Vettius Valens now online in English

Prof. Mark Riley has uploaded his translation of the 2nd century astrologer, Vettius Valens, to the web!  From his website:

Vettius Valens: Find a link here to a translation of Vettius Valens Anthologiai, the longest astrological text from Greco-Roman antiquity.

What you find here is a preliminary translation completed in the 1990’s and not perfected since. It is based on Wilhelm Kroll’s 1908 edition (page numbers of this edition are marked with bold-faced K in my pdf) and on David Pingree’s 1986 edition (page numbers marked with P), a great improvement on his predecessor’s. The angled brackets (< >) indicate words added in the translation for clarity or (sometimes) to correct errors in the text.

My studies in ancient mathematical literature, and (more important) in the Syriac and Arabic copies of Valens did not proceed far enough to put the finishing touches on this translation. Moreover I have moved on to other work. (See here.) So there are no guarantees of accuracy. You might also find some typos. Use at your own risk. In addition I am not prepared to answer questions about the translation. You are on your own.

When studying Valens, also consult my Survey of Vettius Valens (on this webpage) and Neugebauer and Van Hoesen, Greek Horoscopes (Philadelphia 1987). Most of the horoscopes listed in Valens are translated by Neugebauer and Van Hoesen.

Thank you, Mark, for this — this is excellent news!

2 thoughts on “Vettius Valens now online in English

  1. Good news it is; one little cavil though with the notion that being all calculations it’s of no interest to non-astrologers. Since these days find me putting online the Latin text of Firmicus and proofreading the part already online (Books 1-3 done, Book 4 in proofreading, Book 5 transcribed but not proofread, Book 6 in process of transcription, Books 7 and 8 not started), the use and interest of such texts is on my mind, as one might imagine, after slogging thru endless repetitive formulas of superstition. But Firmicus and Vettius do tell us a fair amount about ancient life; their subject is the whole of daily life after all, and they thus have to refer to daily life and explicate it: that’s their job as astrologers.

    And so they do, thruout.

    Vettius, p17 of the translation, speaking of the mode of death of people under the influence of the various signs: “Scorpio is destroyed by Gemini, i.e. Mars by Mercury. They die by knife cuts to the genitals or the rump, or from strangury, festering sores, choking, crawling things, violence, war, attacks by bandits, assaults of pirates, or because of officials, and by fire, impaling, attacks of beasts and crawling things.” Now one-twelfth of people would fit that sketch; yet how common today is any of the causes of death listed? (Leaving aside the endless depravities and exactions of officials of course, still very much with us.) Yet Vettius, no fool, finds it reasonable that one-twelfth of the population should meet our end this way; whether he intended it or not, he has painted a portrait of ancient life.

    Similarly, p18, among about 10 violent deaths, three people are said to have been beheaded; and two to have been thrown to the lions. Today it would be car crashes and street assaults, not cats and decapitation. And so on thruout the work; similarly with Firmicus, who, as just one little example. repeatedly tells us that certain planetary configurations, for example, produce beggars and mendicants, wretchedly poor people, and “temple attendants” (neocori and aeditui); to me this is an indication of a primitive welfare system that I find no trace of elsewhere in ancient writers: temples apparently “hired” these low-level caretakers as a kind of charity, a sort of religious make-work program like the second Roosevelt’s measures.

    Careful reading of these astrologers repays us with their picture of daily life. (This naturally from a guy who is carefully reading one of them and desperately scrounging for a justification: of necessity, a virtue….)

  2. You obviously spotted more than I did. My eyes tended to blur. But these are important texts. That bit about “temple attendants” is really important, for what it says about the way temples functioned.

    Good point about deaths by knife cuts to the genitals or the rump, or from strangling, festering sores, choking, crawling things, violence, war, attacks by bandits, assaults of pirates, or because of officials, and by fire, impaling, attacks of beasts and crawling things. — although I learn from CSI that most of Las Vegas suffers from these things every week. It’s on TV, it must be true.

    But it is good news that you are entering Firmicus Maternus. These things *should* be online, precisely because they contain interesting snippets about ancient life. Just like the Church Fathers, in fact.

Leave a Reply