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Girolamo Cardano and the Tradition of Classical Astrology the Rothschild Lecture, 1995 Author(s): Anthony Grafton Source:

Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 142, No. 3 (Sep., 1998), pp. 323 -354 Published by: American Philosophical Society Stable URL: Accessed: 25/07/2010 23:46
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GirolamoCardanoand the Traditionof Classical Astrology The RothschildLecture,1995


of DodgeProfessor History,PrincetonUniversity


or two anda halfmillennia, havescrutinized skiesin the astrologers orderto predict careers individuals, resultsof commercial the of the
ventures,the fortunesof individualcountries,andthe history of the entire world. The oldest surviving individual horoscopes are the work of Mesopotamian astrologers,preparedin the fifth century B.C., and after 1 The most recent ones that could still claim scientificstatuswere drawnup by some of the most technically advanced natural philosophers in seventeenth-century Rome and London.2 No modern university has a department of astrology, but it still flourishes acrossthe western world, in elegant occult bookshops from Geneva to Pasadena as well as in supermarketsand the back pages of tabloid newspapers. To judge from the expensive cars that regularly park outside the house of one of my neighbors, an astrologerwho did pioneeringwork on the development of

for compositionof horoscopes, computerprograms rapidandaccurate of elite members the modernsocialandintellectual still findthis ancient artof considerable interest. who attempts studyan individual to historian segmentof this Any risk andeven ancient, mustrepeatedly mistaking traditional, long history of ideasandmethodsfor new ones. For the historian classical astrology confronts a traditionthat lastedmany centuries,one that combined
On the origins of astrology see the classic study of A. Sachs, "BabylonianHoroscopes," Journal of CuneiformStudies 6 (1952), 49-75, and the more recent work ofF. RochbergHalton,e.g. "New Evidencefor the Historyof Astrology,"Journal of Near Eastern Studies 43 (1984): 115-40 and "BabylonianHoroscopes and their Sources,"Orientalia 58 (1989): 102-23. For surveys of the history of astrology in the ancient world, see S. J. Tester, A History of WesternAstrology (Woodbridge, 1987), and T. Barton, Ancient Astrology (LondonandNew York, 1994), which have the merit of existing even if they do not fill all needs.
2 See

respectivelyG. Ernst,Religione,ragione e natura(Milan, 1991), chaps. 10-11, and P. Curry,Prophecy and Power (Princeton, 1989).




with a durablecommitmentto a remarkable flexibilityin application uniformset of ideasand techniques.The astrologers of recognizably in Rome in the time of Cicero,the astrologers Baghdad the age of of Harunar Rashid,andthe astrologers Niirnbergin the generation of of Diirerworkedfromthe samecosmological Albrecht premises, projected and into and the samebeneficent threatening images the heavens, usedfor But the most partthe samemathematical techniques. they workedfor different societies and clients, and in radically different radically and institutional professional then, settings.The historianof astrology, must somehow manageto do justiceto both the durabilityand the duree to a of flexibility the tradition: combine senseof the scientific longue with an eye for the continual transformation of that astrologyachieved the social worlds it servedand the techniquesand ideas of which it consisted. tradition perhaps, unmatched The continuity the astrological of is, in of the west.All astrologers-whether ancient in the intellectual history that the or Hitler'sMunich-assume they understand language Babylon of the stars.They believethatthey possessa set of hermeneutical rules, the which enablethem to decipher book of the heavens.This analogy may sound very modern, even modish. Currentintellectualfashion of the dictates comparison eventsto texts.Effortsto treatall systemsof recentbookshaveshednew flourish aslanguages wildly:original symbols But of on the languages politics,of flowers,andof clothing.3 in the light case of astrology,the analogyitself forms part of a long-established a who published treatise rebus De Gioviano Giovanni tradition. Pontano, thatthe language the of as coelestibus long ago as 1512,argued explicitly of starsconformedin all essentialways to the language humans.The letters of the Roman alphabet,he pointed out, could be twenty-six of in combined tens of thousands waysto formnew words.Verysimple in in caused alterations spelling avidus, major changes sense.The adjective the for example,readilybecomes moreintenseavidior,avidiorbecomes
the still more intensive avidissimus,and avidissimus,in its turn, sinks down to become avidulusafteronly minor surgery.Every transformation of the sign transformsits meaning.4 Stars and planets, Pontano argued,formed the letters of a cosmic alphabet. Clear, simple attributes-color, external appearance,speed of
3A. Pagden,ed., TheLanguagesof Political Theoryin Early ModernEurope (Cambridge, 1987); J. Goody, The Cultureof Flowers (Cambridge,1993); A. Hollander,Sex and Suits (New York, 1994). 4 G. G. Pontano, De rebus coelestibus libri 14 (Basel, 1530); cf. C. Trinkaus, "The AstrologicalCosmos andRhetoricalCultureof GiovanniGioviano Pontano,"Renaissance Quarterly38 (1985): 446-72.



of the motion-expressed character the individual planets.The redcolor characterized for example,revealed hot, dry, that supposedly its Mars, nature. warlike but moreover, Everyplanethadnot only its own qualities, also its alliesandopponentsamongthe otherplanets,the stars,andthe A and degrees signsof the Zodiac. taxonomic thattook bothqualities grid into andrelationships account enabled astrologer establish full set the to a of qualitiesfor each celestialbody and place. Venus, as Mars'schief
opponent, necessarilyhad the opposed qualities, cold and wetness. Every planet, in other words, playedthe role of a letter with defined qualities. Every astrologically significant configuration of two or more planets-a conjunction, for example-resembled a word or a phrase, the sense of which the astrologercould determine. The conjunction of Mars and Venus offers a simple example:what happenedwhen a beneficentand a maleficentplanet met on the Zodiac. Every astrologerknew that in this case Venus would overcome her brother, as love is stronger than anger. This apparentlysimple principle inspired both the philosopher Marsilio Ficino, who devoted to it a splendid set piece in his commentary on Plato's Symposium,and the artist SandroBotticelli, who embodied it, in a spectacularly erotic form, in his panel painting of Marsand Venus,now in the National Gallery, London.5 European astrologers made use not only of this celestial hermeneutics, which came originally from Mesopotamia, but also of a cosmology, which came originallyfrom Greece.Accordingto the scheme first laid out by Plato and then much more elaborately developed by Aristotle and others, the universehas two main parts:the upper realm of the celestialspheres,which revolve aroundthe earth, and the lower realm of the four elements. In the upper realm, "tout n'est qu'ordre et beaute, luxe, calme et volupte."The starsand the planets,embeddedin crystalline spheres, create the unchanging music of eternity. In the lower realm, by contrast, things and creaturescomposed of the four elements, earth, air, fire and water, are born and grow, become old and die. Down here, things change incessantly:the elementsplay an unending drama,which seems to have no clearscript.But that which is complete and does not change, and moves in a uniform way, is higher than that which changes. And the higher rightly rules the lower. Accordingly, the music of the spheres in the upper realm extends its influence to the living creaturesin the lower realm. They follow it-to the limited and imperfectextent allowed by the messy and changeable matter of which they consist. The cosmology justifiedthe hermeneutics:it explained, as dozens of manuals and lecture courses patiently made clear, why the astrologer could infer from the smooth and perpetual movements of the planets the jerky and uneven
5 See E. H. Gombrich,SymbolicImages (Oxford, 1972; repr. 1978), 66-69.



of and futuremovements plants,animals humanson earth.6 The astrologer, reliedon a set of mathematical dataand finally, techniques, which combined the methods and discoveries of and astronomers astrologers-and and thoseof some Mesopotamian Greek of their successors.Astronomicaltables enabled astronomersand to astrologers predictthe futuremovementsof the planetsand their accuracy. Astrologers significant positionswith reasonable astrologically to usedthesetechniques lay out the positionsof the signsof the Zodiac moment: of the birthor conception that of at andthe planets a significant alsousedthemto divide Zodiac into the the a client,forexample. up They
twelve segments, called houses, that defined the effects of planetary influence.The presenceof planetsin these determined,in succession,how long clients would live, what talents they would possess, and how much they would prosper. Most frequently of all, they used a simplified set of computations to determine what influence the planets would exercise at a particularly importantmoment in a client's life. Short-termpredictions of about marriage, investment,prescriptions drugsandproscriptionsfrom all be given a sound quantitativebasis.7 politics could Astrologers'tasksvariedwidely. The most intellectually ambitious of them used astrological principles to investigate world history. The simple rule that SaturnandJupiterreachconjunctionevery twenty years, for example, could become a sort of ground bass for world history as a whole, as Persian,Arabic, and European astrologersin turn used it to fix and account for the greatturning points in world history, like the rise of new religions,and to predicthistory's end.8PierreD'Ailly, a Frenchman, set this quite correctly-in a special,Frenchsense-in A.D. 1789.9Ordinary astrologersinvestigatedspecificconfigurationsby the thousands,working out the prospectsfor a curefor anythingfrom lovesicknessto housemaid's knee.10The central task of the skilled astrologer remained the same, however, over the centuriesandmillennia:to drawup the horoscopesthat would explainhow celestialinfluencesformedthe characterof individual people, cities, and countries, "asthe hot seal stampsthe wax."
For a good introductionto this cosmological traditionas it was known and illustratedin earlymodem Europe,see S. K. Heninger,Touchesof Sweet Harmony(San Marino, 1974). 7 J. C. Eade, The Forgotten Sky (Oxford, 1984), describes astrological terminology and techniques. For a more technical study of the ways of laying out horoscopes, see J. North, Horoscopes and History (London, 1986). 8 J. North, "Astrologyand the Fortunesof Churches," Centaurus24 (1980): 181-211.

