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Zodiac Signs
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As we wrote for our Satyricon inspired episode in the “Moaning In Staffs” video series, zodiac signs were actually extremely well known in the ancient Roman world. One of the main texts we have that delves into the science of ancient astrology comes from Roman writer, Manilius. The Astronomica, unfortunately, is but a mere poem, probably no more than an idealised version of what the author wants to believe of the famous signs. All in all, his take home message is that the workings of these constellations were creations of divine fate. Manilius thus uses the signs of the zodiac to project human affairs into the universe, implying our actions are somehow tangled into the complicated mechanism of the cosmos.

Whoa that was a mouthful of boring crap. We’re not done, one sec. Promise we’ll get over this formal sh*t soon.

It’s important that you guys know the exact date of the Astronomica is debatable, however we can piece together its timeline from odd lines said throughout the poem. The work was intentionally written in five books, with each book each one making slight references to certain emperors. Because of this, we’ve dated it (“we” as if Moan Inc. had absolutely anything to do with it) to the first century CE. This date would also make sense with where Manilius most probably got his influence from; he possibly had Egyptian and Arab writings at hand, along with Hermetic texts which all would have helped create his own version of the Zodiacs.

Now the fun parts in this poem are Manilius’ talk of natal charts. In fact, having a birth chart made wasn’t that odd during this time period. Augustus famously had his natal chart published so that the people of Rome could see that greatness was apparently written in the stars for him. This is a theme that Manilius harps on, claiming that men in such powerful positions didn’t have other options due to their paths being bound up with the workings of divine fate. Manilius ONLY comments of Augustus’ chart as a way of making his own claims about the natal chart of the following emperor. Weird, right? This emperor, Tiberius, was said to be a Libra and so Manilius’ writing basically means out with the Capricorns (aka, Augustus), and in with the Libras:

When the claws of autumn are rising, blessed is the man born under Libra the balance. As judge he will set up scales weighted with life and death: he will impose the weight of his authority upon the world and make laws. Cities and kingdoms will tremble before him and be ruled by his command alone, and after his stay on earth, jurisdiction over the sky will await him" (4.548 ff.)

Unfortunately, Tiberius wasn’t actually a libra. He was born in November, which makes him a Scorpio … so Libra was *probably* his rising sign. This is what happens when we don’t understand maths, guys.


Regardless, most of the Astronomica has been proven to be false, due to incorrect maths and a misunderstanding of the astrological position of planets in regards to the sun. This is mainly why it’s disregarded and is just seen as a nice piece of poetry. It was still believed that the earth was the centre of the solar system in Manilius’s day, thus meaning all of the placements of planets are a tad off. Whether the earth being the centre of the universe was widely believed or not, however, is up for debate (much like everything is in this field of study).

For this video, we made the reading as generic as possible so that all the Aries kids watching this could find out something about their sign from Manilius. Just for reference, here’s all the material we discussed over the video:

1. Aries is the first sign of the zodiac and leads all the others “looks back at the bull”.
2. The animal associated with Aries is a ram.
3. Aries rises in an upright position.
4. Masculine sign (offended, quite frankly).
5. Bestial sign (not surprising).
6. Land sign (obviously because it’s a f*cking ram).
7. Aries is a daytime sign.
8. Classified as an in between sign, meaning Aries is neither barren nor fertile.
9. Spring sign.
10. The opposing sign is libra, which is the sign that “sees” you. Supposedly this is measured by degrees and not by the position is placed? Very conveniently always the sign that’s directly opposite your own, though …
11. Pisces is the sign which “hears” you.
12. For every masculine sign there is an opposing feminine sign, and yours is Taurus.
13. Your goddess is Minerva (aka, Athena).
14. The body part associated with Aries is the head.
15. You’re a running sign - this just determines your posture.
16. Trigon is Aries, Sagittarius and Leo.
17. “Quadron” (if this isn’t a word, it is now because we said it on YouTube) is Capricorn, Libra and Gemini.
18. Enemies are Virgo, Libra, Gemini and Aquarius.

Manilius does get into much more detail, however with each detail this gets more and more specific and tailored towards the individual. And so, those are merely some starting points. We’ll get into more specific readings when we can afford some sick ass celebrities on the show, but until then, we’re gonna keep it nice and simple.

For more information on your specific *incorrect* astrological reading, you can check out Manilius via Loeb books.

Manilius Astronomica
The Oxford Classical Dictionary (2012 edition)