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Maria Papathanassiou - Stephanos of Alexandria

Maria Papathanassiou - Stephanos of Alexandria

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Maria Papathanassiou
NationalandKaoodistrianUniversitvof Athens
Stephanos
of Alexandria:A Famous
ByzantineScholar,Alchemistand
Astrologer
INTRoDUcrtoN
Understanding
the intellectual

protileof a famousscholarwhol i v e d in the remotep a s t can be a complicatedtask; in the case of Stephanos

of Alexandriathep r o b l e mis compoundedby the limited
survivingbiographical

informationand the factt h a t e a r l y t r a d i t i o n attributesto hima c t i v i t i e sa n dc o m p o s i t i o n swhich,accordingto our modernstand.uds,

belongtov e r y differentdisciplines.
Stephanos
of
Alexandriais a late-sixth/early-seventh-century

Byzantinescholar
known as a commentatorof Plato and Aristotle; astronomical,
astrological,

alchemicaland medical works area l s o a t t r i b u t e dt o
him.r It isg e n e r a l l yacceptedthathe wasa well-knownandeminent
scholarin Alexandriabefore moving, by 617, to Constantinople,
' H. Hunger. Die hochspruchlichep n t f a n e Literanr der B,-aantiner, 2 vols.

(Munich.1978),1.26-7, 10. 63,2 9 t 2, 100-301.305.310:2:231-32.280.K . Vogcl,' B y z a n t i n e Science', Tr? Cunbridge Medievul Hisnry.lV. 2 ( C a m b r i d g e . 196?).264-305,csp.267 ft.297.

t64
MariaP a p a t h a n a . s s i o u
Stephanosof Alexandria; A FamousByzanline Scholar,
Alchemist and Astrcloeer
Stephanos.Moreover, modem criteria used to differentiate between
'science'a n d' o c c u l t s c i e n c e '( o u r "scientificp r i n c i p l e s " )a r e
largelybasedonq u a n t i t a t i v e(and thereforemeasurable)
relations
betweenthings or substancesand are sharplydistinguishedfrom
philosophical

ideas.On thecontrary,in AntiquitytheStoicdoctnne of" s y m p a t h y "implied unity of thew o r l d and interactionbetween itsp a n s ; further, ito f f e r e d a basisfor understandingthe worldb o t h asaw h o l eand asa compositeentity madeupo f variouspartswith specificfunctionsthatcontinuouslyinteractwithe a c ho t h e r .

The role and influenceof alchemyand astrologyon bothstateand individualaffairsduringthe LateAntiqueand Byzantineperiodcan bep r o p e r l yunderstoodonly by takinginto consideration

theirwider
philosophical

context.Evenso,theattitudeof RomanandByzantlne emperorstowards alchemy and astrologyw a s ambivalent:for example,the emperorDiocletiandecreedthe bumingof" b o o k s on makingg o l d and silver" in Egypt.{ Despite suche p i s o d e so f deliberatedestruction.ag r e a t number of Greek alchemicaland astrologicalmanuscriptsdating from the Byz.antineperiodd o survive.5

ASTROLOGYAND AI,CHEMYIN LATE ANTIQUITYAND THE
BYZANTINEPI'RIOD

Among all divinatoryartsinventedby man in orderto foretellthe future, astrologyw a s the most sophisticatedin termso f the philosophical

backgroundandastronomical
techniquesrequiredfor
castinga horoscope.
Thesetechniqueswerepanicularlyrefinedin
Alexandria,an importantandflourishingcentreof Greekscience-
n Seethe Sa/n, s.v . AmxlqrrcvdE and Xf.itEi(l inS u i d u e lz.rit 0n, ed. A. Adler,5

vols.( L e i p z i g . 1928-38).ll. 104-5;l V , 804. This informalion rct'ersto the occupalion of Alexandria by Diocletian in the year 296/297, brought about by his campaigntop u t down therevoltof l-uciusDomi(iusDomi(ianus.

As a resullof his

prcscncein Egypt. Diq:lctian inslitutcd a numberof changesin the local systcmof administratiorrand taxation, including nlonclary and calendrical reformst hea l s o suppressed

Egypl'sprivilcges(r(leirres
PanA, ll, s.v. DtocLETlANUs).

