Guido Bonatti: On War

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By the end of the twelfth century the astrologer had become a chief source of advice much relied upon by temporal and spiritual leaders of European Society. During this and in succeeding centuries astrologers were viewed as supreme scientists as they sought to deal with the underlying principles of science and indeed, studied the very laws of nature herself.

Guido Bonatti (died c. 1300) stood out as one of the most distinguished and successful of these astrologers, being mentioned by Salimbene , Filippo, Villani and Fossi . His influence and renown was such that Dante placed him in the eighth circle of the Inferno.

Bonatti on War is divided into two parts. The first examines the role of the astrologer as a military adviser in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. It also gives a brief account of Bonatti's career and offers some insights into his Tractatus Sextus (or Sixth Treatise).

The second part is the translation proper. This is from the Tractatus Sextus of Bonatti's Liber Astronomiae which Thorndike describes as "The most important astrological work produced in Latin in the 13th century." The translated section examines the matters that an astrologer should take into account when deciding questions relating to war: from the practical - what to do and when; to the decisive - who will be the victor and the vanquished; to the ethical - whether the war itself is a "just" war.

It offers a rich vein to the present-day astrologer who may use Bonatti's techniques to examine modern warfare. Indeed, some modern practitioners have taken the broader principle of warfare as being competition and successfully applied the same techniques to sporting competitions.

Bonatti's examination of warfare goes well beyond an exposition of theory. He is writing from the viewpoint of someone who has personally tested these techniques in the heat of battle. He uses real incidents to elucidate many of the rules he gives.

An illustration of Bonatti's aptitude is given by the independent Annals of Forli {an ancient town in Southern Italy}, which describes his playing a prominent part in the defence of that town in 1282. At that time, his patron Montefeltro was defending Forli against a large army sent by Pope Martin IV.

"Then Guido of Montefeltro, captain of the people of Forli, together with Lord Guido Bonatti, a citizen, philosopher, and most eminent astrologer, having called the people together in the public square," proceeded to instruct them of a manoeuvre that involved their leaving their town to return at an opportune time. On their return they set upon the enemy who had moved to occupy the fortified precincts. This strategy was a resounding success. The Annals give much credit to Bonatti making direct reference to his counsel, art of astrology and forecasting of the future all of which laid a solid foundation for the successful deployment and victory against heavy odds.

Guido Bonatti: On War
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