9 L. Smoller, History, Prophecy and the Stars (Princeton, 1994). Smoller provides an to excellent general introduction medieval and early modem astrology. 10M. Bedlam (Cambridge,1981). MacDonald,Mystical



The long-termsimilaritiesbetween ancient and early modern astrology extend beyond the realm of theory and technique. Any historianwho wants to study the social history of astrologyin the shouldbeginwith a marvelous book aboutthe socialhistory Renaissance in FranzCumont's des of astrology Hellenistic Egypt: L'Egypte astrologues. a worldof clientsappealing of all astrology," to Here, "stripped appears the astrologerfor adviceand help in a rangeof personaland public that with surprising situations matches, the precision, rangeof situations alsocarried theirjobs."In Egyptas in whichRenaissance out astrologers in Italy,astrologers counseled orders society.Emperors princes, all of and took advice merchants housewives and fromthem.In Egyptas in Italy,a cosmic religionbecameintermingled with the older officialcult. The court proud Leonoraof Aragon refusedto pray until the Ferrarese Prisciani to herthatsheshouldimitate the Pellegrino explained astrologer of Greece (whom he did not identify further).They prayed, kings withJupiterand Prisciani her,whenthe moon reached told conjunction other necessaryconditionswere fulfilled,which explainedwhy they theirwishes.'2 Egyptasin Italy,finally,the astrologer In alwaysobtained codes of conduct,from greatpubliceventsto tiny private determined a of decisions. Florentine The Republic, bastion earlypolitical rationality, its generals their batonsof commandat astrologically sanctioned gave a and moments. Leonellod'Este, tasteful erudite the prince, prizepupilof of madehiswardrobe Guarino Verona, decisions astrologically. Everyday he wore clothes of a color chosen to draw down favorablecelestial

as In Renaissance of Europe in Hellenistic Egypt,the omnipresence refutesany effortsto drawfirmdistinctions betweenhigh and astrology culture.Consider, example, caseof Diirer. for the low, eliteandpopular He drew on astrological and ideas in his subtle and erudite images Melancolia a mysterious that I, engraving he aimedat a coteriepublicof humanists. he alsodidso in his simplebroadsides, But whichhe produced men andwomenin the marketplace forthe ordinary (where,indeed,his wife soldthem).14 preserved The andtextbooksof astrology horoscopes
n F. des Cumont, (Brussels, 1937),as described 0. Neugebauer, L'Egypte astrologues by TheExactSciencesinAntiquity, ed. (Providence, 2d New York,1969),56. 1957;repr.
2 E. Garin,"MagicandAstrology,"Science and CivicLife in the Italian Renaissance, tr. P.

Munz(Gloucester, Mass.,1978).
De AngeloDecembrio, politia litteraria, 1794,fol. 6 verso. woodcutthatDtiirer for See, e.g. the famousastrological provided the 1496 syphilis of Ulsenius. Flugblatt Theodoricus



mirror the hopes and expectations, anxietiesand terrorsof a whole


Almost a hundredyears ago, Aby Warburg showed that these did The resemblances not comeaboutby chance. humanistically educated read and used classicalastronomical of the Renaissance astrologers of of texts-notably the Astrologica Maniliusandthe Mathesis Firmicus in These described detailnot only the generaldoctrinesof Maternus. but curiousdivinities eachof which decans, astrology, alsothe Egyptian of of and ruled degrees the Zodiac, otherdoctrines NearEastern ten origin transmittedto the West in the Hellenistic period. Working in revealed the astrology that that with collaboration BollandSaxl,Warburg in came to richly coloredlife on the walls of the PalazzoSchifanoia of down a revival thisancient and Ferrara elsewhere synthesis, represented and to minutedetailsof imagery practice.15 ancientandearlymoderncarried At the highestlevel, astrologers to Like out the tasksthattwentieth-century societyassigns the economist. triedto bringthe chaoticphenomenaof the economist,the astrologer everydaylife into orderby fittingthem to sharplydefinedquantitative models. Like the economist,the astrologer insisted,when teachingor had thatastrology only a limitedabilityto forprofessional peers, writing concerned after the itself, Formally speaking, all,astrology predict future. forcesrather than of at its mostscientific level,withthe interplay general of the outcomeof a singleconfiguration them. Likethe economist,the clientsdemanded whenpowerful it, willingin practice, proved astrologer to predict individual outcomes anyhow. Like the economist, the foundthatthe eventsdidnot matchthe prediction: generally astrologer for as andlike the economist,the astrologer normallyreceived a reward of this confirmation his art'spowersa betterjob anda highersalary. becamethe butt of universal Like the economist,the astrologer Even the sharpestcritics of criticism-and still provedindispensable. science. astrologydid not reallyescapethe influenceof this ubiquitous as ridiculed Guicciardini Francesco historian Thepragmatic astrologers he that the humanintellectcould not friendMachiavelli, did his arguing predictthe tangledfuturecourseof socialandpoliticallife. He possibly pointed out, perhapsfor the first time, that the esteemof astrologers a on rested a psychological bias, condition, confirmation thatthey shared the with theirclients.Both remembered the astrologers' successes, only errorswere Theirfarmorefrequent that predictions cameout correctly.
15See A.

in Heidnisch-antike Weissagung WortundBild zu LuthersZeiten(1920), Warburg, ed. in AusgewahlteSchriftenund Wurdigungen, D. Wuttke,2d ed. (Baden-Baden, 1980), 199-304;F. Saxl, "TheRevivalof LateAntiqueAstrology,"Lectures(London, 1957), 1: 7384.



took the popularity the astrologers of as simply forgotten.Guicciardini the fallibilityof the humanintellect(something never he clearproof of For like to hesitated assert). centuries, Guicciardini, Luther,enjoyedthe of havingseenthroughthe most widespread delusionof his reputation culture. Recently, however, Raffaella Castagnola has published own to Guicciardini's horoscope, usinga wide rangeof otherdocuments he set it into context. The historian,like the contemporaries mocked, in a afterall. He hadhis horoscopedrawn consulted specialist prediction a who to Malatesta, former signore retired Florenceafter up by Ramberto his wife and losing his possessionsto a popular revolt. murdering Guicciardini well, to judgefrom evidentlyknew Malatesta surprisingly the detailsgiven about him in the text, and he seemsto have studied with some care.16 clear-eyed The Malatesta's predictions cynic was no more rigorousin his rejectionof astrologythan the fools born every minute aroundhim. Nowadaysno one escapes terrestrial the economy; in the sixteenthcentury,as in the HellenisticandRomanworld,no one the economy. escaped celestial

For allthesesimilarities, of however,the astrology the Renaissance wasmorethana simplerevival its classical of forerunner. astrological The
tradition, after all, does not form a seamless whole. The social context within which astrologerswork changed radicallybetween antiquity and the Renaissance, and their own activities changed with the times, especially as their art grew in popularity and sophistication from the twelfth century onward. The astrologers of the Renaissance and their enemies could use new media, for example, that no ancient writer could have imagined. In 1524 a threatening conjunction took place in the Zodiacalsign of Pisces.PaolaZambellihas identifiedseveraldozen printed texts, ranging from primitive broadsidesto sophisticated treatises, that Luther found it predicted a second Flood for 1524 (none happened).17 particularlytelling that so many astrologersforesaw a deluge that did not take place, while none of them predicted the Peasants' Revolt that did occur in the next year.18 all events, ancienthistory can show no parallel At to this first media event of modern times-or for the elaborately staged rituals of humiliation to which some Italian cities subjected local

See I Guicciardinie le scienze occulte, ed. R. Castagnola(Florence, 1990).

hallucinati":Stars and the End of the Worldin Luther'sTime P. Zambelli,ed., "Astrologi (Berlin and New York, 1986). '8 Warburg,231-32, 277.




As whenthe rainsdidnot come.19 astrology became object the astrologers of new forms of publicdebate,as these in turn reachednew strataof the and readers, ancientartentereda public partlyeducated uneducated thatdidnot existin antiquity. sphere
The content, as well as the form, of astrology underwent major changesin the course of time. Astrology resemblesa glacier. It consists of several different strata and forms of material; it moves constantly, if imperceptibly; and it reveals many fissures and crevasses on close inspection. Central doctrines of Renaissanceastrology-like that of the Great Conjunctions of Saturnand Jupiter-did not have classicalorigins. Central relationshipsbetween astrology and other predictive disciplines took on new forms in the early modern world. In antiquity, astrologers and doctors competed, as representativesof separatearts. Ptolemy, who wrote the one ancient systematic handbook of astrology to survive, comparedthe two sciences, admittingthat they served somewhat similar ends. But he also emphasized the differences between the kinds of Even in antiquity,as one would specializedknowledge they had to offer.20 expect, astrologersand doctors borrowed ideas and techniques from one another anyhow (Ptolemy himself praised the Egyptians for unifying medicine with astrology).In the MiddleAges, in both the Islamic and the Europeanworlds, many triedto combine the two arts.Italianuniversities "of arts and medicine"offered formal courses in astrology, as one of the liberal arts most likely to be useful to a medical man. Doctors often competed with astrologersto drawup horoscopes, since they had learned to do so at university. Some medical men tried to apply the precise, Doctors played a quantitativemethods of astrologyin medical practice.21 prominent role in Symon de Phares's late-fifteenth-century list of astrologers who had attained worldly success.22At the same time, however, debate ranged over whether particular illnesses were best accounted for on medical or astrologicalgrounds. Both the Black Death of 1348 and the supposed advent of syphilis just before 1500 stimulated astrologersand doctors to directpolemical treatisesagainstone anothers' explanatory claims.23
19 0.

Niccoli, Prophecy and Power in Renaissance Italy, tr. L. G. Cochrane (Princeton, 1990), chap.6. Note, however,thatNiccoli's conclusionthat "urbanpopulationswere fully aware of astrology, but ... gave it little credit"(167) goes far beyond the limits of her evidence. 20Ptolemy Tetrabiblos1.3. 21N. Siraisi, Medieval and Early RenaissanceMedicine (Chicago and London, 1990).

