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As early as Aristotle, there is reference to Egyptian astronomy as equal to that of Babylon, but the first definite reference to astrology from a contemporary writer comes in Diodorus of Sicily, writing in between 60 and 30 BCE: The positions and arrangements of the stars, as well as their motion, have always been the subject of careful observation among the Egyptians, if anywhere in the world…they have observed with the utmost keenness the motions, orbits and stoppings of each planet, as well as the influence of each of them on the generations of all living things—the good and evil things, namely, of which they are the cause.

And while they often succeed in predicting to men the events that will befall them in the course of their lives, not infrequently they foretell destruction of the crops, or, on the other hand, abundant yields, and pestilences…they have prior knowledge of earthquakes and floods, of the risings of comets, and of all things which the ordinary man regards as quite beyond finding out.

In order to assess what evidence there is to substantiate the Greek image of Egypt, in the first place, we should survey what is known from evidence which is properly Egyptian rather than GreekEgyptian. If it is correctly dated, an ostrakon, or potsherd, listing the planets and the zodiac signs in the vernacular Demotic, is a vital piece of evidence for the development of Egyptian astrology. It has been dated to before BCE on astronomical grounds;28 however, that is an unusually early date for an ostrakon. The Egyptians however called the sign the Horizon, because it marked the beginning of the Egyptian year.

An example of the Egyptian form of the zodiac is to be seen on the ceiling of a temple at Dendera see Plate 3. Other astrological Demotic ostraka are dated between 17? Moreover, the Eternal Tables attributed to Egypt by writers of the first century CE and later were compiled from Babylonian almanacs. There are a couple of papyri of the Roman period in Demotic which are apparently versions of texts going back to the mid-second century BCE. One lists predictions relating to the positions of planets in zodiac signs at the time of the rising of Sothis.

They are predictions for the ruler and the land: The King of Egypt will rule over his country. An enemy will be [his and] he will escape from them again. Many men will rebel against the king. An inundation which is that which comes to [? Seed [and] grain will be high in price [in] money, which is… The burial of a god will occur in Egypt. There are other texts of this type from the Roman period, whose origins are difficult to locate. One, of the second or third century CE, which lists the concordance of Babylonian and Egyptian years, deals with eclipse-omens, without mentioning the zodiac.

The impression given by such texts is of lack of contact with astrology proper; but there are Demotic horoscopes from the first century CE though probably all of the same astrologer. The beginnings of recognisable Hellenistic astrology have long been located by scholars in the Hellenised milieu of Alexandria, and are taken to be exemplified by a group of theoretical astrological works, whose origins are difficult to date. These are pseudepigraphical texts, that is to say, they credit the authorship to well-known culture-heroes or gods. Written in Greek, they are attributed to the god Hermes Trismegistus thrice-great or Asclepius and his circle.

A second-century source refers to forty-two books of Hermes, suggesting that there was a corpus of texts by that stage. For instance, there is the assertion that they are translated from the words of the Egyptian god Thoth, identified as the Greek Hermes see Plate 4. But the library consisted of a collection of mainly Gnostic texts in Coptic, the Egyptian language written using the Greek alphabet, among which were Hermetic texts.

The find has encouraged the view that the origins of Hermetic literature are to be found in the fusion of Egyptian and Greek ways of thought. The technical material includes magical, astrological, and alchemical treatises, which are probably older than the philosophical works on which scholarship has focused. Now, the astrological works attributed to Petosiris and Nechepso are usually seen as Hermetic, since it is often said that they gained their knowledge from Hermes.

Because Petosiris and Nechepso are most consistently portrayed as the founders of astrology and cited for particular doctrines, most scholars have agreed that there must have been Hellenistic texts circulating under their names which represented an early synthesis of astrological doctrines. But no one believes that it was a historical Nechepso or Petosiris who should be associated with these texts.

The names were probably chosen because Petosiris represented the prestige of the Egyptian priesthood, and Nechepso that of the Egyptian monarchy— like the other Hermetic texts, they are pseudepigraphical. Petosiris is usually identified as the priest whose tomb, which cannot be later than BCE, was the object of a cult, while Nechepso was the name of a king listed among the rulers of the twenty-sixth dynasty — BCE.

