Question: Surveys of Ancient Charts May Be Misleading?

“In Neugebauer and Van Hoesen’s collection, Greek Horoscopes, there are approximately thirty-eight standalone charts that only record the sign of the Ascendant, and thus could only be used to calculate whole sign houses???. So writes Chris Brennan on page 371 of his book Hellensitic Astrology: The Study of Fate and Fortune.

The passage in question is available now for free by Brennan here: ... vision.pdf

Brennan does not just limit himself with the charts from Greek Horoscopes but brings in other texts, effectively updating things since Neugebauer and Van Hoesen published their work. I am not certain if Brennan is the first to make this argument, but as I am not familiar with any other who has made it, I will assume he is.

He concludes that:
“Finally, there are only three standalone charts in Greek Horoscopes that included both the degree of the Ascendant and the degree of the meridian-Midheaven, and thus could have been used to calculate quadrant houses…it is only in these three charts that quadrant houses could have been calculated at all???

Others have picked this up and ran with it and updated the list with still further charts.

But is any of this true?

Well, partially. But with a little context I actually believe that this kind of ‘surveying’ is not always helpful and may be misleading.
In short, I do not believe it is accurately summing up the possibility of other charts providing information to also calculate quadrant houses.

I believe the chart examples gives us *other* information which can be reasonably used, according to methods that ancient astrologers explicitly advocate, to actually calculate the Ascendant and Midheaven degrees rendering their recording to be unnecessary, just as it might be unnecessary to record both a person’s age, and then also their date of birth.

For transparency, I will use Riley’s translation which you is available for free here: ... entire.pdf
"The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing" - Socrates


In Book I, Valens provides a plethora of ways to calculate the ascendant degree. Not all of them have any basis whatsoever in astronomy - these are ‘magical’ ways to determine the ascendant degree. However it’s possible more astronomical methods were provided here as it would appear the text here may be out of sequence or not well preserved. Now, regardless of how accurate this is, one way to calculate the ascendant degree given by Valens is:

“To find the Ascendant precisely to the degree, do this: multiply the hour/time of birth by the motion of the moon. For day births count from the sun’s degree-position; for night births count from the point in opposition <to>. The degree where the count stops will be considered the Ascendant. For example: Hadrian year 4, Mechir 13, the first hour of the night. The sun was in Aquarius 22°, the moon is Scorpio 7°, the motion of the moon in its <204th> day from epoch was 13;52°. I consulted the appended table under 14 in the first row and I found below in the first column of hours, 16. I then counted from the degree in opposition to the sun, Leo 22°. I stopped in Virgo 8°. If more or fewer degrees are found in the table of rising times, it can be ascertained from the aforementioned procedure whether the hour requires an added or a subtracted factor. “
[Valens, p.9]

We need not concern ourselves too much here except to note that the information that Valens used to determine the ascendant degree was thus:
“Hadrian year 4, Mechir 13, the first hour of the night. The sun was in Aquarius 22°, the moon is Scorpio 7°???

In other words the date of the chart, the nubmer of hours in the day or night, and the position of the Sun and Moon, in particular the Sun.
From this information, the ascendant could be calculated. Whether it is astronomically precise by modern standards is beside the point. To expect modern requirements from ancient sources is an anachronism, and would be poor scholarship: we should understand Valens based on *his* expectations, not on ours.

This whole section of Valens is fairly confused and it’s no wonder that people have struggled with it. Not content with just providing one method, Valens provides several, some more precise than others, some more astronomically sound than others. But that’s irrelevant: the point is that Valens was content to calculate the ascendant using only a minimal of information: date, time of day/night, the sun’s degree position. With that information he says he “consulted the appended table??? and so it’s clear that tables of data were used which aided in the calculation process.

In fact, as we shall see, that is indeed all that is needed. I would hope that nobody would suggest that Valens was incapable of calculating the ascendant degree, and so all I am attempting to demonstrate here is the minimum of information needed.
"The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing" - Socrates


Paulus Alexandrinus provides a much more coherent method of calculating the ascendant, and on close examination at least some of this is echoed in Valens, though it appears parts of Valens may have had these sentences jumbled so it’s difficult to ascertain. 

Paulus’s method is as follows.

Convert the seasonal (e.g. length of daytime/nighttime divided by 12) to equator-based hours. Multiply that by 15. Add to that number the number of degrees of the Sun. 

That’s it.

Ok, putting aside what equator-based hours are for a second, to get the Sun’s degree position you *either* need to be told, *or* you can work it out from the date from a simple table. These ‘seasonal’ hours are the same ‘time’ factor that is needed by Valens too. When ancient charts give how many hours of the day or night has passed, they typically means seasonal hours.

So why does this work? Well if you imagine that the Sun occupies its degree position for the entire day (a justifiable approximation), then if you imagine that 0 hours have passed that day, then you can know the Sun is on the ascendant. In fact whatever the degree of the Sun is, it must equally be the degree of the ascendant. If the Sun is at 0º Taurus, say, and it’s 0 hours after sunrise, then Sun is on the ascendant, so the ascendant must *also* be 0º Taurus. If two hours have passed, then it must be at 0º Taurus plus the two (seasonal) hours of time converted to the zodiac.

Ok, so we need to convert 2 seasonal hours to degrees of the zodiac. Well if we know, somehow, that it takes Taurus 2 seasonal hours to rise, then we know that 0º Taurus plus 2 seasonal hours, must mean that Taurus has fully risen, so we know the Ascendant degree must be at 0º Gemini.

But how long *does* it take a given zodiac sign to rise?

Well crudely we might say that there are 360º in the zodiac, and 24 hours in the day, so as the full zodiac rises in a given day, then 15º of the zodiac must rise in one hour (360/24), and so 30º must rise in 2 hours. So on average a given zodiac sign of 30º must take 2 hours to rise. However, the ecliptic is oblique to the angle of the equator which represents the rotation of the earth. That means that actually some signs rise quicker than others. So how do you know how much time it takes a given sign to rise?

Well if you imagine that the earth rotates at the same rate (it does), then you do know that 15º of the equator will have rotated every hour. This idea of measuring ‘hours’ along the equator was very common in ancient times, and indeed still today.

The answer to the problem (dating at least back to the Babylonians) was a table of ascensional times for each zodiac sign which demonstrated how many degrees of the equator had rotated before a given sign would fully rise. These tables were available to astrologers and likely the kind of tables Valens was also describing. Consulting those tables, say, for Babylon, Taurus rises in 24º. That is to say once 24º has rotated along the equator, then all of Taurus will have risen. Astrolabes and other tables and simple arithmetic could use this information to convert seasonal hours using the tables of ascensional times into degrees along the zodiac. So once you know how many degrees along the zodiac has elapsed since sunrise, and you know the degree of sunrise (its the sun’s degree position) then you can add one to the other to get the ascendant degree.

Very elegant, and very normal to an ancient astrologer, but utterly alien to our modern who does not imagine time in things like ‘seasonal hours’ but instead by just consulting our clock.

Here is what Paulus says (translation by Schmidt, pp. 67-68):
“After multiplying the distributed hours by 15, add to the conjoined number the degrees which the Sun has, more or less, at the birth…For the multiplication of 15 is made whenever the hours are equipartite. The equipartite hours become seasonal hours from the astrolabe, if you divide conjoined number from the multiplication of the hours and the proximate hourly times by 15…And thus the whole quantity reaches as far as the Horoskopos itself, showing the degree of the zoidion rising up at that time???

* equipartite hours are hours along the equator as mentioned above
* the Horoskopos was Schmidt’s convention for translating the ascendant
* a zoidion is Schmidt’s transliteration of a zodiac sign

I haven’t gone into any more detail than this as obviously certain tables were required for the calculation and I don’t want to be accused of inventing what those may be though in some instances it’s quite clear. Instead I’ll suffice to summarise thusly what the information is that’s required to calculate the ascendant with this investigation of Valens and Paulus:
* a) The degree of the Sun OR b) the date to determine its degree instead
* The (seasonal) hour of the day or night that the chart is set for
* The latitude (aka klima) that the chart is set, often assumed

"The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing" - Socrates

Just as we needed to know the ascensional times for calculation of the ascendant, we also need them to work out the midheaven.

Valens provides an example using the tables set for Babylon, listed here:

Aries, Pisces: 20º
Taurus, Aquarius: 24º
Gemini, Capricorn: 28º
Cancer, Sagittarius: 32º
Leo, Scorpio: 36º
Virgo, Libra: 40º

Valens provided a method to calculate the Midheaven degree by taking the sum of the rising times for the 180º of the Zodiac that is fully risen, halving this figure, and adding it to the Descendant degree to get the Midheaven degree.

Why does this work? 
The midheaven is, astronomically, the midpoint of sunrise and sunset: that is to say if it takes 8 hours for the sun to rise and set, it will be at the midheaven at 4 hours after sunrise (regularly clock hours that is). We also know that 180º (half) of the zodiac will rise between sunrise and sunset, and the other half rises between sunset and the subsequent sunrise. So if we know how many equatorial degrees has passed since the ascendant degree becomes the descendant degree, then we use our knowledge of how many equatorial degrees each zodiac sign is to work out the midway point which would be midheaven.

Valens provided an example to demonstrate his approach where he wishes to calculate the ascendant knowing only the ascendant degree, and the klima/latitude:

“the Ascendant is Capricorn 15° in the second klima. I take the rising times from the Descendant, Cancer 15°, to Capricorn 15°; the total is 214. Half of this is 107. Adding to this the 15° of Cancer, I count from that same point. The count stops at Scorpio 2°, which is MC.???
[p. 10]

Valens obviously thought this was sufficient to his audience to understand the mathematics involved, and in a way it is, but just for clarity, I will break it down. One note: Valens was using a base 60 number set, and not our modern base 10, so his multiples are more sensible as divisions or multiples of 60, rather than our contemporary divisions or multiples of 10, so some of this arithematic seems a bit tortured when you translate it. Here goes:

Valens’s instruction is to first sum the rising times of the signs fully risen. As Cancer and Capricorn have only partially risen, the remaining ascensional times of the fully risen signs would be:

Code: Select all

Leo + Virgo + Libra + Scorpio + Sagittarius => 
36º + 40º + 40º + 36º + 32º = 184º.
Next, in order to calculate the individual degrees risen for Cancer and Capricorn, Valens described a roundabout method, using a base 60 numerical form, of getting 1/30th of the rising time for the sign, and multiplying that figure by the number of degrees risen. By modern computation this would be:

Code: Select all

15º of Capricorn (28º) = 15 x 28/30 = 14º.
15º of Cancer (32º) = 15 x 32/30 = 16º.
The rising times for the 180º of the Zodiac that is fully risen, therefore, is:

Code: Select all

184º + 14º + 16º = 214º.
Next, Valens’s instruction is to halve this, and add it to the descendant degree:

Code: Select all

214/2 = 107º
15º Capricorn + 107º = 2º Scorpio.
2º Scorpio corresponds with Valens’s result, demonstrating that the Midheaven could be calculated using simple arithmetic, provided one knows the Ascendant degree and the tables of ascensional times for the given klima.
"The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing" - Socrates


So what we have seen is that provided you have the ascendant degree and klima you can calculate the midheaven, and you can calculate the ascendant degree once you know the Sun’s degree position and the hour of the day or night. With the ascendant degree you could calculate house systems such as Equal Houses and Porphyry Houses.

It is safe to assume that most astrologers were dealing with a narrow window of kilma, but Valens, for example often provides specifics.

Brennan concluded that:
“Finally, there are only three standalone charts in Greek Horoscopes that included both the degree of the Ascendant and the degree of the meridian-Midheaven, and thus could have been used to calculate quadrant houses.???

Well hopefully it is clear now that actually this assumption is resting on very shaky grounds. What we need to establish isn’t just whether the Ascendant and Midheaven degrees are recorded, but also if other information that could reasonably be used to calculate those positions are recorded. In my opinion the information is there for the vast majority of cases, the only thing that is often missing is the klima/latitude. If we assume that the astrologer would reasonably know the kilma they are operating in (or the nativities etc. in question) then this is not likely to be needed.

As an example, I live in London and do most of my astrology here. It would be pretty tiring to me to keep recording I am doing astrology in London. Of course there may be people not of the location that Valens is in - London is, again, a good analogy as it’s a bit of a meltingpot. Well Valens does actually tell us the klima/latitude in several cases.

I want to give all benefit of the doubt here, perhaps Brennan felt that given many do not record the klima, he is content with his conclusion. However, the reasoning he gives for his conclusion appears to be ignorant of the fact that the degrees can be calculated. If he were to be, he would not have concluded that only 3 charts could be calculated in quadrant houses, he would have instead pointed out that out of the *other* charts which existed, which ones recorded, or not, the various other factors required to calculate the angles: klima, time, sun’s degree. He did not.

I began this series of posts with a quote from Brennan, which I’d like to return to:
“In Neugebauer and Van Hoesen’s collection, Greek Horoscopes, there are approximately thirty-eight standalone charts that only record the sign of the Ascendant, and thus could only be used to calculate whole sign houses???.

I have examined the charts that Brennan is referring to and studied them extensively. Some of them have almost no data at all, for which almost no astrological information can be discerned. Some do not reference planets at all for example.

By my count, 53 of the 61 charts available record the date and time, but of the other 9 many have lacunae in the texts right where the others had recorded the date and time, so in actuality there may be more which would have recorded the date/time. If my argument is correct, that the klimata were not recorded as they were inferred (for example some of the examples are graffiti on a wall), then actually a far larger number of charts may have included the relevant information to calculate the degrees of the ascendant and midheaven.

If people read this and disagree, that’s fair enough, I wanted to suggest however that the matter of calculating what was *possible* for a house system given a series of charts probably needs to go by more than just simplistic “does it contain the degree of the ascendant and midheaven, yes or no???. Indeed these kinds of quantitative survey responses to astrological charts probably ought to be avoided as it conceals as much as it illuminates and can muddy the waters when attempting to examine and study ancient house division.
Last edited by Paul on Wed Feb 15, 2023 12:12 am, edited 1 time in total.
"The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing" - Socrates

As a relevant tangent, I will include this curious example which seems to strongly suggest the original text was describing a form of quadrant division in Greek Horoscopes by Neugebauer and Van Hoesen. The below is chopped and sliced from a dissertation I wrote on the topic, so forgive the jarring nature of it.

For me it shows that assuming, a priori, what house system the ancients used, or 'must have' used can lead us to literally ignore the evidence right beneath our noses. When we think we already have all the answers, we stop looking for them, and stop examining the data and instead project our assumptions.

WSH in Academia
There is a possibility that WSH, although forgotten to astrologers, was identified within academia. GH include a definition of house systems which acknowledges both quadrant division, as well as 30º divisions, which might be either WSH or EH . Their definition of ‘Epanaphora’ and ‘Apoklima’, Greek transliterations which describe certain house positions, refer to the houses as signs, such as for Epanaphora, described as ‘a sign which precedes, in the order of the signs of the zodiac, a centre’ . In a footnote to Horoscope No. -3, they note that ‘if the sign of the Horoscopos’ (emphasis mine), which is Scorpio, is considered the first house, then the eleventh house is Virgo, again suggesting the sign and the house are interchangeable, which is suggestive of WSH. They referenced a diagram in the late 19th century work Astrologie Grecque by Bouché-Leclerq (BLC) as evidence . However, neither the diagram they refer to, nor the relevant passages surrounding it, describe a house as a full zodiacal sign, instead BLC argued, ‘their system, conceived independent from the signs of the Zodiac, was only superimposed onto the other’, that is to say that the houses and signs of the Zodiac were considered as independent entities, with houses superimposed upon the Zodiac . Nevertheless, whether inspired by BLC or not, the authors of GH do occasionally refer to houses as being signs, suggesting recognition of WSH as a concept, either accidentally or deliberately.

Horoscope No. 95
Neugebauer and Van Hoesen,
Greek Horoscopes, pp.28-38.

Horoscope No. 95 is an elaborate horoscope, with accompanying astrological treatise, recorded on papyrus across six columns . The ascendant is recorded as 25º Cancer, the midheaven as 10º Aries, and Venus is described in Taurus, though the exact degree is lost . The Midheaven degree conforms precisely to the System A method. In Column III, Venus is translated as ‘rising (toward) the center’, however, in a footnote the authors noted that:

‘The literal translation of the text “Venus rises in the center??? makes no sense since Venus is in the sign which precedes Midheaven’ .

That the authors assume a priori that the ‘center’ must be the 10th sign, and so Venus, in the 11th sign could not be in the centre, is evidence of an assumed WSH. However, if the text is correct, then provided Venus was in the first 15º of Taurus, then Venus could indeed be ‘in the center’ for a quadrant house system like Porphyry. The literal translation, therefore, suggests that a quadrant-division was used, which the authors of GH may have missed by assuming WSH a priori.
"The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing" - Socrates

Yes, this is a great thread Paul Would you think about maybe writing this up as an article sometime? Which could then become a chapter in the book you need to write (going to keep saying this!!)
I spent a lot of time reworking the chart examples in GH some years ago, and I saw evidence of quadrant division all over the place, in places where it was not supposed to be, based on understanding that the clima was the key to the angles, etc. And also that it is blatantly obvious in some examples. What I lacked was time to formalise the thoughts. So many people have been gatekeeping this that you can't just show an example informally and say - hey, look at this, interesting, without being willing to engage in a 3-month debate, equipped with full body armour, LOL
I'm really pleased that you are studying this more methodically.