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The Astrology Podcast

Ep. 440 Transcript: The Antikythera Mechanism and Astrology

The Astrology Podcast

Transcript of Episode 440, titled:

The Antikythera Mechanism and Astrology

With Chris Brennan and Sam Ogden

Episode originally released on March 25, 2024


Note: This is a transcript of a spoken word podcast. If possible, we encourage you to listen to the audio or video version, since they include inflections that may not translate well when written out. Our transcripts are created by human transcribers, and the text may contain errors and differences from the spoken audio. If you find any errors then please send them to us by email: theastrologypodcast@gmail.com

Transcribed by Teresa “Peri” Lardo

Transcription released March 29, 2024

Copyright © 2024 TheAstrologyPodcast.com

CHRIS BRENNAN: Hey, my name is Chris Brennan, and you’re listening to The Astrology Podcast. In this episode, I’m gonna be talking with astrologer Sam Ogden about the Antikythera Mechanism and its relationship to astrology. So hey, Sam, welcome to the show.

SAM OGDEN: Hey, thanks so much for having me, chris.

CB: Yeah, I’m excited to do this with you today. So in this episode, we’re gonna be talking about the Antikythera Mechanism, which is a complex mechanical device from the 1st century BCE that was found in an ancient shipwreck. And this device was actually capable of calculating the positions of the planets as well as doing other things like predicting eclipses and other things like that. So we’re gonna talk about the device today as well as its discovery and also discuss the relevance and possible uses of such devices in ancient astrology. Yeah, so Sam, you have an interest in what I like to call, like, ancient astrological paraphernalia, and you and I have been researching and working on an episode for a while now on ancient astrologers’ boards, which were like these wooden boards that astrologers would use in consultations in ancient times. And I thought you would be a good person to join me so that we could research this episode together and put it together because it’s kind of adjacent in some ways to the Antikythera Mechanism in terms of the different ways in which astrologers potentially – different tools that astrologers may have used in ancient astrology.

SO: Yes, definitely. And the astrologers’ boards were much more, you know, crude forms of astrological, you know, calculations of charts and things, and the Antikythera Mechanism is so much more complex, but yeah. I’m looking forward to getting into it. This is really an amazing, you know, mechanism and piece of technology, so.

CB: For sure. Yeah, and a major discovery. So let me give a brief overview of the device and the circumstances surrounding it, and then we’ll get into a more detailed discussion after that.

So the short version of the story is that in the year 1900, just over a century ago, a group of sponge divers one day discovered a shipwreck by an ancient Greek island that was named Antikythera, and it’s still named Antikythera. So at the bottom of the ocean, they discovered ancient statues, pottery, and a bunch of other stuff from this shipwreck that had occurred where, for some reason, this Greek merchant ship sank somewhere around the year 60 BCE – so 60 years BC, basically. One of the things that was found, that they found, that the sponge divers found in this ancient shipwreck a century ago was this corroded, mechanical device with lots of gears, and over the past century, a series of researchers have slowly reconstructed the device, and especially in the past two decades in particular, advanced x-rays have allowed for major leaps in our understandings of the device and how it was constructed. So we know now that what it was, what the Antikythera Mechanism was, was an astronomical device that depicted the cosmos, but it was also a sort of clockwork calculator for calculating the positions of the planets, predicting eclipses, and it also had a number of other gears for calculating different dates or different festivals, basically. One of them was including like, the Olympics, right?

SO: Yeah, they had a couple of different dials for festivals and local games that – some of which were very, I think, widespread through Greece or known through Greece, and yeah, some of which were more specific.

CB: Right. So the discovery of the Antikythera Mechanism was a big discovery, because it is far more advanced than what was previously thought possible for that time period. Similar devices were not reinvented in Europe until after the 13th century, which is over a thousand years later, once especially Western Europe started coming back from the fall of the Roman Empire centuries earlier. So the Antikythera Mechanism redefines what was thought possible in terms of mechanics or technology of that time period, and for us, the most interesting part is how the Antikythera Mechanism is tied in with the history of astrology, and that there’s interesting overlaps and interconnections there, and especially the fact that there is some evidence that the device was actually used for astrology. So in fact, one – we know that at least one ancient astrologer who owned such a device, or who was said to have something similar in his possession, which is the Stoic philosopher Posidonius, who also is said to have defended astrology in different ways, including making an argument or observation about the birth of twins and making arguments about them having the same birth chart.

So, you know, to the extent today that astrology’s often viewed as a pseudo-science, I think there is understandably some embarrassment sometimes in contemporary discussions about the Antikythera Mechanism and the possibility that the device could have been used for astrology. However, our goal here then is to situate the device and kind of balance things out by situating it within the context of the history of astrology and by clarifying the importance of astrology in sometimes motivating advances in the history of science and technology. And the Antikythera Mechanism will be one of the most striking or stunning examples of that, I think, in history, but it will be one of many.

So that’s kind of the premise that I’ve sort of written out. Are there any major sort of basic, fundamental points to summarize that I’ve overlooked?

SO: No, I think you got it. No. Yeah, let’s go. We’ve got a lot to talk about.

CB: Yeah, we got a lot to cover. This is gonna be a big episode; we got a lot to cover. We’re gonna pack a lot in, but we’re also gonna discuss it and kind of find things as we go, based on the intense bit of research that you and I have been doing over the past few weeks.

So I did wanna say at the beginning – one of our primary sources for this discussion is a book by a professor named Alexander Jones, who’s a professor of ancient astronomy, and he wrote a book in 2017 titled A Portable Cosmos: Revealing the Antikythera Mechanism, Scientific Wonder of the Ancient World. So this is probably the best and most comprehensive book on the Antikythera Mechanism that has been written today, by one of the leading scholars in the history of ancient astrology and astronomy. Alexander Jones had done previous work that I had been familiar with for years on, for example, recovering and publishing some of the ancient papyri that had been discovered, basically, from the ancient Egyptian city of Oxyrhynchus, which contained a bunch of horoscopes or like, birth charts from the rubbish heap of that city that had been preserved in the sand over the past 2,000 years, and Alexander Jones published those horoscopes as well as a bunch of other astronomical information that was contained from that find. So he got involved in the Antikythera Mechanism Research Project that picked up steam in the mid-2000s that was going back to apply advanced x-ray technology to this device and ended up playing a role in helping to reconstruct what the Antikythera Mechanism was about and how to situate it in the context of the history of astronomy. But his book is incredible, and that’s gonna be a primary source for us that both of us are drawing on for the purpose of this episode.

SO: Yeah, it really is an incredible book, and we definitely urge people to, you know, go out and get it, because there’s so much – one of the things that he does that’s really nice in this book is that it’s not overly – I mean, there are parts of it that are really specific in terms of the mathematics and the gearwork, but I don’t think it’s too specific where it feels like you’re reading like, a PhD dissertation and you can’t… It’s very accessible, basically, is what I’m trying to say, is that it’s a very accessible book, and you know, it’s a great read, and he’s so thorough with all of the events and the details of the device, so. And it’s just amazing that all of this research really could have only have happened over this, you know, over a century, because of technology, because of you know, various things.

CB: Yeah, for sure. I mean, his book – it’s honestly one of the most impressive and one of the best books that I’ve read in like, the past 10 years. It’s gonna be in my list of like, my top 10 favorite books, I think, at this point, because he doesn’t just talk about the Antikythera Mechanism but he also situates in the context of the history of astronomy and astrology, and not just Greco-Roman astrology, but he extends it back to the Mesopotamian tradition and a little bit to a lesser extent to the Egyptian tradition as well so that he fully situates it in the context of the history of astronomy and astrology, which are intertwined. And the way he does it in the book is just brilliant. I was really blown away by it.

So yeah, so we’re gonna use some – we’re gonna cite his work a lot, so we wanted to be very clear about that, since I view it as the most authoritative treatment in addition to other papers and other research we’ve looked at related to this or adjacent to it. But for our purposes, because we wanted to talk about it in the history of, you know, I thought about, you know, inviting him to do an interview about it, but because I want to talk about the mechanism partially from the perspective of astrology and astrologers and give kind of a unique take on it from that perspective, I thought it would be best for the two of us to talk about it so we can have that discussion a little bit more openly and more freely.

SO: Sure. Totally. Yeah, it does seem to be something that they kind of shy away from, but it’s not terribly surprising given, you know, academic and the relationship of it with astrology, but we won’t go into that.

CB: Yeah, for sure. We can – we’ll circle back around to that later. So let’s set up some things about the discovery of the device to like, take it back to the beginning. So this group of sponge divers, they – and all of this covered much more extensively than we’re gonna cover it, is covered more extensively in Jones’s book as well as his lectures recently, as well as a number of other researchers including another researcher that’s lectured on it, a mathematician named Tony Freeth, who’s done a lot of work on it. There’s also other researchers, like Michael T. Wright, who have done lectures on it, and you can search those names on YouTube and find, you know, their lectures on the Antikythera Mechanism, which go more into the history and the gears and other things like that that we’re not gonna go into as deeply here for our purposes, since we have so much else to cover to contextualize it in the context of the history of astrology.

You do wanna make sure if you search for Alexander Jones that you search like, “Alexander Jones Antikythera Mechanism” or like, “professor of ancient history Alexander Jones,” since he unfortunately… There’s a little overlap with the name of the not-as-reputable other Jones that we don’t have to get into, but yeah. That’s unfortunate. It’s similar to my issue where there’s a MMA fighter named Chris Brennan, and I used to like, compete with the search results for him, but I’ve finally been battling it out and winning in recent years.

SO: Wow. Amazing.

CB: Yeah. His nick —

SO: As you should.

CB: Exactly. Well, he has a cooler nickname, so that was what was hard. His nickname was Chris Brennan, the Westside Strangler. So yeah. Anyway.

So back to the discovery. 1900 – a group of sponge divers – one of the divers reportedly went down and he was a little startled at first because he was seeing all these like, frozen figures of like, humans at the bottom of the sea. But after they went back down, they discovered that it was the remains of a shipwreck, and there was a bunch of these, like, statues that they could see that were buried at the bottom of the ocean as well as pottery and coins and a bunch of other stuff at that time.

SO: Yeah, and you know, people can also search online for the Antikythera Mechanism Research Project YouTube, which you showed me, Chris, and their videos are incredible. Like, they’ll show you, you know, going down to the wreck, and just what is down there is absolutely astonishing. I mean, it’s really, really like, beautiful, actually.

CB: Yeah.

SO: And yeah, so.

CB: Here’s the – I’m gonna show some images from like, Wikipedia for this episode for the sake of using just illustration to show you some of the things since I know those are like, open source images. So this is an image of the Antikythera Mechanism itself, or at least the front dial of it. And we’ll get into more pictures of that soon, but other things that they found were like, this big bronze statue, which is called the Antikythera Youth. They also found the head of a philosopher, like the head of a philosopher that has like, a beard, and just a number of other statues and other things down there.

SO: Yeah. I think it’s also probably worth to say at this point, like, if people are listening to definitely watch the video version of this, because we’re gonna be showing like, diagrams and pictures and stuff. So it’d be good to see the video portion of it for sure.

CB: Yeah, that’s a really good point. So they found all that stuff, and then they start hauling it up. And luckily, there was support from like, the Greek government at the time that gave the divers some funding to go back and do successive dives. And they would take the finds and then essentially deposit them in like, a storage room at the Athens Museum, basically, in Greece – so the biggest museum in Greece. And one of the things that they brought up that initially wasn’t recognized as being that significant but they still grabbed it out of the ocean and brought it back to the museum was this what was described initially as like, a slab or a hunk of something, and then eventually months later after the items like, sat in the storage for a while, there was somebody that came along who noticed like, what this thing actually was.

SO: Yeah. And that’s what happens with a lot of these things that they bring out of the ocean is that everything’s encrusted with shells and rocks and things. And I do remember from reading Jones’s book that there was a story before the gears were noticed in this encrustation in the museum before that moment, that there was – when they were bringing it up out of the ocean, it was almost thrown back into the sea. But somebody actually saw like, a little bit of, you know, metal I guess or something sticking out of this thing that made them say, “No, wait.” You know, “Don’t throw that back into the ocean.” So they kept that and thank god that they did, because we, you know, definitely wouldn’t have it if it weren’t for that. So I’m not sure who that was, but you know, or what they saw, because that was another thing that Alexander Jones was saying, but that it seemed really obvious, you know, that this was what was being shown through this encrustation. So I think… Yeah, that was all that I wanted to say about that.

CB: Yeah. So the – here’s the mechanism. I’ll show the full thing in images of Wikipedia. It’s on display now in the museum in Athens, and you can actually go there and visit it, and it’s a really cool display that has a lot of different information. But there were – it’s broken up, unfortunately, into a bunch different fragments, and it’s encrusted in different things, but they’ve done a lot of conservation efforts to try to clean it up as best as they can. And once they’ve done that, you can see that it’s this mechanical device that’s circular and has a bunch of gears in it, and then the gears have lettering that’s written on them, and there’s also some text that accompanied the device originally that gave you instructions for its usage as well as information about what some of the different dials and gears meant.

So yeah, so that’s the mechanism itself was discovered. And what was the name of the person who discovered it again?

SO: His last name was Stais, and you know, in Alexander Jones’s book, he says that it’s Spyridon Styce, who’s related to a Valerios Stais, who worked at the museum but wasn’t there the day that his – I think they’re cousins, I wanna say – that Spyridon went there to go look at what was there. And…

CB: Right. And he was really clear that it was Spyridon who —

SO: Yeah.

CB: — made that discovery. And what was interesting to me is because there’s a little ambiguity about when they first pulled the Antikythera Mechanism out of the ocean, but there was a date that was actually given for when Spyridon went into the museum and then first noticed that the Antikythera Mechanism had these gears on it and that the gears had words that referred to the planets. And I think the first planet that was noticed was the Greek word for Venus, which is Aphrodite, which is the Greek goddess associated with the planet Venus as I talked about with Demetra in the episode that I just did last month on how the names, how the Greek theological names or religious names for the planets came to be – or of the gods – came to be assigned to the planets around the time of Plato around in the 4th century BCE. So this episode is actually kind of a continuation of that one as well as some of the other episodes that I’ve done over the past few months on astrology and early Greek philosophy.

SO: Yeah.

CB: All right. So we have a date for when it was first recognized that there was something special to this, and it was May 18th 1902. And I think Jones says that Spyridon actually went in some time in the morning, right?

SO: Yeah, they weren’t – he didn’t specify about that, but —

CB: Okay.

SO: — some time in the morning. But I’m assuming he woke up and went to the museum.

CB: Sure. Okay. So one of the things I wanted to do is I wanted to actually show a chart for that, because I was actually —

SO: Yeah.

CB: — struck by, you know, one of the things that astrologers do – and this is actually, this is relevant in modern times but it’s also relevant in ancient times as well, which is that astrologers, because we have this notion, this not just belief but also we would argue an observation that there’s a correlation between celestial movements and earthly events. Once you have worked with astrology for long enough, astrologers often have this internal desire or compulsion and curiosity to look up and see what the alignment of the planets or the cosmos was when different important events happen in history. So that’s one of the things I immediately did once we realized we had a date for the discovery of the Antikythera Mechanism. And this is the chart that I found.

SO: Yeah.

CB: So we don’t know the exact time, so the Ascendant the houses are not gonna be accurate, but some of the things I was really interested in in the chart are that one of the things I noticed right away that was interesting from a little bit more of a modern astrological perspective is that Mercury was almost exactly conjunct the planet Pluto that day, where Mercury was at 16 degrees of Gemini and it was conjoining Pluto at 17 degrees of Gemini, and both of them were trining Jupiter, which is at 16 degrees of Aquarius. And the Moon was actually in Libra that day, where it was moving into a trine with all of those planets and creating what’s called in modern astrology a grand trine where there’s a actual geometrical triangle that’s inscribed across the chart in the three air signs. So not just a grand air trine was happening that day, but specifically the fact that it was a Mercury-Pluto conjunction is interesting because I actually just talked about this last month on the most recent forecast episode of The Astrology Podcast where there was a recent discovery that was announced on the day of a Mercury-Pluto conjunction last month in Aquarius where a group of researchers announced that they had successfully for the first time – they had run a contest to see if anybody could develop an AI program in order to be able to reconstruct some scrolls that had been scanned using x-rays from the ancient site of Herculaneum, where the eruption of a volcano in the year 79 CE had buried under molten ash and like, lava the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. And one of the things that happened is that there was a house that contained a library in Herculaneum with a bunch of scrolls, but these scrolls were preserved as a result of the volcano, but also they couldn’t be unrolled without falling apart. But over the past recent years, they’ve developed x-ray technologies to be able to read the scrolls, but now they needed help reconstructing them and the results of that were just announced last month where one of the scrolls has been fully reconstructed for the first time using artificial intelligence, and that announcement happened the day of a Mercury-Pluto conjunction. So I just wanted to note that because that immediately caught my eye then when we see another sort of uncovering of something from ancient times here when this object was literally like, pulled out but first noticed for being something significant on the day of a Mercury-Pluto conjunction here.

SO: Yeah. That’s really amazing. So at my college where I go to school right now, they did recently a little talk on that with a few professors – a professor of classics, professor of philosophy, and then a professor of mathematics – and they went into, you know, detailing that whole project and the mathematics involved in figuring all of that out and the AI and how that works. And it’s a really incredible technology, and it feels like it’s opening up, you know, a whole new realm for getting more artifacts from the ancient world, and that more is possible. And then one of the things that maybe we’ll mention again later in the episode is about – I think, I wanna say newer technology as well for discovering shipwrecks in the ocean and that there’s so much that’s just down there in the ocean from shipwrecks that we haven’t been able to get to, because maybe we haven’t been able to detect it. So there’s potentially so much more that can be uncovered and maybe help us to understand the ancient world, you know, more deeply.

CB: That’s a great point. And at Herculaneum, they say that there’s like, something like, over a thousand scrolls that haven’t been able to be read, so you know there could be some great discoveries from this. This could just be the very beginning. And it’s through the development of these new technologies over the past century that we’re suddenly able to recover some of these ancient documents or artifacts. And the Antikythera Mechanism is one of those where that’s also become relevant as well. So —

SO: Very Mercury-Pluto.

CB: Yeah, for sure. In terms of the symbolism there. So the last thing I wanted to mention is just there was a solar eclipse that happened just like, a week and a half before the discovery of the Antikythera Mechanism on May 8th 1902, and I just note that because as I’ve shown since last October, there was a series of eclipses that happened and major worldwide events started taking place, and that led me to wanna go back and do a research project about eclipses in history, both in terms of how they were treated in ancient times but also in… Giving a list basically of some of the most significant events in history that coincided with or occurred roughly about a week or so within before or after an eclipse, and we found a stunning series of examples both in the ancient and modern times which really started to explain why ancient astrologers and ancient peoples in general attributed so much significance to eclipses. And what we found is that there were some major historical events that occurred at the time of eclipses, but that there continue to be up until the present time major worldwide historical events that are still occurring at the same time as eclipses. So I wanted to note that this sort of discovery of the Antikythera Mechanism was preceded by an eclipse and even now, in this discussion that we’re having today, we’re just days out from an eclipse, I believe.

SO: Yeah, we’re – it’s a week away, essentially. Or maybe a little less than a week, but yeah.

CB: Yeah, so for the data, we’re recording this on Tuesday, March 19th 2024. It’s one PM right now; we started 28 minutes ago, and for our election today, we were using Cancer rising with an electional chart that we used.

