9.3: However, if you know that the two leaders will make peace, look at the planet
which signifies this.13
Zahel is usually more terse than Bonatti but in this case he is also more obscure, and the version
of the same text from Zahel in the Liber novem iudicum, §7.173 is no improvement, saying even
less. Here Zahel says, “look at the planet which signifies this,” and gives no information as to
how to determine that planet. Bonatti is explicit. It is the planet to which the significators of
commanders “commit their disposition,” i.e. the planet to which they are applying. It should be
the same planet in both cases which from earlier material14 is a precondition of a peace without
duces seu productores. The only thing that makes sense here is to take duces as referring to the highest level
leaders of the army, and productores, lit. those who ‘lead forth’, as the commanders in the field at a somewhat lower
level of rank. Otherwise there is no clear distinction between the two terms.
Bonatti §VI.2.7.22, lines 31-34 from “Si vero inveneris quod…” to …pacificando inter eos.”
Zahel §7.24, lines 151-152 from “Cum vero noveris…” to “…aspice planetam qui hoc significat.”
Omar gives an example of this. See p. 200.
one side or the other achieving total victory. I believe that Bonatti’s formulation is more explicit
because he found the doctrine as transmitted by Zahel insufficiently clear so that it would leave
the potential student confused. However, any astrologer from this time who had studied the
subject at length would have known what Zahel meant. Bonatti simply filled in the gaps for the
reader, something he did quite frequently.
Both authors then move on to the issue of what kind of person that may be. Both authors’
descriptions are clearly derived from general planetary types which contain little or no
innovation. Just below I present Bonatti’s version, but here there is one difference between the
two authors that again illustrates Bonatti’s capacity for adding detail, perhaps derived from
theory, perhaps from experience. First we have Zahel.
Zahel - 9.4: If it is in its own domicile, that person who intervenes between them will be one
of themselves.15
Contrast this with Bonatti:
Bonatti - 9.6: … if you wish to know what kind of person he may be, see whether that planet
is in one of its dignities. For if there is a planet which receives the disposition and [the
significator of the] one who involves himself concerning that arranging [of peace] is in
its own domicile, that person will be someone in one of those armies. If the planet is in its
exaltation, he will be someone powerful who is in the army along with the common
people of that land, which he holds in order to rule it. But if the planet is in its own term,
the man will be someone who has kin in the army, or in one of the armies, who wishes
that nothing bad should happen to them. If the significator is in its own triplicity, he will
be someone having men as his friends or retainers16 who have come into the army at his
request. If the planet is in its own face, he will be a man who has to perform some labor
in the army because of his profession. If the planet is in none of its dignities, he will be a
person who has come from somewhere else, for example, a foreigner or traveler.17
For Zahel only two conditions are noted, a significator in its own domicile, or one that has no
dignity in its position whatsoever, that is, a peregrine planet. Bonatti brings all of the other
Zahel §7.24, lines 153-154 “Si fuerit in domo sua, ille qui ingreditur inter eos erit ex semetipsis…”
auxilatores, yet another possible interpretation.
Bonatti §VI.2.7.22, lines 34-44 from “Si vis scire qualis persona…” to “…tanquam forensis seu viator.”
possible dignities to bear which in addition to domicile include in Bonatti’s order exaltation,
term, triplicity and face before mentioning peregrine. Neither author states what would happen if
said significator is in its detriment or fall but that would probably indicate that the negotiation
would be failure. Also, neither author discusses what would happen if the significator were
combust or retrograde but that is not a problem. Applications of planets to combust or retrograde
planets produces a condition known as the Return of Virtue in Bonatti18 which for our purposes
here means that such an application is to be ignored and the next one made by the applying
planet is taken instead. If that second application is also not valid we once again have a situation
in which there cannot be a negotiated peace. No other author deals with this issue explicitly in
war although the criteria for mediation or judgement in civil conflict may very well have been
applied.19 The remainder of the sections in both authors have to do with the planetary typology
used to describe the negotiator. Bonatti and Zahel’s descriptions are very similar and easily
derived from standard planetary typology; however, I present here the Bonatti version so that it
may be contrasted with the similar description of judges presented in Chapter 7 in Bonatti
passages 7.20-27. Those cannot as easily be derived from planetary typology as the ones below.
Bonatti - 9.7: For if the significator is Saturn, it is apparent that he is an elderly man of low
birth, especially also if Saturn is itself occidental. If Saturn is oriental, the man will be
less elderly. If this significator is Jupiter, it is apparent that he is a man of some age, a
noble and perhaps a bishop, judge or someone like these. However, if it is Mars, he will
be a man who is accustomed to lead armies or who has done so; and perhaps he will one
of the leaders of this same army; also he might be mendacious and one who was once a
highwayman, or otherwise an evildoer. If it is the Sun, he will be a more noble man, one
of those who are fit for kingship, or perhaps he will be a king, or someone who has been
placed in rulership over many peoples. If it is Venus, he will be someone young in age or
only a little learned in wisdom; yet whatever he does, he will do it in good faith not with
any kind of guile. If it is Mercury, he will be a wise and learned man in both innate
See RETURN OF VIRTUE in the Glossary. The equivalent idea in Zahel is more restrictive, but the effect is the
See p.s 198.
intelligence and acquired learning,20 or one who is literate. If it is the Moon, he will be a
man who involves himself in these matters with just impulses and good intentions.21
The next chapter, §VI.2.7.23, “Concerning Knowing Victory in War, Who Will Win,”
contains material that is easily derived from the general material on which side is likely to win
that we have already seen elsewhere22 except for his additional methods involving the eastern or
western hemisphere placement of the Sun and Moon which I discussed above.23 There is no
corresponding chapter in Zahel.
Bonatti Chapter §VI.2.7.24 – What Is the Cause for Which War Has Arisen, and Whether or Not
the Cause Is Just.
On this subject we have material from another author besides Bonatti and Zahel, Haly
Abenragel. To begin with all three authors agree that the planet from which Mars is separating in
the relevant chart indicates the side which began the war, the planet to which Mars applies, the
other side. Haly adds the Moon to this procedure as well, i.e., the planet from which the Moon is
separating and the planet to which the Moon is applying. This latter bit from Haly is inconsistent
with the general practice because in interrogations on war we have already seen that the planet
from which the Moon is separating indicates the querent regardless of who started the war and
planet to which the Moon applies the adversary. In an election or inception that ambiguity would
not exist because the initiator of the action is always the Ascendant and the planet from which
the Moon separates. In any case in this first section Bonatti and Zahel are the same. Note that
“tam sensu naturali quam accidentali.” A literal translation would not have been clear here. Sensu naturali is
clear enough. Accidentali implies that circumstances have ensured that he would be wise in ways that he has
acquired on top of his innate intelligence.
Bonatti §VI.2.7.22, lines 46-57 from “Nam si fuerit Saturnus…” to “…bona voluntate intromittit se de his.”
See Chap. 7, p. 211.
See p. 268
Bonatti cites Zahel.
Zahel - 9.5: If you wish to have the knowledge of the cause by which war has been aroused,
look at Mars because the planet from which Mars is separating signifies the one who
begins the war. The planet to which Mars is being joined signifies the adversary.24
Bonatti - 9.8: If someone at sometime asks (as is likely to happen often), or otherwise you
wish to say to someone for what cause a war arose, Zahel said that you should look at
Mars because he is by nature the significator of wars, and all wars are assigned to him (as
will be described elsewhere). And [you should] see from which planet Mars separates, or
which planet is separating from Mars. From that planet you will perceive the one who
begins the war; and from that planet to which Mars is joining or which is joining to Mars
you will perceive [other side’s] enemy or adversary.25
Haly Abenragel - 9.1: If you wish to know whence the cause of a quarrel and conflict arose
and was set in motion, look at Mars or at the planet from which Mars has separated, or
the planet from which the Moon has separated, because that planet will be the significator
of the cause of the quarrel and the conflict.26
However, at this point Haly diverges from the others in that Bonatti and Zahel next give the
indications that show which side (if either) side is fighting for a just cause and which is not. Haly
moves directly onto the matter of nature of the cause of the conflict not the justness of the cause.
Bonatti and Zahel have the same thing to say about which side has the just cause. I quote only
Bonatti here as the differences between the two authors are only clarifications on Bonatti’s part.
Bonatti - 9.9: If Mars is separating from fortunes or they are separating from him, and Mars
is joining to a malefic or a malefic is joining to him, it signifies that the querent or the
one who begins the action stirs himself to begin the war because of a just cause, and that
he himself has justice and truth [on his side], and the adversary has the contrary of these.
But if Mars is separated from malefics, or they from him, and is joining to a fortune, it
signifies that the querent or one who begins the action stirs himself unjustly and does not
have the truth [on his side], and the adversary does defend justice and truth. And if Mars
has separated from fortunes and is joining to fortunes, it signifies that each side cherishes
a just cause. This rarely happens! If however Mars has separated from malefics and is
joining to malefics, it signifies that both strive against justice and against truth.27
Zahel §7.24, lines 181-184 from “Scientiam vero cause…” to “…significat aduersarium.”
Bonatti §VI.2.7.24, lines 3-9 from “Si queserit aliquis aliquando…” to “… inimicum sive adversarium.”
Haly Abenragel §II.42.2, lines 128-133 from “Et si volueris scire…”to “…causa rixe ac litis.”
Bonatti §VI.2.7.24, lines 9-17 from “Si separatur a fortunis…” to “…et contra veritatem.”
Then all three authors take up the issue of the cause of the war. While their methods are similar,
there are divergences. In Zahel the cause of the war is signified by the house Mars is in. In
Bonatti, as is typical, the method is a bit more complicated and in this instance not very clearly
described. As I show in the text that follows, sometimes he seems to believe with Zahel that
Mars is the key with Zahel, but he also uses the house of a malefic which may be connected to
Mars by application or separation as in the passage just above. Where Haly, in the text given
above does not address the matter of which side has the more just cause, Zahel and Bonatti use
Mars to describe the justness of each side and examine both the applying and separating aspect
of Mars; the Moon is not mentioned at all. This places Zahel and Bonatti in one methodological
camp and Haly in another. However, they clearly come from related traditions. I make note of
this here because once again we have an indication that Bonatti did not have or use Haly as one a
source for this material. Rather, Haly and Bonatti both stem from Zahel. This is not to say that
Haly did not have other sources as well. He clearly did, but he does not appear to be one of
Bonatti’s sources.28
At this point all three authors begin a house by house listing of the location of the significator
(or significators) of the causes of the war as determined by their three somewhat varying
methods. I give the text for each author house by house.
First House:
Zahel - 9.6: …there will be war because of provisions and food.29
Haly Abenragel - 9.2: …it will be because of provisions and food.30
Bonatti - 9.10: …the war arose because of envy which one side will have with respect to the
A “Haly” is frequently mentioned in Tractatus VII on elections. but it is clear from comparisons that the Haly
in question is Haly Emrani. See p. 145, n. 62.
Zahel §7.24, line 187 “…erit bellum causa victus.”
Haly Abenragel §II.42.2, lines 135-136 “…erit occasione victus.”
other, or perhaps one side wished to steal some of the other’s side’s provisions.31
Second House:
Zahel - 9.7: …it will be for the sake of substance.32
Haly Abenragel - 9.3: …because of substance.33
Bonatti - 9.11: …because one side wanted to steal goods, substance or money from the
Third House:
Zahel - 9.8: …it will be for the sake of faith and religion.35
Haly Abenragel - 9.4: …it will be because of talking boastfully of one’s self concerning
family, because he says that his offspring is better than another’s.36
Bonatti - 9.12: …[a]party on one side has done injury to the brother of a party on the other
side, and for that reason the war has arisen, or, perhaps because a party of one side said
that the other side was not orthodox in religion.37
Fourth House:
Zahel - 9.9: …it will be for the sake of land.38
Haly Abenragel - 9.5: …it will be because of an old, hidden, matter.39
Bonatti - 9.13: …because of a city or castle which a party of one side had taken or wished to
take from the other, or perhaps a party of one side wished to take away a house, land,
field, inheritance, vineyard, from the other side, or because a party of one side injured
the father of the party of the other side.40
Fifth House:
Zahel - 9.10: …it also signifies that the war will be for the sake of substance and that there
will be kinship between the leaders and perhaps they will make peace; or there will be
war for the sake of a woman or a city and especially if you find the Moon joined to
Mercury, then there will be war out of love for the sake of a city to which they set out
Bonatti §VI.2.7.24, lines 19-20 from “bellum surrexit causa invidie…” to “…de suis victualibus.” Bonatti’s
addition also follows logically from astrological theory but he is the only one to state this explicitly.
Zahel §7.24, line 187 “…causa substantie.” The word substantia is generally used to indicate money and
moveable possessions.
Haly Abenragel §II.42.2, line 146 “…occasione substantie.”
Bonatti §VI.2.7.24, lines 21-22 from“… quia unus volebat auferre…” to “…substantiam suam seu pecuniam.”
Zahel §7.24, line 189 “… causa fidei et religionis.”
Haly Abenragel §II.42.2, lines 140-141 from “…pro iactando se de progenie…” to “…melioris prolis quam
Bonatti §VI.2.7.24, lines 21-22 from “…unus leserit fratrem alterius…” to “…non esse catholicum.” In
medieval astrology the ninth house signified orthodox religion while the third house signified sects and heresies. The
added reference to a sibling is another example of Bonatti amplifying on the basis of theory.
Zahel §7.24, lines 189-190 “…erit causa terre.”
Haly Abenragel §II.42.2, lines 132-133 “…occasione antique rei celate.”
Bonatti §VI.2.7.24, lines 24-26 from “…causa civitatis vel castri…” to “…vel quod leserit patrem eius.”
Bonatti’s description is completely different from the other two but is again based on astrological theory.
desiring to take possession of it.41
Haly Abenragel - 9.6: …it will be because of villages and buildings…42
Bonatti - 9.14: …the cause was due to the son of one of side whom a party of the other side
injured, or it will be because of a woman, or because of a wanton affair, or because the
paternal goods [of a party of one of the sides] and especially immoveable property.43
Sixth House:
Zahel - 9.11: …there will be war because of something feeble or weak and there will be
much killing and wounding.44
Haly Abenragel - 9.7: …it will be regarding a question of blows and wounds, and a strong
Bonatti - 9.15: …because of a serving man or woman, or because of small animals taken
away by one side from the other, or it will be as if there were almost no cause at all or for
something because of which there should not have been a war.46
Seventh House:
Zahel - 9.12: …it will be because of an ancient hostility, the querent will not be seeking
Haly Abenragel - 9.8: …it will be caused by enmity and because one side wishes to avenge
Bonatti - 9.16: …for the sake of a woman who has been stolen away, or who has been
harmed or angered, especially a wife or concubine, or it will be in order to take revenge
for some evil deed.49
Eighth House:
Zahel - 9.13: …it will be because of an ancient search for bloodshed. But if the Moon aspects
the lord of the midheaven, this will be because of the substance of the king and the
killing will be multiplied in both populations.50
Haly Abenragel - 9.9: …it will be because of income from dead persons or some very old
Bonatti - 9.17: …for the sake of some old matter because of which blood has been shed; or it
will be because of an inheritance from a dead person who was not very closely connected
to either of the sides.52
Zahel §7.24, lines 190-194 from “…significat etiam quod bellum…” to “…volentes accipere eam.”
Haly Abenragel §II.42.2, lines 145-146 “…occasione villarum vel edificiorum.”
Bonatti §VI.2.7.24, lines 26-29 from “…quod sit causa filii…” to “…et maxime immobilium.”
Zahel §7.24, lines 195-196 “…erit bellum causa rei debilis, et erit multa interfectio vel vulneratio.”
Haly Abenragel §II.42.2, lines 141-142 “…pro questione percussionum et vulnerum ac inimicitie firme.”
Bonatti §VI.2.7.24, lines 32-33 from “…causa servi vel ancille…” to “non deberet esse guerra.”
Zahel §7.24, lines 195-196 “…erit causa antique inimicitie, et non querit substantiam.”
Haly Abenragel §II.42.2, lines 136-137 “…erit occasione inimicitie, et quia vult se vindicare.”
Bonatti §VI.2.7.24, lines 34-35 from “…causa mulieris ablate…” to “…vindicte alicuius maleficii.”
Zahel §7.24, lines 197-200 from “… erit causa rei antique…” to “…interfectio in utrisque populis.”
Haly Abenragel §II.42.2, lines 147-148 “…erit in occasione redituum mortuorum rei antique.”
Bonatti §VI.2.7.24, lines 36-37 from “…causa rei antiquate…” to “…multum attinebat alicui eorum.”
