A full translation of the Anthology of the 2nd century astrologer Vettius Valens was released online yesterday for free. The translator is a retired classics scholar named Mark Riley, who posted a PDF of the translation on his website (here is a direct link to the PDF).
Riley’s name is familiar to those in the field because he published a few papers on Hellenistic astrology in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The most important was his paper “A Survey of Vettius Valens,” which provides an overview of Valens’ Anthology, with a particular focus on the chronology of the composition of the different books during the course of Valens’ life.
Joanna Komorowska relied on Riley’s reconstruction of Valens’ chronology in her book on the astrologer that came out a few years ago, Vettius Valens of Antioch: An Intellectual Monography.
Riley’s Survey of Valens was completed in 1996, but then his academic interests seem to have shifted after the mid-1990s, and he does not appear to have continued to produce work in the field of ancient astrology. His translation of Valens seems to date from this period in the early or mid-1990s, although he says on his website that it was only preliminary and he never perfected it.
This is the first complete translation of the Anthology that has appeared in the English language so far. The only other complete translation was one that was done in German a few years ago. Robert Schmidt also published a preliminary English translation of Valens between 1993 and 2001, although he only made it up to book 7, and those books have long been out of print and unavailable for the majority of researchers. Even for those that did have access to Schmidt’s translations, this is the first time that books 8 and 9 have become available in their entirety.
It appears that Riley was encouraged to post his translation online a few days ago by another scholar named Roger Pearse. Pearse first posted an article about Riley’s Survey on December 9th, pointing out Riley’s comment that he had produced a preliminary translation of the Anthology. A few days later he posted another article on the 13th about how he received a PDF of the translation from Riley, and that he thought that it was really well done and encouraged him to post it online.
It seems to have been at this point that the astrologers got wind of these developments, as a thread showed up on Skyscript that day where Levente László pointed out the blog posts by Pearse. Levente got an email back from Riley early on the 14th saying that he was going to post the PDF shortly, and then a few hours later it showed up.
This was a huge event for a lot of people who have been waiting for a full translation of Valens for a while now. He is easily the most important source that has survived from the Hellenistic tradition, and although Ptolemy may have been more influential, Valens is usually seen as being more representative of the mainstream of the tradition.
From the little that I’ve read through so far the translation looks good, and Riley’s rendering of some of the philosophical passages seems to flow quite well. I have yet to look at some of the more complicated technical passages, although I’m looking forward it.
Many thanks go to Mark Riley for the work that he put into what must have been quite a daunting and thankless task, and for sharing that work with the world in a rather generous way.
Update: I recently did a podcast on the release of the Anthology where I discussed its contents and significance. You can listen to the show over on the Traditional Astrology Radio website.
Oh my lord! I’ve only had access to the first two books for so long. This is amazing news!
Thank you so much for posting this!!! I’m so happy it hasn’t been taken down yet or anything. I’ve got the pdf and I’m copying it to about 10 places right now. :-)
In his latest newsletter Dave Roell of Astroamerica.com says he plans to publish this translation at about 500 pages. Dave does a beautiful job of publishing classic texts, but (as of now) this text will be pricy: about US $60.
The PDF versian online is somewhat difficult to read, even printed (smaller font printed with long paragraphs). So we can have the online copy or an expensive copy in book form. Dave always adds tables, an index and other extras and uses a very readable format. No doubt the book will eventually be available through Amazon at a discount.
Thanks for the heads up on that Therese! That is great news.
I think the good thing about this is that perhaps we’re starting to get a “snowball” effect. Dr Riley’s translation may not be perfect — he was unable to consult versions of the material in Arabic for lack of the language skills, for instance. But it is by a professional academic, who made it with the intention of professional publication.
Each step, each translation makes producing further translations and commentaries much easier for everyone. Each scholar who translates it will bring additional clarity to the text. The free availability of the Riley translation can only help everyone.
I agree. Thank you very much for encouraging him to make it available Roger.
Not particularly germane, but that’s a very odd illustration to head this page: from the Book of Acts. . .
Yeah, I was just shooting for an artistic photograph of some Greek text. I had originally tried taking a picture from my critical edition of Valens, but it didn’t work very well, as I’m not a professional photographer. So I ended up just buying an image from iStock Photo, and this was the best I could come up with.