There is no full text of Nechepso and Petosiris, but there are plenty of quotations of writings attributed to them, in some cases extensive. The extant citations in the standard collection35 are very diverse; indeed it is hard to believe that the same authors were responsible for them. They fall into four groups. These citations are found in late authors: Hephaestion of Thebes fl. Predictions are made either for Egypt or for the whole Eurasian continent though here interpolations are quite conceivable , and could fit into a context of the third or second century BCE.

They are similar to the Demotic documents discussed, in fact fragments 6 and 12 seem to be versions of the two on eclipses and the rising of Sothis discussed above. The standard dating of BCE or a little later is based on this group of texts. The second group concern horoscopic astrology.

Valens also refers to a separate work of Petosiris called Definitions. He also claims that Petosiris only lightly touched on the doctrine of the full and empty degrees, and denies that the two dealt with the Sphaera Barharica non-Greek names for the constellations.

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We shall come back to them in Chapter 7. In the case of these last two subject-areas there are clear links with the rest of the Hermetic material. The decans seem to play an important role in Hermetic astrological medicine. In a sixth-century compendium of Hermetic doctrine, the Book of Hermes, the connections of decans with particular diseases and parts of the body are discussed. Here Hermes is pictured instructing his son Tat: You must conceive the shape of that body as circular, for such is the shape of the universe. It goes on to explain that the decans are exempt from undergoing what the other stars do, in being made to stand in their stations or retrograde, or be eclipsed by the Sun.

Instead they are not only free, they exercise power. No king is replaced, no city revolts, no famine, pestilence, flood or earthquake takes place without their influence. Since they command the planets, which command humans, they command humans. They also command them by the mediation of their sons, called daemons by the vulgar. From the under-ministers come destruction of animals other than human, in one region or another, and the swarming creatures that spoil the crops. There are a few short works preserved in Greek which come under the name of Hermes.

An early work concerns the meaning of thunder in each month, a late one earthquakes. There is a brief work on the astrology of particular enterprises, and another on the Places. Apart from the decans it discusses bright stars, fixed stars, the conjunction of planets, the position of planets in the signs and the terms. It reveals how to make predictions about the length of life, marriage, parents, brothers, violent deaths, good days and bad.

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It is obviously impossible to disentangle earlier from later elements, as is generally the case, now that we are dealing with a fullyfledged astrological system. There seems no half-way house between the celestial omen-literature and the detailed theory and practice revealed in citations or compilations of texts said to be the words of Hermes or Nechepso and Petosiris. It is impossible to be sure that the development of the system which was Hellenistic astrology did occur in Egypt on the basis of the evidence we have looked at.

However, there is no doubt that Egypt was believed to be the home of astrology by the first century BCE, and that the primary geographical zone for astrologers was Alexandria, and that astrologers made efforts to cultivate Hermetic style or to claim acquaintance with Hermetic texts.

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So it would probably be perverse to reject the traditional view that Egypt was the place, though our texts do not throw much light on the process of the emergence of the new system of astrology. The basic doctrines of fully developed astrology will be explained in Chapter 4. From this point onwards the chronological account will be concerned with the changing role of astrology rather than with the development of astrological theory, though some account will be given of the literature of each period.

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Details may be subject to controversy, but the general picture may be summarised as follows. The omen-literature of ancient Mesopotamia included matter concerning the heavens, and when it was combined with the astronomical data derived from attempts to construct a calendar, horoscopal astrology developed, of which we have evidence from the fourth century BCE or slightly earlier.

They transformed both astronomy and astrological cosmology with kinematic models of the universe. True, the impact of such models on astrology should not be exaggerated: Nevertheless, these cosmologies were important to the constructions of the universe in the more mystical branch of astrology, associated with Hermetic and Gnostic texts. At any rate, regardless of the astronomical contribution, it was also in Greek writings that the refinements of astrology began, most notably with the crucial role of the Ascendant. The contribution of Ancient Egypt was limited to a standard calendar, and the original form of the decans.

However, there was some Egyptian influence in the development of Hermetic astrology. Some of the material attributed to Nechepso and Petosiris looks like an Egyptian version of Mesopotamian omen-literature, and corresponds to material found in Demotic which could well have had its origin in the second century BCE, though recent examination may push this date forward into the next century. Another factor which encourages us to look on Hellenistic Alexandria as the cradle of Greek astrology, is that it is clear that by the mid-first century Egypt had acquired a reputation as such.

All the complexities of the discussion of the origins of astrology militate against any simple answer to the question of who deserves credit or blame for its invention. But it was certainly not solely a Greek creation.