Ninth House:
Zahel - 9.14: …it will be for the sake of faith.53
Haly Abenragel - 9.10: …it will be because of law, or departing from the law, or because of
not obeying the law.54
Bonatti - 9.18: …for the sake of religion or because of some religious,55 or because one side
wishes to convert the other so that the other will follow and revere [the belief] that the
first side follows.56
Tenth House:
Zahel - 9.15: If the Moon is in the midheaven and it has been joined to Mars by the square or
opposition aspect, or it is in one sign with Mars, there will be war for the honor or
magnification of the king or for the seeking of a kingship.57
Haly Abenragel - 9.11: …the cause of that quarrel will be on account of a kingdom and
Bonatti - 9.19: …for the sake of a king and his honor, and to increase his domain. If the
Moon is in the tenth at the time and is bodily joined to Mars or aspects Mars from the
square or opposition aspect, it will make the war greater and there will be much killing
on both sides.59
Eleventh House:
Zahel - 9.16: …there will be war for the sake of friends, or for those who are less than a
Haly Abenragel - 9.12: … it will be because of friends, brothers, and children.61
Bonatti - 9.20: …because of friends or it will be for the defense of a king’s substance or of
his allies.62
Twelfth House:
Zahel - 9.17: …there will be war because of an ancient hostility, but there will not [actually]
be a war because Mars in the twelfth does not signify war as it is cadent from the angle,
for they will hear and obey him who sets out to them [to make peace] if God wills it.63
Haly Abenragel - 9.13: …it will be the same thing [as the sixth house] except that it will be
Zahel §7.24, line 200 “… causa fidei.”
Haly Abenragel §II.42.2, lines 138-139 “…occasione legis aut pro exeundo a lege vel pro non obediendo
religiosi. This is in the technical sense of the word ‘religious’ as a noun indicating a member of the clergy,
secular or regular.
Bonatti §VI.2.7.24, lines 38-39 from “…causa religionis vel alicuius religiosi…” to “…quod ipse reveretur.”
Note that Bonatti and Zahel are roughly the same but Haly is quite different.
Zahel §7.24, lines 200-203 from “Et si luna fuerit in medio celi…” to “…et inquisitione regni.”
Haly Abenragel §II.42.2, lines 134-135 “…causa illius rixe erit propter regnum vel dominium.”
Bonatti §VI.2.7.24, lines 40-43 from “…causa regis et eius honoris…” to “…erit interfectio multa hincinde.”
Zahel §7.24, lines 203-204 “…erit pro amicis et pro his qui sunt minores rege.”
Haly Abenragel §II.42.2, lines 144-145 “…occasione amicorum vel fratrum aut filiorum.”
Bonatti §VI.2.7.24, lines 43-44 from “…causa amicorum…” to “… sive auxiliatorum eius.”
Zahel §7.24, lines 204-207 from “…erit bellum causa inimicitie antiqui…” to “…si deus voluerit.”
stronger and more lasting.64
Bonatti - 9.21: …the war will be because of an old hostility and ill will between the [two]
sides or between the leaders of the armies. But yet although there is war for that reason,
the sides will not do battle with each other in all out war, and will easily settle [the
dispute] if there are some who would wish to involve themselves in settling the dispute
between the two sides.65
Haly adds at the end of his section:
Haly Abenragel - 9.14: Likewise, you will know the cause of a conflict from the nature of the
triplicity from which Mars has separated, and the nature of the triplicity from which the
Moon has separated, by its form and place. Also, a separation is stronger when it is from a
[bodily] conjunction.66
A general pattern which we have seen before is that often Bonatti has more to say about each
house. On the first and second houses he does not. The first of the houses on which he expands
somewhat is the third. Zahel, oddly enough, concentrates on the third house as one of the houses
of religion. While that is one of the third house significations, it is not usually the one most
emphasized. Bonatti adds brothers, which is the most common chief signification of the third
house. As to religious orthodoxy, Zahel does not mention it here but in his introduction on the
third house he refers to the “contentions among sects.”67 It is not clear what the logic is behind
Haly’s text but it does seem to be derived from the usual descriptions of the significations of the
third house.
Bonatti’s description for the fourth is an excellent example of Bonatti taking the bare bones
statement of Zahel and fleshing out the details. On the fifth house one should note the
considerable differences among all three. Bonatti’s interpretation is more orthodox in its use of
astrological theory in that he treats the fifth house as a house of offspring, love affairs, and as the
Haly Abenragel §II.42.2, lines 143-144 “…illud idem, excepto quod firmius erit ac durabilius.”
Bonatti §VI.2.7.24, lines 45-47 from “…erit causa inimicitie antiquate…” to “…de componendo inter eos.”
Haly Abenragel §II.42.2, lines 148-151 from “Scies similiter causam litis…” to “…fuerit de coniunctione.”
“et contentiones in sectis.”– Zahel Omnibus ed. of 1493, fol. 122v.
second house from the fourth, the house of the father’s property. Clearly Bonatti disagreed with
Zahel here, whether for theoretical or experiential reasons is not clear. Haly’s interpretation
clearly comes from another source. On the sixth house there is again at least an apparent
disagreement, however, a war starting for almost no reason is quite consistent with “ancient
hostility.” Bonatti's reference to small animals, probably livestock, is a common signification of
the sixth house. Serving men and women are also a signification of this house.68 Bonatti is
amplifying the received interpretation of the house as a cause of war according to what is
generally believed to be the signification of the house insofar as these significations are relevant
to warfare. The seventh is a house of women (from the male point of view) so Bonatti adds that
signification. On the eighth house, the comment about “an inheritance from a dead person who
was not very closely connected to either of the sides,” is hard to explain on the basis of either
tradition or first principles. The eighth house is commonly a house of inheritance and the issue of
the closeness of the relationship of the dead person is usually not an issue.69 Bonatti’s
interpretation for the ninth house follows quite reasonably from the usual signification of the
ninth house as a house of religion and religious.
In the case of the tenth house, Zahel does not actually give a signification to the tenth house
as a cause of war in general. He just mentions the placement of the Moon in the midheaven
joined to Mars. Bonatti fleshes it out with a general reference to wars because of kingship. In this
he agrees with Haly but his description follows quite logically from the significations of the
tenth house and kingship. However, Bonatti’s reinterpretation of Zahel’s treatment of the Moon
In Tractatus II in his description of the sixth house Bonatti has the following: Et dicit adila quod significat
famulos et bestias que non equitantur. – Bonatti, Ratdolt ed. , fol. 32r.
Et dixit alchabitius quod significat almaverith id est omne quod hereditatur ex mortuis scilicet tam
extraneorum quam coiunctorum quod debent heredes post mortem eorum possidere. – Bonatti, Ratdolt ed., fol. 33r.
in this situation suggests that Bonatti had had an experience in accord with his interpretation, one
that did not agree with Zahel’s. Bonatti’s description for the eleventh house brings in the military
characterization of the eleventh house as the house of the king’s substance and his allies.70 In the
case of the twelfth house Bonatti adheres quite closely to Zahel’s description and both are quite
different from Haly’s. This entire section, however, reveals Bonatti’s willingness to correct,
amend and depart from the interpretations of his predecessors. Again Bonatti is shown here to be
active participant in the development of the tradition, not merely a passive transmitter of
received doctrine, and definitely not a mere compiler.
Bonatti Chapter §VI.2.7.25. Concerning whether Armies Are Large or Small.
I have already discussed this chapter above concerning the principle of the counting the
number of planets on the eastern and western sides of the chart. However, the first part of this
chapter uses another technique altogether which is clearly derived from Zahel. Here is the Zahel
text followed by Bonatti.
Zahel - 9.18: If you are asked whether an army is great or small, take the number of signs
from the Moon to Mercury which are between them. If the signs are even in number, the
army will be large, but if they are odd in number, the army will be small.71
Bonatti - 9.22: If perhaps at some point one of the leaders of armies [involved in a conflict] is
doubtful concerning [the size of] the army of his adversary, and wishes to know from you
whether the adversary’s army is large or small, and you wish to examine this question for
him, look at the place of the Moon and likewise Mercury with respect to their signs and
degrees at that time [of the question].72 Subtract the place of the Moon from the place of
Mercury and see how many signs remain for you. If the number of signs is even, the
army will be large, and the more signs remain after the subtraction the larger the army
will be. If the number of signs is odd, the army will be small, and the fewer the signs, the
For a passage from Omar which describes this general use of the eleventh house See p. 224.
Zahel §7.25, lines 2-5 from “Et si interrogatus fueris…” to “…erit exercitus parvus.”
Unlike many of the descriptions given in this section, this has to be a question rather than the chart of
commencing an action, i.e., an election.
smaller the army will be. But if the position of Mercury is not great enough that you can
subtract the place of the Moon from it, add twelve signs to the place of Mercury, and then
subtract the position of the Moon from that of Mercury just as has been described.
Aside from clarifying certain points of the calculation, Bonatti does add something to Zahel’s
terse description. Zahel uses only the odd or even number of signs as an indicator. Bonatti uses
the number of signs as well. An even number for both indicates that the adversary’s army is
large. Bonatti adds that the more signs there are between the two planets, the larger that army
will be. Similarly, Zahel indicates that an odd number is a sign of a small army. Bonatti likewise
adds that the smaller that number of signs, the smaller the enemy army will be.
Haly has a similar technique but the method of measuring the arc between the Moon and
Mercury is quite different. Here is the Haly text.
Haly Abenragel - 9.15: If you [wish to] know about the smallness or largeness of the number
of an army from the number [of signs] which exists between the Moon and Mercury,
because if there are many signs and [they are signs] of long ascension,73 there will be
many troops, and if a small number of signs and signs of short ascension, the troops will
be few. And when the signs are [signs] of many children,74 it signifies that the troops will
be many.75
In Haly the even or odd number of signs is not mentioned. It is the number of signs themselves
that indicates the result combined with whether the signs are of long or short ascension. The
main principle that Haly’s technique has in common with Zahel and Bonatti is the use of the arc
from the Moon to Mercury but they are otherwise quite different. Bonatti has certainly innovated
here and so it may be has Haly. Interestingly there is another reference to the use of the MoonMercury arc in the Liber novem iudicum in a passage from Omar, Liber novem iudicum, §7.169.
It is a lot called the Part of Concord. In the Omar text it is not clear how one is supposed to use
Presumably this would be final sign, but Haly does not clarify this point.
Haly Abenragel, §II.42, lines 81-88 from “Et si scies multitudinem…” to “…significat quod militia erit
the lot.
Omar - 9.1: a certain Part which has the name of Concord will be consulted in this place. We
bid [you] to take the Part from the degree of the Moon to [the degree of] Mercury. Then
when the addition has been made of the degree of the Ascendant, when you begin from
the ascendant, it winds its way to the place of the Part at the prescribed termination point.
This lot calculation does not appear to have anything to do with the size of an army. It is about
the making of peace. Also, in the calculation of lots the number of signs or degrees between the
two planets that compose the lot (along with the ascendant)is not relevant. The location of the
degree of the lot is the primary concern. In Bonatti and the others, the number of signs or
degrees between the Moon and Mercury is the critical variable and the position of a lot is not
involved at all. So the use of the Moon and Mercury in the Lot of Concord and their use in
Bonatti and the others is different, the first being about the possibility of peace, the second about
the size and strength of an army and the method of Bonatti and the others has nothing to do with
calculation of a lot. The only thing that Omar’s lot has in common with Bonatti et al. is that it
involves the Moon and Mercury.76 In addition there is no textual evidence that the Lot of
Concord has anything to do with texts from Bonatti, Zahel and Haly. Everything else suggests
Bonatti Chapters §VI.2.7.26 and §VI.2.7.27.
Chapter §VI.2.7.26, entitled “How to Have Knowledge of All of the Implements and Other
Things That Pertain to War,” is completely derived from Zahel §7.26 which is the last chapter on
war in Zahel’s book on interrogations. Bonatti cites Zahel all the way through it. It does not need
In the literature of lots it is not uncommon to find within a single work or in the works of different authors
different significations given to lots composed out of the same planetary pairs. For examples, see Al-Biruni, Book of
Instruction, 283-296; Abu Ma‘shar, Abbreviation, 70-83; Al Qabisi, Warburg ed., 140-155.
discussion. But because it is the foundation of the material in the next chapter, I have placed here
the shorter and more terse version of the house significations from Zahel §7.26.
Zahel - 9.18: After this look in this chapter in all matters regarding war because this chapter
is general for all matters of war, that is, you should know that the Ascendant is the
significator for those who begin the war, its cause, what it might be that incites that war
and whether the querent undertook the war with truth or deceit.
And the second sign from the Ascendant signifies whether there may be war or not
and whether it will be for gain or loss.
The third from the Ascendant signifies arms and what kind they are and for which
kinds of arms will there be victory or gain and what kinds of arms are not necessary in
this particular war.
The fourth from the Ascendant signifies the place in which the war will take place,
namely, whether it will be flat or mountainous, or if it may be on the shore of a great or
small sea, or next to a river, or if there are in the same place trees which bear fruit or a
The fifth from the Ascendant signifies the honesty and facility of the troops as well as
their lack of chastity, also their boldness or laziness.
The sixth from the Ascendant signifies the animals of the troops and what they are,
that is, whether they are horses, asses, mules, or camels.
The seventh signifies the enemy and the work of Almagenia, that is, the work of the
instruments with which they project stones and whether they are [made] with cleverness
and ingenuity, or contrariwise.
And the eighth signifies blows, taking prisoners, death, also the breaking of things,
and the flight of the conquered.
The ninth signifies the work of scouts, and the knowledge of the affairs of the enemy,
his rumors and plots.
The tenth from the Ascendant signifies the habit and action of the supreme leader and
of the rest of the leaders who are under his command.
The eleventh signifies ordering and arranging of the troops, how their battle array and
close order is, how they advance and what kind of order [they have] in the presence of an
And the twelfth signifies the city and those who are besieged and captured in the city.
Therefore look at these twelve places and the places of their lords and the aspect of
those planets which aspect each one of the houses, namely whether they are malefics or
benefics, those planets which are also in the houses, whether fortunes or infortunes,
which one aspects the lord of each house, whether fortunes or infortunes.77
In his next chapter, §VI.2.7.27 Bonatti expands the rather brief statement in the last
paragraph of the Zahel chapter just above. Bonatti’s chapter is entitled “How You Should Look
Zahel §7.25, lines 5-33 from “Post hoc aspice in universis rebus…” to “…uniuscuiusque domus ex ipsis
fortunis et malis.”
At the Significations of the Twelve Houses.” It is a grand summation of all of the material that
has been scattered through the texts on warfare with additional matter. It also elucidates
principles that have been used throughout Bonatti’s text as well as those of authors that we have
discussed in this work. Because this chapter exemplifies the different ways in which Bonatti
altered and rationalized the tradition he received, it is worth examining in detail. The chapter
introduction is as follows.
Bonatti - 9.23: Although many of the matters in this chapter which pertain to the making of
war or conflict may have been described previously, nevertheless, I will speak further
about certain things which are useful, which it seems to me should not be omitted. Nor
should you believe that I wish to contradict statements which have been made previously.
For if you examine what has been said properly, understand them properly, and also
understand those things which will be described [here], you will find no contradiction.
From this, if you discriminate among the times correctly, those matters which must be in
agreement will properly be in agreement. Therefore, when you look at all of the houses
as described, and you wish to know what is signified by each of the houses, for the
querent or the one beginning the action look at all of the houses according to the order
written below beginning from the first house. [However,] for the enemy look at the
seventh house and make that house the first house of the enemy, and make the eighth
house [from the first] the enemy’s second, and make the ninth house [from the first] his
third, make the tenth house his fourth, make the eleventh his fifth, make the twelfth his
sixth, make the first his seventh, make the second his eighth, make the third his ninth,
make the fourth his tenth, make the fifth his eleventh, and make the sixth his twelfth.78
This paragraph makes explicit a system which has been implicit throughout all of our material on
warfare. It is well known in all traditions of astrology, Greek, Indian, Persian-Arabic and
European up to this day in virtually every application of astrology. The practice is still referred
to and employed in modern astrology but it does not have a satisfactory name.79 Claude Dariot,
an early modern French astrologer refers to the practice. After describing the basic significations
of the houses, he goes on to say the following:
Bonatti §VI.2.7.27, lines 3-15 from “Licet dicta sint superius…” to “…sextam fac eius duodecimam.”
It is referred to colloquially among astrologers as “turning the wheel” or “turning the chart” but that is not a
very descriptive term. See Patricia Dunn, Horary Astrology Re-Examined, 54.
These significations [of the houses] are not only gathered, beginning at the Ascendant
(that is, in a horary Question), but [they] also take the beginning at every house, whereby
it comes to pass that the other houses have more divers and infinite significations.80
Dariot also does not give a name to this principle. However, it is not difficult to create one for
my purposes here. The primary significations of each house as counted from the first house or
ascendant can be considered as their absolute significations. The significations derived from
their relationship to the other houses can be termed relative significations. Also without giving
the practice a name, Bonatti has stated that for the querent or initiator of the action one uses the
absolute significations. For the adversary one uses the significations of each house relative to the
seventh house. Then he advises us that everything he says about each house is correct for the
querent or initiator as given but for the adversary one must count the house positions relative to
the seventh in order to use the very same significations for the adversary. This is relative house
signification. The following table illustrates the principle for the first house (querent/initiator)
and the seventh house (adversary).
