b. Translation of Sefer ha-Olam from J.L Fleischer's edition of 1937 with explanatory notes
The Book of the World according to our rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra
Through the power of the Living God, hidden from all,
he25 will begin the Book of the World.
[1-4] If you have come across the book by Abu Ma'shar on the conjunctions of the
planets26, do not accept it, and do not listen to him, because he relies on the conjunctions of
the planets by mean motion, and no scholar agrees with him, because the truth is that the
conjunctions are relative to the wheel of stars (the zodiac). Also do not rely on the
conjunctions of the planets that are in the (astronomical) tables of the scholars of India,
since they are not altogether correct, and the correct (thing to do) is to rely on the tables of
the scientists who made observations from generation to generation27.
[4-11] The conjunctions are 120 (in number). And this is how you can learn their number: it is known that every calculation that adds from one to any number that one wishes, one can
25 Ibn Ezra refers to himself in the third person later in the text, as Abraham says... and also in the concluding poem. It is however, possible that this should read I instead.
26 Abu Mashars On the Great Conjunctions (ed. and transl. Burnett and Yamamoto 2000).
27 Ibn Ezra's critique of Abu Ma'shar in this passage is motivated by the fact that Abu Ma'shar uses Indian
astronomical tables of mean motion (Abu Ma'shar 2000, 13), which are not sufficiently accurate. Ibn Ezra
holds that one must make continual observations to assure that the predictions are made from when
conjunctions actually occur instead of only when they are calculated to occur.
obtain by multiplying28 the latter value with its half plus its half29 Here is an example: we wish to know the sum of the numbers of one to twenty. We will multiply twenty with its half and add its half, and we get 210. And now we begin to find out how many combinations (there are) of two planets only. And it is known that the number of planets is seven. So Saturn can combine with the six other planets. And six (multiplied) with its half plus the half of it is twenty-one. And thus is the number of combinations of two (planets).
[12-16] We wish to know the number of conjunctions of three (planets). Here we begin by putting Jupiter and Saturn with one of the other five, and thence we get the number five. And we multiply it by two and a half, and add half of it and thus (we get) fifteen. And the conjunctions of Mars are three which we multiply with two and arrive at six30. And the conjunctions of the sun are two, which we multiply with one and a half and get three31. And the conjunction of Venus with the inferior planets is (only) one, and thus the whole number is 3532. And these were the numbers of the combinations of three planets.
[16-23] We wish to produce the conjunctions of four (planets). Then we begin with Saturn and Jupiter and Mars with it (a fourth planet). Since three combining with it are required, the conjunction begins with four that we multiply with two plus its half33 and get ten, and after that are the conjunctions of Saturn and Jupiter with the others, and these will be three that we multiply with two is six, and thus (we get)16. And after that we begin by (combining) Saturn with Mars and they are 2x1,5 = 3 and after this is one conjunction, and thus the number of Saturn's conjunctions amount to 20. Then one begins by combining Jupiter with 3 and we multiply them with 2, which equals 6 and after that (there is) one conjunction, thus 4 conjunctions34. And the conjunction of the sun with the inferior planets35 is one. And thus the conjunctions of four (planets) are 35 (in all).
[23-26] We wish to find out the (conjunctions of) five (planet)s, and we found that Saturn has 15, Jupiter 5 and Mars one, and thus the conjunctions of five (planets) are 21. And the conjunctions of six (planets); Saturn has 6 and Jupiter 1, thus 7, and the conjunction of seven (planets) is (just) one.36 Thus the number amounts to 120 conjunctions. All the (sums of the) conjunctions are uneven numbers, and are divisible by 737.
[27-33] The great conjunction is a conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter in the sign of Aries. And that is because they are heavy (and therefore slow) planets. And thus they do not indicate38 details, but general (matters). And since Aries is the first of the signs (of the zodiac), this is why it is called the great conjunction. And this conjunction occurs approximately (every) 1000 years, because such is the course of movement of these two (planets). After they join together in Aries, they join together after 20 years in a house in
the triplicity of Aries39, and it is Sagittarius. And it is the ninth sign from the sign where the first conjunction took place40. After another 20 years they join together in a house of the
one triplicity, and it is Leo, which is the ninth from Sagittarius.
[33-42] And after 60 years from the first conjunction they join together in Aries where they started at the beginning, since it is the ninth from Leo, except that they do not join together
28 Ibn Ezra uses the word erekh, which means value, to denote ratio or proportion or multiplication (Sela
29 A( 1 - n)= n(n/2)+n/2.
30 According to the formula given above, this should be 3x1,5+1,5 = 6, rather than 3x2 = 6 as given here.
31 2x1½ =3.
34 Ibn Ezra does not seem to follow the formula he has just set out himself. It may also be a copyist error.
35 Venus and Mercury are called inferior planets in astrological thought. Saturn and Jupiter are
correspondingly superior planets, leaving Mars alone without such epithet.
36 Sela has translated this passage in equivalent terms in Sela 2003, 381. He also translates erekh as
multiplication in this context.
37 For an analysis of the number of the conjunctions in this text, see section 4.4. of this study.
38 Ibn Ezra repeatedly uses the word yoreh as the signification or representation by the astrological sign of
the earthly event, in a way that is best translated as indicates.
