And then, the day of the inauguration of the city came! Which actually had to be determined by an astrologer (astrology was rife in the Roman empire and was about to become rife in the Byzantine empire too)! There are two major byzantine historians (Zonaras and Kedrinos) specifically mentioning the inauguration date of the new capital Constantinople: on the 11th of May 330 (Old Style)! It was a date established by the emperor’s personal astrologer Valens who – as the historians are detailing – worked very hard and for a long time in order to find a uniquely propitious date.
Fortunately, we have a byzantine source reporting the time of the inauguration too (see Magdalino’s “The occult sciences in Byzantium”, page 168). It is “at two hours and 26 minutes”. The phrase “at two hours” does not mean “at two o’ clock”. The byzantines counted their day from dawn on. Thus, “at two hours and 26 minutes” means “two hours and 26 minutes after the sunrise”. But there is another catch here. These byzantine hours and minutes are not exactly like the ones we are familiar with. A byzantine daily “hour” for example is the result of the division of the natural day in 12 equal parts. Thus, a byzantine daily “hour” might very well range from 45 to 75 minutes (depending on the season and on the latitude of the location)! To spare the computations, “two daily hours and 26 minutes” for the latitude of Constantinople on the 11 of May equal 2 hours and 53 of our modern time! And since the Sun rose at 5:51 on the 11th of May 330 CE the time of the inauguration is approx. 8:44 am. (and I say approximately because the byzantines did not possess precision clocks and they relied upon raw sundials and water clepsydras).
Having in our hands the exact date and time of Constantinople’s inauguration we can now erect its inauguration horoscope! It is the one you see below (rendered somehow “hellenistically” – no moderns planets in it):
So, Constantinople is a Taurus with Moon in Leo and the Ascendant in Cancer. Back in 330 CE the astrologers were using the “Whole Sign Houses” system of domification. They were computing the Ascendant alright (19 degrees of Cancer in this case) but the sign of the Ascendant was becoming (in its entirety) the “First House” (or to be more precise “The First Place”), the following sign was becoming the “Second Place” and so on. In the above chart, the First Place corresponds to the entire sign of Cancer! And without doubt, having the two benefics in the First Place (that is Venus and Jupiter, with Venus being the dispositor of the Sun and Jupiter being in Sect) seems to be an excellent election!
Moon and Saturn are in the Second Place of “material posessions” (and the new empire had to have a lot of them!). I would like to add a peculiar note here. The 11th century byzantine emperor Manuel Komnenos was an excellent astrologer. I was reading a long letter he wrote defending astrology against an important theologian – monk who was refutating it (letter preserved in CCAG V.1, 108). To give more credit to astrology Manuel mentions that Constantine the Great inaugurated Constantinople in accordance to the election made by his astrologer Valens. And Manuel Komnenos draws a rather bitter innuendo here when he goes: “Valens who was a monk himself elected the Saturn of Contantinople to be in the Second Place, so that the money of the citizens go to the monks – as we can see happening in our times!” Voila! Saturn in the Second Place! Here I had a testimony that the above inauguration chart for Constantinople is the right one!
In hindsight Valens’ election was a good one. After all Constantinople endured for more than a thousand years, till she fell to the ferocious ottoman army. The Turks had made an epic decend from central Asia to the Byzantine land (corresponding roughly to today’s Turkey) and in 1453 managed to breach the walls of Constantinople, occupying the city and renaming it Istanbul.
Of course we have to have at least an elementary knowledge of hellenistic astrology in order to realize whether this a nicely elected chart or not. The Sun is “in Sect” and in the Eleventh Place of “Good Spirit”! The “daemon” (known as well as “Part of Spirit” – a part that the byzantines were using a lot) most probably is in the Eleventh Place of “Good Spirit” (the Φ symbol you see at the first degree of Taurus) and that is an ideal domification because it means that the new capital would be a brilliant city protected and “guided” by good spirits (I am saying “most probably” because if Valens had miscalculated the positions of the Sun and the Moon even by some degree then the “daemon” might very well be in the Ninth Place of “God” – and that would be a jolly domicafication too)! The benefic North Node of the Moon stands in the Tenth Place and that’s a sign that the city will excel in everything and will become renowned!
And for those who are knowledgeable in hellenistic/traditional astrology (or who would like to learn more about it) it would be proper to include here an excellent traditional analysis of the inauguration chart of Constantinople from the part of the distinguished Serbian astrologer Goran Konchar:
“What stands out for me in short is this: both benefics are in the First Place in the fertile sign of Cancer, culminating from an angular Point of Fortune (Venus in her triplicity/decan rules it, while Jupiter is the exalted lord of the ascendant and receives her!) in the 4th Place. This is an excellent indicator of the city’s growth, fame and wealth. The Moon as the ascendant lord and the ‘natural’ ruler of the Point of Fortune is in a partile, sextile with it from it’s 11th sign – again, very good, especially for acquisition of wealth. At the same time, the Moon is waxing in a diurnal chart but is placed under the earth in its halb and in mutual reception with the chart luminary, the Sun in the excellent 11th Place – both lights as sources of life in fixed signs (durability) their mutual agreement/sympathy still made more firm by the placements in antiscia signs – the attempt to ensure harmony/good will between rulers and the populace. Moreover, both lights are also in the terms of the benefics! The Moon is additionally over the imperial star Regulus. The malefics rule the 7th Place of enemies in Capricorn and both are afflicted/weakened. Saturn is in the turned 8th, not beholding its domicile and impeding himself (detriment) in the bounds of Mars while the Sun is in a superior square to it, and applying – death and destruction of the enemies, even though they may prove to be a very tough nut to crack (a superior malefic in a fixed sign). Mars is applying to him as well by superior sextile, providing for more damage. Mars is made even more impotent than Saturn by its position in Gemini in the 12th , the house of its sadness (Ibn Ezra). The chart has the ascendant of Thema mundi, an attempt to create a world – ruling city?”
As Goran is pointing out, I think that indeed Constantine’s the Great intention was to build from scratch a world ruling cosmopolis! Under this point of view, the election that his astrologer Valens made for the inaguaration of the city was a good one! Certainly this is not the most perfect election ever made (some byzantine historians purport the story that Valens was postponing the inauguaration for 14 whole years because he could not find the proper – perfect – planetary configurations!). But ultimately nothing is perfect. Constantinople started its life as a Roman city, it was soon turned into a predominately Greek one and finally in 1453 CE ceased to exist – as the Turks militarily occupied it and altered its essence…
Copyright: Thomas D. Gazis