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Severus Sebokht, On the Constellations.  Revue de l'Orient Chretien (1929) pp. 344-... (Partial translation)

Another work of the same holy Severus,  bishop of Kinnesrin, who is named Sebokht of Nisibis, on the figures which are said to be visible in the sky, whether they are by nature or by convention; on their rising and setting.  On the circles, that is the zones of the sphere and the heights of poles and the latitude of the climates. On the measure of heaven and earth, on the inhabited and uninhabited parts which are found there. There are 18 chapters. 1


Chapter 1. That the figures (constellations) which are seen in the sky are not by nature, but only by convention.2

[1] Since you want to know, O friend of science, if the figures (constellations) that are spoken of as on the sphere of heaven ---- I mean those which are on the zone or on the circle called the zodiac, and those which are to the north or the south of this circle, like the 4 other zones, which are said to be placed among them 3 are really by nature such as they are called or if they are really thus by convention and in words, like also the zones or circles,  because there are not only some peoples or uneducated ones, not one people or one language who give them some names and appellations, but many peoples and men very renowned in philosophy and even, to tell the truth, all the peoples and all the languages ---- I will tell you on this subject, O friend of truth, in a few words, that which seems to me good and true.

[2] Above it, it is necessary for us to make known to the listener who wants to learn that everything that we want to teach ---- i.e. to make known to others using words ---- cannot be taught without (employing) names and words, which are used to discuss things which exist by nature or those which exist by convention.  Therefore the eloquent philosopher listed four things that he said firstly are simple, (i.e.) things to express (fol. 78 v) or things with which to express. I mean:  events, thoughts, words and writings. Some (exist) for everyone, namely events and thoughts, and the others not, namely words and writings.  So it can be seen from this that the first (two) must be expressed and that the last two will be used to express. For example, the sky and earth and the other elements (στοιχεῖον) which result from them are first {type} and must be expressed, they are identical for everyone, because they exist by nature. But names, words and writings are the latter {type} and are used to express things; they are not identical for every man |346 because they are a matter of convention.  There is neither the means nor the possibility of teaching or of learning something about what exists by nature without employing names and denominations which are conventions and fictions, as I said.

[3] As some of the things mentioned are common and others particular, it was necessary also to create common names and proper names.  When there are many beings, which have the same nature to which (one gives) a common name, we cannot indicate each one of them by this common name (for example) man, because it does not give us a specific or known expression. But the proper name of each, for example Peter and Paul, determines the expression and it is more specific.  The same remark applies to all the other things which have between them a common part. 

[4] About these figures (constellations) which are said to be in the sphere of the sky, this is what we have to say.  When the astronomical philosopher wanted to inform us about these stars which appear in this sphere of the fixed stars, how many and which are fixed in the circle (zone) in which the sun, the moon and the five others which are called planets circulate, those which (fol. 79r) belong to the zodiac when they circulate at certain times in longitude and in latitude in this circle (zone) of the zodiac; and again how many and which are those which are away from the zodiac, to the north and south of it;  and which are those which do not set ---- I mean those which are in the northern zone which do not set;  i.e. around the North Pole ---- and which are those which sometimes rise (without one seeing them set) and sometimes set (without one seeing them rise);  and, facing those which rise, which are those which set, and facing those which set, which are those which rise, and which are those whose rising advances and whose setting delays and conversely which are those which are slow to rise and precede (others) in setting, and  which are said (to be) in the belt of the zodiac or north or south?  and because the stars which are fixed on the sphere of the sky are numerous and without number, it was not possible that by naming them by their communal name, which is that of "star", the listeners could be given a definite and specific impression.  It was not even possible to give a name proper to each of them, because the stars are innumerable and unknowable, because they are many and massed and the greatest number of them are invisible, or because of their smallness, as we believe, or because of their elevation, which is true also, it was thus not possible for a man to imagine enough different names for their number, because He is alone That has counted the number of the stars and gave names to all, like (says) the sacred psalmist 4, because nothing of all that is escapes Him, that exists, that did exist or which will be, (being) the Creator and the cause of them all.  |347 

[5] To get anywhere, the philosopher worked cleverly and very ingeniously and using another very clever artifice (fol. 89 v), i.e. more intelligent:  he made the discovery, or the adaptation, {of how} to distribute the stars on the sphere, initially indeed into three parts, I mean to the circle (zone) which is named zodiac mentioned earlier, and to the part to the north, and to that to the south, and he divided each of these zones into further different parts, the circle, i.e. the region, in the middle in twelve parts (the zodiacal constellations), that of the north into nineteen (constellations) and that of the south into fifteen 5 and in each of these parts, he determined a group and a figure (including)  numerous stars, and he gave to it a name from its resemblance to it does not matter which animal or because the arrangement, that is to say, the order, I mean, or the place or form of the stars which were fixed together in this part of the sky appeared to him thus, or because he found, that the majority of men thus named them according to an unspecified usage, or because he understood the poets to imagine some names and assemble some forms (constellations) according to a poetic artifice which assembles and composes bodies and animals which are not in nature and which creates names which are not common use, but (result) from presumption and analogy.

[6] For example the one called scorpion, whether it or its dart, will appear thus even  to the ignoramus (ἰδιώτης).  And like the boreal Crown, that certain Syrians name the goat-shed and the poets call the Crown of Ariadne;  like the Hydra which appears in the form of (this) animal, and the Dragon which has just this form, twisted and contorted. ---- (others are named) following the usage of a great number of men, like the (constellation) named the Eagle, or the Goat, or the Dog of the giant (Sirius), names which one finds even among barbarians.  ---- Others are (named) according to the invention of the poets, like the two (fol. 80r) Bears, and like Cepheus, and Cassiopea his wife, and Andromeda their daughter, and Perseus husband of the latter, etc.

[7] (The philosopher) neglected the majority of the stars because they could not be counted because of their multitude or could not be seen because their elevation, as was said above, he can only mention the most brilliant and largest, because it seemed to him that it was enough to indicate those, as he found them in the names of this or that form (constellation), to arrive at his goal, which was to teach their risings and their settings, and to talk most about those which, at each time, the seven travel through, I mean the sun, the moon and the five planets.  Already from this, according to what has been just said, one can conclude that it is already shown that these (constellations) only exist by convention and in word and not by nature and in truth, as the astrologers and some among the pagans have wrongly imagined. 

[8] That it is as I said, is again demonstrated clearly |348 in what the Philosopher omitted, as I said, the greatest number of stars, without devoting either indication or mention to them.  So among the stars of the boreal zone named "Arctic", after dividing this zone into four using the circles which pass through the tropical points and that are named colures, i.e. (passing) through the poles 6. In only three of these regions, he placed constellations, such as were provided to him by poetic fables;  as for the fourth part, he left it without any comment, no doubt because of the number and the low visibility of the stars which are there.  That he did this, you can see your own eyes, by looking at the bronze sphere (in margin:  astrolabe) 7 ---- (fol. 80 v) on this (sphere) the stars are marked with great exactitude, as well as man can do, with their position, their order and their (respective) distance, all those which are in the constellations that are placed on the sphere of the sky;  together with the fixed-positions  given of the two poles, north and south;  and the tropical zones;  and those of the poles;  and the circle named zodiac which obliquely intersects the tropical zones, and which is divided equally and in a fixed manner by (the large circles which pass) through the two poles, something that we develop below ---- you see there that in this fourth part of the north of which we have spoken, that which is imitated by two (half)-circles linked by the pole and of which one passes through the beginning of the ram and the other through that of cancer, (the philosopher) has indicated no constellation and has given the name of no star 8

Chapter 2.  On the same subject, that the constellations which are on the sphere are not there by nature, using more convincing demonstrations. 

