Valens, Vettius

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(b. Antioch, Syria, 8 February 120 CE [?]), astrology.

Life. Apart from the fact that Valens was born in Antioch scholars know very little about the life of the Greek astrologer. He seems to have published both his birth horoscope and his conception horoscope anonymously. The former dates from 8 February 120 CE and occurs twenty-one times throughout his work (David Pingree, 1986, pp. V and XIX; Otto Neugebauer and Henry Bartlett van Hoesen, 1959, pp. 116f.; Stephan Heilen: Hor. gr. 120.II.08), whereas the horoscope based on the date of his conception is cast for 13 May 119 CE, presumably back-dated from the birthdate (Val. 3,10,4: Pingree, 1986, p. V; Katrin Frommhold, 2004, pp. 110–118; Heilen: Hor. gr. 119.V.13). Valens was thus a slightly younger contemporary of Ptolemy (Neugebauer, 1954), whose works he knew and commented on (Alexander Jones, 1990). He states that in his youth he had to cope with avaricious teachers and furthermore mentions several journeys, especially to Egypt (Val. 4,11,4).

Work. Vettius Valens composed a comprehensive companion to astrology in Greek entitled, Avθoλoγ´αi [anthologíai]. This textbook addressed a certain Markos (Val. 7,6,230. 9,1,1. 9,15,11; and Val. 4,11,11 αδελ∝έ[adelphé] “brother” could be metaphorical) and is divided into nine books. He wrote the bulk of his work from 152 to 162 CE, using earlier material in the earlier books and perhaps making a few additions in later years (Neugebauer, 1954).

The text has been corrupted and suddenly breaks off at the end of book nine. What survives is a recension from the fifth century. Apart from this, the book contains an unsystematic collection of various treatises that deal with the most important methods of astrology. The first three books provide an introduction to the topic: book one deals with the planets, the zodiac and the ascendant, book two with the geometrical aspects and the lots of heaven, and book three with chronocratories (rulership of certain units of time). From book four onwards, however, the items are put forward without any systematic order.

The last book focuses on katarchic horoscopy (interrogations about the most favorable beginning of an action)—a topic that was often dealt with at the end of a treatise (cf. Dorotheus and Hephaestio). It appears that the manual was not intended to be a literary unit (Komorowska, 2004, p. 413), but grew up continuously during the practical work. The state of the textual transmission is typical of literary productions intended for usage. As the author himself considered his books to be rather poor (îδiωτiκωτέρας[idiótikóteras]), he apologized bringing forward the weakness of his eyes and the death of a beloved pupil as an excuse (Val. 3,13,16).

Significance. Compared with the more theoretical and philosophical character of Ptolemy’s Apotelesmatika, Valens’s Anthologiai is a handbook of a practitioner who applied cruder astronomical techniques. Its enormous value consists in its transmission of a myriad of astrological methods employed by astrologers like Nechepso and Petosiris (Valens preserved some iambic fragments), Teucer of Babylon, Critodemus (from the Òρασiς [Horasis]), Hipparchus, Hypsikles (’Avα∝oρiκóς [Anaphorikos]), Timaeus, Thrasyllus, and others. He claimed to have used the tables of Hipparchus, Sudines, Kidenas, Apollonius (?), and Apollinarius (Val. 9,11,10: Jones, 1990, pp.13–17). Valens explained in detail the complex rule of Petosiris for calculating the date of conception (Val. 2,21; Frommhold, 2004, pp. 88–130). Moreover, he transmitted the large amount of one-hundred twenty-three (or at least one-hundred twenty-one) horo-scopes mainly cast between 140 and 173 CE for individuals who were born between 37 and 173 CE (Neugebauer and van Hoesen, 1959, passim; Pingree, 1986, pp. V–VII and the list on XVIII–XX, corrected by Heilen). The owner of the earliest horoscope, which probably was borrowed from a commentary on Critodemus, has been identified with Nero (Val. 5,7,20–5,7,35; Neugebauer and van Hoesen, 1959, p. 78f.; Pingree, 1986, p. VI; Heilen; first identified by Benny Reece, 1969). The latest prediction concerns the year 184 CE (Val. 7,4,11–15), a later supplement the year 431 CE (Val. Add. I 16–37). The author compares different horoscopes to each other. Among these, to mention only one case, an inheritance quarrel of a couple: Whereas the husband succeeds in the first trial, his wife emerged victorious in the second (Val. 7,6,27–44). In an extreme case of synkrisis Valens juxtaposes six horoscopes (including his own) of individuals born between 118 and 133 CE. The tertium comparationis is their shared fate: They nearly drown when they shipwrecked during a sea storm in the spring of 154 CE (Val. 7,6,127–160). Valens did this in order to refute the traditional Carneadean argument that tried to disparage astrology by claiming that numerous individuals of different nativity can not perish in the same moment.

Intention and Method. Valens compiled his compendium for an initiated and advanced public, who would handle his work with caution, avoid misuse, and would not deliver it to non-authorized persons. To underline this, he invoked Heaven, the Zodiac, Sun and Moon, and the five Planets by oath (Val. 4,11,11; 7,1,1–4).

He would not create envy (∝θóvoς[phthónos]), but rather encouraged the adepts of the lore and engender willingness (Val. 3,10,19πρoθμìα[prothymía]). He wanted to lead the students in an anagogical way “from the most tiny to greater things” (Val. 7,1,1 απòτωvέλα×ìστωvέπαμεìςovα[apò tón elachistón epì tà meízona]) by inventing the image of a gradual ascension (δiαβαθμωv [dià bathmón]) to a sanctuary.

Style. Valens boasted of his clear language, which he claimed to be different from the obscurity of many other writers. Although sometimes mysterious, he strove at clearness by putting forward evidence and by employing comparisons (Otto Schönberger and Eberhard Knobloch, 2004, p. 360f.).

Several tables facilitate the use of his work. He cited some verses from Homer, the Orphika and Cleanthes. Because astrology was largely impregnated with stoic thought, he was an advocate of determinism: People are “soldiers of the Destiny” (Val. 5,6,9: στρατiωταi τηςεíμαρμέvης[stratiótai tes heimarménes]) and have to execute their pre-established parts (Val. 5,6,9–11).

Influence. The,’Avθoλoγíαi[Anthologíai] have been used by Hephaestio of Thebes in the beginning of the fifth, by Rhetorius of Alexandria in the beginning of the seventh and by Theophilus of Edessa in the eighth centuries. Even in its unarranged form the Greek text became fragmentary at the latest in the seventh century. An intermediary, lost Pahlavi-version from the third century was translated into Arabic. Vettius Valens was highly esteemed by Arabian and Persian astrologers who drew several epitomai from his work. A large part of the fifth book has been compiled for the medieval Liber Hermetis. (Pingree, 1986, pp. 434–453: Appendix p. XX; synoptic edition by Simonetta Feraboli, 1994). Because of this high estimation several other works have been published under his name such as the “Useful Instruction” (CCAG IV [1903],p. 146 Xρησμα τε×vωέv[Chresma technóthén]), “About the paranatellonta of each degree” (CCAG I [1898], p. 84,18. Περí τωvπαραvατελλovωvέκαστηςμoíρας[Perì tón paranatellóntón hekástes moíras]), and the “Judgment of Valens by Mahomet” (CCAG V 3 [1910] pp. 110-121: Kρíσi; Oύάλεvτoςδiά τóv Moυ×oυμετ[Krísis Valentos dià tòn Muchúmet]). Because of its practical character the work is more appreciated by modern believers than the Tetrabiblos of Ptolemy.



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Wolfgang Hübner