Tag: Centiloquium

Aphorisms 11–20 from Ptolemy’s Ὁ Καρπός

Here are aphorisms 11–20 from the copy of Ptolemy’s “Ὁ Καρπός” in BnF gr. 2180. As to be expected, there are a number of idiosyncrasies here, some going well beyond the orthographic changes (which are unsurprising really). In some cases, this copy of the text includes additional clauses that raise interesting questions. For example, the “τοῦ παρόντοϲ ἔργου” at the end of aphorism 11. How are we to understand the distinction between the common “τοῦ προκειμένου πράγματοϲ” and the added “τοῦ παρόντοϲ ἔργου” in this copy? Did the copiest understand a semantic difference between “πράγματοϲ” and “ἔργου”? And why did the later reader who glossed so much of the text ignore aphorism 15?

The first seventeen aphorisms from a 15th-century copy of Ptolemy’s Ὁ Καρπός.
Translation of Aphorisms 11–20 from BnF 2180
Aphorism BnF 2180 Translation
ια’ Μὴ πρώτερον ἐπιλέξεισ ἡμέραν καὶ ὥραν, πρὶν ἤ διαγνώναι τὴν ποιώτητα τοῦ προκειμένου πράγματοϲ, τοῦ παρόντοϲ ἔργου. Do not first select the day and hour before you discern the quality of the proposed matter, of the present action.
ιβ’ Ἡ φηλία καὶ τὸ μῖσοϲ κολύουσιν τὸ ὐπροβαίνειν ἀληθὴ τὸ ἀποτελέσμα, ἐλαττοῦσιν γὰρ τὰ μέγιστα καὶ μεγαλύνουσιν τὰ σμικρώτατα. Love and hate impede arriving at true astrological judgements, for they diminish strong things and magnify very weak things.
ιγ’ Ὅτε δηλώσει ἡ οὐρανία θέσει τι, χρῶ συνεργοῖϲ καὶ τοῖϲ φθαρτικοῖϲ ἄστροιϲ ἤτοι τοῖσ δευτερίοισ. When the celestial disposition signifies something, use the cooperating and the destructive stars, that is the secondary ones.
ιδ’ Ὢ ὁπόσα σφάληται ὁ ἐπιστήμων, ὅτε ὁ ἕβδομοϲ τόποϲ καὶ ὁ κύριοϲ αὐτοῦ ὦσιν κεκακομένοι. Oh, how many things baffle/frustrate the man wise in astrology, when the seventh house and its lord have been rendered unpropitious.
ιε’ Ὁ ὡροσκόποϲ τῶν ἐχθρῶν τοῦ βασιλέως ἢ τῆς βασιλείας εἰσὶν τὰ ἀποκεκληκότα ζῴδια ἀπὸ τοῦ ὡροσκόπου αὐταῖς, οἱ δὲ ὡροσκόποι τῶν κυρίων εἰσὶν τὰ κέντρα, καὶ οἱ ὡροσκόποῦντεσ τῶν δὲ ἐν αὐτοῖϲ ἀπὸστρεφωμένων εἰσὶν αἱ ἐπαναφοραί. τὸ αὐτὸ καὶ ἐπὶ τῶν δογμάτων. The ascendent of the enemies of the king or the kingdom are the cadent signs from their ascendent, and the ascendent of their rulers are the cardinals, and the ascendents of those who dwell in them (what I read as ἀποστρεφομενων should probably be ἀναστρεφομενων) are the succedents. And the same thing in beliefs.
ιϛ’ Ὅτε κυριεύσουσιν οἱ ἀγαθοποιοὶ τὸν η’ τόπον, ἐπάγουσιν τὴν βλάβην ἀπὸ ἀνδρῶν ἀγα[θῶν], εἰ δὲ ἀγαθύνονται, ἀπαλάττουσι ταύτηϲ. When the benefics rule the eighth house they cause damage to good men, but if they are made good, they depart from this.
ιζ’ Ὅτε ἀποτελεῖσ περὶ τινοϲ ζωῆς γέροντοϲ, μὴ πρότερον ἀποτελέσεις, πρὶν ἂν καταμετρήσεις, πόσα ἐνδέχεται τοῦτον ἔτει ζῆσαι. When you forecast about a particular life of an old man, do not first forecast before you have measured how long it is possible that this one still lives.
ιη’ Ὅτε οἱ δύο φωστῆρεσ ἐν ἑνὶ λεπτῷ ὥσιν, ὡροσκοπεῖ δὲ καὶ ἀγαθοποιόϲ, ἐν πᾶσιν ἔσται εὐτυχὲισ τοῖϲ ἀνὰ χεῖρα ὁ γινόμενοϲ· ὡϲ αύτωϲ καὶ εἰ διαμετροῦσιν ἀλλήλοιϲ ἀπὸ τοῦ ὡροσκόπου καὶ τοῦ δύνοντοϲ. εἰ δὲ κακοποιόϲ ἐστιν ἐν τῷ ὡροσκόπῳ, νόει τὸ ἐναντίον. When the two luminaries [i.e., the sun and moon] are in a single minute, and also the benefic is the ascendent, the Native will be fortunate in all things that come his way. Just as also if they oppose each other from the ascendent and from the descendent. But if a malefic is on the ascendent, suspect the opposite.
ιθ’ Ἀμβλύνηται ἡ τοῦ καθαρσίου ἐνέργεια τῆσ [σελήνης] συνοδευούσησ τῷ Διί. The action/effect of purification loses is dulled when the moon is in conjunction with Jupiter.
κ’ Μὴ ἅψῃ μόριον σιδήρω ἡ σελήνη ἐπεχούσα τὼ ζῴδιον, ὃ κυριεύει τοῦ μορίου ἐκείνου. Do not touch a part of the body with iron when the moon is in the sign that rules that part of the body.