[1] As we said above, the constellations received their name from their appearance, or according to the custom which existed among many people, or according to a poetic fable and not as if they were really and by nature so, but only by convention and in word, and so that one could, by certain names and (certain) appellations, count specific stars and make them known to others.  Because it is not possible for a man to testify, i.e. speak about, something without names and words, as I have already shown above. |349 

[2] This is shown to us again by this circle charged with stars which is white, i.e. obscure, which according to the common usage among all the (fol. 81r) Syrians is named the way of those which carry a pail, i.e. way of the pail (Chebil-tebna = Milky Way) and among the Greeks Galacsis (ὁ τοῦ γάλακτος),  i.e. of milk.  What man endowed with any intelligence ---- when indeed even he could forge or imagine these things which are not at all visible ---- would dare to say or to think that there are in the sky some men who carry a pail or that there is a pail in this area of the intersphere (of fixed stars), or that milk is spread or spilt in this place!  Since there is nothing of that, it follows that this is a custom that all men, and also the astronomers and poets, have given these names to the circle so furnished with stars as to cause whiteness, i.e. the obscure colour that one sees there, because of the cluster of stars which are there, i.e. their closeness to each other. 

[3] The giant (Orion)and the Chariot (the great bear) and the Pleiades and Hyades also testify to this, because each received its name because of a certain resemblance.  The divine Book itself 9 did not hesitate to name them thus according to the habit of men, because it says:  Who made the chariot and the Pleiades and Hyades and the giant 10, and who surrounded the south, and it does not mention only these, but again Arcturus imagined by the pagan fables of the poets ---- at least in the Greek version of  the Bible 11

[4] Why are we astonished that names have been imagined for stars which appear with a certain being, since men have given also names and denominations to things which do not exist.   It is so with the days and the months of the year which do not have being, i.e.  substance, but are {just} certain intervals and certain space of times. The men of this people and that have also given different denominations and ones which do not resemble each other to the rising and the setting of the Sun and to the phases of the Moon (fol. 81 v).  They have joined together and added up 365 days and six hours of the year into twelve months, and they have allotted thirty days in each month.  As for the five days which remained, some have added them onto the number of the months and have made some months of 31 days, others have carried them over to the end of all the months of the year, and the Persians have put them between the 8th and 9th month.  And all the peoples and in all the countries have given whatever names to the months that they wishes, some have given to the months the names of their gods, others the names of their kings, others have named them after the things which happened to them with the periods of the year, and others have given them various names which don’t mean anything, following some  unspecified fable.  The Persians have given  them the names of their |350 gods, not just to all the months, but also to all the days of the months and even to the five days which were apart from the months of the year 12.  The Romans, contrary to the usage of everyone, counted the days of their months from top to bottom. They divided each month into three parts which they named kalends, nones and ides.  They gave the name of kalends to  the beginning of each month, that of nones to the fifth or the seventh day, and that of the Ides to thirteenth or fourteenth day. After the kalends, i.e. the beginning of the month, they named the second day ---- let us suppose a month when the nones fell on the seven ---- "Six days before the nones", and the third "five days before the nones" and so on until the nones.  They did the same for the ides and the calends by counting the days from top to bottom, as we have said at greater length in another place.

[5] As it was necessary to distinguish times among themselves and also their parts (fol. 82r) one from another so that there was no confusion between those who speak and those who listen, or between those who give and those who receive, so that things past, present or to come are known, at what time, at what hour, in what part of the year, and on what day they took place;  all these things could not be known without denominations and names to indicate times, as has already been said many times. It was thus here necessary  again, necessarily, to impose some names.  As it was difficult for a man to give names to 365 days of the year, especially because that would have been troubling to the spirit, because of their number and abundance ---- this process would not even be convenient for teaching ----  they thus wisely joined together in one month the thirty days during which, according to their calculations, the moon completes its revolution around the sun 13 and becomes again visible, and they joined together in one year the twelve months during which the moon, like the sun, completes its revolution and gives the four seasons: spring, autumn, summer and winter.  Fifteen years they made an indiction.  Thus they set names for the months and the years, each one obviously for his own country and language, as he wanted it.  Thus there was no more confusion about time, all became easy to find and understand;  as well as the events themselves, which took place or which was taking place (fol. 82v) (in these times), and all those sort of things.  It is obvious that  |351 all this has taken place by convention and not by nature, because the knowledge of all these things is not (the same) for every man. 

[6] It can be seen that the same again has been done for the measure, i.e. the size, of the earth.  Although the earth was one and one of the four common elements, it was difficult to grasp it as a whole; the whole was divided initially into three parts, then each part into many and various countries; each country into various cities with their eparchies;  and eparchies into boroughs with their territories.  Here again the names for all the subdivisions, I mean for the parts, the countries, the cities and the boroughs, came from the names of the kings who created the countries or built the cities like Egypt, Syria and Cilicia which are named after Egyptos, Soros and Qilikos, and like Rome, Alexandria, Antioch and Constantinople which have the names of kings Romulus, Alexander, Antiochus and Constantine;  others imagined unspecified names which mean nothing;  like Mabbug and Aleppo and Qennesrin and Emesa etc.

Other countries took the names of the rivers which they surround like Mesopotamia.  And if there are other things which have been named in this manner, it is by the same process of division and naming, obviously by convention and not by nature.

[7] So that these countries with their cities and their boroughs were easier to grasp, the geographical philosophers, to say it in few words, gave names to the three parts (fol. 83r) about which we spoke for all the inhabited earth:  Europe, Libya and Asia Major.  They that in Europe there were ten regions (πίναξ), twenty-two countries, a hundred and eighteen large cities;  in Libya four regions, seventeen countries, forty-two cities;  in  Asia Major, twelve regions, forty-four countries and a hundred and ninety cities;  in all 26 regions, 83 countries 350 cities, etc 14.

[8] To point it out again, men did not hesitate to give human names even to animals without intelligence to specify them more clearly, it also sometimes happened that they gave these names to common things and birds; even more, it happened on the contrary that they gave to men the names of animals or birds or inanimate things or other things.  It also sometimes happened that they carved and painted on walls of their houses, in the palaces of the kings, in the form of women, Love and Hatred, Justice and Greed and all things similar;  i.e. the virtues and the vices which are however only manners, i.e. operations.  It is the same for those which are named νίκας,  i.e. victories, when they carry the crowns of the victories and they crown the heads of those who shone at athletics. They again represented with statues of men and women the year and months, the earth and sea, and the four winds, they painted each men and each woman |352 with a certain resemblance, bearing for example the fruits or other things which are appropriate for particular times, i.e. the seasons of the year.  It is thus obvious (fol. 83 v) here again that it is used here and in all the similar cases, by convention only and in word, and not as if these things were thus in nature. 

