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A Newly Discovered 4th Century Horoscope

A Newly Discovered 4th Century Horoscope

Episode 129 of the podcast features an interview with Dorian Greenbaum about the recent discovery of a new horoscope from Egypt that dates to the 4th century CE.

In September of 2017 Dorian Greenbaum and Alexander Jones published a paper on the discovery through the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, titled P.Berl. 9825: An elaborate horoscope for 319 CE and its significance for Greek astronomical and astrological practice.

The chart contains a number of interesting and unique features, such as zodiacal subdivisions and lots, which we discuss during the course of the interview.

Below you will find the show notes, which contain an outline of some of the points that we touched on in the discussion, followed by links to download or stream the recording of this episode of the podcast at the bottom of the page.

Show Notes

  • Introducing Dorian and talking a bit about her background.
  • New discovery of a papyrus birth chart that dates to the 4th century CE.
    • The chart is unique for several reasons.
    • Is an elaborate or “deluxe” horoscope.
      • Positions to the degree and minute, plus zodiacal subdivisions.
      • Only about 26 deluxe horoscopes survive.
    • Contains the seven Hermetic lots mentioned by Paulus Alexandrinus.
    • Also calculates the Master of the Nativity.
  • Paper is titled “P.Berl. 9825: An elaborate horoscope for 319 CE and its significance for Greek astronomical and astrological practice”
    • Published September 2017 by the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World.
    • Co-authored with Alexander Jones, who discovered the papyrus in the Berlin archives.
  • Background on other surviving horoscopes from antiquity.
    • Around 350 Greek horoscopes survive from antiquity.
      • They say there are 446 extant horoscopic texts total from antiquity.
    • Several collections of ancient horoscopes have been published.
  • About the Greco-Roman “horoscopes”.
    • Horoscope as a generic term for “chart” (thema) here.
    • Distinction between literary charts versus standalone (usually called ‘documentary’) charts.
    • Distinction between standard charts versus deluxe horoscopes.
    • The lack of delineation potentially being due to verbal interpretations.
  • Horoscope boards.
    • Most of the horoscopes are fragments of papyrus with calculated placements.
    • Usually thought the placements recreated on horoscope board for consultation
  • Rediscovering the chart.
    • Where and how was the chart found?
    • What methods were used to date it?
    • Are the positions in the chart tropical or sidereal?
    • The process of putting together the missing pieces.
  • Lots (so-called “Arabic Parts”).
    • Not a ton of charts with lots survive.
    • They are the second most used point outside of the planets in surviving horoscopes.
    • Most just have the Lot of Fortune, then some the Lot of Spirit, and then a handful of others.
      • Dorian prefers to refer to it as the Lot of Daimon.
      • Discussion about the concept of the daimon.
    • This is the earliest and only standalone chart to contain so many lots.
    • This chart is unique in that it has all seven lots mentioned by Paulus.
      • Sometimes referred to as the Hermetic lots
      • Olympiodorus and a scholion say the Panaretus was by Hermes
    • Paulus is/was our earliest extant source for that full set of lots.
      • Although the Panaretus obviously would have been earlier.
      • Paulus wrote his Introduction in 378 CE.
    • Earlier tradition used alternative calculations for Eros and Necessity.
      • Present in Dorotheus, Valens, and Firmicus.
      • Seems to imply that the Paulus versions were introduced later?
    • This is the first surviving documentary horoscope that contains all of the Hermetic lots.
    • It is a night chart, and it does reverse the calculation of Fortune accordingly
    • The rest of the Lot calculations are also reversed.
  • Use of zodiacal subdivisions.
  • Discussion about the stated position of the Midheaven and whether it indicates the use of equal or quadrant houses.
  • Use of the Master of the Nativity.
  • Possible connection with Paulus.
  • Parting thoughts.


A full transcript of this episode is available: Episode 129 transcript

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  • Spectacular discovery, spectacular guest, great podcast! I would like to hear more on the Lots in general (and some of the minor Time Lots systems mentioned). I’ve found the eminence technique in Valens using the Lots of Basis & Exaltation to be quite accurate. In general, I’ve found the 7 Hermetic Lots incredibly compelling. I’ve been trying to get deep into the Lots of Father, Mother, etc.

