Problems with Vettius Valens... et al.

david starling

Well-known member
Here's a theory--The entirety of the Electromagnetic Spectrum has yet to be discerned by Modern technology. When that problem is solved, it will be discovered that Astrology operates in that yet-to-be revealed range.


Well-known member
Flawed experiments are a very serious problem.

A flawed experiment can fraudulently "prove" or "disprove" a theory
thus leading to a flawed conclusion. .
Here's a theory--The entirety of the Electromagnetic Spectrum
has yet to be discerned by Modern technology.
When that problem is solved, it will be discovered
that Astrology operates in that yet-to-be revealed range.
Lawrence Edwards
is a retired mathematics teacher
who has been researching into the forms of living nature
using geometric analysis.
In 1982 he daily began taking photographs of tree buds
on a selection of trees
and found that the buds expanded and contracted
to an approximate fortnightly rhythm.
These periods varied
between 13.6
and 14.7 days
but each species of bud kept the same period in their rhythm.

Edwards realised that these were astronomical rhythms
and each period correlated to
the Moon's alignment with a planet and the Earth :smile:

When the Earth, Moon and planet were in a straight line
the buds of the tree where in a more rounded, expanded shape.
When Moon and planet where 900 apart (as seen from the Earth)
the buds took on a more oval, contracted shape
sharp at one end and blunt at the other.

Even in the middle of Winter
buds are doing a rhythmic dance
whose tune is called
by the planetary movements.


Which planet in particular affected a tree
was determined by the tree's planetary "rulership".
Oak trees for example are "ruled" by Mars
meaning that some of its rhythms are determined by Mars rhythms
Elm trees by Mercury
Cherry by Moon
Ash by Sun
Beech by Saturn.

It takes the Moon 13.67 days to go from conjunction with Saturn
to opposition with Saturn.
The opposition and conjunction aspects
are when the Earth, Moon and Saturn are in a straight line
this is also when the buds of Beech trees
or conifers
attain their most rounded shape.


Well-known member

Richard Feynman on - philosophy
Why question, Modern science and Mathematics :smile:
an excerpt from Richard Feynman's The Douglas Robb Memorial Lectures
- Part 1 Feynman discusses
the difference between "Philosophy" and 'Modern Science and Mathematics'
using the example of Mayan calculations of Venus synodic period
involving counting of 584 pebbles (365 * 8 / 5) = 2920 / 5 = 584 days


Well-known member
Guys, I highly recommend that you learn what science is and what it is not before you ridicule it or try to invent your own definitions.

I have a M. S. (M. Sc.) degree and I rubbed shoulders with professional scientists during the course of my 30+-year career. I was married to a scientist for 20 years and socialized with his colleagues. I still count scientists among my personal friends. I don't have much confidence in the level at which you're trying to lampoon science.

Might I recommend that you go on-line and look up a science department at your nearest college/university? Go through the list of faculty, and invite one of them out for coffee or lunch. Ask him/her to explain "science" to you and what distinguishes it from other fields. If you catch one in a good mood s/he might give you a laboratory tour.

You might skip this step if you have professional scientists among your friends or family members. But ask them to explain science to you.

You might find this interaction informative, because it's far too easy to wrongly caricature science from so great a distance from how it actually operates.

Science is studies which its method is based on empirical analysis and observation.

If you follow that principle, then Astrology is a Scientific subject, because it is largely based on empirical data and analysis. Due to its antiquity of the origin, it also has religious element too. But largely it is a combined Science.

By the way, you still have not given your definition of Science.


Staff member
The original definition of "Science" has been REDEFINED by those who need to see the world in purely materialistic terms. If you accept that fairly recent redefinition, fine. But why insist that everyone else has to accept it as well?

David, I don't make up the definitions of the physical, natural, and medical sciences. Neither do you. You seem to think that the work of hundreds of thousands of professional scientists internationally can be redefined according to whim.

Well, good luck with that.


Staff member
Well said. Modern materialistic science as you call it only confirms the consensus trance everyone is living. So for scientists to change their outlook, the consensus trance has to change first. Science will follow suit automatically.