Reasonand Societyin the MiddleAges (Oxford, 1978; repr.with corrections, A. Murray, 208. 1985), 23 For the Black Death, see the materials collected by H. Pruckner,Studien zu den



Sometimes the developmentof astrologicaldoctrine followed thinkers wouldneverhaveexpected. Somemedical that directions ancient so men-like Ficino andParacelsus-went faras to treatastrologyas the a central sourceof reliable and coreof medical doctrine, therapies dietetic Some philosophers-likePomponazzi-went so far as to treat advice.24 in for causal as explanation allphysical processes the astrology a universal the effectsof prayers.25 Meanwhile,some of their universe-including as triedto exposeastrology a tissueof fraudanderror.Pico competitors
della Mirandola, for example, framed a brilliant, systematic critique of astrology, which rested on a radically different set of assumptions and methods from those of the older anti-astrological polemics of Cicero and some Fathers of the Church. Ptolemy himself had admitted, as Pico emphasized,that astrologycould offer only approximatepredictions, not precise ones, given the wide range of other influences that shaped and and Pico not only appropriated this affectedindividuals'characters fates.26 of astrology by an astrologer; he added to it a searching critique penetratingphilological examination of astrology's founding claim to be an ancient Near Eastern art. Using only the fragmentary evidence availablein Greek and Roman sources,Pico managedto expose scientific astrology, in its classical form, as a relatively modern art. He showed, contraryto widespreadbelief,that it was not a creationof sagepriestswho lived long millennia before the birth of Christ, but an application of mathematicalplanetarytheory that took shapeonly in the second half of the first millennium B.C. 27 Sadly, Pico died before he could complete his But work-supposedly in the year predictedby the astrologers.28 his work
astrologischen Schriftendes Heinrichvon Langenstein(Leipzig and Berlin, 1933) and G. W. Coopland,Nicole Oresmeand the Astrologers (Liverpool, 1952); for syphilis see the uberdie Lustseuchein Deutschland,von 1493 texts assembledin Die altestenSchriftsteller bis 1510, ed. C. H. Fuchs (Gottingen, 1843) and the analysis of P. Zambelli, L 'ambigua natura della magia (Milan, 1991), chap. 4. 24D. P. Walker,Spiritualand DemonicMagicfromFicino to Campanella(London, 1958); W.-D. MOller-Jahncke, Astrologisch-magischeTheorie und Praxis in der Heilkundeder frihen Neuzeit, SudhoffsArchiv, Supplement(Stuttgart,1985); see also M. Ficino, Three Books on Life, ed. and tr. C. V. Kaske and J. R. Clark(Binghamton, 1989). (Alchemy, of course, played the most centralrole in Paracelsus'ssystem.)
25 E. Cassirer,TheIndividualand the Cosmos in Renaissance

Philosophy, tr. M. Domandi (New York, 1963), chap. 3. 26See A. A. ArgumentsFor andAgainst,"in Science and Speculation,ed. Long, "Astrology: J. Bares et al. (Cambridgeand Paris, 1982), 165-93.

G. Pico della Mirandola,Disputationes contra astrologiam divinatricem,ed. and tr. E. Garin(Florence, 1946-52).

Cf. L. Gaurico, Tractatusastrologicus (Venice, 1552), 58 recto: "et multos edidit libros elegantissimos,et unum volumen contraastrologos suae aetatisadmodumiratus,quoniam



from the Germandoctorswho laterreaders, provokedand stimulated debatedthe causesof syphilisearlyin the sixteenthcenturydown to Joseph Scaligerand JohannesKepler,the latter of whom seriously and The a editionof Pico'sbook.29 nature considered undertakinglearned in debate aboutastrology, short,wereas novel as levelof the Renaissance its and the publicit reached the mediathatfostered development. cultural historianshave devised some powerful Distinguished and models,with whichthey proposeto describe explainthe natureand as sawastrology a vital,but Warburg impactof earlymodernastrology. in embodied his tradition. alsoa dangerous, of the classical Astrology part to throw off the like a perpetual Dionysiactemptation eyes something controloverone'semotions to of burden personal responsibility, ascribe and actions to superior, malevolent forces. Every thinker of the withthisdarkforcein orderto win the room had Renaissance to struggle took this ErnstCassirer activities for freethoughtthat creative require. of character astrologyin last point further, showingthatthe systematic and It aided roomforinnovative factcreated Pomponazzi others thinking. one new visionof the universe, in whichthe same to developa radically powers pervadedand ruled the celestial and the physical worlds, continuously and without interference-an absolutist astrological cosmology quite alien to the astrologicaltradition itself.30Michel Foucault,by contrast,portrayedRenaissance astrologyas a revealing of the waysin whicha particular systemof rulesas "episteme"-a example the basement-controlled as andsubterranean a Piranesi dark, grandiose, or thoughtandwritingof a wholeepoch.No philosopher scientistcould and themto seethemselves, that the webof assumptions compelled escape as controlled a networkof higherandlower all othernatural by beings, Keith in forces,asprisoners a stickyweb of influences.31 Thomas,finally, thanthe technical the socialrole,rather content,of astrology. emphasized of and environmental socialsituation earlymodern the fragile In hisview, and with astrology othernontheirfascination peopleclearlyexplained rationalforms of predictive Fire, flood, and faminethreatened magic. or meansof predicting the everyone, richaswellasthe poor.No rational on statistical, which rested preventingsuch events existed.Insurance,
ei tres potissimumvaticinabantur mortemanno 33. suae aetatisfere completo, ex directione horoscopi ad Martem,sicuti accidit." 29See the classic studyby P. 0. Kristeller, and "GiovanniPico della Mirandola his Sources," L 'opera e il pensiero di Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (Florence, 1965), 1: 34-133; A. Grafton, Joseph Scaliger (Oxford, 1983-93), 1: chap. 7; Zambelli,L 'ambiguanatura della magia. 30See J. Krois, Cassirer, SymbolicForm and History (New Haven, 1987).

M. Foucault,Les mots et les choses (Paris, 1966).



rather than celestial, measurements, came into being only in the

coulduse the bestquantitative seventeenth century.Only the astrologer methods of the time to predictthe futureand offerusefulcounselsfor risk averting andexploitingopportunities.32 a Each of these modelsemphasizes vital aspectof astrology-but neverrealized that astrology none of them is comprehensive. Warburg
was, in its own way, a great achievement of classicalreason:that it, like geography, represented one of the great taxonomic disciplines of the Hellenistic and early Imperial periods.33Cassirer, who did understand Renaissanceastrologyin this way, took little interestin the practiceof the discipline. Foucault never admitted, though he certainly knew, that the astrology and naturalphilosophy of the early modern period contained basic assumptions and procedures taken over directly from earlier sources-an admission that has radical consequences for his method. Thomas, who for the first time shed real light on the social background of early modern astrology, could not do full justice to the richness and complexity of early modern astrologyas an intellectualsystem, especially as this reachedits fullest development outside England. The work of these scholars-and of many specialist historians of Renaissance astrology, notably Eugenio Garin, Paola Zambelli, and Germana Ernst-offers essential aid and stimulus. Nonetheless, I have tried to raise different questions, to go a different way. I wanted to do justice to both the rationalism and the irrationality of Renaissance astrology,to both its traditionaland its novel contents, to both its ancient sources and its modern social role. I wanted to ask if the astrologersof the Renaissance, who occupied themselves in part with reading and commenting on ancienttexts, might have something to contribute to the interpretation of ancient astrology-if they might help us set the seemingly dry works of Ptolemy and Firmicus into a more fully articulatedsocial and culturalcontext, which could help to restore their human interest.Above all, I wanted to be surprised.I wanted to develop my specific analyticalquestions not in advance,but as I worked through primary sources: to put them to raw data assemblednot in accordance with a modern archivist'sor historian's choices, but by those of an early modern intellectual. IV. GIROLAMO CARDANO (1501-1576) In July 1572, Hugo Blotius, an intellectual from the Netherlands
32 33

K. V. Thomas,Religion and the Decline of Magic (New York, 1971).

See 0. Murray,review of R. MacMullen,Enemiesof the RomanOrder,Journal of Roman Studies 59 (1969): 261-65 at 262-63.



to who would soon becomecourtlibrarian the Holy RomanEmperor MaximilianII, finishedan accountof his travelsin Italy duringthe yearanda half.He meantthe codexto serveas both a guideand previous von a notebookfor a youngfriend, Ludwig Hutten.Hencehe castmany in of his experiences the formof instructions. ThoughBlotiushada sharp and fromspectacular to pleasures dangers, landscapes eye for allof Italy's interestin Bologna,a splendidcity with a bad inns, he took particular most foreignersvisited four splendiduniversity.Here, he remarked, the the CarloSigonio, jurisconsult the scholars: historian Angelius Papius, doctor and philosopherVlysse Aldrovandiand Giovanni-he meant Girolamo-Cardano,to whom he prudentlydid not assign a single profession. Blotius gave the addressesof all four men, praising "Others very amiable, are with special warmth: Aldrovandi's hospitality who hasin his charge of andthe mostaccessible allis VlysseAldrovandi, or At of at of the garden simples the palace the Legate Governor. homehe with everykindof floweringherb,and stuffed hasa spectacular museum, in all the other natural Aldrovandi, other thingsthat areto be seen."34 museum the of to callers northern words,offered openaccess his fantastic of of of and natural world,with itsthousands exhibits hundreds drawings exotic plants and animals,and evidentlydid so with greatgraceand warmth.35 contrast,Blotiuswarned,those wishingto visit Cardano By him mustnot praise to his face,they must care: musttakeextreme "They be brief, and they must ask whetherthey can expectany more of his books to appearin the near future."36 Otherwise,his tone suggested, Cardanomight explode,showinghis gueststhe door ratherthan the secretsof nature.Yet Blotius clearlythought this dangerous voyage worthwhile. Like Blotius,I have decidedto visit this difficultbut intriguing to I works, indeed, havedecided focusmy studyon his astrological figure: are The reasons not theirsources. and those of his rivalsandhis readers, far to seek (as they were not for Blotius).Cardanowrote at fantastic length, and in a fantasticstyle, about every topic in the astrological
3 Osterreichische "Alii MS Nationalbibliothek 6070,fol. 25 recto-verso: se facilespraebent, se facillimum exhibet qui qui VlyssesAldrovandus [Ms:cui]hortisimplicium omniumque
est Bononiae ad PalatiumLegatiseu gubematoris incumbit.Domi etiamhic musaeumhabet rerum naturalium,quae sub maxime mirabile, omni herbarumfruticum, caeterarumque oculos cadunt, genere, refertissimum."On Blotius see H. Louthan, The Quest for Compromise(Cambridge,1977), 53-84. 35 del Cf. G. Olmi,L 'inventario mondo(Bologna, 1992) and P. Findlen, Possessing Nature (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1994). 36 salutaturiscautio MS Nationalbibliothek 6070, fol. 25 recto:"Cardanum Osterreichische esse debet,ne ipsumin os laudent,ut paucisremabsolvant,rogentquenum quos alios libros propediemaedendosexpectarepossint...."



