CHAPTER I: THE ZODIAC AND THE PLANETS
1. IT is due to the divine intelligence and is a very great wonder to all who reflect upon it, that the shadow of a gnomon at the equinox is of one length in Athens, of another in Alexandria, of another in Rome, and not the same at Piacenza, or at other places in the world. Hence drawings for dials are very different from one another, corresponding to differences of situation. This is because the length of the shadow at the equinox is used in constructing the figure of the analemma, in accordance with which the hours are marked to conform to the situation and the shadow of the gnomon. The analemma is a basis for calculation deduced from the course of the sun, and found by observation of the shadow as it increases until the winter solstice. By means of this, through architectural principles and the employment of the compasses, we find out the operation of the sun in the universe.
2. The word “universe” means the general assemblage of all nature, and it also means the heaven that is made up of the constellations and the courses of the stars. The heaven revolves steadily round earth and sea on the pivots at the ends of its axis. The architect at these points was the power of Nature, and she put the pivots there, to be, as it were, centres, one of them above the earth and sea at the very top of the firmament and even beyond the stars composing the Great Bear, the other on the opposite side under the earth in the regions of the south. Round these pivots (termed in Greek πόλοι) as centres, like those of a turning lathe, she formed the circles in which the heaven passes on its everlasting way. In the midst thereof, the earth and sea naturally occupy the central point.
3. It follows from this natural arrangement that the central point in the north is high above the earth, while on the south, the region below, it is beneath the earth and consequently hidden by it. Furthermore, across the middle, and obliquely inclined to the south, there is a broad circular belt composed of the twelve signs, whose stars, arranged in twelve equivalent divisions, represent each a shape which nature has depicted. And so with the firmament and the other constellations, they move round the earth and sea in glittering array, completing their orbits according to the spherical shape of the heaven.
4. They are all visible or invisible according to fixed times. While six of the signs are passing along with the heaven above the earth, the other six are moving under the earth and hidden by its shadow. But there are always six of them making their way above the earth; for, corresponding to that part of the last sign which in the course of its revolution has to sink, pass under the earth, and become concealed, an equivalent part of the sign opposite to it is obliged by the law of their common revolution to pass up and, having completed its circuit, to emerge out of the darkness into the light of the open space on the other side. This is because the rising and setting of both are subject to one and the same power and law.
5. While these signs, twelve in number and occupying each one twelfth part of the firmament, steadily revolve from east to west, the moon, Mercury, Venus, the sun, as well as Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, differing from one another in the magnitude of their orbits as though their courses were at different points in a flight of steps, pass through those signs in just the opposite direction, from west to east in the firmament. The moon makes her circuit of the heaven in twenty-eight days plus about an hour, and with her return to the sign from which she set forth, completes a lunar month.
6. The sun takes a full month to move across the space of one sign, that is, one twelfth of the firmament. Consequently, in twelve months he traverses the spaces of the twelve signs, and, on returning to the sign from which he began, completes the period of a full year. Hence, the circuit made by the moon thirteen times in twelve months, is measured by the sun only once in the same number of months. But Mercury and Venus, their paths wreathing around the sun's rays as their centre, retrograde and delay their movements, and so, from the nature of that circuit, sometimes wait at stopping-places within the spaces of the signs.
7. This fact may best be recognized from Venus. When she is following the sun, she makes her appearance in the sky after his setting, and is then called the Evening Star, shining most brilliantly. At other times she precedes him, rising before daybreak, and is named the Morning Star. Thus Mercury and Venus sometimes delay in one sign for a good many days, and at others advance pretty rapidly into another sign. They do not spend the same number of days in every sign, but the longer they have previously delayed, the more rapidly they accomplish their journeys after passing into the next sign, and thus they complete their appointed course. Consequently, in spite of their delay in some of the signs, they nevertheless soon reach the proper place in their orbits after freeing themselves from their enforced delay.
8. Mercury, on his journey through the heavens, passes through the spaces of the signs in three hundred and sixty days, and so arrives at the sign from which he set out on his course at the beginning of his revolution. His average rate of movement is such that he has about thirty days in each sign.
9. Venus, on becoming free from the hindrance of the sun's rays, crosses the space of a sign in thirty days. Though she thus stays less than forty days in particular signs, she makes good the required amount by delaying in one sign when she comes to a pause. Therefore she completes her total revolution in heaven in four hundred and eighty-five days, and once more enters the sign from which she previously began to move.
10. Mars, after traversing the spaces of the constellations for about six hundred and eighty-three days, arrives at the point from which he had before set out at the beginning of his course, and while he passes through some of the signs more rapidly than others, he makes up the required number of days whenever he comes to a pause. Jupiter, climbing with gentler pace against the revolution of the firmament, travels through each sign in about three hundred and sixty days, and finishes in eleven years and three hundred and thirteen days, returning to the sign in which he had been twelve years before. Saturn, traversing the space of one sign in twenty-nine months plus a few days, is restored after twenty-nine years and about one hundred and sixty days to that in which he had been thirty years before. He is, as it appears, slower, because the nearer he is to the outermost part of the firmament, the greater is the orbit through which he has to pass.
11. The three that complete their circuits above the sun's course do not make progress while they are in the triangle which he has entered, but retrograde and pause until the sun has crossed from that triangle into another sign. Some hold that this takes place because, as they say, when the sun is a great distance off, the paths on which these stars wander are without light on account of that distance, and so the darkness retards and hinders them. But I do not think that this is so. The splendour of the sun is clearly to be seen, and manifest without any kind of obscurity, throughout the whole firmament, so that those very retrograde movements and pauses of the stars are visible even to us.
12. If then, at this great distance, our human vision can discern that sight, why, pray, are we to think that the divine splendour of the stars can be cast into darkness? Rather will the following way of accounting for it prove to be correct. Heat summons and attracts everything towards itself; for instance, we see the fruits of the earth growing up high under the influence of heat, and that spring water is vapourised and drawn up to the clouds at sunrise. On the same principle, the mighty influence of the sun, with his rays diverging in the form of a triangle, attracts the stars which follow him, and, as it were, curbs and restrains those that precede, not allowing them to make progress, but obliging them to retrograde towards himself until he passes out into the sign that belongs to a different triangle.
13. Perhaps the question will be raised, why the sun by his great heat causes these detentions in the fifth sign from himself rather than in the second or third, which are nearer. I will therefore set forth what seems to be the reason. His rays diverge through the firmament in straight lines as though forming an equilateral triangle, that is, to the fifth sign from the sun, no more, no less. If his rays were diffused in circuits spreading all over the firmament, instead of in straight lines diverging so as to form a triangle, they would burn up all the nearer objects. This is a fact which the Greek poet Euripides seems to have remarked; for he says that places at a greater distance from the sun are in a violent heat, and that those which are nearer he keeps temperate. Thus in the play of Phaethon, the poet writes: καίει τὰ πόρρω τἄγγυθεν δ᾽ εὔκρατ᾽ ἔχει.
14. If then, fact and reason and the evidence of an ancient poet point to this explanation, I do not see why we should decide otherwise than as I have written above on this subject. Jupiter, whose orbit is between those of Mars and Saturn, traverses a longer course than Mars, and a shorter than Saturn. Likewise with the rest of these stars: the farther they are from the outermost limits of the heaven, and the nearer their orbits to the earth, the sooner they are seen to finish their courses; for those of them that have a smaller orbit often pass those that are higher, going under them.
15. For example, place seven ants on a wheel such as potters use, having made seven channels on the wheel about the centre, increasing successively in circumference; and suppose those ants obliged to make a circuit in these channels while the wheel is turned in the opposite direction. In spite of having to move in a direction contrary to that of the wheel, the ants must necessarily complete their journeys in the opposite direction, and that ant which is nearest the centre must finish its circuit sooner, while the ant that is going round at the outer edge of the disc of the wheel must, on account of the size of its circuit, be much slower in completing its course, even though it is moving just as quickly as the other. In the same way, these stars, which struggle on against the course of the firmament, are accomplishing an orbit on paths of their own; but, owing to the revolution of the heaven, they are swept back as it goes round every day.
16. The reason why some of these stars are temperate, others hot, and others cold, appears to be this: that the flame of every kind of fire rises to higher places. Consequently, the burning rays of the sun make the ether above him white hot, in the regions of the course of Mars, and so the heat of the sun makes him hot. Saturn, on the contrary, being nearest to the outermost limit of the firmament and bordering on the quarters of the heaven which are frozen, is excessively cold. Hence,Jupiter,whose course is between the orbits of these two, appears to have a moderate and very temperate influence, intermediate between their cold and heat. I have now described, as I have received them from my teacher, the belt of the twelve signs and the seven stars that work and move in the opposite direction, with the laws and numerical relations under which they pass from sign to sign, and how they complete their orbits. I shall next speak of the waxing and waning of the moon, according to the accounts of my predecessors.