So yeah, that was the chart for the discovery, but what happened is at first they could just see little gears. They could see mechanisms; they could read little words. But over the course of the past century, there was a series of successive scholars, basically, who took an interest in the device and tried to figure out what it was and tried to reconstruct it, and very slowly in different stages, different people were able to start figuring out what it was. Eventually, there was a scholar named Derek de Solla Price who used x-rays on the device in like, the 19 I think ‘60s and ‘70s and published a book on it, which was a major step forward in terms of the Antikythera Mechanism and understanding what it was by being able to look inside of it and see some of the gears that were hidden in between different layers. And then finally in the mid-2000s, there was a major research project called the Antikythera Mechanism Research Project that was started where they started applying even more advanced x-ray technology in order to be able to see and identify different layers so that you could identify the different gears within the device, and they ended up finding that it was even more complex than they realized previously, and that it actually had so many gears and could do so many different things that they were able to start identifying different dials and what each gear did, eventually leading to the realization that it actually had gears for the planets and could actually calculate the positions of the planets with relatively decent accuracy, especially for the time.

SO: Yeah. And originally, they were thinking that it was an astrolabe, because there are some – and an astrolabe is a way to, I believe, calculate – I think you can calculate an Ascendant with it. I think you can track planets with it. But it’s a much more – it’s a much simpler device, and you can have them just by themselves or with a few gears, so they thought maybe this was an astrolabe. But I think there’s over 35 gears in the, is what they’re thinking for this device. So very, very complex. And they’re able to actually count how many teeth are on each gear, which has a significance for, you know, each planet, and yeah so, it’s a really incredible discovery.

CB: Yeah. For sure. So it was – it had a lot of gears. They’ve been able to identify what different ones were. In terms of the discovery itself, I wanted to situate it… Actually, first, let me say some of the other things they discovered. So one of the things they’ve been trying to do over the past century is date the Antikythera Mechanism, and the current state of the research, the best argument I’ve seen – especially the one that Jones favors, and I think he’s right for reasons that he explained but also other reasons connected to the history of astrology and astronomy that he didn’t mention, but – one of the most compelling pieces of evidence is… So this was a shipwreck, and they know that at least four people died in the shipwreck, because there were I think at least four different bodies that were rediscovered or where the bones or remains of four different people were discovered from the shipwreck. And one of the things that has been found from the shipwreck is coins. And there were some coins from like, the 70s and the 60s BCE that were discovered in the shipwreck, which means that the shipwreck itself must have occurred after that time, and Jones thinks it happened within at least maybe a decade or so of when the coins were minted in I think the latest is like, 67 BCE, and that gives him then a timeframe where he believes that the shipwreck occurred in about 60 BCE give or take maybe a decade or so.

SO: Yeah. Coins are a really great way for dating, but I know they also did some dating with the ceramics too. I’m not sure how they did that, but…

CB: Yeah, there’s ceramics and lots of other things, because there was also like, there was statues that were discovered, although many of them were thought to be older than the shipwreck itself. There was different vases or different pots, basically, that could be identified as coming from different islands, such as the island of Kos, which is a Greek island.

SO: Beautiful glassware as well from Syria-Palaestina, I think, or Egyptian. There’s some pictures of it that has just like, really beautiful glassware.

CB: Yeah. So all of the that – but the coins were the most important, I think, for the dating, because coins have specific inscriptions on them which then you can trace back to date to specific time periods so they know for sure that these specific coins were made between I think was like, 76 and 67 BCE or somewhere around that range. So that makes – lets us know for sure that the shipwreck happened after that point around 60 BCE, so that’s pretty solid, but then there have been debates over the past century of when was the Antikythera Mechanism itself created and how old was that device? And this is something that’s still ongoing to a certain extent, but I think… Jones makes the case that he thinks it was a relatively recent – that this version, the version that was on the shipwreck, at least – was probably created at a workshop in Rhodes not long before the shipwreck itself and that on this merchant ship, that it may actually have been on its way to the buyer or the person who had ordered the mechanism itself and that it was on its way to the other side of Greece to basically be delivered.

SO: Yeah, they were – he was saying that the ship was clearly going from West to East. And as we get more into some of the other like, you know, features of our notes and things that we’re gonna go over with Posidonius and Archimedes and things like that, you know, we’ll see how key a role Rhodes and Kos and that coast of Asia Minor right by Turkey – we’ll see how important that is. So…

CB: Yeah.

SO: That becomes a very fascinating part of its connection with astrology as well.

CB: Yeah. Let me – I’ll go ahead and show a map just in order to orient people. I was looking up different, like, stock maps and different things today. Alexander Jones has a very nice map in his book. But the best way I could figure out to show some of what we’re talking about and orient people was using Google Earth and setting up some specific pins or like, markers for some of the most important cities and like, locations that we’re gonna be talking about.

So for those watching the video version, this is we’re looking at the Mediterranean region. Down here in the bottom right is Alexandria, Egypt – that’s the probably likely home of Hellenistic astrology were it was probably developed around the middle of the second century BCE, and we’ll talk more about that later. I’ve talked about it on a bunch of different episodes at this point. Over here in the middle basically is Greece, and we have like, mainland Greece and we have Athens right here, and that’s where, for example, Plato’s school was located and Aristotle’s school that was flourishing around not long after like, 400 BCE. And that was like, the center of ancient like, classical philosophy, basically, in Athens, Greece. And over on the right, we see the island of Rhodes, and Rhodes was a major center for astronomy in the ancient world, and a number of very famous astronomers and other people were located there or did work there, including the astronomer Hipparchus, who in his work – he lived in the second century – had a number of observations in Rhodes. So to give people like, a short version of it, basically, Alexander Jones believes that the Antikythera Mechanism was created at a workshop or by a builder who was in Rhodes, and that the Antikythera Mechanism itself was… Basically because on it, there are some things also that indicate Rhodes, like I think it mentions a festival that was local to Rhodes itself or was specific to Rhodes, that therefore the designer of the Antikythera Mechanism put on the device. And other indications on the device, though, indicate that it may have been customized is what Alexander Jones argues for a specific buyer in the Epirus region of Greece, which is over on the westernmost portion of Greece. And this is interesting because in this region was the city of Dodona, which was the site of a major oracle; it was like, the second-most important oracle site in ancient Greece next to the Oracle of Delphi. So Antikythera itself is this little tiny island that’s in between the Greek mainland and the larger island of Crete, and – which is right here, so let me zoom in. Here’s the island of Antikythera, and I think the shipwreck was like, somewhere just to the north of it. We see there’s this little island. But we can see that Antikythera itself is basically, like, right in the middle of the passageway between Rhodes over on the right to the East and to the westernmost portion of the Mediterranean on the way to this possible site where it was headed near Dodona.

SO: Right. In Jones’s book, he talks about how, you know, that region right there where the island Antikythera is… Of course, we don’t really know exactly why the ship sank, but that area right there is notorious for its storms. So there was sort of speculation of was it piracy? Was maybe the ship taken over by pirates? Or maybe it was because of a storm, and it definitely could have been because of a storm. I think that’s what he came down to thinking.

CB: Yeah. They said they thought it was a storm, and that because it was loaded with some much cargo —

SO: Right.

CB: — it was a merchant ship —

SO: So heavy.

CB: — they think that it sank, actually, relatively quickly. So, you know, that’s really unfortunate and tragic, although it ended up preserving this thing, which you know, that’s 60 BCE let’s say roughly, and then it was rediscovered basically almost 2,000 years later by these sponge divers in the year 1900. So that’s a huge span of time just in terms of thinking about that.

SO: Yeah.

CB: Yeah. So all right. So that situates things. And we see Rhodes over here. Rhodes is a Greek island, but it’s just off the coast, basically, of Turkey, off modern day Turkey, the westernmost portions of Turkey. And Rhodes was next to another very important island in the history of astrology, which is the island of Kos, which is the island that famously a Mesopotamian astrologer or a Babylonian astrologer named Berossus is said to have immigrated to Kos and set up a school for astrology there at one point, probably somewhere around the year 280 BCE. So that would be… What, like, 200 years before the Antikythera Mechanism.

SO: Yeah. And in my research, too, I came across an article by Ernst Reese who was talking about how there was maybe a Chaldean in the Plato academy who spent time with Plato and it sounded like they had sort of a close relationship, so that would’ve maybe potentially put some influence of that eastern tradition and practice into Greece. So Berossus —

CB: Yeah.

SO: — did bring astrology, you know, yeah, to Greece, but may not have been the first ever.

CB: No, it was part of this process – and that was actually something I talked about in the episode I think with Demetra was that that’s actually a more reliable story than I thought it was for a long time. Because that story about a Chaldean guest or visitor staying with Plato and talking with him towards the end of his life may have been preserved by Plato’s student, Philip of Opus, who was a notable astronomer that was mentioned for many centuries after Plato and who wrote a text that was often attributed to Plato called the Epinomis, and that ended up being the first text in Greek where all of the planets are named after the Greek gods for the first time, which seems to have been a deliberate development that emerged out of Plato’s school because Plato himself was the first person to mention one of those names. And he calls the planet Mercury, he calls it Hermes for the first time in Greek literature, as far as we’re aware. And then all of a sudden, Plato’s student after his death has assigned names to all of the planets. But what’s interesting is those Greek names are clearly being patterned after the names of the planets in Mesopotamia, where they were named after specific gods, and it becomes clear that somebody – probably Philip of Opus, or other people in Plato’s circle – specifically or deliberately took the names of the Mesopotamian deities assigned to the planets and then picked corresponding deities in the Greek pantheon in order to name the planets after them.

SO: Yeah. That’s a really amazing connection.

CB: Yeah. But that’s a good point that this was part of a broader process that was taking place between let’s say 400 BCE – the time of Plato – all the way through the second and first century BCE, which is – there are many different instances of Mesopotamian astrology being transmitted to the Greeks at this point with increasing frequency. And this is part of what led to eventually the emergence of Hellenistic astrology in the second century BCE, where we see this synthesis of Mesopotamian astrology and Egyptian astrology and Greek philosophy and astronomy altogether into one system that emerges around the middle of the second century BCE. And that piece is actually really important and it’s something we’re gonna keep coming back to because it helps us to understand better the context of the Antikythera Mechanism, which is that this new form of astrology – especially of natal astrology – was just emerging in the ancient world or had just emerged in the century before the Antikythera Mechanism around 150 BCE, where the texts of Nechepso and Petosiris are commonly dated to, which contains some of the foundational principles of Hellenistic astrology.

SO: Yeah.

CB: Yeah. All right. So geographically we’re good. We’ve sort of established Rhodes; we’ve established where Antikythera Mechanism, that it was potentially headed to a buyer – of somebody that bought it. What other things like that are important? Maybe we should talk a little bit about the … Like, the idea that there may have been a workshop or what are the other sort of early preliminary things we should mention at this point?

SO: Yeah, I’m wondering, because we went – we’ve gone over dating.

CB: Right. 60 BCE. I mean, there is an issue with the dating where… So, in ancient texts, there’s the notion that one of the most famous inventors and like, mechanical engineers in the ancient world was a philosopher named Archimedes, who lived in Sicily and he died in the year 212 BCE. But he had – he was basically, like, the most legendary figure in terms of some of the mechanical devices that he developed. And there have been some attempts to date the Antikythera Mechanism as being earlier in order to partially connect it with Archimedes or put it in part of his lineage. So that there is some speculation of some people that try to place the development of the Antikythera Mechanism to be more like, around a little bit after the year 200 BCE, I think roughly, or around that time.

SO: Yeah. And it seems like there are connections to Archimedes that – although I remember Jones talking about how kind of rejecting the notion that it wouldn’t be directly related to Archimedes but maybe could be coming through an Archimedean school, because of this discrepancy with the Antikythera Mechanism’s one of the dials on the back, not where the front dials are, where the planets would’ve been shown, but on the back where they had another kind of calendar. Apparently because of that, the way that calendar was devised, it looks like maybe it was related to Archimedes, that it was but it wasn’t coming directly from him. So it kind of makes you wonder, you know, how many ancient astronomers out there were there in the ancient world who were able to, you know, make these kinds of calculations? How many craftsmen were out there able to do that? It’s very hard, I think, to know, and it seems like this kind of device was definitely known about in the ancient world, because we have lots of literary references to it. But maybe that’s where we can go next, because just as you were talking about that area region Epirus, it started to make me think of Posidonius and the kind of literary, you know, references to him through Cicero, and —

CB: Yeah.

SO: — having a device like that. Because Archimedes had – he had, you know, when he died, I think one of his devices was stolen during the Sack of Syracuse.

CB: Yeah. So one of the starting points for this, I think we can say, I think that all the researchers agree on, is that the Antikythera Mechanism itself, you know, went down on that shipwreck around 60 BCE, which I don’t think is debated that much at this point. But the Antikythera Mechanism itself, one of the other things that I think everyone largely agrees on, is the fact that this was not a prototype, but instead this was obviously like, a later version of something that there had been earlier versions of, because the Antikythera Mechanism is put together so well. It does such a good job at what it does. It’s so complex. It has, you know, it doesn’t show the errors of something that’s just like, a first design as like, an early prototype of something would be, which means that the Antikythera Mechanism itself is not the only one of its kind, and it’s probably coming at the end of some sort of development cycle or it represents the later stage of a development cycle rather than the early stages. And my conclusion from all of this that I ended up reading is that essentially I think what happened is Archimedes probably did develop some early version of something like this that was referred to as a sphere, and that seems to have been the keyword for these types of devices in the ancient world is they called them spheres, and the people that put them together were called sphere-makers and like, the category itself was referred to as sphere-making, probably partially because the device itself is a representation of the cosmos, which was conceptualized as being spherical or sphere-formed, and that was part of Greek cosmology at the time going back at least to Plato. So Archimedes is said to have written a work on sphere-making and to have created something like this, but I think my conclusion from all of this – and I think it was largely Jones’s conclusion as well, though maybe I shouldn’t attribute it to him, but – my conclusion that I feel confident, pretty good, about is that Archimedes probably developed some early version or even prototype of something heading in this direction that was like, a mechanical device that could show the movement of the planets or of the Sun and Moon. But Archimedes died in 212 BCE or somewhere thereabouts, and the Antikythera Mechanism shipwreck happened about 150 years later. So I think what we’re seeing then is that the Antikythera Mechanism is probably the later stages of a series of developments when it comes to devices like this that had been going on for about 150 years at that point, so that whatever Archimedes himself had was probably much more basic, but it built – but everything else after that became more complex until you eventually get to the Antikythera Mechanism around 60 BCE.

SO: Yeah. Definitely.

CB: I think – so, for me, I think that’s the most plausible cause, but I also don’t say that just to follow Jones’s argument, but I think there’s actually different arguments that could be made for that, one of which hasn’t been made, which is the cosmological scheme that the mechanism actually uses, which is… At one point, the mechanism itself on the face of it, it shows the planets in a very specific order. And the order of the planets follows what was called in ancient times the order of the seven zoned sphere, and this is what it was referred to in astrological texts and sometimes in modern times this is referred to as putting the planets in Chaldean order, which basically … It starts with the sphere of the fixed stars and then in descending order it goes Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury, Moon, and then the earth at the center of the cosmos. So the Antikythera Mechanism has this order, and one of the things I feel like a lot of the researchers are taking for granted is that this was like, became the common cosmological order in ancient astronomical and astrological texts from like, the first century – from the second and first century BCE forward. But one of the points that’s not commonly made that I’ve been researching a lot is that I’ve been trying to trace back the origins of this specific order of the planets, and from what I can tell, it doesn’t actually go back further than the second century BCE. So one of the arguments actually for – and in fact one of the arguments that I’m developing – is I think it’s possible, and I’m developing this argument that it may have actually first been introduced or at least popularized in the texts of Nechepso and Petosiris around the middle of the second century BCE or around 150 BCE. And that’s one of the reasons why it sort of explodes in popularity after that time. So I haven’t seen this made as like, an argument, though, for the dating, but it does actually explain – it is actually important for the dating and the fact that that cosmological order is embedded in the device itself is probably another indication that the device dates to either the late second century BCE or the early first century BCE, which would roughly put it in that time frame of like, 60 BCE that Jones dates it to when the ship sank.

SO: Right. And if it were made for somebody, you know, then maybe it was made closer to the date of the wreck possibly, but again, it’s just so hard to know. A lot of it – the dating would be coming out of speculation, and one of the ways that I remember them talking about dating was through the inscriptions because when you’re looking at the way that letters are written, that can sometimes give information as to, you know, when was this written? But there’s even issues with that and I think, you know, the smallest amount of – the smallest boundary that you can probably put for when you’re using letters to date something is maybe a century. So that’s a little bit, you know, too wide of a boundary for what we’d be trying to do. So…

CB: Yeah.

SO: You know, yeah.

CB: Yeah, so there’s other, much different circumstantial dating, but I just – I think Jones is right in saying it was probably, this device was probably constructed not too long before the ship itself sank in 60 BCE, that it represents the end process of a series of developments that went back to Archimedes, but that Archimedes’s version was probably a much more simple version of something like this. And that the history of astrology and specifically that ordering of the planets helps us to further narrow down the dating of the device because that planetary order may not date or go before 150 BCE. Because prior to that time, when you go back to Plato, they have different planetary order where Plato gives the order of the planets as Moon, Sun, Venus, Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, fixed stars. And that order and different variations of that order where they move around Venus and Mercury are pretty common for a couple of centuries from about 400 BCE until about 150 BCE, where this other new planetary order comes out of nowhere and suddenly just takes over everything, and everybody starts following that planetary order for some reason from that point forward. And I’ve never seen anybody explain very fully why that planetary order suddenly seems to emerge and take over, but I think the reason for it is because it was connected with the emergence of Hellenistic astrology at that time, which also became popular and sort of exploded in popularity from the mid-second century forward.

SO: Yeah. That’s interesting that, you know, maybe it had an influence on astronomy then, you know?

CB: Yeah.

SO: The astronomical theories and that’s just then was passed around through, you know, through the Mediterranean and everyone just started using that model, so I think that’s really interesting.

CB: Yeah, well and one of the things I realized is because one of the – we know that the what’s called the order of the seven zoned sphere, that it went back to Nechepso and Petosiris texts, because Thrasyllus in the first century cites the Nechepso texts saying that they dealt with this planetary order. But another piece that I had always scratched my head at is there’s another fragment saying that Nechepso dealt with the distances of the planets and that he outlined a system for explaining how far the planets were from the earth, some of which was actually relatively correct or at least a decent approximation for their time period. But I never understand why an astrological text would be sort of outlining the distances of the planets and stuff like that until I realized over the past few months it’s because it was coming as part of this attempt to introduce or to justify this new cosmological order and this specific ordering of the planets, and that’s, it was part of like, a package that was being introduced at that time, and that’s why the distances were being described in this otherwise, you know, astrological text.

SO: Wow.

CB: Yeah. And the last thing about that is just the order itself needs to be researched and understood better because while it does arrange the planets just based on their speeds and their synodic cycles so that, for example, it goes from at the bottom the fastest “planet” to on the outer cycle the slowest. So it goes from the Moon, which takes a month to go around the zodiac, then it goes to Mercury, Venus, and the Sun, which the ancient astrologers gave an approximation of a year each to do a lap around or a synodic cycle, and then it goes to Mars, which is usually given two years, then Jupiter which is 12, and then Saturn which is 30. But the issue is with the three planets Mercury, Venus, and the Sun. Because they’re each given one year, there’s no specific reason to order them in any specific way, and in fact, the earlier tradition associated with Plato put the Sun right after the Moon so that it’s like, Moon, then Sun, and then Venus and then Mercury, because they’re all given one year sort of orbits. So the big change with the order of the seven zoned sphere that starts being talked about in the Nechepso and Petosiris texts at least is putting the Sun in the middle of the planetary order. And this may not have been done purely based on astronomy, but instead, there may have been symbolic reasons for putting the Sun at the very center and the very heart of the sort of spheres of the planets, basically. And it creates this symmetry where you then have three planets that are below the Sun, which is the Moon, Mercury, and Venus, and you have three planets which are above the Sun, which is Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. And some of the basic – this then set up different cosmological principles, but it also then may have set up things that then were meant to explain astrology and why different things in astrology meant what they mean. So for example, we see later astrologers claiming that, for example, that because of the proximity between the Sun and Mars – because Mars is the sphere right above the Sun – that that’s the reason why Mars is red in color and is fiery and is associated with heating because of its proximity to the Sun. So it starts – it becomes a cosmological model that is therefore explaining some of the things that then, or some of the claims that astrologers then eventually make based on these philosophical or quasi sort of like, scientific principles, essentially.

SO: Yeah.

CB: Does that make sense?

SO: Yeah, totally. And this is the order, the arrangement that we’re seeing on the Antikythera Mechanism, so —

CB: Yeah.

SO: — it’s that connection is, you know, is an interesting one.

CB: Yeah, it’s really crucial because it embeds something that… And sorry for going on about this, but it’s just, this was actually the original reason that I started looking into the Antikythera Mechanism again recently. I’ve had a long-standing interest in it going back like, 20 years, because like, the History Channel did a little episode on kind of … Yeah, an episode on the Antikythera Mechanism back in like, 2005 when I was first studying Hellenistic astrology, and I got really interested and excited in it and following the developments with the Antikythera Mechanism Research Project, so I’ve always followed different research that was being done with it over the past 20 years. But it was over the past few months that I’ve been coming back and making this realization about the importance of the planetary order and that being the real turning point in the development of Hellenistic astrology, which also helps to show and to prove that Hellenistic astrology emerged in the second century BCE and not earlier. It was making those realizations and then researching this and then in trying to find different sources to see if that was correct to kind of date that planetary order, I ended up circling back to the Antikythera Mechanism when I realized that they had figured out in the past decade that the Antikythera Mechanism put the planets in this specific order. So it’s one of the additional things that helps us to date that planetary order and to know that it was fully, it had caught on by that time and become standardized or popular for some reason.

SO: Yeah. Definitely. I mean, yeah, if you’re putting it on like, one of the most expensive devices in the ancient world, like, you’re pretty certain about it, I would say.

CB: Right. And one of the discoveries you and I made that’s also exciting is this may be actually only one of the cosmological —

SO: Yeah.

CB: — devices embedded or implicit in the Antikythera Mechanism that may have some astrological connection. But there may actually be a second sort of cosmological model that was inspired by astrology that may be embedded implicitly in the mechanism as well, which is the concept of the Thema Mundi.

SO: Yeah, so in the layout – I don’t know if – do you have a picture of that? Yeah.

CB: Actually, let’s take a break, because that would be a good —

SO: Okay.

CB: — time to take a break and do a little cliffhanger —

SO: Yes.

CB: — for those astrologers listening to this. I know we’re at an hour, so we’re gonna take some breaks to pace ourselves.

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All right, so we’re back from a break. So I wanna show the device itself because we’ve showed like, the encrusted version of the device, but now I’d like to talk about what it looked like so that we can then jump back into that discussion we were having about what cosmological models it shows. So here is – just going back to the Wikipedia page and they have this separate page of all of the media of the device. So one of the things that they show – some of the different images is there’s been a bunch of different attempts to reconstruct the device and what it looked like. And some of them are in like, museums. Like, here’s a picture with all the different fragments of it that exist. But here’s a like, translucent version of like, an early – I think a prototype of what it may have looked like. But let me show the version from Jones, and this is a diagram that occurs in his book. And he says that this is the reconstruction of the exterior of the Antikythera Mechanism according to the present state of research. So what it was is it was a box that had metal gears and the dials on it were made of metal, but it was enclosed, probably, in a wooden box, and then it had different flaps or potentially different doors, which contained additional text that told you how to operate it and how to interpret some of the different things that it said or different information that it gives you. So on the front face of the device, there was a series of dials that showed the zodiac, and then on the outside of that, it showed the Egyptian calendar months. And then on the inside, there were different pointers that showed the seven traditional planets, which are the Sun, Moon, and Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. So that’s the front of the device, and then there was some interpretive things around that. On the back of the device, it had two spiral dials, at least two big ones, and one of these could be used to predict eclipses. And other dials was a four-year dial, which would tell you about different games, like, different … The Olympic games and other contests like that that happened in different four-year increments.

SO: Yeah. And we might talk a little bit about the… Like on the back there, with those spiral dials, one of the things that I found that was just really amazing and very like, simple, little thing, but that pointer that’s going around in circles is actually weighted, so that the amount of times that it’s rotating somehow there’s a weight that’s actually moving the dial to point like, further and further out in the dial as you go around. Just the amount of thought that went into this was really incredible.

CB: Yeah. It was really complex. Like, it was an incredibly complex device. So they… In terms of the planetary pointers, I think there were two different like, models for this. They don’t know if it was just like, a geared model where the planets were embedded in the circles that would rotate or if the planets were put on pointers. But…

SO: It seems like I remember reading there was at some point… I forget where this was from. Jones, maybe in a video that he did, where there was like, an actual indentation, like, a spherical indentation in the artifact that he thinks was an indication of at least a Moon, maybe.

CB: Yeah, I mean, you know, there’s two different models. Here’s… On Wikipedia, they have an illustration of like, Tony Freeth’s reconstruction or one of them that has each of the planets on pointers. And they know – one of the things they know is that the Sun in the surviving text is described as being on the pointer and being a little golden sphere. So you can see the Sun pointer here, and you see the golden sphere in the middle of it that would’ve been the position of the Sun moving around on the hands of the device like a clock. But then they think that the other planets also may have had little colored spheres with different colors for each of the planets. Like, for example, probably red for Mars, or other colors tied in with the astronomical or especially the astrological meaning of the planets, which for example we know from the astrologer’s boards that there are some instructions for using them that say to use different stones for the planets that match the quality of that planet based on the astrological and hermetic sort of associations between planets and different stones.

SO: Right. Yeah. And that goes back to the Babylonians, too. And there are lots of little stones that have been found with inscriptions of gods, of Zeus, of Serapis, of Jupiter, of Venus, Aphrodite, of Tychon, of Lot of Fortune, that have been inscribed on particular kinds of stones that are often associated or have been associated with the planets. And from the Greek magical papyri they talk about, you know, using particular stones for particular planets, and so yeah, it sounds like this was also being used in this device for these pointers, maybe.

CB: Right.

SO: We don’t, I guess, you know —

CB: Yeah —

SO: — we don’t have any, I think, any surviving pointers unfortunately.

CB: Yeah. The planetary section is the most highly… Where they’ve had to reconstruct and speculate the most in terms of the planetary dials. But they think they’ve worked it out well enough at this point based on the gears and like, what gears were present that they can infer pretty well that the planetary dials existed in some form, but the specific appearance is not clear. One of the things about the Moon, though, that is described, I think, and one of the things and that there’s little traces of is that the Moon – the hand of the Moon and the sphere of the Moon had black and white on different sides and would rotate. They think it would rotate based on one of the gears so that it would rotate to show the moonphase as the Moon moved around the dial itself.

SO: Right.

CB: So here’s the —

SO: Right. And that’s a very complex thing to do, which, you know, we can talk about the lunar phase calculation in a little bit, but yeah.

CB: Yeah. So that gives you some idea of just the image, and then here’s an image of somebody’s reconstruction where it shows the metal gears or the outside plates of the Antikythera Mechanism, but then it’s in like, a wooden box, probably, that housed the entire mechanism.

SO: And all of this was controlled with one knob, right?

CB: Yeah, that’s the most – not the most important point, but that’s one of the most interesting points is there was just a knob on the side of the device, which is labeled as “A” here in Alexander Jones’s diagram. There’s a single knob or possibly a crank, although I think they argue later that it may not have been a crank, but something that you would use on the side of the device in order – as the input – in order to turn it, and then that would cause all of the gears to move and start to spin, and then that would allow the planets to start moving forwards or backwards in time.

SO: Right. And I think – I can’t remember exactly if it was one full rotation of the knob was like, four years or something like that? I don’t think it was a full year with the one rotation of the knob, but you know, all of this they were able to figure out based on the number of teeth on each gear and how they were all interlocking with each other.

CB: Yeah. What I wrote down from Jones is he said, “One full turn of the knob or the crank” – which was the input – “would result in going forward in time about 78 days.”

SO: Okay.

CB: So that gives you some idea of like, the timeframes involved. And so certain – you know, some planets, like the inner planets, are gonna move around more quickly in that timeframe are gonna have more distance in the zodiac, whereas some of the outer planets like Jupiter or Saturn are not gonna move that much at all during that time period.

SO: Yeah.

CB: Yeah. So but so that’s amazing because then on a very basic level, to the extent that it could calculate the positions of the planets and that there was a dial around the planets that showed the signs of the zodiac, and it didn’t use symbols or glyphs because the symbols or glyphs for the planets hadn’t really been developed at that point. Instead, it wrote out the names of the planets or the names of the signs of the zodiac in words. So in Greek, it would say Aries, for example, up at the top, or Taurus or Gemini using the Greek names of the signs, which is Aries is like, the ram. Taurus is the bull. Gemini is the twins, and so on and so forth.

SO: Right. And this layout, as we were actually talking about, kind of almost reflects the Thema Mundi. But the main difference is that it’s basically reversed.

CB: Yeah, and we’ll get into that in just a second, but just to establish like, one of the most basic things that’s incredibly striking about this entire device then is to the extent that it, you know, is a depiction of the planets that can move forward and backwards in time and show the movement of the planets through the signs of the zodiac as well as their relative positions relative to one another in the zodiac, it kind of replicates or is similar to some of the modern astrological programs, the software programs that astrologers use today, where they also will animate charts and move them forward or backwards in time. So, you know, for example, I commonly on The Astrology Podcast will use the astrology software program Solar Fire, especially in the forecast episodes, not just to cast charts and display them – which are just, like, static snapshots of a specific moment in time – but I’ll often pull up the ‘animate’ feature to move the chart forward in different increments of time, like days, where you can see the Moon changing signs every two to three days. Or moving it forward further than that to months, where you can see the different inner planets, like the Sun changes signs every month, or Mercury and Venus change sign about every month, and eventually other larger spans of time, like Jupiter changing signs every year or Mars every month and a half or so, basically, but it going through a complete cycle of the zodiac in like, two-ish years.

SO: Yeah.

CB: So animating charts and like, moving them forward and backwards in time is actually like, a crucial thing that astrologers do in modern times with our contemporary computer technology in order to study the movements of the planets, which then is tied into a number of different applications of astrology today, which for the most part are actually still very similar applications today to some of the things that we were doing in ancient times, including, you know, looking at transits, which is where the planets will be in the future, and when different alignments will come up in the future, like Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions, like major mundane alignments, or even seeing how the planets are positioned in the future relative to where they were in the birth chart as being part of astrological forecasting.

SO: Right. Right. And as you’re saying this, it’s making me think of like, just the kind of going from like, I remember when I first got Solar Fire and going from having to kind of manually so to speak put in the dates for on Astro.com and you know, having the limit of a hundred charts. But being able to do it with a software on a website and just having this major upgrade of being able to use this software and pay for it, you know, it’s not a cheap software, to be able to go back and forth so easily to animate, you know, the way the sky is actually moving was just like, oh my gosh, this is so amazing, you know? So I can see how whether, you know, whether it was astrology informing astronomy or astronomy informing astrology for this device or if they were both working together, you know, to be able to do that is extremely useful for both, you know – both astronomical reasons, both for astrological reasons.

CB: Yeah. The ability to animate a chart and move a chart forward or backwards in time is a huge game-changer for astrologers. Because otherwise, if you don’t, you have to either recast the chart over and over again at different times to study different alignments, which can take a while, or you have to look it up in an ephemeris. So in modern times, that’s an obvious reason why animating a chart is a really useful feature that speeds up astrological research and calculations, and you know, astrologers – because they rely on looking at charts, which are two-dimensional diagrams of what’s happening in the sky and what the alignment of the cosmos is – to the extent that we rely on those calculations, anything that speeds up those calculations is always gonna be something that astrologers will immediately jump onto, and that’s part of the reason why astrologers are often at the forefront of new technologies, because astrologers will often use anything that will allow them to either calculate planetary positions quicker or anything that will allow them to calculate planetary positions more accurately. And I think this is where there’s a really important parallel in where the contemporary practice of astrology today, there’s many ways in which it’s similar to ancient astrology and where astrologers have similar motivations. And that’s actually, that’s part of why we’re doing this episode today, and I think it’s important. Because I think as astrologers, we have a unique perspective that maybe is not brought to the table always when it comes to some of these discussions about the Antikythera Mechanism, where certain researchers, if they’re not – even if they’re somewhat familiar with ancient astrology – if it’s not something that is, something that internally motivates them that they’re practicing on a regular basis, they may not or may more easily overlook some of the motivations that ancient astrologers may have had when they were thinking about or looking at devices like this. And I think —

SO: Right.

CB: — this is one of them.

SO: Yeah, definitely. Because, you know, one of the differences between now and then, I guess, is in terms of the astronomy, like, you don’t really need to be able to do astronomical calculations by hand or by yourself in order to know where the planets are. And with a device like that, you wouldn’t, but I think most astrologers in the ancient world had to learn astronomy in order to be able to cast a chart. So.

CB: Right. I mean, they had to know some basics. And up until very recently in history until the past few decades with the advent of personal computers, all astrologers had to know how to calculate charts by hand in order to do astrology. But calculating charts by hand is a specific type of astronomy, but it is a little bit divorced from the sky itself. And just because an astrologer can like, for example, earlier in the 20th century, in order to calculate a chart, you would need one book – which is an ephemeris, which lists like, planetary positions – you’d need another book, which is a timezone atlas to show different time zones for different cities to localize the chart and calculate the Ascendant. And then in some instances, depending on your house system, you would need a table of houses in order to calculate the Ascendant and Midheaven and different house cusps and things like that. So that’s like, three different books that would need in order to calculate a birth chart or any astrological chart, but you otherwise, aside from needing to know how to use those books, you didn’t need to otherwise be an advanced astronomer who’s actually, personally observing the movements of the planets in order to calculate a birth chart. And that’s actually one of the points that Alexander Jones makes is that astrologers typically tended to not actually be … I don’t wanna say “not astronomers,” but in order to calculate charts, they didn’t have to be viewing or observing the planets themselves, but instead they were often using tables and other things in order to calculate the planets, and that’s one of the ways in which astrology and astronomy started to diverge at some point probably after the introduction of ephemerides in like, somewhere around 500 or 400 BCE, right around the same time that natal astrology emerged is that astrologers started working with computed tables, basically, rather than always going out and looking at the sky themselves.

So but that, I think, is the reason – that’s one of the other advantages of something like the Antikythera Mechanism and one of the arguments that Jones makes where he thinks – one of his arguments I think he uses to say he wasn’t sure or he didn’t think that it was primarily for astrology, the Antikythera Mechanism, was that some of the calculations on it would be approximations. And because of some errors with the gears or other slippages, things like the position of the Moon may have been off by different levels of like, a day or two, so that it wouldn’t have been a very precise means of like, calculating certain positions in some instances if you’re looking for precision. But I don’t think that’s actually a huge obstacle here in terms of doing astrology, because especially when you’re looking at transits or future or past alignments, even having a rough approximation of the planets is actually gonna be super useful if this device is something that’s like, speeding up your ability to look and see, let’s say, roughly when the next Mars-Saturn conjunction is gonna take place or the next Jupiter-Saturn conjunction or something like that. As well as with eclipses, which is one of the most fascinating things that the device does, is it pretty accurately calculates eclipses, which is hugely important for astrology, both in terms of mundane astrology as well as in personal astrology. So the extent that the device could at all speed up that, even if it was only approximations and wasn’t as accurate as doing it with an ephemeris, I think astrologers absolutely would’ve used things like this.

SO: Definitely. Absolutely. Yeah.

CB: Yeah. So that’s the case in terms of practical things, but also as a teaching tool, that’s one of the things I think Alexander Jones argues it would’ve been used for for astronomy, that it would have been a good thing to show the movements of the planets in the cosmos and sort of how the cosmos worked as a teaching tool in astronomy. And I think that’s true and also makes sense as a purpose of the device. However, I think it also would’ve been useful in that context for students of astrology as well. And I think as a device that could demonstrate the cosmos and the movements of the planets, it would’ve had similar… As like, a teaching tool, a pretty impressive and pretty useful purpose within that context also.

SO: Yeah. Definitely. And it makes sense, too, that you know, this is something that we do as a culture is that we advance technology and we want to demonstrate that technology, right? We want to like, oftentimes show it off and demonstrate how advanced our technology is. And it’s like, AI, for example, you know? It’s something that as it develops, people want to use it and show it off and it makes sense that that would be… That may be a reason behind why this thing was designed for whoever it was designed for, but also for, you know, for teaching purposes, for maybe research purposes or …

CB: Yeah. Yeah, the AI thing is a good point, because it’s like, right now, there’s some astrologers that are jumping on AI. I mean, I have been one of them over the past year who’s immediately been like, you know, there’s this new technology that’s just emerged. You know, can we use it for astrology, and can we use it for astrological research to, for example, I was using it to speed up some of the research I was doing with eclipses at one point over the past several months. And there’s a number of other applications as well, and I think astrologers of all time periods often have the same thing, which is when the see a new technology, and because astrologers tend to be more technically proficient than I think other members of society sometimes due to the math and the calculations used in astrology, so much so that astrologers were often referred to as mathematicians in ancient times, I think that astrologers tend to be early adopters of new technology. But going back to the point about using it as a device of demonstration, like in a teaching context – another context that I thought of, actually, that ties it in with the location that it may have been headed is that they said it was heading to Epirus, the Epirus region is what they think, and that the major city there was Dodona, which was a major oracle site for an oracle associated with Zeus, just like the Delphic oracle where people would go for divination to receive divination and like, messages about the present or the future from the oracle. One of the things it made me think of is we know that in Egypt, and actually Alexander Jones is one of the people from an article from like, the late ‘90s who early people that made the argument that a lot of the horoscopes that are being discovered in Egypt lately over the past century are ones that we see coming from or that were associated with certain Egyptian temples, so that we know that the Egyptian priesthood from, let’s say, the first century BCE forward, one of the types of divination that the priests were practicing was astrology. So that sometimes when people were coming to the Egyptian temples to get oracular readings, astrology may have been one of the forms of divination that was being used as a sort of technology to tell them about the present or the future. If this device was going to the Epirus region, and specifically to Dodona, one of the applications actually that it could have been used for is it could have been used at the oracle site there within an oracular or divinatory context if the diviners in that location had started to adopt astrology as one of their tools for divination at that point. And I think that raises – although obviously we start getting into speculation at this point and it starts getting a little bit speculative, it’s something that’s interesting to consider in terms of if that was where it was headed and who would’ve purchased it and for what reasons they may have purchased it.

