Under the Sky of Antioch

Marcus took the papyri and went to visit his teacher. His enthusiasm for learning the cosmic science made his pace faster than usual. He was looking forward to another heavenly dwelling at his master’s place. Whenever he met his teacher and heard that man’s wise words about life and astrology, Marcus was filled with indescribable joy and happiness. He loved astrology so much and the heavens granted him one of the most wonderful teachers of his time: Vettius Valens.

Finally he arrived. The master was sitting in his chair and observing some charts shrouded with his deep thoughts about the celestial influences and the life of the person whose chart he had in front of him. Marcus enjoyed the silence of his teacher, he didn’t want to interrupt him in his contemplation.

“You know Marcus” the teacher finally broke the silence, “each life is filled with good and bad things, some people enjoy more of the good things in life, some less; but even the former are not spared from the griefs of life”.

Marcus was enjoying these wise insights of his master and was writing every single word inside his heart. He was feeling every letter coming from his master’s mouth. He didn’t want to say anything, knowing that in that way he can disrupt the wonderful chain of thoughts coming after the deep contemplation of his master; he was only affirming the words of his master with a simple movement of his head.

After several minutes the master took his head off the chart, put it away on the table and asked his student:

“Tell me son, do you want to learn something in particular today?”

Marcus was young astrologer who had tremendous obsession with learning this art. Recently he wanted to know about the topic of marriage since many people were asking him to predict that particular side of their lives.

“Tell me something about the topic of marriage master, about the relationships and everything that is accompanying them” Marcus finally spoke.

“Oh my boy, you are asking not an easy thing, prediction of marriage and the analysis of relationships, are among the most complicated subjects; but not unattainable for those who are serious in learning the cosmic science. The thing is complex not because of the fallacy of the art, but because the relationships in which people are involved are so multifarious, that sometimes the astrologer must take many things into account to predict the whole dynamic of a person’s relationship life”, the teacher replied.

“I understand my master, but still, my soul is filled with desire to learn more and more” replied Marcus.

“I know your desire, and without such kind of desire one cannot achieve anything in life. I will tell you my observations. First, my son, you need to look at the 7th sign from the Ascendant sign, since that is the Place of Marriage. Then you need to observe The Light-Bringer (Venus) since that is the planet most responsible for things related to marriage unions. You will watch out in which sign reckoned from the ascendant this planet falls, also the planets in the same sign and the rulers of that sign.”

“Master, can you present me these things with an example? Since the example is most assured way of learning the new subjects” asked Marcus his teacher.

“Of course, I will give you an example too, but let me first elaborate all the principles necessary for judging the marriage union. You need to know that the old masters of this art, like The King Nechepso, Timaeus and the most elevated Hermes, all had slightly different opinion as to which places in the birth chart ought to be counted as operative and non-operative” the master started his wise talk. “This must become clear to you from the beginning of our learning. According to the King Nechepso, the Pivots or the angular signs reckoned from the ascendant, and the signs following them are said to be operative and planets in these signs perform better. The third sign from the Pivots, or the cadent signs, according to the King are non-operative and the planets here perform with difficulty, since some of these signs are turned away from the native, especially the 6th and 12th signs in which planets do not aspect the ascendant.


Figure 1: Nechepso scheme

But according to Timaeus and the most elevated Hermes, there are 7 Places that are operative. These are the 4 Pivot signs, the 9th sign, 5th sign, and the 11th sign. So the 2nd, 3rd, 6th, 8th, and 12th are non-operative.”


Figure 2: Hermes scheme

“Master, can you elaborate what ‘operative’ and ‘non-operative’ means? Are the non-operative signs bad?” asked Marcus.

“No. It is not a matter of good or bad, but it is a matter of performance. Planets perform better in certain places (houses) and are finding difficulties performing or exercising their potential in other places.”

“Is it a matter of strength?”  Marcus wished to know the matter even more deeply.

“You can say so but the word ‘strength’ does not apply to the whole concept either. So it is not that planet in operative place is doing good for the native, nor the planet in non-operative place is doing bad for the native with the mere presence there. It is more a matter of creating circumstances for planet’s performance” replied the master.

“Which school will we follow master?” asked Marcus a bit confused as every student approaching the subject.

“We will use our heads and the context, my dear student. I have sympathy with what King Nechepso elaborates not only in this regard to the operative places, but also in regard to some other astrological teachings. But one starting to dwell in the heavenly places, learning this cosmic science, must know what the ancients said, where they agree and where they disagree. After knowing what they thought, he then may choose whether he will follow them or not. But my experience thought me that they were very wise and rarely made mistakes in their elaborations.”

“I understand master, please continue”.

“If you find Venus in tropical or bicorporal sign, and if it is in one of the operative places explained above, especially if the person is born at night, then these men are promiscuous and often have more than one marriage. Especially if Mercury or Mars are in conjunction or aspect to Venus, then the sexual passion is accentuated and these men are lovers of boys.”

“I apologize for interrupting you my master” Marcus stopped his master with his talk in order to ask him something he didn’t understand, “but why ‘especially if the person is born at night’?”

The master smiled as he was sympathetic toward the curious nature of the student, and also confirming his clever question.

