The second century CE astrologer Vettius Valens in his Anthology left us one of the most important books extant about the theory and practice of Hellenistic astrology. Replete with many dozens of sample charts of individual clients, Valens makes available to the modern astrologer many techniques that had been previously unavailable prior to the translation of his text into English during the past few decades.
In a critical edition of Valens writings, the scholar David Pingree noted that one of the most commonly utilized charts was cast for the date 8 February 0120 CE and suggested that, like many astrologers of the period, Valens was likely to use his own chart to illustrate the ideas in his text. Many others who have studied Valens agreed that there is a high likelihood that Valens was born on 8 Feb 120. His birthplace is known to be Antakya, Turkey (36° 14′ 40″ N, 36° 12′ 04″ E). He traveled to Alexandria to further his knowledge of astrology and remained there to practice the art.
Here is how Valens describes the chart which scholars assume to be his own (from the Mark Riley translation, bold mine). Here Valens is discussing the annual profections of this chart:
“/165P/ Let us take an example so that we may make an intelligent beginning: sun, Mercury in Aquarius, moon in Scorpio, Saturn in Cancer, Jupiter in Libra, Venus in Capricorn, Mars, Ascendant in Virgo. We are investigating the 35th year. I divide <35> by 12, for a result of 24, remainder 11. We note which stars are separated by 11 signs: we find 11 signs from the Ascendant and Mars <in Virgo> to Saturn in Cancer; additionally 11 signs from the moon <in Scorpio> to Mars, or from Venus <in Capricorn> to the moon. All of these transmissions are effective in the 35th year. Whatever predictive force each star has, it will predict appropriately, good or bad, in the transmissions which we have outlined in the preceding discussion.
Whenever there are many transmissions, it is necessary to take into account whether benefics or malefics predominate. Award the prize to whichever group does predominate. If neither does, the year should be judged as varied and changeable.
To find the overall influence in any nativity, it will be necessary to count the years from the sun, the moon, and the Ascendant, and if the count ends at an empty place, then they <sun moon Ascendant> will be transmitting to the rulers of these <empty> signs. These three figures have great influence, whether the transmission is to benefics, to malefics, to the angles or operative places, or to places not at the angles.”
The early Hellenistic astrologers most likely used a sidereal zodiac, so I experimented with several ayanasmas and came up with the following chart, which corresponds with Valens description. Note that he was born just after sunset on a Sun day during a Sun hour, the first hour of the night.
This chart is cast in the sidereal zodiac (Raman ayanasma) for 8 February 120 CE at 6:27 PM LMT in Antakya, Turkey. The chart data is the same as given by Valens in his Anthology:
- Sun and Mercury in Aquarius
- Moon in Scorpio
- Saturn in Cancer
- Jupiter in Libra
- Venus in Capricorn (Venus would be in Aquarius in the tropical zodiac and in the sidereal zodiac with a different ayanasma.)
- Mars and Ascendant in Virgo
Valens does not specify the degree of the Ascendant, but in Book VII when he discusses “conception” charts he mentions what may be his own chart when he writes (Mark Riley translation, bold mine):
“For example, so that my readers may understand the determination: Hadrian year 4, Mechir 13/14, hour 1 of the night; the moon in Scorpio 7°, the Ascendant in Virgo 7°. Since the moon is found to be in the hemisphere beneath the earth, I take the degrees from the Ascendant to the moon; this is 60°. To each 30° I assign 2 1/2, for a result of 5 days. I add this to the mean factor (273), and the result is 278. The conception was that many days ago. /51P/ I count back <278> days from the hour of birth; the conception day is Pachon 11.
Alternatively, I subtract the 5 days of the distance <from the Ascendant to the moon> from 92, for a result of 87. (The mean factor is 273, which leaves a remainder of 92 when subtracted from 365 days.) If we add 87 to Mechir 14 and count this off from the birth date, we come to Pachon 11.
If you calculate the degrees from the moon to the Descendant, i.e. Pisces 7°, the total is 120°. Take 2 1/2 for each 30°, for a total of 10 days. Now if I subtract this from the maximum factor (288), the result is 278. If you count this amount back from the day of birth and calculate the moon, you will find it to have been in the Ascendant at the delivery.”
In this section Valens is calculating the hypothetical conception chart for someone born during the first hour of the night (as he was) and who has Moon in Scorpio and Ascendant in Virgo (as he does). If this is indeed his own birth chart, then Valens is telling us that his Ascendant lies in the 7th degree of Virgo and his Moon lies in the 7th degree of Scorpio. These values are very close the the chart calculated above, which has the Ascendant in the 4th degree of Virgo (rather than the 7th) and the Moon in the 6th degree of Virgo (rather than the 7th as mentioned in the text).
If we count back 278 days from 8 February 120 CE, as Valens suggests, we arrive at 6 May 119 CE as his date of conception. According to Valens, on this date the Moon should lie in the Ascendant of the 8 February 120 birth chart. Here is the conception chart calculated in the sidereal zodiac (Raman ayanasma) according to Valens instructions:
As you can see, the Moon in this conception chart lies in early Virgo, which the the Ascendant of the nativity. In addition, the Ascendant of this conception chart lies in Scorpio, which is the sign of the Moon in the nativity.
What about Valens’ Midheaven degree? On page 105 of Riley’s translation the following passage, which may relate to Valens’ own chart, appears:
p.105: “An example: Mars, Ascendant in Virgo, moon in Scorpio at IC, MC in Taurus. It is necessary to investigate the 34th year. 34 divided by 12 gives 2, with a remainder of 10. The transmission can go from the moon to Mars, since they are both at angles <10 signs apart>, and from the Ascendant and Mars to Taurus (i.e. to MC). During this period the client worked abroad, was a friend of great men, was in mortal danger because of a woman, and suffered cuts and bleeding. Other transmissions were operative at this time, but they did not reveal the <particular> crisis.”
If this passage does relate to Valens’ chart, then it tells us that he has Mars and the Ascendant in Virgo and the Moon in Scorpio (which most scholars agree on). What is new is that it indicates that the degree of the MC lies in Taurus and the IC lies in Taurus where the Moon is located. If such is the case, the Valens could not have been born much after 6:27 pm LMT because the MC would shift into Gemini, making an Ascendant in the 7th degree of Virgo impossible at his birthplace. Specifically:
- The MC enters Gemini at 6:29:20 pm LMT in this chart.
- The ASC shifts back to Leo at 6:09:22 pm LMT in this chart
Thus, Valens must have been born during the 20-minute interval between about 6:09 pm and 6:29 pm LMT. I chose a time close to 6:29 pm LMT for the chart to keep the MC in Taurus and the ASC close to the 7th degree of Virgo reported in the text.
Gregory Rozek has a discussion of the Rx planets in Valens’ chart at http://gregoryrozek.com/en/valens-and-retrograde-planets/
Chris Brennan gives an overview of Valens contributions at http://www.hellenisticastrology.com/astrologers/vettius-valens/. On this page it states that “If Valens was born on February 8, 120, then he also included his own conception chart in the Anthology, which was on May 13, 119 CE.” This latter date may be a typo because Valens instructs us to subtract 278 days from the 8 Feb 120 CE birth day, which takes us to 6 May 119 (as opposed to 13 May 119). In addition, the Moon on 13 May 119 was in Sagittarius and not in Virgo as the text indicates.
Here is the same chart showing the Rx planets and a table of information about the chart, calculated by Solar Fire: