Paulus Alexandrinus

Paulus Alexandrinus was an astrological author from the late Roman Empire. His extant work, "Eisagogika", or Introductory Matters (or Introduction), which was written in 378 A.D., is a treatment of major topics in astrology as practiced in the fourth century Roman Empire.

Little is known about Paulus' life. He lived in Alexandria, one of the most scholarly cities of the Roman world, where astrology was also at its most sophisticated. In his lifetime, Rome's power was declining and the capital of the Roman Empire had been moved to Constantinople. We know he was regarded as a considerable authority because we have the record of a series of lectures given on his work by the respected Neo-Platonist philosopher Olympiodorus some two centuries later (in 564 A.D.), in Alexandria. These lectures were preserved in a "Commentary" and both Paulus' "Introduction" and Olympiodorus' "Commentary" have been translated together [] , giving a view of the development of astrological technique and contemporary attitudes towards astrology from the tumultuous late Empire through the even more unstable early Byzantine Empire.

The "Introduction" may be most interesting for its discussion of the eleven phases of the Moon, because it gives us a clear treatment of a topic whose influence on Greek astrological speculation has likely been much underestimated. The Moon's phases are probably the single most influential factor in katarchic charts of the Hellenistic period, going back beyond Dorotheus of Sidon. Also very important in the "Introduction" are the Lots, which were at the core of Hellenistic astrological technique (see the "Anthology" of Vettius Valens), although the scientifically-minded Ptolemy avoids them. Paulus also discusses dodekatemoria and monomoiria, and gives an extensive treatment of sect in astrological analysis, and of the influence of planetary aspects as they apply and separate (the Hellenistic understanding of which is considerably at odds with modern practice.)

At the time Paulus wrote, there was notable intellectual consolidation taking place in astrology. Forty years earlier, Julius Firmicus Maternus had written "Mathesis", a long and very detailed summary of the astrological technique of his time, which has come down to us intact. Contemporaneous with Paulus, an anonymous writer had produced a "Treatise on the Fixed Stars" in 379 A.D., which is our best record of how practical astrologers of the Roman period after Ptolemy dealt with stars in the context of the astrological chart; just a year after that came three books by the Egyptian Hephaistio of Thebes (380 A.D.) integrating Ptolemy with earlier traditions.


In the several hundred years following Paulus and Hephaistio, there continued to be an active astrological tradition, some works of which have come down to us, including writings by Julian of Laodicea (c.500 A.D.), Rhetorius (6th or 7th century), and, in the 5th or 6th century, the celebrated "Centiloquy" (spuriously attributed for many centuries to Ptolemy), which exerted a very considerable influence on the astrological thinking of the Arabs and on European astrologers of the Medieval and Early Modern periods. (See Lilly.)

An important Indian astrological treatise called the "Paulisa Siddhanta" ("Doctrine of Paulus") is sometimes thought to be derived from the work of Paulus. [Thomas McEvilley, "The Shape of Ancient Thought: Comparative Studies in Greek and Indian Philosophies", Allworth Press, 2001, pg. 385.] However, this notion has been rejected by other scholars in the field, notably by David Pingree who stated that "...the identification of Paulus Alexandrinus with the author of the "Paulisasiddhanta" is totally false". [See David Pingree, "The Yavanajataka of Sphujidhvaja", Vol. 2, Harvard Oriental Series, 1978, pgs. 437-438. Also see Pingree, "The Later Paulisasiddhanta", Centaurus 14, 1969, 172-241.]


Further reading

* Late Classical Astrology: Paulus Alexandrinus and Olympiodorus (with the Scholia of later Latin Commentators). Translated by Dorian Gieseler Greenbaum. Archive for the Retrieval of Historical Astrological Texts ARHAT [] , 2001.
* Paulus Alexandrinus. INTRODUCTION TO ASTROLOGY. (Complete). 378 A.D. Project Hindsight [] , 1996 (?). translated by Robert Schmidt.
* Dorian Gieseler Greenbaum's website on Hellenistic astrology: "Classical Astrology" []
* Robert Hand, [] -- excerpt from Introduction to "Late Classical Astrology: Paulus Alexandrinus and Olympiodorus"
* Robert Hand, [] [] -- quoting from Paulus
* Project Hindsight [] -- on Paulus.

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