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DE DIVINATIONE by Cicero

 
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Mike



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Posted: Thu Jun 03, 2010 12:42 am    Post subject: DE DIVINATIONE by Cicero Reply with quote

This treatise is an attempt to convince the reader of the absurdity of divination. However, it's interesting in it's description of differents philosohical schools on the topic. It seems the Stoics were in favor of almost every type of divination because it helped them to accept their fate and attain enlightenment.

Note: I think it's important for an astrologer to understand the critics of astrology and divination.


Cicero on Divination (Two Books)

http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Cicero/de_Divinatione/home.html



Your comments are welcome.
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GarryP
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Posted: Thu Jun 03, 2010 2:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cicero's book is sometimes seen as having prompted Ptolemy to write the Tetrabiblos - e.g. Campion, Dawn of Astrology, p.209.
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Mike



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Posted: Sun Jun 13, 2010 2:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Is there any solid evidence to support that?.
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Mark
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Posted: Tue Jun 15, 2010 12:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Is there any solid evidence to support that?.


We know so little about Ptolemy I dont know how Nicholas Campion can substantiate that theory. However, I will post up the relevant section from his book later where he makes this suggestion.

There are obviously other views on what motivated Ptolemy to write Tetrabiblos. For example, here is an interview with James Holden on Nina Gryphon's blog. James Holden believes Ptolemy simply wrote Tetrabiblos 'on commission' for a rich patron (Syrus) and was not a practising astrologer. His views will probably irritate some traditionalists. All the more reason to stir up some debate. Wink

Mark


NG: What do you think are some of the biggest changes in our knowledge, what we’ve learned in the last ten or twenty years that we didn’t know about the history of astrology before?

JH: I would say that maybe going back as far as thirty years ago we began to get some old books, and I’m talking about English speaking countries, I think what I’m saying is largely true of foreign countries too. But in this country, if you go back about thirty years, about the only old book you could get was Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos. And many astrologers, not being aware that anything else existed, assumed that Ptolemy invented astrology and that everything that was original about it was in that book, which isn’t true.

Ptolemy was a science writer. He was like Isaac Asimov who wrote books on practically everything. I suspect that Ptolemy had been hired by some rich man who said: “I’ve got a nice, private library in my house and I’d like to have some books on the sciences. And I’ll pay you good if you’ll write them.” So Ptolemy wrote him a book on astronomy, and he wrote one on geography, and he wrote on two or three other subjects.

And then the man said: “Oh, and astrology; write something on astrology.” So Ptolemy wrote something on astrology. But if you look in the very first chapter of the Tetrabiblos, Ptolemy says he has left out a whole lot of what was current in his lifetime, and he said: “My book is not complete, I’ve left out a whole lot of things because it’s a big subject and if I wanted to put everything in it, it would be a whole lot bigger book.” Why, I think hardly any astrologer after his time ever bothered to read that part of it. Most of them assumed that he was first so he must have invented the whole thing.

For example, there was a man who was a professional astrologer, named Vettius Valens who was living in Alexandria from about 150 to 175 AD, which would have overlapped Ptolemy’s lifetime. He didn’t know Ptolemy and never mentions him once.

I’ve written a paper on this that hasn’t been published yet, but I think what happened is that Ptolemy wrote his books for a client or a patron whose name was Syrus. All Ptolemy’s books are addressed to a man named Syrus who is otherwise totally unknown.

When he finished he gave all the books to Syrus, the guy stuck them on the shelf, and they sat there for 150 years. They were not published or made available to the general public until around 300 AD. And Valens lived in the same town with Ptolemy and never heard of him, though Valens was a professional astrologer and also had a school of astrology. He would have known if the Tetrabiblos had been available; he would have had a copy; and he would have known all about it. And yet Valens’s book is true to what was going on at the time. For example, I think it’s got almost a hundred example horoscopes in it. Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos doesn’t have a single one.

So one is a theoretician, and the other one was a practicing astrologer. Ptolemy went down to the Alexandrian Library and got out two or three books on astrology, read through them, and then thought, well, I’ll talk about this part of it, and wrote the Tetrabiblos. Now, what he put down there is good, there’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s not complete, that’s the point I’m trying to make.

And yet, I don’t think up until thirty years ago, hardly anybody knew about that. But since that time, various people have translated some of the old books. I think Robert Schmidt translated all or most of Vettius Valens, for example. A translation of Firmicus came out in 1974, I think. People little by little began to get some of the old books and found out, hey, there was more to it back then than we thought.