His tradition(andmanyothers).37 Opera omnia,published long afterhis fill ten folio volumes and some seven thousandpages. Every death, or This columnoffersa striking observation, anecdote, reference. brilliant drewup horoscopes the livingandthe dead,wrotetechnical for astrologer and in his treatises, commented a uniquelyfrankway on his discoveries, experiences,and his relations with his clients. The vast size and considerabledifficulty of his books have deterred scholars from him. Thoughgood monographs describe work on the his approaching of his and of mathematics games chance, natural philosophy, hismedicine, his work in one scholar,Germana Ernst,has analyzed astrological only A works has only detail.38 projectedcriticaledition of Cardano's any reacheda preliminary of stage.For yearsto come, all students his work to will be condemned playthe roleof caterpillars exploring tiny portions Riddles outnumber of an enormous and solutions, dark flowering garden. areas surround everylightone. Evennow, in short,the roadto Cardano hasits shareof dangers. Cardanostudiedin Paviaand Padua:after a very difficultearly career,he taughtwith some successand considerable notoriety at the of in universities PaviaandBologna.He makesappearances historiesof of asone of the creators modern alsoin historiesof mathematics, algebra; of call or technology,as one of the creators whatEuropeans "lecardan" the universal "das joint.His bookssold well, not only in Cardangelenk," De some,like his encyclopedic subtilitate, Europe; Italy,butthroughout that the becamebest-sellers received highestliterary of compliments the ferociousattackandshameless The most important period, plagiarism. naturalphilosophersof the sixteenthand early seventeenthcenturies mentionedand cited him regularly. even receivedand acceptedan He invitationto travelto far-offParis-andthen, to distantand barbarous Edinburgh-to provide medical advice for John Hamilton, the last of Catholicarchbishop St.Andrews. the Cardano saved archbishop's life, an enormoushonorarium givinghis lucky client fifteen and receiving moreyearsto enjoybeforeProtestants executed him. life for Cardano's couldsupplymaterial several kindsof imaginative of writing.In his youth he playedthe role of the protagonist a historical novel in the bestpurplestyle of the nineteenth One day-as he century.
The best shortaccounts of Cardano'slife remainthat in O. Ore, Cardano, the Gambling Scholar (Princeton,1953), andDictionaryof ScientificBiography, s.n. Cardano,Girolamo, by M. Gliozzi. See also A. Ingegno,Saggio sullafilosofia di Cardano(Florence, 1980); the studiescollected in E. Kepler,ed., GirolamoCardano:Philosoph,Naturforscher, important Arzt(Wiesbaden,1994);andthe comprehensive study of his medical careerand thoughtby N. Siraisi, The Clock and the Mirror(Princeton, 1997).


G. Ernst,"'Veritatisamor dulcissimus': Aspetti dell'astrologia in Cardano,"in Kepler, 158-84.



toldthe story,muchlater,in his autobiography-Cardano with gambled thathis opponentwascheating, forcedhis way a Venetian. he Realizing his out of the house, recovering money. Cardanothen wandered the for of streets somehours,frightened discovery. to boarda ship,he Trying and stumbledon the gangway fell into a canal-in full armor.The relief he felt when the crew of a boat pulledhim out of the waterturnedto the horror when he recognized ship's captainas his opponent of the the captaindecidedto help him, since he too morning. Fortunately, presumablywanted no trouble with the notoriouslystrict Venetian As Cardano authorities.39 an old man,by contrast, playedthe partof the a and or heroof a tragedy opera-perhaps Lear.He raged mournedwhen his older son, a gifted doctor in his own right, was arrested,tried, for his and lacedwith convicted, executed murdering wifewith a focaccia son andwhenhisyounger turnedout to be a worthlesscharacter arsenic, andpettythief. But Cardano man, when he playedhis best role as a middle-aged novel in the style of DavidLodge.As an the became heroof a university devised Cardano manyof the customsandpractices professor important a life. of modernacademic He drewup, for example, list of the seventythree importantwriterswho had cited him, or mentionedhim with list Cardano's becamein its turn a model for later scholars' praise.40 which followedhim in documenting and biographies, autobiographies the in detail.He thusdeserves credit(if creditis theirsubjects' reception due)for a devicemost peoplewronglythink of as a creationof modern even anticipated many sociologyof science,the citationindex.Cardano offered the computer. To and of the new scientific literary by possibilities for readersof his On subtlety, example,he offeredan easy recipe for an a new book or revising old one. Simplytaketwo copiesof the writing writtentext; cut them up into sectionsandtry them in new sequences until satisfied; the resultsinto a stoutnotebookmadeof cardboard glue and give it to the publisher. Anyone who has readtwo texts, or two he knowshow seriously took his own versionsof one text, by Cardano well he would have used the merge function of a advice-and how computer. personal all the revealed vanitythatmarks great Cardano professors. regularly as of He wrotenot one, butfourversions his autobiography, well asthree in the He of analyses his own horoscope. interpreted myth of Narcissus a novel way: the youth who fell in love with his own reflectionin the

De See the versionsof this story in Cardano, vitapropria 30 (Operaomnia [Lyons, 1663], 5: 521); cf. the episode describedin De ludo aleae liber 1: 19); Liberxii geniturarum (ibid. chap. 20 (ibid. 1: 271). Cardano,De vita propria liber 48, Opera omnia, 1: 45-47.




water stood, he thought, for the scholar who lost himself in pleasure reading his own work. Cardanoprided himself on the fact that-at least in the virtualform of his own books-he was regularlyloved by beautiful readers("womenreadtoo," he remindedhis own, presumablymale, gentle And reader).41 like all good heroes of satiricalnovels, he paidthe price, and more than the price, for his misdeeds.In 1557 Cardanobecamethe object of the worst book review in the history of Europeanletters.Julius Caesar Scaliger,anothervain and articulatenaturalphilosopherof Italianorigins, devoted more than nine hundred quarto pages to refuting one of and Cardano'sbooks, On subtlety, promisedto'returnto the subjectat still greater length. Though Scaliger died without producing more than a became a standard fragment of this promised polemic, his Exercitationes work in university curriculums-perhaps the only book review ever known to undergo transformationinto a textbook.42 Cardanocontributedsomethingto every form of astrologypracticed in early modern Europe. He also provided his customers with all the services that astrologers normally offered. His works yield rich information not only about his own ideas and methods, but also about those of his contemporaries and his relations with them. And though some forms of evidence that one would like to have are missing in his case-like his correspondence, which he burned-enough collateral materialsurvivesboth to confirm much of what he says and to provide a context for it. For all its difficulties, in short, the investigation of Cardano's astrology has proved remarkably rewarding. His interpretations of classicalastrologicaltexts-especially his full and penetratingcommentary on Ptolemy's Tetrabiblos-shednew light both on ancient astrology and on modem aspectsof his own practice.His lively and detailedportraitsof the social context within which he worked, taken together with further contemporary evidence, shed new light on the functions that the astrologercarriedout-and suggestnew and provocative ways of looking at ancient, as well as early modern, astrology. What began as a microhistory, a fine-grained and minute examination of a single astrologer, has gradually evolved into an oblique but large-scale investigation of the classicaltradition in astrology as a whole.
41 42

Cardano,De librispropriis (1554), Opera omnia, 1: 78.

of See the fine analysis by I. Maclean, "The Interpretation NaturalSigns: Cardano'sDe subtilitate Versus Scaliger's Exercitationes,"in Occult and Scientific Mentalities in the Renaissance, ed. B. Vickers (Cambridge,1984), 231-49.



Cardano saw astrology as, at its core, a political art. He urged the astrologerwho wished to make a careerto try above all to predictpolitical and military events for prominent clients. By doing so, the astrologer could make a name. Unfortunately, he also risked bringing himself into either political or scientific discredit. During his great voyage through northern Europe, Cardano drew up horoscopes for the French in ambassador London, the humanistand statesman John Cheke, and the Edward VI. The last horoscope, in particular, proved young king politically more than delicate. Cardano predicted that his young client would have a long life, many children, and a successful reign. Such positive predictions were, of course, the natural result of computations made by an ambitious, low-born astrologerfor a royal or noble patron. Cardano'srival Luca Gaurico, for example, told the Habsburg archduke that he would defeatthe Turks, lead the sultan in triumph with his arms bound behind him, and become more important than the emperor himself-all this at a time when the Habsburgs were lucky to keep the Turks from taking Vienna.43Unfortunately, Cardano's client proved unluckierthan Gaurico's.He died, almost at once, but well afterCardano published the horoscope in question. The poor astrologer faced a dilemma: he had to explain how he could have made so gross an error, without bringing either himself or his art into discredit. Cardano explained, articulately, that he had devoted at least a hundred hours to the study of a few chosen aspects of the horoscope. Nonetheless he had failedto learnthe truth. Sadderbut wiser, he now saw that one more hour of laborwould have enabledhim to rectify his results. True, he admitted,one could feel temptedto explainhis erroras the result of a clever political decision. If he had openly confessed that dangers threatened the young king, he would have fallen under suspicion of plotting againstEdwardhimself. Only luck, or divine providence, saved Cardano'slife, by inducing him to make a technical mistake. Otherwise he would have faced a political dilemma that no level of technical expertise could solve. Paradoxically, it became clear that the court astrologercould not, in some circumstances,carry out his principal duty of telling his client the exact truth.44
43Osterreichische MS Nationalbibliothek 7433, e.g. 2 verso-3 recto:"Immo,ni me celestia rabiem mox fallant, procul dubio Martetuo poteris Rex invictissime Regum Turcharum superaremalam, ipsorumqueDucem manibus post terga revinctumduces. Dein Magno 10 tuaeMaiestati"; recto(revolutionfor 1534-35): Caesaremaioreris.Nil profectoblandior urbis sceptra et coronam suscipies uti ex illius "... et uti reor Constantinopolitanae horoscopo et annuaehuius conversioniselicitur." 44Cardano,Liber xii geniturarum,Opera omnia, 5: 507-08. Cardanothus both has his cake-shows that his art could have predicted the king's imminent death-and eats it too-by insisting that he is too honest to pretendthat he had carriedout the prediction



the When Cardanoemphasized political problemsthat hedged he drew the astrologer's around board, self-consciously attention drawing feature the astrological of traditionas a whole. Like to a long-established was othermedicalmen of the time, Cardano a good humanistas many one to well as a good astrologer, dedicated close philologicalstudy of to he ancient textsandthe traditions whichthey belonged.45 Accordingly, did historicalresearchto drive home his point about astrologyand of court politics.He pointedout thatthe astrologers the Romanimperial in WhenTiberius, his exile on Capri, hadfacedexactlysimilar problems. took advice from his astrologerThrasyllus,a slave (or the emperor himself)stood readyto hurlthe seerinto the oceanif he lied. Afterthe that to asked predicted recall Romewouldcomesoon,Tiberius astrologer for whathe foresaw himself.The future,Thrasyllus lookedvery replied,
dark-and by this melancholy answer saved his life. Only Thrasyllus's ability to predicthis own death, in other words, enabled him to avoid it: the astrologer entered the quicksands of court life with a heavy professional burden, under which he could easily sink. Many had. Diocletian's astrologerAscletarion, for example, paid for his prediction of the emperor'sdeath with his own (which he had foreseen). In insisting on telling Diocletian the truth nonetheless, Ascletarion displayed his technical ability and his professional ethics at one and the same time.46 Extinction threatened Roman astrologers more than once-especially in the later years of the empire, when their way of explaining politics and history came into conflict with those of the Christianchurch and the emperors,since both claimeddominion over the universe. Firmicus Maternus,astrologerand Christian bishop, proposed a solution that became popular. Emperors, he explained, being gods, escaped the control of the planets.47 Many Renaissanceastrologerscited this saying. Gaurico,Cardano'srivaland a majorplayerin the papalCuria of the High Renaissance,treatedFirmicus as a prime source in his work, even though his own technical mastery of the subject far exceeded
properlyand concealed the results.
45 Cf. M. Muccillo, "Luca Gaurico: astrologie e 'prisca theologia,"' Nouvelles de la Republiquedes Lettres2 (1990): 21-44.