Absolute House
for the Querent/Initiator is for the Adversary
the First
the Second
the Third
the Fourth
the Fifth
the Sixth
the Seventh
the Eighth
the Ninth
the Tenth
the Eleventh
the Twelfth
the Seventh
the Eighth
the Ninth
the Tenth
the Ninth
the Twelfth
the First
the Second
the Third
the Fourth
the Fifth
the Sixth
Claude Dariot, Dariotus Redivivus: Or a Brief Introduction Conducing to the Judgement of the Stars, Etc.
Fabian Wither trans. (London: Andrew Kemb, 1653). 75. This is a seventeenth-century edition of the sixteenth
century translation with spelling modified accordingly.
After making this principle clear81 Bonatti continues with the first house for the querent, the
seventh house for the adversary.
Bonatti - 9.24: Then see whether there is a malefic in the first house or one that aspects the
first house from the square or opposition aspect. [If so,] it signifies that the querent will
not well employ those things which must be employed for what is done in war, nor will
he be sufficiently solicitous concerning those things. This could be the reason why it will
not go well for him in war unless that malefic is the [domicile] lord of the Ascendant, or
at least [the lord] of its exaltation. It also signifies that the querent, or the one who
begins the battle, may not have a just cause but rather the contrary. However, if there is a
fortune in the first or a fortune aspects from the trine or sextile, it signifies good; a
malefic signifies the contrary.82
This paragraph on the first house follows quite logically from Zahel’s last paragraph. Bonatti
does state explicitly something that Zahel does not. A malefic in the first or any other house is
not harmful if it is in its domicile or exaltation in that house. This is consistent with general
astrological principles but Bonatti clearly saw the need to make this explicit in this instance. He
goes on to the second house.
Bonatti - 9.25: If there is a malefic in the second which is not the [domicile] lord of the
second house nor of its exaltation, or a malefic aspects the house from the square or
opposition aspect, it signifies that there will not be war and if there is, it will be to the
detriment of the querent and not to his advantage. However, if there is a fortune in that
place or the aspect of one as has been described with respect to the first house, it signifies
that there will be war and, if there is, it will be to the advantage of the querent.83
A modern reader may be surprised to discover that a fortunate planet in or aspecting the second
house is an indication of war, a successful one if it is in good condition. An unfortunate planet
may actually indicate that there will be no war. The goodness or badness of a significator is
relative to the intention of the querent or initiator of the action. Now we have the third house.
Bonatti - 9.26: However, if there is a malefic in the third house, and it is Mars, and he is in
This could have been introduced much earlier in the discussion of the astrology of warfare but it is difficult to
criticize when one realizes the other authors never did it at all. They simply went ahead and applied the principle.
Bonatti §VI.2.7.27, lines 15-23 from “Deinde aspice si fuerit malus…” to “Malus significat contrarium.”
Bonatti §VI.2.7.27, lines 23-27 from “Si fuerit malus in secunda…” to “…erit cum utilitate querentis.”
good condition, there will be the necessary military armaments in that war. You should
say the same thing if Jupiter is there, [and] it will be necessary for the querent to use
these arms if he wishes to prevail. If Mars is in bad condition, it signifies that the arms
which will be employed on his side will be the arms of thieves, highwaymen, and men
who are not steady and who will be of no use to him.84
Here is an exception which needs to be stated explicitly, Mars, an “unfortunate” planet is the
natural significator of war. Therefore, it is not bad to have Mars in a house if the house is
appropriate to some aspect of military activity and Mars is dignified. If Mars is not dignified, it
is bad for the side in question.85
In the fourth house a malefic planet is not a good indication whether dignified or not.
Bonatti - 9.27: However, if there is a malefic in the fourth or an aspect of the aforesaid
malefic, it signifies that the place of the war will be incommodious and unsuitable for the
querent’s side if it is a level place; if the place is mountainous, the mountains will be
rough, inhospitable and covered with woods. If the place is near the water, it will be
swampy and muddy, and badly suited for battling.86
The material on the fifth house is a bit puzzling because throughout these chapters the querent’s
troops have been signified by the second house from the ascendant. Here we find something
different. This may be one of the apparent contradictions that Bonatti referred to at the beginning
of the chapter.
Bonatti - 9.28: Moreover, if there is a fortune in the fifth house or an aspect of the aforesaid
fortune, or if Mars is in that place and is in good condition, it signifies that the soldiers
and allies of the querent will be excellent in quality, bold, will advance properly and be
well suited for doing battle. [on the other hand] if there is a malefic in that place or the
aspect of one, or Mars [is there] and is itself in bad condition, it signifies that the troops
will be worthless, lazy, reluctant to advance, slow and ill suited to do battle.87
Here again a dignified Mars is useful. However, I have no resolution to the apparent
contradiction. Next comes the sixth house.
Bonatti §VI.2.7.27, lines 27-32 from “Si vero fuerit malus…” to “…nec erunt sibi utilia.”
Depending on whether it is the absolute third house or the third relative to the seventh.
Bonatti §VI.2.7.27, lines 32-36 from “Si autem fuerit malus in quarta…” to “…et male aptus ad preliandum.”
Bonatti §VI.2.7.27, lines 36-41 from “Si autem fuerit in quinta…” to “…et mali apti ad preliandum.”
Bonatti - 9.29: If either a fortune or the aspect of one, or the Dragon’s Head, is in the sixth
house, the animals that will be used for the battle will be horses of great worth; likewise,
if Mars is in that place and is in good condition, the horses will be fierce, hardy, and
impatient. If there is a malefic there, and especially if it is Saturn, the horses will be
worthless, nags and other [kinds of] old horses, and mostly having little valor. Also in
place will be donkeys and camels, if it is a region in which there are camels. If the
Dragon’s Tail is in that place, there will be mules and other animals which are worthless
and not well suited for doing battle.88
Here it is interesting to see that Bonatti gives specific indications for the Dragon’s Head, Mars,
Saturn and the Dragon’s Tail. There is nothing of the sort in Zahel. Now we come to the seventh
house. Recall the seventh house is the adversary’s house. What Bonatti has to say here is from
the point of view of the querent or initiator of the action, that is, Bonatti describes the absolute
signification of the seventh house.
Bonatti - 9.30: And if there is a fortune or the aspect of one in the seventh house, it signifies
that there will be machines with stones are projected, and these will be useful and well
perform the purpose for which they will have been assigned. It also signifies benefit for
the enemy. If there is a malefic or its aspect in that place, it signifies the bad quality of
the aforesaid instruments, and that for the most part one will strive to do battle with
cunning, deception, and treachery. It also signifies the vile nature of the enemy.89
It appears that what is good for the instruments of war may not entirely be in the interests of the
querent or initiator. Next we come to the very important eighth house, important because of its
signification of death.
Bonatti - 9.31: If, however, there is a fortune in the eighth house, it signifies that few major
blows [given] and little mortality [will] follow as a result of that battle, and that wounds
will not be very serious, nor does much taking of prisoners result from it, and there will
neither great defeats nor a rout. But if there is a malefic in that place, and especially if it
is Saturn, and Saturn is retrograde, it signifies many major, dangerous blows, much
killing, the taking of prisoners and destruction.90
This material is consistent with what has been presented in previous chapters about malefics in
Bonatti §VI.2.7.27, lines 42-47 from “Si fuerit in sexta…” to “…bellando et non bene assueta.”
Bonatti §VI.2.7.27, lines 47-53 from “Si autem fuerit fortuna in septima…” to “…etiam vilitatem inimici.”
Bonatti §VI.2.7.27, lines 53-57 from “Si quidem fuerit fortuna…” to “…et captionem et confractionem.”
the eighth. The ninth house is relevant to the use of military astrology as a method of gaining
Bonatti - 9.32: If there is a fortune in the ninth house or the aspect of one, it signifies that the
enemy is well situated and that he may have hope from rumors which he has [heard] and
that these rumors may be useful to him. [It also signifies] that he may be a cunning man
and that he may strive to deceive the querent if he can.91
Now we move on to the tenth house.
Bonatti - 9.33: If there is a fortune in the tenth house, or the aspect of one, it signifies that the
querent, or a senior officer or captain of the querent’s army is shrewd and learned in
matters of such kinds as pertain to battle and [so are] others to whom is entrusted
something of those matters which pertain to battle. But if there is a malefic in that place,
it signifies that the querent, his principal commander or the senior officer of his army,
and other leaders of the army to whom has been entrusted some aspect of the concerns of
army, may be all, or for the greater part, men unsuited to such employments.92
In this house malefics do not appear to be very useful. Then comes the eleventh house.
Bonatti - 9.34: But if there is a fortune in the eleventh, it signifies that the querent or leaders
of the army are men of discernment who well know how to order their battle lines and
lead them forth to battle, and that they will know how to go against enemies or
adversaries properly, and how to do everything properly which pertains to these matters.
But if there is a malefic or the aspect of one in this place, it signifies that leader of the
army may be ignorant, undiscerning, and will not know how to order his lines of battle,
nor how to lead them forth to battle, nor how to do those things which pertain to the
leading of an army, even though he may be otherwise a man of good intention.93
The eleventh house is another house which has no use for malefics whether dignified or not.
Then comes the twelfth and last house.
Bonatti - 9.35: If there is a fortune in the twelfth house, it signifies that those who are in a
city or in another country which is being besieged are well set up and suited for
defending themselves, and that they are of one accord, properly strengthened, and seem
to fear nothing. But if there is a malefic or the aspect of one in that place, it signifies that
they are poorly set up, that they are not suitably prepared for defense, that they are not in
accord with each other, and that they are timid and sorely afraid.94
Bonatti §VI.2.7.27, lines 58-61 from “Si autem fuerit fortuna in nona…” to “…decipere querentem si poterit.”
Bonatti §VI.2.7.27, lines 61-67 from “Si autem fuerit in decima…” to “…sint inepti ad talia exercenda.”
Bonatti §VI.2.7.27, lines 67-73 from “Si vero fuerit in undecima…” to “…esse bone voluntatis.”
Bonatti §VI.2.7.27, lines 74-78 from “Si quidem fuerit in duodecima…” to “…quod sint timidi expaventes.”
There is an apparent contradiction here that Bonatti’s does resolve in §VI.2.7.29 which is the
subject of the next chapter of this work. However, Bonatti does not end here. He has a final
statement to make about the Head and Tail in the twelfth house. He concludes his entry on the
twelfth house with the following.
Bonatti - 9.36: Now you must not forget one particular thing which I have told you, because
even though I have not found it in the sayings of the philosophers, yet I have found it
proven by experience. One must always fear betrayal when Mars is in the twelfth house,
and virtually the same thing can be said of the Dragon’s Tail.95
This last comment on the twelfth house appears to be a genuine innovation on Bonatti’s part
which he clearly states is derived from experience.96
The last section of Bonatti’s chapter §VI.2.7.27 has to do with what happens if the
significators of the two sides are in nearly the same condition of effectiveness.
Bonatti - 9.37: But you should know this, that if you find the significators of the armies,
namely, the lord of the first and the lord of the seventh equally strong and well disposed,
or equally weak and badly disposed, then this signifies victory for the side of that one
who begins the battle unless the combust hours97 mentioned previously should operate
against this. If one significator is well disposed and the other badly, and the one whose
significator is well-disposed initiates battle, he will obtain victory. But if the one whose
significator is badly disposed initiates battle, he will succumb even if otherwise they are
equally strong in all matters.98
Bonatti concludes by saying that the side whose significators are well-placed will defeat the side
whose significators are not.
The last shorter chapter §VI.2.7.28 – “Whether or Not There Will Be a Battle Between
Armies,” deals with material already discussed at the beginning of §VI.2.7.21; the only thing
Bonatti §VI.2.7.27, lines 79-82 from “Nec obliviscaris unum…” to “…dici de Cauda.”
The next part of the chapter is simply a summation once more of the principle of relative house analysis as
described at the beginning of chapter §VI.2.7.27. We need not examine it again.
Hours during the lunar month that are unfavorable for taking action. See COMBUST HOURS in the Glossary.
Bonatti §VI.2.7.27, lines 94-100 from “Sed debes hoc scire…” to “…alias fuerint in omnibus equaliter
that this chapter adds is an example chart, which I have placed in the appendix with a
commentary in my “Introduction to Medieval Astrology.”
Throughout the chapters of Bonatti’s work covered in this chapter we have seen examples at
every turn of Bonatti’s working with the tradition; however, much of the material is not to be
found anywhere in earlier authors. Some of it is derived simply by working out the implications
of first principles. We have, for example, the passage on identifying the quality of a mediator
from the exact mode of essential dignity possessed by that planet.99 The entirety of Bonatti’s
chapter §VI.2.7.27 translated in the passages designated as 9.23 to 9.35 is a particularly good
example of how Bonatti extends the tradition by the explicit and more complete working out of
first principles augmented by his own experiences. Also some of his additions in these chapters
appear to be genuine innovation with the tradition, for example, the east-west hemisphere
emphasis of the passage 9.4.100
My purpose in pointing to all of these changes, amendments, expansions and innovations
within the tradition made by Bonatti is not necessarily that these had a lasting influence upon the
practice of military astrology. In most of the cases presented here the genuine innovations do not
seem to have been passed along much like the lot calculation presented at the end of Chapter 7.
Let me say again that the purpose of all of this is to show how astrology is changed by the
actions of a practitioner, and that such changes can be used to indicate what an astrologer
actually did in his practice. However, in the next chapter we will examine at length a
fundamental alteration of the tradition whose consequences for astrological method can be traced
down to the nineteenth century, a time when the medieval and early modern flowering of
See p. 271.
See p. 268
astrology was long past. Yet even then the influence of his innovation remained.
Chapter 10. The Astrology of Siege Craft.
This chapter deals with Tractatus VI, chapter §VI.7.2.29, Bonatti’s final material on
interrogations regarding war. I have devoted an entire chapter to the discussion of this one text
for two reasons. First, his revision of the doctrine of the astrology of siege craft is important as it
changes the assignments of the houses and significators, and second, there is little evidence of
any of the previous work in this area having had much of an impact on Bonatti.
Bonatti begins this chapter with the following statement.
Bonatti - 10.1: Among astrologers the ancient ones did not give much attention to this matter,
which astounds me because this issue is one which comes up very often, but perhaps it is
possible that they did not give much attention to it because they considered it an easy
matter, and reckoned that anyone should know how to do it, and for this reason they did
not care to speak about it. Yet I will add something here for you.1
This statement seems strange because in fact there is a good deal of material on the astrology of
siege craft prior to Bonatti, most of it in the Liber novem iudicum, the largest portion of which is
from al-Kindī. Indeed, al-Kindī has more detail and substance on the subject of siege warfare
than any other author, including Bonatti. One would expect that if al-Kindī were a major source
for Bonatti on the subject of the astrology of siege craft, Bonatti would not have written such a
statement and his material would closely resemble al-Kindī’s. As we shall see, it does not.
Haly Abenragel also has much to say on the subject. However, despite the existence of this
earlier material, Bonatti’s interjection is true, that he “will add something here…” His material
on the astrology of siege craft departs significantly from all other authors on the subject, and
does so primarily in the all-important area of assigning the houses to the principals in a siege and
Bonatti §VI.2.7.29, lines 2-6 from “Antiqui astrologorum non multum curaverunt…” to “…aliquid hic tibi
thereby the assigning the significators, the lords of those houses, as well. I would recall to the
reader’s mind that the task of assigning the querent or the one initiating the action, and the
quesited to the proper houses is the most critical part of analyzing a question or an election. So
let us look at Bonatti’s to see what they had to say on the subject.
The first passage is from the Liber novem iudicum and is attributed to Omar, Liber novem
iudicum section §7.188. The chapter is entitled “On the Status of a Besieged City.”
Omar - 10.1: With a city that is under siege it is mainly necessary to take note of the
significator, to wit, the lord of the midheaven, and its sign, for Mars occupying that sign,
strong, oriental, and in any of its dignities, [the attacker]2 enters the city by the sword
with the consent of the citizens.3
The passage goes on to describe how various other conditions of Mars may affect the outcome
for a besieged city. The passage does not state the negative, i.e., what would indicate that a city
will not be or is not under siege, but it is implied that Mars’ not having anything to do with the
sign of the lord of the midheaven would be such a sign. In this particular text Omar does not
follow the normal logic of the astrology of warfare according to which one would look at the
first house for the attacker and the seventh house for the opposition, i.e., the people in the city, or
if the querent were from the city, the other way around. The emphasis in Omar’s text is on the
tenth house and the sign of its lord. As we shall see, this is not completely unusual in astrological
lore concerning sieges. In this area of inquiry the logic does not always seem to follow the usual
In any matter, and in any kind of astrology, the fourth house is the place that signifies home,
The supplied noun, congressor, is explicitly indicated by the last sentence in this paragraph. The logic is as
follows. The querent, who is presumably the attacker, is the first and the side being attacked is the seventh. The
home of the side attacked is the fourth from the seventh, i.e. the tenth. This is again explicitly shown in the last
sentence where the attackers’s own city is indicated by the fourth.
