Hephaistio of Thebes (Ἡφαιστίων Θηβαῖος) is an astrologer who wrote a three-book astrological compendium titled Apotelesmatika in the early 5th century CE in Egypt.
His work largely represents a compilation of earlier sources that he either paraphrased or quoted on different topics, and in many instances he preserves material from authors that would otherwise have been lost. Hephaistio’s two primary sources were Dorotheus of Sidon and Claudius Ptolemy.
He is usually referred to as Hephaistio, or sometimes as Hephaestion or Hephaistion of Thebes.
The Dating of Hephaistio
Hephaistio provides his own birth data in Apotelesmatika 2, 2: 23, within the context of a discussion about determining the precise degree of the Ascendant. The same birth data is mentioned in the previous chapter as an example, in a section on determining the conception chart of a native (Apotelesmatika 2, 1: 32-4).
Based on these two pieces of evidence Pingree thought that Hephaistio was conceived on February 20, 380 CE, and born on November 26, 380 CE (Pingree 1978, vol. 2, p. 429). See the image of his birth chart to the right.
The fixed star placements that Hephaistio gives in book 2, chapter 18 of his work date to sometime around the year 390 CE, which gives secondary confirmation of his approximate time frame. As a result of the fixed star placements and the dating of his birth chart, Pingree estimated that Hephaistio wrote his compilation in Egypt sometime around the year 415 CE (Pingree 1978, vol. 2, p. 429).
Dorotheus and Ptolemy are the two primary sources that Hephaistio cites and quotes the most frequently throughout his work. In books 1 and 2, which cover mundane and natal astrology, he seems to favor Ptolemy primarily, although in book 3 where he deals with katarchic astrology he mainly draws on Dorotheus.
The passages that Hephaistio quotes or paraphrases from Dorotheus are especially important because the original Greek text of Dorotheus’ work did not survive. Our main source for the majority of Dorotheus’ text is an Arabic translation of a Persian translation of the original text, which was written in Greek in the form of an instructional poem.
The sections of Dorotheus that are preserved in Hephaistio are important because they are much closer to the original Greek text than the Arabic version is, and thus it allows us to check the fidelity of Arabic translation. In some instances this reveals changes and interpolations in the Arabic text.
In addition to Dorotheus and Ptolemy, Hephaistio either cites or quotes a number of other earlier authors and sources such as:
- Anubio (Apotelesmatika 2, 5: 5)
- Antigonos of Nicaea (2, 1: 8; 2, 18:21-76)
- Antiochus of Athens (2, 1: 5; 2, 10: 9; 2, 10: 29)
- Apollinarius (2, 10: 9; 2, 10: 29)
- Critodemus (2, 10: 41)
- Thrasyllus (2, 11: 57; 2, 23: 13)
- Hipparchus (1, 1: 7, 1, 1: 162)
- Manetho (2, 4: 27; 2, 11: 125)
- Nechepso (2, 11: 25; 2, 18: 21; 2, 18: 72; 2, 21: 26)
- Odapsos (1, 1: 65; 1, 1: 123; 1, 1: 163; 1, 1: 221)
- Pancharius (2, 11: 8; 2, 11: 26; 2, 11: 46; 2, 11: 63; 2, 11:83)
- Petosiris (2, 1: 2; 2, 11: 2; 2, 18: 21; 2, 22: 8; 3, 10: 5)
- Porphyry (2, 10: 23; 2, 18: 15)
- Protagoras of Nicaea (3, 30: 37)
There are also numerous other references to “the Egyptians” and “the Ancients” throughout the text, some of which are usually taken as allusions to Nechepso and Petosiris, and others which may refer to other early authors.
The first critical edition of Hephaistio’s Apotelesmatica was published by August Engelbrecht in 1887:
- August Engelbrecht, Hephaistion von Theben und sein astrologisches Compendium. Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der griechischen Astrologie, Carl Konegen, Wien, 1887.
