The Astronomica is a Latin didactic poem on astrology and written in five books. It was published in the early first century CE.
Its author is unknown, but the name Marcus Manilius was attached to it as early as the tenth century. This clue, if correct, could possibly refer to an astrologist named Manilius Antiochus mentioned by Pliny the Elder who lived in the first century BCE, but unless Pliny was mistaken about when this Manilius lived, the dates mismatch.
It is possible that this is a separate Manilius, and that there were two Manilii who were astrologers at Rome; or that the name Manilius found attached to this work is spurious, and an anonymous poem was assigned the authorship based on Pliny’s (or an otherwise lost) notice of Manilius the astrologist.
Because of the extreme doubts concerning authorship, this site has left off the name Manilius from the title.
The only sure terminus for the Astronomica is the mention of Varus’ defeat at Teutoburg Forest in 9 CE. As Katharina Volk argues, he likely is writing during the end of the reign of Augustus and the beginning of the reign of Tiberius, since he only addresses the emperor as “Caesar,” something that began to change under Tiberius, though some see him entirely in the latter’s reign.
The poem was written in five books of hexameters, as is typical for didactic poetry. The books provide an essential look into Greek astrology at Rome, going into great detail about how to determine the position of the stars and what influences the zodiac signs have.
The Astronomica drew heavily from Aratus, Lucretius, and Vergil, while adopting Hellenistic and Augustan age poetics. This adds philosophical and civic touches to the topic, which makes the reading somewhat more interesting beyond astronomical and astrological concerns.
Books and Articles
- Katharina Volk 2009. Manilius and His Intellectual Background. Oxford.