A Lesson in Horoscopic Obscurity
Manilius’ didactic project, Astronomica, purports to teach the lay reader how to construct a horoscope. Though scholars have long recognised the inadequacies of Manilius’ poem as instruction in this regard, this chapter takes this line of enquiry much further by arguing for a systematically deliberate strategy on the part of the poet. By paying particular attention to the deterioration in the relationship between didactic teacher and student in the poem, this chapter argues for the legitimacy of reading the Astronomicaas a deliberately failing lesson. The reason for this poetic strategy relates directly to the contemporary nervousness that surrounds the issue of practising astrology in the early empire. Rather than being the first Roman work on astrology, therefore, Manilius’ poem is central to an appreciation of a discourse of disclosure and discretion on the topic, which develops over the course of the Augustan reign.
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