SO: Right. What’s interesting and kind of funny is that so, in one of my classes that I’m taking right now, it’s Roman Religion, and at the beginning of the class, we actually read Cicero’s book one and two of De Divinatione, On Divination. And in so many of the – and it’s basically like, a Socratic dialogue between Quintus and Cicero for and against divination, and there are so many different references to divination, like, and they all are pretty straightforward. Augury, you know, you’re watching for birds – what direction are they flying? Haruspicy, you’re reading the entrails of animals. But they never describe like, what the astrologers are actually doing. They don’t describe are they using devices, or are they looking at tables, or are they writing on papyrus, or are they looking at the sky? They don’t, you know, it’s just astrology or astrologers; it’s sort of a vague reference. There’s nothing specific to it. So it’s, we don’t – yeah.

CB: Well, I mean, we know that they were using the boards, though. I mean, that’s one of the things we know that —

SO: True.

CB: — for example, in an astrological consultation or we think, based on some of the fragments that survive, that they would use these elaborate wooden boards that they would bring out where it would have the zodiac and possibly the decans or other things inscribed on it, and then they would take stones that matched each of the planets and place them around the board to depict the client’s birth chart or horoscope. And actually, James Evans wrote one of the first articles that really opened this up, I think, for me and for a lot of people in the late ‘90s or early 2000s, an astronomer who’s also done interesting work on the Antikythera Mechanism, and important work. Yeah, so we know that devices like that were used and there’s like, a particularly elaborate one that you and I have talked about, which is the one that was found in France, right?

SO: Yeah. The one they found buried at the bottom of a well. It was made of ivory. I think one of the few boards that exist that we still have that are made out of ivory. They’re made of various materials; there’s a reference of a green glass disc or a marble one. But these are ivory diptychs. I think there were two sets of them, or one – yeah, two sets of them. And they’re I think the most elaborate of the ones that we have surviving.

CB: Yeah, so this is one from Grand, right? Which was like —

SO: Right.

CB: — somebody like, broke it and threw it down a well, basically, at some —

SO: Yeah.

CB: — point. I don’t know —

SO: Yeah.

CB: — if that, was that near like, a monastery, or it was like, a religious…

SO: So I’m actually, I’m planning to go there. I’m gonna be in France in June, so my plan is to go there, so I’m excited to be able to actually go and see the site. And there’s a website online for the whole archeological site, and basically, it was this place was called, in the ancient world, it was called the Sanctuary of a Thousand Wells. And there have been several hundred wells found there, and it was a sanctuary with healing waters. It was a sanctuary dedicated to Apollo. And there were Roman baths there; there’s a basilica that still has an old mosaic intact. And there are, you know, many artifacts found from there that indicate that it was a healing place. So the boards were dated with stratigraphy, which is a pretty airtight form of dating for archeology, where you’re dating the layers of stratification of the earth. So the dating is pretty secure that it was the latter half of the second century AD that it was broken.

CB: Okay. So that’s roughly contemporaneous,then, with like, Vettius Valens, just after the life of Vettius Valens or a little bit, a few decades after like, Claudius Ptolemy.

SO: Yep. And it was known, you know, to be one of the most famous sanctuaries in the ancient world, so it was at a huge stadium, you know, 15 to 17,000 spectator capacity at this stadium. So it was a really, really well known place, and it’s fairly far. The idea is that these boards were made at a workshop in Egypt, so it was pretty far from Egypt, you know? It shows the expanse of the influence.

CB: Right, and that astrologers sometimes would use astrological tools or like, paraphernalia – I should come up with like, a better name – it’s like, a funny word to use “paraphernalia” because it sounds like you’re talking about like —

SO: Like drugs or something?

CB: Yeah, like, drug paraphernalia, but I like – that’s —

SO: Well, yeah.

CB: That’s why I like talking —

SO: In some contexts, maybe it would be a little illegal to have one of those objects. Maybe that’s why the words of Grand were destroyed.

CB: Well, and that’s one of the speculations I thought that at one point, because the Grand was like, a pagan site where obviously somebody was practicing astrology, but then with the rise of Christianity from the second century forward that eventually some of the things that were previously permissible started to be not permissible and of course, astrology is one of the things that started to decline after the second century as a result of Christian eventually persecution of astrologers. And the Grand board may have been broken and thrown down a well. I thought that was one of the speculations at one point of —

SO: Yeah.

CB: — perhaps why.

SO: Yeah. There’s another speculation that it was actually a result of local conflict rather than Roman antagonism. But, you know, these are the things that scholars argue about.

CB: Sure. So but your point, though, was a really interesting one that they think the board was made in Egypt, because if you look at it, it has the Egyptian decans in a specifically Egyptian sort of design. But what’s important about what you just said, actually, that made me think of something is that this board, then, was made at a workshop in Egypt, but then the astrologer who was using it was using it somewhere in France, basically, which is very far away, and that sometimes astrologers would get – that there would be workshops set up for creating things that astrologers would use, which would then be like, exported and used by the astrologers in different far-flung places around the world or around the Roman Empire.

SO: Yeah. Absolutely.

CB: So —

SO: Yeah, so there’s no reason why, you know, things can’t be spread apart far away from where they were made…

CB: Yeah, well, and that’s exactly – we see a parallel there, potentially, with the Antikythera Mechanism where they have a pretty good argument for saying that it was probably constructed at a workshop in Rhodes, but then it was on its way to its client somewhere in western Greece, basically, near the site of Dodona.

So and here’s just a picture of that to describe of the Grand astrologer’s board, which is like, a wooden board that’s made out of wood but also like, ivory, and I think there was… Was there like, flecks of like, gold on it or something like this? Like this one —

SO: That’s right.

CB: — the most elaborate version of the board that we found, right?

SO: Yeah. I think there may have been some traces of other, a couple other colors, maybe red and blue, if I’m right. But definitely there was gold, yeah.

CB: Okay. So and what we see is we see an inner circle with a depiction of the zodiac with the 12 signs of the zodiac, and the images of the sort of iconography of each of the signs displayed around the board. Like, there’s a crab for Cancer; there’s a lion for Leo; there are two twins for Gemini, and so on and so forth. And then on the outside of the zodiac wheel, we see a thin sort of stretch that has symbols for each of the bounds or the terms, which are ruled by one of the five visible planets. And then outside of that, we see another one which lists or shows visible representations of the decans, which are the divisions of the signs into three 10-degree segments, and they’re actually illustrated with specific figures from Egypt – each of the decans is – and then the name of the decan is listed outside of that in Greek.

SO: Yeah. I think it’s actually – I think it might be Coptic, but yes, which is a relative of Greek, but using the Greek alphabet. Well, it’s using the Greek – I think it’s Coptic; I’m fairly sure.

CB: I mean, the lettering is Greek. So you think it’s in the Greek letters, but it’s the Coptic language?

SO: Yeah. I thought it was Coptic, but I could be wrong on that. But in any case, yeah, they are the decans there, and this, you know… Trying to think what else to say. I mean, this is a – go ahead.

CB: I mean, on the outside, and finally outside of the decans and the zodiac wheel, in the four corners are these four figures that represent the four winds —

SO: Right.

CB: — which is associated with the four directions, because there was this interchangeableness with the idea of the winds and the cardinal directions of north, south, east, and west in the Greco-Roman world, which is interesting because that actually comes up in the context of the Antikythera Mechanism as well, as we’ll talk about here in a little bit.

SO: Yeah. And then lastly, too, on the boards, they have these stars or you can see little circles and all of those are thought to represent the visible planets. You got seven on each corner.

CB: Oh, nice.

SO: Yeah. It’s a really beautiful, beautiful artifact. It’s amazing.

CB: So this is the most elaborate version of one of these astrologer’s boards —

SO: Oh, Chris —

CB: — but there’s actually been —

SO: — can I actually just say one more thing, too, that might relate back to the Antikythera Mechanism is that layout of the zodiac wheel on the Grand boards has Cancer, you know, in the East and Leo in the East. There’s —

CB: Does it?

SO: — basically, yeah, laid out like the…

CB: Yeah, so Cancer’s on the left side, basically, of the zodiac wheel on the eastern —

SO: Right.

CB: — side of the thing, which is roughly might correspond with essentially like, the first house.

SO: Yeah, exactly.

CB: It’s like, it’s a little tricky, because of the – I’m trying to see where the horizontal line is, and if it’s like, below the 90 degrees slightly, but I’m not sure if that’s an artifact of the image or what. But that’s a good point that the, in the Grand tablet, Cancer is put over on the left side in the east, which is the region in a birth chart that’s associated with the first house. And then Leo is below that, and then Virgo follows in the third place, and Libra is at the bottom. And this arrangement is important because it actually is an arrangement we see over and over again in astrology because it’s tied in with the mythical birth chart for the creation of the cosmos known as the Thema Mundi, which was like, a teaching tool according to Firmicus Maternus that was used in order to explain the rationale for the domiciles of the planets for essentially how they came to assign each of the seven traditional planets to each of the 12 signs of the zodiac. And it had Cancer rising, with the Moon in Cancer, the Sun in Leo, Mercury in Virgo, Venus in Libra, Mars in Scorpio, Jupiter in Sagittarius, and Saturn in Capricorn. And I’ll pull up a diagram of that in just a minute, but that’s a really great point that here we see Cancer is over on the left side of this astrologer’s board.

SO: Yep.

CB: So this was like, the most elaborate version of one of these boards, but it’s not the only version that we know of, and there were other simpler versions, as well, right?

SO: Yeah, that’s right. I think there’s five; I wanna say there’s five that survive. And there’s the Bianchini, if I’m saying that right, I’m not sure – Bianchini, Bianchini tablet is a marble tablet that was found, I believe, in Italy that also seems to have the decans but in a different representation. And that one seemed to be fairly elaborate and possibly bigger than the – the Grand boards are very small; they’re probably only maybe like, that big or so, I think. And then there was also an ivory, I think an ivory board – or was it? I don’t know. There was another board, either ivory or stone, that was found in Croatia in a cave.

CB: Yeah. That one’s actually interesting because that’s the one that Alexander Jones, ironically, published a paper on I think about 10 years ago in 2011, titled – I believe it was titled, The Nakovana Zodiac

SO: Yeah, that’s right.

CB: — Fragments of an Astrologer’s Board from an Illyrian-Hellenistic Cave Sanctuary. Actually, that’s… Yeah, yeah, he published it together with another scholar. So this actually weirdly made the news at the time and was reported at a number of different sources. Like, I’m just doing a Google search and it’s showing on like, NBC News like, covered it way back in 2011, 2012, with this title: “Oldest Known Astrologer’s Board is Pieced Together. A research team has discovered what may be the oldest astrologer’s board, engraved with zodiac signs and used to determine a person’s horoscope.” And it shows a section of it that survived, which is like, an ivory segment of it that has a crab on it, which represents Cancer.

SO: Yeah.

CB: So, you know, that’s one of the reason why Alexander Jones is amazing and I love him for this work, because he was just like, the perfect guy that had done so much different stuff with the history of astronomy and astrology and some of the different devices surrounding it and different, like, actual technical stuff as well as through piecing together and doing this sort of puzzle work to reconstruct ancient texts where sometimes there’ll be like, part of a sentence that survives but then it breaks off and you have to infer or reconstruct what the rest of the sentence was. He’d done so much of this work that just put him in a perfect position to then work on the Antikythera Mechanism that he was just, like, the right person for this job and I can’t think of anybody who would have been more well suited for it.

So with astrologer’s boards, I think the main point to close out this section is just that this, then, is one of the things that astrologers used for astrological consultations, and we bring all of this up because something like the Antikythera Mechanism or some device that could be used for demonstration purposes to display the movements of the planets of the cosmos, even if somebody was to argue that it’s not precise enough or that it wasn’t used for astrological calculations, it could have been displayed or used even within the context of a consultation with a client because it would both help to convey what you were looking at in terms of the movements of the planets in the csomos, but it also would’ve been kind of a very striking almost like, awe-inspiring thing to actually be able to see or visualize the alignment of the planets whether it’s in your birth chart itself, even if it was only approximate, or whether you were looking at transits and the astrologer was like, sort of demonstrating the movements of the planets, there would have been something very powerful about that imagery, just as a demonstration of astrology and astronomy within the context of and otherwise like, let’s say, divinitary setting of getting your chart read or trying to learn about the future.

SO: Definitely. Yeah.

CB: Yeah. So I think that’s an important piece here, as well, to bring that component to things, because I think, you know, all astrologers, you know, that do astrological consultations, one of the things you’re doing is you’re not just reading the person’s future and making predictions, but often astrologers will try to explain the chart and they’ll try to explain what they’re looking at as they’re doing it. And I think that’s pretty common in like, contemporary consultations, right?

SO: Yeah, oh, definitely. And whenever I’m doing a reading, someone is always asking, you know, what they’re looking at on the chart or the first time they see it if they’ve never seen it before, it’s like, “What am I looking at? This doesn’t make any sense.” So something like the Antikythera Mechanism, I think, would’ve been really amazing to look at. Would’ve probably made more sense than, you know, just at first glance than a birth chart.

CB: Yeah, especially to the extent that it doesn’t use symbols or the sort of arcane alternative language of astrology that is in charts, but instead it’s showing like, a representation, a sort of somewhat three-dimensional representation of the cosmos, which is really what an astrological chart is, but like, flattened down.

SO: Yeah, and that was the, that’s always the challenge I think of trying to translate three dimensions to two dimensions, which is what the designer of this mechanism definitely had to – that was a problem that the designer had to solve, and did that in various ways, but yeah.

CB: I’m glad you mention that, because that brings up a point that I think the designer of the mechanism, that the mechanism contains two dimensions, and I think this is the other thing that’s at the core of Hellenistic astrology and that system that was originally developed is the position of the planets in the signs of the zodiac gives you, like, a top-down view when you’re looking at a chart from the position of the zodiac. And I think maybe Jones has like, a diagram like this – do you know? Wasn’t there like, a top-down zodiac view at one point?

SO: Top-down zodiac view.

CB: Yeah.

SO: I don’t remember that.

CB: Okay, well let’s —

SO: Or I’m not sure what you mean, but.

CB: We’ll just go back to this diagram right here, which shows it’s like, his diagram of the planets on the different pointers, and they’re in the zodiac. When you’re looking at a chart, and this is kind of how a chart was presented from this perspective, you’re looking at it from a top-down view of the cosmos, essentially, as if you’re looking at the earth at the center and then you’re looking at the different planets revolving around and going through the different signs of zodiac in a circle. But you’re almost looking at things from a top-down perspective, which I think ties back in with the concept of, you know, Plato and Plato’s whirl, where he’s describing things in the context of … How do you describe like, a whirl or something like that.

SO: I understood it to be like, these kinds of nested cones, one on top of the other, and that they each – a whirl, I thought, was essentially like a kind of cone, and that each one was sort of nested on top and they could spin freely. Is that what you, how you understood it?

CB: Yeah, because it was connected with like…

SO: With —

CB: Weaving.

SO: Weaving, right, yes. Which is also a very interesting connection.

CB: And the analogy that Plato was using of the three fates who are like, spinning the sort of thread of destiny before a person was born. But I think this is the diagram I was looking for, where —

SO: Yeah.

CB: — in Alexander Jones’s book, page 177, where you’re looking at a top-down view, essentially, of the chart when you’re looking at the zodiac. So that describes one dimension, which is almost like, left and right, if I’m getting that right, that it has the dimensionality of, I think, left and right. But that’s where the other cosmological model, and so that cosmological model’s tied with the zodiac and the Thema Mundi. But the other important cosmological model is the seven zoned sphere and the order of the planets, and this is where we go back to this diagram, which shows the planets ordered based on their distances from earth, where it’s like, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, fixed stars. This model’s important because this was tied in with, I believe, an up-down motion, and that the dimensionality tied in with this model was going up and going down because this scheme, after it was introduced at some point probably in the second century, ended up becoming hugely influential in ancient philosophical and religious traditions – in a few different philosophical and religious traditions – based on the notion that in the hermetic texts in like, Corpus Hermeticum One, for example, the Poimandres, they would say that when a person is born, their soul descends from the sphere of the fixed stars down through the planets in order, starting with Saturn and going to Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury, Moon, and at each planetary sphere, the soul picks up certain qualities from each of the planets and sort of like, puts them on almost as if they were garments or like, clothes. And so the soul descends through the planetary spheres and picks up qualities before incarnation and they’re born, and that creates the birth chart. But then at death, when a person dies, your soul is thought to then start to ascend back through the planetary spheres in order – first to the Moon, then Mercury, then Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and eventually the fixed stars, and then it gives back those qualities to each of the planets that it got when it started.

So as a result of that, I think, in the original cosmological model that there was this conceptualization of a downwards motion in the descent of a soul through the planetary spheres, and then an upwards motion of the soul going up. So that’s really interesting to me because it ties in this concept of the dimensions of left and right and up and down in each of these cosmological, these two primary cosmological diagrams that were at the very center of Hellenistic astrology. But that’s the other reason why I’m starting to suspect that the creation of this specific ordering in the second century may have been partially motivated by some of the philosophical and religious and other astrological or symbolic conceptualizations of the planets that were present in astrology at the time or that were introduced in astrology at that time.

SO: Definitely. Wow.

CB: Yeah. So I’m still working on that, but that’s —

SO: Yeah.

CB: — it’s big because if it’s true and if my like, thesis that I’m starting to develop is true, that that model was introduced in the Nechepso and Petosiris text or in some of the texts surrounding it, like the Hermes text that introduced the concept of the houses or the Asclepius text that introduced a modification for the first set of eight houses – if this model of planetary order was introduced at this time in the Nechepso and Petosiris tradition, that hermetic tradition, then it means that that tradition went on to influence the philosophical hermetica, where they had that doctrine of the ascent and descent of the souls. It influenced certain gnostic sects that also had that doctrine. It influenced middle and especially Neoplatonism that took that doctrine of the ascent and descent of the soul. Yeah, and it just becomes super important and super influential in philosophy and religion from that point forward.

SO: Wow. That’s a really great connection. Yeah.

CB: Yeah. So it goes back to dimensionality, and that’s the upwards and downwards motion. The other one we need to get to, though, that has to do with directionality is the zodiac and the Thema Mundi. And I know that was a long digression; we took a break and did a cliffhanger, but I think I’m gonna do another cliffhanger because I wanna take another brief break to get a drink because I ran out of water. And then let’s come back.

If you’d like to learn more about my approach to astrology, then I’d recommend checking out my book titled Hellenistic Astrology: The Study of Fate and Fortune, where I go over the history, philosophy, and techniques of ancient astrology, taking people from beginner up through intermediate and advanced techniques for reading birth charts.

Okay, so we’re back. And I wanted to talk about the Thema Mundi at this point, finally, and I just remembered I was gonna show a diagram of it but I just remembered for something unrelated, I actually created an animation about it recently. So I’m gonna show those animations here, because I think it’ll be helpful for our purposes to visualize and understand one of the points that we’re gonna make about the Antikythera Mechanism.