Muchacho, how many scientists do you know personally? How much did you actually study science, and how long ago was that?

The ones I knew during my career (and the ones I say in touch with now) were primarily involved in environmental science. Their research has to do with saving the planet from destruction, in bits and pieces. They monitored water quality and sea ice. They studied the behaviour of African wildlife. They worked on wetland preservation and environmentally sensitive national park design. They did a summer ecology camp for kids. They studied global climate change. I could certainly elaborate beyond this dedicated group of people to discuss theoretical work in other science fields. These people were my co-workers and some of them, my personal friends.

How you could call their work "materialist science" in any negative way is beyond me.

david starling

Well-known member
David, I don't make up the definitions of the physical, natural, and medical sciences. Neither do you. You seem to think that the work of hundreds of thousands of professional scientists internationally can be redefined according to whim.

Well, good luck with that.

No, I'm not saying you made it up. I'm saying that, modern scientific supremacy, due to its TECHNOLOGY, not its philosophy, enabled it to co-opt the ancient word "Science" for itself. It's entirely materialistic. Even Theoretical Physics eventually has to show physical results in order to move from a "theory" to a "Law of the Universe". It's awesome in what it can accomplish within its very limited frame of reference. Unfortunately, it's abilities have been, and are still being, tragically misused in many ways. There's also the mirage of a Utopian World, based on what Modern Materialistic Science COULD be used for to make the world a better place, that gives good people a good feeling about it.


Staff member
David, I am out of here. I can't continue a discussion of science on your imaginary, fanciful level.

If you and the other members actually digested my recent posts, that would be helpful, but I don't think that's going to happen.

If someone has something interesting to say about Hellenistic astrology, I'll come back.


Well-known member
for waybread, academia is more important. The experts at skyscript shall have chapter and verse regarding Schmidt's qualifications.
Reading the link Riley.htm we find the reasons Mark T Riley made these papers freely available in .pdf format

QUOTE: The following papers were written for publication in Temporini and Haase, eds., Aufstieg und Niedergang der Romischen Welt II 36.7 (DeGruyer, Berlin). This series seems defunct. Therefore I am making these papers available in .pdf format:

"A Survey of Vettius Valens" - Vettius Valens' Anthologiae is the longest extant astrological work from antiquity.It is unique in several respects: the author was a practicing astrologer; the work includes more than 100 authentic horoscopes of Valens' clients or associates, including his own, which is used as an example many times throughout the work;the work also includes tables and the description of algorithms used by astrologers and mathematicians. My paper was finished in 1996 and does not take account of scholarship since that time” ENDQUOTE

Clearly, Mark T Riley is of the opinion that Valens is unique in being a practicing astrologer whose work is the longest extant astrological work from antiquity :smile:

WOW! The example charts apparently ORIGINAL according to accademist Prof. Mark Riley. Cool! :biggrin:


Well-known member
WOW! The example charts apparently ORIGINAL according to accademist
Prof. Mark Riley. Cool! :biggrin:
Valens THE ANTHOLOGY natal charts are proven valuable research material
for historians
Historians have used Valens authentic astrological charts
to fine-tune the dating of known historical events


Well-known member
get back to traditional astrology, to All


Please get back to discussing Traditional Astrology. Discussing outer planets, modern scientific theories, and other non-Traditional things are out of place here. If you want to discuss modern planets or modern astrological theory, do so on the Modern Astrology Forum.

Back to Traditional,



Well-known member
We've had a bit of a cage match on other threads between two 2nd century AD Hellenistic astrologers. In this corner: Ptolemy, author of the astro-books Almagest and Tetrabiblos, who attempted to place astrology on a systematic, scientific (for his day) footing.

No, he was trying to cram astrology into the Aristotelian view and he failed spectacularly but he did succeed in making a mess that we're still trying to clean up.

The betting odds appear to favour Valens, on the grounds that he was a "real" astrologer because of his many brief chart descriptions. However, Ptolemy is mounting a serious challenge. Not only was he a highly influential, experienced academic, but anciently...


Ptolemy deceived others.

Other astrologers make it clear when they are quoting other astrologers. Ptolemy is quoting Petrosiris and Nechepso but he never once says that which is dishonest.