39 This means in one of the fire signs.
40 In Aries.
at the same degree, but instead approximately in quartile41 to another sign. And so they do for 240 or 260 years, and thus they join together in the houses of a triplicity 12 or 13 times. And after that they move out of the fire-signs to the earth-signs that are next to them. And when they begin to move there, it is called a middle conjunction. And thus they proceed from triplicity42 to triplicity until the end of 12 or 13 times. After this they move to the triplicity of the air-signs, and after that to (that of) the water-signs according to the rule that I have mentioned, and in nearly 1000 years they will return to join together in Aries. And thus their conjunction every 20 years in one of the three houses of any triplicity, is called a small conjunction.
[42-44] The great conjunction indicates that a prophet will arise to establish a nation43, if the place where the conjunction occurs is in the 9th house or in the 3rd house relative to the ascendant, in the revolution of the year44 of the conjunction, because these two houses indicate signs and wonders.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- [45-51] Many believe that it is in their power to find out the ascendant in the hour of the
conjunction of the superior planets. But this is not possible because of two things: one is
that the location of Saturn and Jupiter is not equal in the tables of mean motion, or even in
the tables of those scientists who make observations, even if we set aside the differences
between the scientists of India and those who make observations, because they are today
close to 9 degrees (different). On the other hand, if the place of Saturn becomes clear to us
in the (tables of) mean motion, (and) also that of Jupiter, on the basis of any table that
(relies on) observation, it would be true and correct. However, we would not be able to
produce the moment of the conjunction, because of the movement of these two planets.
And if we could know the date that they will join together, that would (already) be a great
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- [52-58] And I shall give you additional reasons46. Ptolemy 47 said the scholars of our
generation praise themselves because they are able to produce the ascendant for any
location at the revolution of the year, which is at the moment of the Aries ingress. And I
say: I cannot know it. Those who were before did not know it, nor will those who come
after. Abraham says: now I shall explain to you Ptolemy's reason. Know that no person
can know exactly how long a solar year is. And the reason is that in a year, the sun returns
to the center of the intersection of the two great circles48 of which the beginning point is
northern/hidden49, and the instruments that are made for determining the apogee of the sun
at noon, if they are sufficiently precise, they will be able to produce the minutes but not the
41 In counting from any sign to the ninth from it, that ninth sign will be in quartile aspect to the original sign.
42 A triplicity is a group of three zodiacal signs of the same element. Thus the three fire-signs Aries, Leo and
Sagittarius form one triplicity.
43 The Hebrew reads literally, to arouse a people. I want to thank Haseeb Shehadeh especially for drawing
my attention to the meaning "to establish a nation" of this expression.
44 The "revolution of the years" was a horoscope that was cast yearly at the beginning of the year in order to
predict the circumstances of teh coming year.
45 In the preceding passages, Ibn Ezra has explained the basics of the Saturn-Jupiter doctrine, which
correspond closely to Abu Ma'shar (2000, 11, 37-41). The reason why the ascendant is so crucial in this
argument is that while the conjunction determines the time that a new era will begin, its ascendant, if it could
be specified, would determine the nature of that new era. But the ascendant changes every two hours or so,
and can therefore, according to Ibn Ezra, not be determined with accuracy. This argument is also critique
aimed at Abu Ma'shar.
46 I have here interpreted the Hebrew phrase to add water to the Nile/river as an idiom meaning to add
proof to an already proven case. I have been unable to verify such usage, however.
47 Ibn Ezra spells the names of both Ptolemy and Hipparchus in Arabic fashion, which is natural as this was
his first language.
48 The great and small wheels refer to the epicycle and deferent of the Ptolemaic cosmological model.
49 Tsafon means northern and tsafun hidden. I am unsure which one he means here.
50 The Hebrew words rishonim and shiniyim are here used for the terms minutes and seconds (of arc) ,
see Sela's translation of Sefer ha-Te'amim 1.1:6 (2007).
[59-68] Already Shakir's sons51, who made three instruments that were the first to divide them, they also used to give them (a precision) of ten seconds. But when they were determining by them (the instruments) the apogee of the sun at noon, the dispute between them52 was about two minutes. And this is due to an error in the craft. If we say we shall measure the shadow on the ground (to determine the position of the sun), an error will equally occur there because of the ground if it is not level, and likewise because of the pillar (of measurement), if it is not straight, also in its erectness. And because of such things, all astronomers have been obliged to add precision (to the tables) generation after generation. Hipparchus already said that the solar year is 365 whole days and less than 1/4 day, but he did not know how much less. Then came Ptolemy after him and specified the
date of the revolution of the year, and a way to approximate the moment, and so he did, and no person could know when (exactly) the Aries ingress occurred in a given location
without knowing the latitude of that location, which means its distance from the equator.
