Tag: Isaac Casaubon

Byzantine Wind Diagram

A 16th-century copy of a Byzantine wind diagram from Royal MS 16 C XII, fol. 49r.

This diagram, titled “Diagram about thunder, storms, rainstorms, and earthquakes,” seems to be a type of wind diagram, which arranged the terrestrial elements, planetary aspects, meteorological phenomena, and winds, signs of the zodiac, and the cardinal directions. Starting from the center we see the four elements—earth, water, air, fire—surrounded by the common planetary aspects. The first square is labeled παναχῆ, “everywhere,” then meteorological phenomena, e.g., lightning, thunder, earthquakes, hail, storms, then the 12 winds, then the signs of the zodiac. The very top of the diagram is labeled “south pole;” the bottom is labeled “north pole.” In red across the top half (starting at the 9 o’clock position) is “From the right (δεξιων) parts of the cosmos;” across the bottom half (starting at the 3 o’clock position) is “From the left parts of the cosmos.”

These diagrams have received little attention, which has (predictably) focused on the Latin tradition.[1] Such diagrams appear regularly in Byzantine astronomical manuscripts.

This diagram is part of a collection of astronomical/cosmological diagrams in Royal MS 16 C XII, a later 16th-century manuscript first owned by Isaac Casaubon, the brilliant classical scholar and historian.[2] Other texts in the codex include the trio of texts on the astrolabe—Philoponus’, Ammonius’, and Gregoras’[3]—as well as a printed text on the astrolabe by Nikolaus Sophianos.


  1. See B. Obrist, “Wind Diagrams and Medieval Cosmology,” Speculum 72(1997): 33–84 (JSTOR’s paywall will likely exclude you, sorry).  ↩

  2. See Hos Advent Calendar 1 for another diagram from this codex.  ↩

  3. See HoS Advent Calendar 3 for another codex with that trio of texts.  ↩

A Byzantine Diagram of the Cosmos

A 16th-century copy of a Byzantine diagram of the geocentric cosmos from Royal MS 16 C XII, fol. 45r.
A 16th-century copy of a Byzantine diagram of the geocentric cosmos from Royal MS 16 C XII, fol. 45r.

This diagram represents the geocentric cosmos, with the earth (γῆ) at the center, surrounded by spheres of the Moon (σελήν), Mercury (ἐρμῆς), Venus (ἀφροδίτη), the sun, Mars (ἄρης), Jupiter (ζεύς), and Saturn (κρόνος).[1] An incomplete ring for the signs of the zodiac encircles the planetary spheres—only the symbol for Aries was added. Finally, the names of the zodiac were labeled in red on the outside, starting at 3 o’clock and proceeding counter clockwise:

  • Aries (κριός)
  • Taurus (ταῦρος)
  • Gemini (δίδυμι)
  • Cancer (καρκίνος)
  • Leo (λέων)
  • Virgo (παρθένος)
  • Libra (ζυγός)
  • Scoprio (σκορπιός)
  • Sagittarius (τοξότης)
  • Capricorn (αἰγώκερως (should be αἰγόκερως))
  • Aquarius (ὕδροχόος)
  • Pisces (ἰχθύες)

This diagram is part of a collection of astronomical diagrams in Royal MS 16 C XII, a latter 16th-century manuscript first owned by the brilliant classical scholar and historian Isaac Casaubon. Other texts in the in the codex all concern the construction and use of the astrolabe (the first text is a printed edition from 1544, the rest are manuscripts).


  1. The ordering of the planets in this diagram poses a bit of a puzzle. As labeled, it suggests that the planetary order was: Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, [sun], Jupiter, Saturn. I’ve never come across that order before, i.e., Mars below the sun. What makes more sense is that the sun’s sphere, the fourth from the center, is instead labeled “ἄρης” because Mars’s sphere had been colored black (possibly before labeling any of them). Then, since writing wouldn’t show up on the black sphere, the person labeled Mars on the sphere below it, the sun’s.  ↩