So here’s a diagram of the Thema Mundi. So imagine a chart where Cancer is rising, so Cancer’s over on the left side of the chart by the Ascendant in the first house.And so the Moon is in Cancer in the first house. Then the Sun is in Leo in the 2nd house. Mercury is in Virgo in the 3rd house. Venus is in Libra in the 4th house. Mars is in Scorpio in the 5th house. Jupiter is in Sagittarius in the 6th house. And Saturn is in Capricorn in the 7th house. So that’s basically the Thema Mundi, which was this cosmological construct, basically, that somebody in the early Hellenistic tradition created or came up with, probably based on specific philosophical notions, in order to explain and actually probably introduce and justify the concept of assigning certain planets to certain signs of the zodiac. And I believe this was a unique innovation in the Hellenistic tradition at the beginning of Hellenistic astrology in the second century BCE, which is part of what marked a departure from the earlier Mesopotamian tradition where they do not seem to have had this scheme.

So the scheme is relatively straightforward. It has Cancer rising, and different scholars have speculated about why Cancer rising is important. Some of the speculations have centered around the fact that it may have Cancer rising due to the fact that in Egypt, when the fixed star Sirius would make its helical rising in the summer, this would mark the beginning of the Egyptian calendar when the Nile River would flood. And so this may have been part of the reason that Cancer rising was important because of that hugely important role that it played in basically Egyptian culture at the time, and Egypt is probably where Hellenistic astrology was developed.

Another reason why Cancer rising may have been important is that there was an older legend associated with Berossus where it said, apparently according to Berossus that the world is like, periodically created and destroyed, which is tied in with probably larger either Mesopotamian or Stoic or other notions about the world and the alignment of planets and things that happen at various points. But supposedly, according to Berossus, who’s this Mesopotamian astrologer from around the year 280 BCE, when the planets all aligned in Cancer, the world was said to be destroyed periodically by a fire, versus when the planets aligned in Capricorn periodically, the world was said to be destroyed by a flood. So this may have been part of an earlier precedent in the Mesopotamian tradition associated with Berossus that then also could have fed into this notion of why the founders of Hellenistic astrology created this cosmological construct that put Cancer at the most pivotal part of the entire diagram, which is at the Ascendant, the rising sign, in the east, associated with the direction of east and with the first house.

So the Moon —

SO: I think too – sorry, did you mention the Sirius part star rising? Did you say that?

CB: Yeah, but if you wanna —

SO: Okay.

CB: — go ahead and explain that or reiterate, you can.

SO: Oh, yeah, just that I think when the Sun is in Leo in August, that’s when the star Sirius starts to become visible, which is, I believe, in Cancer. That’s when you can see it rising in the east in the morning. Like, this is the way that this chart would be set up.

CB: Exactly.

SO: And I think that signals the flood of the Nile, which is like, their new year.

CB: Exactly. There we go. So … I’m not sure if this is playing correctly. So yeah, that’s a really good point. So it’s the Sun would be in Leo, and then what you would see is in the morning, a little bit before sunrise, you would see Sirius rise up over the eastern horizon, which is essentially the Ascendant, right?

SO: Yeah.

CB: So that provides part of a rationale, then, for assigning the Sun to Leo and part of the additional rationale that was explained by some later astrologers is that the Sun was assigned to Leo because that’s the height of the summer in the northern hemisphere when the days are the longest and the brightest and also when the heat of the Sun is the most intense. So some of the later astrologers and specifically a text attributed to Hermes, a lost Greek text that Abu Ma’shar preserves part of in Arabic much later in the 9th century, said that the Sun was assigned to the very middle of the summer as an anchor point for that reason. And then Moon, the other luminary, was assigned to Cancer, which is the sign just after the summer solstice. So basically, the two luminaries are assigned to the two signs associated with the hottest and the brightest part of the year, and they are the two lightgivers, basically, in the cosmos.

SO: Yeah.

CB: So after that, the planets are assigned flanking out in zodiacal order based on their relative speed and distance. And the next in order is Mercury, which is assigned to Virgo because Mercury never gets more than one sign away from the Sun before it turns retrograde or direct. So that provides the rationale for assigning Mercury to Virgo. Then Venus is assigned to Libra, because Venus never gets more than two signs away from the Sun before turning retrograde or direct. Then the next furthest planet out is Mars, which gets assigned to Scorpio. Then Jupiter gets assigned to Sagittarius. And then Saturn gets assigned to Capricorn, and it’s the furthest and slowest and dimmest of the visible planets, so it’s assigned to the sign that is exactly opposite to the two luminaries – or at least opposite in this diagram to the Moon.

So that provides the rationale for the signs of the zodiac, the assignment of the planet to the signs of the zodiac, which all subsequent traditions used, then, in astrology over the past 2,000 years, and that diagram becomes part of the justification for it. And it’s very important that that diagram has Cancer rising, and it would be frequently invoked and mentioned by different astrologers or sometimes implicitly referred to that the birth chart of the cosmos had Cancer rising or sometimes they would refer to Aries as being the Midheaven of the cosmos because Aries is in the 10th house or occupies the Midheaven in the Thema Mundi. And finally, the Thema Mundi was possibly not just a teaching tool, but it may have had broader cosmological and philosophical or even religious importance, because at one point, Antiochus of Athens, who was an astrologer from the first or second century, refers to the Thema Mundi as the chart of god. And this may have been tied in with Stoic or Hermetic or even Platonic philosophy, which tended to follow Plato’s Timaeus in conceptualizing the cosmos as a living entity, as a sentient, living entity and then as a god who was alive and conscious, basically, or had consciousness and had soul infused throughout it. And so the astrologers may have actually come up with the Thema Mundi and conceptualized it partially as the birthchart of god, essentially. Does that make sense?

SO: Yeah. Definitely. It’s… Right, and it’s understood as a teaching tool primarily, and there’s a lot of things that you can actually do with it. Initially, it might not seem like there’s much you can do with it, but there’s a lot you can do with explaining not only domiciles but exaltations too.

CB: Right. It ties together the concept of exaltations; it ties together the concept of aspects and quality of the aspects that – it becomes a reason why squares are associated with Mars and therefore are difficult or why oppositions are difficult because they’re associated with Saturn. It ties together a bunch of concepts in a conceptual construct that unites the technical apparatus of Hellenistic astrology with some of the philosophical apparatus and cosmological apparatus of Hellenistic astrology, uniting it using these sort of diagrams or these cosmological models, essentially, which are the Thema Mundi, the seven zoned sphere, the order of the planets, but also other diagrams like the planetary joys scheme, which I’ve shown represents and becomes the reason how the planets came to – how the signs of the zodiac came to be associated with the four elements of Greek philosophy, of earth, air, fire, and water as a result of that other diagram.

Anyway. All that long story short to bring us back to our topic, you and I noticed, and I was extremely excited to realize recently in reading Alexander Jones’s book that when the zodiac is talked about and in their reconstruction of the zodiac, which is the front dial of the device, that is actually puts Aries up at the very top of the Antikythera Mechanism, and it puts Cancer in the east, I think, if I’m understanding the layout of the diagram correctly. So part of the problem, because there’s a complication here, part of the problem is that one of the things that creates a stumbling block for whether the diagram was used for astrology or one of the things that’s like, weird if you’re looking at it from the perspective of an astrologer is that the signs of the zodiac are backwards in the way that they’re displayed on the Antikythera Mechanism and also that the planets move in the Antikythera Mechanism they rotate clockwise through the signs of the zodiac. So they start at like, the 12 o’clock position, let’s say, and then they go towards the right – or clockwise – towards like, the three o’clock position and then the six o’clock position and nine o’clock and so on and so forth. So this is a little surprising from the perspective of an astrologer, because both in modern as well as in ancient times, for the most part, I believe the planets and signs of the zodiac are usually depicted as going counterclockwise, and the planets are usually depicted as going through the chart counterclockwise – or at least counterclockwise through the signs of the zodiac, right?

SO: Right. Yeah. There’s too – that’s what Manillius called the everlasting war of the planets against the signs where you have two different motions – the planets going in one motion zodiacally and then the daily motion is the other direction, so. Yeah, so in here, with the Antikythera Mechanism, as the planets move through the zodiac, which is like, their annual motion, here it’s represented as going clockwise, which normally in a birth chart you see it going counterclockwise.

CB: Yeah.

SO: Yeah.

CB: Here, I’ll put a chart up. Like, for example, here’s animating a chart, and I’ll move it forward days, and we’ll see the Moon – let’s say Virgo is rising and the Moon is in Virgo, and I’ll move it forward in one-day increments. So it’ll start at 11 Virgo, then move to 12 – or 22 Virgo. Then it’ll move into Libra, then it’ll move into Scorpio, Sagittarius, and so on and so forth. So for the most part, this is how astrological charts are depicted where the planets – the signs of the zodiac, the Ascendant is at the first house in the east on the left side of the diagram, and then the planets go downwards or in a counterclockwise motion around the zodiacal circle. There is, also, of course, the daily motion of the turning of the chart, which is the primary motion of planets rising and culminating and setting each day. But that motion isn’t really depicted on the Antikythera Mechanism. And so I bring this up because it’s one of the stumbling blocks for understanding this issue is that the zodiac is basically backwards and in some ways, it reminds me of, you know, in modern times we commonly run into this issue with graphic designers where if you go on like, a stock photo site to buy an image of the zodiac to use in like, a blog article or to use in like, a video or something like that, very frequently you’re notice if you look at the zodiac that it’s actually running backwards the wrong direction, and it’s listed so that the planets are like, backwards in zodiacal order so that like, Pisces is before Aries or is after Aries or something like that, so it’s reversed. And this is often because designers, like graphic designers, don’t really know anything about astrology; they’re just creating, you know, an image to sell online, and so they’ll glance at a reference image or they’ll think that it doesn’t matter what direction the zodiac goes, and as a result of that, you have a bunch of like, backwards zodiacs floating around today, and you’ll notice them in weird places like on some book covers or other things like that.

SO: Yeah. And it follows that, you know, the clock order follows clockwise, which I think that’s probably why they do it because they just think… We’re always thinking in a clockwise motion, I guess.

CB: Yeah, that’s —

SO: But you actually also see it on – I’ve seen it, I’m pretty sure, and I should actually send this to you to like, double check to make sure that I’m right about this, but I’m pretty sure that I’ve seen even armillary spheres incorrectly made, physical ones, where the zodiac is actually not depicting correctly on the sphere, which is sort of a shame, because it’d be nice to have one of those. But…

CB: Right.

SO: Yeah. So normally, like, where you would have the summer solstice on this sphere indicated, it’s actually showing the opposite – it’s showing Capricorn instead of Cancer, so – or Aries or Libra. It’s not showing the right orientation. But —

CB: Right.

SO: — anyway. That’s like one of the maker design issues, right, that you run into.

CB: Yeah. So there’s a trickiness there. I do know that there’s like, different chart styles, and I know that, for example, in the medieval period, some of the Arabic charts will start with the Ascendant at the top of the chart, and then they’ll move I think still to the right – or still to the left, if I remember correctly. So still in a counterclockwise direction, but they’ll put the Ascendant at the top of the chart in their square chart styles. I guess, actually, one part that might be relevant is the Indian tradition. I do know they have a tradition of using whole sign houses and putting the Ascendant I think in the top left of the chart, and then the order of the houses does run clockwise. So that could be an interesting reference point. But when it comes to the Antikythera Mechanism, the important point here is just that the zodiac is backwards from our standpoint. Jones’s book, this is one of the diagrams where he shows the zodiac as it’s depicted on that dial on the front of the Antikythera Mechanism, and it shows Aries at the top, and then Cancer is over on the right side. And then Capricorn is over on the left side, and Libra is at the bottom of the display, basically. So why this is important, though, or why I think this is important, is because since the planets in the diagram move clockwise, they would go from Aries at the top towards Cancer, which then is being conceptualized as being in the east. So even though the diagram is inverted, I’m pretty sure then this is depicting essentially the zodiac while putting Cancer in the east. And if I’m understanding that correctly, and if that’ true that Cancer is in the east in the way that the zodiac is depicted in the Antikythera Mechanism, then that means that it’s implicitly actually referring to or at least is following a similar tradition as the Thema Mundi in Hellenistic astrology, which always puts Cancer in the east, basically, which is associated with the Ascendant and the rising sign. Does that make sense?

SO: Yeah. Completely. It’s really kind of amazing to see, actually.

CB: Yeah, this literally blew my mind just realizing that this week that this was the case was a huge realization, because it then directly ties the Antikythera Mechanism into Hellenistic astrology and Hellenistic astrology’s cosmological assumptions, not just in one way through the ordering of the planets that it gives where in the diagram it has the planets in the order of, you know, the seven zoned sphere, but it also implicitly refers to the Thema Mundi by putting Cancer in the east and Capricorn in the west, basically, of the chart. And if that’s true, if I’m understanding that correctly, then yeah, I believe that’s an implicit reference to one of the most important and pervasive concepts in ancient astrology, which is this concept of the birth chart of the cosmos or, for some astrologers, the birth chart of god.

SO: Right. It really seems like the mechanism is trying to tie in a bunch of different kinds of things together, and this seems like it’s one of the things that it’s trying to pull together, you know, into what it’s representing is the astrological tradition. I mean, I think it is still speculative, but I mean, when you think about which sign would they decide, you know, to put either at the top or on the east or on the west, it does seem like a deliberate decision because it’s oriented that way, and yeah.

CB: Yeah, because there’s no reason to – you could put any sign, you know, on … You know, it could be like, Aquarius rising or in modern times, you know, most modern astrologers where the concept of the Thema Mundi was lost centuries ago until it was recovered recently through translations, astrologers more commonly start the zodiac at Aries, which is like, the first sign of the tropical zodiac because that’s where the spring solstice is. So it becomes like, a more common starting point. But the reason why it was Cancer rising in ancient astrology was because of this association with the Thema Mundi, which was tied in with a number of other astrological traditions, tied in with Egypt as well as Mesopotamia potentially.

SO: Right. And having the Egyptian month names there, too, is a really interesting choice, I think.

CB: Right. Yeah. Which ties it in with some interesting things in terms of Jones’s argued that that was for being able to connect the positions with days and dates —

SO: Right.

CB: — which is interesting. So something connected with this is one of the arguments that Jones makes, or one of the points that he makes which is actually a great observation is that the system of astronomy that the Antikythera Mechanism most closely resembles or replicates is the system of astronomy from a first century astronomical text by an astronomer named Geminus in his book The Introduction to the Phenomena, which may have been influenced by astrology in Rhodes or may have been influenced by astronomy in Rhodes at the time, and there’s a lot of interesting parallels with it. But Geminus, interestingly, I wanted to bring this up, when he – most of his text is on astronomy, but occasionally he’ll start talking about atology and he’ll start putting some astrological information in the text. And one of the areas where he does this is with the aspects, where he’s introducing the concept of aspects in astrology. And when he gets to the concept of the square and he’s talking about which signs are square each other and what geometrical distances this connects the planets and the signs in 90-degree distances, he explains that at first within the context of the seasons, but then he has this digression and he says, “The squares too are used, as has been said, for sympathies in nativities.” So he suddenly starts talking about the concept of the squares specifically in the context of natal astrology and birth charts. And he says, “Moreover, the arrangement of the squares is used by some for another purpose, for they suppose that when one of the signs of the self-same square is setting, the next sign culminates in the hemisphere above the earth. The next sign rises, and the last culminates in the hemisphere beneath the earth, as when” and he gives an example at this point, and he says, “for example, when Capricorn is setting, Aries culminates, Cancer rises, and Libra culminates beneath the earth. The same logic applies to the remaining squares.” So what he’s doing there is he’s referring to – he’s talking about astrologers and how they use the concept of the houses, and that astrologers say that when, let’s say for example, Cancer is on the Ascendant, then that means Aries is on the Midheaven or is culminating, and Capricorn is on the Descendant or the 7th house, and Libra is on the IC or the 4th house. So Geminus himself, when he’s introducing this concept of houses, uses a chart with Cancer rising because he’s invoking implicitly the Thema Mundi there because that was like, the paradigm or paradigmatic example of sort of the houses and the notions of rising and culminating and setting. And almost every major astrological text because of the background of the Thema Mundi will similarly like, use Cancer rising as a possible like, idealized chart example because they’re referring to the idealized chart of the birth of the cosmos.

SO: Right. Yeah. And that’s yeah, that’s amazing. I mean, that’s also what the Antikythera Mechanism is doing is trying to create an idealized, you know, version of the cosmos that we see.

CB: Right. Exactly. And to display it and sort of replicate it, and there’s some interesting things surrounding that.

All right. So those are two really interesting things cosmologically that connects the Antikythera Mechanism to astrology is it for sure displays the same ordering of the planets that astrologers started using from the second century forward. And while all astronomers also ended up adopting that system as well at the same time and it became a common cosmological conception so that one could, you know, we’re still working out whether that’s purely coming from the astrologers or if there was some astronomical motivation for that. This other part with Cancer rising is like a second way that the astrologers or the astrology and astrological conceptions at the time may have been influencing the display of different things on the Antikythera Mechanism.

But there’s one other piece to the Antikythera Mechanism that’s been discovered recently over the past decade that also seems to imply some usage for astrology, and this has to do with eclipses. So where’s a good starting point for talking about eclipses when it comes to the Antikythera Mechanism?

SO: Geez. Well, I mean, there is the dial on the back that describes, you know, when and what they’ll look like – there’s that dial. I don’t think there’s mention of them on the front face with the planets, right? Besides the phase of the Moon that they’re showing, I don’t think that there’s any list of eclipse on the front dial.

CB: Well, I think they do think that there may have been a nodal —

SO: Oh, the node —

CB: — there may have been a hand for the nodes, I believe.

SO: Okay.

CB: I think that’s in one of the reconstructions possibly. I’m not sure if that’s like, universally agreed on. But I know, I think it —

SO: Well, that would —

CB: — was in like —

SO: — make sense.

CB: I think it was in one of Tony Freeth’s diagrams that I think there’s a hand for the nodes, and if that’s true or if there was a hand for the nodes, then you could have easily used that to see approximately when eclipses would take place, because any time the Sun and Moon form a conjunction or an opposition within like, 15 to 18 degrees of the nodes, there’s an eclipse.

SO: I wonder if talking about the lunar anomaly would be useful for that, or if you want to go into the dial on the back, or kind of what makes eclipses happen.

CB: Yeah. I mean, let’s talk about one of the most interesting things – so we were just talking about the front dial, which is like, the planet dial, and the possibility that that has … I’m trying to find Tony Freeth’s diagram, but I can’t find it right now. So that’s the front dial where it shows the planets and it may show the nodes. But on the back of the Antikythera Mechanism, there was a separate dial that indicated eclipses and that used the saros series, which is used to predict when certain eclipses will have a repetition or will repeat in 19-year increments.

SO: Right.

CB: So this is on Wikipedia, but this is actually an image from one of the articles on the Antikythera Mechanism over the past decade that I think the research project put together, and it shows, you know, the front of it, which had the planetary dial, and that’s where you might have the Sun and Moon pointers but also possibly a nodal pointer. But then on the back, there’s a dial that has month names and there’s another that has eclipse prediction and different glyphs for showing eclipses. So – and that’s the one that’s really important for our purposes, because using that you could not only predict when eclipses would take place, but it would actually tell you which saros series the eclipse was tied into, which essentially means that it’ll tell you that it’s tied in with an eclipse that occurred exactly 19 years earlier.

