As the newly formed Muslim caliphate extended beyond the Arabian Peninsula, it encountered Persian, Hellenistic, and Indian forms of astrology, integrating them into a refined science that would reach its medieval peak in Baghdad, a city whose fortune and fate would be foretold by the stars.
A lawyer turned astrologer turned devout Christian, Firmicus Maternus penned the eight-book Mathesis, one of the lengthiest extant works on Hellenistic astrology in Latin, giving sixteen centuries of readers insight into astrological practices during the Roman Empire.
Know to the Arabs as “Al-Rumi”, Vettius Valens gained near-mythical status in the East while his fame was largely eclipsed by Ptolemy in the West but his Anthologies remains the most important source contemporary readers have for the foundations and techniques of Hellenistic astrology.
The works of Hellenistic polymath Ptolemy of Alexandria outlined the Western view of the cosmos that would survive until the Copernican revolution and defined the rational-causal view of astrology still largely ascribed to today.
Merging Babylonian star worship with indigenous Egyptian astronomy and Greek mathematics and philosophy, Hellenistic astrologers crafted the fourfold technical structure of astrology that weathered two millennia to survive as the foundational elements of modern astrology today.
As the Roman Empire rose, absorbing the trappings of Hellenistic culture, one writer penned the oldest surviving complete treatise on the art of astrology. Part poetics, part mathematics, Manilius’ Astronomica offers a glimpse of the core concepts and Stoic philosophy underlying both Hellenistic astrology and the beginning of modern Western science.
In the Roman Empire, knowledge of the stars could get you killed—or help you kill others. Discover how the science of reading the heavens became a powerful political tool in the Roman world.
Over three millennia ago, Mesopotamian scholar-scribes recorded the path of the heavenly bodies across the sky to decipher omens from the gods, laying the foundation for what would become Hellenistic astrology.