Editors Note: This article is a revised edition of a lecture that Thomas Gazis gave at “C.I.D.A.’s Venice International Astrology Conference”, in 1994.
Isn’t it fascinating to study the astrological charts of prominent historical figures? Are their charts preserved, or can they be somehow retrieved? What about Alexander the Great’s chart? Are there any archaeological finds to support it? Neither in Macedonia (his fatherland) (1) nor in any other part of Greece, have elements of the classical period related to astrology ever been found. Personally, I am convinced that until the end of the fourth century B.C.E. astrology was not common in Greece. But Alexander radically changed this. Thanks to his campaign in Mesopotamia (the grand hub of astrology back then) Greeks discovered astrology. They fell in love with it and consequently created the miracle we know today as Hellenistic astrology. So, astrology owes much to Alexander after all!
We have tangible testimonies that Alexander believed in astrology. They come not just from one, but from three different historians: Plutarch, Arrian and Diodorus Siculus. Diodorus is the most descriptive of all, writing “When Alexander was about to enter Babylon, the so called Chaldeans came to meet him. These Chaldeans have gained much glory through astrology, as they can predict – by the means of their age long observation of the stars – the future events. And the Chaldeans predicted the death of the king in Babylon” (2). As all historians account, Alexander took very seriously this Chaldean prediction, as if he really believed in astrology. Thus, I am fairly sure that he kept astrologers in his court, astrologers that cast his “chart” and probably passed on his planetary positions to many astrologers of that period. But until now no “Alexander’s Perso-Babylonian chart” has been found.
Fake Alexander’s charts, the quest for his true birth date
Not having a “first hand” chart of Alexander, let’s seek any available “second hand” ones. Two such alleged birth charts of Alexander were published in the 17th century; the first one in 1652 by the Italian Andrea Argolo (the so-called “little Ptolemy”). On it we read “Genitura Alexandri Magni, 12 Augusti 355 Anno Christum, 16:40 p.m.” The planetary positions for this date B.C.E. are generally correct. There is only a deviation in the zodiac positions of the Moon and Mercury. This, however, cannot be the genuine chart of Alexander, because we know that he was born in 356 B.C.E., not in 355 B.C.E.
The second alleged chart of Alexander is a horoscope included in Gadbury’s “Collection of divers choice Nativities”, published in 1662. It says “Alexander Magnus, born 357 years ante Christu, July 1, 9h. 26 m. p.m.”. Although the positions are surprisingly accurate, this chart is a fake one too. Alexander obviously was not born in 357 B.C.E. Given the fact that both these charts are fake we still wonder how the astrologers of the 17th century managed to calculate with such precision a nativity so remote in the past.
Unfortunately, there are no finds that could shed some light on the astrological identity of Alexander the Great. The only option with which we are left is to seek his date of birth. We posses today the works of five ancient biographers of Alexander: Plutarch, Arrian, Diodorus Siculus, Quintus Curtius and Justine, all posterior to Alexander. Amongst all, only Plutarch mentions Alexander’s date of birth. He says “Alexander was born on the sixth of the month which is called Hecatombaion by the Athenians and Lóos by the Macedonians” (3). This is our major historical reference on Alexander’s date of birth. However, this reference does not automatically solve our problem. First of all, Plutarch lived three whole centuries after Alexander. How can we be sure that he knew Alexander’s true birth date? And even if we were sure of the correctness of the date provided by Plutarch we would still have difficulties in converting this Macedonian date (6 of Lóos of 356 B.C.E.) into the corresponding date of our modern calendar.
You see, the calendars of the ancient people were quite faulty. It was technically impossible for them to define precisely the annual revolution of the earth around the sun, our “tropical” year, that today we know it is equal to exactly 365.24219879 days. This would be a sacred number to the ancients – if they only knew it. But they didn’t. Their “reference number” was (usually) much shorter, and this means that with the passing of the years their calendar was ever regressing back, creating after some decades major inconsistencies with the seasons (i.e. their calendar was telling them they were in July, while outside it was getting colder and colder – since they were actually in autumn). Facts like this made them realize that something was wrong about their calendars. To compensate, they were inserting – every now and then – one or more extra months, the socalled “intercalary” ones. And to make things even worse, every Greek city-state followed its own calendar, which usually was not synchronized to the other city-state’s calendars.