Chapter 3. That there are sections which have been given the names of the signs of the zodiac, because the figures that are {conventionally} allotted to these signs never existed in the zone/belt of the zodiac.

[1] In addition to what I said, the geometricians and the astronomers come to testify in favour of my thesis ---- I mean that the constellations that are said to be in the sky are not there by nature but by convention only and in words ---- because they name the twelve parts of the circle named zodiac "tmimê", i.e. sections, they have set each one to thirty μοῖρα, i.e. degrees.  The name δωδεκατημόριον, i.e. one of twelve, is also used to indicate each of the twelve ζώδια (signs of the zodiac) without ever making use of the inventions and of fables of the poets and the astrologers to indicate the twelve places of the ring about which we spoke.  They judged rightly indeed ---- with wisdom and love of the truth ---- in saying what was appropriate for the nature of things, and not what came from an unspecified imagination of the spirit, which can have no solid foundation to recommend it to an intelligent philosopher.  It is the nature of the things which imposes a solid choice, or according to the thoughts common either to all men or to most of them, or according to what is testified by the wiser and more select men.

[2] Here, as you will see again, o friend of truth, the poets and astrologers did not deal here with the nature of the things. In the seventh part of the zodiac, that they name the Balance, there is nothing there of that kind which is drawn or indicated.  He that made the bronze sphere 15 did not find here (fol. 84 r), I mean on the celestial sphere, stars which have such a form, therefore he left this part (of the sphere) without representation and without name.  Ptolemy does not give the name of Balance to this seventh part, but he generally names it the sole of the foot, or the nails (χηλαί),  namely the sole of the feet of Virgo, or the nails of the arms of the scorpion 16, because the measurement of this seventh section, as Aratus draws it 17, goes from the knees of the Virgin to the elbows |353 of the scorpion.  This location, i.e. this place, was not named Balance by them without reason, but because (the Virgin) was named ‘just’, as loving justice and judgement. Since justice was symbolised by the Balance, it is to mark the justice of the Virgin that they gave the name of Balance to this portion. Also sometimes (the Virgin) is represented with a Balance in her hand.  As for the Scorpion which is drawn in the eighth part of the circle (zodiac), except for its arms and for a small part of its belly, all its middle and its other members are outside this part, to the south of the whole zodiac. 

[3] In the same way Sagittarius 18 which is in the ninth part (of the zodiac) has inside this zone only the part which is like a man,  but all the remainder and all the horse-part which he trails after him are to the south of this zone.  The Fishes also who are supposed to be  in the twelfth part are both to the north of the zodiac, especially that which is more to the East;  it hasn’t even any part inside the zone (fol. 84v), but it is very distant not only from the diametrical line, i.e. the line of the middle described by the sun, but even from the zodiac. Moreover, these two fish are very distant one from the other, and especially their heads, the head of the first, i.e. the western, who is a little closer to the zodiac, looks to the west, and the head of the other, i.e. the eastern, looks to the north, and the space that separates them is 34 degrees in longitude and as much in latitude.  All this part of the dodecatomery, i.e. of the diametrical line of the middle of the zodiac, is lacking in any constellation and even in stars, so that all this space is empty, I mean from the middle of the eleventh (sign) until the first, from the sign named Aquarius to the sign named Aries i.e. Ewe, for 45 degrees.  It is the same for other signs.  If you look at attentively, you will find an empty space, less however than this one. 

[4] You will find also the reverse, namely that these animals, i.e. constellations, encroach on the divisions of the others. Thus the lion, which is placed in the fifth division, although all its body is rather to the north of the zodiac, has its head in the north of the fourth part, i.e. division, where Cancer is drawn;  it is represented with the head turned towards the west when it rises.  The tail of Capricorn, which is in the tenth division, enters the eleventh, which is that of Aquarius.  Aquarius itself, i.e. that which pours water, has all of its left arm with the skin, i.e. the coat which covers it (fol. 85r), extended above the back of Capricorn, above the tenth place.  We have spoken already about Virgo and the Scorpion and said that the feet of the one and the arms (greenhouses) of the other spill into the seventh division which is named Balance, and that there is no representation there of a balance.  |354

[5] Thus it is seen that in some places the constellations exceed the measurement of their own dodecatomery, which is, as we said, 30 degrees, and, in places, they are squeezed.  Thus in the constellation of Cancer, on both sides, to the east and the west, an empty space is found in his dodecatomery, because its image is squeezed and smaller. 

[6] Thus, of these twelve figures which are placed in the zodiac, some overspill in  places into the others, ---- i.e. into the dodecatomery of the others;  ---- and others, in places, are separated and a vacuum is found between them.  Some are more to the north, entirely or partly.  There are also constellations of which a part is to the north of the zodiac, another to the south, and another in the middle;  for example Gemini and Aquarius whose heads are to the north, feet to the south and the middle part of each of them is in the zodiac. 

[7] Geometricians and certain astronomers, considering all this with wisdom, have named these twelve parts of the circle the sections or dodecatomeries, as we said, and have  avoided (fol. 86v) the manufactured names, i.e. the ineptitude of the denominations imagined by the poets and astrologers, which are far away from what results from the nature of things, but made obviously for entertainment, i.e. to amuse and to delight the lascivious, the more indecent and the more luxurious listeners, or, to speak more accurately, those who lack intelligence.

[8] So that this is even better understood among those who judge all these things with reason and a right spirit, it is not improper, o friend of truth, to give here a small part of their insanities.  We will thus condemn their ineptitudes in few words and quickly, although they have already been made fun of, humiliated, and condemned by all those who have intelligence and who knows, as wise men, to separate the pure from theimpure and the holy from the profane, to speak as the sacerdotal book 19, i.e. between the truth and the lie, the just and the fable.  So let us give occasion to all those who find us and will pay attention to us to make more fun of them, and to turn them into ridiculous.  Give opportunity to the wise so that he can teach himself, teach the just and he will increase his knowledge, to employ the sacerdotal word.20  |362

Chapter 4. On the fiction (which allots) a figure to the constellations and the inept (imaginary) fables on their subject by the poets. 