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Levente Laszlo



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Posted: Tue Jun 15, 2010 11:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, gaining some inspiration from earlier works is fairly common in astrology, as is the case with Manilius who seem to have been inspired by Lucretius, who expands Epicurean philosophy in the 6 books of his On the Nature of Things, and Vergil's Georgics, which is a poem of cosmic vision. Moreover, Manilius Astronomics (a title resembling that of Vergil), which is a poetical description of world order primarily, and astrology proper has only secondary importance, may have been influential to Dorotheus, who treats astrology also in 5 books in his Apotelesmatics (a title later re-used by Ptolemy; the widely known title, Carmen astrologicum is given by Pingree), but in a much more professional point of view. So it might be the situation with Ptolemy, keeping On Divination in mind, but I don't think that's likely.
First, Cicero wrote in Latin and, of various reasons, Latin literature has quite little impact on Greek literature. Thus, if the pattern for Cicero was a lost work by Posidonius of Apamea, and if there are links between Ptolemy and some thoughts found in On Divination, then possibly Ptolemy drew upon Posidonius, not on Cicero. This idea may be corroborated by the fact that it was Posidonius, not Cicero, who wrote about various topics like astronomy, mathematics and geography, the very topics Ptolemy is famous for. Therefore I would say Ptolemy's pattern was something Posidonian in mind, while thematically he may have used Dorotheus and others.
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Mark
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Posted: Tue Jun 15, 2010 7:13 pm    Post subject: Babylonica of Berossus and the writings of the Stoics Reply with quote

Quote:
Well, gaining some inspiration from earlier works is fairly common in astrology, as is the case with Manilius who seem to have been inspired by Lucretius, who expands Epicurean philosophy in the 6 books of his On the Nature of Things, and Vergil's Georgics, which is a poem of cosmic vision. Moreover, Manilius Astronomics (a title resembling that of Vergil), which is a poetical description of world order primarily, and astrology proper has only secondary importance, may have been influential to Dorotheus, who treats astrology also in 5 books in his Apotelesmatics (a title later re-used by Ptolemy; the widely known title, Carmen astrologicum is given by Pingree), but in a much more professional point of view. So it might be the situation with Ptolemy, keeping On Divination in mind, but I don't think that's likely.


I suppose there is always a degree of cross fertilization going on. For example, its hard to ignore the influence of The Phenomena by Aratus of Soli on the work of Manilius. With his Almagest Ptolemy makes it clear how important Hipparchus was on his work. Unfortunately, we dont know what Ptolemy's astrological sources were in the Tetrabiblos.

Quote:
First, Cicero wrote in Latin and, of various reasons, Latin literature has quite little impact on Greek literature. Thus, if the pattern for Cicero was a lost work by Posidonius of Apamea, and if there are links between Ptolemy and some thoughts found in On Divination, then possibly Ptolemy drew upon Posidonius, not on Cicero. This idea may be corroborated by the fact that it was Posidonius, not Cicero, who wrote about various topics like astronomy, mathematics and geography, the very topics Ptolemy is famous for. Therefore I would say Ptolemy's pattern was something Posidonian in mind, while thematically he may have used Dorotheus and others.


An interesting point. The cultural division between the Latin and Greek world is something that often gets blurred in generic terminology like 'classical literature'. From what you are saying while Greek literature influenced Latin literature it was not a two way traffic.

I am very interested in what you state about Posidonius. I think he a fascinating figure in his own right that could represent a bridge between the Babylonian astrology of Berossus and hellenistic astrology. Philosophically, both the Babylonica of Berossus and the writings of Stoics express a belief in 'eternal recurrence'. Posidonius also provides us with his philosophy of 'cosmic sympathy' which was used to explain astrology. This is why I think Robert Schmidt's theory of exclusively Platonist origins for hellenistic astrology is too narrowly focused. Stoics like Posidonius, Manilius and Valens were clearly a strong element in classical astrology. Equally, its impossible to ignore the Aristotelian approach utilised by Ptolemy.

Mark
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GarryP
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Posted: Wed Jun 16, 2010 2:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks, Mark & Osthanes, for raising some really interesting issues.

The specific reference that Campion adds to that point is to Ptolemy's Universe by Liba Chaia Taub, which - he says - provides "the best discussion of the intellectual context of Ptolemy's work" (n.32, p.340). It seems to be implicit that this would include Cicero's influence. I'm investigating this and will report back.

Robbins includes a footnote in his translation of the Tetrabiblos (n.1, p.7) as follows:

"Boll, Studien, pp.133 ff., enumerates parallels to this passage concerning the sun and the moon in Cicero, Philo Judaeus, Cleomedes, and Manilius, and ascribes their likeness to the influence of Posidonius."