You can download a scan of Engelbrecht’s edition below:
In the mid-1970s David Pingree published a new critical edition of Hephaistio that superseded Engelbrecht’s edition:
- Hephaestionis Thebani apotelesmaticorum libri tres. 2 vols., ed. David Pingree, Teubner, Leipzig, 1973-4.
Pingree’s edition incorporated new material that had been discovered during the process of compiling the CCAG, and it is the standard edition at this point in time.
Books 1 and 2 of Hephaistio’s Apotelesmatika were translated into English by Robert Schmidt in the mid-1990s:
- Hephaistio of Thebes, Apotelesmatics, Book I, trans. Robert Schmidt, ed. Robert Hand, The Golden Hind Press, Berkeley Springs, WV, 1994.
- Hephaistio of Thebes, Apotelesmatics, Book II, trans. Robert H. Schmidt, The Golden Hind Press, Cumberland, MD, 1998.
Book 3 of Hephaistio was translated by Eduardo Gramaglia and edited by Benjamin Dykes in 2013:
- Hephaistion of Thebes, Apotelesmatics: Book III: On Inceptions, trans. Eduardo J. Gramaglia, ed. Benjamin N. Dykes, Cazimi Press, Minneapolis, MN, 2013. [Available on Amazon]
CCAG = Catalogus Codicum Astrologorum Graecorum, 12 vols., ed. F. Cumont et al., Brussels, 1898–1953.
Dorotheus of Sidon, “Pentateuch,” edited in Dorothei Sidonii Carmen Astrologicum, ed. David Pingree, Teubner, Leipzig, 1976.
Hephaistio of Thebes, “Apotelesmatika,” edited in Hephaestionis Thebani apotelesmaticorum libri tres. 2 vols., ed. David Pingree, Teubner, Leipzig, 1973-4.
Hephaistio of Thebes, Apotelesmatics, Book I, trans. Robert Schmidt, ed. Robert Hand, The Golden Hind Press, Berkeley Springs, WV, 1994.
Hephaistio of Thebes, Apotelesmatics, Book II, trans. Robert H. Schmidt, The Golden Hind Press, Cumberland, MD, 1998.
Hephaistion of Thebes, Apotelesmatics: Book III: On Inceptions, trans. Eduardo J. Gramaglia, ed. Benjamin N. Dykes, Cazimi Press, Minneapolis, MN, 2013.
Hübner, Wolfgang (ed.), Claudii Ptolemaei opera quae exstant omnia, vol. III, 1: ΑΠΟΤΕΛΕΣΜΑΤΙΚΑ, post F. Boll et Æ. Boer secundis curis, Teubner, Stuttgart & Leipzig, 1998.
Jimenez, Aurelio Perez, “ΠΕΡΙ ΔΕΙΠΝΟΥ. A Propósito de Heph., III 36,” in ΜΗΝΗ, Vol. 2, 2002, pp. 237-254.
Jones, Alexander, “Hephaistiōn of Egyptian Thēbai,” in The Encyclopedia of Ancient Natural Scientists, ed. Paul T. Keyser, Georgia L. Irby-Massie, Routledge, Abingdon, Oxon & New York, NY, 2008, p. 365.
Marcovich, Miroslav, “Hephaestion, ‘Apotelesmatica,’ Book I,” Illinois Classical Studies, Vol. 1, 1976, pp. 59-64.
Pingree, David, The Yavanajataka of Sphujidhvaja, 2 vols., Harvard Oriental Series 48, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1978.
Pingree, David, “Classical and Byzantine Astrology in Sassanian Persia,” Dumbarton Oaks Papers, Vol. 43, 1989, pp. 227-239.
- Author: Chris Brennan
- Originally published: February 22, 2014 | Last updated: February 22, 2014
- Article notes: The core of the article is complete, but it still needs to be expanded to include more about the contents of Hephaistio’s work.
- Cite this article: Chris Brennan, “Hephaistio of Thebes”, The Hellenistic Astrology Website, February 22, 2014, https://www.hellenisticastrology.com/astrologers/hephaistio-of-thebes/