Libra - Sun Sign - Dates: 31st October to 22nd November



Definition: [Sun Signs - Solar Zodiac] Libra, the sign of the Scales, is the 8th sign of the Real Solar Zodiac.

Libra Astrology: Below can be found the fundamentals of the astrology of Libra. The quotations are from the Magnum Opus of astrology, Tetrabiblos, composed by Claudius Ptolemy [c 130 - 170 AD] - the father of Classical astrology.

The fixed stars of Libra are treated uniquely in Tetrabiblos where they are called the "Claws of the Scorpion," though Ptolemy speaks of Libra [at least in current translations] when referring to the properties of the sign as a whole. The seems to reflect the fact that Libra was a late-comer to the Zodiac. Previously, Scorpius, the Scorpion, had been thought of as a much larger sign, with the stars that we now call Libra being merely the Scorpion's claws. This is what Ptolemy describes them as in Al Magest, where all the stars we now call Libra are part of the "Forficis", Latin for the "Shears". As late as the Mainz Globe, c 150 -220 AD, the double sign of Scorpio was still being used on celestial globes, and Libra was absent.

Why Scorpius was shortened in length, and why Libra was formed from those stars in Classical times is an interesting question. There is a tradition that, as the Sun was at the Autumn Equinox* when the Sun was seen against the Claws of the Scorpion, that a new sign of the Scales was made because of the equal balance of day and night at that time of year. However, this seems a strange reason for making a whole new Sun Sign, because surely, by the first century AD, there must have been a large astrological traditional already accumulated concerning the powers of the sign of the "Greater Scorpius" - for want of any better name. However, Ptolemy is silent on all these issues.

* It was in Classical times. It isn't now, because of the Movement of the Ages.

The Power of the Fixed Stars:   "The ones at their very extremities exercise the same influence as do Jupiter and Mercury; those in the middle parts the same as do Saturn and, to a less degree, Mars. "
Character of the Sign:   "Equinoctial" [now Solid (Fixed) - see below] 
Planet and House:  "Venus; Masculine Aspect." [now Jupiter [Masculine Aspect] - see below] 
Triangles:   Third Triangle - Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius: Masculine. Ruled by the Saturn in day and Mercury at night. 
Exaltations and Depressions:   "Saturn exalts in Libra. Sun is depressed in Libra." 
The Egyptian Terms:   "Saturn = 6; Merkur =8; Jupiter = 7; Venus = 7; Mars = 2" 
The Chaldean Terms:   "Saturn = 6; Venus = 5; Merkur = 5; Jupiter = 8; Mars = 6" 
Countries:   "Bactriana, Casperia, Serica; in the centre, Thebais, Oasis, Troglodytica. " 
Effect upon the Weather:   "The sign of Libra as a whole is changeable and variable; but, taken part by part, its leading and middle portions are temperate and its following portion watery. Its northern parts are windy and its southern moist and pestilential. "  

Movement of the Ages : Ptolemy's astrology described the heavens in the Age of Aries. However, nearly two thousand years later we are now in the Age of Pisces. Therefore, some of the astrological features noted above are no longer accurate. Libra is no longer a Equinoctial sign, but is now a Solid sign. In modern terminology this makes it a fixed sign. [See Tetrabiblos Book i Chapter 11]

Which planet makes its 'house' in Libra [in modern terms the planetary ruler] is even more complex. In the Age of Taurus, 4000 years ago, Leo was the Summer Solstice sign in the northern hemisphere and hence the Sun made its 'house' in Leo and the rest of the signs followed from this starting point. But by the time of Ptolemy, in the Age of Aries, Cancer was the Solstice sign and should have been assigned the Sun. However Ptolemy assigns Leo the Sun. Even Ptolemy kept out-dated astrology, as we do today. [See Tetrabiblos Book i Chapter 17] In our time at the end of the Age of Pisces, Gemini is the Solstice sign and so should be assigned the Sun. Hence in the Age of Pisces Jupiter makes its 'house' in Libra.

The Powers of the Claws of the Scorpion [Libra]:

Because Ptolemy describes the stars we now call Libra's as belonging to the claws of Scorpius, there is no correspondence between Renaissance star maps of Libra, shown right, and Ptolemy's description of the powers of its stars.

As Renaissance star maps were usually based - at least partly - on Ptolemy's star descriptions it is difficult to know how such pictures of Libra were made. It has to be said that drawing of the Scales in Bayer's map is a very bad fit for the stars - which are shown in their actual positions.

Libra, the Scales.  From Uranometria, Johann Bayer, Augsburg, 1603 AD.


Libra, the Scales. From Uranometria, Johann Bayer, Augsburg, 1603 AD.

Click on the above picture for a larger version 51 kB.

The Real Solar Zodiac Sun Signs:
  Sun Sign    Meaning   Dates 
01:   Pisces   the Fishes   12 Mar to 18 Apr 
02:   Aries   the Ram   19 Apr to 13 May 
03:   Taurus   the Bull   14 May to 19 Jun 
04:   Gemini   the Twins   20 Jun to 20 Jul 
05:   Cancer   the Crab   21 Jul to 9 Aug
06:  Leo   the Lion   10 Aug to 15 Sep 
07:  Virgo   the Maiden   16 Sep to 30 Oct 
08:  Libra   the Scales   31 Oct to 22 Nov 
09:  Scorpius   the Scorpion   23 Nov to 29 Nov   
10:  Ophiuchus    the Serpent Bearer   30 Nov to 17 Dec 
11  Sagittarius   the Archer   18 Dec to 18 Jan 
12:  Capricornus     the Sea Goat   19 Jan to 15 Feb 
13:  Aquarius   the Water Carrier   16 Feb to 11 Mar 
* The Non-Zodiac Constellations    


© Dr Shepherd Simpson, Astrological Historian


Historical Astrology

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