More sentiment than science

Elaine Fantham

in Forgotten Stars

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780199586462
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191724961 | DOI:
More sentiment than science

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While Italian farmers looked to the stars as seasonal markers and signifiers of weather-change, educated Romans knew directly or indirectly the Platonic Myth of Er and the celestial map of Aratus. There is a division between their imaginative mythical and poetic worlds and the theories of Greek philosophy and science. In scientific mode, Cicero saw the stars as part of the divine cosmos and presented a sound vision of the stellar system; however, wise and virtuous souls were also divine, and apotheosis included catasterism. The Stoics believed in stars as signifiers sent by providence to warn mankind; and the alien art of astrology presented the conjunction of stars at a man’s birth as foretelling and controlling his destiny. But while astrology grew in popular influence, sources from Cicero to Seneca to the elder Pliny marginalize it, presenting arguments to repudiate any causal nexus between stars and human life.

Keywords: Aratus; astrology; catasterism; Cicero; Myth of Er; Plato; Pliny the Elder; stars; Roman culture; Seneca; Stoicism

Chapter.  7457 words. 

Subjects: Classical Literature

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