The Glorious Constellations: History and Mythology

Giuseppe Maria Sesti, Author, Karin H. Ford, Translator ABRAMS $125 (495p) ISBN 978-0-8109-3355-2
It is hard to discern a pattern in Sesti's scattered glimpses into classical cosmology, comparative religion and astronomy. The color reproductions of the astronomical allegory of the Villa Farnese fresco, and even some of the 600-plus black-and-white illustrations, shine gloriously here, but the text is a scrambled catalogue of Mediterranean mythology and random Oriental references. ``To understand a civilization, one should observe how it measures the year: one should study its zodiac,'' the introduction declaims. In fact, Sesti's overlays of Sumerian, Greek, Islamic, Roman and Egyptian zodiacs obscure the view in all directions. Chapters, organized by the names of familiar constellations, simply don't rise to the challenge. Neither astrologer nor amateur astronomer will be satisfied by the early historical sections, which sound like cocktail party gossip about the gods. Only a medievalist with a specialty in cartography will find undistracted glory in this book. Sesti is an Italian fresco painter. Astronomy Book Club alternate. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 09/02/1991
Release date: 09/01/1991
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