[68-76] Therefore, they observe the measure of the sun's apogee at noon as it is at the end of North, which is at the head of Cancer, and also they determined how it was at the end of South, which is the head of Capricorn53, and after they knew this, they could produce the latitude of the place in degrees and minutes if the sun's angle of inclination was correct. Because the scholars of India said that it is 24 full degrees, and Ptolemy said "more than 23 degrees and more than 45 parts54 and less than 51 parts55, so Ptolemy could not know the (exact) truth. And Hipparchus said that it is 11/83 parts in every revolution, and thus it is
23°51. And Muslim scientists have specified more than all of them, and their knowledge agrees that the angle of inclination is 23°35, except for Yahya b. Abu Mansur 56 and Ibrahim al-Zarqal 57, who specified even more than all of them and they said that it is
[76-96] After one knows the latitude of the country in degrees and in fractions, one will (be able to) determine the sun's apogee at noon when it is close to the Aries ingress, and from that one knows it. Here is an example: we are in a place with the latitude of 42°39', it turns out to be the first apogee, and its reason is that the Aries ingress occurs at 47°30'. And then we measure the sun at noon before the Aries ingress and we find it at 47°20'. Also we take the apogee of the sun at noon the following day, and it ought to be at 47°44', and the reason for this is that the inclination of the sun is on that one day, when it (enters) in the sign of Aries, close to 24°. And thus 1' is added to every hour of both day and night. And we have already said that the apogee of the sun the preceding day was 47°20', and thus 10 remain
to complete the apogee of Aries in our (chosen) locality, then we know that 11 hours after midday the Aries ingress will occur, which is 4 hours from nightfall. And since there is a long time-gap between the beginning of the year as one of the astrologers specified and (the value given by) another astrologer who came after him, because they both agreed that no person can specify them by minutes, until they amount to days. And therefore the latter scholar divided the measure of time that was between him and his predecessor, and produced the mean motion of the sun. And if the predecessor erred slightly, the error will
be found in the successor, because one relied on the other, since there was nothing else he could do. And in this manner Ptolemy found in relation to the estimation of time (made by) Hipparchus, that the solar year was less than 1/4 plus the three hundred and sixty(five)
days. And the time (that elapsed) between him and Hipparchus was 280 years58. And Ptolemy said that the position of the sun's apogee is in Gemini 6°, so it had been, and so it will be always. And many more people (who) made specifications came after him, and they were no less wise than he was, and during the 720 years (that have elapsed) between them
51 The Banu Musa, Musa Shakir's sons; Muhammad, Ahmad and al-Hasan were three brothers who were all scholars of mathematics and astronomy. They lived in Baghdad in the 9th century.
52 That is, between the data in the tables and the data of observation.
53 The apogee is measured relative to the equator and to the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.
56 This is probably a reference to Abu Nasr Mansur ibn Ali ibn Iraq, ca 970-1036, notable for his discovery
of sine-laws in astronomical trigonometry. He is also mentioned by Ibn Ezra in Sefer ha-Moladot, 2008, 71.
57 Abu Ishaq Ibrahim al-Zarqali, ca 1028-1087, astronomer famous as the compiler of the Toledan Tables.
58 Here Ibn Ezra is citing from Ptolemy's Almagest (Almagest VIII (3) 1984, 333; cf. Sela 2003, 304).
and Ptolemy, 400 more59 to be added [?] on the mean motion of Ptolemy, up until now, and
Ptolemy's tables have no relevance today60.
[96-100] It is very surprising that such a great man who corrected the astronomical tables of mean motion made by al-Battani61, claimed that those were Ptolemy's tables62. These specialists found the sun's apogee to be, in their time, at Gemini 22°. Also Ptolemy said
that the motion of the stars that are in the upper sphere63, is one degree in every 100 years64. But they found their motion to be 1,5° per 100 years.
[100-105] There are those who say that the amount that the year every year falls short of
(365+) 1/4 day, is by 1/106 and those who say 1/11065 . But the correct way, I believe, is
1/131, and this is based on the position of the sun in al-Sufi's66 time, and we have not heard
that there was any specialist in astronomical calculation like him, and he taught like this.
And after him came Ibrahim al-Zarqal, and there was no scientist like him in his
generation, and he measured the position of the sun in his own time, and his method was
equivalent to the one described by al-Sufi67.
[105-111] And so it has been made clear for you that man is unable to know the ascendant from the revolution of the year, of which spoke Ptolemy, and the scholars of India, Egypt and Persia, and Doronius68, because (instead), we shall always look for the moment of the conjunction of the luminaries or their opposition, (to find out) which of them is at the beginning (of the year) before the Aries ingress, so that we will be able to define it properly; therefore there is nothing anywhere that gets us as close to what we want (as this), and from this, we are able to specify and to know all mundane laws. And this is correct because the luminaries signify the world more than any of the planets (do), indeed the Muslims and all the Ancients admit that it is so.
[111-122] Ptolemy said: Look whether the sun or the moon is eclipsed, and from this you can know all the events that will occur in that year. And he does not rely on anything else than the ascendant at the moment of the conjunction of the luminaries when the sun is eclipsed, or on the ascendant at the moment of the opposition of the luminaries when the moon is eclipsed, as I will later interpret it. And also look at the great conjunction for the ascendant in the conjunction of the luminaries or their opposition, (that is,) the cusp of which sign will be (just) before the Aries ingress. Also look for the rising sign at the moment of the conjunction of the luminaries or their opposition before the entrance of the sun into the beginning of the quadrant where the great conjunction is to occur, and also observe the rising sign at the moment of the conjunction of the luminaries or their opposition, which of them is before the great conjunction, that is, the conjunction that is to occur in the same month69. And if the conjunction occurs in Aries, then there is no need to produce the ascendant, (it can be) only one alone. And if in the remaining quadrants, one
59 Here Sela translates there is a discrepancy of 400, but he also adds a question mark as to the meaning of this sentence. (Sela 2003, 368)
60 They had been replaced by the much more accurate Arabic zijes. For an alternative translation of this passage, see Sela 2003, 368.
