The zodiac according to the Ancient

«There was a circular tray around which were displayed the signs of the zodiac, and upon each sign the caterer had placed the food best in keeping with it. Ram’s vetches on Aries, a piece of beef on Taurus, kidneys and lamb’s fry on Gemini, a crown on Cancer, the womb of an unfarrowed sow on Virgo, an African fig on Leo, on Libra a balance, one pan of which held a tart and the other a cake, a small seafish on Scorpio, a bull’s eye on Sagittarius, a sea lobster on Capricornus, a goose on Aquarius and two mullets on Pisces. (…)

“This heaven where the gods live, turns into as many different signs, and sometimes into the Ram: therefore, whoever is born under that sign will own many flocks and much wool, a hard head, a shameless brow, and a sharp horn. A great many school-teachers and rambunctious butters-in are born under that sign”. We applauded the wonderful penetration of our astrologer and he ran on,

“Then the whole heaven turns into a bull-calf and the kickers and herdsmen and those who see to it that their own bellies are full, come into the world.

Teams of horses and oxen are born under the Twins, and well-hung wenchers and those who bedung both sides of the wall.

I was born under the Crab and therefore stand on many legs and own much property on land and sea, for the crab is as much at home on one as he is in the other. For that reason, I put nothing on that sign for fear of weighing down my own destiny.

Bulldozers and gluttons are born under the Lion,

and women and fugitives and chain-gangs are born under the Virgin.

Butchers and perfumers are born under the Balance, and all who think that it is their business to straighten things out.

Poisoners and assassins are born under the Scorpion.

Cross-eyed people who look at the vegetables and sneak away with the bacon, are born under the Archer.

Horny-handed sons of toil are born under Capricorn.

Bartenders and pumpkin-heads are born under the Water-Carrier.

Caterers and rhetoricians are born under the Fishes: and so the world turns round, just like a mill, and something bad always comes to the top, and men are either being born or else they’re dying.

As to the sod and the honeycomb in the middle, for I never do anything without a reason, Mother Earth is in the centre, round as an egg, and all that is good is found in her, just like it is in a honeycomb“».

– Petronius, “Dinner of Trimalchio” from “Satyricon” (century I A.D.), caps. 35, 39.


The Beth-Alpha Zodiac. Beit Alpha (or Beth Alpha) is a Byzantine synagogue in the Bet She’an valley of Israel. It was built either by the emperor Justin I (518-527 A.D.) or Justin II (567-578 A.D.). The elegant floor of warmly colored stones contains a recognizable image of the twelve signs. The Greek Sun god Helios appears in the center of the horoscope wheel. He is crowned (also the Crab sign above looks like a “laurus nobilis” crown) and is shown inside his rainbow chariot surrounded by four horses, stars and a crescent Moon. The house sectors start with Libra at the rising sign point, rather than traditional Aries. Angels of the four seasons decorate the corners. Twenty-two different stones were used to create this masterpiece, as the Hebrew alphabet (corresponding to the ancient Chaldean lunar cycle of 22 days in a month) is comprised of the same number of letters. The pavement covers the entire nave area and has inscriptions referring to the zodiac in Hebrew and Greek.


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