Serapio’s book of definitions

In the updates to my last post, I stumbled across a translation of Porphyry’s introduction to Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos that included an interesting-sounding work by a certain Serapion Alexandrinus, consisting of a short explanation of terminology. 

A Google search brings me to this page, which gives the text of the work (from CCAG vol. 8.) plus a translation, all done by Eduardo Gramaglia.  That is very useful to have!

We really need a list of astrological writers, with bibliography of editions and translations, online.  The nearest we have is this, from Project Hindsight.  This tells us about Serapio:

Serapio of Alexandria (of uncertain date, but probably B.C.E.). Not explicitly mentioned by Firmicus, but perhaps belonging to this period. The few surviving fragments of Serapio mostly deal with inceptional or katarchic astrology (that is, electional issues); there is one important fragment that sets out a general strategy for doing such katarchic investigations, and Serapio may have been one of the earliest systematizers of this theory.

Interesting, but a bit short of detail and indications of sources.  But in the RealEncyclopadie, vol. 51, cols. 1666-7, I find him as Serapion of Antioch, known to Pliny the Elder (NH ind. IV, V) and Cicero (Att. II. 4, 1).  According to the RE, the list of definitions apparently tells us (p.227, l.32) that Serapion wrote in Egypt.

UPDATE:  The CCAG vol. 8, part 4, gives Serapionis Alexandrini excerpta on p.225, from codex 82 (i.e. Paris. gr. 2425).

For Sarapion or Serapion Alexandrinus, who perhaps is the same as Serapio of Antioch, a disciple of Hipparchus, or so it would seem, who taught at Alexandria, see Boll, Byzant. Zeitschr., VIII, 1899, p.525.  The work from which excerpts are presented here was indeed written at Alexandria, as appears from p.227, l. 32, where he calls the sea as subjected to Aquarius th\n kaq’ h9ma~j qa/lassan; for Egypt according to the most ancient “chorographia”, as it is called, i.e. astrology, is under the dominion of Aquarius (Vettius Valens, p.12, 15, ff, Kroll, etc).

The anonymous work of 379 says that Serapion was before Ptolemy wrote about the appearance of the stars (CCAG, V, 1, p.205, l.17).  Other fragments of Serapion may be found in CCAG 1, p.99, p.101; CCAG 5, 1, p.179-180; CCAG 5, 3, p.96. 

Not a lot; but something.

3 Responses to “Serapio’s book of definitions”


  1. Chris Brennan

    There is a preliminary translation of some of the material attributed to Serapio from the CCAG here: http://www.hellenisticastrology.com/wiki/index.php/Serapio_of_Alexandria_Translation_Project

  2. Chris Brennan

    Scratch that last comment. Somehow I overlooked the second paragraph.

  3. Roger Pearse

    It happens to us all.

    But let me say how grateful I am for all that you do in this respect. Such texts are very hard for anyone not involved in astrology to comprehend at all, and by undertaking to translate it, you do everyone a favour. Thank you!



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