“The day is allotted to the Sun, Saturn and Jupiter. The night is allotted to the Moon, Venus and Mars. Mercury can go with the day or night planets according to the context of the chart. So, Venus being of the night party, performs better when the person is born at night. This means that Venus possess more voice and right to be heard in the Cosmos, for good or bad, for moral or immoral things related to her. Let me explain this to you with an example, come near me to see this chart”

Marcus walked to the teacher to see the chart.


Figure 3: Joy and Sect of Planets

“As you can see” continued the teacher, “the day planets Sun, Saturn and Jupiter, rejoice being above the horizon. When the Sun is above the horizon it is day time, when it is bellow it is night time. The night planets Moon, Venus and Mars, rejoice being on the opposite side of the Sun. When it is night, then the Sun is below the horizon and the night planets Moon, Venus and Mars rejoice being above the horizon, on the opposite half of the Sun. Then they operate better. When it is night, the Queen of the night – Moon has dominion and her fellow-members of the party (i.e. Venus and Mars) as well. This is why Venus in a night chart, it is said to exercise her potential more powerfully.”

“Oh I understand now, my master” replied Marcus excitingly, with joy in his heart.

“You need to distinguish two things here. The one is being of the sect in favor principle, where a day planet operates better in a day chart and night planet in a night chart; and the other is rejoicing principle, where the night planet whether in a day or in a night chart, rejoice being in the opposite half of that where the Sun is placed. Of course, day planets rejoice being in the half of the Sun.”

“So being of the sect in favor and rejoicing principles. I understand” replied Marcus.

“It is now time to give you an example” said the master.


Figure 4: Emperor Hadrian’s Chart

“This is the nativity of the great emperor Hadrian. There were rumors spread that he was a lover of young men, and that he maintained a sexual relationship with Antinous, who was deified after his death. Hadrian never fully recovered from the loss of this young man. Remember, I told you earlier that the position of Venus is very important? As we can see in this chart, Venus is in a bicorporal sign, the 2nd sign from ascendant operative for King Nechepso and non-operative for Hermes. We said that if Venus is in a bicorporal and operative sign, the native will seek to be engaged in many relationships. If Mars or Mercury are associated with Venus, the native may be lover of boys. The cosmic science never goes wrong, my dear student. We only need to observe carefully and apply the principles. Notice also that the chart is a night one, and here Venus and Mars possess even more rights to do whatever they are allowed to do by the Cosmic hierarchy of events. The nature of the sign is also important. There are signs that are more associative with the passions and those who are less. Pisces are one of the passionate signs, and the conjunction of Venus and Mars in this sign, accentuates the licentious side of this man even more.”

“But master, isn’t Mercury making a sextile to Venus from a licentious sign Capricorn, accentuating this side of his nature even more”?

“You are right, the close sextile of Mercury and Venus, in licentious signs, with Mars in association with Venus, adds further testimonies. Well spotted my son, well spotted. But all this because Saturn as master of the sign on the east is included in this configuration. He is in a licentious sign and in the 12th Place which does not regard the ascending sign. All these things add to his personality. It is generally true in all cases that Mercury in aspect with Venus involves and unites the native with those who are young and of a lower class. Antinous was certainly of a lower class then him, some say he was a slave but some say that he was a free-man when Hadrian met him for the first time.”

“Which are licentious signs?” asked Marcus.

“As in many of the matters, there is diversity of opinions among the authors. But Capricorn, Pisces, Aries, Taurus appear more consistently, while some add Leo and parts of Libra.”

“So, the signs ruled by or where Venus and Mars are exalted?” noticed Markus.

“Yes, indeed. These two planets are associated with the lust more than other planets.”

“Master, some say that emperor Hadrian – besides his liking of young good-looking men – was involved in adultery with married women. Some even doubt that he maintained intimate relationship with Trajan’s wife Photina, and this is why she stood behind him when he acquired the throne. What is it in his chart that shows this side of his relationship life?” asked Marcus.

“We already examined his promiscuous nature. The superior aspect of Saturn and Mercury with Venus, without the aspect of Jupiter on either of them, chilled out or made for the contamination of the marriage. Saturn as the master of the east and Sun as the master of the west, are not in aspectual connection. Also, whenever the Moon is under the rays of the Sun, this is not good for marriage. So count the factors one by one, then give the judgment. It is well known that the marriage with his wife Sabina (Trajan’s relative) was a political arrangement of Trajan’s wife Photina, in regard to political success and as such it was good, but with regard to mutual support the marriage was not useful. She didn’t even want to have children with him. Jupiter often acts as a savior either of the marriage, or of the controversies inside the marriage. In this case Jupiter does not aspect the conjunction of Mars and Venus, nor does Jupiter aspect Saturn and Mercury in the superior position to these two. This is why the rumors about emperors’ licentious actions were not neglected by the public. The fact that Mars and Venus are aspecting the MC trigonally, coupled with the fact that Jupiter does not aspect the configuration, made for all the rumors to be spread more widely throughout the public.”

Marcus was listening with joy in his heart and tried to remember all the observations of his master. He was feeling like he is in heaven, talking with some divine creature who knows the secrets of the Cosmos.

