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Manilius Astronomica (Lcl, 469)

by Gould G P, Marcus Manilius, G.P. Goold

Buy the book: Gould G P. Manilius Astronomica (Lcl, 469)

Release Date: December, 1977

Edition: Hardcover

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Buy the book: Gould G P. Manilius Astronomica (Lcl, 469)


A review of the Astronomica of Manilius edited by G.P Goold

This book is part of the Loeb Classical Library series that produces academically edited translations (with the original language) of ancient texts. The Astronomica is a 4,500 line poem on astrology and stoicism written between 7-25 A.D by the Roman poet Manilius.

The translation of the text is excellent, G.P. Goold, being a distinguished classical scholar. Accompanying the translation is a detailed introduction that examines various aspects of the poem; its date of composition, its sources, the astrological procedures used and its history.

This is a text intended for scholars or for those with a serious interest in history. Those looking for astrological guidance would do well to look elsewhere as the poem is a poor astrological guide.

The book begins with an introduction, explaining the basic of astronomy and providing some historical background to astrology. This is followed by a series of astrological procedures. Each of these contradicts each other and none are given in their entirety. It is an astrological smorgasbord rather than a 'how to' guidebook. Against this background the poet explains the importance of the philosophy of stoicism.

The background to the original book is as follows. It was composed in the last years of the first Roman emperor, Augustus, and completed in the reign of his successor, Tiberius. It discusses the stoic form of astrology that subordinates all aspects of life to fate. Every action of everyone and everything is entirely controlled by fate. The only solace the poem offers is that via astrology we can learn our fate and thus brace ourselves for the bad and look forward to the good. Near the end of the book we are also told that we (humans) are divine or at least share some link with the stoic god and that some form of divine destiny awaits us.

Possibly the book was intended as some form of political statement. The emperor Tiberius was an ardent astrologer who devoted much time to the calculation of horoscopes of prominent men to determine if they were potential rivals. If they were they then met a fatal destiny. Tiberius was also responsible for expelling astrologers from Rome, no doubt to keep a monopoly for himself. This suggests that Manilius had some imperial support for his work.

Nothing of Manilius is known apart from his sole work. We can only conjecture that he was wealthy enough to have the time to devote himself to the work and had an abiding interest in the field of astrology.

I would recommend this without reservation to those interested in the classics.

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