As always, I reserve the right to change these translations when I learn that I made a mistake. For example, I might revise aphorism 9 because there is, apparently, some debate about the meaning of the term “οἱ στοιχειοματικοὶ” (see “Ὁ Καρπός, Aphorisms 6–10”). Relying on classical sources, Liddell and Scott translate “στοιχειοματικοὶ” as “casters of nativities.” According to C. Blum, later sources indicate a shift in meaning to one that implies a more magical practice. Something closer to “making amulets” or “making talismans.” I haven’t finished the article, so I don’t know yet if the arguments it persuasive.

In honor of aphorism 20, warning against bleeding when the moon is in the sign that rules that part of the body, here’s a zodiacal man from later in that same codex with the standard mapping of signs onto the body, starting with Aries at the top of the head and ending with Pisces at the feet.

A zodiacal man maps the twelve signs onto parts of the body, starting at the head and working to the feet. From BnF 2180, f. 108r

ὁ Καρπός, Aphorisms 6 – 10

As our reader continued to work through Ptolemy’s Ὁ Καρπός he either was uninterested in the minor errors in the Greek or didn’t notice them (such as the τοῦ γενεθλίω which clearly should be τοῦ γενεθλίου). He did add a couple corrections, particularly when whole words were missing. And he continued adding Latin translations for nearly every Greek word.

Aphorisms 6 – 10 from the copy of Ptolemy’s Ὁ Καρπός in BnF gr. 2180.

Here is a transcription of these aphorisms. As in previous posts, I have not corrected the orthography or other mistakes.

Τότε ὠφελεῖ ἡ ἐπιλογὴ τῶν ἡμερῶν καὶ τῶν ὡρῶν, ὅτε ἐστὶν ὁ καιρὸϲ εὔθητοϲ ἀπὸ τοῦ γενεθλίω. εἰ γὰρ ἐναντίοϲ ἐστίν, οὐ λυσιτελεισει, εἰ τάχα καὶ πρὸϲ ἀγαθὴν ἀφορᾷ ἔκβασιν.
Οὐ δύναταί τισ καταλαβεῖν τὰϲ κράσεις τῶν [ἀστέρπων], εἰ μὴ πρώτερον διαγνῷ τὰϲ διαφορὰϲ καὶ τὰσ κράσεισ τὰϲ φυσικάϲ αὐτῶν.
Ἡ σοφὴ ψυχὴ συνεργεῖ τῇ οὐρανίᾳ ἐνεργείᾳ ὥσπερ ὁ ἄριστοϲ γεωργὸϲ συνεργεῖ τῇ φύσει τῆϲ γὴσ δι ἀροτριάσεωσ καὶ ἀνὰκακθάρσεωσ.
Τὰ ἐν τῇ γενέσει καὶ φθορᾷ εἴδη πάσχει ὑπὸ τῶν οὐρανίων εἰδῶν. καὶ διὰ τοῦτο χρῶνται οἱ στοιχειοματικοὶ τούτοισ, τὰϲ ἐπεμβάσεισ τῶν ἀστέρων ^σκοποῦντεσ ἐπ᾽αὐτήν ἐπ’αὐτά.
Χρῶ ἐν ταῖσ ἐπιλογαῖϲ τῶν ἡμερῶν καὶ τῶν ὡρῶν, τοῖϲ κακοποιοῖσ, ὥσπερ ὁ ἄριστοϲ ἰατρὸϲ τοῖσ δηλητηρίοισ πρὸϲ θεραπείαν συμμήτρωσ.

