De Chiromantia Libri III

Antiochus Tibertus of Cesena was another Italian scholar adept in both the sciences and the occult sciences. Accomplished in mathematics, physics and medicine, he was also a highly regarded astrologer and chiromancer and had a reputation as great as that of Cocles. His consulting rooms were visited by many of the eminent people of his day and, like Cocles, he was particularly esteemed for the accuracy of his predictions.

He lived most of his early life in Paris, where he seems to have developed his interest in the occult sciences, but later moved back to Italy where he wrote at least one Latin work on chiromancy, published in Bologna in 1494 and reprinted in Dryander's book at Marguntiae in 1538. This later edition also contains an anonymous chiromantic treatise which Craig (1916) suggests is of considerable antiquity. Pack (1972) noticed similarities between this text and one of the treatises in the Pseudo-Aristotelian work 'Cyromancia Aristotelis cum Figuris' and considers that at least part of it may be derived from this work or else from some other mutual source.  The work by Antiochus Tibertus himself is entitled 'De Chiromantia Libri III' and begins with a defence of chiromancy by citing the ancients, such as the Stoics and Pythagoras, and by quoting Aristotle's remarks in 'De Historia Animalium' and in 'Problemata' Books 10 and 34.

Illustration from Antiochus Tibertus 'De Chiromantia' Tibertus defines chiromancy as '...a science whereby one may know the natural inclinations, virtues and passions, and fortune of a man through the signs of the hands'. The first book is in eight chapters and begins by considering the right and left hands, saying the right hand is to be preferred since it is the right hand which receives the spirit. The features of the hands are then labelled and, curiously, Tibertus does not follow any chiromantic precedent here. For he labels the fingers according to the elements, rather than using their Latin names alone. The Indicis is ruled by Fire, the Medius finger by Air, the Medicus by Water and the Auricularis by the element Earth.

Moreover, he also allocates the planets to the mounts of the hand in a way that we have not come across before, once again confirming that by the end of the fifteenth century, no coherent system of astrological nomenclature in the hand had been generally agreed upon. Although there are some similarities with the planetary allocation that was later to become standard, here we find Venus given over to the little finger mount, Mars to the ball of the thumb and Mercury to the centre of the hand within the Great Triangle!!

Tibertus is also the first author to describe a system of allocating the signs of the zodiac to the various parts of the palm. Consequently, we can see that his approach to chiromancy was decidedly astrological, and indeed, one of his techniques of analysis is to look for fortunate and unfortunate conjunctions of the planets as seen in the lineal features of the hands. The last three chapters of the first book therefore go on to explain the significance of various lineal markings such as stars, triangles and other geometrical and alphabetical formations. For Tibertus, each letter of the alphabet is ruled by either a planet or an astrological sign, so the meaning of the formation of a letter in the hand can easily be understood by referring to these astrological correspondences. The astrological rulers of the palm according to Tibertus.  Note the locations of the planets Mercury and Venus in particular.

The second book is in twelve chapters and goes into the meaning and significance of the main line formations of the hands, the linea vitae, linea epatis, linea cephalia, the triangle and the minor lines. Two lines he describes which we have not seen much specific mention of before as lines in themselves include the linea solis and the linea marta. Each line is treated individually and a chapter is given over to how to discriminate the responses of each of the lines to the effects of the seven planets. Finally, the last chapter of the book considers the physiognomical significance of the nails and of the hand as a whole. Despite the title of the book suggesting that there should be three books here, there is no clearly defined third section to the text.

In the concluding pages of the work, Tibertus offers some general comments about the nature of chiromancy and its practice and the text ends with four illustrations of the lines and the mounts of the hands, together with their astrological rulers.

Astrological associations to the palm in 'De Chiromantia' by Antiochus Tibertus Curiously, like Cocles as well, Antiochus also died in somewhat strange circumstances. Having displeased a local despot by some of the chiromantic prognostications he had made, he was imprisoned in Rimini castle by this despot on suspicion of complicity with a treasonous plot. Whilst incarcerated there though, he had an affair with the daughter of the warden of the castle and managed to effect an escape and tried to elope with her. Unfortunately for Antiochus, his freedom was shortlived, for he was rapidly retaken and returned to the castle, where he was beheaded.  It would seem that the story of Antiochus Tibertus would, therefore, make for a very good opera!


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