The Political Uses of Astrology: Predicting the Illness and Death of Princes, Kings and Popes in the Italian Renaissance.

Monica Azzolini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This paper examines the production and circulation of astrological prognostications regarding the illness and death of kings, princes, and popes in the Italian Renaissance (ca. 1470–1630). The distribution and consumption of this type of astrological information was often closely linked to the specific political situation in which they were produced. Depending on the astrological techniques used (prorogations, interrogations, or annual revolutions), and the media in which they appeared (private letters or printed prognostica) these prognostications fulfilled different functions in the information economy of Renaissance Italy. Some were used to legitimise the rule of a political leader, others to do just the opposite. Astrological prorogations and interrogations were often used to plan military and political strategies in case of the illness or death of a political leader, while astrological prognostications were generally written to promote certain political leaders while undermining others. While certainly often partisan to this game, astrologers, for their part, worked within a very well established tradition that gave authority to their forecasts. This paper argues that, as indicators of deeper political tensions otherwise not always explicitly manifest, these prognostications are privileged sources of information providing a better understanding of the political history of the period.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)135-145
Number of pages11
JournalStudies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Volume41
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010

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