These aphorisms resemble those in a later copy, BL Harley ms. 5597.

The first seven aphorisms from the copy of Ὁ Καρπός in BL Harley ms. 5597.
Comparison of Aphorisms ϛ’ to ι’ in BnF gr. 2180 and BL Harley ms. 5597
Aphorism BnF 2180 Harley ms 5597
ϛ’ Τότε ὠφελεῖ ἡ ἐπιλογὴ τῶν ἡμερῶν καὶ τῶν ὡρῶν, ὅτε ἐστὶν ὁ καιρὸϲ εὔθητοϲ ἀπὸ τοῦ γενεθλίω. εἰ γὰρ ἐναντίοϲ ἐστίν, οὐ λυσιτελεισει, εἰ τάχα καὶ πρὸϲ ἀγαθὴν ἀφορᾷ ἔκβασιν. Τότε ὠφελεῖ ἡ ἐπιλογὴ τῶν ἡμερῶν καὶ τῶν ὡρῶν, ὅτε ἐστὶν ὁ καιρὸς εὔθετος ἀπὸ τοῦ γενεθλὶου. εἰ γὰρ ἐναντίος ἐστίν, οὐ λυσιτελήσει, εἰ τάχα καὶ πρὸϲ ἀγαθὴν ἀφορᾷ ἔκβασιν.
ζ’ Οὐ δύναταί τισ καταλαβεῖν τὰϲ κράσεις τῶν [ἀστέρπων], εἰ μὴ πρώτερον διαγνῷ τὰϲ διαφορὰϲ καὶ τὰσ κράσεισ τὰϲ φυσικάϲ αὐτῶν. Οὐ δύναταί τις καταλαβεῖν τὰς κράσεις τῶν ἀστέρπων, εἰ μὴ πρότερον διαγνῷ τὰς διαφορὰς καὶ τὰς κράσεις τὰσ φυσικάς.
η’ Ἡ σοφὴ ψυχὴ συνεργεῖ τῇ οὐρανίᾳ ἐνεργείᾳ ὥσπερ ὁ ἄριστοϲ γεωργὸϲ συνεργεῖ τῇ φύσει τῆϲ γὴσ δι ἀροτριάσεωσ καὶ ἀνὰκακθάρσεωσ. Ἡ σοφὴ ψυχὴ συνεργεῖ τῇ οὐρανίᾳ ἐνεργείᾳ ὥσπερ ὁ ἄριστος γεωργὸς συνεργεῖ τῇ φύσει τῆς γὴς διὰ τῆς ἀροτριάσεως καὶ ἀνὰκαθάρσεως.
θ’ Τὰ ἐν τῇ γενέσει καὶ φθορᾷ εἴδη πάσχει ὑπὸ τῶν οὐρανίων εἰδῶν. καὶ διὰ τοῦτο χρῶνται οἱ στοιχειοματικοὶ τούτοισ, τὰϲ ἐπεμβάσεισ τῶν ἀστέρων ^σκοποῦντεσ ἐπ᾽αὐτήν ἐπ’αὐτά. Τὰ ἐν τῇ γενέσει καὶ φθορᾷ εἴδη πάσχει ὑπὸ τῶν οὐρανίων εἰδῶν. καὶ διὰ τοῦτο χρῶνται τούτοις οἱ στοιχειωματικοὶ τὰς ἐπεμβάσεις τῶν ἀστέρων σκοποῦντες ἐπ’αὐτήν.
ι’ Χρῶ ἐν ταῖσ ἐπιλογαῖϲ τῶν ἡμερῶν καὶ τῶν ὡρῶν, τοῖϲ κακοποιοῖσ, ὥσπερ ὁ ἄριστοϲ ἰατρὸϲ τοῖσ δηλητηρίοισ πρὸϲ θεραπείαν συμμήτρωσ. Χρῶ ἐν ταῖς ἐπιλογαῖς τῶν ἡμερῶν καὶ τῶν ὡρῶν, τοῖς κακοποιοῖσ, ὥσπερ ὁ ἄριστος ἰατρὸς τοῖς δηλητηρίοις πρὸς θεραπείαν συμμέτρως.

