Classics Marcus Manilius
Katharina Volk
  • LAST REVIEWED: 12 July 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 January 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0106


Marcus Manilius was a Roman poet who in the second decade of the 1st century CE wrote Astronomica, a hexameter poem in five books on the topic of astrology. Nothing is known about his person or life. His highly self-reflexive work belongs to the genre of ancient didactic poetry and is greatly indebted to Lucretius, while also showing the influence of such Augustan poets as Vergil and Ovid. Manilius describes and celebrates the workings of fate and the beauty and order of the divine universe, presenting a view of the world that is typical of cosmological ideas of his period and particularly close to Stoicism. At the same time, the poet’s subject matter carries political significance: astrology had grown popular at Rome in the late Republic and had become a tool of propaganda in the reign of Augustus, who is praised and associated with the heavens at numerous points in Manilius’s poem.

General Overviews

A concise summary of Manilius and his work is found in Hübner 2006. Volk 2009 provides a comprehensive introduction to the poet in English, treating his astronomy, astrology, political context, poetics, and philosophy. Salemme 2000, the only other general monograph on the poet, has good discussions of Manilius’s worldview, use of myth, and poetic style. Hübner 1984 focuses on the Astronomica’s astrological content, Green 2014 on its political context, Romano 1979 on its structure, Landolfi 2003 on its proems and poetics, and Maranini 1994 on its reception from Antiquity to the present day. Liuzzi 1993 and Green and Volk 2011 are collections of essays by various authors.

  • Green, Steven J. 2014. Disclosure and discretion in Roman astrology: Manilius and his Augustan contemporaries. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199646807.001.0001

    A provocative reconsideration of the Astronomica within its political context, suggesting that in keeping with Imperial control of astrology, the poem may be concealing more than it reveals.

  • Green, Steven J., and Katharina Volk, eds. 2011. Forgotten stars: Rediscovering Manilius’ Astronomica. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199586462.001.0001

    A recent collection of essays by an international group of scholars, on such topics as Manilius’s intellectual context, internal consistency, use of metaphor, didactic digressions, and reception.

  • Hübner, Wolfgang. 1984. Manilius als Astrologe und Dichter. In Aufstieg und Niedergang der römischen Welt. Edited by Hildegard Temporini and Wolfgang Haase, 126–320. Berlin: De Gruyter.

    An introduction to the Astronomica’s astrological aspects and their poetic representation by a specialist in the field; interesting, if not easy to follow.

  • Hübner, Wolfgang. 2006. Manilius III. In Brill’s New Pauly. Edited by Hubert Cancik, Helmuth Schneider, and Manfred Landfest, 240–243. New York: Brill.

    A concise encyclopedia entry.

  • Landolfi, Luciano. 2003. Integra prata: Manilio, i proemi. Bologna, Italy: Pàtron.

    A collection of essays by the author, many previously published, on the proems of the Astronomica, with many excellent observations on questions of poetics.

  • Liuzzi, Dora, ed. 1993. Manilio fra poesia e scienza: Atti del convegno Lecce, 14–16 maggio 1992. Galatina, Italy: Congedo.

    A collection of essays (in Italian and French) by a number of scholars, based on presentations at a 1992 conference.

  • Maranini, Anna. 1994. Filologia fantastica: Manilio e i suoi Astronomica. Bologna, Italy: Il Mulino.

    A somewhat chaotic but inspiring discussion of the Astronomica and its reception from Antiquity to the present day.

  • Romano, Elisa. 1979. Struttura degli Astronomica di Manilio. Palermo, Italy: Accademia di Scienze, Lettere e Arti di Palermo.

    A discussion of the book structure of the Astronomica. Not particularly user-friendly, but contains interesting observations.

  • Salemme, Carmelo. 2000. Introduzione agli Astronomica di Manilio. 2d ed. Naples, Italy: Loffredo.

    A helpful introduction to Manilius’s work, with special attention to philosophy, myth, and poetics.

  • Volk, Katharina. 2009. Manilius and his intellectual background. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199265220.001.0001

    The only monograph on Manilius in English; provides an extensive introduction to the Astronomica, with special focus on its cultural context.

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