Also, by the time Arabic tribes gained control of Egypt, the Middle East and Mediterranean Region was in total disarray.

Ptolemy's work was the only work the Arabs had access to.

And now for the first round....

It is painful, but I am trying to read my way through Mark Riley's on-line translation of Vettius Valens, Anthologies. And I can't for the life of me determine why anyone should think Valens was Mr. Astrology of the Ancient World.

So he's got a lot of horoscopes? I do not think that most of them by p. 41 (book II) could have been his own clients! In anonymous example after example, Valens talks about people who became "governors" or other rich and famous positions. He couldn't possibly have known all of them personally; not back in antiquity when transportation around the far-flung Roman empire was limited. Although "celebrity astrology" dates back to the Babylonians; this sort of thing isn't the work of a professional astrologer checking through his own client files.

Furthermore, in Mark Riley's on-line companion essay ("A Survey of Vettius Valens," 1996) to his Valens translation, he notes that most of the horoscopes cannot be accurately dated (which in itself raises an eyebrow about Valens, given computerized ephemerises going back 1000s of years) but he gives dates for some of the horoscopes. Some of them are too early. Valens lived from 120-175 AD. He gives a bit of an autobiography in his Anthologies, and the earliest age at which he could have practiced astrology, according to his bio-sketch, would have been ca. 160 AD. Either his autobiography is mistaken and he got a much earlier start; or else he got the horoscopes off a predecessor.

We have natives' birth dates ranging from 74 to 127 AD, with most of them giving dates of death or crises ranging from 139-169 BC. So a bunch of these clients died or had the major events of their lives occuring prior to Valens taking up the practice of astrology. So far as I can tell.

That's called an anachronism. It happens when people try to crowbar the present into Earth-of-the-past.

It saddens me to report that at and around the time Valen's lived, there wasn't a Kinko's or a UPS Store or a Fedex Store anywhere around to photocopy the texts.

How did texts get replicated? They paid scribes to copy them and apparently some got paid by the page.

The scribes made mistakes. It's also known that students copied texts and because they did not fully understand many of the concepts they made changes to the text to fit their understanding.

It's also know that copyists often inserted charts into texts. The chart in Rhetorius could not have been made at the time he lived or in the 1,000 years prior to that so many think he made it up as a hypothetical example since he wasn't an astrologer and didn't even know how to cast charts. The other possibility is a later copyist inserted the chart 150 years after Rhetorius died, but that still doesn't work because that chart isn't possible.

Valens' text is disjointed and disorganized because copyists moved sections and chapters around over the centuries and we know there's a 5th century addition to the text.

This seems likely, also, because according to Riley, a professor of the classical Greek language, a lot of the Greek in the Anthologies is in a form that was archaic by the 2nd century AD. While plagiarism standards were pretty loose until modern times, this reinforces the idea that Valens borrowed from older sources (p. 16). And that's good if we want to excavate an older layer of astrology; so long as we don't overstep valid inferences. That's bad if we imagine that all those horoscopes were for clients whom "the real astrologer" Valens actually knew.

Valens quite clearly states when he is quoting other astrologers unlike Ptolemy. Even Rhetorius noted when he was quoting other astrologers.

That some of the Greek is archaic is not relevant.

I regret to inform you Twitter wasn't up and running so the Greeks could not send out a tweet to all the Greeks everywhere living in Greece, Turkey, Italy, Bulgaria, Romania, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Jordan, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Kashmir Region of India to stop using archaic Greek.

If Valens was part and parcel of the intelligentsia, you know, the high culture, then he would have used archaic Greek.

If Valens went to school or was educated by a tutor who taught him archaic Greek because the school/tutor did not get the tweet or the memo then he would have spoken archaic Greek.

Also, if Valens intended his work to be a scholarly work, then he would have used archaic Greek.

To that end, you ignore everything Valens said.

Valens repeatedly states that his work is intended to be read by serious students of astrology. That is reason alone to use archaic Greek.

Valens also expresses concerns on numerous occasions throughout the text that his work might fall into the hands of "triflers" -- what he called "unworthy" people.

