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The Duke and the Stars

The Duke and the Stars

Astrology and Politics in Renaissance Milan

Monica Azzolini

ISBN 9780674066632

Publication date: 01/14/2013

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This study is the first to examine the important political role played by astrology in Italian court culture. Reconstructing the powerful dynamics existing between astrologers and their prospective or existing patrons, The Duke and the Stars illustrates how the “predictive art” of astrology was a critical source of information for Italian Renaissance rulers, particularly in times of crisis. Astrological “intelligence” was often treated as sensitive, and astrologers and astrologer-physicians were often trusted with intimate secrets and delicate tasks that required profound knowledge not only of astrology but also of the political and personal situation of their clients. Two types of astrological predictions, medical and political, were taken into the most serious consideration. Focusing on Milan, Monica Azzolini describes the various ways in which the Sforza dukes (and Italian rulers more broadly) used astrology as a political and dynastic tool, guiding them as they contracted alliances, made political decisions, waged war, planned weddings, and navigated health crises.

The Duke and the Stars explores science and medicine as studied and practiced in fifteenth-century Italy, including how astrology was taught in relation to astronomy.


  • This book, as erudite as it is elegant, takes the reader deep into the court life of Renaissance Milan. Using a vast range of sources with great care and artistry, Monica Azzolini recreates the lost discipline of astrology. The Duke and the Stars restores and illuminates a lost world, as colorful, as complex and as full of vividly portrayed individuals as a great Renaissance fresco.

    —Anthony Grafton, Princeton University


  • Monica Azzolini is Lecturer in Early Modern European History at the University of Edinburgh.

Book Details

  • 392 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press