SO: Right. And on that 19-year cycle, what I didn’t realize until learning more about the saros cycle was that within that 19-year period when the eclipse repeats itself, it’s not only repeating itself like, in a particular place in space but it’s also repeating its physical characteristics, and that’s one of the things that are described on this eclipse dial is actually what some of the physical characteristics are of the eclipse, I think, right? Is that…

CB: Yeah. And it’s like, from a purely let’s say astronomical or scientific perspective, the eclipse predictor can predict the location and the time of an eclipse, and that’s purely astronomical. But then there’s some interpretive text on the Antikythera Mechanism that you’re supposed to look up. For each eclipse, there’s like, a key basically, that you can look up on one of the covers, and when you look it up for each eclipse, it gives two additional properties for each eclipse, and one of them is what the color of the eclipse will be, and the other is what wind will blow potentially or something about the winds or the directionality potentially of the eclipse. And those two things are things that Jones, for example, recognizes as being not necessarily astronomical but instead more based in astrology, because he points out that you shouldn’t be able to predict the color of an eclipse astronomically, and that that’s not something normally that would be in an astronomical text, but rather, the colors of the eclipses – that is something that we see in, for example, the texts potentially associated with Nechepso and Petosiris that are preserved by Hephaistio of Thebes, where Hephaistio in Book One has a section on eclipses and what they mean that he attributes to the ancient Egyptians. And this is commonly in a lot of scholarship thought to refer to Nechepso and Petosiris, who were thought to be like, an Egyptian king and a priest, potentially. And their eclipse interpretations do have information about if an eclipse appears as this color, then it means this as an astrological omen or it indicates some specific thing as an astrological omen. So this is one of the other pieces of the Antikythera Mechanism that is much more explicitly, perhaps the most explicitly tied into astrology and shows that there was some specific astrological not just usage but that part of the background and design of the Antikythera Mechanism itself was being used for astrological purposes.

SO: Yeah. There was definitely a desire to show that cycle and that for some reason, for someone, for whoever it was or for the demonstrations of the device, showing when eclipses were happening was important to show on this device. So, you know, that I know is… Eclipse omens go back Babylonains and the Mesopotamians, and I think Jones was mentioning that eclipses were at least tracked by the ancient Greeks, but I don’t know – I can’t remember if he said that they were seen as significant, if they had significant meaning as they did for the Babylonians, but that may have been one of those things that got, you know, transmitted into the Greek world from the Orient.

CB: Yeah. I mean, eclipses – I’ve done like, a lot of work on eclipses, especially over the last six months, I’ve done at least two episodes on eclipses – I may do a third one as a follow up – where we talked about eclipses in history. But one of the things we talked about and some of the work that I did was going back and looking at eclipses in the earlier Mesopotamian tradition where there may have been – there’s some speculation and it’s not clear, there’s arguments about it, but whether the astrological tradition partially started when the ancient Mesopotamian astrologers noticed a series of like, three different kings who died at the time of an eclipse, and that other subsequent eclipse observations of like, major world events happening at the time of eclipses may have been part of the reason that the Mesopotamians started writing down astrological omens and taking note of them at that time, so that eventually built up this entire tradition, both in practice as well as a textual tradition over the next 2,000 years, and that eclipses were very much not just the starting point, but a very important focus at the center of that, and that they would do different rituals or propitiation rituals and other things when an eclipse would occur in order to avoid, you know, having negative things happen such as the death of a king or other things like that. So that tradition was very rich in the Mesopotamian tradition because it built up over 2,000 years before the Antikythera Mechanism existed, and eventually some parts of the Mesopotamian eclipse tradition was transmitted to Egypt, and that’s part of what the Nechepso and Petosiris text or at least the Egyptian text that Hephaistio was drawing on represents is that the Egyptian astrologers started adapting the Mesopotamian omens on eclipses to their location, their geographical location, of Egypt. But then also, that omen literature made its way into Greek because the Nechepso text and some of those Egyptian things were translated into Greek at that time around the second century BCE. So that eclipse – basically both Mesopotamian and Egyptian eclipse lore, astrological lore, did start influencing and was in the Greek astrological tradition by the second century BCE. And now the Antikythera Mechanism, by 60 BCE by the time the ship goes down, becomes a new example and piece of evidence about how that was actually influencing astronomy and astrology in the ancient world not long afterwards.

SO: Wow.

CB: Yeah. So. And eclipses are really important. I mean, and this is, you know, in terms of arguments about the use of the Antikythera Mechanism for astrology, if it could predict when eclipses would take place easily and could be used both to predict eclipses in the future as well as to study eclipses in the past, that would have absolutely been a very useful tool, not just for predictive purposes or consultations but also for astrological research where astrologers will sometimes – in order to predict the future, sometimes astrologers will go back and look at the past under the premise that if the alignment of the planets right now is coinciding with an event that is happening in the present, then because the planetary cycles repeat, then sometimes in order to understand what an alignment means now or what it will mean in the future, all you have to do is go back and look at the last time that alignment happened and what happened either in your personal life or in history, and you’ll get some ideas about what that alignment will mean when it recurs in the future. And I believe that’s part of what this dial was about in the Antikythera Mechanism, as it would have helped to facilitate research with eclipses.

SO: Yeah, it seemed like a really powerful predictor, and that was really important. I mean, that was one of the main dials there, so yeah.

CB: Yeah. So but anyways, the color component is the component I think now that’s becoming acknowledged as a significant component that’s more unarguably tied in with astrology in a very tangible sense. So regardless of other arguments and whether they’re sort of accepted or rejected that we’ve talked about earlier, like the Thema Mundi or other things like that, this is one of the pieces that’s sort of like not as easily arguable in terms of attempting to reject whether the Antikythera Mechanism could have or was used for some astrological purposes at least in part.

SO: Right. Yeah. I mean, it definitely seems like it’s trying to overlay different aspects of the ancient world. Like, bringing together the Greek, the ancient Egyptian, the Babylonian, the astrological, the astronomical, the civic functions of it with the games, the festivals. It’s really trying – seems like it’s trying to tie all that together.

CB: Yeah. And I think Rhodes is super important for that, and I think that would be a good place to go next is talking about Rhodes and how Rhodes was, ironically, at the crossroads of a lot of those different traditions. Do you like that —

SO: Yeah.

CB: — alliteration, that wordplay there? So Rhodes – and I think that’s the section we’ll move into next – but also, you mentioned the games, and that’s been one of the other objections to whether the Antikythera Mechanism was used for astrology was… I think Jones, for example, said like, you know, it has all these other extraneous dials that are just civic things that don’t have anything to do with astrology, so it wouldn’t have been used for astrology then. But actually, and also, one of the points that he makes is that there’s, it’s kind of a weird dial in the first place because it’s so simple, it’s just like counting to four. And so he almost asks sort of rhetorically at one point, like, why even have that dial? But one of the things I thought of when I was thinking of it from a perspective of an astrologer is knowing, you know, being able to use the mechanism and knowing what game – what local, cultural event – was happening in a given year would actually be super important in the context of an astrological consultation, because oftentimes clients and humans in general struggle to remember events in their biography. Not events, but dates. People often struggle to remember dates, but they will remember like, a major event. And oftentimes the way to have a client or a person who’s researching their biography and their astrological transits is to think about it with reference to when the event happened in their life relative to some other major culturally important event. So for example, you know, in modern times, people might think, you know, “Oh, this event happened in my life in late 2020 and I know that because that was the same year that like, covid happened, and I remember that it was like, five months after the lockdowns took place” or something like that. So that even if they don’t remember the precise date, they’re able to remember something as a result of its proximity to some larger cultural event. Or, you know, 2016, that you remember that you got a job or that you started school that year because that was the year of like, the big presidential election in the United States, for example, between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Cultural events can be actually very important as ways of helping people to connect to time, and I think some of the researchers may have overlooked that as potentially – obviously, we can’t say conclusively, but – as something that would’ve made that potentially useful even in an astrological context even if it doesn’t immediately seem why it should be useful at first glance.

SO: Yeah. Definitely. And it’s also much easier to remember things and years of, you know, bigger chunks of time like four years ago, four years before that. It’s much easier to remember rather than year to year or month to month.

CB: Right. For sure. Okay. Let’s take a little break and then let’s come back and talk about Rhodes and talk about placing this device and other devices in the hands of actual astrologers in ancient times.

SO: Okay. Sounds great.

CB: If you’re really looking to expand your studies of astrology, then I would recommend my Hellenistic Astrology course, which is an online course on ancient astrology, where I take people through basic concepts up through intermediate and advanced techniques for reading birth charts. There’s over a hundred hours of video lectures, as well as guided readings of ancient texts, and by the time you finish the course you will have a strong foundation on how to read birth charts, as well as make predictions. You can find out more information at courses.theastrologyschool.com.

All right, so we’re back from a break. So this is gonna be the final section where I wanted to connect it with some specific names and figures and astrologers to try to contextualize the Antikythera Mechanism and the use of potentially similar devices by different people in the ancient world, and especially astrologers.

So the one that’s the most important – the primary connection that’s most important for our purposes – is we’ve talked a little bit about Rhodes at this point as being what they think is the probable location where the device may have originated. And Rhodes is important because Rhodes, the island, played a major role in the ancient world as a center for astronomy. Alexandria was also a center for astronomy, and that’s where people like Ptolemy were, but Rhodes was important because some of Ptolemy’s predecessors like Hipparchus likely did a bunch of observations on Rhodes in the middle of the second century BCE. From like, 147 to 127 or so BCE, we know that Hipparchus was active and making observations. So Rhodes was a major center for astronomy, and there was a really important figure, an important philosopher and scientist named Posidonius, who lived in the middle of the first century BCE, and what’s interesting about Posidonius is that when scholars first discovered the Antikythera Mechanism, they went back and started looking through ancient texts to see if there were any references to devices like it, to see if there was any textual evidence that there was an awareness of such devices, and one of the primary sources that people found was in Cicero, who was a Roman philosopher and politician who lived in like, the mid- to late first century BCE. And Cicero at one point talks about Posidonius because Cicero went to Rhodes, and he studied philosophy with Posidonius at one point around let’s say 70 BCE.

So Cicero went to Rhodes, studied philosophy with Posidonius, and Posidonius was primarily a Stoic philosopher in that he was one of the last major Stoic philosophers of the Hellenistic period, which – Stoicism was founded around the year 300 BCE by the philosopher Zeno, and then there was a succession of different philosophers as part of that school in Athens. But by the time of Posidonius, Posidonius learns philosophy in Athens, and he studies under a philosopher named Panaetius, who’s actually an interesting figure because he’s one of the only Stoics that actually criticized and attacked astrology. But as a result of that, he also shows an awareness of it that’s unique and important. But Posidonius eventually set up a school for philosophy on Rhodes, and it became a little mini center for Stoicism as a result of that where people would go to study. But also, Posidonius, in addition to being a philosopher, he was also like, a scientist and he was very interested in natural science and the study of the natural world in a way that was very similar to like, Aristotle. And Posidonius represents an interesting blend of different schools of philosophy, of like, Platonism and Aristotelianism and especially Stoicism. But one of the things that’s interesting about Posidonius is that Cicero at one point says that he, in his writings, that Posidonius, when he visited him at one point, that Posidonius had a device which I think he calls a sphera or a sphere, which he says replicated the motions of the planets in a mechanical form. And what Cicero describes sounds extremely similar to the Antikythera Mechanism. And I think at one point, Jones says that what Posidonius had may have been a cousin or something related to the actual device that has been discovered of the Antikythera Mechanism itself.

SO: Yeah. And it just made me think of like, you know, this – when you said cousin of the device, it made me think of there’s actually a video that Michael Wright did where he did a working model of an Archimedes sphere kind of thing that was much different from the Antikythera Mechanism, but it shows, you know, kind of like a nice range of like, there were potentially all different kinds of devices that could have been out there back then. So he may have had something like that that was more of like, a globe that had these kind of dials on it that had an internal gearwork, and you could move the planets on it, but yeah. It’s so —

CB: Right? Well, and that’s similar to the earlier prototype that Archimedes had, which is what Cicero describes as like, another type of those devices. And I think that was closer to the earlier like, prototypes of a type of spherical device that shows the movements of the planets. But then, by the time of Posidonius, you know, 150 years after Archimedes, we’re getting into the period where the technology’s been developing and advancing for 150 years at that point so that we get really compact, complex versions of that with all of the gears of the Antikythera Mechanism.

SO: Right.

CB: So everybody recognizes at this point that Posidonius probably had something similar to or very close to the Antikythera Mechanism, not just because Cicero says that he did, but also because we know that Posidonius not just lived in Rhodes but he was actually like, the president or something of Rhodes for a period of time. He actually held a political office as like, the leader of Rhodes somehow around that time period. And so he’s in Rhodes, which is where the device was likely constructed, but he also did work on astronomy and more importantly for our purposes – oh yeah, and in addition to that, he was alive during the same time period that the ship that the Antikythera Mechanism was on sank. So just in terms of like, timing, this guy’s like, in Rhodes, at the same time that the Antikythera Mechanism is around, and he’s said by Cicero to have had a device that is described in a way that’s very similar. For our purposes, the additional point that’s interesting about Posidonius is that Posidonius is one of the few Stoics – not the few Stoics, he’s one of the Stoics who explicitly seems to have had some involvement with astrology. And specifically, there’s a bunch of different points to this that are relevant, but one of the things, for example, is Saint Augustine preserves a passage that they think is like, a lost passage from Cicero’s book On Divination or actually it’s the one on fate; and in this passage, it seems that Posidonius had done some sort of study where there were like, two twins born – or there were two brothers who are born, and they somehow ended up having similar lives and getting like, sick, and recovering at the same time so that there was a simultaneity or like, a simultaneous nature to events in their lives, and therefore Posidonius argued that they must have been born and conceived at the same time and had the same birth chart and conception chart. And so Posidonius was making specific arguments about, like, astrology in a philosophical context as well as in the context of talking about the issue of twins.

So that’s one way that Posidonius is relevant, but he also did a lot of other work on – he developed stoic notions of cosmic sympathy, which is like, a way for things in the cosmos to interact with each other as a result of a resonance. He also developed a few other concepts that are relevant, but generally speaking, we’re talk – oh yeah, one other thing that was relevant is that he wrote some works, he seems to have been more interested as a natural scientist and somebody focused on the natural world in a type of natural astrology and in the effect that the Sun and the Moon and potentially other planets had on the world that we inhabit – on the sublunary world. And one of the passages that he writes about the Moon and the Sun and the physical impact that they have on biological life on earth – that passage seems to have gotten picked up and incorporated into Ptolemy’s discussion of the planets in the Tetrabiblos based on some textual arguments I don’t know if I should go into where the passage is used in the astronomy book of Cleomedes, whose primary source was Posidonius, and then we find a parallel passage that matches Cleomedes with the passage in Ptolemy. So it’s clear that they’re drawing on the same source, and that the same source seems to be Posidonius. So what this means is that Posidonius was part of the more natural sort of scientific tradition of astrology that’s represented by Ptolemy, which is astrologers who – at least to some extent – were looking for causal notions of astrology and how the planets impacted or affected life on earth.

SO: Yeah, and it’s amazing to like, have never heard his name before. When I was looking him up on the Oxford Classical Dictionary, there’s – so the Oxford Classical Dictionary lists like, you can search for anything in the classical world, and it’ll give you bibliographical information and it’ll give you, like, a rundown of individuals, events, and subject matter and things like that. And nowhere – and they’re usually pretty thorough and they’re checked by other scholars because it’s a form of publication, and it’s Oxford. But anyway, this description of Posidonius, I mean, nowhere does it list anything to do with astrology. And when I was reading all of the amazing range of topics that he writes about in his life, he sort of sounded a little bit to me like another kind of Ptolemy-type character, a polymath who just writes about, you know, everything, and… But nowhere did they mention anything about astrology, so I thought that was really interesting, because there clearly are, you know, he clearly was an astrologer.

CB: Yeah. I mean, one of the issues is just like, with a lot of the Stoics and the other philosophers from the Hellenistic era, their texts didn’t survive. So it’s like, we don’t have full texts of Posidonius; we just have fragments and reports and like, bits and pieces that are reported by later authors. That’s the issue with many of the early Stoics like Zeno or Chrysippus or other people. It’s also the case for the astrologers, where it’s like, we don’t have the full text of Nechepso and Petosiris or Hermes or Asclepius; we just have these bits and pieces of reports from astrologers from centuries later who tell us a little bit about what they said. But because of those later reports, we’re able to try to reconstruct some pieces of what they said or did. And while the fragments of Posidonius are not super extensive on astrology, there’s enough there to show that astrology was one of this interests, and that it was tied in to some extent with his philosophy of Stoicism as well as his interest in the natural world where – one of the things I’ve realized over the past few months is that Posidonius was like, in the middle of a tradition of astrologers that were looking at how the celestial bodies impacted the environment and life on earth, which we can trace back to somebody who was an astrologer that was before Posidonius who he drew on, which was this astrologer I’ve been researching recently named Seleucus of Seleucia, who was said to be like, a Chaldean from Mesopotamia, which often usually means that he was an astrologer. But he was somebody that ended up studying under Aristarchus, and Aristarchus was the philosopher and scientist who first introduced the heliocentric hypothesis and the notion that the planets revolve around the Sun rather than the earth being at the center of the solar system. And what’s crazy is like, modern people often – modern historians and scientists often marvel at how nobody believed Aristarchus and his theories didn’t catch on and basically were forgotten about until the time of Copernicus and other astronomers over a thousand years later. But what’s interesting about Aristarchus is he actually have one follower, and it was this astrologer named Seleucus, who championed the heliocentric hypothesis of Aristarchus and also expanded on it. But one of the things that Seleucus also was interested in and was studying was how the Moon affected the tides, and that was said to be like, a special interest of his. And then what’s curious is that Posidonius… So Seleucus – I forget his dates, but I think he’s about a century or more before Posidonius. But Posidonius actually cites Seleucus in his own discussions where he’s trying to study how the Sun and the Moon and other celestial bodies impact the tides and biological life on earth. So what we see then is a continuation and a tradition of astrologers and scientists of the natural world that are focusing on a sort of naturalistic conception of astrology that focuses on the causal influence of the planets that runs from Seleucus to Posidonius to Ptolemy. So there’s this interesting like, tradition, and that tradition is kind of like, running parallel to or is in some instances like, competing with this other, more omen-based tradition from Mesopotamia that views the planets not as causes of earthly events but instead as like, omens or signs or even as messages from the gods, and that this conceptualization of astrology – these two different conceptualizations were like, competing competing conceptualizations. But the important point here is basically just that Posidonius was one of these, like, brilliant polymaths who was a scientist and philosopher and also astrologer who was very much like Ptolemy, but he was living two centuries earlier in the middle of the first century BCE, and he was living on Rhodes, and he evidently had possession of a device like the Antikythera Mechanism.

SO: Yeah. It’s a really amazing connection.

CB: Yeah. Isn’t it?

SO: I mean, with the time period and the island. It’s really remarkable.

CB: Yeah. Well, and it’s like, and he was also developing ideas of cosmic sympathy to explain astrology —

SO: Yeah.

CB: — he was trying to address arguments like the twins argument. Because one of the things is that his teacher, Panaetius, would have been one of the first philosophers who really was recognizing the emergence of Hellenistic astrology and that new form of natal astrology that emerged and was arguing against it and was outlining some of the first arguments that would become the stock, common arguments from that point forward against astrology we basically outlined by Posidonius’s teacher. And while he may have been influenced by some of those arguments, Posidonius was, he also may have tried to find ways to react to or to preserve astrology to defend astrology against some of those arguments or to adjust astrology in order to make it fit. And in my book, I actually made a mistake, because I thought Ptolemy was reacting to Cicero, because you can see Ptolemy at the beginning of the Tetrabilbos defending astrology, and he’s defending against arguments that are outlined by Cicero, but what I didn’t fully realize at the time that some of Cicero’s arguments are actually arguments that he was getting from Panaetius, and that Cicero may have heard through Posidonius or… I guess, actually, my point was just that Ptolemy may have been adopting some of the arguments of Posidonius and some of the defenses that Posidonius made against astrology, rather than reacting to Cicero directly.