To go back to our initial skepticism, how reliable can such a date be? Personally, I believe it is the correct one. Plutarch, as one can deduce from his works, was a very serious and cultivated historian. The dates provided by him are generally accurate. Plutarch was a Greek, so he had easy access to all “first hand” writings preserved in his epoch of the historians and the officers of Alexander the Great. He precisely quotes, for example, dates and events from the very royal “annals” of Alexander, meaning that his sources indeed were “first hand”. In addition, we have another ancient source that somehow confirms the date provided by Plutarch. It comes from the Roman scholar Aelian who in his “Varia Historia” writes “…The sixth of the month Thargelion is considered a very lucky date for the Greeks… on that date they won many battles… Alexander the Macedonian, the son of Philip, was born on that day too”(4). Actually, Aelian does not specify whether the expression “on the sixth day” implies the 6th of the month Thargelion or generally the 6th day of some – not mentioned here – month. I think he means the latter because we are fairly sure that Alexander was not born in the month Thargelion. So, we have two independent ancient sources emphasizing the 6th of a certain month as the birthday of Alexander. Plutarch’s date seems more plausible now!
Still, we have to ask ourselves another question: was the date of birth important to ancient Greeks? Did the Greeks “party” on their birthday? To answer, it would suffice to quote a line from the philosopher Epicurus’ will (Epicurus was contemporary to Alexander) “…and I leave you the indispensable money so that you can celebrate each year my birthday, on the ninth of the month Gamelion” (5). Many other sources confirm that the ancient Greeks celebrated their birthday just as we do today. This corroborates my hypothesis that the general public would have known of Alexander’s birthday, let alone the royal historians who wrote his memoirs. For all these reasons I consider the date provided by Plutarch as a reliable one.
Plutarch does something more than simply mention the (Macedonian coined) birthday of Alexander. He additionally informs us that Alexander was born in a Macedonian month (Lóos) that corresponds to the Attic (Athenian) month of Hecatombaion. This is an important piece of information because – as we have a relatively extensive bibliography on the Attic calendar – we know that Hecatombaion corresponds roughly to the annual mid July to mid-August period. We say “roughly” because, due to the aforementioned intercalary month additions, the Macedonian month of Loos could “slip” so much as to correspond to our month of October. On the other hand, we are fairly sure that Lóos could not correspond to a month prior to our July. The Macedonian calendar was soli-lunar, thus “short” in respect to ours, so we have to add a certain amount of days in order to equate a Macedonian date into a modern one. Taking into consideration all these facts, we determine a relatively narrow time span for Alexander’s birthday. He should have been born between July and October of 356 B.C.E. His Sun should then be found in one of the following zodiacal signs: Cancer, Leo, Libra or Scorpio.
The next step is to confirm this time span and hopefully shorten it. The historian Arrian will help us in this direction. Quoting Aristobulus, one of Alexander’s officers and historians, Arrian says that Alexander lived thirty-two years and eight months – and these 8 months completed (6). The fact is that we know with sufficient precision Alexander’s date of death, which itself has been preserved apart from the Greek royal annals in various Babylonian, Egyptian and other documents. According to Plutarch, Alexander died on the last day of the Macedonian month Daisios, in 323 B.C.E. (7) Most modern chronologists and historians (8) suggest that the date of Alexander’s death should correspond either to the 10th or the 13th of June. So if by that day of 323 B.C.E. Alexander had lived thirty-two years and eight months “completed” then he should have been born sometime between the 7th of September and the 9th of October 356 B.C.E., a period that absolutely fits the time span we predetermined.
There is another historical citation that equates the Macedonian month of Loos to our September-October annual period. It comes from the orator Demosthenes. In one of his books called “On the Crown” he quotes a letter written in 339 B.C.E. by the Macedonian King Philip to the Peloponnesians. In this letter, King Philip is asking the Peloponnesian delegates to meet him sometime “in the month of Lóos, which the Athenians call Boedromion and the Corinthians Panemos” (9). Since Boedromion was the third month of the Athenian calendar (that usually began at summer solstice) this month would roughly correspond to our September-October annual period. We are given two precious clues here, 1) that the Macedonian month Lóos did not always correspond to the Athenian month of Hecatombaion and, 2) that the aforementioned calendar equation opens a “wormhole” to the past, as it suddenly brings us so close to Alexander’s birth date. The year 339 B.C.E. is just seventeen years away from Alexander’s birth date. And since the Macedonian months were usually slipping ahead – in respect to our modern calendar, as the years were passing – it would be obvious to think that Alexander was most probably born in a period prior to the September-October one. But not far away though, because in just seventeen years not too many “missing days” would have been accumulated so as to “transfer” Alexander’s birth date i.e. in July, let alone in June.