61 Muhammad ibn Jabir al-Harrani al-Battani , 850-929, astronomer from Harran, calculated the values for
the precession of the equinoxes and the inclination of the Earth's axis as 23° 35'.
62 According to Sela, this remark is aimed at Abraham Bar Hiyya, and addressing him as a great man is
sarcasm (Sela 2003, 99).
63 The fixed stars.
64 Ibn Ezra here speaks of precession. For Sela's, essentially equivalent translation of this passage see Sela
65 The meaning of this sentence is unclear to me.
66 Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi, 903 -986, was a Persian astronomer and known in the west as Azophi. Al-Sufi
published his famous "Book of Fixed Stars" in 964.
67 I have analysed Ibn Ezra's treatment of the length of the solar year in section 4.3. of this study. This
passage is also critique of Abu Ma'shar, insofar as Abu Ma'shar uses Persian years of exactly 365 days
(Burnett and Yamamoto 2000, 582). Ibn Ezra makes the justified point that such inaccuracy accumulates into
major discrepancies over time, especially since mundane astrology dealt with periods of many hundreds of
years in its predictions and retrodictions.
68 Dorotheus of Sidon, a 1st century Hellenistic astrologer, author of the very influential Carmen
69 The sun-moon conjunction that occurs in the same month as the great one.
must sometimes produce a second sign with the first; there are also times when one should produce two. But that will not happen unless the conjunction occurs in the first sign of the quadrant70.
[122-131] And at the time of the conjunction, observe the circumstances of Saturn and Jupiter to see which of them is closer to its apogee or to the place of its perigee, relative to the great wheel, that its center is far from the centre of the earth71. And observe also which one of them is closer to its apogee on the small wheel72. And whether both of them are straight in their movement or they are retrograde and whether one of them has northern latitude, and how great its latitude is and observe also whether one of them is (as) ruler in (its own planetary) house (domicile). And so, if you find that Saturn is closer to its apogee than is Jupiter, or its latitude is northern while Jupiter is southern or it is on the ecliptic, or the latitude of Saturn is more northern than Jupiter's while it (too) is northern, or if Saturn is on the ecliptic and the measurement of how southern Jupiter is, or if they are both
southern, and the latitude of Saturn is smaller than the latitude of Jupiter, also if Saturn is in the place where it has rulership, then it indicates that an old people that dwells in any inhabited place, will not be conquered and will not move from its place73.
[131-140] According to the nature74 of Saturn, hatred, envy, hostility, strife, famine and (all) sorts of diseases will increase in the world. And if all this influence75 that we mentioned of Saturn and Jupiter (was the other way around76), then it indicates a new people that conquers the old people, and the kingdom is turned from (the dominion of) one people to another. And in accordance with the aspect of Mars shall be the shedding of blood. If it is eastern, then many victims shall fall, and if it is western, there will be more fear and refugees than massacres. But if Venus aspects it with any aspect , its (Mars') malignancy will be removed. And always observe at the day of the conjunction, how the planets aspect each other, because it is an important principle, especially if Mars aspects with opposition or quartile then the world will be turned over with many wars, and if Venus, then the intercourse and fornication will increase with satiety, without wars. And if the moon will be in a beneficent place, everybody will be joyful, and the opposite will be the case if it will be with one of the malefics.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- [140-148] The scientists of Persia said to always observe the portion that is called the
fardar77, and it returns again and again every 75 years. And such is their beginning, (that)
the sun is at the beginning for ten years (and) she will withdraw to serve in the seventh
70 The doctrine here presented is found in Tetrabiblos (Ptolemy 1940, 195-199) and is based on the new and full moon (conjunction of the luminaries or their opposition). Here this doctrine is meant to supplant the technique of using the ascendant of the Saturn-Jupiter conjunction, which Ibn Ezra has just proven is impossible to calculate.
71 This refers to the deferent and the equant, which were elements of ptolemaic cosmology. The deferent was the large orbit (the great wheel) of the planet around the Earth, and the equant was the centre of the deferent, which is situated some way off from the Earth for mathematical reasons (Lindberg 1992, 98-105).
72 The small wheel refers to the so called epicycle of the ptolemaic model, the smaller orbit of the planet around a point on its deferent. See previous note.
73 The circle of the ecliptic was divided according to several systems, but Ibn Ezra favours the division into quadrants, where the quadrant between the ascendant and midheaven is called southern, and its opposite quadrant is northern, the quadrant between midheaven and the descendant is called western and its opposite is eastern. (Sefer ha-Te'amim 2007, 63; Reshit Hokhmah 1939, 191-192 on different ways to divide the ecliptic. On how the position in each quadrant affects the influences of the planets, see Sefer ha-Te'amim 2007, 89.
The system of transits are derived from Abu Ma'shar 2000, part VI, see also Ptolemy 1940, 117-121, 161-163.
74 Ibn Ezra consistently uses the word toledet, which normally means "generation", as "nature"(Sela 2003,
75 Ibn Ezra often uses the word koach, which means power, to denote the power that the stars have over
earthly affairs (Sela 2003, 120).
