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The Antikythera Mechanism and Astrology

The Antikythera Mechanism and Astrology

In episode 440 astrologers Chris Brennan and Sam Ogden discuss the Antikythera Mechanism, which is a complex mechanical device that was recovered from an ancient shipwreck, and how it may have been used for astrology.

The Antikythera Mechanism was discovered in the year 1901 by a group of sponge divers who found an ancient shipwreck near a Greek island named Antikythera.

They had found a Greek merchant ship that sank around the year 60 BCE, and divers were able to recover a number of ancient statues, pottery, as well as a corroded mechanical device with lots of gears.

Over the past century a series of researchers have slowly reconstructed the device, and recently advanced X-ray scans have allowed scholars to look inside to see how it worked.

We now know that it was a complex astronomical device that depicted the movements of the cosmos, and it was also a sort of mechanical calculator or computer that could compute positions of the planets in the past or future, predict when eclipses would occur, and more.

The discovery of the Antikythera Mechanism is important because it is far more advanced than what was previously thought possible in terms of technology around the 1st century BCE, and similar devices were not reinvented in Europe until after 13th century.

For our purposes as astrologers the most interesting piece is how the Antikythera Mechanism ties in with the history of ancient astrology, and that there is in fact some evidence the device was used for astrological purposes, as well as that there was at least one astrologer who is said to have owned a similar device.

In this episode we situate the device within the context of the history of astrology, talk about its possible astrological uses, and also discuss how the mechanism may helps us to reconstruct the origins of Hellenistic astrology as a result of the planetary order depicted on the device.

This episode is available in both audio and video versions below.

Sam’s Website


Sources and Further Reading


  • 00:00:00 Introduction
  • 00:00:17 Antikythera Mechanism overview
  • 00:06:39 Alexander Jones’ book on the device
  • 00:10:59 Discovery of the Antikythera Mechanism
  • 00:19:54 Chart for the discovery
  • 00:27:54 Reconstructing the device
  • 00:30:40 Dating the shipwreck and Mechanism
  • 00:34:00 Geography: Antikythera, Rhodes, and Epirus
  • 00:40:00 Transmission of Mesopotamian astrology
  • 00:44:58 Archimedes
  • 00:50:45 Planetary order dating
  • 00:54:53 Order of the Seven Zoned Sphere
  • 01:04:53 Planets and other dials on the device
  • 01:15:15 How astrologers may have used the device
  • 01:31:25 Astrologer’s boards
  • 01:48:42 Dimensionality in the cosmos
  • 01:53:00 Ascent and descent of the soul through the spheres
  • 01:57:00 Thema Mundi depicted on the Antikythera Mechanism?
  • 02:19:38 Geminos and the Thema Mundi
  • 02:24:13 Eclipse prediction
  • 02:41:15 Posidonius and astrologers with devices
  • 03:05:50 Astrologers in Rhodes: Thrasyllus and Critodemus
  • 03:15:45 Sphere-making tradition
  • 03:20:20 Loss of this technology; rise of astrolabes
  • 03:27:36 Balbillus
  • 03:28:26 Researchers of the Antikythera Mechanism
  • 03:30:27 Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny
  • 03:31:09 Planets moving clockwise in the Mechanism
  • 03:32:39 Trade secrets
  • 03:35:13 Origins of Hellenistic astrology
  • 03:37:33 Stoicism, fate, astrology, and Mechanisms
  • 03:39:00 Ongoing archeological discoveries
  • 03:40:43 Sphere-making coincided with heyday of astrology
  • 03:41:44 Human ingenuity
  • 03:46:12 Sam’s work
  • 03:48:44 Chris’ work and course
  • 03:49:44 Addendum on planetary orders
  • 03:55:36 Credits

Watch the Video Version of This Episode

Watch the video version of this episode on Antikythera Mechanism:


A full transcript of this episode is available: Episode 440 transcript

Listen to the Audio Version of This Episode

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