[1] Let us see first their fiction about the figure of (stars) named the Bears.  In the zone of the north, which is named Ἀρκτικός  i.e that which does not set ---- I mean that which is around the North Pole ---- Aratus 21 supposed ---- as he reproduced on the bronze sphere and as he transmitted in writing 22 ---- that there are two bears, one large and the other small, (fol. 86r) and, between the two, the Dragon.  It names that which has seven brilliant stars the large (bear), which we, (and) also the divine Book, name the chariot according to its form. (He names) the little (bear) that which has seven small stars, which are closer to the North Pole (and) resemble, in the order of their layout (σχῆμα), the seven other ones mentioned before.  As for these three (stars) which belongs to the seven in each (bear) and which seems to trail lengthily in their disposition following the τετράπλευμοι (quadrilateral), i.e. the four stars which they each have, it appeared that they were the tail of each of the (bears), which has no resemblance in nature, because all bears naturally ---- as the sense of sight shows ---- have a small and (even) a very small tail, which is almost invisible and is not perceived without attention 23

[2] (Aratus) again did the same for the Hare which he drew beneath the feet of the Giant (Orion), because he gives him a long tail, which it bends above its back, like that of a dog, which does not happen in nature for hares which are around us.  See the stupidity of their drawings!  As for a certain fable (dependent) on this ineptitude, which he has composed about these bears, here it is in a few words: 

[3] There were two women who had hidden the Master of the gods in |363 the mountain of Riqton 24, in the island of Crete, at the moment when the son of Saturn fled the Corybantes 25. To honour them, they were placed at the sky under this image 26.

[4] About the Ram, which they place (fol. 86v) in the first part of the circle, in the zodiac, he says that in the past it carried Héliâ 27 and Phriscos 28 and, as it flew above the sea, the young girl Héliâ was seized with fear, and fell into the sea, and this sea was named, after her name:  Hélis Pontôs (Hellespont).  Phriscos, when he married, killed this ram, and a bridal bed was made for him from it 29; and, in his honour, this image of the ram was (placed) in the sky.

[5] About the Bull, which is in the second part of the same circle (zodiac), they say that in the past the Bull arose from the home of Poseidon (Neptune) into Hellas;  as it devastated the country, Theseus came against it and killed it.  As the gods wept, to show that the action of Theseus was great and, at the same time to appease Poseidon, they fixed this image of the bull in the sky, the first part of the bull, i.e. its first half 30, its head looking to the East; thus they represent it.

[6] About the Lion that they place in the fifth part of the zodiac, (they say) that it was from Nemea, a country of the Pelopone(s)e and that it devastated the country;  Theseus, having an quarrel with Hercules, sent him to kill it, and when he came, it killed him 31.  The gods, who wanted to show that this combat of Hercules was remarkable, drew the lion in the sky using stars.

[7] About the Virgin, Aratus says that she was a goddess and her name was Δίκη (justice) 32 and, in earliest times, when the race of men |364 was of gold, she mixed with men and women, and met them each day (fol. 87r) and spoke with them about justice.  Then when the race of men was of silver, she started to avoid mankind, she came in the evening from the mountain and didn’t have any more contact with any of them, but when they happened to meet, she warned them to come no closer.  Then when there were wars and the race of men was of bronze, at the time when they made swords, she grew to hate all the race of men and flew away into the sky.

[8] About the Scorpion that they place in the eighth section, i.e. sign, of the circle (zodiac), i.e. in the eighth dwdekathmorion (in the eighth of twelve divisions of the circle), he compiles a similar fable:

About that which is usually called the Giant by everyone, according to the form of the layout, i.e. of the figure, of the stars, and which the poets (name) Orion, (he says) that he was a hunter and that this man dissatisfied Diana 33, she who spills the blood of stags 34, because he says to her that there was no animal which could evade him, or escape his hand; this enraged Artemis (Diane);  she sent against him a reptile, the scorpion, and it pricked him and killed him; therefore both were placed in the sky, namely the giant and the scorpion, one opposite the other, to teach men not to glorify themselves and, since then, each time the Scorpion rises, the Giant flees in front of him.

[9] Others imagine another fable on this subject.  The gods 35, wanting to test the love of  men for foreigners, went down near to a certain Ourôs, king of Beotia 36, then when he had accepted them, and had killed for them a bull and refreshed them, while leaving his house they change, thrown aside 37, the skin of this bull which had been killed, and when the gods urinated on it, using their urine (fol. 87 v) and the hide of the bull they made Orion 38.  He, when he existed, lusted after Artemis (Diana); she was annoyed and sent the scorpion against him and, pricked on the heel, he died 39.  The gods, having pity on him, drew him in the sky using stars, along with the scorpion.

[10] About the Goat, i.e. Capricorn which they place |365 in the tenth δωδεκατημόριον, Aratus 40 again says that it suckled Baalchemaïn 41, but as (the latter) did not have a shield, he killed it and made a shield with its skin, when he fought with the sons of earth.  To reward it because it had raised him, he placed, in memory of it, the Capricorn in the sky 42.

[11] About the boreal Crown, which is named among the Syrians "the goat-shed", based on its form, he says that it is the crown of Ariadne.  She was the daughter of Minos, king of the Cretans, and she loved then Theseus, king of the Athenians, but Dyonisos (Bacchus) abducted her and was with her 43.  When she died, to honour her and in memory of her, Dyonisos drew for her, using stars, a crown in the sky.

[12] About the Pleiades which they place in the Bull, they say that it is the hair of Berenice.  She was a wife of the Ptolemy who was named "maker of good things 44".  As the latter was at war, she made the wish that if he returned without harm, she would cut her hair and would put it, (as) an offering 45, in the temple; which (duly) took place.  And a certain astrologer 46 rose up and said, to flatter her, that the gods had placed this hair in the sky.  From there comes the form of a bunch of grapes of this star which we name Kimâ (Pleiades) 47.

[13] Again for the one named Κύκνος (Swan), i.e. Ὅρνις, (hen), (fol. 88r) he imagined a stupidity more obscene:  He says that Ζεύς (Jupiter) wanting to have a relationship with Nemesis 48, or, as others |366 say, with Leda 49, and so as not to be seen by Ἥρα (Juno), he took the form of a swan, and he was with her whom he loved, and, for the honour of the association with Jupiter, she was drawn in the sky.

[14] About the one which is named Perseus, he says that he was the son of the Master of the gods, son-in-law of Cepheus, and husband of Andromeda. She was the daughter of  Cassiopea, wife of Cepheus;  Perseus himself was born from Danae, when the Master of the sky 50 (Jupiter) had a relationship with her in the form of gold 51.  King Polydectes once sent this Perseus to bring him the head of the Gorgon 52.  Mercury gave him a helmet and flying sandals (of the wings to the feet).  Ἥφαιστος (Vulcan) gave him a sword distinct from its wool, like a scythe 53.   As Aclios (Achilles?) 54, one of the poets, says, the three Gorgons had only one eye 55 for the three of them, with the help of which they saw, and they lent it to each other, and one day when one of them lent to her partner, (Perseus) ran in, seized it and threw it into lake Tritonis (Τριτωνίς) 56. He then went and killed (the Gorgon) and threw it in the lake, and Mrousa (?) with it.  He was happy when he had taken the head and had placed it at his side … (Jupiter) 57 honoured Perseus and placed him in the sky, holding the head of the Gorgon.

[15] He says again about Ἠριδανός that it was a river and that it was placed in the sky. (fol. 88 v) And he says that it had many pupils, i.e. many eyes.  The sisters of Phaeton, when he fell from the sky, cried over him close to the Eridanus, close to which they lived, and they became trees 58, and because of that it was named Eridanus 59

[16] Then for Ἀργώ, i.e. the Ship, of which they say that it is |367 in the series named the Dog of the Giant 60.  He says that Hercules made it from the tree named Pqôs 61.