76 This sentence did not make sense, as it would contradict the statement in the previous passage. I have
therefore added this note to make sense of it, as what he describes now is the opposite of what he described
77 The fardar is an astrological period of 360, 78 or 75 years, of Persian origin. (See Tester 1987, 165-6.) Ibn
Ezra mentions the fardar also many times in his other writings (Sefer ha-Te'amim 2007, 107, 178, 219, 225;
Sefer ha-Moladot 2008, 76). In Sefer ha-Te'amim (2007, 107) Ibn Ezra promises to deal more fully with this
subject in Sefer ha-Olam, a promise he fulfils here. See also section 3.3.1. of this study.
part, and in the rest of the seven parts78 the planets will participate with her (the sun) when they are in this order: sun, Venus, Mercury, moon and Saturn, Jupiter, Mars79. And after that, the moon will serve 9 years and then withdraw in the seventh part, and in the rest they will participate with it80. After that, Caput Draconis three years and after that Jupiter 12,
and after that Mercury 13, and after that Mercury 1381, and after that Saturn 11, and after that Cauda Draconis82 2 years, and after that Mars 7 years and after that Venus 8 years. And the reason for these numbers of years I do not know, I only know the reason for this order, why it is such.
[148-153] It is because they began to give these parts according to the number of Aries, so that whoever is in its exaltation at the beginning will serve as the beginning83. And the reason behind the (number of) years of Venus and Jupiter are known, since such is the number of their small years84 because this is the number in which they will finally return to their (original) degrees (positions). If you wish to know (concerning) this year, which is the year (4)90885 , which (of the planets) is the ruler according to the calculation of the
Persians, it is the fourth revolution of Mars. And each one will be alone in its seventh part
(1/7) and the others will participate with it in the rest of the seventh part.
[153-164] And if one will argue86 that (in that case) every 75 years would have to be alike, the following to the previous, because the planets and the partners (stars) are (only) two, then this is the answer: he should not count mathematically assuming the ascendant and the angle of the planets to it and the proportion of one to the other to be always the same, as if the world was always stationary. This matter you can observe since Saturn has many different ways of being in relation87 to the sun and also in relation to the planets and also in proportion to the upper stars, and these (stars) are moving one degree every 70 years, and it will not have the relation that it had at the beginning to one of the upper stars, but only
once in 25 000 years. And there is no need to go on about this, since the author of the Sefer Yetsirah already mentioned (that) two stones build two houses, three stones six houses, four stones build twenty-four88, and from ten upwards, go on and calculate that which the mouth cannot utter and the ear cannot hear. Therefore one (can) not calculate a birth-chart (in its every detail) and one (birth-chart) cannot be compared to another birth-chart like it. Because the wheel is not fixed to one coordinate, but every moment the coordinate will change to a different one, and it will not be (the same any more), and the mathematicians know this89.
78 See Tester 1987, 168.
79 This is the same order of the planets that Ibn Ezra gives in Sefer ha-Te'amim (2007, 49). Strangely this odd
order is not the order of exaltation, as he says the fardar should be, but it is the one explicitly given by Abu
Mashar (see Tester 1987, 166), clearly showing that Abu Ma'shar was Ibn Ezra's source for the fardar .
80 The precise meaning of the word hishtatef, participate, in this context is unclear to me.
81 This is probably undue repetition.
82 Cauda and Caput Draconis are the Latin names for the lunar nodes. These are the two points where the
paths of the sun and the moon around the earth intersect. Caput Draconis, the Head of the Dragon, is the
ascending node, and Cauda Draconis, the Tail of the Dragon, is the descending node. These two points of
intersection were treated as planets in Persian and Hindu astrology, for which Ibn Ezra criticizes them (Sefer
ha-Teamim 2007, 85).
83 Tester explains (1987, 166): the first planet is the sun because it is exalted in Aries, the second is the moon,
because it is exalted in Taurus, etc. This is however not the order given by Ibn Ezra, see note 36 above.
84 Revolutions on the epicycle?
85 The Hebrew gives only the number 908, but Sela translates this in Sefer ha-Te'amim (2007, 53) as being
shorthand for 4908. Converted, this Hebrew year corresponds to 1147-1148 C.E. This conveniently dates our
86 The arguer argues, see Sela's translation of Sefer ha-Te'amim (2007, 213, 247).
87 Ibn Ezra uses the word pe'ah in many different ways in his texts. While mip'at generally means because
of, I have here followed the context. See Sela's notes on Sefer ha-Te'amim, 2007, 123.
88 1x2=2, 1x2x3=6, 1x2x3x4=24 etc. This kind of calculation is used in probability calculus. Ibn Ezra's point is that since the celestial bodies are so very numerous, and all are variable, the possible combinations in a
birth-chart are vast beyond reckoning. He makes a similar point in Yesod Morah (1995, 173).
89 The Sefer Yetzirah is a 3rd - 6th century anonymous Jewish mystical tract which forms one of the basic texts
of Jewish mysticism, the kabbalah. Sefer Yetzirah 4:12 (transl. Aryeh Kaplan 1997) reads as follows: The
Seven Doubles, how does one permute them? Two stones build two houses, three build six houses, four build
24 houses, five build 120 houses, six build 720 houses, and seven build 5040 houses. From there on go out
and calculate that which the mouth cannot speak and the ear cannot hear. These are the seven planets in the
Universe: The sun, Venus, Mercury, the moon, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars. Ibn Ezra makes a similar point in
Yesod Morah (1995, 173).