On the social history of astrology at Rome see the recent studies of M. T. Fogen, Die Enteignung der Wahrsager(Frankfurta.M., 1993); D. Potter, Prophets and Emperors Mass., 1994); andT. S. Barton,Power and Knowledge(Ann Arbor, 1994). On (Cambridge, the political activities of medieval astrologerssee H. Carey, CourtingDisaster: Astrology at the English Court and Universityin the Later MiddleAges (London, 1992).


Firmicus Maternus,Mathesis 2.30.5; for the original context of this argument-which perhapsreflectedDiocletian's insistenceon his own controlof all earthlypowersand events, his refusalto accept,as earlieremperors of had,the superiority the skies to his own will-see Fogen, 276-84.



Cardano Firmicus's. boththe ancientauthority his message. and rejected he accurately wasa grammarian, an astrologer: not he Firmicus, insisted, doctrine showedno understanding the collected of astrological bits but for The high-flyingastrologermight face a technical core of the art.48 but delicate it situation, he couldnot escape simplyby ducking politically for responsibility highpolitics. in The more giftedthe astrologer, short,the more hazardous his career.Cardano drovethis point home morethan once. It seemslikely that the horoscopehe drewup for Jesus,thoughby no meansthe first
one, played a major role in landing him, as the religious and cultural climate of Italy becamechillier,under arrestby the Roman Inquisition.49 But his experienceof high risk was not unusualin the trade.Gauricomade the same point more directly, when he described the outcome of the accurate prediction he had made "in a certain printed forecast." The astrologerwarned that Giovanni Bentivoglio would destroy himself and his house if he did not humble himself before Julius II. Bentivoglio condemned him to "fourtortures of the arms"-the same terrible torture under which Tommaso Campanellawould hold up, many years later, until his tormentorsdeclaredhim insane-and twenty-five days in prison. When Julius II soon defeatedthe Bentivoglio and leveled their palace to the ground, he bore out Gaurico's prediction, but that did nothing to long-remembered pain: "Thusthe truth hurt the mitigatethe astrologer's Gauricowrote years later, casting himself as Cassandra.50 poor prophet," A political astrologermust understandpolitics, as well as astrology, in a subtle and sophisticatedway. As Cardanointerpretedthe book of the heavens, he managedto find there, among other messages,many of the preceptsof the new political scienceof the sixteenth century. The general idea that some starsand planets, and their human children, must control others, was hardlynew. Lorenz Beheim, for example,drew on a standard source, the Centiloquium long ascribed to Ptolemy, when he used Willibald Pirckheimer's horoscope to explain the strange relationship The between Diirer and Pirckheimer.51 starsdeclaredthat the gifted client would rule his patron. Cardano, however, read large portions of the politics of the Renaissance into the classic constellations. From the

ed. Ptolemy, Quadripartitum, Cardano,34, Opera omnia 5: 118: "cum ille purus esset omnino huius artis,non solum omnia absque iudicio, bona, mala, grammaticusexpersque coniunctadisiunctaquein unum absque continentia, falsa, vera,ex toto et ex parteveritatem discriminecompegit, sed quod multa non intelligens confuderitatque corruperit.." 49See Siraisi, epilogue. 50Gaurico, Tractatus,49 verso: "Itaquemisello vati veritasnocuit."

23 L. Beheim to W. Pirckheimer, May 1507, in A. Diirer,SchriftlicherNachlass, ed. H. Rupprich(Berlin, 1956-69), 1: 254.



one signsandplanets,he argued, couldexplain positionsof the zodiacal In destined slavery. particular, could to one individuals were why certain understand certain deceived theirfriends why kingsfoundthemselves by The or obedient evilcounselors.52 powerof the stars to in explained, other not anindividual but a general case situation: so manyIagos words, why foundmorevirtuouslisteners readyto accepttheirpoisonouscounsels. were even more up-to-date. From the fact that Other interpretations take drewan explanation for revolutions placeatthe equinoxes, Cardano War the special crueltyof the Peasants' of 1525andthe Kingdomof God The dissolved at Miinster. powerof the sun,he inferred, inhibitionsand "lita torch in the mindsof men." It caused neglectof morality,the the for of disdain law,andthe destruction the familythatcharacterized early Cardano's in modernrevolutions.53 politicalastrology, short,both sheds a light on the astrological tradition a whole andrepresents as something of characteristic his time.54 Cardano's was astrology politicalin anotherrespectaswell-in the best conveyedby the German sense term Wissenschaftspolitik. of Many revealthat the Renaissance remarks Cardano's workedin a astrologer highly publicsituation,a dangerously exposedone in which clientsand competitors constantly threatenedto undermineor overthrow his The Cardano's advice authority. sameclientswho asked deliberately gave him falsedataaboutthe placesanddatesof their births(rather some as clientshadgivenmedieval doctorsthe urineof dogsor horsesto analyze astheirown).Jealous surrounded astrologer, lost no the and competitors to criticizeevery aspectof his work unmercifully. opportunity They for attacked on that Cardano, example, the grounds he confinedhimself of to analyzing horoscopes individuals hadalready the who grownup and madetheircareers-butdidnot dareto publishhoroscopes outcome the of whichhe couldnot foretell.55 Othersinsisted that Cardano musthave falsifiedhis own horoscope: prediction a seriesof disasters, this of they could not be the argued,showing a nice sense of the paradoxical,


ed. Ptolemy,Quadripartitum, G. Cardano(Basel, 1554), 73 (Opera omnia 5: 148-49) on 1.15-16.


ed. Ptolemy, Quadripartitum, Cardano,138-39, Opera omnia, 5: 199: "fax quaedamin mentibushominumaccensa." Cf. also Cardano'sinterestingdiscussion of anthropophagi and other monstrousraces, ed. againtakingoff from Ptolemyto pursuea period theme: Quadripartitum, Cardano,108 La (Opera omnia 5: 176-77). See F. Lestringant, Cannibale (Paris, 1994).

Cardano,Libelli duo (Nuremberg, 1543), ep. ded., sig. [A iiij recto]: "Addidimus et illustris pueri genituram,ut quod nobis obiici solet dilueremus,nos publice de praeteritis tantumpronunciare."




successful like Cardano.56 man horoscopeof a brilliantly had always confronted jealous competitors. The Astrologers membersof the groupsthat workedup predictions ancientBabylon in attacked one another continually. The astrologerswho drew up in of and horoscopes sandtablesin the publicmarkets medieval Baghdad workedin a terrifyingly Damascus exposed position,ringed crowdsof by critics.57 Even Ptolemy'sdry textbook,the Tetrabiblos, articulate came alive on the few occasionswhen he felt obliged to abuse the more methodsof his colleagues.58 primitive had his and however, new waysof establishing reputation Cardano, those of his rivals.Above all, of course,he had accessto demolishing printing. Even quite ordinary astrologers,men who harboredno ambitionsof elaborate and literarycareers, publishedshort broadsides in whichpredicted natural political almanacs theirvernaculars, the and climatefor the next yearmonth by month andday by day.They aimed thesetextsat a limited,localpublic,hopingto win moreclientsfor their beganin exactlythis way, with a short astrological practices.Cardano
pamphlet, written in Italian, which offered its readers a curious combination of technical astrology, Savonarolanapocalyptic prophecy, and weather predictions.59 In the 1540s, however, Cardano came into contact with German intellectuals-notably Andreas Osiander and Georg Joachim Rheticus, who between them played the chief roles in making Copernicus's ideas public. The Nuremberg publisherJohannes Petreius proposed to reissue Cardano's Latin works in astrology, which had appeared in a very unattractive Milan edition only.60His collection of horoscopes and his treatises on astrology suddenly became part of the same list, which included the leading scientists of the time. In 1543 Petreius brought out not only Cardano'sDe revolutionibus nativitatum, but also Copernicus's The orbiumcoelestium. Nurembergedition soon reached De revolutionibus a wide public:the medicalwriterJanusCornarius,for example,bought his
56Ibid., horoscope 19, sig. [P iiij recto]:"Itaquecum quidamnon huius artis expertes ear [Cardano's geniture] vidissent, meam esse posse negarunt,argumentosumpto, quod nec vitae qua hucusque fungor nec ullius dignitatis vestigium invenirent." Cf. Ptolemy, ed. Quadripartitum, Cardano,21 (Opera omnia 5: 108); 76-77 (151).

On these points see the splendid synthesis by G. Saliba, "The Role of the Astrologer in Medieval Islamic Society,"Bulletin d'Etudes Orientales44 (1992): 45-68.