'Ccrtttloguer!esMurus(rits Al(hiniquesG r . ( r( =C M A C ) , 8 vols.( B r u s s e l s ,1924- 321;CautlotqusCotlicun Astrologicorum Graeutrum( = CCAGI. l2 vols.( B r u s s c l s , 1898-t953).

165
wherehec o l l a b o r a t e dwith the emperorHeraclius(610-641)and
taughttheq uad r ivi um.2
Byzantinesourcesdesignatehima s" p r a c t i c a lp h i l o s o p h e r "and
"philosopherandc e c u m e n i c a l
teacher"rmostl i k e l y in ordert o
presenthim as the idealaccomplishedintellectual
ofh i s t i m e .Since

philosophy, the arts, and technology in thep a s t were not s e p a r a t e d byc l e a rb o u n d a r i e s in the way theya r c today, Stephanos' intellectualp r o f i l ec o u l d b e b e s t u n d e r s t o o difw ep a i d a t t e n t i o nt o the intenelations,instead oft h ed i v i d i n gl i n e s ' among these disciplinesa n dt h ev a r i o u ss c h o l a r l ya c t i v i t i e sa t t r i b u t e dt o

'H.

Usencr.' D cS t e p h a n o A l e x a n d r i n o ' , in In<[exs c f u t l a r u n quae summis auspiciis rcgis auguslissini Cuileb iiperck tis Cermunite in Universitlte FridericiaG u i l e l m i aR h e n a n a per mcnse! oestivoso n n il88O a die 2l me$ s uprilil publice priv tirnqueh a b e b u n t u r ' Pruefalus estH e n n o n n u sU s e n e rD e StephanoAlexundrino (Bonn,l 8 8 l ) :repr' in idcm, KleheS c ' h r i J t e n 'III( L e i p z i S and Bcrlin.l g l 4 \ , 2 4 - l - J 2 2 ,Kl. Oehler,A n t i k e P h i l o s o p h i e und bry)ntinis(het Mittelatter (Munich,1 9 6 9 ) , I9, 2?6; W. Wolska-Conus' 'Stcphanosd'Athenes ct Sr6phanosd'Alexandrie.E s s a id'idcntificutionet deb i o g r a p h i e "R e v u e d e sl t u d e s byzanrines4'l( 1 9 8 9 ) , 5-1t9. On the astronomic l associationof Slephanoswith Heraclius.sce mostr e c e n t l yA. Tihon, 'Le calcul de la dale de P6quesde St6phanos-Hdraclius'.

in B. Janssens,B. Rooscni r n d P Van Dcun,c d s ' Philomathestatos.Stttdiesin Crc?*P a l r i s t i .and Bvaunline' l e x l sP r e s e n t e dt o JacquesN o r e tf o rhis SL\l't'FiJthB i r t h d t t y( L e ' J v c l ,Paris, and D u d l e y .M a s s 2004\.62546.

I ln mostM S S , works are attributed to him as follows:> r O d v o uA L t ( < r v b p t c ' r g
Or.loo6oou t(ai oixouFrvrxoo6 t 6 c r o x d i ' o u( S t e p h a n o st h e A l e x a n d n a n
philosopher andr t c u m e n i c a lmaster), :t€+d!o!

ALeltrv6p6togO u l o o d $ o u
(StephanostheA l e x a n d . i a np h i l o s o p h c r ) . > I e Q & v o uQ t - l ' o o 6 Q o l( S t e p h a n o slhe
philosopher),>r€S(rvouA i . t [ a r b q 6 o g( S t e p h a n o sthe A l e x a n d r i a n ) .> 1 0 d v o 1 '
iStephanos). o drrotilpovx t t Q o v o E( s l e p h a n o s the scientist)'x r o d l o u
Qrloo6Qorrt < r ' Lpr:1di'ou6 6 o o x d L o u( S t c p h a n o sPhilosopherand S r e a imaster)'

Ite$dvouO 0 ' o o 6 Q o !A t r e l o v 6 g 6 t r r E( s t e p h a n o s the Alexandrianp h i l o s o p h e r ) '
>"r$d"ou
luydl'ou
Od'oo6Qou ro0 A).elcvbp6urE
xtrit o 0 o ) ' ! t ( o i J

