Ex-Classics Home Page

The Works of Aristotle - Of Physiognomy, showing what it is, and from whence it is derived.

Of Physiognomy, showing what it is, and from whence it is derived.

PHYSIOGNOMY is an ingenious science, or knowledge of nature, by which the inclination and dispositions of every creature are understood: and because some of the members are uncompounded, and entire of themselves, as the tongue, the heart, etc.; and some are of a mixed nature, as the eyes, the nose, and others; we therefore say that there are many signs which agree and live together, which inform a wise man how to make his judgment before he be too rash to deliver it to the world.

Nor is it to be esteemed a foolish or idle art, seeing it is derived from the superior bodies: for there is no part of the face of a man but what is under the peculiar influence or government not only of the seven planets, but also of the twelve signs of the Zodiac: and the disposition, vices, virtues, and fatality, either of a man or woman, are plainly foretold, if the person pretending to the knowledge thereof be an artist, which, that my reader may hereby attain to, I shall set these things in a clearer light.

The reader should remember that the forehead is governed by Mars: the right eye is under the dominion of Sol: the left eye is ruled by the moon, or Luna: the right ear is the care of Jupiter: the left of Saturn: the rule of the nose is claimed by Venus, which, by the way, is one reason that in all unlawful venereal encounters, the nose is too subject to bear the scars which are gotten in those wars; and the nimble Mercury, the significator of eloquence, claims the dominion of the mouth, and that very justly.

<illustration: The face and its governing planets>

Thus have the seven planets divided the face among them, but not with so absolute a sway, but that the twelve signs of the Zodiac do also come in for a part: And therefore the sign of Cancer presides in the uppermost part of the forehead, and Leo attends upon the right eyebrow, as Sagittarius does upon the right eye and Libra upon the right ear; upon the left eye and eyebrow you will find Aquarius and Gemini, and Aries taking care of the left ear; Taurus rules in the middle of the forehead, and Capricorn the chin: Scorpio takes upon him the protection of the nose; Virgo claims precedence of the right cheek, and Pisces of the left. And thus the face of man is cantoned out amongst the Signs and Planets; which being carefully attended to, will sufficiently inform the artists how to pass a judgment. For according to the sign or planet ruling, so also is the judgment to be of the part ruled, which all those that have understanding know easily how to apply.

<illustration: Phrenological diagram>

In the judgment that is to be made from Physiognomy there is a great difference betwixt a man and a woman; the reason is, because, in respect of the whole composition, men more fully comprehend it than women do, as may evidently appear by the manner and method we shall give in the following section. Wherefore the judgments which we shall pass in every chapter, do properly concern a man, as comprehending the whole Species, and but improperly the woman as being but a part thereof, and derived from the man; and therefore whoever is called to give judgment on such and such a face ought to be wary about all the lines and marks that belong to it; respect being also paid to the sex: for when we behold a man whose face is like unto a woman's, and we pass a judgment upon it, having diligently observed it, and not on the face only but on other parts of the body, as his hands, etc. In like manner we also behold the face of a woman, who in respect of her flesh and blood is like unto a man, and in the disposure also of the greater parts of her body. But does physiognomy give the same judgment on her as it does of a man that is like unto her? By no means, but far otherwise; in regard that the conception of the woman is much different from that of a man, even in those respects which are said to be common. Now, in those common respects, two parts are attributed to a man, a third part to a woman.

Wherefore, it being our intention to give you an exact account according to the rule of physiognomy, of all and every part of the members of the body, we will begun with the head, as it hath relation only to man and woman, and not any other creature, that the work may be more obvious to every reader.


Previous Next