Life and Training of an Astrologer
Firmicus Maternus, “Matheosos Libri VIII (The Mathesis)” c.334 AD,
Firmicus Maternus, “Matheosos Libri VIII (The Mathesis)” c.334 AD,
trans. Jean Rhys Bram, Noyes Press, New Jersey 1975.
1. Now you, whoever you are who try to read these books, since you have received the whole knowledge of this divine science and are now endowed with the secrets of the stars and have learned the first principles of the art, shape yourself in the image and likeness of divinity.
2. Therefore study and pursue all the distinguishing marks of virtue and, when you have trained yourself in these, be easy of access, so that if anyone wishes to consult you about anything, he may approach you without fear. Be modest, upright, sober, eat little, be content with few goods, so that the shameful love of money may not defile the glory of this divine science. Try with your training and principles to outdo the training and principles of worthy priests. For it is necessary that the acolyte of the Sun and Moon and the other gods, though whom all earthly things re governed, should so educate his mind always that it be proved worthy by the attestation of all mankind.
3. See that you give your responses publicly in a clear voice, so that nothing may be asked of you which is not allowed either to ask or to answer.
4. Beware of replying to anyone asking about the condition of the Republic or the life of the Roman Emperor. For it is not right, nor is it permitted, that from wicked curiosity we learn anything about the condition of the Republic. But it is a wicked man and one worthy of all punishment who, when asked, gives a response about the destiny of the Emperor, because the astrologer is able neither to find out nor to say anything. You must know that even the Haruspices, as many times as they were asked by private citizens about the condition of the Emperor, and wanted to answer the one who consulted them, always disturbed the entrails which were intended for this purpose by tampering with the arrangement of the veins and cartilages.
5. In fact no astrologer is able to find out anything true about the destiny of the Emperor. For the emperor alone is not subject to the course of the stars and in his fate alone the stars have no power of decreeing. Since he is master of the whole universe, his destiny is governed by the judgment of the Highest God, since the whole world is subject to the power of the Emperor and he himself is also considered among the number of the gods whom the Supreme Power has set up to create and conserve all things.
6. This consideration also makes things difficult for the haruspices because, whatever divinity is invoked by them since it is of lesser power, is not able to explain the character of the greater power which is in the emperor. For all free-born men, all classes, all the rich, all the nobles, all the officials, all powers serve him; endowed with divine authority and immortality he is numbered among the first ranks of the gods.
7. Therefore, if anyone asks anything about the emperor, I do not want you to disturb him with a harsh of stern answer, but convince him with persuasive words that no one can discover anything about the life of the Emperor so that, warned with your arguments, he may put aside his madness and his wrong intention. Nor do I wish you to give a report, if anyone asks you anything wrong lest, after he has received the death sentence because of his forbidden desires, you should seem to have been the cause of his death. This is foreign to the purpose of a priest.
8. Have a wife, a home, many sincere friends; be constantly available to the public; keep away from all quarrels; do not undertake any harmful business; do not at any time e tempted by an increase in income; keep away from all passion of cruelty; never take pleasure in others’ quarrels or capital sentences or fatal enmities. Employ peaceful moderation in all your dealings with other people; avoid plots; at all times shun disturbances and violence.
9. Bind your friends’ loyalty to you with strong ties; be careful to keep your honesty uncorrupted in all your activities; never stain your self-respect by becoming a false witness. Never ask interest on money lest you accumulate an increase in income from the needs of others. Do not give or take an oath, especially if it has to do with money, lest the divine protection of the gods appear to be asked by you for money.
10. To erring men, especially those bound to you by ties of friendship, show the right road of life so that, trained in your principles, they will easily avoid the errors of life. Never be present at nocturnal sacrifices, whether they are held publicly or privately. Do not bring forecasts to anyone by stealth, but openly, as we have said before, and in the sight of all exercise the discipline of this divine art.
11. In drawing up the chart I do not wish you to show up the vices of men too clearly, but whenever you come to such a point, delay your responses with a certain modest reticence, lest you seem not only to explain but also to approve what the evil course of the stars decrees for the man.
12. Keep away at all times from the enticements of the shows, lest anyone think you are a patron of this kind of thing. For the priest of the gods must be apart from low, base pleasures.
13. When you have equipped your mind with the characteristics and protections of virtue, approach with confident boldness of mind this book as well as the following books which we have written on forecasting from the stars. But if your mind has strayed in any way from these principles which we have laid down about human character, see that you do not approach the mysteries of this doctrine with a perverse instinct of curiosity or sacrilegious rashness.
14. Do not entrust the secrets of this religion to the sinful greed of men’s minds; for one should not initiate souls of depraved men into the holy rituals. This divine science cannot at any time adhere to a mind captured and stained by wicked greed, and it always sustains the greatest loss when it is defamed by improper intentions.
15. Therefore be pure chaste; and if you have separated yourself from all kinds of wicked activity which destroy the spirit; and if the desire for the right way of life has freed you from any suspicion of crime, and if you conduct yourself as one mindful of the Divine Seed, approach this work and commit to memory the following books. In this way, having attained the true knowledge of this divine art, when you calculate the destinies of men and chart the course of their lives, you will be directed not only by your readings but also by the conclusions of your own reasoning. Thus your own divinely inspired ideas may be of more profit to you than the traditions of the written word.