Omar, Liber novem iudicum §7.188, lines 2-5 from “Urbis equidem obsesse…” to “…gladio civium tamen
assensu ingreditur.”
country, residence, and one’s land.4 Using the common principle of taking houses relative to
other houses, the opponent’s home, country, residence and land or city, would be the tenth
house. So Omar’s logic is consistent with the normal first house and seventh house polarity if
one assumes that the question is taken from the point of view of an attacker. Following the same
logic, if the question were taken from the point of view of an occupant of a besieged city, the
city would be the fourth house. A difficulty with this passage as well as other passages on this
subject, is that it is not entirely clear from whose point of view the question is taken. Is the
querent an attacker, a defender, or some other third party who might have an interest in the
The next passage is also from the Liber novem iudicum section §7.189 and is again from
Omar. The question is as follows: “Whether [a City] Is to Be Taken by Surrender or War.”
Omar - 10.2: Furthermore, if there is an undecided question concerning a city which is to be
taken by storm, if war is imminent, the ascendant, the Moon and their lords watch over
the city.5
Here we have a different situation; the besieged city is assigned to the ascendant, the Moon and
their lords. The question as to whom the querent or initiator of the action may be is not even
raised. Here again the logic that we have seen previously would require that the querent or
initiator is someone connected with the city, not the attacker. Omar does not clarify this point at
Our next passage is again from the Liber novem iudicum section §7.198, “On Storming
Castles” and is attributed to Dorotheus. This, as one can see immediately, is completely different
from the above.
See Introduction to Medieval Astrology on Houses beginning on p. 350.
Omar, Liber novem iudicum section §7.189, lines 2-4 from “Amplius si de qualibet urbe…” to “…dominus
urbem tueantur.”
Dorotheus - 10.1: If a question is presented about attacking any castle, strong angles6 preside
over the besieged town. If malevolent stars enter into them, or stand within them, an
entry [into the castle] by means of war is destined. Fortunate stars in the same position
bring about peace. Likewise, if infortunes7 possess8 the angles, a surrender will be
arranged with the assent of the citizens.9
Clearly the entire chart refers to the city, the angles being the most important part of a chart. No
differentiation is made among the four angles as to which one signifies which party. From the
point of view of any astrologer or scholar of the subject trying to find a consistent
methodological approach this is no help.
Al-Kindī weighs in here with a very clear and simple statement. This is from section §7.190
of the Liber novem iudicum entitled “On the Besieging of Cities.”
al-Kindī - 10.1: For the question as to whether enemies may come who will besiege a city,
consult the Ascendant.10
The fact that al-Kindī identifies enemies in this sentence as someone other than one asking the
question makes it clear that the querent is someone from the city. Presumably, if it were an
enemy, the question would be referred to the descendant. But this is not explicitly stated.
Our next passage is from Haly Abenragel section §II.44, “On [the Matter] of Laying Siege to
and Capturing Towns, and What their Conditions Will Be.”
Haly Abenragel - 10.1: When a question is asked of you for any city or castle, whether or not
it will be besieged, or if it will be besieged, whether it will be taken or not, and if it will
be taken, whether [it will be] by peaceful means or violence, and if the citizens will be
given assurances, and whether they will be firm in that security, or if afterwards betrayal
The Latin is cardines firmati. It does not appear that firmati has any reference to the fixed signs. It simply
means ‘strong’.
‘Infortune’ is a term of art in astrology that signifies a malefic planet. See BENEFIC AND MALEFIC PLANETS in
the Glossary. The English word is commonly used in seventh-century English astrology and corresponds to the Latin
possideant. Usually this means ‘occupy’ rather than ‘rule’, but that contingency has already been provided for.
Therefore this time it must mean ‘rule’.
Dorotheus, Liber novem iudicum section §7.198, lines 2-6 from “Si de castro quolibet expugnando inquisicio
detur…” to “…civium assensu fiet dedicio.”
al-Kindī, Liber novem iudicum §7.190, lines “Questioni utrum hostes urbem…” to “…ascendens consulit.”
will happen to them. If you know the ascendant of the city, and the place of the Sun in
regard to the ascendant, and of the other planets, work according to this, and according to
the firmness of the fortunes and infortunes in that figure, and their applications and
movements. If you do not know this, and you know the nativity of their king, or the
beginning when he gained rulership over that city, work according to this because if the
significator of the king is damaged, the state of that city will be harmed and it will be
Also, if you do not know [any of these figures], compute the ascendant at the time of
a question, and give the ascendant and the Moon to the city.11
Clearly Haly Abenragel prefers to answer such a question by means other than interrogations. He
first asks for the chart of the city. This amounts to an application to a question of the method of
nativities. However very few cities have now or had then a known nativity. Baghdad was a
singular exception.12 Second, Haly asks for the nativity of the king or ruler or the date and time
of either his coronation or beginning of his rule. Here again the apparatus of nativities could be
employed. Finally if all else fails, one may ask a question and if so, then the ascendant and the
Moon belong to the city. Here Haly resembles al-Kindī and follows the mainstream of such
interrogations, assuming, of course once again that the querent is on the side of the city and not
of the attacker. In the example from Haly which I discuss below, Haly does show that he
understands this because in the chart of a besieged city which he discusses in his next chapter,
the city is signified by the seventh house because the question is from the point of view of the
Finally we turn to Zahel, Bonatti’s chief source. Here is all Zahel has to say in section §7.25.
Zahel - 10.1: And the twelfth signifies the city and those who are besieged and captured in
the city.13
This is imbedded in his general material on interrogations regarding warfare and has already
Haly Abenragel §II.44, lines 3-21 from “Quando a te quesitum fuerit…” to “…da ascendens et Lunam
See p. 135.
Zahel §7.25, lines 28-29 “Et duodecimum significat civitatem et eos qui obsidentur et expugnantur in ea.”
been referred to in Chapter 9.14 This is the only mention of sieges in Zahel. This would explain
Bonatti’s comment above regarding how little information was to be found about siege warfare
in his predecessors if Zahel were his only source. I do not know whether or not this constitutes
positive evidence that Bonatti was unaware of the Liber novem iudicum and its contents but it is
suggestive. If this were true, then almost all of the differences between two would represent
genuine originality in Bonatti in the places where he does not explicitly cite other sources. I am
not prepared to go quite that far, however, because there are other places where Bonatti appears
to have been influenced either by the Liber novem iudicum or some other unacknowledged
source or sources of the Liber novem iudicum. As I show below, Bonatti clearly disagreed with
Zahel on this matter, but went to some pains to show that it was more of an apparent
disagreement than a substantial one.
In what I have shown so far it is clear why Bonatti would be forced to come to his own
conclusions, however much he may have studied his predecessors. Even if he knew about the
older writings on the subject, his predecessors had not arrived at either consensus or clarity on
this subject. This required Bonatti to examine both his experience and his understanding of first
principles and to create his own method. Here again a compiler would not have done this. Let us
now resume the discussion of Bonatti’s chapter on the astrology of siege, section §VI.7.29.
Directly after the opening comment where he promises to show the reader something new
Bonatti refers to an unknown source whom he cites twice in this section, once as Zodyal and
later in the Ratdolt edition as Zodial.15 He states, “However, Zodyal [also] said something about
this, the purpose of which I have not completely perceived.” Then he proceeds with the main
See p. 284.
This divergence in spelling could of course be a copyist error at some point. I have used the ‘Zodyal’ spelling
in both instances in the translation.
business at hand. I quote in full because not only is what he has to say completely different from
any of the authors quoted above, but also because he is aware of that fact and explains his
difference of opinion.
Bonatti - 10.2: Whence if someone asks about a city or a castle which has been besieged, or
is to be besieged, whether or not it may be captured by that siege, look at the first house
which is the house of the querent, and the fourth house which signifies the besieged city
or castle even though perhaps some moderns have said that the tenth house signifies the
city. They were moved [to do so] for this reason, that the fourth house signifies the land
of the querent by the same logic that the tenth house signifies the land of the enemy. In so
doing they did not make any distinction between the land or inheritance of estates [on
one hand], and a city or castle [on the other]. But it seems to me that we should give the
fourth house to the city or castle because the fourth house signifies the inheritance, lands
and houses of the querent; the tenth house signifies his honor and [there is] no honor
greater than to rule16 [and] there is no disgrace greater than being deposed from one’s
dominion. For this reason if the tenth house signifies the honor of the querent (which is
signified more by a city or castle than by other kinds of wealth), it is necessary that the
fourth house signify the honor of the enemy which is the opposite of the honor of the
querent. So it seems that the fourth house signifies a city or castle of an enemy.17
Assigning the first house to the querent is perfectly reasonable and consistent with tradition:
however, as we see below, this is because Bonatti takes the point of view of an attacker as
querent, not someone concerned with or from the besieged city. Then he assigns the besieged
city or castle to the fourth house. This is completely at odds with the tradition. None of the other
authors have done this. He then refers to “some moderns18 who have said that the tenth house
signifies the city.” The only source for this I have found is Omar in Liber novem iudicum §7.188
cited above. He argues that this view is incorrect because the possession of a city or castle
concerns something beyond one’s property or real estate such as a home or a farm might be.
Being the ruler of a city or castle is an honor, one which in the European middle ages determined
The logic here is that a siege is not about the possession of lands or a city but about the possession of rulership
over these.
Bonatti §VI.2.7.29, lines 7-20 from “Unde si fuerit facta tibi questio…” to “…civitatem vel castrum inimici.”
Whom he does not specify.
one’s social status. As we have it in Zahel, the tenth house “…signifies the king and kingship,
elevation in rank and command, glory…” The possession of a city or castle gave these to a
medieval noble or monarch; the loss of a city or a castle threatened social rank. Therefore, since
the querent was signified by the first house, the querent’s rank or status by the tenth house, and
the enemy by the seventh house, the rank or status of the enemy would be signified by the fourth
house! It is not clear that such elaborate reasoning could have been arrived at only by the logic
of astrology. It looks much the like the kind of post facto reasoning that might have followed
upon actual experience in the course of sieges. In other words, at some point, I conjecture,
Bonatti may have found that the only way he could make sense out of what happened in a prior
interrogation on a siege was to adopt this reasoning. As mentioned in Chapter 519 we know that
Bonatti was personally involved in sieges at Forlì and Lucca, and in his career with Ezzelino da
Romano it is likely that he was involved in others. Bonatti uses the siege at Lucca later in this
chapter as a case study. Below I compare Bonatti’s analysis of that chart to one that Haly
Abenragel gives in his work. In any case Bonatti concludes that in a siege, if the attacker asks
the question, the city or castle under siege is signified by the fourth house.
Before that, however, he seems to have felt a desire not to be seen to be seen contradicting
Bonatti - 10.3: You should not believe this to be the contrary of that which Zahel himself
says, for he seems to wish to say that the twelfth house signifies the besieged city or
castle. But his intention was [to speak] in regard to a city against which there is an army,
with no siege involving a pitched camp around it [the city], but [rather] the city is entered
by enemy forces [coming] violently into its area of control and [he spoke] in regard to the
In the section entitled, “Guido Bonatti’s Life and Its Relationship to the Astrology of Warfare” beginning on
p. 147.
defenders of the city or castle itself [not the city as such, itself].20
This rationalization is plausible given the fact that this statement by Zahel was the only reference
to a siege in his writings on interrogation and even in this instance sieges were not the topic
under discussion. The twelfth house does in fact refer to imprisonment both literally or
Then Bonatti gets to the issue of telling from the chart whether the city or castle will fall,
using the first house and its lord, and the fourth house and its lord for the significators of the
attacker or querent and the city respectively.
Bonatti - 10.4: Wherefore, if you find the lord of the first strong and fortunate or you find it
joined with the lord of the fourth house in the first house, or with the Moon, or in the
tenth house, or even in the eleventh house or in any other place which is not unfortunate
(as would be the twelfth, eighth, or sixth houses), such that the lord of the first receives
the lord of the fourth, or even if the Moon receives the lord of the fourth (even if the Lord
of the fourth does not receive it), this signifies the winning of the city and its being
Aside from his use of the first and fourth houses and their lords for the querent and besieged city
or castle respectively, all of this is the normal treatment of significators. Just as in wars and
lawsuits, it is bad for the ruler of one side to be in the house of the other side. Here, if the lord of
the fourth (rather than the usual lord of the seventh) were in the first, it would be bad for the
besieged city or castle (the quesited). It is also helpful in the usual manner of significators if the
querent’s significator is in a good house rather than a difficult one and also if, while in that
place, it receives the lord of the fourth.
Bonatti §VI.2.7.29, lines 21-25 from “Nec tamen credas hoc contrarium…” to “…seu castri defensoribus.” In
other words, Bonatti argues that Zahel did not refer to the medieval style of lengthy siege but rather to the sudden
overwhelming of a city occurring without a siege.
“Duodecima domus est cadens ab ascendente nec aspicit eum. Significat inimicos … carceres ac bestias.”
“The twelfth house is cadent from the ascendant and does not aspect it. It signifies enemies, … prisons, and beasts.”
Zahel, Omnibus ed. of 1493, fol. 123r.
Bonatti §VI.2.7.29, lines 25-29 from “Unde si tu inveneris dominum…” to “…significat adeptionem civitatis
et eius captionem.”
Bonatti - 10.5: It is likewise if the lord of the fourth house is located in evil places which do
not aspect its own house (except, if you will, if the lord of the seventh house is in the
fourth because then it signifies that city will be held [against the siege]). If the lord of the
fourth is with infortunes and impeded, it likewise signifies the capture of the city or
castle. Also, if there are infortunes in the fourth house without any of the fortunes, or
without the praiseworthy aspect of one, it signifies the capture of the city or castle. You
should say the same thing if the Tail of Dragon is in the fourth because it signifies loss
and evacuation.23
Here Bonatti continues with indications that the city would fall. There is nothing here that is
especially unusual once one substitutes the ruler of the fourth for the ruler of the seventh to stand
for the quesited. However, there is one consideration which Bonatti reiterates here, that proves to
be decisive in the matter of the chart of a besieged castle. It is in the first sentence of the above
paragraph where he refers to the lord of the fourth not aspecting the fourth house. It is always
difficult, according to Bonatti, if the lord of a house does not make an aspect to its own house.
Bonatti - 10.6: But if none of the things that I have described to you are present, see whether
the lord of the fourth house is in the fourth strong or fortunate, such that it is not
retrograde, not combust, and not besieged by infortunes, or [see] whether the lord of the
seventh house is in the fourth free from malefics and other impediments, or [see] whether
Jupiter, Venus, the Sun, or the Dragon’s Head is in the fourth and the lord of the first
house does not receive the lord of the fourth nor does the lord of the first impede it. This
signifies that the castle or city will not be captured by [the besieging] army, especially if
the lord of the first is impeded while not having dignity in its place, even if one of the
infortunes is in the fourth, so long as there is a fortune present in the house which comes
to the cusp of the angle of the fourth house before the infortune [and] especially if the
lord of the first house is weak as I have described.24
Now we have indications that should be present if the city is not to fall. Again most of these are
not very unusual given the substitution of the fourth house lord for the seventh house lord.
However, I have put in italics the portions that are of special interest, not so much for their
originality, but either for the way they elucidate the logic of Bonatti’s method or for their
Bonatti §VI.2.7.29, lines 29-34 from “Similiter si fuerit dominus quarte…” to “…amissionem et
Bonatti §VI.2.7.29, lines 35-43 from “Si autem non fuerit aliquid…” to “…dominus prime fuerit debilis sicut
relevance to the sample chart which he gives near the end of this chapter. The first of these
passages is a reference to the seventh house lord. If that lord is in the fourth house, it is a good
indication. The logic behind this is that the seventh house and its lord are still, even for Bonatti,
the indicators of the enemy, just not the castle or city. If the lord of the seventh is in the fourth it
strengthens the possession of the city or castle (fourth house) by the enemy (seventh house).
Also note the mention of the presence of the Dragon’s Head in the fourth as a sign that the city
will not fall, and the passage that allows a malefic to be in the fourth house as long as there is a
benefic “which comes to the cusp” before the malefic, which simply means that the benefic is
closer to the cusp. The reference here is to the clockwise rotation of the diurnal motion (primum
mobile), not the movement of the planets in the zodiac. Bonatti continues:
Bonatti - 10.7: However, if there is a fortune in that fourth house, and the lord of the first is
strong and fortunate, and itself aspects the fourth, or the Moon does so, this signifies the
taking of the city or castle. If, however, the lord of the first does not aspect [the fourth] or
is impeded, it signifies that the side of the querent, because of ineptitude or lack of
vigor,25 will stand off from doing those things by which besieged castles are taken. So
from the attackers’ negligence and ineptitude the castle which was besieged will remain
[untaken] when it could have been taken.26
The interesting passage here is what happens if the lord of the first does not aspect the fourth
house. We will see that it does so in the case of the example chart but it does no good for the
querent in this case for reasons I explain below.