  • You and Dorian are lights unto the world, Chris. Thank you for this fascinating discussion. You were kind enough to point me in the direction of Dorian’s online thesis, and a couple of weeks later I purchased the book from Brill because the two chapters omitted from her thesis contained precisely the information I most earnestly sought. It’s a pricey volume, yes,, but to me well worth it for those interested in studying the multifaceted realm of the Daimon.

    What a find that Egyptian chart is! I know there must be many more, somewhere…perhaps not to be discovered in our lifetimes, but one can hope…

  • Excellent podcast episode. A fascinating and really informative discussion on the great work done by Dorian G & Alexander J. Off to calculate my Nemesis now….

  • Fascinating and many thanks to both of you for your scholarly work. It must be incredibly fulfilling to have this type of occupation. It seems that the Daimon yet another thing that was co-opted by Christianity along with the Pagan holidays. Since ancient time we have felt we had or needed an unseen guidance. This is what interests me. I am off to read the PDF and am left wondering if house placement of the Daimon colors the interpretation, meaning if one’s Daimon is in the 12th house does that make it a Daimon of misfortune or is the Daimon still a guardian angel in a house of possible misfortune? This is off topic, but I think a discussion of the unfortunate houses, those with no Ptolemaic aspect to the ASC would be worth a podcast. The 12th House has so many interpretations bandied about that I find it very confusing. It would be fun to hear a few astrologers chiming in on this one – how they use them in chart readings.

  • Dorian didn’t seem to want to discuss the possibility that 10 degrees on the midheaven might be the nonagesimal degree rather than the MC. From curiosity I used Solar Fire to set up two charts for the text degree on the ascendant (10 Virgo 57): modern tropical computations and the sidereal ayanamsa chart closest to 319 CE, Krishnamurti (291 zero ayanamsa date) which gives less than half a degree difference in planetary positions from the tropical:

    Trop Asc: 10 Vir 57, MC: 9 Gem 33 (0:41:20)
    K Asc: 10 Vir 57, MC: 9 Gem35 (0:43:07)

    Did I somehow miss the tropical/sidereal discussion as I don’t remember it from the recording? So I checked the paper itself. 319 CE must be the early transitional period between sidereal calculations and the 350 CE Alexander Jones gives as the date when Ptolemy became practically the exclusive calculation resource, and Theon’s sidereal formula was abandoned. It’s interesting to compare the papyrus text with modern calculations (10 Virgo 57 on the ascendant as above):

    29 Libra 18 Text Venus
    29 Libra 51 Tropical Venus (modern)
    29 Libra 28 Krishnamurti Venus

    13 Sag 53 Text Mercury
    13 Sag 58 Tropical Mercury
    13 Sag 35 K Mercury

    22 Scorpio 32 Text Mars
    22 Scorpio 12 Tropical Mars
    21 Scorpio 49 K Mars

    So it would seem if we want to use a sidereal zodiac that’s close to the papyrus values, we would choose the Lahiri or Kirshnamurti ayanamsa. Before the Indian government decided on the Lahiri zero ayanamsa date of 285 (6 minutes different from Krishnamurti) a great deal of historical research was done across cultures. The chosen zero date gives values very close to the values in this newly discovered horoscope.

    • That is actually kind of maddening about the Midheaven, as it sounds like from what you wrote above that the meridian would have been within a degree of the nonagesimal, and so it could really go either way. Or maybe you could argue that the fact that the meridian would have been around 9-ish degrees when the Ascendant was at late 10 implies that it definitely was the nonagesimal that was being used rather than the meridian. I don’t know, it is tough because it seems like it is within the margin of error, since we can’t take it for granted that their computation of the meridian was as precise as a modern software computation.

      I meant to talk about the tropical/sidereal issue, which is why it is in the outline, but we must have not gotten there in the actual recording. Sorry about that. I should have removed that from the show notes. Thanks for doing those calculations though Therese.