Let’s turn back to Plutarch. He states that Philip, Alexander’s father, received simultaneously – while conducting a military campaign in northern Greece – three pleasant news items, 1) that one of his generals won a victory, 2) that one of his horses won a race in the Olympic Games, and 3) that Alexander was born (10). We now know that the Olympic Games were taking place in August or less often in early September. (Prominent historian, Thomson, suggests either the 9th, or the 22nd of August or the 6th of September, depending on the year”11). It would normally take a few days for a messenger to bring to Philip – either by ship or by horse – the news of his horse’s victory. But the news of his horse’s victory and Alexander’s birth reached Philip simultaneously, so Alexander could not have been born in late September, let alone in October.
The late summer birth scenario gains momentum
Additional evidence comes from the fact that Alexander became king directly after his father’s assassination when, according to Plutarch, he had just completed his twentieth year of life (12). Philip was assassinated during a ceremony in an open theater, in early morning. Diodorus Siculus describes the relevant scene (13). From his description, one concludes that the day of Philip’s assassination was a rather hot one. It could be a day in late summer or early September. Remember, we are in northern Greece, in a city that lies almost at the latitude of New York City. The mornings of late September and October are getting chilly there and are not ideal for a ceremony in an open theater. Philip might have been assassinated in late August or in early September. Immediately after, the Macedonian people and the army proclaimed Alexander their new king. According to prominent German chronologist Julius Beloch, Alexander was proclaimed king in September 336 BC (14). If he had already completed his twentieth year (as Plutarch states), then he should have been born either in the first days of September or, most probably, in August.
Another fact that could prove valuable to us is that the calendar of the ancient Macedonians was a soli-lunar one. Each of their months was usually regulated according to the Moon’s phases, thus the first date of every month should ideally coincide with the New Moon, or at least with the first appearance of a crescent Moon in the sky. They always kept this in mind, particularly when they were adjusting their calendar (to which they were so fond that they maintained it even after the Romans imposed the Julian calendar.) The New Moon of August 356 B.C.E. fell on the 13th. So, under ideal conditions, the 6th of the Macedonian month Lóos of 356 B.C.E. should correspond to the 18th of August of that year (six days ahead of the 13th of August, the first one being the 13th). On the 18th of August 356 B.C.E. (17) the Sun was in Leo and the Moon was transiting through Libra and Scorpio. No doubt here about the Leo Sun! If one meticulously studies Alexander’s biography he will realize that this extraordinary man exhibited every single trait of this regal, dominating, heroic sign. He even maintained caged lions in his palace, evidence that might seem slim to some. But many times the details say much about a man – the Virgo Roman emperor Honorius kept pet poultry in his palace!
We stand now in the right “time corridor” but we don’t know which one of the many doors around us we should open. The year is right (356 B.C.E.), the season is right (late summer, as the evidence suggests) and the month seems to be right (August). But which date of August is the right one? Is it the 18th of August? It would be, under ideal conditions. But these conditions rarely occurred in the soli-lunar Macedonian calendar. One major clue is that this calendar was mostly short in respect to our modern one. We probably have to add a certain number of days – to the given date 18th of August – in order to get the right Alexander’s birth date (more or less eleven days). Otherwise, we have no further clues. Let’s try some extrapolation. If we insist on the fact that Alexander should be a Leo and not a Virgo, we restrain our time span and get a window of just eleven days – from the 18th to 28th of August 356 B.C.E. (17) – when the Sun was in Leo. But then, Alexander’s Moon should be in one of the following five signs: Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, and Aquarius. Things get a lot simpler now. If we pick up the right Moon we can indirectly determine Alexander’s most probable birth date!
To me it was an easy pick. Having thoroughly studied Alexander’s life, “knowing” his character, I opted right away for the Sagittarius Moon. Such a Moon is in perfect accordance with Alexander’s exuberant and over-optimistic soul, with his fervid wish to go beyond the horizons, to step onto new continents, to seek the very ends of the world. It also says much about Alexander being spiritually raised by a philosopher like Aristotle. It explains his profound interest in literature (unusual for a military man), his unshaken belief in God, his mother Olympias, who was a priestess, and his three wives, who were all foreigners. It even explains his legendary affection for his horse, Bucefalo. Of course, I know that strong Jupiterian – or Ninth House – emphasis might produce similar effects, but to a lesser extent. Only the pure, archetypal energy of a Moon in the sign of Sagittarius would produce a restless soul like Alexander’s. And if we assume that his Moon is in the sign of Sagittarius then we can very tightly determine his date of birth.