Returning to Zodyal,27 whoever he may have been, his method of assigning the significators
is one we have already seen.
Bonatti - 10.8: But Zodyal has said that the Ascendant and its lord must be examined for the
querent, but the seventh house and its lord for the city or castle. He also said that
vilitatem et pigriciam.
Bonatti §VI.2.7.29, lines 43-48 from “Si vero fuerit ibi aliqua fortuna…” to “…castrum obsessum cum posset
Spelled Zodial here.
whichever of these is badly disposed, retrograde, or in its fall [the side signified] by that
significator will be overcome. If the lord of the Ascendant enters the seventh house and
the lord of the seventh house gives power to it,28 the city or castle will be taken. If the
angles are joined to both fortunate and unfortunate planets, good judgments will come to
both sides, namely, [both] to the city and to the attacking side. Also, one must always
consider the Moon whether she is fortunate or unfortunate. If she is on the rising side [of
the figure] in the tenth house to the beginning of the fourth, the good judgment will come
for the querent, if in the other half [of the figure] the good judgement will come for the
The use of the ascendant and the Moon is found in Omar, passage Liber novem iudicum §7.189,
and Haly Abenragel, passage §II.44, and the ascendant is also referred to (without mention of the
Moon) in al-Kindī, Liber novem iudicum passage §7.190, all cited above. I have not found the
matter of the effect of the Moon in the rising or setting half of the chart which Bonatti refers to
anywhere but here.30 This may be a peculiarity of Zodyal’s method.
Finally, we come to the chart [Fig. 2]
given as the example referred to above. It is
a chart that Bonatti erected for a question
Fig. 2 – An Example of a Siege Question
The phrase is dat ei vim. It is not clear what this means in this context especially since generally a significator
in the house of the other side is a bad indication for that significator’s side.
Bonatti §VI.2.7.29, lines 48-56 from “Zodial vero dixit Ascendens…” to “…reliquo medio, suffragia venient
Note the similarity to material mentioned in the previous chapter regarding which side will win the war.
involving a siege.31 This is the second of two charts related to the battle between Count Guido
Novello and the Lucchesi. Bonatti’s account begins thus:
Bonatti - 10.9: This is an example. When the aforementioned count was in a siege of a certain
castle of the county of Lucca, he asked whether he was going to take it.32
In Bonatti’s text a listing of the planets and houses, house by house followed this chart. Fig. 2 is
redrawn for readability using Bonatti’s positions from the original figure in the Ratdolt edition.
In the following table I list the positions as given by Bonatti and as contained in the chart.
The Houses.
Asc. 2` Sagittarius
20` Pisces
Des. 2` Gemini
10th 20` Pisces
(c), 2nd 7`
(n), 5th 14`
(d), 8th 7`
(n) 11th 14`
Capricorn (v), 3rd 10`
(a), 6th 11`
Cancer (f), 9th 10`
(z) 12th 11`
The Planets.
11` Aries
6` Scorpio
23` Libra
23` Libra
2` Libra
Capricorn (v)
Gemini (d)
After listing the positions Bonatti continues:
Bonatti - 10.10: Therefore, Jupiter which was in the 16th degree of Capricorn aspecting the
fourth house signified the taking of the castle, especially because Jupiter was itself the
lord of the first and also was the lord of the fourth house, and with one and the same
planet being the lord of the first and fourth, it seemed that the castle ought to be had by
means of an agreement provided that those things which had to be done for the taking of
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 computations. While no planetary calculation
routines can be considered completely precise this far back 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. Using this software the best fit for this date is for approximately 9:35 AM Local Mean Time,
October 11 1261 for Lucca Italy. Because this chart is for Bonatti’s own time and presumably erected by Bonatti
himself, there is no problem with the zodiac in use. See the appendix to this chapter for the zodiac problem in dating
the chart presented by Haly Abenragel later in this chapter.
Bonatti §VI.2.7.29, lines 56-57 from “Cuius rei exemplum…” to “…si esset occupaturus illud.”
the city were done first.33
Sagittarius (c) 2E was rising, a sign ruled by Jupiter (y). Therefore Jupiter is the significator
for the querent. The fourth house cusp was Pisces (n) 20E. Jupiter is also the ruler of that sign.
Jupiter was located in 16E of Capricorn (v). It is to the benefit of the querent that the ruler of
the first is in a non-malevolent house which aspects the fourth (“in any other place which is not
unfortunate, as would be the twelfth, eighth, or sixth houses”). Although Jupiter is a fortunate
planet, there is a problem as it is also the ruler of the fourth, which signifies the besieged city,
the quesited. This should also be good for the besieged city. How can one planet benefit both the
querent and the quesited? One way would be for the matter to be resolved by peaceful
agreement. Having the same ruler for both signs apparently has an effect similar to having the
significators for both sides in an aspect to each other.34 It is a potential indicator of peace.
However, Bonatti adds the qualifying remark, “provided that those things which had to be done
for the taking of the city were done first.” The querent’s army could not get any results without
exerting itself. Nonetheless, there were other indications that the querent’s cause was in good
Bonatti - 10.11: Also, the Moon which was in Taurus in her own exaltation signifies the
honor [of victory] for the side of the querent. Mercury, also, which was near the twelfth
house but not yet completely going forth away from it,35 signifies the weakness of the
enemies of the querent…36
Recall that in Bonatti’s explanation the Moon doubles as a representative of the querent and the
Bonatti §VI.2.7.29, lines 67-71 from “Significavit itaque Iupiter…” to “…facienda erant ad capturam eius.”
“[Aspectual connection between] signs in the ecliptic is true for every two signs that are the domiciles of one
planet, such as Aries and Scorpio [that belong] to Mars, Taurus and Libra [that belong] to Venus, Gemini and Virgo
[that belong] to Mercury, Sagittarius and Pisces [that belong] to Jupiter, Capricorn and Aquarius [that belong] to
Saturn.” Ibn Ezra, Beginning of Wisdom, 83. Similar references may be found in Abu Ma‘shar and Alcabitius.
A planet this close to a house boundary or cusps was believed to be still affecting the house to whose cusp it is
still close.
Bonatti §VI.2.7.29, lines 71-73 from “Et Luna que erat in Tauro…” to “…significat debilitatem inimicorum
Moon was moving toward the trine (120E) of Jupiter from Taurus to Capricorn. Also Mercury
(e) at 6E Scorpio (x) was near the cusp of the twelfth house at 11E of the same sign. This was
close enough to still have a twelfth house connection.37 Remember that in Bonatti’s reasoning,
the fourth house signified the besieged city or castle because possessing it was the source of the
honor of the enemy (tenth house from the seventh) and that the enemy is indeed signified by the
seventh house. With Sagittarius (c) rising, Gemini (d) signified the enemy, and Gemini is
ruled by Mercury. Therefore, the ruler of the enemy having an association with an “evil” house
puts the enemy at a disadvantage. But there are problems with this otherwise excellent situation
(for the querent).
Bonatti - 10.12: …however, even though Jupiter seemed to signify the taking of the castle,
because he was in his own fall aspecting the fourth and not the first, and though the
Moon was in her exaltation, nevertheless, she was in the sixth house in a house cadent
from an angle and from the Ascendant,38…
The first problem is that Jupiter, ruling both querent and quesited, was in its fall, Capricorn (v)
being the fall of Jupiter (-4 fortitudes),39 and not very effective. Second, Jupiter in Capricorn
makes a sextile (60E) to Pisces, the sign of the fourth house but does not make one to the rising
sign, Sagittarius.40 Third, the Moon, while dignified in Taurus (+4 fortitudes), was also in the
sixth house from the ascendant which is cadent to both the seventh house and the first. So
whatever value the Moon had from its position in Taurus was not of use to the querent’s efforts.
Bonatti continued as follows:
Compare to Bonatti’s discussion of planets near cusps in connection with an annual revolution for Frederick
II. See p. 149.
Bonatti §VI.2.7.29, lines 74-76 from “…sed, licet Iupiter videtur significare captionem castri…” to “…ab
angulo et ab Ascendente,…” The sixth house, like the twelfth, does not aspect the Ascendant and is therefore
especially difficult.
See FALL and DIGNITIES in the Glossary.
Signs do not aspect the signs to either side of them, nor to the two signs opposite to those adjacent signs. See
Introduction to Medieval Astrology p. 360.
Bonatti - 10.13: …this signified that so great was the ineptitude, lack of vigor, slowness, and
weakness of those men, they did not persist in accomplishing the tasks requisite and
necessary for the city to be taken. For that reason the city was not taken when it should
have been, because although the Dragon’s Head was in the fourth house, yet Saturn was
there near to it such that he was placed at the entrance to the fourth house.41
There is something here which Bonatti does not explain clearly. We have seen elsewhere that the
second house signifies the querent’s or initiator’s troops and those who otherwise give him aid.
We have Jupiter in the second which is good, but it is in its fall which is not good. It is a sign of
the inferior condition of the troops. The ruler of the second house is Saturn at 9E of Aries (a).
Saturn is also in its fall which means that both the planet which is in the second house and the
planet which rules the second the house (the significator of the troops) are in fall. This is why he
saw the danger of incompetent troops. He adds the Dragon’s Head (l) is in the fourth at 2E
Aries (a) (which as a benefic should have helped the defenders of the castle) but that Saturn is
nearby, very near to the cusp of the fifth house (14E Aries) at what seems to be the end of the
fourth. I say “end of the fourth” but in fact the motion of the primum mobile42 is such that Saturn
actually was moved from the fifth into the fourth by the clockwise motion of that sphere. Hence
the weak Saturn actually was “at the entrance to the fourth house.” So the troops signified by the
two weakened planets were likely to remain inactive just outside the city (the fourth house) near
its entrance. Bonatti concludes as follows:
Bonatti §VI.2.7.29, lines 76-80 from “…significavit hoc quod tanta esset vilitas…” to “…ad introitum quarte
The apparent rotation of the heavens (actually the earth) in a twenty-four hour period. The planets are carried
by the primum mobile in a clockwise motion opposite to the order of the houses as numbered. It may seem strange
that the houses are numbered in an order contrary to the way the planets actually are moved through them. Here is
the reason for this apparent inconsistency. Originally the houses were in fact the signs of the zodiac counted from the
rising sign. The rising sign at any given time will be the first sign to completely rise starting at the moment for which
a chart is erected. The second house and sign is the next sign that will pass over the eastern horizon, then the third
house or sign etc. In other words the houses are numbered in the order in which they rise not in the order in which
the planets are carried through them. See Robert Hand, “Signs as Houses (Places) in Ancient Astrology,” Culture
and Cosmos 11, no. 1 and 2 (Autumn/Winter 2007): 135-162.
Bonatti - 10.14: For these reasons I gave a conditional response to the count. I said to him
that so great did the unworthiness of the men seem to me that the castle would stand
rather than be taken. In the end the men were so unworthy and weak so that in no way did
they complete any of those tasks which they were doing in order to take the castle. So the
castle remained virtually unharmed and the army was taken away from the field. Yet had
they stayed arrayed for battle they could have well been able to attack the castle if they
had wished to do the tasks that needed to be done in such situations. Finally, before they
left from the field they consulted me concerning the weather and I found that from the
day of the question up to three days later the weather was due for a great change, and so
it was that they were happy when they turned back [to go] home for it happened that for
the first time in four months it did not rain.43
This case from Bonatti is a brilliant example of the way in which medieval astrology was
supposed to work. The situation on the ground and the arrangement of the planets in the heavens
were supposed to be in as near a perfect parallel to each other as the mind of the astrological
interpreter could see it. For those who might understandably be skeptical of the ability of
medieval astrology and astrologers to do this kind of thing, this is not intended to be an example
of how well astrology actually did work but rather an illustration of how it was intended to work.
More important for the issues of this chapter, however, is this: If Bonatti had not assigned the
fourth house and its rulers to the castle under siege, he would not have been able to derive this
interpretation. If he had used the seventh and its lord for the city, then we would have had
Mercury as the sole significator of the enemy who controlled the city while Jupiter would have
remained the significator of the querent. Of those two Jupiter is a superior planet while Mercury
is an inferior planet. Jupiter, though in fall, was in the second house which is better than the
twelfth with which Mercury which was still connected. With this arrangement of significators,
the querent should have been able to take the city, although probably not easily. The very best
that could be said is that had Bonatti followed the methods of his predecessors, he either would
Bonatti §VI.2.7.29, lines 80-89 from “Unde respondi ei…” to “…quod non pluerat.”
not have been able to make a judgement at all or would have made the wrong one. This is a
superb example of Bonatti basing his astrology on his own, real experience and method rather
than slavishly following his predecessors.
A Siege Chart from Haly Abenragel.
In this section I present an analysis of another example of a siege chart by way of showing
the contrast with Bonatti. This is from Haly Abenragel who followed methods more closely
allied with previous astrologers as shown earlier in this chapter. I present this analysis not only
to demonstrate how an alternate method might have worked but also to show, for reasons that I
will reveal below, how the very example that Haly uses suggests that, unlike Bonatti, Haly was a
compiler (at least in this area of astrology) not a practitioner.
Earlier in this chapter I quoted Haly Abenragel in passage §II.44 as having stated that if you
do not have the chart of the city, or of its ruler then, “compute the ascendant at the time of a
question, and give the ascendant and the Moon to the city.” Presumably the attacker would then
be assigned to the seventh house and its lord. Then in §II.45 he gives a chart as an example. The
positions are given as follows:
Mercury (e)
29E g
22E c Retrograde m44
21E z
9E f
16E g
15E h
3E g
5E b45
I have added the astrological characters for the signs which were not given in the Latin text.
That Saturn is retrograde is implied in the commentary. It is not indicated in the list.
All of the positions here except the ascendant are given in tabular form at the beginning of the chapter.
Haly begins his commentary on the text as follows:
Haly Abenragel -10.2: The ascendant was five degrees of Aquarius. The places of the planets
were as they appear here.46
Before I get to the particulars of his chart analysis I wish to point out the prominent use of the
first person in the text [in italics].
Haly Abenragel -10.3: Therefore, the ascendant and its lord, and also the planet from which
the Moon [would have] separated I gave to the enemy…47
Haly Abenragel - 10.4: …the Moon in this matter had not separated from any planet48
because of which we did not mention her in this judgement.49
As presented it appears that this is an example drawn directly from his own experience. Also,
note that he gives the ascendant and the Moon to the attacker here, not to the city as he states in
the previous chapter.50 However, there is a problem. Using modern software, I searched to find
dates in which these positions or something close to them would have occurred.51 The program
returned a span between July 28 and August 28, 782 C.E. As stated in Chapter 5, Haly died no
earlier than 1040 C.E. If I have dated the chart correctly then Haly could not possibly be the
original source of the chart. He clearly derived it from an earlier source which he does not
acknowledge.52 There is also another more significant clue that the chart does not date from his
own time.
In the siege chart that I have just shown, Bonatti not only gives all of the planetary positions
and the ascendant, he also gives the midheaven and the other house cusps. From his listing one
Haly Abenragel §II.45, lines 11-12 “Fuit Ascendens Aquarius quinque gradus.”
Haly Abenragel §II.45, lines 13-14 “Ascendens igitur et eius dominum ac planetam a quo separatur Luna
dedi inimico…”
Because the Moon was near the beginning of the sign.
Haly Abenragel §II.45, lines 20-22 from “…Luna in hoc…” to “…non nominavimus eam in hoc iudicio.”
Haly Abenragel §II.44, lines 19-20 “Et si hoc etiam nesciveris, apta ascendens hora interrogationis, et da
ascendens et Lunam civitati.”
See below and the appendix to this chapter for the particulars of the search.
Given that plagiarism as we know it was not an issue for medieval authors, this is not surprising.
could easily reproduce the entire chart even if it had not already been reproduced in the printed
edition. This chart from Haly, by contrast, gives the ascendant but no midheaven nor any of the
other house cusps. This is remarkable in that by the eleventh century it had become common
practice to use the house system that North refers to as the “standard system.”53 Charts surviving
in the works of astrologers contemporaneous with my tentative date of 782 C.E. very commonly
used the signs as houses.54 These include Zahel, Omar, Masha’allah and Abu ‘Ali al-Khayyat.55
But by Haly’s time it is unlikely that he would have used the older system if he had actually been
the astrologer who erected the chart.
Further narrowing down the date I came to August 10 782 C.E. at about 6:15 in the evening
Local Mean Time.56 The particulars of how this date was arrived at are given in an appendix to
this chapter, along with the comparison of Haly’s reported positions with modern calculations
for the date in question. As it turns out the positions given by Haly are quite accurate but not in
the standard zodiac in use in Haly’s day.57
The next pair of illustrations (Figs. 3 and 4) shows two versions of Haly’s chart and
positions. The first is the chart using the signs as houses, the other using the standard system
assuming Tunis as a location.58 In each chart the houses are numbered with roman numerals with
the rising sign or house in the middle left triangle.
See Chap. 2, p. 16, n. 39.
