Both the author and the date of this five-volume poem, the first Western document to link the houses of the zodiac with the course of human affairs, are uncertain. The author's name may be Marcus Manilius, or Manlius, or Mallius, and the latest datable event mentioned in the books themselves is the disastrous defeat of Varus' Roman legions by the German tribes in 9 CE. The writing shows knowledge of the work of Lucretius, but the work is not referred to by any subsequent writer, suggesting that it was never widely disseminated. A manuscript was rediscovered by Poggio Bracciolini in 1416 or 1417, and editions were produced by Scaliger and Bentley, but this immensely erudite edition of 1903-1930 by the scholar and poet A. E. Housman (1859-1936) is regarded as authoritative. Volume 1 covers the creation and arrangement of the heavens and their division into spheres.
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apud Arat astra atque Auien autem Bentleius caeli caelo caelum canam Capricornus causa circulus corrupt cursus dicitur docet eadem editores eius erat erit esset etiam etsi facit Fayus flammas flammis Gronouius habet haec hunc Iacobus idem igitur ignes ignis ilia illis inque inter ipsa ipse Libra libri loco Lubec Lucr lumina magis Manilius mihi modo mundo mundum natura nihil nisi nomen nunc Olympo omnia omnis orbe orbem orbis Ouid Ovid Plin poeta positum posuit potest primum primus quae quam quern quia quibus quid quidem quis quod quoque recte Regiomontanus rerum Scaliger sedes semper sensu sententia sibi sidera sidus signa signis silu similis sint siue Stat Statius stellae sunt tamen tantum tempora terga terrae Theb uelut uerba uersus uide uidetur uiro Verg verses