Research Project


Edition of Select Ancient Astrological Texts and Studies on Conjunctionist Astrology in the Renaissance

Prof. Dr. Stephan Heilen

During my research fellowship at the IKGF Erlangen, I have pursued a bundle of projects, all dealing with the history of astrology in Greco-Roman antiquity and in the European Renaissance. The first of these projects regards a group of hitherto unpublished astrological papyri from the ancient Egyptian city of Oxyrhynchus (now preserved at Oxford). Prof. Alexander Jones from the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World (New York University) invited me to edit and comment on them with him. He came to Erlangen as a guest scholar of the IKGF in April 2016. We made complete transcriptions of the papyri (they are lacunose and difficult to read), analyzed their contents, gathered material for the commentary and discussed difficult passages with respect to similar tenets in other ancient astrological texts. We expect our edition with commentary to be completed in 2017. In the context of this project Prof. Jones and I also examined the astrological papyrus P. Erlangen 129. We were able to correct W. Schubart´s old edition of this papyrus (1942) with respect to various readings and comments.
My second project was the collection and analysis of a group of early modern, hitherto unedited predictions by various authors concerning the conjunctions of Saturn and Jupiter in the years 1484 and 1504. These predictions are based on the so-called historical astrology that had been developed by Persian and Arabic astrologers in the Middle Ages. Being cyclical and of ‘pagan’ origin, the theory offered an alternative to the linear concept of historical progress implied in the Christian doctrine of the successive ages. The authors of the texts to be analyzed are scientists, poets, and political advisers to popes and emperors. During my year at Erlangen, I was able to examine large amounts of potentially relevant material. In this context, I made three library trips that allowed me to analyze relevant manuscripts and incunabula in Spain (Seville, May 2016), Italy (Trento, Perugia, Rome, May 2016) and the United States (Chicago, September 2016). The library trip to Spain was generously sponsored by the IKGF. I have largely incorporated the new material collected during these trips into my typescript for a monograph on the conjunctions of 1484 and 1504 which I expect to complete in 2017.
Besides these two bigger, still ongoing projects, I was able to write and complete several articles and reviews on the history of astrology. They have all been accepted by the respective editors and are forthcoming. Their total is ca. 150 printed pages.

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