SO: That’s interesting. So it’s a really interesting time right there with Cicero in particular – that time period when Cicero’s alive and writing. Which is, of course, right around the time of Posidonius because they were, apparently, close friends. They were … Yeah, close friends, and so Cicero was actually quite an innovator in terms of philosophy because he was attempting to combine Roman tradition with Greek philosophy at a time that was kind of difficult to do that and where he – that hadn’t really been done before. So it was raising a lot of questions around like, what is the purpose of divination? Is it useful? Is it something that … You know, what kinds of divination are okay to do? Which ones are not okay to do? So there was a lot of those kinds of conversations that were happening around divination in particular, and astrology was obviously definitely one of them.

CB: Yeah. And Cicero famously was like, an astrology skeptic. He was somebody that wrote a critique of astrology, but he also wrote on divination and his critique and attack of astrology was given within the context of an attack on divination as a whole. But what’s interesting is that, you know, as you said, he considered Posidonius not just his teacher but also his friend, and he alternates between calling him a teacher or a friend at different points and they were two people that knew each other. But he does express like, disappointment sometimes about Posidonius’s stance on divination and related things, because Posidonius was evidently somebody who defended divination and may have said – one of the fragments seems to imply that Posidonius said that divination worked as a result of a divine sentient force that permeates the whole universe, which would be tied in with this notion that the universe is like, a living creature, a living entity that is alive and sentient and that the body of the universe is like the physical world we can see, but that the universe also has a soul that’s infused throughout it and that connects all things that happen in the universe.

SO: Yeah.

CB: So yeah, so that’s really important because basically Posidonius wrote on divination, and so Cicero would have been very aware of and very familiar with some of Posidonius’s arguments about divination, which were then some of the things that Cicero himself talked about when he decided to criticize it.

SO: That’s interesting. Yeah. And you know, so Posidonius as being an early Stoic and Stoicism – the Stoics were naturally attracted to astrology because of its divine order because of the calculations that could be predicted, that there was a certain kind of, you know, reliability in the order of the cosmos, and so that was something that they were really attracted to and that they defended, of course, with the exception of Panaetius. But as far as I understand it, Posidonius gave a kind of foundation to astrology that it didn’t really have before in terms of providing a kind of philosophy like you were just describing. You know, that living thing which his theory was the sympatheia ton holon, which is the sympathy of the whole. Sympathy of the entire thing, of the cosmos. The chain of sympathies is what it’s also called. So it seems like he was a pretty pivotal figure in terms of the astrological tradition, I would think, going forward from there.

CB: Yeah. I mean, he certainly affected people like Ptolemy, for sure, and there may have been – you know, unfortunately due to the loss of his works, it’s hard to trace sometimes his influence, and sometimes scholars a century ago went a little bit overboard sometimes in over, like, trying to infer what Posidonius’s doctrines may have been by trying to read between the lines in different texts, but there’s enough that we know that at least he had an interest in astrology; he was dealing with some of these philosophical issues; he was in Rhodes. And that’s actually the other transition point. So the main point, though, to close out the Posidonius section is to the extent that he was involved in discussions about astrology, which the testimony from Saint Augustine obviously makes it clear that he was, as well as other things that we can see about his texts – to the extent that he was involved to some extent in astrology and was familiar with it and engaging in those types of debates and philosophical arguments, and he also had something like the Antikythera Mechanism, it means that there’s like, an astrologer that we can place something like the Antikythera Mechanism in his hands in the first century BCE, which becomes an additional argument in favor of some of the things we’ve been saying about who the users of such a device would have been and that practicing astrologers and philosophers would have been one of the primary audiences for a device like that. So —

SO: Absolutely.

CB: Right? I mean —

SO: Yeah. Absolutely. That’s really, it’s pretty clear. Like, that at least —

CB: Yeah.

SO: — they would’ve been part of it, you know?

CB: Yeah. I mean, it is tricky, and one of the things Jones points out is obviously this device would’ve been incredibly expensive, and therefore it would’ve restricted the astrologers who could’ve had access or could’ve afforded such a device – is probably gonna be a very few people, but that’s one of the things that’s so important, so interesting about Posidonius is he’s one of the few people that not just could have, but did. But there were also other astrologers that were high-ranking ones who might have at one point, as well, and one of them that’s the most interesting is one of the most famous astrologers in antiquity, which is Thrasyllus. And what’s funny about Thrasyllus is his legend gets told over and over again over the centuries because he had this famous thing where he was the astrologer who went to give a consultation – he was summoned to give a consultation – to the future Roman emperor Tiberius. And he read Tiberius’s chart and it was on an island overlooking a cliff, and he said, he predicted great things for the future of this person, for Tiberius, based on his birth chart, and then at one point towards the end of the consultation, Tiberius is reported to have like, turned what probably would’ve been like, the astrologer’s board around and asked Thrasyllus, “What do you see in your own birth chart for right now?” And Thrasyllus does some calculations and then breaks out into a cold sweat and says that he’s in imminent danger. And then it’s not recorded what the precise words are, but Tiberius then says something to the effect of, “You’re hired,” and hires Thrasyllus to be his personal astrology. And then Tiberius goes on to become the second Roman emperor for like, the next few decades – the second in a long line of Roman emperors from the first century BCE forward. So why that story is important is guess what the island was that Thrasyllus was on when he did that consultation with Tiberius? It was the island of Rhodes.

SO: It’s amazing.

CB: So yeah. So one of the most famous and influential and important astrologers of antiquity was also hanging out in Rhodes in the first century BCE within decades of when the Antikythera Mechanism and other similar devices were being constructed there. And because he became the astrologer to the emperor Tiberius, he would’ve been one of the most high-ranking and probably wealthy astrologers in the world at that point. And as a result of that, if we had to search for like, other candidates of practicing astrologers who might have been able to afford something like the Antikythera Mechanism, Thrasyllus becomes one of our best bets where it’s almost certain that he would’ve had access to something like that if they were still being constructed, which as we know, as we’ll get into in a minute, we know from Ptolemy two centuries later that devices like this were still being constructed to some extent.

SO: Yeah. Definitely. And also just to specify on point with Posidonius that he was also involved in the politics. I mean, he had the position of a prytaneis, which is a kind of executor of daily affairs. He was an executor – executive, excuse me, executive of another, the boule which has oversight over daily affairs. And so you have this, you know, Stoic philosopher/astrologer who’s involved in the politics of the area. And so there was, you know, no doubt this relationship of rulership and politics with astrology at that time.

CB: Yeah, for sure. And there was actually a specific… Like, the famous Roman general Pompey visited Posidonius in Rhodes twice in 66 and 62 BCE, which is like, basically right at the same time period when the Antikythera Mechanism is constructed. And yeah, Pompey is just a super pivotal figure in terms of the end of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire because he lost, of course, the war to yeah – the war with his opponents that led to that. Okay. So Rhodes, Thrasyllus, Posidonius. Recently a scholar named Cristian Tolsa argued that another famous astrologer, an influential astrologer, from Hellenistic astrology named Critodemus may have been from Rhodes, and he makes some very persuasive arguments about that in his book. I believe it’s titled The Orphic Astrologer Critodemus. Let me just double check that. Yeah.

SO: Wow.

CB: That’s the title —

SO: That’s amazing. So Rhodes was teeming with astrologers.

CB: Yeah. Well, because it was a center for astronomy, as we know from Hipparchus, because Hipparchus – who was the guy that discovered procession, by the way, in the middle of the second century BCE, and who Ptolemy based so much of his later work on – Hipparchus was in Rhodes. And then the other thing is like, you have this question of… Well, on the one hand, I feel like Rhodes was a crossroads for astronomy partially because … Let me pull up my map again. Like, you know, I don’t know if this is simplistic, but I don’t think it is, but if you look at where Rohodes is located, it’s like, you have Athens in Greece over to the left, and even though Rhodes is a Greek island – it’s one of the islands that the Greeks colonized centuries earlier – you know, it’s right off the coast of western Turkey. So in terms of like, Greek civilization, it’s pretty far to the east, and therefore it’s much closer than the mainland of Greece was to like, Mesopotamia and essentially the home, the birthplace, of ancient astrology. And Rhodes becomes sort of like a crosspoint – not just between the East and Mesopotamia and the West with like, Greece and Europe, but it’s also like, just right across the Mediterranean from Alexandria where all of those developments were taking place in Egypt. And also, Rhodes is basically the next door neighbor to Kos, which is the island where Berossus is said to have settled or there’s a legend about Berossus settling around 280 BCE and setting up a school for astrology where he was said to have at least two students who were named who ended up carrying on and expanding some of his doctrines regarding natal astrology and conception charts.

So Rhodes is at this very important crossroads in the middle of everything. And when it comes to like, the astrologers, you know, if you wonder why there might astrologers like Thrasyllus or Critodemus like, hanging around Rhodes, one of the things that would’ve attracted them potentially is potentially if there was devices like this that were like, floating around Rhodes or were being constructed there, then that would’ve been a good reason to be like, hanging around that area, because it would’ve been the area where some of this advanced technology was being created that could help, you know, do things in terms of astrological research. So while that’s like, speculative, and we start getting a little bit into the realm of speculation here, it’s certainly suggestive. And I think making connections and things like that’s important in order to put a fuller context and fuller picture to create a fuller picture of, you know, the connections between different things and why different things may have been occuring.

SO: Absolutely. I think it makes perfect sense that you would go to the place where, you know, there’s a hub of what’s happening. You know, that’s still relevant today. You go to a certain city because they have a certain kind of culture that you, you know, wanna experience, or there’s something going on there that you want to, you know, maybe can only be found there, or a movement that’s happening somewhere – it makes perfect sense. Or like, Silicon Valley, I’m thinking of. You know?

CB: Yeah. Or even like, you know, Bill Gates, for example, he was one of the few people that like, went to a high school where he had access to a computer. And as a result of that, he ended up founding Microsoft and being the first to, you know, start making software for personal computers, which then turned into this huge industry or this huge thing that changed the world. Sometimes just like, proximity to new technologies can help to … Yeah, can make a big difference in terms of the access that a person has to things and their ability to get in and do things quicker and to be on the cutting edge of the emergence of new things.

SO: And to develop it, too.

CB: Right. Yeah. That’s a great point.

SO: Yeah.

CB: So one point I wanted to mention I was just thinking about recently… In terms of the Antikythera Mechanism and the workshop or the person that created it, one of the things I was noticing when I was researching Rhodes is that the Roman General Cassius was said to have sacked Rhodes in 42 BCE. And even though it continued for another century as a free city, some of the sources I was reading were saying that it never recovered its former prosperity. And I think this is important and I’m surprised that I didn’t see this mentioned in other sources like in Jones, because it made me wonder if Rhodes really was sacked around that time of 42 BCE, that’s only like, 18 or like 20 years after the Antikythera Mechanism shipwreck. So one of the points may be that Rhodes itself – one of the reasons, perhaps, that we don’t see like, a profusion of a bunch of different exact copies of this specific mechanism is maybe there was something terrible that happened when the city – when the island or the city was sacked that could’ve accidentally destroyed the workshop that was associated with making this specific model of this device at that point only like, a couple decades after this one that we’ve recovered was created in the same way that the sack of Sicily in 212 BCE, that’s how Archimedes himself died two centuries earlier was that he died when a Roman soldier like, killed him during the siege of that island. So sometimes things like that happened, and we have to pay attention to things like that as well in terms of explaining things. So I don’t think that was the end, though. I think there were similar – we see evidence that similar devices, that there may have been other workshops in other areas that may have created similar devices because two centuries later, Ptolemy in his book Planetary Hypotheses, at the very beginning of it, he explains that he’s writing the book partially as an instructional guide for “sphere-making,” which seems to be the term used to refer to this category of like, astronomical devices that could somehow depict the planets and their movements. And that Ptolemy even two centuries later in Alexandria – the fact that he was aware or that such devices were still being made and that he as an astronomer was giving a sort of instructional manual of how, what the astronomy was that mechanics needed to take into account to create devices like this I think is really important that shows that there was a continuation of that tradition in some form, although it’s not clear if the specific design of the Antikythera Mechanism was unique to that specific designer and workshop and if perhaps that workshop ended not long after the Antikythera Mechanism itself was lost.

SO: Yeah. As you’re saying that, it’s making me think of a point you brought up earlier about how there was a change from, you know, we have this pretty complex device, a gear mechanism device, and we don’t really see the same of sophistication or precision with these gears and gear devices until, you know, really like the 13th or 14th century with clocks. And, you know, like what you were saying is yes, maybe that’s one reason is that there are these, you know, conflicts that result in the destruction of the workshop. Then we also know that bronze and metal alloys and metal were so precious that a lot of material was eventually melted down in order to be used for other things to be repurposed. So there are many reasons why we may not – any of these things may, you know, may not survive to time and – but it is really fascinating to see that just, you know, we don’t see the same kind of technology persist through the centuries or, you know, go in a kind of linear, upward direction. You know, it seems to fall back.

CB: Yeah. Well, there was also, you know, especially in western Europe with the decline of the Roman Empire after the second century – well, especially like, 3rd, 4th, and 5th century, the western Roman Empire is in decline, and there’s periodic invasions and Rome gets sacked or Rome gets destroyed at different points. And there’s a loss of literacy and things in Europe at that time, even though the other side of the Roman Empire continues on in Constantinople in the Byzantine Empire for centuries after that point. But at least in the western Roman Empire, there was this sort of like, decline until things reemerge eventually after the Middle Ages in like, the 12th and 13th and 14th century when there’s not just a recovery of and a rebuilding of mechanical knowledge, but that’s also when astrology reemerges in the western Roman Empire as well. You know, there were other devices, though, like astrolabes, which there’s a lot of debate about astrolabes and when that concept was first developed, and we’re not really clear on that. But because the first treatise on astrolabes isn’t until like, the 5th or 6th century, I think in John Filiponus, but that piece of technology became really developed and advanced during the medieval period under the Islamic Empire, especially during the Islamic sort of like, golden age in the 8th and 9th centuries, where you have that great flourishing of astrology in Baghdad, and making astrolabes was part of that. But that’s a very different type of mechanical device than something like the Antikythera Mechanism that has this complex gearwork.

SO: Very different, yeah, very. Order of magnitude different.

CB: Yeah. Although it has its own, you know, it has its own advantages and its own technological advancements because it’s more oriented towards being able to identify the Ascendant and other things like that and calculate houses and the Midheaven and other things that devices like the Antikythera Mechanism couldn’t do, and that’s one of the differences is that while the Antikythera Mechanism was decent at calculating planetary positions in the zodiac and especially using the recurrence of different planetary cycles and different synodic cycles or eclipse cycles, it didn’t calculate the Ascendant or Midheaven or the houses, basically. That was something that the device didn’t really do.

SO: Yeah. So being able to use both of them together would be, like, the ultimate, you know, advantage astrologically.

CB: Yeah. That’s a good point. Well, I guess that raises question then, because I know there’s arguments about how far back and if there’s possible references to astrolabes earlier than the Byzantine Empire, but it’s sort of a speculative thing. So yeah.

SO: Yeah. Because there’s still the question, I guess, of where do the gears come from? Where does that technology come from? Because well, yeah, I mean – because I don’t think the Babylonians, they were doing any calculations with the Ascendant and the Midheaven that came out of the Greek astronomy, I think, right? So —

CB: Yeah, I mean, it’s really complicated. But that is the dividing point where at least in the Greek tradition, it was the text of Hypsicles in the early second century BCE, which then enabled the calculation of the rising sign and the Ascendant, which then it’s no surprise a few decades later we get the earliest texts of like, Nechepso and Petosiris and others, which suddenly the concept of the 12 houses has been introduced. But it required the introduction of the ability to calculate the rising sign first, and this is one of the reasons why Hellenistic astrology again, it’s another thing that tells us that Hellenistic astrology doesn’t go back further than the second century BCE and wasn’t introduced by, you know, earlier philosophers or scientists like surrounding Plato, it’s because of things like this, like the ability to calculate the rising sign that didn’t exist in Greek, at least, until this point in the second century BCE.

SO: Makes sense.

CB: Yeah. So all right. So I need to pause —

SO: Yeah, well, actually, sorry – go ahead.

CB: I just need to regroup and see what sort of things I absolutely wanted to make sure we squeezed into the end of this before we have to wrap up. Did you —

SO: Sure.

CB: — have a…

SO: Oh, well, just as you were saying there towards the end, it was making me think that, you know, in terms of like, precision when you’re making a device, you know, you have to, if you’re gonna make a precise mechanism, you have to have a preexisting degree of precision in your culture. And your measurements and your tools all have to have a certain level of precision that’s at least a little bit greater than the thing that you’re making in order for that thing to have a certain degree of precision. So you know, we were talking briefly before about like, the precision of the Moon cycle and that it’s like, slightly off on the Antikythera Mechanism, but just the fact that they have put all of this together with, you know, 30+ different gears, each, you know, all of the gears having different number of teeth that related to how, you know, how frequently it would rotate and related to its synodic cycle is a level of precision that’s really surprising for scholars and archeologists, I think.

CB: Yeah. For sure. I mean, it required a master mechanic in order to put that together and a really good workshop and either a singular person who was really into that or potentially, Jones says, like a team or a workshop of people that were capable of making devices like that. But Jones points out that that’s the mechanical side, but then it also required probably somebody who had some pretty good competency in astronomy as an advisor. So there was some other element there of somebody that had a really good command of the astronomy, as well as potentially the astrology is the other thing that we’re seeing here, is that you had probably a Geminus-type figure who knew both the astronomy well enough to be able to give instructions to the mechanics about how to, what they wanted to see and how the cycles worked, but also that there were some bits of astrology that were slipping in there that were important as well.

SO: That makes sense; yeah.

CB: All right, so we are just about out of time, so I wanted to run through a bunch of quick bullet points to squeeze in some final points that I wanted to make sure we made in this episode before we wrap things up. I mentioned Thrasyllus; Thrasyllus had a son named Balbillus. Balbillus also became a high-ranking astrologer who consulted with different Roman emperors, and he also became the Governor of Egypt as well as the head of the Library of Alexandria. If we’re looking for other possible figures who could have afforded a device like the Antikythera Mechanism, Balbillus is another really obvious example of somebody that very well could have, so that’s not as much of a, you know, objection to astrologers having these things in their hands as it might seem at first.

