Antigonos of Nicaia on Dorphory

My friend and collegue Ashwin Subramanyan has recently published a short article on dorphory, also referred to as spear-bearing. Bells rang as I remembered Stephan Heilen’s translation and Antigonos of Nikaia dealing with the topic of spear-bearing in Roman Emperor Hadrian’s nativity. [1] Since I have recently visited Hadrian’s villa in Tivoli (near Rome), I felt I needed to take a fresh look at Stephan Heilen’s massive work.

Antigonos uses the chart of the Roman Emperor Hadrian to explain the importance of the observation of the helical phases (see my Instagram posts here and here ) but he also takes this example to illustrate dorphory.

Hadrian was born on Jan. 24th, 76 AD in Sevilla, Spain at 7.20 LT. I have ave re-arranged the chart in order to fit Antigonos’ indications.

Roman Emperor Hadrian’s chart

We can take the word spear-bearing quite literally since it is used to describe which planet defends a luminary, just as a modern bodyguard would defend his protegé.

Emperor Hadrian has a nocturnal chart; the Sun has not yet risen, and the Moon is the luminary in sect. She is the Queen who needs protection, and Venus and Mars are her spear-bearers.

Both planets are in Aquarius and hence technically in aversion to the luminary, but what is important in dorphory is dignity and sect.

Venus is exalted in Pisces and in her own terms, Mars is in his triplicity and in his own terms, both are therefore, according to Antigonos, in places where they belong and both ascend after the Moon, which is the other important requirement.

Furthermore, the Sun himself is the spear-bearer of the Moon because he is in a degree that rises after Selene, while Helios is protected by Saturn in his own domicile and in large conjunction with Mercury , both helical rising and hence visible.

Jupiter is the spear-bearer  of the Sun. He is in the same degree as the luminary in sect, the Moon, and he is on the Ascendant which is what qualifies him as a spear-bearer in the first place, since he has no other dignities in this degree of Aquarius.

From this short piece we can see a number of rules related to dorphory:

  • Mars, Venus and the Sun are occidental form the Moon: they defend the nocturnal luminary: they need to rise after the luminary which they protect:
  • Mercury, Jupiter and Saturn are oriental from the Sun: they protect the diurnal luminary and need to rise before the luminary whose back they have.

As for the interpretation, Antigonos gives short indications.

  • Venus and Mars spearbering the luminary in sect conjunct Jupiter made Hadrian emperor.
  • Jupiter spearbearing the Sun indicates that other people of the same or even higher rank venerate the native.
  • Mercury and Saturn spearbearing the Sun gives intelligence, cultivation, education and good manners

[1] Stephan Heilen, Hadrianii Genitura- Die Astrologischen Fragmente des Antigonos von Nikaia, De Gruyter, 2015, p. 130ff

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