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In the Hermetic texts, astrology is set in a firmly religious context. Yet the same astrological doctrines are propounded in entirely secular works, as we will see when we look at the astrologers of the Greco-Roman world. It is important to remember in the course of this enquiry that in the ancient world, there was never the same clearcut opposition between science and religion as there is now. Also, this chapter is not so much about the development of astrological theory, since that has already been discussed in the first chapter, but is rather concerned with its role in a new environment, that is, Rome, and the profile of astrology in the changing world of the Roman Empire.

However, Greeks still play a crucial role in this account, since astrology remained mainly the province of Greeks. The beginnings of astrology in Rome are, unsurprisingly, the most uncertain. There is a dearth of material regarding any early Roman interest in the stars, though one comic play by Plautus c. Ennius — BCE is the first to mention astrologi star-gazers and zodiac signs, but of course this may not add up to a reference to astrology proper.

The earliest references to astrology link it to the lower orders.


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  6. The earliest definite reference by a Roman to astrology also associates it with the lower orders. This concern was apparently borne out by the case of Athenio, an overseer who became the leader of the second slave-revolt in Sicily.

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    Armed with this expertise, he predicted success for the revolt. He also insisted that the gods had revealed to him through the stars that he would become king of all Sicily. If this story is well-founded it foreshadows the later uses of astrology. For they are not diviners by knowledge or by skill. But superstitious poets, soothsaying quacks are work-shy, mad or hungry. Horace, in about 35 BCE, in a context where he claims to lead the simple life, says that he listens to these diviners, while Juvenal in CE refers to lower-class women resorting to such people.

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    In this context, the story of astrology at Rome is part of the story of how Greek learning was adopted by the Romans. From the third century BCE, a small number of the nobility had shown serious interest in Greek literature and philosophy. By the end of the second century, a few aristocrats passing through Athens on their way East would stop to hear Greeks lecture. There was apparently less Roman interest in Alexandria, though it was regarded by some Greeks as the greatest city outside Rome, and it was certainly a centre of scholarship.

    However, it was not under direct Roman control until 30 BCE. Before then, Egypt was the less likely immediate source of information about astrology. Some came as slaves, captured in the wars, others because there were fewer and fewer opportunities for patronage elsewhere. However, we hear more of those representatives of Greek culture who came as ambassadors than we hear of slaves.

    Some gave public lectures, or even took on young men as pupils.


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    Greek philosophers have been given much credit for making astrology respectable in Rome; in particular the Stoic school, whose influence on the Roman elite was considerable, have been cast as preachers of a fatalist astrological creed. The Stoics had from at least the third century BCE defended all types of divination. Evidence for associating the early Stoics with astrology in particular comes later. This is not surprising, given that astrology had probably not taken off in the Greek world, as we have seen.

    However, by the middle of the second century there clearly was real Stoic interest. However, the pro-astrological views of the head of the Stoic school after him, Posidonius c. Posidonius too was an ambassador, in 87 BCE, and Cicero attended his lectures nine years later. Little remains of his work, which apparently encompassed history, lexicography, geometry and meteorology as well as philosophy proper.

    Cicero refers to his building an armillary sphere representing the heavens,10 which implies an interest in astronomy, while Diogenes Laertius a third-century author of a compendium on philosophy reports that he saw the heavens as the commanding faculty of the world visualised as a great organism.

    This dialogue is a version of a Greek debate about the validity of divination. It is not Stoic doctrine that the gods concern themselves with individual cracks in the liver or individual bird-songs… Their view is that the world was from its beginning set up in such a way that certain things should be preceded by certain signs, some in entrails, others in birds, others in lightning, others in portents, others in stars, others in dream impressions, others in frenzied utterances.

    Those who properly perceive these are rarely deceived. His picture of astrology may reflect the state of knowledge in educated circles, or it may simply reflect the aspects commonly discussed in philosophical debate: He does not mention horary astrology; this may be because it was of less relevance to the philosophers, concerned with debates about fate and free will. Despite the backing that Stoicism offered to astrology, its influence on elite Romans should not be exaggerated as the single factor in converting them to astrology.

    For one thing, philosophy did not cut ice with everybody. It was a commonplace of conservative rhetoric to present philosophy as a suspicious activity for a true Roman. Philosophers, as well as astrologers, were sometimes expelled from Rome, an action which mirrored this rhetoric. In BCE, two Epicureans were expelled from the city, and in a decree of the Senate forbade all foreign philosophers and rhetoricians to remain in Rome. Perhaps, in this case too, the measure was only directed against those who might stir up the lower orders.

