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Origins[ edit ] The origin of the word is from the "wheel of fortune" - the zodiac , referring to the Celestial spheres of which the 8th holds the stars, and the 9th is where the signs of the zodiac are placed. The concept was first invented in Babylon and later developed by the ancient Greeks.
The concept somewhat resembles the Bhavacakra , or Wheel of Becoming, depicted throughout Ancient Indian art and literature, except that the earliest conceptions in the Roman and Greek world involve not a two-dimensional wheel but a three-dimensional sphere, a metaphor for the world. Ptolemaic model of the spheres for Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn with epicycle , eccentric deferent and equant point. Georg von Peuerbach , Theoricae novae planetarum, 1474.
Vettius Valens , a second century BC astronomer and astrologer, wrote: There are many wheels, most moving from west to east, but some move from east to west. Seven wheels, each hold one heavenly object, the first holds the moon... Then the eighth wheel holds all the stars that we see... And the ninth wheel, the wheel of fortunes, moves from east to west, and includes each of the twelve signs of fortune, the twelve signs of the zodiac.
Fortunam insanam esse et caecam et brutam perhibent philosophi, Saxoque instare in globoso praedicant volubili: Id quo saxum inpulerit fors, eo cadere Fortunam autumant. Caecam ob eam rem esse iterant, quia nihil cernat, quo sese adplicet; Insanam autem esse aiunt, quia atrox, incerta instabilisque sit; Brutam, quia dignum atque indignum nequeat internoscere.
Philosophers say that Fortune is insane and blind and stupid, and they teach that she stands on a rolling, spherical rock: They repeat that she is blind for this reason: Ribbeck, 1897 The idea of the rolling ball of fortune became a literary topos and was used frequently in declamation.
In fact, the Rota Fortunae became a prime example of a trite topos or meme for Tacitus , who mentions its rhetorical overuse in the Dialogus de oratoribus. Boethius[ edit ] The goddess and her Wheel were eventually absorbed into Western medieval thought. The Roman philosopher Boethius c.
For example, from the first chapter of the second book: I know the manifold deceits of that monstrous lady, Fortune; in particular, her fawning friendship with those whom she intends to cheat, until the moment when she unexpectedly abandons them, and leaves them reeling in agony beyond endurance.
What, are you trying to halt the motion of her whirling wheel? Dimmest of fools that you are, you must realize that if the wheel stops turning, it ceases to be the course of chance. In the morality play Everyman c. Geoffrey Chaucer used the concept of the tragic Wheel of Fortune a great deal.
Characteristically, it has four shelves, or stages of life, with four human figures, usually labeled on the left regnabo I shall reign , on the top regno I reign and is usually crowned, descending on the right regnavi I have reigned and the lowly figure on the bottom is marked sum sine regno I am without a kingdom. Dante employed the Wheel in the Inferno and a " Wheel of Fortune " trump-card appeared in the Tarot deck circa 1440, Italy. Such political treatises could use the concept of the Wheel of Fortune as an instructive guide to their readers.
Many Arthurian romances of the era also use the concept of the Wheel in this manner, often placing the Nine Worthies on it at various points. Thus, everything that follows is something of a decline. In medieval thinking, only God was perfect, and even a great figure like King Arthur had to be brought low.
For the noble reader of the tale in the Middle Ages, this moral could serve as a warning, but also as something to aspire to. Carmina Burana[ edit ] The Wheel of Fortune motif appears significantly in the Carmina Burana or Burana Codex , albeit with a postclassical phonetic spelling of the genitive form Fortunae.