Again see Hand, “Signs as Houses (Places) in Ancient Astrology,” cited earlier in this chapter.
Bonatti early in Tractatus VI gives a chart from Zahel (with attribution) where the original chart as given by
Zahel was clearly one that used the signs as houses or places, but Bonatti not realizing this, attempts to reframe the
chart in terms of the “standard” house system. The result is a definite distortion of Zahel’s original interpretation.
For a discussion of Local Mean Time versus Apparent Solar Time see Glossary under HOUR.
See the appendix to this chapter for a discussion of the zodiac problem.
Changing the location would have some affect on the degrees of the other house cusps and the midheaven but
not enough to vitiate the dating and approximate time.
Fig. 3 – Haly’s Chart with
“Standard System” Houses.
Fig. 4 – Haly’s Chart with Signs as Houses.
Only two planetary house placements are affected by changing the house system. The Moon (w)
changes from the sixth house in the Sign System to the fifth in the Standard System and Mercury
changes from the seventh house in the Sign System to the sixth in the Standard System, although
if one used Bonatti’s criteria, Mercury is so close to the Standard seventh house cusp that one
could regard Mercury as a seventh house planet in both systems. Since Haly is completely silent
about house system issues, at least here, we have no idea what he might have done. Now let us
return to the commentary.
Haly Abenragel - 10.5: Therefore, the ascendant and its lord, and also the planet from which
the Moon [would have] separated I gave to the enemy who went to the besieged city
because the initiative for [asking the] the question was made by him. The seventh and its
lord and also the planet to which the Moon applied [I would have given] to the city.59
Giving the ascendant and its lord to the querent would be standard procedure. However, this
would be only standard procedure if the querent were the attacker or an agent of the attacker.
Haly Abenragel §II.45, lines 13-18 from “Ascendens igitur et eius dominum…” to “…cui applicat Luna
The same also applies to his assignment of the planet from which the Moon had separated to the
querent or attacker. We have seen this before. Similarly the assignment of the seventh house and
its lord as well as the planet to which the Moon is applying to the city, i.e., the querent’s
opponent, is also common practice although not so common in siege warfare as in conflicts on
the battlefield.
Haly Abenragel - 10.6: The Sun was the lord of the seventh in an angle and in his own
domicile applying to Saturn the lord of the ascendant and the Moon in this matter had not
separated from any planet because of which we did not mention her in this judgement.60
Aquarius is rising in the chart, therefore Leo, the domicile of the Sun, is setting. The Sun in Leo
indicates the strength of the Sun as a significator, a fact which Haly notes below. Here, however,
he explains why the Moon is not a factor in his judgement. Following Zahel, Haly does not use
the Moon because the Moon is early in its sign and therefore not separating from one planet and
applying to another within the same sign; in other words the Moon is applying but not
separating. Therefore it should not be used. In what follows I have inserted material in square
brackets that will, I am hopeful, make what comes next easier to follow.
Haly Abenragel - 10.7: Because the lord of the seventh [the Sun] goes to the lord of the
ascendant [Saturn] by trine [four signs, or 120E], which is an aspect of friendship, it is
already something of a signification that peace will come to pass between the two sides,
and that the people of the city will take the initiative to seek for and request the peace.
[This is so] because the Sun is in the angle of the seventh going toward Saturn and
applying to him.61
We have seen before that an application by trine or sextile between the significators of the two
sides is an indication that the two sides would come to peace.62 Also our sources, including Haly,
Haly Abenragel §II.45, lines 18-23 from “Et fuit Sol dominus septime…” to “…quod non nominavimus eam
in hoc iudicio.”
Haly Abenragel §II.45, lines 23-28 from “ Et quia dominus septime vadit…” to “…ad Saturnum et applicans
See Chap. 8, p. 243.
indicate that the more inferior (as in superior and inferior planets) of the two significators has to
make the application63 astrologically speaking and, therefore, the side signified by the faster
planet takes the initiative in making peace.
Now Haly indicates why the querent or attacker actually has very little leverage in this
situation. Saturn, the ruler of Aquarius and the significator of the querent or attacker, is
retrograde. Haly does not say this directly as we shall see.
Haly Abenragel - 10.8: I say likewise that the impediment the side which initiates the
conflict will have, will be on account of his own bad planning because the lord of the
ascendant is unfortunate, either combust or retrograde. [On the other hand] if the lord of
the seventh has this condition, the querent will have success and the one who begins [the
action] will be victorious.64
Haly says that the lord of the ascendant is unfortunate because it is either “combust or
retrograde” almost as if he does not know which. However, Saturn cannot be combust because it
is too far away from the Sun. Saturn is retrograde whenever it is more than approximately 98E
degrees from the Sun in either direction. This is the case here as the Sun is more than 120E from
Saturn although moving towards it.65 Haly then concludes this chapter and his section of
interrogations involving warfare.66
Astrologers generally felt free to use examples from other astrologers’ writings. We have
examples up into the early modern period; they are too numerous to mention. However,
astrologers typically did not do this is if they had personal experience of the matter under
Faster planets always apply to slower planets assuming both are direct.
Haly Abenragel §II.45, lines 28-33 from “Dico similiter quod…” to “…querens prosperitatem habebit et
vincet incipiens.”
In 782 C.E. Saturn ceased its retrograde motion and went direct on about August 29.
The concluding passage of this section (not relevant to our discussion here reads: “It is also bad for a king or a
combatant moving out for the sake of going to a battle, if the lord of the ascendant is in the eighth, or for anyone else
making a journey even if the is a merchant. Also I say that the east is of Saturn, the west is of Mars, the south of
Venus, and the north of Jupiter. Also, [I say] that it is evil and horrible if the Sun is in the ascendant, or joined to the
lord of the seventh unless the ascendant is Aries.”
discussion. For example, William Lilly, the noted seventeenth-century English astrologer,
practiced the kinds of astrology that he describes in Christian Astrology. Out of scores of charts
there is not a single chart in that work which did not arise from his own practice. By contrast,
Johannes Schoener, who wrote about a century before Lilly, made his entire work, De iudiciis
nativitatum libri tres, revolve around the study of one nativity, the nativity of the emperor
Maximilian of Hapsburg, complete with an error in the computation of Mercury which he
appears to have derived from a work by Luca Gaurico.67 Bonatti, however, was like Lilly in this
respect,68 except that he does not have anything like the number of examples that Lilly provides.
In general it was not the custom in the middle ages to include many examples of chart analyses
in texts.
Bonatti’s Influence on Later Astrologers and a Modern Example of Bonatti’s Influence on The
Astrology of Siege Craft.
So there is a question: did Bonatti’s change of method in siege craft have a lasting influence?
Remember that Bonatti departed completely from all previous astrologers in assigning a
besieged city, castle, or fort to the fourth house. Unless an earlier source than Bonatti is found
that followed that same practice, we can safely say that any astrologer after Bonatti who
followed that same practice learned from Bonatti. One such astrologer is the seventeenth-century
English astrologer, William Lilly, who was, like Bonatti a practicing astrologer who went even
beyond him in giving examples from his own practice, and like Bonatti was perfectly willing to
Johannes Schoener, De iudiciis. For Gaurico’s version see Luca Gauricus, Tractatus astrologicus: in quo
agitur de praeteritis multorum hominum accidentibus per proprias eorum genituras ad unguem examinatis (Venice:
Curius Troianus Navo, 1552), fol. 50v.
It is clear that Schoener was perfectly capable of erecting a chart but it does not seem that he was a practicing
make modifications in the material he inherited from his predecessors including Bonatti.69
However, in his introduction to the astrology of siege craft he has the following:
The ascendant and his Lord are for the querent, and those that doe or shall besiege; the fourth
house shall signifie the Towne, City or Fort besieged, or to be besieged, the Lord thereof the
Governour; the fift house, Planets therein, and his Lord, the Ammunition, Souldiery and
Assistants [that the] the Governour and Towne may expect to relive or assist them.70
Here we find exactly the same system as in Bonatti. However, Bonatti’s influence does not end
with Lilly.
Before concluding this chapter, I present an astrological chart from a yet more recent time to
make a point about Bonatti’s revision of the traditional method of assigning the houses in the
chart of a siege, whether an interrogation or an inception. The purpose of this is to show that
Bonatti’s methodological change had a lasting impact. The following example is from a chart
presented in a nineteenth-century textbook by Richard James Morrison (1795-1874) on
interrogations based on Lilly’s earlier work.71 Morrison’s work consisted of a reworking of
Lilly’s rules and methods of interpreting interrogations. He “reworked” Lilly because it had
happened since Lilly’s time, in fact very shortly after his time, that changes occurred in the
This is not the place to do a point by point comparison of Bonatti and Lilly in general, but a quick perusal in
almost any area of interrogations shows that Bonatti was a powerful influence on Lilly. However, in general Lilly
moved in the direction of simplifying Bonatti’s methods in practice. The following passage from Lilly’s
autobiography reveals both his willingness to modify his predecessors and the extent of his daily practice.
When I came to frame the second part thereof, [Christian Astrology] having formerly collected out of many
manuscripts, and exchanged rules with the most able professors I had acquaintance with, in transcribing those
papers for impression, I found, upon a strict inquisition, those rules were, for the most part, defective; so that
once more I had now a difficult labour to correct their deficiency, to new rectify them according to art; and
lastly, considering the multiplicity of daily questions propounded unto me, it was as hard a labour as might be to
transcribe the papers themselves with my own hand.
See William Lilly, William Lilly's History of His Life and Time from the Year 1602, to 1681, 2nd ed. (London: J.
Roberts, 1715), 56.
Lilly, Christian Astrology, 379.
A biography of Morrison is contained in the following work: Patrick Curry, A Confusion of Prophets
(London: Collins and Brown, 1992), 61-108.
practice of English astrology, most notably the use of the house system attributed to Placidus de
Titis72 rather than the “Rational System” introduced to the West by Regiomontanus.73 As Lilly’s
work was not readily available in the nineteenth century, and also because of the change of
house method, Morrison (writing under the pen name Zadkiel) created a simplified version of
Lilly’s work entitled in full An Introduction to Astrology; by William Lilly: Being the Whole of
That Celebrated Author's Rules for the Practice of Horary Astrology, Divested of the
Superstitions of the Seventeenth Century.74
For the most part the book is faithful to Lilly’s methods and the case studies in it are almost
all taken directly from Lilly’s Christian Astrology. One of the exceptions, however, is his case
study of the siege of Antwerp which took place in November of 1832. The chart is erected “for
the latitude and longitude of Antwerp, and is an exact representation of the heavens at the time
the French troops opened ground, (or began the siege), before the citadel of Antwerp.”75 The
time given is 6:00 PM Local Mean Time for the meridian of Antwerp November 29, 1832. I
have reproduced the chart as presented in Morrison’s work.76
Placidus de Titis(1602-1668) was a reformer of astrology who attempted to return astrology to a completely
Ptolemaic basis. In particular he promoted the house system which has been named in his honor despite the fact that
he did not claim to have invented it, and others used the system before him. His major works are Questionum
physiomathematicarum libri tres (Milan, 1650) and the Tabulae primi mobilis (Padua, 1657). Under the influence of
the English astrologer John Partridge this became the standard system house division in the English speaking world
until the late twentieth century. See Holden, History of Horoscopic Astrology, 178-9.
Neither Lilly nor Morrison, however, used the standard system of the middle ages.
Richard James Morrison, An Introduction to Astrology; by William Lilly: Being the Whole of That Celebrated
Author's Rules for the Practice of Horary Astrology, Divested of the Superstitions of the Seventeenth Century
(London: Sherwood, Gilbert and Piper, 1835). The title is sufficient explanation for why Morrison felt the book
should be produced whether one might agree with the sentiment or not, hereafter to referred to as Morrison,
Morrison, Introduction, 245-6.
Morrison’s work is in the public domain.
Morrison’s analysis as follows:
The ascendant and its lady, the
w [Moon], are for the
besiegers, the 7th and its lord
for the besieged, the 4th is for
the town, and its lord for the
governor. The 10th is the house
of honour for the besiegers, and
we find y [Jupiter] potent
therein, denoting decidedly that
they should gain honour by the
siege. The l [Caput Draconis]
in the ascendant shewed success
to the French, and L [Cauda
Draconis] in the 7th the reverse
to their enemies. The lord of the
4th, e [Mercury], is in his
detriment, cadent, and in exact D
[square] to the evil u [Saturn],
denoting disgrace to the
governor, who is thereby shewn
to be extremely obstinate, as,
Fig. 5 – Morrison, Introduction, 245.
indeed, he was. The malefic
[Saturn] in the 4th denoted that the place should be taken, and, as w [Moon] was in close D
[square] to t [Mars], it would be by much loss of men and bloodshed on the part of the
besiegers. The w [Moon] is in the terms of t [Mars], and he in her exaltation and triplicity,
which reception denotes courageous conduct on the part of the besiegers; and although the w
[Moon] is in D [square] to t [Mars], yet, there being mutual reception, it shews success in a
martial exploit; but with much difficulty, because of the D [square] aspect. The garrison were
denoted by the 5th, and its ruler r [Venus]; and as r is in the 6th, (the 12th from the
enemies' ascendant), it shewed that all the enemies’ party would be made prisoners, which
was the case.77
Here is a table of the positions in the above chart.78
The Houses (Placidus’ Method)
10`22' Cancer
10`22' Capricorn (v),
Morrison, Introduction, 246.
Morrison’s computations.
2nd 26` Cancer (f),
5th 12` Libra
8 26` Capricorn (v),
3rd 14` Leo
6th 29` Scorpio (x)
9th 14` Aquarius (b)
11th 12` Aries
12th 29` Taurus
The Planets.
28`48' Aquarius (b)
26`50' Sagittarius (c)
9`23' Capricorn (v)
7`40' Sagittarius (c)
25`09'm Taurus (s)
There is more to his description but this is the core of it. All of it is based on Bonatti’s methods.
The besiegers initiated the siege by digging trenches. They are the first house with the ascendant
in the sign Cancer. 80 Their success and “honour” is the tenth house. The defenders are signified
by the seventh house with the descendant in the sign Capricorn. Their success and “honour” is
signified by the fourth house. This is exactly Bonatti’s logic. The Moon is in square to Mars but
they are both in each others’ dignities. This means great difficulty for the side of the first house
(the besiegers) but that the effort would be successful. The decisive factor, however, for
Morrison is that Saturn, a malefic, is in the fourth (the castle), while Jupiter, a benefic, is in its
own domicile in the tenth (the “honour” of the besiegers). In addition, Mercury, which rules the
defenders, is in its detriment, Sagittarius. Also note Morrison’s medieval use of the fifth house to
designate the troops in the castle, and that Mercury’s placement in the sixth house (the twelfth
relative to the adversaries of the French who in turn are signified by the seventh) is a sign that
the members of the garrison would be taken prisoner, which according to Morrison they were.
In conclusion, whatever Bonatti’s astrological experiences with siege warfare may have
been, it is clear that they led him to an important change in the method of the astrology of siege
Known in Britain at the time as Herschel.
Note that this is an inception chart, not an interrogation. Even in the nineteenth century we see closeness of
the two branches of medieval astrology.
warfare. The example from Morrison given just above demonstrates that this innovation had a
significant impact on astrologers who came after him. By contrast Haly, who appears to have
been a compiler of other people’s work (see the appendix to this chapter), took an example of a
chart from an earlier author without any further thought or contribution to method on his part. He
was apparently unaware of the fact that the author used a zodiacal system81 which produced
positions that were several degrees different from the one in use in his own time and he did not
even give, or possibly even take, notice of the fact that this same source used a system of houses
or places that he did not use. None of this made any difference for him. Haly was possibly
fortunate in that none of this made any difference in the resulting analysis except to show that
the analysis was not his own. Perhaps Haly never actually did any of the kind of astrology
involved in this practice. Bonatti, on the other hand, did and he found it appropriate to change
the method based on his own experience. This is the most striking example of Bonatti’s
methodological innovation within the received tradition. In his work for patrons who sought
practical results, Bonatti was compelled to rework a tradition that he had received either in an
incomplete form, or in a form that he found did not work in the field. He was respectful of the
tradition, but he was also willing to reshape astrological methodology in the light of his own
See appendix to this chapter below.
Appendix — Dating Haly’s Chart.
The date of the chart was established using the following method. I employed a modern
astrological computer program known as Solar Fire. This software has been described
elsewhere.82 The program has the ability to search for combinations of astrological positions
using AND/OR logic. In this particular case I searched for all periods in which the following
criteria were met.
Saturn in Sagittarius AND
Jupiter in Leo AND
Mars in Libra AND
Sun in Libra.
These are the positions of these four planets given by Haly. I did not use the positions of the
Moon, Mercury or Venus because these, especially the Moon and Mercury, were especially
problematical for medieval astronomy. The Sun by contrast is an especially useful planet for
narrowing down dates because of the close correspondence of the calendar and the Sun’s
positions.83 I searched for all such dates between January 1, 500 C.E. and January 1, 1200 C.E.