As promised, here is an initial English translation of aphorisms 6 through 10. Some of these were rather odd and posed some challenges, but here you go:

Translations of Ptolemy’s Aphorisms ϛ’ to ι’
Aphorism Greek English
ϛ’ Τότε ὠφελεῖ ἡ ἐπιλογὴ τῶν ἡμερῶν καὶ τῶν ὡρῶν, ὅτε ἐστὶν ὁ καιρὸϲ εὔθητοϲ ἀπὸ τοῦ γενεθλίω. εἰ γὰρ ἐναντίοϲ ἐστίν, οὐ λυσιτελεισει, εἰ τάχα καὶ πρὸϲ ἀγαθὴν ἀφορᾷ ἔκβασιν. Then the choice of days and hours is beneficial when the time is properly arranged from the nativity. For if it is opposed, there will be no profit, even if it looks to a good outcome.
ζ’ Οὐ δύναταί τισ καταλαβεῖν τὰϲ κράσεις τῶν [ἀστέρπων], εἰ μὴ πρώτερον διαγνῷ τὰϲ διαφορὰϲ καὶ τὰσ κράσεισ τὰϲ φυσικάϲ αὐτῶν. A person cannot grasp the combinations of the stars, if he has not first discerned their differences and their natural dispositions.
η’ Ἡ σοφὴ ψυχὴ συνεργεῖ τῇ οὐρανίᾳ ἐνεργείᾳ ὥσπερ ὁ ἄριστοϲ γεωργὸϲ συνεργεῖ τῇ φύσει τῆϲ γὴσ δι ἀροτριάσεωσ καὶ ἀνὰκακθάρσεωσ. The wise mind assists the heavenly influences, just as the best farmer assists the nature of the earth through plowing and clearing.
θ’ Τὰ ἐν τῇ γενέσει καὶ φθορᾷ εἴδη πάσχει ὑπὸ τῶν οὐρανίων εἰδῶν. καὶ διὰ τοῦτο χρῶνται οἱ στοιχειοματικοὶ τούτοισ, τὰϲ ἐπεμβάσεισ τῶν ἀστέρων ^σκοποῦντεσ ἐπ᾽αὐτήν ἐπ’αὐτά. In their generation and corruption [terrestrial] forms are affected by the celestial forms. And for this reason casters of nativities consult them by examining the ingresses of the stars on them.
ι’ Χρῶ ἐν ταῖσ ἐπιλογαῖϲ τῶν ἡμερῶν καὶ τῶν ὡρῶν, τοῖϲ κακοποιοῖσ, ὥσπερ ὁ ἄριστοϲ ἰατρὸϲ τοῖσ δηλητηρίοισ πρὸϲ θεραπείαν συμμήτρωσ. Use the the malefics in the selection of days and of hours, just as the best physician uses poisons in moderation for cure.

Rather than continue posting every few aphorisms, as I work through Ptolemy’s Ὁ Καρπός I will try to post a group of ten aphorisms every few days until I get to the end. Then I’ll go back and try to polish the translation. Why? Because it’s kinda fun in a totally nerdy way and a great way to avoid real work while doing something that feels more productive and useful than watching cat videos.[1]


  1. I don’t watch cat videos. I am not judging people who have or who do, I just don’t enjoy cat videos. But I recognize they represent the quintessential work avoidance time suck. So what I’m trying to say is transcribing and translating Ptolemy’s Ὁ Καρπός is also work avoidance but marginally less useless.  ↩

Aphorisms 4 and 5 from Ptolemy’s Ὁ Καρπός

Let’s follow our reader through a couple more aphorisms from Ptolemy’s Ὁ Καρπός. Again he glosses most of the Greek with Latin translations and, once again, corrects a couple scribal errors by writing the correct Greek word above the mistake (though he seems to miss a couple other mistakes).

Aphorisms 4 and 5 from Ptolemy’s Ὁ Καρπός.