    Such measures were passed again, long after Greek philosophy had become an acceptable elite pastime. His treatise is primarily astronomical and mathematical, but he mentions astrology several times in discussion of aspects of planets and zodiacal signs. Furthermore, he is sceptical about meteorological astrology, arguing that that stars are merely signs of the seasons rather than effecting changes in the weather themselves. In this context, he denies emanations from the fixed stars but admits them from the planets. Publius Nigidius Figulus and Tarutius of Firmum. He also wrote on catasterism, or ascension to the stars after death, and on the Sphaera Graeca and the Sphaera Barbarica, different sets of names for the constellations.

    This gave legends of the figures in the constellations of the zodiac, and referred to the rising and setting of other constellations in relation to the signs. The legends are mainly Greek, but in one case Egyptian, and in another, Mesopotamian. The Roman elite had begun to take astrology seriously. Romans could have been encouraged in this attitude not only by the prestige of Stoic philosophy but also out of respect for the astronomy about which they learnt from Greece.

    It was translated by Cicero, and by others. This poem must have been influential in preparing the ground for astrology. At any rate, it is more important that the prestige of Greek learning in general adhered to astrology. But to understand why astrology really took root among elite Romans, we need to look at the role it played in Roman politics.

    Astrology belonged with the sole ruler, as the state diviners belonged with the Republic. Generals with armies at their backs threatened the Republican constitution which ensured that power rested in the Senate as a body rather than in individuals. The old constitutional arrangement limited the power which might inhere in diviners concerned with public decisions as much as other forms of political power, by diffusing it.

    There were teams of diviners, and both the College of augurs, who took omens from birds, and the Fifteen originally Ten custodians of the books of Sibylline prophecy were drawn from the Senate. The haruspices were concerned with extispicy, thunder and lightning, and prodigies, unusual events deemed to portend something important.

    The haruspices were representatives of an Etruscan tradition, which had been absorbed into the fabric of the Republic. The Senate always retained control; it could decide what to do after consultation of the diviners. Broadly speaking, the diviners were expected to warn of messages from the gods, generally of their favourable or unfavourable attitude, and to advise on appropriate ritual action if it was necessary. Here is a typical entry in Livy, who wrote the history of the Republic from his perspective under the first emperor. It refers to BCE: Two domesticated cattle in the Carinae climbed up a stairway to the roof of a house.

    The haruspices ordered that they be burned alive and the ashes thrown into the Tiber. At Terracina and Amiternum it was reported that there were several showers of stones, at Minturnae the temple of Jupiter and the shops around the forum were struck by lightning, at Vulturnum in the mouth of the river, two ships were struck by lightning and burned.

    On account of these portents the Ten were directed by a decree of the Senate to consult the Sibylline Books and they reported that a feast in honour of Ceres should be held and this repeated every fifth year; also that a nine-day festival should be celebrated and a period of prayer for one day, that those who offered the prayers should wear garlands and that she consuls should sacrifice. Clearly, the old Roman institutions of divination were subject to reconsideration and debate at this time. The first cases of Roman aristocratic leaders associated with astrology emerge at the beginning of the first century BCE, in the turbulent period when generals like Sulla and Marius were taking the extreme step of marching on the capital to take it by force.

    In 87 BCE the consul Octavius, a supporter of Sulla, in effect seized sole power for himself when he had his colleague Cinna deposed and driven out of the city. According to Plutarch, the astrological diagram which had assured him of his safety was found on his dead body. But Cicero, in his attack on astrology, mentions similar predictions made by astrologers for Pompey, Crassus and Julius Caesar, and none of them died of old age, at home and with glorious reputations, as promised. Suetonius, the chronicler of the lives of the Caesars, records prophecies made for all the emperors.

    There are two reported astrological prophecies of supreme power for Octavian, one for his birth in 63 BCE, supposedly made by Nigidius,26 and another set around 44 BCE, when the young man was in exile. Agrippa went first and was prophesied such almost incredibly good fortune that Augustus expected a far less encouraging response, and felt ashamed to disclose the time of his birth. Yet when at last, after a great deal of hesitation, he grudgingly supplied the information for which both were pressing him, Theogenes rose and flung himself at his feet; and this gave Augustus so implicit a faith in the destiny that he even ventured to publish his horoscope, and struck a silver coin stamped with Capricorn, the sign under which he had been born.