6[6uoxd]'ou( S t e p h a n o sthe g r e a t A l e x a n d r i a np h i l o s o p h e ra n dg e n e r a l m a s t e r ) l i n MSSlawent.P l u t . 2 8 . 1 3 ,fol 24O,Iautent.Plfi.28'l4'fol.1 6 9 r - . I a u r e n tPlut' 28,33. fol. lO5.Marc.gr'3 2 4 , f o l .l 4 1 v ' 2 3 1 : M u r c . g r . 3 3 6 ' f o l . 2 6 6 ! , M u t c

gt'
335,fo1.25Mediol.B 38sup..fol4 9 v : I a r r i nC , V l l .l 0 ( B ' V l .l2),fol 29;V a t '
rr.1 0 5 6 ,fols. f93v, 203v,206:y a , .8 r .1 0 5 9 .fds l23, 524,5 2 9 v'A n g e l i c u s
29
tC. 4.8f, fofs. 54v,2 3 6 v ;V i n d o b .phit.g r . 108,fol. 292vrV i n d o b -phil. 9 r . 2 6 2 ,f o l
l'lvt MonacensislO5,f o l . 2 2 3P a r i s . gr. 24l9 fol. 721.On lhem e a n i n gof these

titfesa t l r i b u t e d to Stephanos, see FFuchs' Dieh a i h e r e nS c h u l e nv o n
Konstartinopeli mM i r r e l d l r r l (Amsterdam.1 9 6 4 \ ' l2-l6i ODB's.v .P A T R I A R C H A L
ScHooL,PHILOSOPHER.

MariaP a p a $ a n a . s s i o u
SlephauDsof Alexandria: A FamousByzantine Scholar,
Alchemist and As(R)loser
formerregionaledicts.Only laterdid Christianemperorsmakethese
edictspermanent
for religiousreasons.'

Many well-knownastrologerswere activeduring LateA n t i q u i t y r t r and a large number of horoscopes cast during thisp e r i o d are preservedinp a p y r i and later Byzantine manuscripts.L. G. Westerink'sdetailedstudyo f an ancientcommentaryon Paul of Alexandria's astrological work( c a . 378)" reveals favorable conditions for teaching astrology in sixth-centuryAlexandna. Westerinks h o w e d t h a t the materialsof the commentarycome from a seriesof lecturesdeliveredin AlexandriaduringMay-Juneof the year564 eitherby Olympiodorusor oneof hisd i s c i p l e swho taught mathematicsor astrology.Accordingly,Westerinkthoughtit likely thatin thesixth centuryastrologycouldstill be an importantpafl of theq u a c l r i v i u m and therefore of the w h o l et e a c h i n gp h i l o s o p h y curriculum.r2 Basedon this evidence,Stephanosof Alexandria (who lived in the late sixth/earlyseventhcentury,was invited by

emperorH e r a c l i u s t o Constantinople,
and cast both ap e r s o n a l
horoscopefor the emperor, as well as a horoscopetop r e d i c t the
futureof Islam)musthavestudiedastrologyin Alexandria.
Christian emperorswere interestedin consultingastrologersfor both
theirp e r s o n a l and state affairs. Modifications of the relevant
legislationwere alwayspossibledependingont h e c i r c u m s t a n c e s .
For example,a comparisonof laws issuedfromt h e eighth to the
'' F. H. Cramer. Astntbgv in Ro,1l.aLah'uhl Politics( P h i l a d c l p h i a ,1 9 5 4 1r e p r .
ChicaSo,I996).232ff..241ff..28l.
'"E .g . V e l t i u sv a l e n s . C r i l o d e m u s ,A n l i g o n u s o fN i c a c a , P a l c h u s ,R h c t o r i u s ,

Eutocius, and above allP a u l of Alexandria: see Paul of Alexandria, Eisagoqika: EletnentuApotelesmari.?,ed. Ae. Boer( L e i p z i g , 1958):also HeliodorosI a l l . i b u l e d r\:tl, Hcliodori ut tlititur in Paulun Alerundtinum commenturium,cd. Ac. B(rcr (lripzig.1 9 6 2 ) . The f:unous astroloScr Hephaestio of Thebes( b o m on 26 November 3tl0) refe$ to and cites whole passagesfrom thew o r k of carlier a\trohgers, especially Ptolemy and Dorotheosof Sidon:s e Hephacstioof Thebes. ApotclesnotiLu,

ed.D. Pingrce.2vols.(Leipzig,I973and 1974).
rlL .C . W e s r e r i n k .'Ein a s t r o l o g i s c h e s

