Encyclopedia of Renaissance Philosophy

Living Edition
| Editors: Marco Sgarbi

Astrology in the Renaissance

  • Dorit MalzEmail author
Living reference work entry

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-02848-4_898-2


Astrology or the science of the observation of the heaven has ancient roots which can be traced back to the oldest history of mankind, but has been practiced by ancient Greeks and Romans, too. The oldest representation of the starry sky probably is the Nebra sky disk, dated to the Bronze Age (around 2100–1700 BC). In late antiquity, the seven liberal arts were canonized as the seven basic fields of study, among them astronomy, whereby the terms “astrology” and “astronomy” were widely used parallel and as synonyms (Dooley. Astrology and science. In A companion to astrology in the Renaissance, ed. Brendan Dooley, 233–266. Leiden: Brill, 2014, Heitzmann 2008).

Astrology considers the stars’ influence on humans and life on Earth. Observing the starry sky and in particular the movements of the planets (Moon, Sun, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter) and their relations to the zodiac signs (Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces, Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Lion, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, and Sagittarius), it was hoped to discover relations to events on Earth and to be able to predict and control catastrophes. Since antiquity, a distinction has been made between natural and judicial astrology. Natural astrology treats the relation between the movements of the celestial bodies and natural phenomena on Earth such as earthquakes, floods, or weather changes. Judicial astrology deals with the stars’ influence on human fate. A central role plays the text of the Revelation of St. John (chapters 6 and 12) where an earthquake, a darkened sun, a blood red moon, and falling stars are announcing the Last Day (Schenk. Wunder-Zeichen-Glaube. Unsterne, Prognostiken und Wetterzauber in der Renaissance. In Natur. Katastrophe. Von Atlantis bis heute, ed. Gerrit Jasper Schenk, Monica Juneia, Alfried Wiecorek, and Christoph Lind, 97–101. Mannheim: Schnell + Steiner, 2014).

In the twelfth century, there was an intensive involvement with astrological matters. Arabic handbooks were systematically translated into Latin. The planets were seen as soul-bearing entities serving as intermediaries between the upper and the lower world (Zambelli 2012).

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Secondary Literature

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz, Max-Planck-InstitutFlorenceItaly

Section editors and affiliations

  • Matteo Valleriani
    • 1
  1. 1.Max Planck Institute for the History of ScienceBerlinGermany