  • I would like to see a discussion on the Nonagesimal at some point. I remember in 1996-8 when Robert Hand and Robert Schmidt were doing weekend workshops, we discussed that Ptolemy was very unclear with the usage of the word meridian. The text could have been read as the use of the nonagesimal rather than the MC. Hand said that it was possible at that time that equal house could or was used. I remember Chris, you said Valens was the first clear use of equal houses. Is there any clarity on this? Perhaps it cannot be solved unless new texts are discovered, but Dr Livio Catulo Stecchini who studied ancient measurements was quite clear (his opinion) that the Greeks misunderstood the Egyptians’ calculations in several major ways and one was in the measurement of the meridian. Egypt measured from the geographic north pole and the ecliptic north pole. He reminds us that Egypt had secret organizations and outsiders were never given the whole knowledge.

    • The professor was right. My personal research in this area has led me to conclude that the Egyptians including Petosiris did not use ”ecliptic degrees” of the stars at all. Instead they used the parallel stars of the rising degree (Paranatellonta) as the indication of the effect of the degree.

      The first decan of Cancer is Sothis/Sopdet/Sirius according to Hephaistio and many extant Egyptian sources. Now the ecliptic degree of Sirius is 19° Gemini. However Sirius rises along the 7th degree of sidereal Cancer in Alexandria around 200 BC.

      200 years later Teucer of Babylon somehow acquired this knowledge and got famous with his books on the subject. Firmicus Maternus has a list of full and empty degrees that shows 7°-12° full Sothis, obviously saying those degrees are good, because Sirius rises with them. All degrees in Firmicus are taken from some foreign source who used paranatellonta degrees.

      Valens used Teucer as a source, but he does not mention any technique with them, only briefly mentions which constellations rise and vaguely mentions their mundane connection. I would not be surprised if he did not have full information on the vague subject or just kept it in secret.

      ”That most true and immutable theory the ancients left wrapped in obscurity so that it should not come to the notice of everyone. The great Petosiris touched on it only lightly; not that he was not familiar with it (for he had arrived at all hidden secrets), but he did not want to divulge it lest his work should lose its divine character.” – Maternus, Bram translation.

      Maternus has high praises for the decans – ”Nechepso, the most just emperor of Egypt and a truly good astrologer, by means of the decans predicted all illnesses and afflictions; he knew which decan produced which illness and which decans were stronger than others. From their different nature and power he discovered the cure for all illnesses, because one nature is often overcome by another, and one god by another.” – decans are closer to sidereal, but they are not sidereal astrology, neither they are tropical.

      This is a wholly different approach that was misunderstood by the Greeks. Only Teucer, Firmicus and unknown people (occultists) used rising stars, everyone else mocked this approach – ”We therefore confirm for decans their lesser dignity role, as it wants the wording of Ptolemy, who not for coincidence in Tetrabiblos does not make any mention of them.” –

      You can download Stellarium and note which stars are rising and when and try this astrology, or trust the ”great” Ptolemy and +1 tables.

      This astrology is unique for every part of the world, because different stars rise at different parallels over time. This gives me hope that Nechepso and Petosiris were really Egyptian, and not Greek.

      PS – the under the beams range in Hellenistic astrology is 15, this is about the amount it takes for the heliacal rising of a fixed star (the planets are visible from a much tighter range), and we know the importance of the heliacal rising of Sirius in the Egyptian calendar.

      • I forgot to add, they used nonagesimal whole decan system that includes the whole sky, not only the ecliptic and some range from it. The so called Sphaera Barbarica of the Chaldeans.

        Additionally it is really troublesome to separate Egyptian from Babylonian astrology. I think it was introduced through the Assyrian invasions in Egypt and Necho I was an astrologer who somehow used both approaches (decans/houses and Babylonian signs), and some later Egyptian wrote in his name. There is no doubt in my mind that horoscopic astrology was practiced much earlier than the Greeks, but then I can not explain why the Indians would borrow so much from the Greeks.

        • I meant Necho II* as a probable candidate for the image, not Necho I.

          I would only add that it is a bothersome process to go through every degree at different parallel and the ecliptic approach is much simpler.

          I experience a cognitive dissonance trying to use both methods because they are incompatible. I do not know how Firmicus did it, but he dedicated his last books on rising degrees and speaks with high praises of Myriogenesis and Egyptians decans. Neugebauer is right that it is a characteristic of the Greek to simultaneously hold two contradictory systems (System A and System B, tropical, sidereal and decans at the same time etc.). We should definitely not base our astrology on those people.