So that tends to back up Osthanes' suggestion that it could be a case of Posidonius, rather than Cicero, influencing Ptolemy.
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Deb
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Posted: Wed Jun 16, 2010 3:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ptolemy definitely drew on Posidonious rather than Cicero, but he used the arguments of Posidonius against the criticisms offered by Cicero (who was a student of Posidonius, so knew where the arguments could be challenged). I'm including a lengthy extract from one of my articles because it is directly relevant to this. It was written for issue 20 of the TA in 1999, which never got published due to my illness (so I had to dig it out from the computer vaults Smile )

--------------

The historian and philosopher Posidonius (c.135-51 BC) was one of the early pioneers who had studied Greek philosophy in Athens and then later established disseminating schools in Rhodes and Rome. From these centres he transmitted the main principles of Stoicism to leading Roman students who in turn went on to become prominent orators and effective communicators of the principles inherent in astrology as it arose in the Roman world.

Posidonius was greatly admired as an influential academic. He dedicated much of his life to research and through his travels and observations he was able to prove the connection between the tides and the phases of the Moon, and demonstrate the circumference of the Earth. He was a firm believer in cosmic sympathy, approved of the philosophy of the Stoics, and advocated the use of astrology. But he also argued that theories need to be backed with evidence, so he spent much of his time collecting case histories to prove the viability of divination, and to strengthen his argument that the future is organised, not merely subject to chance events, and therefore able to be predicted. Unfortunately his own works are lost but his teachings have been conveyed through the works of his distinguished pupils and it is generally acknowledged that the success of Stoicism in Rome was centered upon his influence. Similarly, his professional standing lent credence to the rational pursuit of knowledge derived from the stars, allowing astrology to overcome the negative connotations of critics who wrote in the style of Ennius. Professor Franz Cumont, – who considered Posidonius to be the true inspiration behind Manilius’s Astronomica and referred to his ‘intellectual sovereignty’ as ‘the great intermediary and mediator not only between Romans and Hellenes, but also between East and West’ – saw him as a master among masters and claimed:

Quote:
“… above all it was due to him that astrology entered into a coherent explanation of the world, acceptable to the most enlightened intellects, and that it was solidly based on a general theory of nature, from which it was to remain henceforth inseparable.”


Although the impression that Posidonius left upon astrology is enormous, it would be wrong to think of him as the originator of new ideas. As a key intellectual figure and a persuasive, forceful communicator he, like Zeno in Greece, brought attention to philosophies that, as Cumont puts it, ‘must certainly have shown themselves long before him and abundantly around him’; much of Stoicism being rooted in Mesopotamian theology and various ancient oriental cults. But it is fair to look upon Posidonius as a philosophical champion who was responsible for a key movement of ideas at a particularly sensitive time, allowing those ideas to adapt to and cause the adaptation of related studies. Thus it is said that when Neo-Pythagoreanism emerged in Rome, ‘it professed to connect itself to the old Pythagorean mysticism, [but] its doctrine owes more to the theories developed by Posidonius’.

One of Posidonius’s most illustrious students was the political orator Cicero (106-43 BC), who attended his school at Rhodes in 78 BC. The strong impression that Posidonius left upon the young Cicero is evident in the great respect that the latter shows for his former teacher in his writings, even though he later came to differ with many of his views.
Upon completion of his studies, Cicero returned to Rome and embarked upon a colourful public career, eventually to be murdered by the soldiers of Antony in 43 BC. Towards the end of his life, when his political career was waning, he took to writing about philosophy, ethics and those subjects he had studied as a young man. Within these works he appears to have taken an ambivalent attitude towards Stoicism. Generally, he demonstrates agreement with its doctrines, (conceding in book three of De Natura Deorum that of the main philosophies the Stoic argument is more likely to be right) but in the work which immediately followed this, De Divinatione, Cicero set out a damning attack on the Stoic belief in Providence and put forward all the contemporary arguments against the use of prophecy. Here, for example, he speaks of the futility of prediction – if the future can be foretold it is obviously preordained and therefore unalterable –

Quote:
“What is this premonition sent by the gods, this so-called warning of disaster? What do the immortal gods have in mind when they give us clues that we cannot understand without interpreters and against which we are defenceless anyway? No decent human being would do that: predict to a friend an imminent disaster from which there is no way of escape.... If the gods really wanted us to know the future, they should have stated it clearly, if not, they should not even hint at it.”