And here’s a transcription of these two aphorisms:

ἡ ἐπιτηδία ψυχὴ πρὸϲ γνωσιν μάλλον τυγχάνει τοῦ ἀληθοῦς ἢ ὁ ἄκροϲ ἀσκήσαϲ τὴν ἐπιστήμην.
δύναται ὁ ἐπιστήμων πολλὰϲ ἀποτρέψασθαι ἐνεργείας τῶν ἀστέρων, ὅτε ἐστὶν ἠδήμων τῆσ φύσεωϲ αὐτῶν, καὶ πρὸ παρὰσκεβασαι ἑαυτὸν πρὸϲ τὰϲ συμπτώσεισ τῶν ἐνεργειῶν.

Our reader seemed to think the “τὰϲ συμπτώσεισ” in aphorism 5 should be “τῆς συμπτώσεως” and made the correction above the Greek. But he didn’t correct the “παρὰσκεβασαι,” which should have been “προπαρὰσκευασαι” (though he glossed it acceptably as “preparare”).

This copy of the text varies in different ways from other copies. Here, for comparison, are aphorisms 4 and 5 from two other manuscripts:

Comparison of Aphorisms δ’ and ε’ in Three Different Manuscripts
Aphorism BnF gr. 2180 Vat. Barb. gr. 127 ÖNB med. gr. 49
δ’ ἡ ἐπιτηδία ψυχὴ πρὸϲ γνωσιν μάλλον τυγχάνει τοῦ ἀληθοῦς ἢ ὁ ἄκροϲ ἀσκήσαϲ τὴν ἐπιστήμην. ἡ ἐπιτηδίεα ψυχὴ πρὸσ γνωσιν πλέον τυγχάνει τοῦ ἀληθοῦσ ἢ ὁ ἄκρωϲ ἀσκήσαϲ τὴν ἐπιστήμην. ἡ ἐπιτηδία ψυχὴ πρὸσ γνωσιν πλέον ἐπί τυγχάνει τοῦ ἀληθοῦσ ἢ ὁ ἄκρωσ ασκήσασ τὴν ἐπιστήμην.
ε’ δύναται ὁ ἐπιστήμων πολλὰϲ ἀποτρέψασθαι ἐνεργείας τῶν ἀστέρων, ὅτε ἐστὶν ἠδήμων τῆσ φύσεωϲ αὐτῶν, καὶ προπαρασκεβασαι ἑαυτὸν πρὸϲ τὰϲ συμπτώσεισ τῶν ἐνεργειῶν. δύναται ἐπιστήμων πολλὰϲ ἀποτρέψασθαι ἐνεργείας τῶν ἀστέρων, ὅτε ἐστὶν εἰδήμων τῆϲ φύσεωϲ αὐτῶν, καὶ προπαρὰσκευασαι ἑαυτὸν πρὸ τῆς συμπτώσεως τῶν ἐνεργειῶν. δύναται ὁ ἐπιστήμων πολλὰσ ἀποτρέψασθαι ἐνεργείασ τῶν ἀστέρων, ὅτε ἐστὶν εἰδήμων τῆσ φύσεωσ αὐτῶν, καὶ παρὰσκευασαι ἑαυτὸν, πρὸ τὴς συμπτώσεως τῶν ἐνεργειῶν.
The Hungarian scholar Johannes Sambucus owned this lovely 16th-century copy of Ptolemy’s Ὁ Καρπός.

And once again, here are initial English translations of these two aphorisms.

Translations of Ptolemy’s Aphorisms δ’ and ε’ from BnF gr. 2180
Aphorism Greek English
δ’ ἡ ἐπιτηδία ψυχὴ πρὸϲ γνωσιν μάλλον τυγχάνει τοῦ ἀληθοῦς ἢ ὁ ἄκροϲ ἀσκήσαϲ τὴν ἐπιστήμην A mind suited to higher knowledge attains truth more than the skillful man practicing science.
ε’ δύναται ὁ ἐπιστήμων πολλὰϲ ἀποτρέψασθαι ἐνεργείας τῶν ἀστέρων, ὅτε ἐστὶν ἠδήμων τῆσ φύσεωϲ αὐτῶν, καὶ προπαρασκεβασαι ἑαυτὸν πρὸϲ τὰϲ συμπτώσεισ τῶν ἐνεργειῶν. A wise man is able to avert many influences of the stars when he is acquainted with their nature, and to prepare himself for the accidents of their influences.

