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VMs: The Codices of Alphonse X the Wise
For those interested in possible astrological/astronomical parallels
with the VMS, here is my translation of that page on Alphonse X's
codices whose URL was just posted to this list. Hope it helps...
King Alphonse X ordered to the most ilustrious wise men of his time
to compose a Codex that would gather all the knowledge that the
Ancient had of stars. In this manuscript, called "The book of
knowledge of Astrology", one finds all the knowledge of Astrology up
to those times. It says in the Prologue that
Here are discussed all the ways in which one can know and understand
the motion of all heavens that move and of the stars that are in it[sic].
And also thoses of the eighth heaven with are called fixed.
This text comprises four books and one appendix. In the first one
are described the northern stars and constellations: Ursa Major,
Ursa Minor, Snake (Draco), the Fiery One (Cepheus), He who gives
voices(?) (Boyero), the Northern Crown, the Kneeling One (Hercues),
Turtle (the Lyre), Chicken (the Swan), the Women[sic] who is seated
(Casiopea) Perseus, the Rein holder (Auriga) Hunter of serpents
(Ophiuco) Saeta (Arrow), Eagle, Dolphin, Part(?) of horse
(Equuleus), Horse major (Pegasus) Chained woman (Andromeda) and
In the second book are exposed the constellations of the twelve
Zodiacal signs, from Aries to Piscis and all their stars.
In the third are described the stars and southern constellations,
beginning with Caytoz (the Whale) and ending with Southern fish. As
an example of the contents of these first three books we see this
last constellation and its stars with a figure showing the shape and
stars of the Southern Fish.
In the first paragraph of the chapter titled "On the figure of the
Southern Fish and on the stars that are in it" it describes the place that
is occupied by each of the fish stars: It says thus:
"This is the fourteenth shape of those which are part of the southern
hemisphere and is the extremal[?] of them. And they call it in Latin
piscis meridionalis and in Castillan pez meridional and in Arabic
elhor algenubi. And there are in them XI stars all inside the shape.
The first of them is in the mouth, and it is at the start of water.
And here it happens that it is the same water that is pouring from the
constellation of Aquarius and that is shared between this constellation
and Aquarius. And they call it in Arabic famohot el genubi which means
the mouth of the southern fish. And one calls it also the first lizard.
The secondone is the foremost of the three that lie on the southern
edge of the head. The third is the southernmost of these three. The
fourth one is the one after it. The fifth one is on the belly. The
sixth one is on the southern fin[?] rising from the dorsal edge. The
seventh is the rearmost of the two which are on the belly. The eighth
is the foremost of these two. The ninth is the rearmost of the three
that are on the northern fin[?]. The tenth is the southernmost of these
three and the eleventh is the foremost of these three and lies at
the end of the tail. And they placed at the end of the tail[?] VII
stars of blue color, but since Ptolemy did not name them, they did
not count them, and neither put them length[latitude] nor magnitude."
Then in the constellation's diagram there is a short text in which are
repeated the position of each star in the figure, describes its latitude
and magnitude, assigns to it a connection to a planet, and lists its
qualities, humid, dry, or cold.
[ image http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Atrium/5989/imageVL5.JPG ]
On the first star it says:
"The one on the mouth and is the start of the water of Aquarius XVII
and LVIII minutes. The latitude is XX degrees and XX mnutes and is
of the IIII magnitude and its nature is of Venus and its humor is
warm and humid."
Thus in each of the paragraphs inside the circle it gives the
longitude and latitude of the star, the planetary analogy and its
In this Codex one notices clearly the signs of recompilation from
prior texts, since there occur various texts that refer to the same
constellation. In the second paragraph of the general text, another
way is given to describe and to explain this asterism since it is
related to other constellations likewise shaped after a fish. In this
second paragraph is discussed the constellation of the Dolphin, the two
fishes which are part of the Andromeda constellation, the two fishes
of Piscis, and finally the Southern Fish. On this it mentions
the star Fomalhaut about which it says that it is of cold and dry
nature because of its relation to Saturn.
This chapter and the third book ends with the following paragraph:
"And this way[?] was shown to them by God so that they know with certainty
the things that were required and necessary to help oneself on
this world, and from that came great profit, and there still comes,
so that men are enlightened about things, that they could not be
except in this way. [....]"
In the fourth book, the constellations and star names are reviewed,
explaining the meaning of the Arabic names of the most important
ones and explaining what are the mansions of the Moon, as an example
let's see what it says about the constellation of Aries:
"In the shape of the sign of Aries there are thirteen stars and
five outside the shape. And the named ones are seven. And they call
the third one and the fourth one and the fifth one alnach which
means pulling[?] and is the first mansion of the Moon. And they call
the first one of those who lie outside the shape annatich which means
puller[?] And they call the seventh one, and the eighth one, and
the ninth one albotayn that means small belly and is the second
mansion of the Moon. ..."
In the last part of this fourth book there are some old texts
that digress about the start that were chosen by Ptolemy to put on
astrolabes. It is an appendix of five chapters where one discusses
nebulae, the stars that were not named by Ptolemy, and o some
very curious myths about certain parts of the sky.
After this appendix there is a last book, where are explained all
the astronomical instruments, several chapters on the sphere, the
motions of the heavens, the hours, the longitudes, the latitudes for
all kinds of coputations about planets, stars, ascendents, and the
eclipses. To conclude there is a single chapter on how to make
the armillas on the sphere to make the atacir.
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