    It is set at a moment when Octavian was in obscurity, so that the prediction would be all the more impressive, and it is given a dramatic narrative structure. However, it is in an important sense archetypal for the imperial period. Furthermore, the fact that these accounts were elaborated does not suggest that there was no truth in them at all. Suetonius mentioned that Augustus had Capricorn put on his coins; in fact we find not only large numbers of coins with Capricorn on them see Plate 5 , but also sculptural reliefs, terracottas, paintings and jewellery.

    It is clear that Augustus made Capricorn his personal badge, and linked it with a number of other themes as part of his image-making. It carried a number of connotations, mainly associated with the idea of a new era, as Capricorn was the sign in which the Sun began to rise again after the winter solstice. Thus the zodiac sign became the sign of a new age of peace after the civil wars. Later emperors revived its use frequently, up until the third century. This story is backed up by the third-century historian Cassius Dio, who adds that the horoscope was published in an edict.

    The official diviners regulated by the Senate had given way to the unofficial advisers elevated by closeness to the ruler. In the place of the anonymous members of colleges, individual named diviners, who were honoured for their skill, emerged. They were not always astrologers, some were individual haruspices, but even in their case, often their traditional lore had been modernised with astrological additions, and they now tended to concentrate on individual fates, and to offer more precise predictions.

    Whereas the typical procedure reported in the classical Republic involved only endorsement of an action, or vague warnings of doom, as it collapsed, diviners are presented in the role of advisers about all issues involving the future. Of course, the fact that we hear little of private divination under the Republic does not imply that it never happened, but the fact that the individual has moved centrestage is an important change in itself. The astrologer, with his individualised predictions, is the sign of the political shifts which had taken place. There is the first astrological work in Latin, indeed the first classical astrological work to survive in its original form, the didactic poem of Manilius.

    He followed a Greek tradition in writing in verse: Lucretius had also offered a Latin example, in writing his great exposition of Epicurean philosophy in verse. It may well be the case that Manilius was no more an astrologer than Virgil was a farmer, and that much of the appeal was in the difficulty of versifying such unlikely material. Since it is the first theoretical work to survive almost in its entirety, it is worth looking at its contents in some detail. The technical terms are explained in Chapter 4. The first book, after a brief account of cosmological speculations, concluding with the view that the Earth is composed of four elements, offers an elementary description of the heavens and ends with a discussion of comets as omens.

    It seems to visualise the Babylonians as the originators of astronomy and the Egyptians as the inventors of astrology. Book 2 gives the characteristics of the signs of the zodiac, expounds their geometrical relationships, the zodiacal and planetary dodecatemories, the cardinal points, the Twelve Places and the Eight Places. Book 3 describes the twelve Lots, the rising times and the Time-Lords, explains how to calculate the length of life, and concludes with a discussion of tropic signs.

    The fourth book gives an account of the characteristics of the zodiac signs imparted to the native, describes the decans and the influences of some of the individual degrees of the zodiac, depicts a map of the world along with the zodiacal rulers of each part, and finishes with a discussion of the effects of eclipses on different signs.

    The final book recounts the paranatellonta, or stars rising and setting with the signs. It seems likely that a treatment of planetary influences has dropped out at this point, and the following account of stellar magnitudes, with which the poet closes, may also be incomplete. Apart from Manilius, Augustan literature furnishes us with ample evidence that astrology had become very fashionable in circles close to the court.

    For the most part, there are only occasional allusions to astrology, but in one case an astrologer is imagined as addressing the poem to the poet. In most cases the tone seems clearly lighthearted. However, the sudden appearance of astrological references can hardly be an accident—as in other areas, the poets pick up themes of imperial self-presentation. Augustus was taking a risk in using astrology to legitimate his position, because he was opening up a way for others to follow. Tiberius is presented in our sources as a tyrannical ruler, and it is where tyrants appear that astrology is a leitmotiv in the literature.

    He is the first emperor to be reported to have a court astrologer. The story goes that he met Thrasyllus while in exile in Rhodes, when he was out of favour with Augustus. His practice was to test astrologers when he needed their guidance. If they seemed unreliable, or fraudulent, they would be thrown off the cliff on the way back from his house, which was at the top of a precipice. When Tiberius questioned Thrasyllus, he was impressed by his answers, which included a prediction that he, Tiberius, would succeed Augustus. The future emperor then put his test-question: Thrasyllus, after measuring the positions and distances of the stars, hesitated, then showed alarm.