[17] They again go on about many other similar things which are more indecent and more insane, but I have placed here in a few words and for memory only this fable of the poets and  astrologers about this or that of these constellations which are said by them to be in the sky, by leaving out the greatest part, because I am afraid to inflict 62 boredom on those which read or hear (and) so using what has been said in a few (lines), it is known to you, O friend of truth, as well as to all those who encounter (this writing), that it is with reason that we said that these constellations, i.e. these animals which are said to be in the sky, are not there by nature.  Some men, led by the spirit of contempt and very misled, for lack of long experience of piety, have imagined this, they will thus be taken aback at the same time because they seem to fight against the nature of things by these insanities and these fictions which they have forged, and (moreover) because they fight against themselves, when they destroy that which they say and believe, and which they believe and say that which they destroy 63, which is in truth of the last madness and of a spirit which is really deprived of reason, because it knows neither the things of which it speaks nor those which it attacks, understanding neither its own nor those of its adversaries.  If there is anything more unintelligent than that, it is for the listener of good sense to decide. |371

Chapter 5. Summary refutation of the astrologers and the poets on the subject of the constellations

[1] They hold that things here are determined according to destiny 64 and the distribution of the seven stars and the twelve signs of the zodiac, as they say it, and some (planets) are named dominating, and others (the signs) are their houses 65, with exaltations and |372 lowerings 66, of trigons 67 and tetragons of their facing 68 and their figures.  According to their beholdings, their testimonies and the corresponding figures, life and death are given to men, as well as health and disease, riches and poverty, lordship and servitude and all that happens in the dwelling of men. 

[2] Because they say that if their good stars are present in their exaltations, their trigons, and the tetragons of the sphere, namely in the center of life (the East) or in that of the noces (the West) as they say, or in the middle of the sky (of the honors), or in that which is under the ground which is named Parents 69, and which stars of the same influences behold them, or other influences if they are among the good ones, they arrange for good things for those which were born at this hour, those which are born will be rich and powerful, masters and lords, and of happy life.  But when the bad ones are present in these places, in their (places) of exaltation, they say, and in their trigons and that the good things have gone astray and are in humbler places, then are born the weak and the sick, the poor and the subject and loose livers.  They say many things of this kind, full of ineptitudes and chattering without end, in  intermingling and imagining figures, situations and fates, (fol. 89 v) beholdings and testimonies in the signs of the zodiac which are more appropriate to them, in the most appropriate places and figures, according to the astrology which they have created, in trying to suppress among themselves the freedom and free will that God has given men, so that they destroy the search for perfection and the volunteer tendency of each towards evil, since on their theory there is no reward for good deeds or punishment for evil ones, so that the intellectual life and all the control which results from the free will of men ---- who, according to the holy and true word, were created in the image of God 70 Almighty ---- |373 no longer has any point and they are reduced to animal instinct and an unintelligent life.

[3] If it is so for them, and if the things which they preach are certain for them as they say, (what happened to men) when there was not as yet either the tropic sign tropic of the Aries, kingdom 71 of the sun and house of Mars 72;  nor Taurus house of Venus and its trigon of day 73, exaltation of the moon and its trigon of night;  and Leo house of the sun and its trigon of day but of Jupiter during the night;  nor Virgo house and exaltation of Mercury and trigon of day of Venus and, of night, of the Moon;  nor Libra,  tropic sign and house of Venus exaltation of Saturn and lowering of the Sun, trigon of Saturn of day and Mercury of night;  nor Scorpio, house of Mars and depression of the Moon;  nor  Capricorn, also a tropic sign, house Saturn, exaltation of Mars, depression of Jupiter, trigon (fol. 90 r) of Venus the day and the Moon the night? All this only took place after many generations of men had passed, as the fables of poets say. How then, as has already been shown, was there birth, life, death, richness, poverty etc for men prior to the existence and appearance of these (signs) which give them life, death and the remainder, as (the poets) say?  If all this happened to men anyway, in the absence (of the names) of the signs of the zodiac and their figures, i.e. exaltations, depressions and all that is told in astrology on this subject, it follows that the fables of astrologers are lies, when they say that what happens to men is determined by the seven (planets) and the twelve (signs). Even if it were true as they say, that which is said (later) by the poets on the nature of each of (the signs) would be untrue, and any account on their subject would be only a fable, as well as the names that they have given them, as we mentioned above, and both (astrologers and poets) have the same root, or rather both lie, as is the case.  These figures, i.e. these animals, which are placed in the sky are thus not there by nature and in truth, but by convention and in word only, as has already been said often.

[4] Moreover the astronomical philosopher only names the "figures", and nothing else, because it is obvious that the "figure" belongs to another thing which has this figure by nature and appropriately, and |374 not to it.  It is thus in taking the figure of the animals which are close to us, and which have (such a figure) by nature as I said, that they have assimilated and named also the disposition and order and appearance of stars with words, and not because it is actually so. When cranes fly, (fol. 90 v) if a man saw that while flying they formed one of the dispositions which has been written about, he would certainly say that it is the disposition which is written (and not a figure in the sky).  Even if the stars are comparable and resemble by their appearance and their order the natural animals which are close to us, we will never say that they are thus in truth and by nature.  ---- I sufficiently think of having shown by all that which all the forms which are placed in the sky are not there in truth and by nature, but by convention only and in words.

Chapter 6. How many and which are these forms (constellations) about which we speak, and on noteworthy stars which they contain.

[1] To know how, in a certain position (of the sky), a man may know the risings and the settings of the stars, and which are those which are rising or setting opposite others, which are those which turn constantly around the pole and which do not set, which are those which rise more quickly and which set more slowly or conversely, we have said, from the very start, whether there is a cause which has constrained us to give such and such names and denominations to the positions and figures of the stars which are in the sky.  As we further wish to say and demonstrate, O friend of work, as we will be able, on all these subjects, we will thus say before everything that it is necessary for us to separate and to indicate the forms (constellations), how many and which they are; how many and which are those which are in the circle (zone) of the zodiac, or to the north or the south (of this zone). 74

|377 75 

[2] Those which are in the zodiac are twelve 76: the Ram 77;  the Bull;  Gemini;  Cancer;  Leo;  the Ear (Virgin), the Balance;  Scorpio;  Sagittarius;  Capricorn:  Aquarius; Pisces.

[3] There are nineteen of them to the north of the zodiac:  (fol. 91 r) the Great Bear; the Little Bear;  the Dragon, Cepheus;  Cassiopea;  Andromeda; Δελτωτόνι i.e. the triangle;  Perseus;  Ἡνίοχος  (the Coachman);  Βοώτης (the Herdsman) who is Ἀρκτοφύλαξ;  the boreal Crown;  Ἐνγόνσαιν (the kneeler = Hercules);  the snake-handler (Ophiuchus);  the Lyre; Ὄρνις (the Swan or the Cross of North);  the Eagle;  Ὀίξτός,  i.e. the Arrow;  the Dolphin;  the Horse, i.e. Pegasus.   