See e.g. Ptolemy Tetrabiblos1.20. 59G. Cardano, Pronostico veroiudiciogenerale. . . dal 1534 insinoal 1550 (Venice, o 1534): Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale, Res. V. 1179; cf. Ernst, "'Veritatis amor dulcissimus."'

almanach (Milan,1538). ... Libellus dicitur Cardano, supplementum qui



in Some wreathed their copy in Marburg the yearof publication.61 readers notesin whichthey compared of Cardano's bookswith elaborate copies decorated copiesof Gauricus their with notes his results Gauricus's-or to The on Cardano.62 Italianlocal hero becamea Europeansavant,and him chieflythanksto the newtool offered by printingandhis own sense it. of how to manipulate No wonderthatBlotius,priminghis pupilfor a that "hisworkswere read Cardano visit to Bologna,told him to assure in with greateagerness manyeagerreaders Germany Belgium."63 and by had No wondereitherthat Cardano to pay for his earlysuccessin the Protestant took holdin Italyandhisconnections with world,ascensorhip heretics became a cause for suspicion rather than prominent This analysis to may soundtoo modern,or postmodern, be true. After all, few of Cardano's letterssurvive,and none that describehis in in maneuvers the worldof the publishers detail.But portionsof the of another astrologerwho publishedwith Petreius, correspondence Erasmus do evidence. Reinhold, survive,andtheseoffersomesuggestive In a long letter to Reinhold,the publisherinvited him to write an in treatise whichhe wouldgivefull andpreciseinstructions astrological on how actually drawup a horoscope: how-to book for astrology. to a Petreius carefullyasked Reinhold to define a basic technical term, On that he had no "angulus." the other hand, he expresslydeclared series workedexamples, forpurelycommercial of and interest elaborate in "So theseconstellations reasons: farasthe predictions yield,they needn't beenwrittenandprinted, be included here,sincelotsof themhavealready andI thinka textbooklikethisshouldn't unsaleable."65 be Petreius knew


Harvard University,*IC5.C1782.5431, HoughtonLibrary, signed on the title page: "Janus ComariusMed. physicus,"and dated at the bottom of the page: "Marpurgi, mense Octob. 1543." See e.g. the copies of the Libelli duo in the Houghton Library, Harvard; the OsterreichischeNationalbibliothek,Vienna (72 J 123, Melanchthon'scopy; 72 X 5); and those of his Libelli quinque in the British Library(53 b 7; C 112 c 5), as well as Gabriel Harvey's copy of Gaurico's Tractatus,cited below. For interestinglycontrastingaccounts of the impact of printingon Cardano'scareersee W. Eamon, Science and the Secrets of Nature (Princeton, 1994), and the detailed, ratherpessimistic case study by I. Maclean, "Cardano his Publishers, 1534-1663," in Kepler, 309-38. and
63 62

NationalbibliothekMS 6070, fol. 25 recto: "... magna enim cupiditate Osterreichische ipsius opera in Germaniaet Belgio legi." 64See I. and Maclean,"Cardano his Publishers, 1534-1663," in Kepler, 309-38.

Petreiusto Reinhold, St. Lucy's day 1549; Geheimes Archiv PreupischerKulturbesitz, HBA A4 223: "Item meins wissens / so hab ich bisher in truck nit gesehen ein kurtz scilicet quomodo primo erigendaesint nativitateset inscribendaein schema Compendium, celeste, et quomodo signa, planetaeet stellae in tale schema, et in 12 domos, et in angulos



worksof diverse whereofhe spoke:hislisthadlongincluded astrological in interest the diffusionof theirjoint His kinds.66 andhis authors' expert for to extended allthe detailsof production. Petreius, example, products askedReinholdto decide"inwhichtype it shouldbe printed-thatis, in like or De was the bigtype,asCopernicus printed, the medium, Cardano
nativitatibus,or the small, as I printed,for example, Schoner's opuscula." He recommended"themedium, as Cardanowas printed ... on ordinary crown paper."67 Astrologerand printer worked within the framework of a literarymarketplace.Both took responsibility for producing a saleable product, and each tried to steer the other in economically as well as culturallyproductivedirections. The scene seems all too familiar-rather like a sixteenth-centurypreludeto Linguafranca.

Astrologers competed not only with one another, but with practitionersof a wide rangeof other arts.Unlike the votariesof a modem this situation, and their own inability to science,they evidently regarded claim exclusivevalidity for their art, as quite natural.Since late antiquity,
it seems, most clients had been eclectics. They chose their medicines for

melancholy from a varied repertoire,including sacredas well as secular medical koine, which lasted as healersand cures-a sort of Mediterranean and changed as graduallyas astrology itself, and the components of long In which rested on radicallydivergentpremises.68 Cardano'stime, as for centuriesbefore, an Italianwho felt too lethargicto carryon a normal life to a shrine known to heal the sick. In South Italy one could also hire

or couldconsulta doctor,anastrologer, anexorcist-ormakea pilgrimage

domorum(et quid anguli sint) dividenda,welches ir besser wisset, den ichs anzeigen kan. Was aber die praedictionessindt ex talibus constitutionibus,das dorft man nicht hierein setzen / den von solchen viel geschrieben und getruckt ist, und deucht mich ein solch Compendiumsolt nicht unkeuflichsein." 66 See his prefatoryletter to Rheticus, in Antonius de Montulmo,De iudiciis nativitatum liberpraeclarissimus (Nuremberg,1540), sig. A ij verso.

Geheimes Archiv PreupischerKulturbesitz,HBA A4 223: "... und mit was schrieft solcher gedrucktsolt werden / nemlich obs mit der grossen schrieft/ wie der Copernicus / de gedrucktist / odermit dermittel/ wie Cardanus nativitatibus oder mit der kleinen / wie / ich etwa SchOneri opusculagetruckt was ir fur ein schrieftgem hetten/ die wolt ich dieweil / / zurichten die mitler/ wie Cardanus getruckt gefiel mir am bestenauf gemein Cronenpapir dan Medien oder regal papiris hir schwerlichzu bekommen."
68 Cf. G. Dagron, "Le saint, le savant, l'astrologue: Etude de themes hagiographiquesa traversquelques recueils de 'Questions et rdponses'des Ve-VIIe siecles," Hagiographie, cultures et societes, ive-xiie siecles (Paris, 1981), 143-56; P. Brown, Authorityand the Sacred (Cambridge,1995), 69.



Tarantella in who playedthe so-called musicians, specialists this disease: Bitter complaints while the patient dancedhimself back to health.69 of and aboutthe charlatanry individual circulated doctors,astrologers, a exorcists.Sometimes criticwent so far as to argue,in a polemic or a of or that satire, allpractitioners astrology a rivalartwerequacks.On the to whole,however,mostpatientsseemto havebelieved, someextent,in of choseto consulta particular the competence thesepractitioners. They one on grounds that are often anything but clear-especially as of and and learned popularartsof healing practitioners sacred scientific, fromone another's of borrowed repertoires procedures. regularly for their part, did not find this situationwrong or Astrologers, and Cardano manyof his rivalswereexactlyas unfair.On the contrary, as morethan eclecticastheircustomers. Cardano, we haveseen,mastered humanfates.A doctoras well as an astrologer, he one art of predicting thananyothersubject pridedhimself,as and wrotemoreaboutmedicine Siraisihas shown, on his abilityto readthe signsof the human Nancy Moresurprisingly, firstsight,he at body as well asthose of the heavens. that alsoreliedon formsof prediction seemfarmorealienthanmedicine from the rigorous,rule-boundworld of astrology.Cardanotook a for in of In interest, example, the interpretation dreams. one of passionate his mostsuccessful a books,the Somnia Synesia,he recounted long series of his own dreamsin meticulousdetail,confirmingthe principlesof from his own experience.70 developeda theory of He interpretation physiognomics,and one for readingpalms as well (though he also the Andhe foundvitalcluesto the futurein denounced latterartasfalse). in a vastrange everyday of phenomena: the smellof hot wax,wherethere in the buzzing of a great wasp; and in what he were no candles; frustratinglycalled "the obstinate behavior of my clock," without it as in explaining further1-rather a character a storyby M.R.Jamestells his own ghoststory,whichconsists of a sparebut chillingoutline:a only manlockshis bedroom door,climbsinto his old-fashioned pullsthe bed, a bedcurtains andthenhears thinvoicesay, "Nowwe'reshut shut, heavy in for the night.""Wearepermitted," Cardano in explicitlyargued his "to fromthe smallest autobiography, drawconclusions things,if they last I haveshownelsewhere asa net consists individual, that of unusually long. in uniformholes,so everything humanlife consistsof tiny things,which arerepeated over andover again,andformed,like clouds,into a variety
See D. Gentilcore, From Bishop to Witch(Manchesterand New York, 1992); cf. G. Tomlinson, Music in Renaissance Magic (Chicago, 1993).
70 69

40 d'Humanisme Renaissance (1979):123-35. et


See A. Browne, "GirolamoCardano'sSomniorumSynesiorumlibri IIII,"Bibliotheque

Cardano,De vita propria liber 43, Opera omnia 1: 38: "contumaciahorologii."



Cardano heldthata supernatural accompanied also of figures."7 and being himthrough mostof his life.The bulk,thoughperhaps all, of not guided he as his strange experiences explained the resultof this spirit'seffortsto with him.73 communicate It mayseemparadoxical Cardano that usednot only astrologyand medicine, rule-boundand technicalmethods of prediction,but also prodigiesand other forms of directrevelation.On the one hand, he motionsof the planets.On the inferred pastandfuturefromthe regular the other hand,he alsoplacedspecialweighton eventsthat appeared to violate the normal laws of nature. Not only twentieth-century of but ones intellectuals, someRenaissance sawthe application thesetwo
approachesas a contradictionin terms. CasparPeucer,for example,agreed on in his Commentary theprincipalforms ofdivination, which appearedin with the widely held view that divine providence normally 1553, expressed itself through the birth of misshapen animals and similar portents. The abnormalshape of a two-headed calf, for example, offered a key that could unlock much of the immediate future. By contrast, Peucer admitted that eclipses were regular celestial events, which took place regularlyand forseeably:he found it entirely plausiblethat a reader content.74 might object strenuously to his ascribingthem "portentous" In practice, however, many of Cardano'scontemporariesread the world much as he did, even if doing so required a high tolerance for inconsistency.Peucerinsistedthat the starsplayedthe role of divine signs, especiallywhen they underwenteclipses.Eclipsesin the past, afterall, had regularlyprecededor accompaniedgreatand tragic events. God Himself, moreover, had declaredas much: "Eruntvobis in signa."Logically,Peucer could not explain why astrology should work; theologically and evidence empirically,however, no doubt arose,as empiricaland scriptural

72 ex De Cardano, vitapropria liber41, Operaomnia 1: 35-36, e.g.: "Nonnumquam minimis facere licet: cum ex minimis, ut alias declaravi,ac coniecturam cum immodiceperseverant, uniusmodi, velut retium maculis omnia apud homines constent, repetitis, et in diversas figurasut nebulae formatis:nec solum per minima augeantur,sed et illa minima sensim in infinitaspartes,ut ita dicam,dividereoportet:iisque solus in artibus,in consiliis, in negociis civilibus praestantissimus erit, et ad summumculmen perveniet, qui haec intelliget et in opere ipso observare noverit: quamobremin quibuslibet eventibus talia minima erunt observanda." 73See esp. De vita propria liber 47, Opera omnia 1: 44-45. de 74 C. Peucer,Commentarius praecipuisdivinationum generibus (Wittenberg,1553), 291 recto:"Sed fortasseobiecerit quispiam,cur portentosafaciam deliquia, et singularescasus eventaquetristiapraeireaffirmem,cum nec contraobservatum,notum, et usitatumnaturae rationemaccidere ea luminibus cursum, nec secunduminsuetioremminusqueordinariam constet, sed ex lege et consequutionemotuumnecessaria."



