Rhetorius of Egypt

Rhetorius of Egypt was one of the latest astrologers of the Hellenistic tradition, flourishing in either the early 6th or early 7th century CE.  He wrote a large astrological compendium that consisted largely of excerpts from earlier astrologers such as Antiochus of Athens.

The Dating of Rhetorius

Pingree dated Rhetorius to the early 7th century, just before the Muslim conquest of Egypt, due to a chart contained in his work which he dated to February 24, 601 CE (Pingree, Classical and Byzantine Astrology, pg. 232).  However, Holden has recently challenged Pingree’s dating by arguing that this example is a hypothetical chart with arbitrary positions rather than an actual datable nativity, seeing as how neither the position of the ascendant nor any facts about the native’s life are given in that chapter (Holden, Rhetorius the Egyptian, pg. 158).  Holden points out that the majority of the internal evidence within Rhetorius’ Compendium points to an early 6th century dating, and when the legitimacy of the aberrant 7th century horoscope is called into question it makes the earlier dating the only tenable solution.

While Holden appears to have more evidence in favor of his argument for a 6th century dating of Rhetorius, it is not necessarily clear that the 7th century chart is hypothetical, and thus the dating of Rhetorius must still be left as an unresolved issue.

Transmission

Pingree argued that Rhetorius’ Compendium was transmitted to the early Medieval astrologers in Baghdad via Theophilus of Edessa.   There it was employed by astrologers such as Masha’allah.

Critical Editions

David Pingree was preparing an edition of Rhetorius before he died.  That project is now being brought to completion by Stephan Heilen, with an anticipated release date of 2012/13.

Translations

  • Rhetorius the Egyptian, trans. James Herschel Holden, American Federation of Astrologers, Tempe, Arizona, 2009 [Available through Amazon.com]

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Bibliography

Pingree, David “Classical and Byzantine Astrology in Sassanian Persia,” Dumbarton Oaks Papers, Vol. 43, 1989, pgs. 227-239.

Holden, James (trans.), Rhetorius the Egyptian, American Federation of Astrologers, Tempe, Arizona, 2009.

Article Information

  • Author: Chris Brennan
  • Originally published: December 20, 2011 |   Last updated: December 20, 2011
  • Article notes: The article is currently incomplete, and is primarily acting as a placeholder until I have time to add the rest.
  • Cite this article: Chris Brennan, “Rhetorius of Egypt”, The Hellenistic Astrology Website, December 20, 2011, http://www.hellenisticastrology.com/astrologers/rhetorius-of-egypt/