More fun with Ptolemy’s Ὁ Καρπός

Our premodern reader didn’t just add Latin glosses to his copy of Ptolemy’s Ὁ Καρπός, now and then he emended the Greek. For example, on the second aphorism the copiest wrote “τὴν κρεῖττον”. The reader seems to have been sufficiently bothered by this mistake that he wrote the correct article, “τὸ,” above the incorrect “τὴν.”

The second and third aphorism from the copy of Ptolemy’s Ὁ Καρπός in BnF gr. 2180.

Here’s a transcription of second and third aphorisms (including sigma chaos):

ὅτε ἐπιζητήσει τὴν κρεῖττον ὁ βουλόμενοϲ, οὐκ ἔσται μεταξὺ αὐτοῦ καὶ τῆϲ ἰδέαϲ ἀυτοῦ τοῦ πράγματοϲ διαφορά τισ.

ὁ πρόϲ τι πρᾶγμα ἐπιτήδιοϲ ἕξει πάντωϲ καὶ τὸν δηλοῦντα [ἀστέρα] τοιοῦτον ἐνδύναμον ἐν τῷ ἰδίῳ γενεθλίῳ.

In other manuscripts Ptolemy’s second aphorism two seems displays a bit of drift toward the end, where “τοῦ πράγματος διαφορά” sometimes becomes the grammatically problematic “ἀυτοῦ πράγματων διαφορά” (as in Biblioteca Angelica, gr. 029 below) and sometimes the grammatically ok “τῶν πραγμάτων διαφορά.” The wording in the third aphorism likewise varies a bit toward the end, where “ἰδίῳ γενεθλίῳ” becomes “ὀικείῳ γενεθλίῳ.” Two 14th-century manuscripts illustrate these variations. Biblioteca Angelica, gr. 029 shows the variation in both aphorisms; Biblioteca Vallicelliana, fonds principal F 086 illustrates the variation in just the third aphorism.

Variations of Aphorisms β’ and γ’ from 14th-cent. Mss.
Aphorism Biblioteca Angelica, gr. 029 Biblioteca Vallicelliana, fonds principal F 086
β’ ὅτε ἐπιζητήσει τὸ κρεῖττον ὁ βουλόμενος, οὐκ ἔσται μηταξὺ αὐτοῦ καὶ τῆς ἰδέασ ἀυτοῦ πράγματων διαφορά τίσ. ὅτε ἐπιζητήσει τὸ κρεῖττον ὁ βουλόμενος, οὐκ ἔσται μεταξὺ αὐτοῦ καὶ τῆς ἰδέασ τοῦ τοῦ πράγματος διαφορά τις.
γ’ ὁ πρόσ τι πρᾶγμα ἐπιτήδειοσ, ἕξει πάντωσ καὶ τὸν δηλοῦντα [ἀστέρα] τὸ τοιοῦτον ἐνδύναμον ἐν τῷ ὀικείῳ γενεθλίῳ. ὁ πρός τι πρᾶγμα ἐπιτήδειος, ἕξει πάντωσ καὶ τὸν δηλοῦντα [missing ἀστέρα] τὸ τοιοῦτον ἐνδύναμον ἐν τῷ ὀικείῳ γενεθλίῳ.

This particular variation carries over into some fifteenth-century manuscripts, e.g., Vatican Barb.gr.127 or BnF gr. 2027, and even sixteenth-century copies, e.g., Harley ms 5597.

The third aphorism from Ptolemy’s Ὁ Καρπός, with the common variant highlighted (BL Harley ms. 5597).

As promised in the previous post, Struggling with Ptolemy’s Ὁ Καρπός, here are initial translations of the second and third aphorisms (with the same caveat that I reserve the right to admit this translation is horrible and to change it).

Translations of Ptolemy’s Aphorisms β’ and γ’ from BnF gr. 2180
Aphorism Greek English
β’ ὅτε ἐπιζητήσει τὴν (corrected above to τὸ) κρεῖττον ὁ βουλόμενοϲ, οὐκ ἔσται μηταξὺ αὐτοῦ καὶ τῆς ἰδέαϲ ἀυτοῦ τοῦ πράγματοϲ διαφορά τισ. When anyone seeks the superior thing, there will not be a particular difference between it and the form of the thing itself.
γ’ ὁ πρόϲ τι πρᾶγμα ἐπιτήδιοϲ ἕξει πάντωϲ καὶ τὸν δηλοῦντα [ἀστέρα] τοιοῦτον ἐνδύναμον ἐν τῷ ἰδίῳ γενεθλίῳ. He who is suited to a particular activity will certainly have the star signifying such an influence in his own nativity.