[4] There are fifteen of them to the south of the zodiac:  Procyon;  the Hydra;  Κρατήρ, i.e. the Cut;  the Corbel; the Centaur;  Θηρίον (the Wolf);  Θυτήριον (the censer);  the southern Crown;  the Great Fish (the southern fish);  Κῆψος;  (the Whale);  the River, i.e. Ἠριδανός;  Orion, i.e. the Giant;  the Hare;  the Dog;  Ἀργώ (the Ship) 78.  ---- In total there are 46, both simple and compound.

[5] The large stars and the best known, i.e. the most brilliant which are in the signs that we will discuss:   (These are) in the Great Bear, the seven most brilliant, which is named, according to custom:  the Carriage;  in the Little Bear, the seven which are on its shoulders, one of which, that at the north, is only ten degrees from the North Pole, that at the south is at fifteen degrees, another, at the end of the tail, is also only a distance of ten degrees from the aforesaid pole;  in Artcophulax (the Herdsman), Arcturus which is placed between its bones 79;  in the boreal Crown and the Lyre the most brilliant of each 80:  in Ὀρνις (the Swan), the one which is on its tail, which is the most |378 brilliant;  in Perseus, the one which is clearest, which is on the head of the Gorgon and which is also named Gorgon;  in Ἡνίοχος  (the Coachman), the two most brilliant, one, the Western one, is on its coat, the other, the Eastern one, is on the elbow (ἀγκών) of its right arm, the one which holds the whip; the one which is below the one on the coat of which we spoke, and which is named the Goat;  in Andromeda, the one which is on her head, which shines the most;  in Pegasus (the Horse), two stars, one which is on its shoulder (Schéat = shoulder) and the other on its ὑποτομή,  i.e. on its section, (fol. 91 v) which is at the same latitude as the one which is on its side 81;  in the Bull, the Pleiades and the Hyades (Aldebaran);  in Leo, the one which is named the Heart of the lion (Regulus) and the brilliant one which is at the end of its tail that is named προτρυγητήρ;  in Virgo, the one which is named στάχυς, i.e. the Ear;  in Scorpio, Antares 82, which is the one in the middle, most brilliant of the three;  in Procyon, the one which is most remarkable and which is on its belly 83;  in the Hydra, the most brilliant which is on its tail;  in Orion, four stars, two are its shoulders 84, of the two others, the first is on the heel of its first foot 85, the other is under the knee of its other foot;  in Ἠριδανός,  the most brilliant which is at the end of the river;  in the Dog, the one which is on its head, the most brilliant and remarkable, which is named Sirius; in Ἀργώ the one which is on its right foot which is named Κάνωδος, which is closest to the southern horizon 86;  in the Great Fish, the one which is in its mouth 87 which is largest and most brilliant;  in the Centaur, those which are in the rear shoes which are placed on the southern horizon.

Enough on the number of the constellations, their name, and the remarkable stars which are found there.  |379

Chapter 7.  On the risings and settings of the constellations, with each of the twelve Zw/dia, i.e. signs of the zodiac which are on the circle 88.

[1] Let us return to what we promised above, I mean, to make known the risings and the settings and, step by step, we will talk about each sign.  We will begin at the top, i.e. the tropic and northern sign which is named Cancer 89, and which turns also at the northern end of the circle of the zodiac. 

[2] On Cancer and those which rise with him. When Cancer rises, the following rise with him:  From the North (fol. 92 r), the northern tooth (pincer) of Cancer, i.e. its arm, where a star appears on its pincer.  And the τρίπλευρος 90, i.e. three stars, which seem like a triangle between the head of Cancer of which we spoke and the left rear foot of the Great Bear, and the left rear foot of the Bear, because it leaves the zone of the north 91;  on each foot two stars are seen which form (two) pairs.  And the head of Leo, because it leaves the dodecatomery 92 (the 30 degrees) of the Lion, namely to the north and west.  On the side of midday, the last and more meridional part of the river Ἠριδανός, and the most brilliant star which is at the end of the river.  And the Hare and all the back foot of the giant from the femur and below.  And Procyon.  And half of the Dog, namely the head on which is seen the brilliant star named Sirius, and its two front legs and the  right-hand side rear one and the τετράπλευρος (quadrilateral) which is on its belly, and each star which is seen in front of Ἀργώ, and the head of the Hydra and the claws of the front feet of the Lion, because the right-hand side one is to the south of the zodiac and that of the left is also a little to the south.

[3] On Capricorn which is diametrically opposed to Cancer and the signs which set with it.

Here are those which set opposite Cancer:  In the zodiac, Capricorn;  to the north, the elbow of the right arm of Βοώψης which is extended towards |380 the tail of the Great Bear; and the head of Βοώτης, and the link of the boreal Crown; and all E0ngo/nasin (Hercules) except for the left foot which is on the head of the Dragon, since the knee and below, unlike the knee of his right leg, which is above (fol. 92 v) the staff that Bow/thj holds on which a star is seen, rises the wrong way and it bends on its knees, which is why it was named Ἐνγόνασιν;  and the head of the snake-holder  (Ophiucus), because its head is close to that of Ἐνγόνασιν;  and this τετρ́πλευρος which is behind the shoulder of the snake-holder;  and the tail of the snake;  and a small part of the coat of Sagittarius which is in the dodecatomery of Capricorn, where three stars in the shape of triangle are visible and the points of the horns of Capricorn because they are a little to the north of the zodiac, and four stars arranged one after another from the West to the East above the wings of the Eagle;  and the Eagle itself;  and the Western half of Ὀιστός (the Arrow);  and the left arm, wrapped in the mantle, of Aquarius, which is below Capricorn;  and to the south (of the zodiac) all the Great Fish and the southern (fish).

[4] On the Lion and (the signs) which rise with him. When the Lion rises, here those which rise with him:  To the north (of the zodiac) the right rear foot of the Great Bear, on the claws of which one sees two stars forming a pair;  and the τρίπλευρος, i.e. three stars after the right rear foot of the Bear;  and part of the arm of Arctophulax as far as his elbow, I mean that which is beside the tail of the Great Bear;  to the south (of the zodiac) the bottom of the Giant, the Dogs and the top of Ἀργώ (Ship) and all its ἀρμενον (veil) and the upper half of the Hydra.

(To be continued...)

[Footnotes renumbered and moved to the end]

1. (1) Severus always demonstrates a very methodical approach. He owes this undoubtedly to his numerous works on the Greek philosophers.  He always indicates at the head of the chapters what he is going to say, and he summarises at the end of the chapters what he has said. These phrases, often very long, also betray Greek influence.

2. (1)  For the astrologers, the sign of the zodiac which rises at the time of a birth imprints on the new-born baby the characteristics connected to the name of the sign.   For example Heniochus (the coachman) makes men born who will be coachmen, Manilius, v, 69 ff.;  the goats make men born with lustful hearts, burning for play, and shepherds, ibid, v, 103 ff.;  the Hare makes men born who will be nimble runners, v, 159 ff.  The Arrow gives rise to archers; it is under this sign, says Manilius, v, 298, that Teucer had to be born.  Cf Iliad, VIII, 273-334;  XII, 387, 400. Severus thus attacks astrology at its foundation by showing that names given to the constellations are purely conventional. 

