Tamburlaine's Malady: And Other Essays on Astrology in Elizabethan Drama

By Johnstone Parr | Go to book overview

SOURCES OF THE RENAISSANCE ENGLISHMAN'S KNOWLEDGE OF ASTROLOGY
A Bibliographical Survey and a Bibliography

I

ASTROLOCY originated somewhere in the Chaldean East, spread to Egypt, and thence to the ancient world of Greece. Eventually passing to the Roman Empire, accounts of the influences of the signs and planets by various Chaldeans, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans were augmented, synthesized, and preserved by astrologers, poets, physicians, and scientists who had a flair for writing.1 One of the earliest of these works preserved for posterity is the Astronomicon, a lengthy poem composed in the first century A.D. by the Roman poet Marcus Manilius.2 In the second century, the great astronomer and mathematician, Claudius Ptolemy, produced a work entitled Tetrabiblos or Quadripartitum, or Four Books on the Influence of the Stars; and, perhaps because of his authorship of the Almagest which handed to posterity the Ptolemaic system of the universe, his text on astrology remained a leading authoritative work in the field for more than fifteen centuries. Appearing in the same period were the earliest texts we have associating astrology with medicine: De diebus decretoriis (The Critical Days) and Prognostica de decubitu infirmorum (The Prognostication of Disease) by the great physician Galen, and the Iatromathematica (Predicting Illness by the Stars) of Hermes Trismegistus. In the fourth century, Julius Firmicus

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1
Cf. T. O. Wedel, The Mediaeval Attitude Toward Astrology ( Yale University Press, 1919), pp. 1-24; Lynn Thorndike, A History of Magic and Experimental Science ( New York, 1923), 11, 13-35; A. E. Thierens, Astrology in Mesopotamian Culture ( Leiden, 1935); C. V. McLean, Babylonian Astrology and Its Relation to the Old Testament ( Toronto, 1929); and A. Bouche-Leclercq, L'Astrologie Grecque ( Paris, 1899).
2
Many editions of this work appeared in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries (see Bibliography). See also The Five Books of M. Manilius, containing a system of the ancient astronomy and astrology: . . . Done into English verse from the Latin, with Notes ( London, 1697); or the more modern English edition prepared by A. E. Housman.

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