When Ptolemy wrote his defence against criticisms such as these, a century and a half later, he drew upon the earlier arguments of Posidonius for his response:

Quote:
… we should consider that even with events that will necessarily take place, their unexpectedness is apt to cause excessive panic.... while foreknowledge accustoms and calms the soul and prepares it to greet with steadiness whatever comes. Also, we should not believe that events attend mankind as the result of the heavenly cause as if they had been ordained by some irrevocable command and destined to take place without the possibility of any other cause interfering. Rather, the movement of the heavenly bodies is performed in accordance with divine, unchangeable destiny, while the change of earthly things is subject to a natural and mutable fate, and in drawing its first causes from above it is governed by chance and natural sequence.


Because of the views set out in De Divination, Cicero has become known as one of the last great opponents of astrology in the classical world. Yet while he may have attacked their philosophy, Cicero clearly moved comfortably in social circles attended by astrologers and enjoyed their personal companionship...

------------------------------------------

I use part of that in my course work, to make the point that even Ptolemy - although his astrological philosophy appears to be completely predeterminalistic - acknowledges the possibility that another ‘cause’ may interfere. So the possibility of chance or free will preventing celestial predetermination from fully expressing itself is never denied from a philosophical basis, even within the strictures of Stoicism.
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Mark
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Posted: Wed Jun 16, 2010 5:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Deb,

Very interesting. I think Posidonius is a rather neglected but nonetheless pivotal figure in the history of astrology.

Quote:
Unfortunately his own works are lost but his teachings have been conveyed through the works of his distinguished pupils and it is generally acknowledged that the success of Stoicism in Rome was centered upon his influence.


While its correct no complete texts have survived there are a substantial number of fragments of Posidonius's writings on various subject still extant. These are scattered throughout various classical sources.

The only English translation attempting to pull together these surviving writings of Posidonius I am aware of is the following:

Posidonius: Volume 1 ,II &III , The Fragments (Cambridge Classical Texts and Commentaries) L. Edelstein and I. G. Kidd

http://www.amazon.com/Posidonius-Fragments-Cambridge-Classical-Commentaries/dp/0521604257/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1276706793&sr=8-1

You can check out Volume II & III on google books

http://books.google.com/books?id=krC5b4VOftsC&pg=PP1&dq=Posidonius+Volume+III&hl=en&ei=TAQZTK6eFtGBOK-pia8J&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CC4Q6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=Posidonius%20Volume%20III&f=false

Its been on my shopping list for a while (along with so many other books!).

Mark
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Chris Brennan



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Posted: Wed Jun 16, 2010 7:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The argument that Campion mentions and cites Taub for was originally made by a scholar named Anthony Long in a paper titled 'Astrology: Arguments Pro and Contra', which originally appeared in the book Science and Speculation: Studies in Hellenistic Theory and Practice, edited by J. Barnes, Cambridge University Press, 1982, pgs. 165-192. It was recently reprinted with only a couple of minor additions in an edition of Long's collected works titled From Epicurus to Epictetus: Studies in Hellenistic and Roman Philosophy.

Long is a major authority on the Hellenistic philosophical schools, especially Stoicism, and so his paper gets cited a lot in academic circles.

I actually found it rather plausible, and it paints Ptolemy in a new light, as someone who was to some extent shaping his system by responding to criticisms of the subject that were present in his day.

Several of the arguments that he responds to were common ones that seem to have originated in the Academic or Stoic schools around the 2nd century BCE. Cicero himself says that he is drawing on the arguments of Panaetius, who he informs us was one of the only leading Stoics to have rejected astrology. Because of that I'm not sure that we can necessarily say that Ptolemy was drawing on anyone in particular so much as he was taking into account several of the common objections to astrology in his day.
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Chris Brennan



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Posted: Wed Jun 16, 2010 7:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

MarkC wrote:


...

Posidonius: Volume 1 ,II &III , The Fragments (Cambridge Classical Texts and Commentaries) L. Edelstein and I. G. Kidd

...

Its been on my shopping list for a while (along with so many other books!).



If you are primarily looking for astrological fragments from Posidonius then it really isn't worth it. There are only two fragments in the astrology section attributed to him: one from Augustine's discussion of astrology in City of God, and one from Boethius. The latter is useless, and the former simply tells us that he was an advocate of astrology and that he dealt with the subject of twins. That is about it, unfortunately.
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Mark
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Posted: Wed Jun 16, 2010 11:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
If you are primarily looking for astrological fragments from Posidonius then it really isn't worth it.


Hi Chris,

Thanks for that. Personally, my interest is a bit wider than just explicit references to astrology. The views of Posidonius on meteorology, science, religion and philosophy all interest me.

Mark
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Deb
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Posted: Thu Jun 17, 2010 8:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the news about these books Mark, and the summary Chris. I wish the world would stop publishing good books for a while, to give me chance to catch up with the ones I already have (or have given my promise to)!
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