    The more he looked, the greater his astonishment and fright. Then he cried that a critical and perhaps fatal emergency was upon him. Tiberius clasped him, commending his divination of peril, and promising that he would escape it. Thrasyllus was admitted among his closest friends, his pronouncements were regarded as oracular. Its appeal doubtless lay in its confrontation of the seer with the equivalent of the dictum Physician, heal thyself.

    For once, in the story, the seer comes up trumps. Nevertheless, regardless of the folk-tale element in the story, Thrasyllus was real enough. This is in fact the earliest securely dated mention of Hermes: Thrasyllus was thus one channel through which Hermetic astrology reached Rome. His friendship with Tiberius certainly brought rewards: Ennius in about 15 CE.

    Marcus Scribonius Libo Drusus, who was a young man related to the imperial family, had apparently consulted astrologers, magicians and dream-interpreters. Apart from Tacitus, who was hostile to Tiberius, the sources tend to agree that Libo was planning a coup. He committed suicide before the case could come to trial. The Senate immediately passed two decrees against astrologers and other diviners, and two men, either astrologers or magicians, were executed publicly, one being thrown off the Tarpeian Rock and the other beaten to death with rods to the sound of bugles.

    Indeed, Tiberius is envisaged by Juvenal in his years of self-imposed retreat on the island of Capri, as surrounded by a flock of astrologers. Thrasyllus was also said to have prevented him from ordering the deaths of many, assuring him that he had many years of life left. Clearly, Domitian is indicated as that person. Improbable as the astrological secret police may seem as an imperial institution, the fear of those to whom astrologers had predicted an imperial future was not unjustified, even leaving out of account the fact that emperors, like most Romans, were not inclined to thoroughgoing scepticism about astrology.

    In two cases, both in 69 CE, the year in which four emperors ruled in a succession of coups, we actually hear of astrologers encouraging their clients to revolt with their predictions: But the letters reached the Prefect before they reached the emperor. For instance, there are explanations as to why a future emperor was permitted to live: Domitian only spared Nerva because an astrologer said he would die soon anyway. The emperor was acquainted with the horoscope of Verus… and adopted a man whom he did not really think suitable to govern the empire merely to gratify his desires…For Marius Maximus represents Hadrian as so expert in astrology, as even to assert that he knew all about his own future.

    Septimius Severus was similarly credited with astrological skills such as were possessed by most Africans, according to the source. He noted with surprise that there was nothing imperial in the horoscope of his second son Geta, born on 27 May , to whom he left the empire as joint-heir with his first son Caracalla.

    Again the art is proved infallible, for Geta was murdered by his brother. Septimius Severus knew that he would not come back from Britain, from his horoscope. He also supposedly found his wife by making enquiries to discover a woman whose horoscope predicted that she would marry a king. But we hear of only one other case of publication in the manner of Augustus: Like Augustus, he was in much need of legitimation, since the Antonine dynasty had collapsed, and the successor had only lasted three months before being murdered.

    Septimius knew the value of such backing: Herodianus reports that the emperor published the dreams, oracles, omens and other predictions foretelling his power in his Autobiography, and had them represented in sculpture and painting on his public images. According to Dio, who had himself presented the emperor with an account of these omens, Septimius Severus had his horoscope depicted on the ceiling of the rooms in his palace where he held court, but was careful to ensure that the Ascendant was placed at a different place in each room, so that no one could know the full horoscope and use it as a basis for their own calculations.

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    However, he must have seen the ceilings concerned. There was Hellenistic precedent for such publication. High up in the Taurus mountains, on the summit of Nimrud Dagh, a relief shows a conjunction of planets in Leo represented as a lion, with stars in the appropriate places. This is the horoscope for the coronation-date of Antiochus I of Commagene after Pompey had returned him to power: It is in fact the earliest original Greek horoscope preserved, and backs up the association of astrology with monarchy. Astrologers were often used to check on the appropriate moment for coronation.

    If Dio is correct, Severus had good reason to conceal his Ascendant, since it offered the possibility of calculating his death-date. Astrologers asserted that the conjunction of heavenly bodies under which Tiberius left Rome in 26 CE precluded his return, according to Tacitus. It is a favourite device in stories about predictions that a second interpretation, not originally apparent, is borne out in the fullness of time.