148 YAHYA J. MICHOT
During this same third/ninth century when al-Saymarl taughtastrology as a useful technique for charlatans, Abu Ma'shar al-Balkhl(Balkh,
the greatest medieval astrologer,advocated its scientific character in terms of a late Neo-Platonicinterpretation of Aristotle's natural philosophy.
Despite its veryuncertain nature, astrology never ceased to be widely practised inclassical Islam, either in relation to magic, occultism and charlatanry,
or in relation to cosmography, astronomy and
Of course,astrologers became the target of regular attacks and numerous con-demnations, not only by theologians or jurists, but also by philo-sophers, mathematicians or astronomers, themselves threatened byassociation with astrology.
However demand for the astrologers'services never dried up, in palaces and among the elites or in shops,markets and streets, among the lowest social classes.
As G. Saliba,in his excellent investigation of the social status of astrologers inmedieval Islamic society, rightly concludes: 'while trading in a craftwhich was both religiously and legally frowned upon, they stillmanaged to carve a niche for themselves which was not too differentfrom that occupied by other professional classes in that society.'
is not a scholarly translation but what he himself calls a'compte-rendu'. It also contains several mistakes. For example, in the passage heretranslated, Mehren reads
although the latter is clearly the readingin the Leiden manuscript. (On the confusion in the sources between
see C. A. Nalhno,
and C. E. Bosworth,
11, 257-8. Avicenna'sexposition of Abu l-'Anbas' book and the evidence of the
of theLeiden manuscript lead me to prefer
in opposition to Nallino's andC. E. Bosworth's opinions )
See R. Lemay,
As pertinently argued by J. Lemay
28-9), Abu Ma'shar al-Balkhl's
K. al-Mudkhal al-kabir,
in its version of 262/876, showed a serious and worthy effortto synthesize the astrological heritage of the Middle East (Egypt, Mesopotamia, Iranand India) and the Greek
recently brought into vogue in Baghdad under thepatronage of the 'Abbasid caliph al-Ma'mun; with the consequence that the book isvisibly inspired by Aristotle's
as well as by the adaptation ofPeripatetic naturalism to astrology accomplished by Ptolemy. It is indeed Aristotlehimself who provided the theoretical framework on the basis of which astrologerswere able to build their doctrines. In more than one text, he clearly affirmed theresponsibility of the sun, the planetary spheres or the planets and their movements, inall processes of generation and corruption, including animal generation. (See thereferences given by G. Saliba,
45; D Pingree,
See for example Abu Dulaf (4th/10th c),
204, verses 88-9.
See G. Sahba,
46-7. See also
Ibn Khaldun offers a psychological explanation for the phenomenon and showsits importance in the various social classes. See his
See G. Sahba,