The both confirmed.75 Catholicjurist the JeanBodininterpreted fatesof countries a similarly in eclectic he rejected way.True, astrological history, attacking Cardanoand Gauricusalike. But he developed elaborate rulesto determine fatesof landsanddynasties, the numerological trying to set absolute limitsforthe duration anygivenstate.At the sametime, of he drewon the Hippocratic of tradition, usingthe climates the landsfrom whichpeoplesoriginally cameto explain theircharacters.76 Bodinalso But had a tutelaryspirit,which guidedhim with blows on the shoulderand othersigns. Cardano'sfellow professionalastrologersresembledhim most closely of all. His competitorGauricoboastedof his divine gift for the skillsas astrologer and foretelling futureaswell as of his quantitative astronomer. He devoted considerablespace, in his collection of the causesof the successof nonhoroscopes,to explaining astrological astrological prophets.When Giovannide' Medici,just havingescaped Frenchcaptivityafterthe battleof Ravenna, cameto Mantua,Gaurico took him to see "acertainmonk with a wooden leg, namedbrother He that woulddrawfromthe Serafino,an old man." promised Serafino linesin Giovanni's hands"precise of the futureevents" the of predictions cardinal's Afterthreedaysof silentpalmistry, life. carried everyday out beforelunch in a little garden,Serafino told Giovannithat the Medici would soon returnto Florenceandthat Giovannihimselfwould soon become pope. These apparently ludicrouspredictions proved entirely that Serafino was, as Gaurico had claimed, a accurate, showing Later like "Chyromanticus egregius."77 astrologers Simon Formanand Dee assumed withoutfurther thatastrology ado formedonly one of John the many colors on the palettesof predictive methodsthat they deftly

Numerous showthatthisformof eclecticism not new. was examples occurin Romanastrological literature in the Neoand Revealing parallels Platonism lateantiquity. of his littlebook De Censorinus, writing strange
recto,esp. 291 verso:". .. insistoreliquisduobuskriteriois,eruditae ac verae experientiaeac verbo Dei." On the tensions in Peucer's thought see R. Barnes, Prophecy and Gnosis (Stanford, 1988), 99, 107-08, 148. Barnes also offers a wealth of informationabout the largercontext within which Peucer worked, the luxuriantjungle of different forms of prophecythat flourishedin LutheranGermanythroughoutthe sixteenth century. J. Bodin, Methodus adfacilem historiarumcognitionem (Paris, 1566); De re publica (Paris, 1576). 77 Gaurico, Tractatus,fol. 19 recto-verso. For a further exampleof eclectic use of astrologyandmany otherdisciplinesof prediction, also from England,see the fine editionof An AstrologicalDiary of the Seventeenth Century: Samuel Jeake ofRye, 1652-1699 by M. Hunterand A. Gregory(Oxford, 1988).
78 76

75 Ibid., 291 verso - 292



die natali in A.D. 238, cited not only the horoscope of Rome drawn up for Varro by LuciusTarrutiusof Firmum but also the twelve vultures seen at Rome's founding when he tried to determine the length of the city's future.79Proclus, that quintessence of the divinely inspired sage, used astrology and theurgy together to defend the holy city of Athens.80The brilliant astrologer Sosipatra used both the astrological principles she learned from two mysterious Chaldeans and the mystical power of her own divine prophetic gift to carry out the wonderful deeds describedby Eunapius in his lives of the Sophists.81 The eclectic wonder-workers of late antiquity loomed large in Renaissance visions of what prediction should be and do. The English humanist Gabriel Harvey, who read both Cardano and Gaurico, compared the modern palm-readerSerafino, whom he read about in Gaurico, to the ancient eclectic diviner Sosipatra (the comparison redounded to her, not his, advantage):"Buthow much truer and more certain was Sosipatra's divination, which rested, as it seems, on the astrology and physiognomy of the Chaldeans,and was accomplished by Gabriel Naude, who wrote the certain Cabalisticprinciples and trials."82 first biography of Cardano, thought it obvious that his superstitious, gifted protagonist stood in the tradition of later Platonism.83 Tradition, in other words, required the astrologer to possess not only technicalrules, but also secretforms of knowledge accessibleonly to Without knowing the rules,the astrologercould not claim the initiated.84 to practicea mathematicalscience.Without knowing secretsthat no rules could convey, thanks to a special,divine gift, the astrologercould employ theorists of many arts, of only a lifeless aggregate techniques.Renaissance from paintingto courtiership,raisedthe question of the relation between rules and spontaneity, discipline and inspiration, system and sprezzatura. Evidently astrologers found they had to raise it too. But in claiming a divine gift, astrologersoften departedfrom the technicalbasisof their art, following clues that lacked any mathematicalor astronomical basis. The
79CensorinusDe die natali 17.15, 21.4-6.

80Marinus VitaProcli.

See generally Potter,Prophets and Emperors.

82GabrielHarvey,note in his copy of LucaGaurico,Tractatus astrologicus (Venice, 1552), 4to BodleianLibrary Rawl. 61, fol. 19 verso:"Sedquantoadhucveriorcertiorque Sosipatrae ut divinatio,e Chaldaeorum videturAstrologiaet Physiognomia:Cabalisticisnescio quibus principiiset experimentismirabiliterexpedita." 83 G. Naude, "De Cardano De in iudicium," Cardano, vitapropria liber, 2d ed. (Amsterdam, 1654), sig. *6 verso-*7 recto.

84Cf. Barton,Power and Knowledge.



a in became divinelygiftedspecialist prediction divinelygiftedastrologer he has because insistedon his Cardano beenseenaseccentric of allsorts. own divinehelp,triedto fuseor combineallsortsof predictive disciplines that that with his own, andatthe sametimeadmitted formsof prediction rather thanartcouldreachtheirresults"exquisitius" reliedon inspiration In than astrology.85 fact, in such casesthe lover of scientific"subtlety" for once, whole-heartedly with his predecessors and agreed, In this realm too Cardanowent further-or showed a larger tolerancefor contradiction-thanmost. At least once, he portrayed an cosmos as himselfand his colleagues inhabiting austerelyCartesian filled with matterand men in motion, propelledonly by impersonal of emotions. occultforcesor sympathies any kind, No forcesor personal visible or invisible, pervadedthis cosmos-which Cardanohimself In as to described inaccessible anyof histraditional predictive disciplines. considered possibleoutcomesof the De his treatise ludoaleae,Cardano formulacould throws of dice. He insistedthat a simplemathematical of a successful one. Determinethe numberof predictthe probability favorableoutcomesthat a throw of two dicemay have;divideit by the that and whole numberof possibleoutcomes; you havethe probability deniedthat any outside throw will win. Cardano explicitly any given rule.He treateddice as rigid force couldmodifythis strictquantitative their steps of matter dancingto the music of mathematics, pieces or incantation.86 unaffected sympathy,antipathy, by prayer, Cardano's accounts the human of worldreveal same the Sometimes, bleak modernity as his discussionsof dice, the same fundamental, not clear of despairingly sensethatmanyeventshappened because divine influence simplyfromblindchance. Milanfor but orderor stellar Leaving Cardano almostlost his storeof unpublished He manuscripts. Bologna, he found them, he tells us, only because had brokenhis garter.When that into to After climbing hiscarriage leave,he realized he hadto urinate. he couldnot do up his hose, andfoundno new garters sale for urinating in He in the three haberdasheries the neighborhood. turned back to he obtainone of the new pairsof garters hadleft in a chestin his house. on And once the chestwas openedhe saw, his hairstanding end with the manuscripts he thoughthe hadtakenwith him. Some that horror, was the of weekslater, housein question brokeninto andthe contents the Cardano chesttaken."Ifit hadnot beenfor my garter," wrote,"Ishould I not havebeenableto givemy lectures, shouldhavelost my position,I


ed. See Ptolemy, Quadripartitum, Cardano,18 (Opera omnia 5: 105). and commentaryon De ludo aleae liber, in Ore.

86 See the translationof



all wouldhaveperished, wouldhavebecomea beggar, thosemonuments on andI shouldhavediedsoon of grief.And allthis depended an instant! Alas for the condition-or ratherthe wretchedness-of mankind."87 seemto hold dominion Chanceand fortune,humanwill and accident, over all. In this light, the whole projectof rationalpredictionseemsa rather thana firmhandleon the future. meredream-a quixoticfantasy Cardanonever seems to have taken such experiences,or his If for saw to reactions them,asreasons rejecting astrology. he occasionally in occultinfluences, consistently he belief the worldin termsthatrejected resortedto astrology,as a practice,a well-usedset of tools, worn and failureor set of failures to No polishedby the use of decades. particular could remove astrologyitself from its predict an event astrologically different to As status. to Cardano's established ability use other,radically in tools at the sametime-this shouldoccasionlittle surprise a society to some of whose membersuse computers write and fax machinesto all in submitthe papers whichtheyunmask of modernscienceas a social a gamelike any other. product,

Cardanoshowed his more traditionalside, however, when he This assertion as on insisted describing may astrology a moraldiscipline. thinkers-aboveallthe Stoics-insisted ancient soundparadoxical. Many that the wise man does not take any interestin the future.Since one to cannot control the fate of one's fortune,family, and familiars, say one nothingof politicalandeconomicdevelopments, shouldkeepone's emotionsundercontrolby not eventryingto predictthe future(ust as one should not continuallygo over the past, anotheruncontrollable in PierreHadothasargued, a brilliant essay,thatmorethanone realm). school saw the duty of the wise man as Goethe ancientphilosophical allein ist unser "Die Gegenwart it encapsulated in one verse in Faust:
87Cardano, vitapropria liber 49, Operaomnia 1: 47-48: "Si ligula non fuisset, profiteri De non poteram,exciderammunere,mendicassem,tot monumentaperierant,ex tristitiabrevi obiissem: atque id ex momentoperpendit,o humanamconditionem,aut miseriam."In the treatsthe same episode as an instanceof the providentialcare Proxeneta,however,Cardano he has enjoyed:Arcanapolitica 1.4 (Amsterdam,1635), 28-29 at 28: "Dicam autem quid mihi contigeretnuper,ut intelligas quamminimis Deus servet aut perdatquem velit." For with attemptsto specify their astrologicalcauses and on similarruminations near-disasters, the role of providence,see An AstrologicalDiary, ed. Hunterand Gregory, 176-77, 188-89, 226-27, 230-31, 236-37, 240-41, 245 (30 August 1694): "About9h 8'a.m.A Tile from the Eves of my woodhouse,fell downjust clear of my head: so nearthat the dust of the Mortar that came down with it, flew upon my Hat. But the mercifulProvidenceof God preserved me ... [a figure of the heavens follows] Note that Marswas just then risen: &c."