Other things I wanted to say is I wanted to give a shoutout to all the researchers. There’s so many researchers over the past century and especially over the past two decades that have been researching this device. You know, we couldn’t mention them all, but obviously we drew heavily on Alexander Jones and everybody should get his book and read it; it’s one of the most brilliant books I’ve ever read, and it actually teaches you a lot about the history of astrology and astronomy while you’re learning about the Antikythera Mechanism, so it’s a great book. There’s also a number of other researchers that are contemporary Antikythera Mechanism researchers who have done great lectures or papers or books on the Antikythera Mechanism; I would recommend researching and seeking out Michael T. Wright as one of the people that’s been doing important work on this for the past few decades. Tony Freeth is another one who has some good talks on it and has done a number of important work. Jo Marchant, who is a science writer who wrote a book on the Antikythera Mechanism years ago and has continued to do other followup articles on the Antikythera Mechanism that were very good in terms of like, communicating some of the things that were being found to the public, which is very important. There’s also the older researchers like Derek de Solla Price, whose book, Gears from the Greeks, while it’s very much out of date now, was an important turning point in the 1970s. We, of course, mentioned Spyridon Stais, who was the Greek person who originally noticed the device. Albert Rehm is somebody who Jones talks about a lot as being one of the early researchers. Even other famous figures like Jacques Cousteau like, did dives to the Antikythera Mechanism site in the 19 – I think – ‘50s and ‘60s and ‘70s, and I’m not sure if he found things that were important or relevant in terms of the device specifically, but it’s interesting how many different like, figures were tied in with all of this over the past century.

SO: Yeah, definitely.

CB: Other thing to mention – you know, something I missed last summer and I wish it was in the advertisements, the Antikythera Mechanism is actually in, it’s like, the MacGuffin or the like, central item in the last Indiana Jones movie that came out last summer. And I won’t, like, spoil the movie for people, but I wish I had known that or they had put that more in the commercials, but the movie’s called Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, and if this is like, an interesting topic even though the movie has very little connection with like, actual history and stuff, it’s funny seeing the Antikythera Mechanism as like, a device in a big Hollywood movie.

SO: Yeah.

CB: So that’s funny. One point we forgot to mention is I talked about how the, it’s weird that the planets move clockwise in the mechanism, which set up that whole issue in terms of the position of Aries and Cancer being on the top and right side instead of the left side like it would be in most astrological charts. One of the things I meant to mention about that is I don’t know if there was some specifically, like, mechanical reason for why the designer of the mechanism preferred the movement of the planets to go clockwise rather than counterclockwise. This wasn’t explained in Jones. He did seem to say a couple times that the designer preferred to have the dials move clockwise rather than counterclockwise. I suspect there may have been some mechanical reason for that or some sort of preexisting reason with other devices that the workshop made that made that more preferable for the designers, even if it wasn’t depicting things in the same way that astrologers might in like, an astrological chart. So I wanted to mention that because that’s one thing that perhaps somebody could argue makes it not as useful for astrology if the planets are like, moving around the wrong direction. But I don’t know if there’s like, specific mechanical restrictions or reasons for that that could explain that design decision. Perhaps if somebody knows they can let us know in the comments below this video on YouTube.

SO: Yeah.

CB: A minor point that might be relevant is the role of secrecy or at least trade secrets in constructing such a device. The device would have been incredibly valuable, and even if the general idea of making devices like this was around and we can see other evidence and references to it in subsequent centuries, both the knowledge and the skill to make one would have been super valuable and perhaps not fully openly shared information, in the same way that you have companies that have like, trade secrets today. And it made me think of how in the astrological tradition even, you have astrologers like Valens and Firmicus Maternus who make the reader swear an oath of secrecy not to share their teachings with the unlearned or uninitiated. And while that has, you know, other sort of religious and philosophical and mystical motivations as well as more practical ones where Valens wanted you to give him credit for his doctrines, there may have been other, you know, things about secrecy or trade secrets, let’s say, that were relevant in the ancient world just as there is today where like, you know, the … What is it? The recipe for like, Coca-Cola, for example, is a trade secret that like, only two people in the world know. And so perhaps that could be an issue additionally when it comes to that workshop where, if somebody from that workshop that had that knowledge – even if they’d been developing it for like, a hundred and fifty years – if Rhodes gets sacked and then some major people that had that knowledge from the workshop die, there’s the real potential that maybe that specific device or type or version of that type of device maybe doesn’t survive if the wrong people suddenly aren’t able to pass on that knowledge and that wisdom.

SO: That’s a really good point. That’s, yeah. Makes sense that why that wouldn’t, you know, pass on, maybe. Or —

CB: Yeah.

SO: — would pass on in a very narrow, you know, group.

CB: Right. Exactly. Well, it’s just something to think about in terms of traditions, because we see something similar with astrologers in terms of passing on traditions or sometimes having to revive traditions that have died out in the same way that, you know, astrology dies out in western Europe during the Middle Ages or where astrology after the 17th century nearly dies out in the West and then doesn’t get revived until the 20th century.

But yeah. From all of this, as well as the episodes I’ve been doing on other things over the past few months, I’m developing a better picture of the increased interactions between Mesopotamian astrologers/astronomers and Greeks from the time of Plato forward, and how the transmission of astrology occurred through these contacts. And while I do think we see a starting point for the transmission of Mesopotamian astrology happening around the time of Plato and Greek philosophers around that time period clearly start becoming aware of the practice of natal astrology because we see some of them rejecting it – like Eudoxus is said to have rejected natal astrology, Theophrastus is also said to have rejected it. So we see a growing awareness of it and a reaction to it from the Greeks starting around 400 BCE, and we see them starting to bring astrology into Greek awareness, for example, in the naming of the planets or the naming of the signs of the zodiac, which were just adopting the Mesopotamian names in Greek. I do still think, though, that was like, the starting point and that Hellenistic astrology didn’t as a system or as a construct, that the construct of Hellenistic astrology didn’t originate there, but instead that was the starting point. And then there was a two-century developmental period that eventually culminated in the emergence, in the creation of Hellenistic astrology in the middle of the second century BCE. But it’s not until we get to that point in the middle of the second century that we see the full emergence of that system. So I wanted to be clear about that, because I think there’s some confusion about it as well as some claims otherwise. But I think it’s beginning clearer and clearer to me that the second century is really the important turning point.

SO: Wow. It’s really nice to be able to reconstruct these kinds of things, you know?

CB: Yeah. I feel like we’re getting closer and closer to really understanding it and reconstructing the origins of western astrology and of Hellenistic astrology in particular, and I think devices like the Antikythera Mechanism help with that because it’s helping to fill out some missing pieces of things so that we know where things were at at that specific point in time.

There is a connection between the rise of Stoicism in the Hellenistic period, the rise of astrology, but also potentially of the rise of mechanized devices like this that were displaying the movements of the cosmos and the planets. And there’s some interesting underlying conceptualizations there that may have been very important and need to be explored more, because it relates to how ancient peoples felt about fate, about predetermination, about astrology and how astrology worked, and how deterministic it was or how negotiable astrology was seen. And there’s some interesting sort of place the Antikythera Mechanism and similar devices might – some role they might play in helping us to fill out that picture, which Jones starts to develop towards the end of his book, but I think could be taken even further than he did in the impact that that had culturally, I think.

SO: I agree. Yeah.

CB: Yeah. You were getting that from the end as well, the end of the book?

SO: Yeah, that it seems like we’re, I mean… Yeah, that a little, I don’t know if I’d wanna say that we’re – like, I’m kind of on the verge of saying we’re scratching the surface, because we know so much, but there’s also a lot of information that we’re missing that we do need to, you know, fill out more like you’re saying. So I feel like he was just kind of starting to get to that at the end of his book.

CB: Yeah. Well, I think it’s starting to fill out the picture more, and one of the things that’s exciting is that there’s actually more archaeological discoveries that are happening all the time that are filling out the picture even more and that may continue over the next century. We may learn a lot more things that we don’t know today that are gonna fill out the picture even further. So the Antikythera Mechanism is an example of that. There was recently discovered Egyptian horoscopes that told us things about technically what astrologers were doing in Egypt that we didn’t know up until this point about a new system of Lots that mimicked what the Greek astrologers were doing with the houses. There’s also those scrolls from Herculaneum where, you know, let’s all pray, basically, that there’s some like, astrological texts in the library of whoever that was who passed away when that volcano exploded in 79 BCE. Because even just finding like, the lost text of Nechepso or the Asclepius texts or the Hermes text that all these later astrologers quote could completely change our picture of astrology in significant ways, and in some ways confirm some things that we are inferring at this point or in other ways could contradict and completely change the story in significant ways. And we can see a mini version of how that goes sometimes in the research that went into the Antikythera Mechanism over the past century where, you know, different theories were put forward, neither confirmed or denied later when different evidence became available. So we have to be, you know, cognizant of that and careful about that.

The last two points I wanted to make is just one – Jones towards the end of the book estimates that the high point of these devices, of the Antikythera Mechanism like devices, the sphere-making devices,that the high point was between 100 BCE and 200 CE. And one of the things that I would note is that this was also precisely the heyday of Hellenistic astrology, which we can see from the fact that the majority of the horoscopes that survive are in the period between the first century BCE and the second century CE. So again, that may be a further piece of evidence that shows an interconnection between them and how the cultural zeitgeist of astrology surrounding that time may have been part of what allowed for the proliferation and interest in devices such as the Antikythera Mechanism and its like, cousins or neighbors.

And then finally, the last point that I wanted to make is that the Antikythera Mechanism and all the other like, astronomers and people surrounding it in history is a reminder that there were some really brilliant people in ancient times. And I say that not in a sense of like, over-idealizing the past or even saying that this must be evidence of some lost civilization or wisdom, but rather it’s a reminder that humans can be pretty smart and innovative creatures, and their ingenuity should never be underestimated. Plato is an example of that. Aristotle. Archimedes. Hipparchus. Posidonius. Claudius Ptolemy. The creator of the Antikythera Mechanism or the workshop in Rhodes that created it. The author of the Nechepso text who created Hellenistic astrology and created some of these technical constructs, which you know, built the astrological tradition in the West that it was founded on over the past 2,000 years. Even later people like Hypatia, who helped to write a commentary on Ptolemy with her father, Theon, the astronomer around like, 400 CE. Even Alexander Jones and some of the other people like Tony Freeth or Michael Wright or others who’ve reconstructed and figured out what the Antikythera Mechanism did over the course of the past century – all of these are incredibly smart and brilliant people. So I bring this up partially because I saw somebody claim, for example, that the Antikythera Mechanism is evidence of like, a lost civilization or a technology or something like that. But I think when people say things like that, they don’t’ really understand what they’re talking about, because they always overlook how devices like this or things like this actually are within human capability, and even though they push the limits to their absolute extreme of what humans were capable of at different periods, humans are always doing that to the extent that they can during their own time period. And when they do so, they’re capable of some truly great things. So I think the Antikythera Mechanism, you know, we have to be on the one hand marvel at how amazing it is and how incredible that they were able to do this. But also at the same time, people like Alexander Jones have shown how it’s very much tied in with the cutting edge of technologies that were available at that time, and how it was very much possible and that humans were able to pull it off.

So I think that was one of the final points that I wanted to make that really – I was impressed by in researching this topic over the past few months.

SO: Yeah. It’s such an incredible artifact. And as you were saying that, it makes me think of what Michael Wright was saying in one of his videos that, you know, it really wasn’t all that astonishing about what they did. And you know, I think you said it beautifully there of, you know, what they did was absolutely possible and it was very surprising to us, but again, it is definitely within the realm of human capability. It just sets it further back than we expected. And, you know, yeah, it’s sort of hard to imagine a 14th century level of technology in the, you know, BC times, but that is the case, so.

CB: Yeah. And it reminds us, just like with the recovery of Hellenistic astrology, that sometimes there’s amazing things that we can get by going back and looking into the past and recovering what the ancient astrologers were doing that sometimes is more advanced or complex or impressive than we might assume. Yeah, and that astrology and astrologers were very much tied in with some of the forefront of technology and astronomy and culture and a number of different things in this time period. So I think it’s important to recognize that, and I think we’ve done a pretty good job of accomplishing that today.

SO: Yeah. No, we – this was a really amazing episode, Chris. It’s such an amazing artifact, and you know, it’s been a pleasure to go over it with you.

CB: Yeah. Thank you so much for doing this with me and for joining me for this journey and for researching this with me and helping me to put together this episode. I really appreciated it. I really appreciate it. What about – tell me a little bit about your work and what you’re working on. You have a website and you offer consultations, right? You’re a practicing astrologer in addition to a researcher.

SO: Yep. Yeah. So I’m a practicing astrologer, I do readings and I’m also doing my degree in classics right now in upstate New York, a couple hours north of New York City. And yeah, I’m a researcher, like we were talking about the astrological boards. I have an interest in the transmission of astronomy from the Near East to Greece. And yeah. Been studying astrology for a couple decades now, and I just am about to finish up Demetra George’s last, you know, the last module for her certification program in Hellenistic and also doing a certification with the NCGR, which is probably way too much to do on top of a degree. But —

CB: Yeah, and you’re also —

SO: — you know —

CB: — you’re also a translator and you’ve actually translated —

SO: Yeah.

CB: — some academic texts on the history of astrology from the past century. And I know you’re not, you’re still working on some things but I know you’ve helped —

SO: Yeah.

CB: — me, for example, in translating some things related to like, Hermeticism and other things like that.

SO: Yeah. Yep. Yeah, I speak French and I understand French, so I am a translator from French to English. And yes, there is a project that I’m working on that we will – I’ll save the nice details for later, a later date, but there is a project that I’m working on that I’m really excited about to bring forward from the last – a translation work from the last century, so.

CB: Good. Well, we’ll maybe revisit that then in a future episode. In the meantime, what’s the – what’s your website URL?

SO: Oh right. So it’s BrotherMoonHealing.com, and I have my email on there so people can get ahold of me if they like and see kind of some of the things that I’ve been up to. I have some artwork on my website too. So yeah, go ahead and check it out.

CB: Good. I’ll put a link to that in the description below this video on YouTube or on the description page for this episode on the podcast website.

So as for myself, I’m gonna keep doing episodes like this. This research was possible because a bunch of people – subscribers and patrons who support me through my page on Patreon.com and sign up to support the podcast each month – helped me to be able to do all of this research that went into this. So thanks to all those patrons. If you wanna support this research or get access to bonus content like the notes for this episode, which I’m gonna release to patrons, you can sign up for that at The Astrology Podcast page on Patreon.com. Otherwise, I also teach a course of Hellenistic astrology where I teach people the history and philosophy and techniques of ancient astrology, and you can find out more information about that at courses.theastrologyschool.com.

All right. I think that’s it for this episode. Thanks a lot for joining me.

SO: Yeah. Thanks so much, Chris. See you later.

CB: All right. Thanks everyone for watching or listening to this episode of The Astrology Podcast, and we’ll see you again next time.

I wanted to record a brief addendum to this episode to talk a little bit about the planetary order, because there’s something I needed to add on to the end of this. So part of my motivation for doing this episode was researching the origins of the different planetary orders in ancient astrology and astronomy. And my research is still ongoing, though, and I’m still trying to piece things together, although for the purposes of producing the podcast each month, I have to discuss topics sometimes that I’m still thinking about and still working on.

So one of the points I made in this episode is that is seems clear that in the second century BCE, the Nechepso and Petosiris texts at the very heart of Hellenistic astrology helped to popularize the planetary order, which was called the order of the seven zoned sphere, which is known in later times as the Chaldean order. So this order goes Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn. So initially, I went into researching the planetary orders lately expecting that I would find that the astrologers adopted some earlier planetary order that was advocated by astronomers prior to the second century BCE when most of the system of Hellenistic astrology seems to have originated. But the more sources I went through, the more I was having trouble finding references to this planetary order prior to the composition of the Nechepso and Petosiris texts in the middle of the second century BCE. So this eventually led me to my working hypothesis that I mentioned a few times in this episode, that perhaps then the authors of the Nechepso text were the first to introduce that order in the second century BCE, which then became so popular that it influenced and led to the widespread adoption of that order almost universally in all subsequent traditions after the second century BCE, including even appearing on the face of the Antikythera Mechanism itself.

So however, as I’ve continued to research this, I found two stray sets of references in later writers named Hippolytus, who was a Christian author from later on centuries later, and from Macrobius, who was a Latin author, that I’ve been following up on, which may indicate that Archimedes himself actually outlined a planetary order which placed the Sun at the center of the seven spheres. I am still trying to validate whether the reconstructions of these texts that were carried out by Otto Neugebauer and another scholar named Catherine Osborne in a paper from 1983 titled Archimedes: On the Dimensions of the Cosmos where she attributes this order to Archimedes, and I’m trying to determine if that’s true and also whether the texts that they’re based on genuinely go back to Archimedes or whether they were later forgeries that were only attributed to him. These are ongoing questions that I’m trying to work out right now. But I wanted to mention this because it could create an alternative scenario that I’ve considered where Archimedes himself may have been one of the earliest sources for the planetary order that placed the Sun in the middle of the planets before he died in the year 212 BCE or shortly before there.

However, an important discrepancy to mention about the planetary order that Hippolytus attributes to Archimedes is that it gives the planetary order as Moon, Venus, Mercury, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn. While this does represent a shift from the earlier Platonic ordering of the planets, since the Sun has been moved to the center, this order is not exactly the same as the order of the seven zoned sphere because it places Venus after the Moon instead of Mercury. So what may have happened is that Archimedes or others in the mid- to late 3rd century BCE may have started to experiment with placing the Sun at the center of the planetary order, but it wasn’t until the second century BCE that the Nechepso and Petosiris texts and perhaps others set the final planetary order in place by switching the positions of Venus and Mercury, resulting in a final order of Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn. This is the order of the seven zoned sphere. So that’s my current working hypothesis, at least, although it may be subject to future revisions.

So all of this, then, would create an interesting connection between Archimedes, the Antikythera Mechanism tradition, and the foundation of Hellenistic astrology. So I wanted to include this brief addendum just for the sake of accuracy and to be clear that my research on this is still ongoing and may still be subject to revision in the future as more discoveries are made. But also to open up some of these questions to other researchers so that some of this can be discussed and worked out and perhaps others will notice something that I’ve overlooked or missed.

But the end result is that I’m truly excited because I feel like we are starting to understand and reconstruct the history and the origins of ancient astrology at a much deeper level than we were able to previously, although there’s still much more work to do, and it’s still an ongoing process.

All right. I think that’s it for this addendum and this episode in general. So thanks a lot for watching, and I’ll see you again next time.

Shoutout to our sponsor for this episode, which is the CHANI App, the #1 astrology app for self-discovery, mindfulness, and healing. You can download it on the Apple App Store or on Google Play, or for more information, visit app.chani.com.

Special thanks to all the patrons that helped to support the production of this episode of the podcast through our page on Patreon.com. In particular, a shoutout to the patrons on our Producers tier, including patrons Kristi Moe, Ariana Amour, Mandi Rae, Angelic Nambo, Issa Sabah, Jake Otero, Jeanne Marie Kaplan, Melissa DeLano, and Sonny Bazbaz.

If you’re looking for a reliable astrologer to get an astrological consultation with, then we have a new list of astrologers on the podcast website that we recommend for readings. Most of the astrologers specialize in birth chart readings, although some also offer synastry, rectification, electional astrology, horary questions and more. Find out more information at TheAstrologyPodcast.com/Consultations.

The astrology software that we use and recommend here on the podcast is called Solar Fire for Windows, which is available for the PC at Alabe.com. Use the promo code ‘AP15’ to get a 15% discount. For Mac users, we recommend a software program called Astro Gold for Mac OS, which is from the creators of Solar Fire for PC, and it includes both modern and traditional techniques. You can find out more information at AstroGold.io, and you can use the promo code ‘ASTROPODCAST15’ to get a 15% discount.

And finally, thanks to our sponsors, including The Mountain Astrologer Magazine, which is a quarterly astrology magazine which you can read in print or online at MountainAstrologer.com, and the Northwest Astrological Conference, which is happening both in person and online, May 23-27, 2024. You can find out more information at norwac.net.