Study of the variations and other scholarly contributions will have to wait. For the moment, I’m just having fun working through the copy of Ptolemy’s Ὁ Καρπός in BnF gr. 2180. I confess, I’m also enjoying the amazing botanical illustrations, such as this one:[1]

One of the many amazing botanical illustrations from BnF 2180.

  1. If you’re interested in Byzantine herbals and botanical illustrations, this ms is loaded with amazing images of plants. Unfortunately, many of the illustrations were never added to the manuscript, just large blank spaces awaiting a skilled illustrator.  ↩

Struggling with Ptolemy’s Ὁ Καρπός

It is perversely reassuring to see that other people have had to labor to understand Ptolemy’s aphorisms.[1] Consequently, this 15th-century copy of Ptolemy’s Ὁ Καρπός (more widely known by its Latin title, Centiloquium) makes my day.

Copied sometime in the latter half of the fifteenth century by a certain George Mediates, this manuscript was later owned by Jean Hurault de Boistaillé, who amassed an impressive collection of Greek manuscripts, see, e.g., this list.[2] Philippe Hurault de Cheverny inherited Boistaillé’s manuscripts. Shortly after his death in 1620 the collection was purchased for the Bibliothèque royale de France.

A page from a manuscript copy of Ptolemy’s Ὁ Καρπός with numerous Latin interlineations.

Some premodern reader worked through Ptolemy’s text adding Latin translations above most of the Greek words. He worked diligently through the first 50 or so aphorisms, adding such interlinear glosses throughout. Then he suddenly stopped.

An enlargement showing more clearly the interlinear, Latin glosses.

Here is a transcription of the preface and the first aphorism (most of what you see in the image immediately above):

βιβλίον κλαυδίου πτολομαίου ὁ λεγόμενοϲ καρπόϲ κεφαλεα ρ’
Προεκθέμενοι, ὦ σῦρε, τὰϲ ἐνεργείαϲ τῶν ἀστέρων τὰϲ ἐν τῷ ϲυνθέτῳ διενεργουμένας κόϲμῳ κατὰ πολλὺ λυσιτελεισ, ουσας πρὸϲ τὴν πρόγνωσιν, καὶ τὸ παρὸν ἐξεθέμεθα πόνημα, ὅπερ καρπόϲ ἐστι τῶν βιβλίων ἐκείνων, γυμνασθὲν διὰ τῆσ πείρασ τὴ ἀληθεία σύστοιχον

δεῖ οὖν τὸν μέλλοντα τοῦτω απιέναι προότερον διελθεῖν τὰϲ τῆσ ἐπιστήμης ἁπάσας μεθόδους, εἶτα πρὸϲ τὴν ἀνάγνωσιν τουτῶν χωρῆσαι.

ἀπὸ σοῦ καὶ ἀπὸ τῆϲ ἐπιστήμηϲ οὐ γάρ ἐστι δυνατὸν τὸν ἐπιστήμοναν τὰϲ μερικὰσ ἰδέαϲ τῶν πραγμάτων ἀναγκεῖλαι, ὥσπερ οὐδὲ ἡ αἴσθησισ δέχεται τὴν μερικὴν ἰδέαν τοῦ αἰσθητοῦ ἀλλά τιναν γενικήν. καὶ δεῖ τὸν μετιόντα καταστοχάζεσθαι τῶν πραγμάτων μόνοι γὰρ οἱ ἐνθουσιοντες προλέγουσι τὰ μερικά.[3]

A number of things about this copy interest me, starting with the Greek itself. Perhaps the least significant: this scribe ranges freely across the three forms of sigma with no apparent rhyme or reason: the typical internal form, σ, occurs frequently at the end of words; the typical Byzantine form, ϲ, appears at the beginning and end of words; and the terminal form, ς, appears only occasionally at the end of a word. Further, the scribe either misspells a number of words or, as seems possible in some cases, spells them to capture pronunciation. Then there are the places where the wording itself varies from other copies.

For those who care, here’s a comparison of the preface and first aphorism in BnF gr. 2180 and those in the now quite old critical edition (I added line breaks to the critical edition text to make it easier to compare to BnF gr. 2180).

