Project icon: lavishly furnished initial letter with a painting of Ptolemy using an astrolab.


Arabus et Latinus

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Work B.3

Canon Ptolemei et Pictagore de diversis eventibus secundum naturas planetarum


 ‘(Budapest, Országos Széchényi Könyvtár, lat. 59) Canon Ptolomei et Pictagore de diversis eventibus secundum naturas planetarum. Inventum Ptolomei et Pictagore secundum naturas planetarum subtilissima doctrina conpilatum… Regula est in qua laboravit satis Pictag<ora> et Ptolomeus. Hanc Alexander magnus secum habuit in omni suo discursu per orbem — Sex et sex maior vincet. Sex et septem habens 7 vincet.’


This text is one of the numerous versions of the so-called ‘calculus of the victorious and the vanquished’, an onomantic device whose aim is to predict which of the two opponents will win in a fight, a trial or any other contest, on the basis of the numerical values of their names.


Unknown. The ‘calculus of the victorious and the vanquished’ is attested in various versions in Greek and other languages since Antiquity. In Arabic, Ibn al-Nadīm attributes to Ptolemy a text on ‘Which of the Two Adversaries Will Be Successful’ (see Rosenthal, 235 n. 359). The earliest Latin version occurs in a twelfth-century MS. The present version is closely related to an anonymous version (inc. ‘Quia omnis scientia verissime perfecta comprehensio…’ (TK, 1226), ‘Quia omnes verissime prescire…’, ‘Quoniam prescientie verissime…’ or ‘Omnis sapientia a domino Deo…’), where Ptolemy, Pythagoras and Alexander are named in the introduction, see e.g. Venice, BNM, lat. VI.108, s. XV, f. 111r: ‘… sicut Ptolomeo regi fecit et Pictagore qui per astronomie artem illius argumenti… per hoc enim argumentum Alexander rex pergens ad multa bella…’. Other MSS of this anonymous version include Erfurt, UFB, Amplon. F. 394, s. XIV, f. 167va-167vb; Leipzig, UB, 1214, s. XIV, f. 171va-171vb; London, BL, Addit. 10362, s. XIV, f. 109v-110v (‘Nomina verissime que sunt perfecta comprehensione…’); London, BL, Addit. 15236, s. XIII, f. 129r-129v; London, BL, Arundel 292, s. XIII, f. 111v-112v; London, BL, Harley 267, s. XIV, f. 226vb-227rb; Munich, BSB, Clm 2841, s. XVI, f. 223r-224v; Munich, BSB, Clm 16447, s. XV, f. 1v; Munich, BSB, Clm 27001, s. XV, f. 21va-22ra and 121vb-122vb; Paris, BnF, lat. 10270, s. XV, f. 84r. Other versions are also attributed to Ptolemy in the body of the text: London, BL, Addit. 10362, s. XIV, f. 107v-108r (‘Tabula Aristotelis quam scripsit Alexandro regi magno, per quam… Tholomeus rex et philosophus summus investigator scientie astrorum hanc adinvenit tabulam…’); London, BL, Sloane 3554, s. XV, f. 14v (‘… Hec ars que dicitur ar<ithmum> Tholomei…’, ed. Burnett, ‘The Eadwine Psalter…’, 158); Paris, BnF, lat. 7486, s. XIV, f. 68r-70r (‘Exortatio ad artem prescientie Ptholomei regis Egypti. Quoniam vis scire prescientie…’).


C. Burnett, ‘The Eadwine Psalter and the Western Tradition of the Onomancy in Pseudo-Aristotle’s Secret of Secrets’, Archives d’Histoire Doctrinale et Littéraire du Moyen Age 55 (1988), 143-167: 145 (reprinted in C. Burnett, Magic and Divination in the Middle Ages. Texts and Techniques in the Islamic and Christian Worlds, Aldershot, 1996, XI).


None. The closely related anonymous versions are edited in Burnett, ‘The Eadwine Psalter…’, 155-156 (from London, BL, Arundel 339), 156-157 (from London, BL, Addit. 15236) and 157-159 (from London, BL, Sloane 3554).