“So the main reason for the adultery, is shown in his chart by the presence of Mars and Venus together in licentious sign?” asked Marcus.

“It is shown by many factors my son, not one. You need to look at the chart as a whole. But the above mentioned by you, adds to the picture. The presence of Venus in a passionate sign which happens to be her exaltation, and with Mars here, shows that the native was successful in gaining the object of his passions”.

“Will the Lot of Marriage give the similar indications?” asked Marcus.

“Count this lot: for men find the distance from Sun to Venus, and for women from Moon to Mars. Then project this distance from the ascendant degree; the place where the projection falls will be the Lot of Marriage. In the chart of the emperor Hadrian we find the Sun in the 9th degree of Aquarius and Venus in the 13th degree of Pisces. From 8° Aquarius to 12° Pisces there are 34°. Counted from the ascendant which is found in 1° Aquarius, we come to 5° of Pisces. So the Lot of Marriage in his chart falls in the 6th degree of Pisces or in the second sign from the Ascendant. In male charts you will especially look at the position of Venus, and in the female charts you will especially look at the position of Mars, since they are Marriage-bringers. All things said above, about the co-presence of Venus and Mars in same sign, and the aspect of Saturn and Mercury, the absence of aspect of Jupiter, are now accentuated, since the Lot of Marriage falls in this same licentious sign with Venus and Mars. You should always weigh the testimonies, my child, and never rush in your judgments. A wise man who hears rumors about his wife having a secret affair from one person, will not rush to act; he will ask a second person and a third person. If all confirm the same, then the rumor is more likely to be true. But again, the man will need evidence. Give your judgments very carefully!

We have no more time, my dearest Marcus, but listen what I will say to you for the end of this class. If you have proven that you do by word and deed and through the traditions handed down to you by me, and if you apply your natural powers of analysis, and if you make it your goal to carry out your operations with all the precision, viz. when you visit the many nations and climes of the world and when you display your talents there, then you will make me worthy of undying fame, and you yourself will be glorified among the people as worthy of this heavenly art. You, having laid a foundation with the abundance of your learning, will attain the status of treatise writer yourself. For you have the nature, the energy, and the self-mastery necessary for this, and you possess the illuminated, mystic initiation into this art, having found the sacred and holy entrance to it. I urge you by the previously mentioned oaths to guard this art and to hide it from the unworthy or the uninitiated, and never to act contentiously against them. For it is better for you to be silent and be defeated, rather than to win victory while showing disrespect for divine matters. Share this knowledge with those who are capable of it. In so doing, you will glorify both me and my science, and you will benefit yourself and show yourself to be diligent and a lover of beauty.

May your wishes be fulfilled if you keep your oath. I have finished.”

Sources and Final notes:

The charts given in this text are modernized in round wheel and with glyphs that most probably (at least not all) existed back in 2nd century AD where the fictional story takes place.

Great deal of this fictional discussion between Valens and Marcus is based upon the principles given in Anthologies, Book II, chapter 38 “Marriage, Wedlock, and Happiness. Various Theorems and Configurations” as translated by Professor Mark T. Riley.

The source of the chart of Emperor Hadrian is Hephaistio of Thebes (5th century AD), as given in his second book of Apotelesmatics. The same chart can be find in Neugebauer and Van Hoesen’s Greek Horoscopes on p.90 chart No. L 76. Of course, the longitudes of the planets are in discrepancy with those given in Hephaistio. I followed the longitudes Hephaistio recommends for the reason that in this article I do not aim to do a scientific or statistical research, but to apply the principles Hellenistic astrologers used in a story-telling manner. As it is most likely that the chart Hephaistio gives circled around the early AD ages, I decided to use it as such, not as the reconstructed version of Neugebauer implies.

Hephaistio already represents an analysis of this chart in his book. However, I tried not to rely on that analysis for the simple reason that I didn’t want to imply some views Hephaistio [Antigonus or someone else] had as being in agreement with Valens’ astrology just because we today put them in the simple category of ‘Hellenistic astrology’. Also, he touches the subject of marriage very shortly.

Even though the dialogue between Marcus and Valens is fictional, many of the subjects and passages discussed are based on Valens’ Anthology with slight improvisations on my side, which I think are not in conflict with Valens. Marcus is several times mentioned in Anthologies (toward the end of book VII, in the beginning of book IX, and again later in book IX [see the last paragraph above for which I used Riley’s translation]).

The interpretation of the strength of the planets as a notion of ‘exercising their potential’ I took from Robert Schmidt as it is given in his comment on the chapter of operative places in Definitions & Foundations (The Golden Hind Press, 2009). The interpretation of the planets in same sect as being ‘members of a same party’ is also something which Robert Schmidt introduced to the astrological world in regard to the interpretation of the principles of Hellenistic astrology.

For the quotes of aphorisms from Anthologies inserted here and there throughout the text, I used the translation of Professor Mark T. Riley.

About the story of Hadrian and Antinous, you can read more here.

I want to give my immense thanks to (in alphabetical order) Chris Brennan and Gorizza Svorzan for their advices and supervision of the text.

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