[165-174] Masha'allah said (that) if you know a country's sign, observe in the revolution of the year of a conjunction (of Saturn and Jupiter) whether any planet is aspected to that sign, and how the ruler of that sign (is aspected). And as you see (them aspecting), judge according to it. Because if Mars or Saturn are in opposition or a quartile aspect to the
nation ('s sign), and no benefic planet aspects the sign, or if the ruler of the sign is burned by the sun or the sign of the nation is in one of the cardines and it is (there) with Saturn or Mars, or (if the nation's sign is) in opposition or quartile aspect with them (Saturn or Mars), it indicates a great misfortune that will come to the nation, and even worse if the malefic is in the nation's sign. And (if) you find the ruler of the country's sign in the 8th house (death and inheritance) in respect to the nation's sign or in the 12th house (grief and animosity) or in the 6th house (diseases and servants90), then they will die and fall into the hands of their enemies, and if a benefic was in the rising sign with a malefic planet, look at which of them has more power due to its (higher) position on the wheel and with regard to the ecliptic, as
I have explained. And judge according to what you see.
[174-181] And know that Venus will deflect the injury of Mars in a conjunction or in aspect, so that Mars will appear injurious only in thoughts and words, but Venus does not have the power to deflect the injury of Saturn, only Jupiter, whether in conjunction or in aspect, deflects the injury of Saturn. And all that we have said, (is) in case Venus or Jupiter are not under the light of the sun, if (they are), they are not usable in this way. And Ptolemy has said that Jupiter cannot deflect the injury of Mars, despite its being higher (in rank)
than it (Mars), because Jupiter with Saturn do not have (equal) rank (to Mars), only Venus is (of the same) rank. And make sure you do not forget to look every 30 years for a conjunction of Saturn with Mars in the sign of Cancer, which is the sign of the world91. And look (in) every nation ('s case) how the planets are positioned relative to the nation's sign.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- [182-191] Ptolemy said (that) if a solar eclipse is calculated to occur a certain year, we
should observe the moment of the eclipse and judge according to the ascendant. And if the
solar eclipse is complete, then the judgement is certain. And we shall give judgement
according to what the eclipse is like. And the truth of the matter is that the moment of the
eclipse is in reality the moment of conjunction of the two luminaries. And this is not the
case with the moments of the rest of the conjunctions. And so shall we judge (as in a
conjunction). We shall observe the place of the conjunction, whether it is in one of the
houses that have a human image92, (and if) there are benefic planets aspecting the sun and
the moon as they are in conjunction, and (whether) they are in human-form signs, it
indicates physical health for human beings, and peace and quiet among them. But if there
are malefics in aspect with the luminaries, then the matter is the reverse. Illnesses and great
bloodshed will be in the world. And if the conjunction occurred in one of the water-signs
and malefics are aspecting them, there will be evils for all those whose nature is of water
and (is susceptible to) tides. And judge like this if (the eclipse) is in Aries (it signifies)
small cattle and if in Taurus (it signifies) large cattle and Leo (signifies) wild animals.
[192-207] Ptolemy said If we wish to know the time when the majority of things that are significant, will be visible, but disappear immediately again, we have to look at the place of the solar or lunar eclipse, and we will see in which house it will be of the six houses that
90 The indications of the houses that I have here added in brackets are taken from Reshit Hokhmah (1939,
91 This is a reference to the so called Thema Mundi, the horoscope supposedly representing the creation of
the world, where Cancer was the ascendant and the sun was in midheaven at the beginning of Aries. The
Thema Mundi was familiar already to the Greeks. See Abu Mashar 2000, 23, 123-137; Burnett and
Yamamoto 2000, 529-543; Sela 2007, 128; Tester 1987, 94, 119-120.
92 The signs with human-form constellation: Gemini, Libra, Virgo, half of Aquarius and Sagittarius. Animal-
shaped signs indicate illness, human-shaped signs indicate health, according to Sefer ha-Te'amim 2.3:1
(2007, 41), see also Sela's notes 9-10 on page 277. Just as Ibn Ezra writes, the idea is derived from Ptolemy
are above the earth (above the horizon) especially whether it is at the cusp of the first house, this will (mean) the beginning of the year, or in the descendant, (which will mean) the end of the year, or if at the cusp of the 10th house, (which will mean) the middle of the year. And this is the rule: we shall assign two months for every house, and it shall begin from the rising degree (and move) towards the last degree, and this is the opinion of Ptolemy93. But the ancient scientists, and also the later ones, did not agree with him. Because (instead) in a solar eclipse we will take a whole year (to correspond) to every straight hour94, and in accordance with the partitions of the hour (minutes) we shall take from the year (the minutes are to correspond with months etc.), and so (the duration) from the beginning on to the end are those that indicate about it (the year) until its end; according to the hours they are either benefic or opposite ones. And the major thing (the culmination of the event) is visible in the middle time95 which is where the actual moment
of the conjunction is, (that is) the one which was taken from the tables, not the conjunction which was observed. And at the eclipse of the moon they (the ancient and later scholars) will assign a month to every straight hour. I am inclined to agree with them, and know that Mercury, if it is in one of the malefics' houses, and if it and the malefics are close to the conjunction at the time of the lunar eclipse, (then) there is no malefic like it. The benefic planets in opposition (with Mercury) at the lunar eclipse are beneficial, from the conjunction on to the solar eclipse, and the malefics in opposition (with Mercury) become more injurious than they are at the conjunction, because at the conjunction they are burned by the sun.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- [207-215] Doronius the king96 said that he found in the Book of Secrets by Enoch97 that he
instructed that at the revolution of the year (in which occurs) a conjunction of Saturn and
Jupiter, (whether it is) the Great Conjunction or the medium or the small one, to always
observe the position of the planets at the beginning of the Aries ingress, and to see in which
sign the influence of the dodecatemoria98, from the malefic or the benefic planets falls99. If,
for example, we find Saturn in Taurus 14°, then we shall assign one sign to every 2,5
degrees100, and we shall get five degrees and a degree and a half remains for us, and we
assign 12 degrees for every degree, and thus is produced Libra 18°. Since Saturn is malefic,
it signifies that evil will come to every nation whose sign is 18 from Libra, and (in this)
degree, it will cause it injury, but if the nation has less than these degrees, harm will not
[215-222] And know that the influence of the dodecatemoria is stronger in the great conjunction than (it is) in the medium, and (stronger) in the medium than in the small one and (stronger) in the small one than in the revolution of every year. And if the influence of the dodecatemoria is assigned to a benefic planet, benefit will come to the nation101, and if
93 Tetrabiblos 1940, 161, 165 , 199. Sela (2003, 249) mentions this passage as an example of Ibn Ezra disagreeing with Ptolemy. Ibn Ezra lived in a time which was beginning to question and criticise Ptolemy's theories, which had been almost unquestioned for hundreds of years (See also Saliba 1994, 72-75).
