Porphyry of Tyre

Porphyry of Tyre was a prominent Neoplatonic philosopher who flourished in the late 3rd century CE. He is primarily known as the student of the founder of Neoplatonism, Plotinus, although he was regarded as an important philosopher in his own right in Late Antiquity. He occasionally made references to astrological doctrines in his philosophical works, and there is at least one surviving text on astrology that was attributed to him.

The Introduction to the Tetrabiblos

Porphyry is attributed authorship of an introduction to Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos, titled Introduction to the Apotelesmatika of Ptolemy (Εἰσαγωγὴ εἰς τὴν Ἀποτελεσματικὴν τοῦ Πτολεμαίου).

The Introduction mainly consists of a series of definitions of basic astrological concepts. Most of the definitions were copied verbatim from a lost work of definitions by Antiochus of Athens.

The extant version of the Introduction appears to be incomplete, and it also contains a number of interpolations from a work by the 9th century astrologer Sahl ibn Bishr.

“Porphyry” House Division

Holden points out that Porphyry is best known by astrologers in modern times for the system of quadrant house division that bears his name, the so-called “Porphyry House System,” which is outlined in chapter 43 of the Introduction (Holden, 1996, pg. 62).

However, Holden rightly points out that the same system was described about a century earlier by Vettius Valens (Anthology, 3, 3), and so it is only an accident of history that Porphyry’s name became associated with the system rather than that of Valens.

Critical Editions of the Introduction

The first printed edition of Porphyry’s  Introduction was published by Hieronymous Wolf in 1559.

The standard critical edition was published by Emilie Boer and Stephen Weinstock in the CCAG in 1940:

  • Porphyrii Philosophi, Introductio in Tetrabiblum Ptolemaei, ed. Emilie Boer and Stephen Weinstock, in Catalogus Codicum Astrologorum Graecorum, vol. 5, part 4, ed. Stephen Weinstock, Royal Academy of Belgium, Brussels, 1940, pgs. 187-228.

The Greek text of this edition is available for download as a PDF file:  Porphyrii Philosophi, Introductio in Tetrabiblum Ptolemaei, ed. Boer and Weinstock.

Translations of the Introduction

The first complete translation of Porphyry’s Introduction in modern times was an English translation published by James Holden in 2009:

  • Porphyry the Philosopher: Introduction to the Tetrabiblos, and Serapio of Alexandria: Astrological Definitions, trans. James Herschel Holden, American Federation of Astrologers, Tempe, AZ, 2009.  [Available on Amazon.com]

In the same year Robert Schmidt published a reconstruction of the lost work of Antiochus of Athens, which contained translations of the majority of the definitions from Porphyry’s Introduction:

  • Robert H. Schmidt, Definitions and Foundations, The Golden Hind Press, Cumberland, MD, 2009.

The following year another complete translation of the Introduction was published:

  • Porphyry of Tyre, An Introduction to the Tetrabiblos of Ptolemy, trans. Andrea L. Gehrz, The Moira Press, Portland, OR, 2010.

Bibliography

Boer, Emilie, and Weinstock, Stephan (eds.), Porphyrii Philosophi, Introductio in Tetrabiblum Ptolemaei, in Catalogus Codicum Astrologorum Graecorum, vol. 5, part 4, ed. Stephen Weinstock, Royal Academy of Belgium, Brussels, 1940, pgs. 187-228.

Gehrz, Andrea L. (trans.), Porphyry of Tyre, An Introduction to the Tetrabiblos of Ptolemy, The Moira Press, Portland, OR, 2010.

Holden, James H., A History of Horoscopic Astrology, American Federation of Astrologers, Tempe, AZ, 1996.

Holden, James Herschel (trans.),  Porphyry the Philosopher: Introduction to the Tetrabiblos, and Serapio of Alexandria: Astrological Definitions, American Federation of Astrologers, Tempe, AZ, 2009.

Porphyry of Tyre, “Introduction to the Apotelesmatika of Ptolemy,” edited in Porphyrii Philosophi, Introductio in Tetrabiblum Ptolemaei, ed. Emilie Boer and Stephen Weinstock, in Catalogus Codicum Astrologorum Graecorum, vol. 5, part 4, ed. Stephen Weinstock, Royal Academy of Belgium, Brussels, 1940, pgs. 187-228.

Schmidt,  Robert H., Definitions and Foundations, The Golden Hind Press, Cumberland, MD, 2009.

Vettius Valens, “Anthology,” edited in Vettii Valentis Anthologiarum Libri Novem, ed. David Pingree, Teubner, Leipzig, 1986.

Article Information

  • Author: Chris Brennan
  • Originally published: January 20, 2012 |   Last updated: January 20, 2012
  • Article notes:  This article is currently incomplete, and it is acting as a placeholder until it can be completed.
  • Cite this article: Chris Brennan, “Porphyry of Tyre,” The Hellenistic Astrology Website, January 20, 2012, http://www.hellenisticastrology.com/astrologers/porphyry-of-tyre/