The program responded with two periods that met the criteria. The following table is from the
program’s report.
July 26 0545 11:07:43 am (GMT +0:00)
Aug. 12 0545 8:46:03 am (GMT +0:00)
July 28 0782
Aug. 28 0782
5:19:11 am (GMT +0:00)
3:46:40 am (GMT +0:00)
See p. 306, n. 31.
This is even true of the Old Style calender. It is just that the relationship between the Sun and the Julian
calendar changed slowly over time. The Gregorian calendar changes much more slowly but will eventually require
an extra day to be added in.
Checking the earlier period84 I found no dates that even closely corresponded with Haly’s. In the
later period I found the best fit was with August 5 at about 6:20 PM. The time was derived
simply by computing the time at which 5E of Aquarius rose at Tunis.
The following table compares the positions given in Haly with modern computations.
Haly’s Positions
Mercury (e)
Computations for 6:20 PM Aug. 5, 782 C.E.
29E g
22E c m
21E z
9E f
16E g
15E h
3E g
5E b86
1E h85
28E cm
22E z
14E s !
16E g
22E h
28E f
5E b
We have decent agreement although three planets are in different signs, Jupiter, Mercury and the
Moon. Mercury and Jupiter are near sign boundaries and a small error would have been
sufficient to change the signs but the Moon is another matter. The two Moons differ by 55
degrees. Could that have been a copyist error? Perhaps, but there is another explanation.
I initially assumed that the positions given by Haly were in the zodiacal system advocated by
Ptolemy, many of the other Greek sources, most Arabic sources by the time of Haly, and by all
Latin sources. This is the system still in use in the West in which the vernal point is defined as
exactly 0EAries. This system is known as the tropical zodiac. However, charts given in works of
Masha’allah show evidence of a different standard. In India today the dominant practice is to use
a zodiac that is stationary with respect to the fixed stars, that is, not subject to the precession of
This earlier period also seemed on the face of it to be too early as it was before the Islamic conquests but if
the positions had agreed with Haly’s positions, it would have not been the first time that an Islamic source had used
a chart from a Hellenistic source.
The computed positions are rounded up following the medieval custom. See DEGREE in the Glossary.
All of the positions here except the ascendant are given in tabular form at the beginning of the chapter.
the equinoxes.87 It is also very clear that this was commonly the case in the early middle ages in
both India and Persia. Kennedy and Pingree88 discuss the problem and conclude that
Masha’allah’s charts in De receptione were cast in such a zodiac which differed at the time from
the tropical zodiac by -4.5E degrees.89 The charts in their work date from the year 791 to 794
which is the same period as this chart recorded by Haly. If in fact this chart was done in such a
system, then to get the Sun’s position to be correct in this sidereal form of the zodiac we would
have to add 4.5E to the Sun’s position to get the equivalent of 16E Leo in this zodiac. The
following table shows the end result. Note that the chart is for five days later.
Haly’s Positions
Mercury (e)
Computations for 6:15 PM
Aug. 10, 782 C.E.
29E g
22E c m
21E z
9E f
16E g
15E h
3E g
5E b90
28E g
24E cm
21E z
10E f
17E g
24E h
1E g
5E b
The agreement now is much better! All of the planets are in the correct signs and the error is
within the norm for early medieval computations. Even if this chart were taken from someone
other than Masha’allah, it would not affect the modern re-computation of the positions by more
than a degree or so on the ascendant or the Moon. It is also possible that the chart was not in fact
from Masha’allah but was computed by someone else using the same tables, but certainly not
The precession of the equinoxes is a gradual backward motion of the solstitial and equinoctial points with
respect to the fixed stars. Each year when the Sun is at 0E of Aries, it is 50.25" of arc further backward with respect
to the fixed stars than the previous year.
Kennedy and Pingree, Astrological History, 67.
I discuss this issue for Masha’allah in my translation of his De receptione. See Masha’allah, On Reception,
Robert Hand, trans. (Reston, VA: ARHAT, 1998), 84-89.
All of the positions here except the ascendant are given in tabular form at the beginning of the chapter.
Haly! So we have two possible dates for this chart. The earlier date requires that we accept either
very inaccurate calculations even by the standards of the time, bad copying or both. The second
date only requires a zodiacal system that we know was used by Masha’allah at about the date of
this chart and with it we get a much greater degree of agreement with the positions as given by
Haly. However, either way the point made in the body of this chapter about Haly’s use of a chart
that was not derived from his own practice stands, and it stands, if anything, more firmly in light
of what I have raised here.
Chapter 11. Summation, Conclusions, and the Implications of this Study.
Further Suggestions Concerning the Relationships Between Bonatti and his Sources.
Before offering some concluding remarks, I wish first to summarize and discuss patterns that
have emerged in this analysis that point more precisely to Bonatti’s lineage and sources. I have
commented throughout about the authors numbered among his presumed sources for which there
is real evidence in the texts of having been directly or indirectly truly among his sources. For
example, in the case of Dorotheus of Sidon (at least the Dorotheus whose work appears in the
Liber novem iudicum) the comparison of his texts with parallel texts in Bonatti suggests that the
Dorotheus of Liber novem iudicum was an influence (whether direct or indirect one cannot say).
On the other hand, the Dorotheus of the Arabic Carmen astrologicum1 translated from Persian
does not seem to have been much of an influence.2 An obvious reason for this is that the Carmen
astrologicum contains only one passage on conflict whereas the Dorotheus of the Liber novem
iudicum passages includes a good deal of material on this topic both civil and military. A
comparison of Bonatti with both Dorothean corpora might conceivably show more similarity
between the Arabic Carmen astrologicum and Bonatti. However, my preliminary conclusion is
that these two authors, both of whom called Dorotheus, are different persons, if indeed the
Dorotheus of the Liber novem iudicum is a single individual. While most of the Carmen
astrologicum seems directly derived from the original Greek work, if not precisely a translation,
it seems probable that the Dorotheus of the Liber novem iudicum should be designated as
That is the title that Pingree gives the work in his edition. It is also referred to as the Pentateuch because it
consists of five books.
The chief difference between the two authors called Dorotheus is that the material in the Carmen astrologicum
does not use planetary rulers or significators to any extent, where the material from the Liber novem iudicum does so
in exactly the manner one finds standard in medieval Arabic, and, hence, Latin astrology.
“Pseudo-Dorotheus.” So whoever he or they may have been, my comparison of passages from
Bonatti with those from this second Dorotheus suggests that the latter was a source, directly or
I have already stated that our second possible source, Theophilus of Edessa, was not a direct
source for Bonatti because his work was never translated into Arabic, and there is no evidence
that Bonatti had any but Arabic sources in Latin translation. Theophilus was at best an indirect
source. Anything more awaits further study on the surviving fragments of his work.
Omar (as Aomar) is referred to extensively throughout the Liber astronomicus. However, he
is never cited in the chapters on civil conflict and warfare. There is a definite similarity between
the passages from Omar in the Liber novem iudicum and Bonatti that suggest either direct or
indirect influence, or that Omar and Bonatti’s sources share the same lineage.
Masha’allah is also referred to through Bonatti’s work but again not explicitly in the
passages on conflict and warfare. However, Masha’allah was a strong influence on the astrologer
that the Liber novem iudicum does refer to, Albenait, who is now believed to have been Abu `Ali
al-Khayyat, a student of Masha’allah. I discuss him just below.3 This means that Masha’allah
was at least a close but indirect source for Bonatti on the astrology of conflict.
Referring again to Abu `Ali al-Khayyat, the similarity of his material on conflict and warfare
with Bonatti’s indicates either that he is a direct source, if unacknowledged, or again possibly a
close indirect source. If so, as mentioned above, he may have been the channel whereby
Masha’allah influenced Bonatti.
Bonatti refers to him in some parts of the Liber astronomicus as Alboali but in the chapters presented in this
work as Albenait. He apparently did not understand the two names to refer to one person. For that matter no one has
made that connection in modern times until recently. See Chapter 5, note 36.
Now we come to Zahel or Sahl ibn Bishr who is one of only two sources4 Bonatti
acknowledges in his material on conflict and war. I have shown how strongly Zahel influenced
Bonatti, to the point of not only accepting much of what Zahel said but even organizing his own
presentation of the material in much the same way as Zahel. Nonetheless, Bonatti amplified,
altered, organized and augmented the material. Zahel was an honored source, but he was not
treated with uncritical reverence. As I have argued, Bonatti clearly saw himself as an equal with
respect to his sources. He did not see himself as a follower.
The situation with al-Kindī is more difficult. Al-Kindī is cited frequently as Alkindus or
Alkindius but not in the passages on conflict and war. This is most strange because al-Kindī
wrote more on this subject than any other author including Bonatti. Yet Bonatti’s material is
very different from al-Kindī’s once one moves beyond basic principles such as the houses and
significators. In chapter §VI.2.7.29 on siege warfare Bonatti clearly shows that he does not know
al-Kindī’s work at all, neither mentioning al-Kindī nor following his methods. This and other
discrepancies mentioned above between sources that are derived from the Liber novem iudicum
and Bonatti’s own methods raise questions as to the exact role of the Liber novem iudicum as
one of Bonatti’s sources. I return to this topic below.
As for Abu Ma‘shar I have already stated that his influence on Bonatti was not so much in
the area of the astrology of war and conflict as in the area of revolutiones annorum mundi and
possibly in revolutiones annorum nati. Abu Ma‘shar also provided the foundation of Bonatti’s
philosophical defense of astrology in Tractatus I. However, there is nothing in Bonatti’s material
on the astrology of conflict that can be traced to Abu Ma‘shar.
The other source is the mysterious Zodyal or Zodial whom Bonatti cites twice in the chapter on siege warfare,
§VI.2.7.29. About him we know nothing else.
Returning to the Liber novem iudicum, I have already mentioned that it should be a major
source for Bonatti. In Chapter 8 I demonstrated an instance where Bonatti did seem to be
following the translation of Zahel rather than the more common translation by John of Seville. In
other instances it appears that the Seville translation was used. However, elsewhere, when there
are similarities between authors presented in the Liber novem iudicum and Bonatti, they could
easily be the result of these authors having the same lineage as Zahel. And where they differ
from that lineage, they differ from Bonatti as well. Thorndike argues in Michael Scot that the
Liber novem iudicum was available in Bonatti’s circle, specifically to Michael Scot who, like
Bonatti, was associated with the court of Frederick II.5 Yet the divergences between Bonatti and
the authors of the Liber novem iudicum are so great that they suggest either that Bonatti
disagreed with most of what they had to say or was not aware of the work. Is it possible that
Bonatti had access to manuscripts of some of the authors in the Liber novem iudicum that were
not part of that compilation? We do not know except in the case of manuscripts of Zahel and alKindī’s Forty Chapters both of which certainly existed separately from the Liber novem
iudicum. But in the case of the Forty Chapters almost all of the material in it is also contained in
the Liber novem iudicum, and, as I have already stated, there are no signs that Bonatti used that
material whether derived from the Forty Chapters or the Liber novem iudicum. This makes it
questionable as to whether Liber novem iudicum was indeed one of Bonatti’s sources even if
some of the authors in it may have been available to him in individual manuscripts, specifically
Pseudo-Dorotheus, Omar and Albenait.
With regard to Haly Abenragel I am forced to conclude that he was not a source for Bonatti,
Lynn Thorndike, Michael Scot (London: Thomas Nelson, 1965), 104.
at least not for the interrogational material. A source named “Haly” is mentioned frequently in
Tractatus VII on elections, but the similarities between that material of that “Haly” and Haly
Emrani, a completely different author, suggest that Emrani, not Abenragel, was Bonatti’s source.
None of that material, however, pertains to warfare. By contrast, Haly Abenragel frequently
presents material very similar to Bonatti’s in his material on interrogations, usually with small
and not so small differences. However, Haly Abenragel’s organization of this material, or lack
of, contrasts strongly with Bonatti. His extensive use of aphorisms with little or no explanation
of, or even appearance of, the application of first principles contrasts strongly with Bonatti’s
greater degree of organization and systematization, along with Bonatti’s tendency to explain
what he presents almost to excess. All of this suggests that Abenragel was not one of Bonatti’s
sources. The similarities that do exist can be explained by assuming that Abenragel, like Bonatti,
used Zahel as a source and probably Albenait and Omar.
Also, based on the random and unsystematic nature of much of Abenragel’s presentation on
conflict and warfare, his use of another author’s chart example without attribution without even
taking note of the fact that his source used a very different methodology from that advocated by
Abenragel, I strongly believe that, in this area at least, Abenragel was a compiler rather than a
If the sources that I have compared with Bonatti in this work are indeed not his sources, then
we have to conclude either that Bonatti’s level of originality was far greater than I have
maintained based on the evidence that we have, or that Bonatti had manuscripts and works that
we do not know about. The evidence does not tell us which. Therefore, it seems to be most
appropriate to stay with the evidence that we have, the texts I have presented in this work, and to
conclude that Bonatti did at least display the kind of originality I have described in this work, an
originality that did not fundamentally disturb the paradigms of medieval astrological method.
Anything more than that awaits new discoveries.
Summary and Concluding Remarks.
By this time I believe the truth of Thorndike’s observation quoted in Chapter 1 is clear that
Bonatti “made additions of his own, and many passages demonstrate that he has made detailed
practical application to the present problems of medieval life of the principles of his art
established in the past.”6 This has never been a question for anyone who has studied Bonatti’s
work and that of his predecessors. My purpose in this work has been to explore the effect of the
use and practical application of a branch of astrology upon the work of Bonatti whom we know
was employed in the application of astrology to military matters. However, it is also important to
place Bonatti in his historical context. Bonatti was the first European astrologer of the middle
ages to assume for himself the position of an equal to the masters of the tradition who preceded
him in the Arab world. As a result Bonatti cites no medieval Latin authors at all; he clearly
regarded himself as the first, at least the first of any consequence. And while he was clearly
influenced by Zahel more than any other source, it is also clear from his citations7 that he
intended to present an astrological summa of the Arab tradition along with his own personal
syntheses and revisions. In Chapter 18 I mentioned Bonatti in comparison with the work of
Albertus Magnus and Aquinas in theology and philosophy (and Roger Bacon in the sciences)
and suggested that the same systematizing tendencies that these men employed can also be seen
in Bonatti, once one takes into consideration the differences in the subject matter. Bonatti
Thorndike, H.O.M.E.S., vol. 2, 826-7.
This is more clear in sections of his work that deals with other applications of astrology.
See chap. 1, p. 8.
modified the medieval tradition as he received it and made the tradition his own.
Bonatti’s importance to the practice of medieval and later astrology is clear. He is cited,
often for purposes of argument, by nearly every major astrologer of the Latin West. However, in
regard to interrogations and elections as applied to any subject, not much was written after
Bonatti until Lilly in the seventeenth century. When Lilly emerges as the chief astrologer of the
English school of the mid-seventeenth century, the stamp of Bonatti is upon his work. And, as I
have shown, Bonatti’s influence extends beyond Lilly’s time as well.9
Since the later twentieth century, among English and American astrologers specifically, there has been a major
revival of interest in medieval astrology. Bonatti’s work along with Lilly’s is central to this revival.
Appendix I – An Introduction to Medieval Astrology.
The problem that astrology poses for the historian of any period or culture in which astrology
played a role is that the subject itself is vast and complex. However, understanding the point of
this work does not require complete or advanced expertise, but does require some knowledge
especially in the kinds of astrology studied here. It therefore seemed expedient not to assume
that the reader of this paper has any special knowledge of astrology beyond what one can assume
in a typical literate person of our time. Therefore, I lay out here some of the basics of medieval
astrology in particular as it was in both Arabic astrological literature and the Latin literature
derived from it. I have also provided a glossary in Appendix II.
In Chapter 6 in a note at the end1 I mentioned two works that may be useful in assisting those
who need an introduction to medieval astrology, Eade’s Forgotten Sky, and J. D. North’s
Horoscopes and History. However, these two works are deficient in one important respect. They
do not go into the technical peculiarities of the two types of astrology that were chiefly
employed in military applications, interrogations and elections. These have already been defined
in Chapter 2. These two applications of astrology share very similar methods of analysis,
methods which are mentioned in the introductory texts, such as the one of Alcabitius, but not
shown in use. The introduction that is provided here is specifically oriented toward these two
applications rather than toward nativities although the basics are quite similar.
See chap. 6, p. 183, n. 57.
The Basic Components.
The main components of medieval and most horoscopic astrology are as follows: the planets, the
signs of the zodiac, and what are called “houses” or “places.” The members of each of these
three sets of components may vary in condition with a chart in a variety of ways which affect the
manner in which they are interpreted. In addition there are all of the possible relationships
among these component groups both to other elements within each group and among members
of each group to members of the other groups. To clarify, planets have relationships with other
planets, as well as with signs and houses. The signs have relationships with each other and form
groups of signs within the twelve signs of the zodiac. The houses (of which there are also
twelve) have relationships with each other and also form groups of houses. And finally there are
relationships between planets and houses, and houses and signs. All of this forms the structure of
the syntax of astrology. The basic medieval astrological textbook, the Introductorium or
Isagoga, consisted of a description of all the above. This can, of course, get quite complicated
and that is precisely what makes the study of astrology so challenging. I might add that these
comments apply in varying degrees to all other major forms of astrology, Hindu, Hellenistic and
modern Western. I will now take up each of the three sets of
components in the order in which I introduced them above.