94 Straight hour is apparently equivalent to thestraight degree, which is a degree along the celestial equator, called elsewhere equal degree.
95 That is, the middle one of the three parts of the arc from ascendant to descendant, corresponding to the middle of the year in the system here described.
96 Ibn Ezra refers to Dorotheus of Sidon as king because he sees him as the head of a certain astrological school of thought (Sela 2003, 65).
97 Enoch was a character treated by Ibn Ezra as a prominent ancient Egyptian astronomer and astrologer, but was simultaneously an embodiment of the mythical Hermes, author of the Hermetic literature. The Biblical Enoch was the first out of three manifestations of Hermes. According to Ibn Ezra, he was an astrologer, and had astrologically predicted the Flood (Sela 2003, 185). See Pingree (1968, 15) on the Hermes-myth in Abu Ma'shar's work. The Book of Secrets that Ibn Ezra refers to is also found by Pingree in a manuscript called Book of the Secrets of the Words of Hermes who is tripled in Wisdom (Pingree 1994, 43).
98 The dodecatemoria were small divisions of the circle, obtained by dividing a zodiacal sign (30°) into twelve parts (dodeca Gr. twelve), thus producing 144 dodecatemoria of 2½° each. Each dodecatemorion was assigned a zodiacal sign in addition to the one in which the dodecatemorion was situated (Tester 1987,
99 Sela 2007, 134-135.
100 1/12 of 1/12 of the 360 degrees, thus 1/12 of a sign, and thus we will get 5 degrees. We get two signs
when we count from Aries to Taurus.
101 Sela 2007, 135.
two influences join in the nation's sign; (being assigned) to (both) a malefic and to a benefic planet, (then) find out which one of them is dominant and has more visible power than the other. (If) the one of them is under the light of the sun it has no influence, and (if) that one which is in a falling house relative to the nation's sign, it also has no influence. (This is)
also the case if that one is in the house of its dejection or detriment or it is retrograde. You must observe every year, especially the year of a conjunction (of Saturn and Jupiter), because (then) all that is indicated there is fortified102.
[222-235] And so, if you find the ruler of the nation's sign in the 7th house, it signifies that there will be wars against it (the nation), and especially if it is aspecting Mars. And if the ruler of the sign is one of the superior planets (Saturn or Jupiter), do not predict evil for the nation, but (only) that there will be a siege or a crisis, but not more, only if it is retrograde, then its power (of influence) will be weakened and the evil (befalling the nation) will (also) increase if it (the superior planet) is under the burning light. And if the ruler of the 7th house103 is in the ascendant, judge that they (the nation) will defeat their enemies and especially so if it is one of the inferior planets. And if either the ruler of the nation's sign or the ruler of the 10th house is in question, look whether they are in conjunction or (whether) there is an aspect between them, and look which of them is more dominant, as I have mentioned in the Book of Elections104. And judge accordingly, (that is) according to the aspects, because if there is between them a hostile aspect, which means quartile aspect or opposition, the wars between them105 will be renewed, and if (there is) a friendly aspect (trine or sextile), there will be peace between them. But if one of the malefics is in one of the nation's cardines, it is a bad sign for the nation: and thus you shall judge that if it (the malefic) is in the ascendant (1st house), it indicates physical harm for the nation's people, and if in the 10th house (midheaven), it indicates evil befalling its king, and if in the 7th house (descendant), it indicates evil befalling the nation's people, but also to those who are warring against them. And if it is in the 4th house (lower midheaven) it indicates destruction of its fields and vineyards. And if there is a (benefic) planet in one of the cardines, predict good, and if malefics are with the benefics in the cardines, see which place is more powerful, and that power is to be more visible.
[236-240] In general, Enoch the Ancient said, Saturn indicates old people and farmers (field-workers) and Jupiter indicates judges and worshippers of the Lord and Mars (indicates) princes and warriors and the sun (indicates) kings and Venus (indicates) women and eunuchs, and Mercury (indicates) scholars and scribes and youths, and the moon (indicates) all people, and in accordance with its (the planet's) dominance or weakness in the revolution of the year, so will happen that (group) that it indicates.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- [242-245] Enoch the Egyptian106 said that the planet Jupiter with the sign of Aries indicates
the land of Iraq and the kingdom of Persia. And Saturn with Libra indicates the land of
Edom (Rome), and Mercury with Capricorn indicates the land of India, and Venus with
Scorpio indicates Arabia and Mars with Leo indicates the land of Baragan107 and the sun
with Aquarius indicate the lands of Canaan and Greece and Egypt, and the moon with
Virgo (indicates) the land of Khurasan108. And in accordance with the planet and its power,
and in accordance with the sign in the revolution of the year109 (how the nation's planet and
sign are situated), so shall the events of each of them be.
102 The great conjunction enhances all the influences.
103 This apparently does not refer to the 7th astrological house in the system of houses relative to the
ascendant, but merely to the seventh sign counting from the nation's sign, meaning the sign that is opposite to
104 This refers to Ibn Ezras Sefer ha-Mivharim, see the Introduction to this study.
105 Two nations.
106 Note the three different epithets for Enoch. See also section 3.3.4. of the present study.
107 Baragan is a plain in Romania, by metonymy this may mean Byzantium. Abu Ma'shar lists these same
locations in On the Great Conjunctions, and he includes Byzantium (Abu Ma'shar 2000, 515).
108 Khurasan was a vast area in east Persia, today incorporating territories of Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and
109 How the nation's planet and sign are situated in the yearly horoscope cast at the Aries Ingress.
[246-253] These signs of the cities110 that we did not111 know of ; Baghdad's sign is Cancer
21°, Egypt's is Taurus 5° , Almohadias [?] Leo 3°, Avila's [?] Virgo 15°, Tunis' Virgo 4°,
Palermo's Leo 1°, Rome's Leo 15°, Pisa's Aquarius 3°, Bιziers' Pisces, Saragossa's Aries
6°, Almeria's Libra 20°, Valencia's Scorpio 6°, Cordoba's Gemini 22°, Seville's Pisces 7°,
Granada's Cancer 10°, Messina's [?] Taurus 6°, the city of Jerusalem's Capricorn 6° ,
Buzayah's112 Gemini 7°, and the city of Huesca's Taurus, Gabes' 2 degrees Pisces, and
Kairouan's113 Cancer 15°. And this is how these are found written in a book114.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- [254-266] You have to observe at any conjunction, whether great, medium or small, the
position of Mars. Because if it is in the revolution (of the year) (in conjunction) with Saturn
or Jupiter, or in opposition or in quartile aspect with them, then wars will break out again in
the world, and they will occur when the sign in which the conjunction occurs arrives to the
position of Mars. And I will give you an example. Let us say that, in the revolution of the
year, Jupiter is at Taurus 10° and Saturn is at 13° and Mars is at Aries 26°, and the
conjunction occurred in Taurus 14°. I will assign one year to every sign, and so in year 12
we bring the sign to the place of Mars, and we already said that it was at Aries 26° and so
the beginning of the year starts at Aries 14°115. And we shall ask what the ratio of 12 and 30
is 116, and it is 2/5. And thus after 2/5 (has passed) of year 12 of the small conjunction of
Saturn and Jupiter, there will be great bloodshed in every country whose sign is Aries or
one of the (other) cardinal signs. We also have to look at the revolution of the year in order
to see the position of the planets and how they are aspected to the sign of Aries, which
(corresponds to) the last house117, and this is how we shall judge according to whether they
are benefic planets or malefic ones.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- [266-269] All the astrologers say that the fire-signs and air-signs indicate prices going up
and famine to occur in the world, and even more so when conjunctions occur in them, and
earth-signs and water-signs indicate great satiety and low prices. One must also look at the
revolution of every year, because if both Saturn and Jupiter are in the signs that indicate
higher prices, this indicates prices going up, and the opposite is the case if they are in the
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- [270-278] Masha'allah has said (that) we shall always look at the beginning of each year
for the position of the moon at the moment of separation from the conjunction or
opposition with the sun, which of them will be at the beginning before the Aries ingress. If
it is in conjunction with a malefic or is in a hostile aspect, it indicates evil for the world,
and if benefic, it indicates good. And Saturn indicates illnesses and hatred without cause
and quarrels and destruction of places and the sinking of ships. And Jupiter indicates peace
and plenty of produce and quiet and security. And Mars indicates dissension, wars, plagues
110 Ibn Ezra writes in his commentary on Deut 4:19:It has been established by experience that each and every nation has a specific star and constellation. Every city similarly has its own constellation (C.Deut
111 It is unclear to me why Ibn Ezra here uses negation. Fleischer seems to share my confusion, as he has
inserted an exclamation mark after the negation to indicate that he suspects copyist error.
112 Fleischer's note says North Africa for this locality.
113 Gabes and Kairouan are both in what today is Tunisia.
114 These cities and localities are mostly situated around the Mediterranean. Since there are no cities in the
Holy Land included, it seems that this list was pragmatic, offering the professional astrologer coordinates for
making predictions for important trade-ports in the interest of merchant-customers. For Abu Ma'shar's list of
correspondences, see 2000, 45. See also al-Kindi's list for comparison (Burnett and Yamamoto 2000, 529)
and Ptolemy's (Ptolemy 1940, 161-163).
115 I do not know what he means here. The year should always begin at Aries 0Ί.
116 30° in each sign, divided by 12 signs.
117 Usually Ari