In episode 120 of the podcast, Benjamin Dykes and Eduardo Gramaglia join the show to speak about their new translation of the 8th century astrological works of the astrologer Theophilus de Edessa.
Theophilus was a Christian astrologer who served the kings of the early Islamic empire at the time of the crucial transition between the Umayyad and the Abbasid caliphates.
He was an elderly contemporary of other notable astrologers who lived during the early medieval tradition such as Masha’allah, although he is unique in that his extant works were written in Greek rather than Arabic.
He also drew on a number of earlier Greek sources such as Dorotheus of Sidon. As a result, Theophilus is an important transitional figure between the Hellenistic and medieval astrological traditions.
The new translation by Ben and Eduardo marks the first time Theophilus’ astrological works have been fully translated into a modern language. In this interview we talk about who Theophilus was, how the translation was done and the importance of his work.
The translation is now available from Amazon:
Astrological works by Theophilus of Edessa
Below are the show notes outlining some of the points we raised in the discussion, followed by links to download or stream the recording of this episode of the podcast at the bottom of the page.
- The book is titled Astrological works by Theophilus of Edessa.
- Published in May 2017.
- Since it’s his first time on the show, let’s introduce Eduardo and talk about his background.
- This is the second collaboration between Ben and Eduardo after their 2013 translation of Book 3 of Hephaistio of Thebes.
- Who was Theophilus of Edessa?
- A Christian astrologer from the ancient city of Edessa, which is located in today’s southeastern Turkey near the border with Syria.
- Lived 695–785 CE.
- What is important about his job?
- Lived during a transition period between Hellenistic and medieval traditions
- Is one of the earliest notable Christian astrologers.
- Was court astrologer to the early Islamic caliphs during the late Umayyad and early Abbasid periods
- Wrote some of the earliest papers on military and horara astrology.
- Which texts are translated in this volume?
- Working on military inceptions
- Collection on Cosmic Inceptions
- About various inceptions
- How was the process of preparing this translation?
- Part of the material was processed in the CCAG.
- Much of the text had to be translated from manuscripts
- Some materials have been referenced from David Pingree’s personal papers
- Theophilus’ work on secular astrology
- He lists four methods of making worldly predictions from tradition
- The fourth is the Persian method of using Aries tickets
- He says he didn’t learn this until later in his career
- Horary astrology
- Another important aspect of Theophilus is the spread of horara astrology.
- He is one of the first authors to write and talk about it at length in Greek
- What is strange, however, is that his approach still looks very much like the earlier Hellenistic electoral tradition
- He often converts Dorotheus’ electoral rules into Horary questions
- Often focuses only on the use of the square houses and not on the advantages between certain home rulers.
- Earlier discussion of earlier traces of Horary in Dorotheus and Hephaistio.
- Christianity in Theophilus
- He was a Chalcedonian Christian.
- At the beginning of one of the texts he spends a lot of time talking about and defending astrology in the context of Christianity.
- Theophilus talks about Genesis and the seven day week and the associations with each of the planets.
- Theophilus is then one of the first great / notable Christian astrologers we know in history.
- Theophilus as court astrologist
- Ben says, “This wasn’t done for the romance of travel. Caliphs did not want to hear about the development of their consciousness. “
- He was involved in some pretty serious military astrology.
- He has been present in some pretty notable battles.
- Saturn revised as female
- Previous discussion of Saturn as a female
- Theophilus is the most important later astrologer who continues the tradition of treating Saturn as feminine as we see it in the Arabic version of Dorotheus.
- Theophilus was likely influenced by Dorotheus as Dorotheus is really his main source for much of his work.
- The question is whether he had access to something like the original Greek text and this confirms that Saturn was originally listed there as female by Dorotheus, or whether T relied on the Persian translation where this could be an error in the text.
- Unclear whether this question can be resolved.
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