The Planets.
In medieval astrology these are the seven planets of ancient
astronomy which consisted of Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, the Sun,
Venus, Mercury and the Moon. The table at the right shows
Caput Draconis
Cauda Draconis
characters commonly associated with the planets.2 The Sun and the Moon are of course no
longer considered planets. This is the result of post-Copernican astronomy which changed the
definition of ‘planet’ so that the term no longer applies to the Sun and Moon. The word planet is
derived from the Greek word planēs (πλ÷νης), meaning ‘vagabond’ or ‘wanderer’. In particular
it is a shortening of the phrase planētes asteres (πλάνητς •στέρς) or wandering stars.
Originally a planet was a body visible to the naked eye that appeared to move with respect to the
background of the fixed or ‘inerrant’ stars. The Sun and Moon do this just as much as those
bodies modern astronomy still considers to be planets. A ‘star’ in turn was any body in the
heavens. The term was used both for fixed stars and for planets in the sense described here. In
post-Copernican astronomy a ‘planet’ is a relatively large body, which is not self-luminous,
orbiting a ‘star’ which is.
The Planets and the Four Qualities – Each planet was believed to have, or to signify,
particular qualities which distinguished it from all of the other planets. At the most basic level
astrologers, following Ptolemy, believed that each planet had as its basis a mixture of two of the
qualities derived from Greek physics, in particular Aristotle. These qualities are the Hot, the
Cold, the Wet and the Dry.3 Here is a breakdown of the qualities of the planets as given by
Ptolemy. All of the passages from Ptolemy are from the Robbins translation.4
The Sun – “The active power of the sun’s essential nature is found to be heating and, to a
certain degree, drying.” Hot and dry but more hot than dry.
The two additional “planets,” Caput l and Cauda Draconis L, are not planets at all but were used in some
ways similarly to planets. They are the degrees of the zodiac in which the Moon crosses the zodiac going from
below to above (caput) and from above to below (cauda).
These are derived from Aristotle’s on Generation and Corruption although in practice the astrological use of
these qualities is not easy to derive from Aristotle’s descriptions.
Robbins, 35-39.
The Moon – “Most of the moon's power consists of humidifying…” Wet.
Saturn – “It is Saturn’s quality chiefly to cool and, moderately, to dry.” Cold and dry but
more cold than dry.
Mars – “The nature of Mars is chiefly to dry and to burn…” Hot and dry but dryer than it is
Jupiter – “Jupiter … both heats and humidifies…” Hot and wet, although not as hot as Mars
and the Sun but warmer than it is wet.
Venus – “Venus has the same powers and tempered nature as Jupiter, but acts in the opposite
way…” Venus is hot and wet like Jupiter but wetter and not quite as hot. Interestingly
enough in the Arabic literature and those who followed, Venus is considered cold and wet.5
Mercury – “Mercury in general is found at certain times alike to be drying and absorptive of
moisture, …and again humidifying, because he is next above the sphere of the moon, and to
change quickly from one to the other…” Mercury can be either dry or wet depending upon
circumstances. This is typical of Mercury which in most respects is described as having
almost no qualities of its own but rather picks them up in various ways according to its
The illustration here (Fig. 1) from a 16th
century text shows the relationship of the
planets and the qualities.6 Note that Venus
is categorized in the Arabic manner
following Alcabitius and other sources as
wet and cold rather than wet and hot.
Benefic and Malefic – One of the most
important but problematical classifications
Fig. 1 – The Planetary Qualities from Schoener’s
of the planets in medieval astrology (and
Opusculum Astrologicum.
Alcabitius describes Venus as such. See Al-Qabisi, Warburg ed., 74-75.
Schoener, Opusculum astrologicum, fol. D4r
other traditions as well) was the classification of the planets as ‘malefic’ and ‘benefic’. The
benefic planets, also known as ‘fortunes’, were planets whose “influence” was suppose to bring
about positive events and outcomes, as opposed to the malefics, also known as ‘infortunes’,
whose influence was supposed to bring about unfortunate events and outcomes.7 The origin of
this classification is not clear and is beyond the scope of this paper, but with Ptolemy it became
rooted in Aristotelian and Stoic natural philosophy. The qualities Hot and Moist were considered
to be “fertile and active,” while Cold and Dry were “destructive and passive.”8 For a planet to be
benefic, it had to possess the one or both of the ‘fertile’ qualities (Jupiter and Venus both have
the Hot and Moist qualities) and to have them in a tempered or moderate degree. The malefic
planets had to have one or both of the negative qualities and also in an intemperate or
immoderate degree. Mars possesses the Hot (which is benevolent) and the dry (which is not).
But its heat is immoderate and extreme. The Sun also possesses the Hot and the Dry but neither
is immoderate. However, the Sun is considered to be malefic under certain conditions by later
astrologers, while Ptolemy considered the Sun to be neutral. Saturn, which possesses the Cold
and the Dry, has both ‘destructive’ qualities and has Cold in the extreme. So the benefics tend to
be tempering as well as temperate while the malefics are not. The Moon having the Cold and the
Moist does not have the Cold to an intemperate degree and is therefore normally benefic. Venus,
which possesses the Cold rather than Hot in the Arabic tradition, is like the Moon. Mercury can
go either way because it acquires the quality of whatever planet it comes into combination with.
The qualities in the planets can also be changed somewhat according to their relationship
In Latin there were a variety of terms used to designate these including benefici and malefici, or simply boni
and mali, fortunae and infortunae, and fortunati and infortunati, or if the reference was the Latin word stella,
fortunatae and infortunatae.
Robbins, 39.
with the Sun, however, this is not an important issue in the kinds of astrology that I deal with
The Sex of the Planets – All of the planets, except Mercury, are clearly masculine or
feminine. The Sun, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars are masculine. The Moon and Venus are feminine.
Mercury is somewhat masculine but again can be transformed according to what it encounters.
Ptolemy is a bit unclear on the issue, but the following seems to be the logic of the classification.
The Hot and the Dry are masculine qualities, one benefic and one malefic quality. The Wet
and the Cold are the feminine qualities, again one benefic and one malefic quality. The Sun has
both the Hot and the Dry, so does Mars. They are masculine. Jupiter and Saturn are both mixed,
Jupiter Hot (masculine) and Wet (feminine). But Jupiter is masculine because the Hot is stronger
than the Wet. Saturn seems a bit misplaced in that its distemperate quality is its Cold (feminine)
while its more temperate quality is the Dry (masculine). This would seem to make a feminine
planet but it is invariably classified in the astrological literature as masculine. Venus, like
Jupiter, is a mixture of the Hot and the Wet, but the Wet is the stronger of the two, therefore
Venus is feminine. The Moon possesses both the Wet and the Cold and is feminine. Mercury can
be either in practice.
Placement can also affect the sex of the planets, but this arises from the relationships
between the planets with the signs and houses. This, however, is not important in interrogations
and elections.
The Sect of the Planets –Another classification is according to the ‘sect’ of the planets, i.e.,
either diurnal or nocturnal. In Greek the word is hairesis (αËρεσις).9 All of the planets except
This word it usually translated into Latin as condicio and in English as ‘condition’ which does not capture the
essence of the word in Greek. Liddell and Scott give the following words in their definition of the Greek word.
Mercury are considered to be either of the sect of the Sun (diurnal) or of the sect of the Moon
(nocturnal). As one can see in the passage from Ptolemy below, Mercury can be of either sect
depending upon how it is situated in the chart. Ptolemy has this to say about the sect of the
Similarly, since of the two most obvious intervals of those which make up time, the day is
more masculine because of its heat and active force, and night more feminine because of its
moisture and its gift of rest, the tradition has consequently been handed down that the moon
and Venus are nocturnal, the sun and Jupiter diurnal, and Mercury common as before,
diurnal when it is a morning star and nocturnal as an evening star … they assigned Saturn,
which is cold, to the warmth of the day, and Mars, which is dry, to the moisture of the night,
for in this way each of them attains good proportion through admixture and becomes a
proper member of its sect, which provides moderation.10
Simply put, diurnal planets are said to operate better in daytime births, and nocturnal planets in
nighttime births. There are other conditions of sect as well but this will do for our purposes as
this is a classification that has little use in interrogations and elections.
Other Qualities and Significations of the Planets – In addition to these fundamental qualities
derived by Ptolemy from Aristotelian doctrine, the planets also possessed more complex
qualities that may have come in part from the gods after whom the planets were named.
However, this is difficult to demonstrate because the astrological planets acquired their godnames from deities that were originally Mesopotamian. The original Mesopotamia names were
then translated to their near, but not precise, Greek equivalents. In this process astrological
doctrine also appears to have been modified by the mythology and character of roughly
A taking, esp. of a town, choice, inclination, choice, purpose, course of action or thought, asystem of
philosophic principles, or those who profess such principles, sect, school, religious party or sect, faction, party,
In astrology ‘condition’.
Note the Liddell and Scott follow the conventional translation as ‘condition’ in the last part of the definition.
However, the logic of the other words is much closer to the astrological spirit of the usage.
Robbins, 43.
equivalent Egyptian deities. Whatever the behavioral qualities of the planets became, the
medieval texts followed Ptolemy’s lead in giving the planets rather abstract qualities as a
foundation for their effects and then listing various kinds of entities in the world that especially
manifested the qualities of each planet. Such entities were said to be signified by the planet
whose qualities each one bore. The best way to illustrate this is to look at one early modern
author (but fully medieval in his methods) whose descriptions of the planets and their
significations are typical. I give here such a list for the planet Saturn from Schoener’s
Opusculum Astrologicum.11
Saturn u
Nature and Constitution: Cold, dry, earthy, masculine, diurnal, the greater infortune, very
maleficent, melancholic.
Parts of the Body and Illnesses: The right ear, spleen, bladder, bones, and their infirmities,
quartan fevers, all diseases of a cold and dry nature, morphew, leprosy, elephantiasis,
cancers, disorders relating to the black bile, rheumatism, wasting disease, hectic fever, colic,
tenasm, black jaundice, tremors, melancholy, palsy, dissolving of the stomach.
Conditions and Peoples: Judaeans, Moors, farmers, stone-cutters, masons, potters, tanners,
sewer workers, the dregs of humanity, people who are tenacious, very hard working, greedy,
jealous, lean, beardless, solitary, sorrowful, taciturn, voracious, deceivers, or treasurers.
Endowments and Professions: The cultivation of the earth, the fullers' art, the tanners' works,
hereditary possessions, buildings and prisons.
Colors: Black, bluish, leaden, dusty.
Precious Stones: Brooches, black and dusky stones.
Metal: Lead.
Flavors: Astringent, sour.
Regions: First clima, Dextrum Orientis, Baioria, Saxonia, Styria, Romandiola, Ravenna,
Constantia, Ingolstadt.
While the headings of such lists may vary a bit from author to author, such lists of significations
are to be found in authors from the second century C.E. up to English texts of the seventeenth
century such as the Christian Astrology of William Lilly12 and later. In astrological texts of the
twentieth century on the other hand one finds elaborate descriptions of the natures of the planets
Schoener, Opusculum Astrologicum, Part II Canon 2. This work is not paginated.
Lilly, Christian Astrology, 57-85.
in characterological terms as if the planets had personalities, or induced personality
characteristics in human beings, which, indeed, it is believed they do. While the ancient and
medieval authors would not have disagreed with this, lists of significations such as these given
above would have been all the student would find. It was clearly intended that the student derive
the natures, as quasi-personalities, of the planets from these lists.
Inferior and Superior Planets – There is one more important distinction, the division of
planets into superior and inferior. This comes from the Ptolemaic model of the solar system
which was of course earth-centered or geocentric. Of the planets (other than the Sun) Saturn,
Jupiter and Mars were called ‘superior’ planets because their spheres were said to be above that
of the Sun, while Venus, Mercury and the Moon were called ‘inferior’ planets because their
spheres were supposed to be below that of the Sun. The terms ‘superior’ and ‘inferior’ for the
most part do not refer to the excellence or efficacy of one group of planets over the others. It
simply means ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ as in farther away (superior) or closer to (inferior) the earth.
However, there is one important respect in which the terms mean superior and inferior in
power and efficacy. If one side in a conflict or question is signified (the precise meaning of
which term will be described below) by a superior planet and the other side by an inferior planet,
which gives an edge in the matter to the side signified by the superior planet all other things
being equal.13
The Signs of the Zodiac.
The signs of the zodiac are twelve divisions of the apparent path of the Sun, or ecliptic
(known in Latin as the orbis signorum, or circle of the signs) of exactly thirty degrees each.
See p. 241.
Although they bear the name of constellations, they are not the same as constellations and in
medieval astrology came to coincide less and less with the constellations due to the precession of
the equinoxes.14 In astrology the signs serve two functions. The first is as a simple measurement
device, i.e., thirty degrees, although each sign by definition starts at an exact multiple of thirty
degrees from zero as in the table below.15
Aries a
Taurus s
Gemini d
Cancer f
Leo g
Virgo h
0E– 30E
30E– 60E
60E – 90E
90E – 120E
120E– 150E
150E – 180E
Libra z
Scorpio x
Sagittarius c
Capricorn v
Aquarius b
Pisces n
180E– 210E
210E– 240E
240E – 270E
270E– 300E
300E– 330E
330E– 360E
So a position given as 16E Gemini (16Ed) is equivalent to 60E + 16E = 76E measured from the
beginning of the zodiac.
A slow backwards movement in the constellations of the point at which the Sun in its apparent
counterclockwise movement in the zodiac moves from below to above the celestial equator. The change occurs at
the rate of 50.25 seconds of arc per year.
In the eighteenth century long after astrology had fallen out of favor the signs survived for a time as pure
measuring units with no astrological significance. In the Nautical Almanacs of the period the Sun and other
“planets” had ecliptic positions listed as follows: July 4, 1776 – Sun’s Longitude – 3. 12. 55. 27 which corresponds
to 3 signs, or 90E+ 12E 55' 27" or 102E 55' 27". The only difference from the medieval (and modern) sign notation
is that the number of signs simply represent 90E and has none of the symbolic significance of the sign Cancer. In
later astronomical ephemerides even this last stand of signwise notation was abandoned and the position of the Sun
give above would have only been just as it was above as 102E 55' 27". See The Nautical Almanac and Astronomical
Ephemeris for the Year 1776 (London: Commissioners of Longitude, 1775), 74.
The second function is the more
astrological. Each sign is considered to
designate an arc or region of the zodiac which
corresponds to certain qualities which modified
the qualities of any planets or other points that
lay within it. This is the origin of the wellknown newspaper columns etc. that feature
forecasts for the signs based on the day of the
year of someone’s birth. These actually
Fig. 2 – Signs of Zodiac
represent not the signs themselves but the
qualities supposedly represented by the Sun’s presence in those signs. The calendar is fairly
stable with regard to the astronomical year and the Sun enters each sign on roughly the same day
every year. In addition each sign is said to have an influence or affect upon each planet that is
different from its influence or affect on any other planet. The student seems to have been
intended to deduce these general qualities for the signs as well from the same kind of list of
correspondences as we saw for Saturn above.
While the signs have always been defined as exactly thirty degrees, they did originally
coincide with the constellations, that is, they had a fixed relationship with them. This was before
the discovery of precession in the fifth century BCE.16 At some point Greek astronomers began
For a discussion of the first appearances of the signs in cuneiform tablets pertaining to the destinies of
individuals and other issues pertaining to the early relationship of the signs and constellations see Francesca
Rochberg, Babylonian Horoscopes, Transactions of American Philosophical Society (Philadelphia: American
Philosophical Society, 1998). This work also contains the text and translations of these earliest “horoscopes.” First
the earliest and still authoritative discussion of the sign-constellation relationship in cuneiform sources see Peter
Huber, “Über Den Nullpunkt Der Babylonischen Ekliptik,” Centaurus 5, no. 3-5 (1958): 192-208.
to settle on the vernal point as the beginning of the zodiac of the signs.17 It did not become the
universal norm in the classical world.18 Then somewhere between c.700 CE and c.1000 CE,
astrologers in the Arabic world, and the medieval Latins who learned from them, settled on the
above definition of the signs which placed the first degree of the sign Aries exactly and
permanently at the vernal point on the ecliptic. Each subsequent sign then occupied exactly 30E
of the ecliptic following the order presented above.
The Signs and the Seasons, the Quadruplicities – For the reasons already described the signs
are linked to the seasons such that starting with Aries, every three signs constitute a season as
Spring – Aries, Taurus, Gemini.
Autumn – Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius.
Summer – Cancer, Leo, Virgo.
Winter – Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces.