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Tetrabiblos (Quadripartitum)
Opening page of Tetrabiblos: 15th-century Latin reproduction of the 12th-century translation of Plato of Tivoli; published in Venice by Erhard Ratdolt, 1484.
Author Claudius Ptolemy
Original title Apotelesmatika
Language Greek
Subject Astrology
Publication date
2nd century

Tetrabiblos (Τετράβιβλος) 'four books', also known in Greek as Apotelesmatiká (Ἀποτελεσματικά) "Effects", and in Latin as Quadripartitum "Four Parts", is a text on the philosophy and practice of astrology, written in the 2nd century AD by the Alexandrian scholar Claudius Ptolemy (c. AD 90–c. AD 168).

Ptolemy's Almagest was an authoritative text on astronomy for more than a thousand years, and the Tetrabiblos, its companion volume, was equally influential in astrology, the study of the effects of astronomical cycles on earthly matters. But whilst the Almagest as an astronomical authority was superseded by acceptance of the heliocentric model of the solar system, the Tetrabiblos remains an important theoretical work for astrology.

Besides outlining the techniques of astrological practice, Ptolemy's philosophical defense of the subject as a natural, beneficial study helped secure theological tolerance towards astrology in Western Europe during the Medieval era. This allowed Ptolemaic teachings on astrology to be included in universities during the Renaissance, which brought an associated impact upon medical studies and literary works. The book's intellectual standing had collapsed by the end of the 17th century, when Ptolemy's work and the principles it presented faced criticisms of being outmoded and based on superstition.

The historical importance of the Tetrabiblos is seen by the many ancient, Medieval and Renaissance commentaries that have been published about it. It was copied, commented on, paraphrased, abridged, and translated into many languages. The latest critical Greek edition, by Wolfgang Hübner, was published by Teubner in 1998.

"I know that I am mortal, the creature of one day; but when I explore the winding courses of the stars I no longer touch with my feet the Earth: I am standing near Zeus himself, drinking my fill of Ambrosia, the food of the gods."

Planet Period Years Age Planetary theme
☽ Moon first 4 years 0–3 babyhood suppleness, growth, changeability, nourishment of the body
☿ Mercury next 10 years 4–14 childhood development of intelligence, articulation, physical and mental dexterity
♀ Venus next 8 years 15–22 youth impulse towards love and sexuality, burning passion, guile
☉ Sun next 19 years 23–41 early manhood responsibilities, ambition, substance, decorum, change from playfulness
♂ Mars next 15 years 42–56 later manhood severity, realisation of passing prime, labour to complete life-tasks
♃ Jupiter next 12 years 57–68 full maturity fulfilment, retirement, independence, dignity, deliberation, honour
♄ Saturn all remaining years 69–death old age coldness, weakness, decline, impediments, dispiritedness

Argument on the extent of astrology's reliability
Argument on whether astrology is natural and useful
English language reproductions of the Tetrabiblos and associated texts
Greek and Latin reproductions of the Tetrabiblos and associated texts
Greek and Latin astrological works with substantial reference to the Tetrabiblos and the Commentary
  • Ashmand, J. M., (ed.) 1822. Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos London: Davis and Dickson. Reprinted, Bel Air, MD: Astrology Classics, 2002. .
  • Avelar, Helena and Ribeiro, Luis, 2010. On the Heavenly Spheres: A Treatise on Traditional Astrology. Tempe, AZ: American Federation of Astrologers. .
  • Berggren, J. L. and Goldstein, B. R., (eds.) 1987. From Ancient Omens to Statistical Mechanics: Essays on the Exact Sciences presented to Asger Aaboe, vol. 39 . Copenhagen: University Library. .
  • Burnett, Charles and Greenbaum, Dorian Gieseler, (eds.) 2007. Culture and Cosmos: The Winding Courses of the Stars: Essays in Ancient Astrology, vol. 11 no 1 and 2, spring/summer and autumn/winter. Bristol, UK: Culture and Cosmos, ISSN 1368-6534.
  • Evans, James, 1998. The History & Practice of Ancient Astronomy. Oxford: Oxford University Press. .
  • Evans, James, and Berggren, J. Lennart, 2006. Geminos's introduction to the phenomena. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. .
  • Falconer, William Armistead (ed.) 1923. Cicero: De senectute, De amicitia, De divinatione (Latin text with English translation). Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press; London: W. Heinemann. .
  • Grafton, Amthony, 1999. Cardano's Cosmos. Cambridge, Mass; London: Harvard University Press. .
  • Grasshoff, Gerd, 1990. The History of Ptolemy's Star Catalogue. New York: Springer-Verlag. .
  • Houlding, Deborah, 1993. 'The Life and Work of Ptolemy', Traditional Astrologer; Issue 1, pp.3–6. Nottingham: Ascella. Reproduced on Skyscript (retrieved 16 November 2011).
  • Houlding, Deborah, 2006. 'Ptolemy's Centiloquium transcribed and annotated' (based on Henry Coley's English translation, published as chapter 20 of his Clavis Astrologiae Elimata; London, B. Tooke and T. Sawbridge, 1676. OCLC 4731519). Reproduced on Skyscript (retrieved 16 November 2011).
  • Hübner, Wolfgang, 1998. Claudii Ptolemaei opera quae exstant omnia 1, Apotelesmatika (Most recent critical edition of the Greek text). Stuttgart: Teubner. .
  • Jensen, Derek, 2006. The science of the stars in Danzig from Rheticus to Hevelius. San Diego: University of California. .
  • Jones, Alexander (ed.), 2010. Ptolemy in Perspective: Use and Criticism of his Work from Antiquity to the Nineteenth Century. Dordrecht; New York: Springer. .
  • Kieckhefer, Richard, 2000. Magic in the Middle Ages. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press. .
  • Lehoux, Daryn, 2006. 'Tomorrow's news today: astrology, fate and the way out', Representations; 95.1: 105-122. California: University of California Press. ISSN 0734-6018.
  • Lilly, William, 1647. Christian Astrology. London: John Partridge and Humphrey Partridge. Republished in facsimile, London: Regulus, 1985. .
  • Lindberg, David C., 2007. The beginnings of western science: the European scientific tradition in philosophical, religious, and institutional context, prehistory to A.D. 1450. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. .
  • Long, Anthony, 1982. 'Astrology: Arguments pro and contra', Science and Speculation: Studies in Hellenistic Theory and Practice; edited by Jonathon Barnes et al., pp.165–192. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. .
  • Luck, Georg, 2006. Arcana Mundi (2nd ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. .
  • North, John David, 1989. Stars, minds, and fate: essays in ancient and medieval cosmology. London: Hambledon Press. .
  • Pecker, Jean Claude, 2001. Understanding the Heavens: Thirty Centuries of Astronomical Ideas from Ancient Thinking to Modern Cosmology. Berlin; London: Springer. .
  • Ramesey, William, 1654. Astrologia restaurata, or, Astrologie restored. London: Nathaniel Elkins. OCLC 606757518.
  • Riley, Mark, 1974. 'Theoretical and Practical Astrology: Ptolemy and His Colleagues', Transactions of the American Philological Association ; vol. 117, pp.235–236. Baltimore; London: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISSN 0360-5949.