He also cautions readers to guard against that eventuality, meaning if you copy my text do not dumb it down for the idiots.

To paraphrase Valens, a little knowledge in the hands of idiots is a dangerous thing.

And that is a good reason to use archaic Greek.


Well-known member
Moreover, the horoscopes that I have looked at so far are pretty light on details. We get planets in signs, planetary rulers of some of the triplicities, and "lots" (Arabian parts) material. Sometimes these famous people have house placements (regardless of house system) that Valens previously in his Anthologies identified as misfortunate or "inoperative." Go figure.

It's the Greek Lots or the Hermetic Lots. Arabian parts is nonsense stuff.

Valens assumes you understand the material. Nuegebauer -- who was not an astrologer and hated astrology -- confirmed nearly all of the charts. There are only a few that have questionable placements.
Chart 2: The placement of Saturn is questionable.
Chart 10: Plausible but the text is wrong meaning a copyist made some changes because they didn't know what they were doing.
Chart 16: Riley questions the placement of Saturn but Riley is not an astrologer. He is certainly receptive to astrology unlike unlike Kroll and Nuegebauer and Riley really did make an effort to understand. What Riley misses is Fortune is in Capricorn which makes the Place of Acquisition the Scorpio 4th Place. Saturn diurnally placed albeit in a nocturnal sign is in the 10th opposition the 4th. Yeah, that's right. People stuck in this rigid "harsh" aspect nonsense never make good interpretations.
Chart 17: the placement of Mars and Saturn
Chart 21: this chart is duplicated but has Mercury and Saturn in different positions
Chart 23: Fortune should be in Virgo
Chart 46: Some discrepancies (the chart might be hypothetical for illustration only)
Chart 53: Mars is questionable but Riley points out there might be confusion between the symbols Virgo and Capricorn (Greek symbols, not our symbols)
Chart 57: Jupiter should be at Capricorn 27°
Chart 80: ASC should be in Virgo
Chart 92: Venus should be in Aquarius

So out of 95 charts there's an issue with 11 of them and more than half of those are copyists errors.

I could not find the charts you were referring to.

I think you understand the meaning of "inoperative" place.

Valens is superior to Ptolemy because of the richness of material he provides and because he quotes so many other astrologers like Critodemus, Hermes, Hipparchus, Timaeus and Hermippos in addition to Petrosiris and Nechepso.

The myth is that the 3 major differences between Jyotish and Western are:
1) sidereal constellation instead of animal images/likeness (the literal translation of zoidion/zoida)
2) the constellations have no meanings
3) Jyotish uses planetary periods

Valens shattered that myth by expounding on two different planetary period techniques for prediction.

Yes, the Persians have their silly firdaria or whatever but you can throw that in the trash because they stole it from Jyotish and we know they stole it from Jyotish because the nodes rule part of the periods.

The nodes figure prominently in Jyostish but not in Greek.

Valens also confirmed what many suspected for a long time and that is nearly all of the predictive methods are based on a 360-day year.

For someone who's age 30 that means predictions will be a year off/behind. Not only did Valens confirm that, he showed the math to convert someone age in years and months to "astrology time" so you can get accurate predictions.

Valens never did any damage but Ptolemy did and we're still trying to clean it up and plagiarizing someone's work in a pathetic attempt to explain how he thinks astrology should work is of no value to anyone.


Staff member
DC80, it's nice to see you back again, with your astrological expertise and obvious passion for astrology.

I have recently become a moderator, and I promised our moderator-in-chief that I would not get embroiled in the kinds of controversies that I embraced back in 2011 - 2019, when this thread was last active. The position of this Forum, and of the current triumvirate of moderators, is that members are entitled to their astrological opinions. So I absolutely respect your right (privilege?) on this forum to express strong astrological views, so long as they do not devolve into personal attacks, off-topic posts, or anything else that is not allowed on this Forum.

Speaking for myself, I have to say that, over the years, I developed a lot of respect for Ptolemy and what he tried to accomplish. I acknowledge that he was a man of the 2nd century CE, not of our time. Historians today increasingly disavow the kind of presentist hindsight whereby people of the past are judged by today's standards. I think that, in approaching any author from the past, it is important to consider what was his project, the milieu in which he wrote, and what were the scholarly standards of his era, not our era.