3. (2) Perhaps the Arctic, Antarctic, and tropical zones.

4. (1) Ps. cxlvi, 4

5. (1) See in chap. VI the names given there to these 46 sections.

6. (1) Κόλουρος means "which has the cut tail", because, unlike the Arctic circle, the colure is always cut by the horizon. 

{Note to the online text: on colures: The term colure (from the Greek kólouros = tailless) denotes two special meridians on the celestial sphere.  The "Solstitial colure" denotes the meridian that intersects the solstitial points, i.e., the two points touched by the Sun at the summer solstice and winter solstice, when at noon it appears respectively at its maximum altitude and minimum altitude above the horizon.  The "Equinoctial colure" denotes the meridian that intersects the equinoctial points, i.e., the two points in which the Sun appears at the spring equinox and autumn equinox, when day and night are of exactly equal length. By construction, the colures and the celestial equator intersect the celestial sphere on perpendicular planes.}

7. (2) This must be the spherical astrolabe, because the plane astrolabe carries only a very small number of stars.

8. (3) There is indeed an area without any figure on which, to fill the chart, someone has since written the words "the Giraffe" and "the Linz" (???).

9. (1) Cf.  Job, ix, 9;  xxxviii, 31. 

10. (2) Homer mentions also the  Pleiades, Hyades, Orion and the bear that Vulcan had engraved on the shield of Achilles, Iliad, xviii, 486-7. 

11. (3) Job, ix, 9.

12. (1) In his commentary on Alfergani, Amsterdam, 1669, p.20, J. Golius writing following Cazwini that the names of the months, those of the thirty days and those of the five ἐπαγομένων, are taken from gods or demons and angels that the old religion of the Persians and of the mages believed belonged to them.  It is this that Severus says, who could learn it at Nisibis from where he originated.

13. (2) The synodical revolution of the Moon is 29d 12h 44m.---- On the months, and on solar and lunar years, see Bar Hebraeus, Cours d'astronomie (Course of astronomy), Paris, 1900 (121th fascicule of the Bibliothèque de l'école des Hautes-Études), p. 167-171 of our translation.

14. (1) Ptolémée, Géogr., VIII, give the same numbers of regions and cities, but he lists 34 (or 35), 12 and 47 countries, therefore in all 93 or 94 countries. 

15. (1)  In the margin "this is the astrolabe" has been added.  This mention has been here brought into the text, in red characters.

16. (2)  The "claws" of the Scorpion.

17. (3)  On the "sphere" of Aratus. 

18. (1) In the margin:  "i.e. the great figure".

19. (1)  Levit., X, 10. 

20. (2) The Phenomena of Aratus, often edited and translated, is summarized by Delambre, Histoire de l'astronomie ancienne, Paris, 1817, t. 1, p. 61-74, which summarises also the commentary which Hipparchus made of it, ibid., p. 106-180.  ---- On Aratus see Fabricius, Bibl.graeca (Harles), IV, 88-117.  {Note to the online text: Nau here gives the Syriac text of chapter 4, because of the long extracts from Aratus that it contains}

21. (1)  One reads in the margin:  "i.e. illustrious".  The scribe undoubtedly connected the proper name Aratus with the Greek word ἀριστος.

22. (2) It is thus necessary to distinguish the sphere of Aratus which is undoubtedly "the sphere of bronze" about which Severus speaks, on which the constellations are drawn, and the description of this sphere. 

23. (3) This passage is summarized by Bar Hebraeus:  "the remarkable saint Severus Sebokt, in the book where he emphasizes the impropriety of these figures (constellations),  says: A long tail is given to the bear which is in the sky and it is mistaken, because the bear of our countries does not have a long tail", cf.  Le livre de l’Ascension de l’Esprit, Cours d'Astronomie rédige en 1279, translation F. Nau, Paris, 1899, p. 91 (Bibliothèque de l'école des  Hautes Études, fasc. 121)

24. (1) Bar Hebraeus, loc. cit., repeats this proper name.  It should be Diqton (δίκτη ὁρος) or Ida (although Strabo does not admit this identification). 

25. (2) These words are again corrupt.  The text reads:  "When he fled Qoribitiôs bar Qôriôs."  To Aratus, the Corybantes are the helpers of Jupiter and prevent Saturn from hearing his cries:  Saturnum fallunt dum Dictaei Corybantes, "while the Corybantes of Ida (Dicté) mislead Saturn."

26. (3) See also Eratosthènes, Catasterismes, and Ovid, Metamorphoses, II, v. 495-531.

27. (4) Hellé;  Ἕλλη

28. (5)  φρίξος.

29. (6) Undoubtedly with the (golden) fleece of the ram.  We did not find these details in Aratus.

30. (7) We did not find this in Aratus.  It is about the bull sent by by Neptune to seduce Pasiphaë, the wife of Minos.  From this union was born the Minotaur, half bull and half man.  It is the Minotaur which was killed by Perseus, and the first half of the animal was placed in the sky.  More often, the Bull is attached to Jupiter who took that form to seduce Europa.

31. (8) Again not found in Aratus.  The Nemean lion does not seem to be linked to Theseus, but rather to Juno.

32. (9) Cf.  Eratosthenes, Catasterismes, 9.  ---- This figure does appear in Aratus, v. 97-136.

33. (1) Aratus, v. 636-646, differs from Severus:  Fama est …  Orion manibus violasse Dianam.  The moral at the end is also missing in Aratus. 

34. (2) Seems to correspond to "Diana the huntress".

35. (3) Jupiter, Neptune and Mercury (or Apollo).

36. (4).  Ὑριεύς,  king of Tanagra, in Beotia. 

37. (5) Means perhaps "buried", because after ἀπεσπέρμηναν εἰς αὐτήν, it remained buried for ten months. 

38. (6) In the margin "the giant".  ---- It would have been initially named Ourion "because he came from urine".

39. (7) According to Horace, Orion was pierced by the arrows of Diana whom he had offended Odes, III, 4, v.71.

40. (1) In the margin, as above, "i.e. famous". 

41. (2) In the margin;  "a god of the first ".  He is Jupiter, who has this name again a little further on:  "the Master of the sky." Manilius, I, 362, says that the goat nourished "this Master of the world", but does not contain the continuation, although he knows of the battle of Jupiter with the sons of earth, I, 414-124. 

42. (3) Aratus limits himself to saying that the Goat nourished Jupiter.  ---- The Goat is also a star of the Coachman. ---- Eratosthenes (n° 27) says that the Goat, the mother of Capricorn, nourished Jupiter at the same time as its kid;  later Capricorn, also named Pan and Aegipan, helped Jupiter in his battle with the giants and found the cry named "panic" which put the giants to flight.  Jupiter, in recognition, placed Capricorn (Pan) and its mother (the Goat) in the sky.  ---- It is after the death of the Goat that he made its skin into a shield. 

