Paul of Alexandria

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(fl. Alexandria, ca. A.D. 378)


Paul composed an elementary textbook, Eἰ̓σαγωγιĸά which was designed to instruct students in the fundamental concepts of astrology. The second edition of this brief text, addressed to his son Cronamon, is extant; in chapter twenty Paul gives as an example for the determination of the weekday the computation for “today, 20 Mecheir 94 Diocletian,” or 14 February A.D. 378. No further biographical details are known.

Paul names as his sources Ptolemy, Apollinarius, Apollonius of Laodicea, the Panaretus (of Hermes Trismegistus), the wise men of the Egyptians, and Hermes Trismegistus himself. In addition, relations of his text to a number of other astrological texts—for example, those of Firmicus Maternus and Rhetorius—can be discerned. Astronomically, Paul was not incompetent but never became profound. He discussed the planets’ heliacal risings and settings (ch. 14) and their stationary points (ch. 15; he referred the reader desiring accurate computations to Ptolemy’s Handy Tables); and he treated the moon’s phases (ch. 16), the sun’s longitude for any day (ch. 28), and the establishment of the ascendant (ch. 29) and the midheaven (ch. 30).

Paul’s work became reasonably popular. It was used as the basis for a course of lectures delivered at Alexandria between May and July A.D. 564—probably by Olympiodorus (Heliodori, ut dicitur, in Paulun Alexandrinum Commentarium, E. Boer, ed. [Leipzig, 1962]; compare L. G. Westerink, “Ein astrologisches Kolleg aus dem Jahre 564,” in Byzantinische Zeitschrift, 64 [1971], 6–21). Chapters 1 and 2 (p. 1, line 1—p. 10, line 8 in E. Boer’s edition) were translated into Armenian by Ananias of Shirak in the seventh century (A. G. Abraharnyan, ed., item 21 of Ananias’ collected works [Yerevan, 1944], pp. 327–330. I owe this reference to Prof. R. C. Thompson of Harvard). A summary of Paul’s work was included in an important Byzantine treatise on astrological authorities (pp. xxi—xxiv in E. Boer’s ed.), and the text was illuminated by numerous scholia (pp. 102–134, in E. Boer’s ed.), at least some of which are of the twelfth century (O. Neugebauer, in E. Boer’s ed., pp. 136–137).

Modern interest in Paul has largely centered on two problems. Al-Bīrūnī alleged that the Indian astronomer Pauliśa (or Puliśa) was a Greek, Paulus of Alexandria. Although al-Bīrūnī later corrected his error, many more recent scholars have continued to repeat it. The reasons for the rejection of the identification will be found in O. Neugebauer and D. Pingree, The Pañcasiddhāntikā of Varāhamihira,I (Copenhagen, 1970), 12–13 (Pauliśa’s peculiar Greco-Babylonian astronomy is summarized by Varahamihira in his Pañcasiddhāntikā, I , 11–13; III ; VI–VII ; and XVII , 65–80 [?]); and in D. Pingree, “The Later Paulisasiddhanta,” in Centaurus, 14 (1969), 172–241, where it is shown that al-Bīrūnī’s Pauliśasiddhānta was written at Sthāneśvara in the eighth century, and that it follows the ārdharātrikapakṣa that was founded by Āryabhata.

Several scholars have contended that there is a relation of direct dependence between a geographical list in Acts of the Apostles and the astrological geography in Paul’s Eἰ̓σαγωγιĸά. This relation has been disproved by B. M. Metzger, “Ancient Astrological Geography and Acts 2: 9–11,” in W. W. Gasque and R. P. Martin, eds., Apostolic History and the Gospel (Exeter, 1970), 123–133.


The standard ed. of Paul is E. Boer, Pauli Alexandrini Elementa apotelesmatica (Leipzig, 1958). The articles on Paul by W. Gundel, in Pauly-Wissowa, Real-Encyclopädie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft, XVIII , pt. 2, cols. 2376–2386; and W. Gundel and H. G. Gundel, Astrologumena (Wiesbaden, 1966), 236–239, are no longer of much value.

David Pingree