In August 356 B.C.E. the Moon was transiting in the sign of Sagittarius for the following time frame: between the 19:24 hours of he 21st and the 6:31 hours of the 24th (18). Theoretically Alexander should have been born during this time frame. When, then? We have no further leads. We have to extrapolate again. Alexander possessed an unusually explosive character. His outbursts were proverbial. In one of them he even speared to death his close friend Clitus. But such violent outbursts do not suit a classy Leo man with his Moon in the civilized, benevolent sign of Sagittarius. And since the Moon astrologically represents the human soul, an explosive soul presupposes some explosive Lunar configuration in the chart. And there might be one. On the 24th of August 356 B.C.E. the Moon – in the last degrees of Sagittarius – on the one hand forms a square aspect to natal Jupiter and on the other approaches the already highly charged axis of the Mars-Uranus opposition, thus forming an unusually explosive T-Square configuration. Normally, such an electrified Moon would produce in man particularly violent reactions, so very true in Alexander’s case. Additionally, neither on the 21st, nor on the 22nd or the 23rd of August 356 B.C.E. some other meaningful lunar configuration is formed.
Thus, by inductively including and excluding possibilities we determined a date that seems to be the most plausible Alexander the Great’s birth date: the 24th of August 356 B.C.E.17 (Chart above) The Sun was then in Leo, in conjunction to Mercury. The Moon was in the last degrees of Sagittarius. Mercury and Venus (in Virgo) were conjunct and supported by a Mars sextile and a Uranus Trine. Mars was in Cancer, in square to Jupiter in Libra and in a tight opposition to both Uranus in Capricorn and to the Moon in Sagittarius (as we have already seen). Saturn was in Taurus in square to his Sun (the difficult relation he had with his father?). But since we ventured that far, would it be possible to determine his time of birth too? Let’s see!
In reality we have no reliable testimony of Alexander’s time of birth. Pseudo Kallisthenes, who wrote a somewhat fictional biography of Alexander in the third century C.E., claims that he was born at sunrise and died at sunset. Since the historians state that Alexander indeed died towards sunset, he might well have been born at sunrise. In such a case he would have a Leo Ascendant, which fits him more than a Gemini or a Cancer one. In addition, we would prefer his Sun to be close to his Ascendant, in his First House, and this could happen only if he were born around 05:00 a.m. (19) In such case he would have his Sun, Mercury and Venus all placed in his First House (a strong delineation that could also explain the extraordinary charisma of this young man, the magnetism that he radiated around him and that made his soldiers blindly follow him to the ends of the then known world). His natal Saturn in Taurus would be in his Tenth House, close to his MC, while the ruler of his Tenth House falls in his First House. What a better configuration to describe his austere father, Alexander’s legendary maturity and sobriety, and his enormous and ever lasting fame.
To be continue…
1. We have to clarify here: a recently founded former Yugoslavian state has been self – baptized “Macedonia”. This state has nothing to do with ancient Macedonia, a geographical area in northern Greece inhabited by the Macedonians, a people whose culture and language was, and is, Greek.
2. Diodorus Siculus, “Historical Library”, book XVII, 112.1
3. Plutarch : Alexander, III-5.
4. Claudius Aelianus : Varia Historia,B,25,28-34.
5. Epicurus, The Will, 18
6. Arrian: History of Alexander, VII-28.
7. Plutarch: Alexander, LXXV, 6.
8. Beloch, Samuel, Hamilton etc.
9. Demosthenes: De Corona,157.
10. Plutarch: Alexander, III-8.
11. George Thomson “Ancient Greek Society” ,V,5.
12. Plutarch : Alexander, XI-1.
13. Diodorus Siculus, XVI, 92.2.
14. Julius Beloch, “Griechische Geschichte“, III,2, 59-60.
17. All mentioned dates are “Old Style”.
18. All astronomical and astrological calculations effectuated by the “Solar Fire Deluxe” program.
19. Hours are in E.E.T.