  • Riley, Mark, 1988. 'Science and Tradition in the Tetrabiblos', Proceedings of the American Philolosophical Society; vol. 132, no. 1, pp.67–84. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society. ISSN 0003-049X.
  • Robbins, Frank E. (ed.) 1940. Tetrabiblos. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press (Loeb Classical Library). .
  • Rudhyar, Dane, 1936. The Astrology of Personality. New York: Lucis. OCLC 1547769.
  • Saliba, George, 1994. A History of Arabic Astronomy: Planetary Theories During the Golden Age of Islam. New York: New York University Press. .
  • Sela, Shlomo, 2003. Abraham Ibn Ezra and the rise of medieval Hebrew science. Leiden; Boston: Brill. .
  • Schmidt, Robert, 1994–8. Tetrabiblos, vols. 1–4. Berkely Springs: Project Hindsight.
  • Smith, Mark A., 2006. Ptolemy's theory of visual perception: an English translation of the Optics. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society. .
  • Tarnas, Richard, 1991. The Passion Of The Western Mind: Understanding the Ideas That Have Shaped Our World View. New York: Harmony Books. .
  • Tester, Jim, 1987. A history of western astrology. New Hampshire: Boydell and Brewer. .
  • Taliaferro, Robert Catesby, and Wallis, Charles Glenn, 1955. Ptolemy's Almagest. Great books of the Western world, vol.16. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica. OCLC 342062.
  • Thomas, Keith, 1971. Religion and the decline of magic: studies in popular beliefs in sixteenth and seventeenth century England. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson. .
  • Thorndike, Lynn, 1923–58. A History of Magic and Experimental Science, vols. 1-12. New York: Macmillan; Columbia University Press. OCLC 645400199.
  • Tymieniecka, Anna-Teresa, 2010. Astronomy and Civilisation in the New Enlightenment: Passions of the Skies. Dordrecht: Springer. .
  • Webster, Charles, 1979. Health, medicine, and mortality in the sixteenth century. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press. .
  • Westman, Robert S., 2011. The Copernican Question: Prognostication, Scepticism, and Celestial Order. California: University of California Press. .
  • Theoretical and Practical Astrology: Ptolemy and his Colleagues by Mark Riley, 1974; Transactions of the American Philological Association, 117, (Baltimore; London: Johns Hopkins University Press). Explores the difference of approach taken by Ptolemy to that of other contemporary astrologers.
  • Science and Tradition in the Tetrabiblos by Mark Riley, 1988; Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 132.1, (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society). Considers the question of what Ptolemy contributed to astrology and why his work was so significant.
  • Erhard Ratdolt, Venice, 1484. First printed Latin edition of Tetrabiblos based on Egidio Tebaldi's 13th-century Latin translation out of Arabic. Also includes the Centiloquium and Commentary by Haly Abenragel (Albohazen). Biblioteca Virtual del Patrimonio Bibliografico; retrieved 10 November 2011.
  • Bonetum Locatellum, Venice, 1493. Compemdium of Latin texts including the Tetrabiblos, Centiloquium, and Ali ibn Ridwan's Commentary. Gallica Bibliothèque nationale de France; retrieved 20 November 2011.
  • Heirs of Octavius Scoti, Venice, 1519. Compendium of Latin texts including the Tetrabiblos and Centiloquium. Universidad de Sevilla; retrieved 20 November 2011.
  • Johannes Hervagius, Basel, 1533. Latin edition based on Plato de Tivoli's translation. Warburg Institute; retrieved 19 November 2011.
  • Heinrich Petri, Basel, 1541. Latin edition containing Ptolemy's Almagest, Tetrabiblos, and the Centiloquium. Biblioteca Virtual del Patrimonio Bibliografico; retrieved 19 November 2011.
  • Heinrich Petri, Basel, 1591. Latin reproduction of Hieronymous Wolf's translation the 'anonymous' Commentary attributed to Proclus. Biblioteca Virtual del Patrimonio Bibliografico; retrieved 19 November 2011.
  • Leo Allatius, Lugd. Batavorum, 1635. Greek and Latin translation of the 'anonymous' Proclus Paraphrase (Procli Diadochi Paraphrasis) based on manuscripts housed in the Vatican Library (oldest dates to 10th century: Codex Vaticanus Graecus 1453). Warburg Institute; retrieved 19 November 2011.
  • Emily Boer, Leipzig, 1961. Greek language edition of the Centiloquium published by Teubner. Open Library; retrieved 26 November 2011.


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