Kolleg ausdemJahre564', BZ6 4( l 9 1 l r , 6-2ft idem, Thc Crcek Cotnmentarieso n Plato's Phaedo. l: Oltmpit orus, Verhandclingender Koninklijke Nederlandese

Akademie92( A m s t e r d a m ,1976).
rrWestcrink.'Ein astrologisches
KollegausdemJahrc5 64',6. Ill-2l.
t6'7
t66
especiallymathematics
andastronomy-anda crossroads
ofv a r i o u s

culturesa n dr e l i g i o n s . A considerablenumbero fs u r v i v i n g horoscopes6 provide excellentp r i m a r ys o u r c em a t e r i a lf o r researctring

theconnectionbetweenastrologyandmedicine:indeed,
alreadyina n t i q u i t yth€combinationoft h e t w ol e dto thecreationof
as p e c i a tdisciilin;," i a t r o m a t h e m a l i c a "
(i.e.m e d i c a lastrology),?a

facit h a t e n h a n c e dastrology'sprestige,widenedits influence.and mayp a r t i a l l y e x p l a i ni t ss u r v i v a ld u r i n gl h eL a t eA n t i q u ea n d nyzantlneperiod;ins p i t eo ft h e s t r o n gpolemicsagainstit.8

We alsoknowt h a t t h r o u g h o u ttheR o m a nimperialperiodastrology was consideredthem o s tr e l i a b l em e t h o d of divination'A n y emperor,

therefore,
wouldfeelobligedor atl e a s ttemptedto useit in

ordert ou n c o v e rfuture dangersto himselfo rt h ee m p i r ea n dt ( ) pacifythe excitedmindsof hiso p p o n e n t sbyw i t h h o l d i n gfromt h e m ih". i i r n u l u t of astrological

predictions,
whiler e s e r v i n gforh i m s e l f

the counselofh i sc o u na s t r o l o g e r s .It seemsquietl i k e l y that astronomya n da s t r o l o g y were taught at theA t h e n a e u m( a n institutionthati nm o d e mtermscouldbe understoodast h e R o m a n stateuniversity)fromi t s b e g i n n i n g sin 134becauseitsf o u n d e r .the emperorHadrian(ll ? - 1 3 8 ) , wasa firmb e l i e v e rina s t r o l o g yaswell asip r a c t i c i n ge x p e r t .Ont h e o t h e rhand,fromt h e d e a t hofC e a s a r

(44B . c . )u n t i lthat ofM a r c u sA u r e l i u s( 1 8 0A . D . ) a tl e a s t e i g h t

expulsiondecreeswere issuedagainstastrologers,allm e a n ta s temporarym e a s u r e s .For thisr e a s o na s t r o l o g e r swere allowedt o stayi nR o m e a sl o n ga s t h e yd i dn o tp r a c t i c elheir a r t ln they e a r 294,the emperorDiocletian(284-305)was the firstt or e p l a c ethe usualr e g i o n a lb a n on astrologywitho n e valid throughoutthe

empireandi n c l u d i n galld i v i n a t o r yactivitiesconsidereddangerous
for the eovernment.
His edicth a d l h es a m etemporarycharacter
as
n O. Neugebaucr and H. B. VanH o e s e n 'C r e e kH o r o s u t p e s 'M e m o i r s of the
AmericanP h i l o s o p h i c l l lSociely4 8( P h i l a d e l p h i a ' 1 9 5 9 ) .
'P t o l e r r l y ,Tetruiiblor, t.l, ed and tr'w Gwaddcll( C a m b r i d g e ' M a s s'1 9 4 0 :
rcpr.1964),esp.30,32( l e x t ) ,31.33( t r a n s l a l i o n )
'M.P a p a r h a n i s s i o u .
'lalmmathematica(medicalaslrology)in LateAntiquityand
theBvzantineperiod'
,M . di(inr n?ise@liI I 2 ( 1 9 9 9 ) , l 5 l
76

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