Gliick."88 Astrology seems to lie at an extreme distancefrom such of disciplines present-mindedness. triedto defendhis artagainst suchcriticisms. He Ptolemy already heldthatthe wisemanwould,in fact,direct attention his to the regularly future. One who loses his fortune or his childrenunexpectedlywill calm. But the client of a good certainlynot maintaina philosophical of thesedisasters advance, be ablebothto fend in will astrologer, knowing some of them off and to prepare himselfmorallyfor those he cannot

Cardano discussed passage this in extensively his own commentary in the sameveinfromPeucer.90 on Ptolemy,borrowing further arguments fromprecedent, He departed whenhe argued the astrologer that however, couldbestattain moralendsof his artby analyzing own character the his in drewup andcommented his own andexperiences public.Cardano on Hereasin his autobiography, whichbegan with an analysis of horoscope. and his horoscope followedthe traditional, formof horoscopic disjointed described habits minutedetail: liketo spendten his in Cardano "I analysis, I hoursin bed.... Fordinner liketo havea dishof vegetables, most of all
He mangold, sometimes also rice or endive salad." recountedhis strangest a child, as I lay in bed in the morning, I saw] forms of experiences: "[As differentkinds, like airy bodies, which seemedto consist of little ringslike chain mail, though up to then I had never seen chain mail.... There were pictures of castles, houses, animals, horses with riders, plants, trees, He medicalinstruments."91 even criticizedhis own characterin unsparing detail. Cardanodescribedhimself in his commentary on his horoscope as "pious,faithful, a lover of wisdom, a contemplative ... modest, curious about medicine, interested in miracles, an architect, tricky, deceptive, bitter, a specialistin mysteries,serious,hard-working,laborious, diligent, From his ingenious, living for the day, frivolous, a despiserof religion."92 own account, he emergedas a figureof fun, a wacky professor who made himself ridiculouseven by his irregularway of walking. Staggeringalong the street, gesturing wildly, Cardano hardly embodied the dignity for

P. Hadot, Exercices et (Paris,1981). spirituels philosophie antique

1.3. PtolemyTetrabiblos 90 ed. 24-25(Opera omnia5:110-11). Ptolemy, Quadripartitum, Cardano, 91 liber37, Opera De omnia1:27: "Videbam imagines diversas Cardano, vitapropria ergo aereorum enim videbantur annulisminimis,qualessunt ex (Constare quasi corporum cum tamenloricasnunquam loricarum, eousquevidissem)ab imo lecti angulodextro lente ascendentes semicirculum, et in sinistrum non ut occidentes, prorsus apparerent: per cum instrumentorum animalium, Arcium, domorum, herbarum, arborum, equorum equitibus, hominum diversorum variarum...." medicorum, theatrorum, habituum, vestiumque


Liber geniturarum, xii Cardano, Operaomnia5: 523.



whichhe stroveso hardin muchof his writing.9

Cardano's confessions were not, of course, so frank as they appeared. He did not describe the sexual inclinations that made him a pedophile-and brought him legal penalties. The flood of lesser that surroundedthe purloined letter in revelations-like the bric-a-brac Poe's story-distracted attentionfrom this and other traitsthat might well have done Cardanomore discreditthan those he admitted.94 Still, many readers found it bizarre that Cardano revealed so many weaknesses of character voluntarily. Naude, for example, reproached Cardano with having destroyedhis own social and intellectualposition. In his Proxeneta, a manual for successful life at court, Cardano advised the courtier to maintainsilence above all. Any revelationabout one's means or emotions could only help one's competitors. Yet Cardanographicallyrevealedhis mistakes and characterflaws to readers and rivals alike. In the age of Gracian's cold morality, the philosophy of the personality hard and featureless as a billiard ball, Cardano's frankness represented a basic violation of the rules of prudence.95 In fact, however, Cardano broke the rules deliberately. The saw astrologersof the laterRenaissance it as absolutelyvital to explore the flaws in their customers' characters-even the worst of them-so far as basic self-preservationallowed. In some contexts, of course, unpleasant traitscould servepracticalends. When a Vienna doctor drew up character horoscopes for the children of Maximilian II, he felt impelled to reveal that Maximilian's eldest daughter would show a masculine severity, inclining to be both irritableand vengeful. However, he also commented
that these qualities showed that she was well equipped for public

Usually, however, no such compensations appearedfor responsibility.96 the defectswritten in the stars.When Campanellaproduced a horoscope for Sir PhilibertVernote in the prison of the Inquisitionin Naples, he had to explain that his young customer tended toward sexual passivity and could even have become a pervert, had he not been a northerner. The client barely escaped both sterility and priapism.97 Astrology offered a
omnia1: 14-15. liber21, Opera De 93Cardano, vitapropria 94 ed. An

Hunterand Gregory,26, Cf. Hunter,"Introduction," AstrologicalDiary, with that very emphasizing Jeake-like Cardano-wrote his audience muchin mind. 95 recto. *5 verso-*6 Naude,sigs. 96 of Osterreichische for Bartholomew Reisacher, horoscope Anna,archduchess Austria, MS Nationalbibliothek 10754, fol. 40 recto:"Praese feret igiturvirilem quandam erit severitatemac authoritatem, ad iram procliviset vindictaecupida.Erit idonea alicuius." guberationiac administrationi 97 et lunain signomasculino sol in "Cum MS Bodleian 176, Library Ashmole fol. 36 recto: nuncmollemin venereis, vicibusnuncvirilem, mutatis faciunt feminino eoque reperiantur,



one's own character-andnot allowingit to means of understanding

become one's destiny. But only frank speech about the unspeakablecould serve a client as deeply afflicted in advance as Vernote-or as Cardano himself. Cardanoput these principlesinto practicewhen he analyzedhis own star-haunted personality. He seems to have succeeded, moreover, in making his astrologicalcharacterologyinto a workable form of therapy. The second chapterof his autobiographyoffers a striking example of his successat treatinghimself. There he confessedthat he had been impotent as a young man, for ten years. The position of the stars at his birth, he argued,accountedfor this wretchedcondition: "Because Jupiterwas in the ascendantand Venus was the ruler of the horoscope, I was harmed only in my genitals,so that from my twenty-firstto my thirty-firstyear I could not sleep with women and often mourned my sad lot, envying all others for theirs."98 Any historian must find Cardano'sexplanation remarkable.In his time impotence and fear of impotence were pandemic. Everyone knew, moreover, that witches caused this dreaded condition. The German woods, so the Dominicans Kramer and Sprenger argued in the Malleus maleficarum, swarmedwith evil women who stole men's penises and hid them in birds'nests. Worse yet, some accusedwitches of eatingthe penises they stole (consider,for example,the sausage-like objectsthat witches grill in the works of that gifted misogynist Hans Baldung).99 This widely contributed greatly to the sixteenth-century witch disseminatedfantasy craze, but it did not infect Cardano. He firmly believed in witchcraft, refusing to write a testimonial for a woman accusedof it (to be sure, he interpretedthe invitation to do so as a trap set by his enemies).But he also refusedto blame a woman for his own impotence-even one of the young ones with whom he made energetic, if ineffectual, efforts to relieve his condition. His therapy worked: and it worked againwhen it enabled him to survive and go on working afterthe terrible death of his son. Even in his last years of house arrestin Rome, he emerged as a powerful figure, actively participatingin the meetings of the Roman doctors' guild and enlarging, as well as modifying, his early books in the hope of gaining

deterius et ex hi quodvenusest masculina marsfoemininus natura signi:et pollutiones in naturales,non tamen contranaturam indicant,praesertim boreali viro, sicuti in docuimus." Astrologicis 98 De omnia1:2). Cardano, vitaproprialiber2 (Opera
99 Cf. S. Schade, Schadenzauberund die Magie des Korpers (Worms, 1983), and J. L.

Moment Self-PortraitureGerman in Renaissance (Chicago London, Art and Koerer, The of 1994).



approvalfor new editions.1?Only the monstrouscondescensionof to has posterity madeit impossible see how effectiveCardano's therapies reallywere. not Astrology,in short,provided only the large-scale predictions, character that clients but alsothe fine-grained analyses, sixteenth-century someof the mostpenetrating character needed. wonderthat No analyses brashBriefLives-began as of the time-like JohnAubrey'swonderfully collections wondereitherthatmoderneditors,showinga (no horoscope for havethoroughlyobscured these originsin typicaldisdain astrology, with The theirdealings Aubrey's manuscripts).101 late-seventeenth-century merchantSamuelJeake, whose astrologicaldiary has recently Rye received an exemplaryedition from Michael Hunter and Annabel even morethanin his Puritanbeliefs,the Gregory,foundin astrology, of examination the timingandmeaningof forhis meticulous inspiration in he and all the disasters near-disasters suffered an eventfullife. Gabriel the compared Harveyshowedrealinsight,then, when he systematically withPaoloGiovio'sElogia and of collections Gaurico Cardano horoscope of greatmen. The good astrologer-likethe goodbiographer-promised In to make his readera Menschenkenner. this realmat least, Cardano's andthatof his competitors something clearly typical represents astrology but not of theirtimeandplace: only partof a classical tradition, alsopart of that cultureof endlesscuriositythat historianshave traditionally
identified with the Renaissance.102

Siraisi. 101 See Aubrey'sBriefLives, ed. O. L. Dick (London, 1949; repr.Ann Arbor, 1957), liv-lv, c; cf. M. Hunter,John Aubreyand the Worldof Learning(London, 1975). Warm thanks to the Wissenschaftskollegzu Berlin, the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris,andthe Interationales Forschungszentrum Kulturwissenschaften, Vienna, for research support; and to Ian Maclean and Nancy Siraisi for discussion. I rememberwith special gratitudea long and helpful conversationabout astrology with the late Thomas Kuhn, which took place on the morningafterthis lecturewas delivered.

100 See