Consequently, I prefer to consider, with the incomplete historical evidence available, what was the status of astrology in the 2nd century CE, specifically in Alexandria, where both Valens and Ptolemy lived. It is interesting that both seemed to disavow the mystical-religious turn of astrology characterized by the legendary Egyptians King Nechepso and , the scribe Petosiris, and the Hermeticists. There was also a strong undertow of popular astrology practiced at street fairs, by Egyptian magicians, and by well-meaning amateurs. Ptolemy also seemed concerned to answer astrology's more serious, thoughtful critics like Cicero in On Divination.

Both Valens and Ptolemy were concerned to put astrology on a more rigorous footing. It also must be noted that standards of plagiarism in Antiquity were very far from what they are now. Speaking of Nechepso and Petosiris, a common practice ca 150 CE was for authors to use pseudonyms of more famous figures from the past, or even deities; by way of (hopefully) giving their own work more stature.

The idea of Ptolemy being fraudulent is pretty old by now. You may be familiar with Robert R. Newton's book, The Crime of Claudius Ptolemy (1977.) (The title was a play on the title of the earlier book by de Santillana, The Crime of Galileo.) But a lot of Newton's critique focuses on Ptolemy's Almagest, and unattributed borrowings from Hipparchus; not on Tetrabiblos which is really Ptolemy's treatise on astrology, vs. astronomy.

I think it is merely sensationalistic to accuse Ptolemy of deliberate fraud. He had nothing to gain from it and every prospect of embarrassment if some other astronomer double-checked his data. It's fine to say that Ptolemy was badly mistaken or careless in some particulars.

I would love to see the specific citations where you think Ptolemy quoted from (pseduo) Nechepso and Petosiris. Ptolemy, as a Man of (proto) Science, disavows the Egyptian penchant for things mystical and magical. This is why he doesn't say much about the thematic content of houses, which were probably Egyptian in origin. Tetrabiblos explains how to determine a variety of topics using planetary relationships; although today most of us would simply assign these topics to their respective houses.

Firmicus Maternus (4th century CE) is one ancient author who seems to have had some knowledge of the secretive Egyptian lore, and he was reluctant to divulge it.

Arab astronomer-astrologers did have access to additional Hellenistic works. An interesting example is the editor's Islamic gloss on Dorotheus of Sidon. Abu-Ma'ashar in the 9th century comes to mind. The key factor, I think, was how successfully the Arabic translation texts got translated into Latin and disseminated into Europe.

The so-called "literary" astrologers had no need of hiring scribes unless it was the tedious work of simply making copies. Valens et al were completely literate. In ancient Rome, astrologers were sometimes called "mathematicians" because of the high level of mathematics required to calculate charts by hand. But for sure, there was apt to be slippage in copy-work, not to mention parts of texts that simply went missing.

Neither one of us has credentials in ancient Greek. What is clear from the philologists who study ancient languages is that there was more than one type of ancient Greek, and these versions varied by date and region. This is super-useful in establishing the palimpsests of ancient texts where earlier authors were not specifically citied -- or were mis-cited.

Some of the earliest astrology manuals and poems were not written in Greek but in Latin. Cf. Manilius, 1st century CE. We know of a lot of Latin-speaking astrologers by reputation whose writings have not survived.

The historical problem to which I think you refer is establishing a document's authenticity (termed primary criticism.) Sometimes modern editors of critical editions go to a lot of trouble to look for anachronistic language and materials that would have been added on by editors and compilers of earlier texts.

As I indicated in my long-ago OP, I have a lot of admiration for what both Valens and Ptolemy, But for different reasons, in keeping with these authors' specific projects.

david starling

Well-known member
DC80, can you specify (list) what there are about Ptolemy's methods that you say are incorrect astrology? I know he is considered a founder of tropical (versus sidereal) at a time the 2 types of zodiacs were nearly in the same location. For example, do you, yourself use the VP as the first point of Aries?
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