<i>Census</i> and <i>commercium</i>

Patrick Glauthier

in Forgotten Stars

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780199586462
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191724961 | DOI:
Census and commercium

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This chapter examines two metaphors through which Manilius describes both the universe and the astrological poet as fundamentally economic. The imagery of cosmic wealth (census) presents the heavens and knowledge of them as valuable commodities that the astrologer can physically possess. Thus they are precious metals buried below the surface of the earth or the spoils of war. The imagery of celestial commerce (commercium), however, characterizes the signs themselves as economic agents that interact through forms of trade. Signs in trine or quartile aspect, for instance, literally exchange physical goods with one another. Not surprisingly the astrologer also plays a key role in this economic system: the stars reveal themselves to the astrologer and he repays them with the composition of astrological poetry.  Such language underscores the interconnectedness of the heavens and the quasi-Stoic ‘sympathy’ that unites the universe.

Keywords: aspect in astrology; astrology; census; commercium; cosmology; economy; Manilius; metaphor; Stoicism; sympathy in philosophy

Chapter.  6211 words. 

Subjects: Classical Literature

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