43. (4) It was Ariadne who taught Theseus how to leave the labyrinth.

44. (5) Translation of Ευργέτης; Bar Hebraeus, loc. cit., p. 91, repeats this passage,

45. (6) In margin:  "vow".

46. (7) This is Conon of Samos, according to Hyginus, cf. Eratosthenes, Catastérismes, ed. Io. C. Schaubach, Gottingen, 1793, p. 87 (note to chap. 12).

47. (8) It is a cluster of six (or seven) stars of the fifth size, cf. Bar Hebraeus, loc. cit, p. 100.  The telescope shows a great number of stars.  ---- Aratus, v.251-267, gives the names of seven stars of the Pleiades but does not mention Berenice. 

48. (9) Daughter of Night and Ocean. She changed herself into a goose and Jupiter into a swan. 

49. (1) Leda is found in Manilius, I, 337, but not in Aratus. 

50. (2) Baalchemaïn. 

51. (3) Horace, Odes, III, 11(16), develops this to show the power of gold. 

52. (4) According to the poets, Polydectes wanted to make Perseus perish, in order to be able, to obtain Danae, the mother of Perseus. 

53. (5) According to others, a helmet, which rendered him invisible, was given to him by Pluto.

54. (6) Is this Achilles Tatius, who wrote an introduction to Aratus?  Cf. Fabricius, Bibl.  Graeca (Harles.), iv, 42.

55. (7) "An eye and a tooth", says Aeschylus in Prometheus, but he only speaks of the sisters of the Gorgons.  Perseus seizes their single eye and returns it when they indicate to him where the Nymphs are who have winged shoes.

56. (8) Libyan Lake.

57. (9) Some words are missing here.  In the margin it says:  "this was cut off in the exemplar."

 58. (10) His three sisters, the Heliades, were changed into poplars.  Ovid comments at great length on the history of Phaeton, Metamorphoses, II.

59. (11) It is said that Eridanus was the old name of Phaeton.  ---- The Greek of Aratus does not mention Phaeton.  Cicero, in his translation of Aratus, introduced Phaeton and his sisters at the time of Eridanus, ca. 390-3.

[glossary: reprendre/repris = taken aback]

60. (1) The two Dogs (Sirius and Procyon) are the sisters of Canopus, the star of the Ship. Cf. Bar Hebraeus, loc. cit., p. 104-5.

61. (2) The Payne-Smith Thesaurus gives [Syriac], i.e. [Syriac], and this last word means cucumber or melon.  ---- This sense is not thus appropriate.  The ship was perhaps made of πέκος, which means skin or bark, and Severus will have supposed that this was the name of a tree.  ---- The mast was an oak of Dodona.

62. (3) "That I will not make" ---- Ms.

63. (4) By astrology, they destroy the free will that they preach, and they dare to preach free will when they destroy it. 

64. (2) This is the general sense of [Syriac], but this word is often synonymous with [Syriac] (fortune).  The position of "fortune" is calculated by adding to the horoscope (the degree of the zodiac which rises on the horizon at the birth of the child) the number of degrees between the positions of the sun and the moon, cf. Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, IV, 2. 

65. (3) Or residences, οἴκοι, for example:  the Lion, a masculine sign, is the house of the Sun; Cancer, a feminine sign, is the house of the Moon, etc.  Ptolemy, loc. cit., I, 20.

66. (1) For example the Sun produces its maximum effect when it is in Aries, because it is there in its place of exaltation, ὕψωμα. Its place of depression, ταπείνωμα is in Libra.

67. (2) Signs are in trigons/trines (τρύγωνα), when they form the points of an equilateral triangle, for example, Aries, Leo and Sagittarius.  This figure (σχῆμα, σχηματισμός) is favorable. 

68. (3) It is said that two signs "behold" each other (ταῦτα βλέπειν ἄλληλα λέγεται) when they  are equidistant from a tropic, Ptolemy, loc. cit., I, 18, thus Gemini beholds Leo.  They have equal power. 

69. (4) The tetragon (or quadrilateral aspect) mentioned above is similar to the trigon:  thus the Ram, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn form one (regular) tetragon;  but the "tetragon of the sphere" mentioned here is quite different, it is formed, so to speak, by the cardinal points (γωνίαι, cardines, pivots or hinges), where it rises (horoscope), sets, the higher meridian line (midday) and the lower meridian line (beneath the ground). 

70. (5) Genesis, I, 26, 27.

71. (1)  Or "exaltation".  See above. 

72. (2) See above.  Capricorn and Aquarius are the house of Saturn;   Sagittarius and Pisces that of Jupiter;  Aries and Scorpio that of Mars;  Libra and Taurus that of Venus;  Gemini and Virgo that of Mercury;  Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, I, 20.

73. (3) The second trigon (equilateral triangle) is formed from Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn, which are three female signs, therefore one allots them to the moon and Venus.  The Moon dominates during the night and Venus the day.  Ibid, I, 21.  All that follows appears also in Ptolemy.

74. We give here the syriaque text which contains these proper names, because it will show us how Severus, in science ---- as he had already done in philosophy ---- enriched the Syriac language by a simple transcription of the Greek words. Apart from the names of the signs of the zodiac, which were already fixed in the time of Bardesanes, the majority of the others were created by Severus;  moreover they are in constant use in all the present treatise and it is good that their Syriac form is known.  [Syriac text omitted from this online edition]

75. (1) Reading  [syriac] as "the lower".

76. (2) In the margin:  "These are the στοιχεῖα or malwoschè (signs of the zodiac)".   

77. (3) In the margin:  "i.e. Ewe".  In general Syriac gives Ewe.

78. (4) The syriaque reads "Argos". 

79. (5) Ἀνάμεσον τῶν σκελῶν, says Geminus, while Aratus writes:  "under the belt" and Manilius:  medio sub pectoro.

80. (6) I.e. "each of them has a more brilliant star (the Pearl and Vega)" but Severus does not know a name for them.   

81. (1) Undoubtedly Algénib (the wing) and Markab (the saddle) which are on the same parallel. 

82. (2) Ἀντάρης, a red star "like Mars".  It is named the heart of the Scorpion".

83. (3) Named "the Syrian Sirius", cf. Bar Hebraeus, Course of astronomy, trad.  p. 101. 

84. (4) Bellatrix and Betelgeuse. 

85. (5) Rigel (the foot).

86. (6) On the rudder, or on the right-hand side oar being used as rudder.  Cf.  Bar Hebraeus, Astronomy, p. 101-5;   "At Maraga, Canopus only rises above the southern horizon by one degree two minutes." 

87. (7) Famalhaut = the Mouth of the Fish.

88. (1) This subject appears in all the treatises of Astrology.  Aratus explains that natural obstacles can interfere. 

89. (2) In the margin:  "change, beginning of the three (months) of summer, June etc";  to the north Cancer, the Lion and the Virgin".

90. (3, 4) [Syriac].

91. (5) It forms part of the zodiacal zone.

92. (6-9)  [Syriac]

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Early Church Fathers - Additional Texts