A Comparison of BnF gr. 2180 and the critical edition
BnF gr. 2180 Critical edition
Preface Προεκθέμενοι, ὦ σῦρε, τὰϲ ἐνεργείαϲ τῶν ἀστέρων τὰϲ ἐν τῷ ϲυνθέτῳ διενεργουμένας κόϲμῳ κατὰ πολλὺ λυσιτελεισ, ουσας πρὸϲ τὴν πρόγνωσιν, καὶ τὸ παρὸν ἐξεθέμεθα πόνημα, ὅπερ καρπόϲ ἐστι τῶν βιβλίων ἐκείνων, γυμνασθὲν διὰ τῆσ πείρασ τὴ ἀληθεία σύστοιχον.

δεῖ οὖν τὸν μέλλοντα τοῦτω απιέναι προότερον διελθεῖν τὰϲ τῆσ ἐπιστήμης ἁπάσας μεθόδους, εἶτα πρὸϲ τὴν ἀνάγνωσιν τουτῶν χωρῆσαι.

Προεκθέμενοι, ὦ Σῦρε, τὰς ἐνεργείας τῶν ἀστέρων τὰς ἐν τῷ συνθέτῳ διενεργουμένας κόσμῳ καὶ πολὺ λυσιτελούσας πρὸς τὴν πρόγνωσιν, καὶ τὸ παρὸν ἐξεθέμεθα πόνημα, ὅπερ καρπός ἐστι τῶν βιβλίων ἐκείνων, γυμνασθὲν διὰ πείρας.

δεῖ οὖν τὸν μέλλοντα τοῦτο μετιέναι πρότερον διελθεῖν τὰς τῆς ἐπιστήμης ἁπάσας μεθόδους, εἶτα πρὸς τὴν ἀνάγνωσιν τούτου χωρῆσαι.

First aphorism ἀπὸ σοῦ καὶ ἀπὸ τῆϲ ἐπιστήμηϲ οὐ γάρ ἐστι δυνατὸν τὸν ἐπιστήμοναν τὰϲ μερικὰσ ἰδέαϲ τῶν πραγμάτων ἀναγκεῖλαι, ὥσπερ οὐδὲ ἡ αἴσθησισ δέχεται τὴν μερικὴν ἰδέαν τοῦ αἰσθητοῦ ἀλλά τιναν γενικήν. καὶ δεῖ τὸν μετιόντα καταστοχάζεσθαι τῶν πραγμάτων μόνοι γὰρ οἱ ἐνθουσιοντες προλέγουσι τὰ μερικά. Ἀπὸ σοῦ καὶ ἀπὸ τῆς ἐπιστήμης οὐ γάρ ἐστι δυνατὸν τῷ ἐπιστήμονι τὰς μερικὰς ἰδέας τῶν πραγμάτων ἀναγγεῖλαι, ὥσπερ οὐδὲ ἡ αἴσθησις δέχεται τὴν μερικὴν ἰδέαν τοῦ αἰσθητοῦ ἀλλά τινα γενικήν. καὶ δεῖ τὸν μετιόντα καταστοχάζεσθαι τῶν πραγμάτων· μόνοι γὰρ οἱ ἐνθουσιῶντες προλέγουσι καὶ τὰ μερικά.

I have nothing profound to add to this post, no insight to give. The goal of this post was merely to draw attention to this Byzantine copy of Ptolemy’s Ὁ Καρπός because, well, I find it interesting. Now back to work on this text.


  1. Modern scholarship has shown to its own satisfaction that the collection of aphorisms attributed to Ptolemy, well known in Latin as the Centiloquium, were not, in fact, composed by Ptolemy. For the moment, I don’t care if the text was or was not written by Ptolemy. The copiest and the pre-modern owners of this manuscript thought Ptolemy had composed the aphorisms—for my purposes now, that’s more important than insisting on a ps- prefix for Ptolemy.  ↩

  2. See also D. Jackson, “The Greek Manuscripts of Jean Hurault de Boistaillé,” Studi italiani di filologia classica 2(2004): 209–252.  ↩

  3. Translations from the Latin versions of the Centiloquium are easy to find. I know of only one translation from the Greek. A second, it seems to me, could be useful. So I will slowly add translations from the Greek. Here, then, is a really rough translation of the first aphorism (I reserve the right to admit I totally messed up this translation and to improve it when I realize that):

    For it is not possible that the wise man from himself or from knowledge reports the particular forms of events, just as perception cannot grasp the particular form of the thing perceived but a certain general form. And so it is necessary to infer the course of events, for only those inspired by a god can predict the particulars.  ↩