Alex Miller, Asteroid Files

Celestial “Muse”ings—Asteroid Klio

by Alex Miller on May 1, 2011

Asteroid Klio, Muse of Historians and Writers

Klio (also Kleio or Clio) was one of the Nine Muses, bringers of inspiration in classical Greek mythology. According to Hesiod, they are the offspring of Zeus and Mnemosyne, his Titaness aunt, whose name literally means “memory.” Mnemosyne was one of Zeus’ earliest conquests, predating his marriage to Hera, while he was still sowing his wild oats. After overthrowing her 11 brothers and sisters and setting himself up as head deity of the Olympians, Zeus sought a way to preserve the memory of his accomplishments, keeping them ever green. So he sought out Mnemosyne, whom he wooed in the guise of a shepherd; the couple slept together on nine consecutive nights, and nine months later, the Muses were born, one each on nine consecutive days (divine conception and gestation varying somewhat from that of mortals).

Nine muses

The nine Muses (click on image for larger view)

Originally undifferentiated, in classic times the Greeks sorted out various areas of special influence among the nine sisters, and Klio became the muse of history, often depicted with scrolls or stacks of books. Asteroid Klio, a typical Main Belt asteroid orbiting between Mars and Jupiter, was discovered on 25 August 1865 by German astronomer Robert Luther, at the Dusseldorf Observatory. It has an orbital period of just under 3 and two-thirds years, and closely follows the ecliptic, the apparent path of the sun about the earth, the major plane where most planetary bodies appear.

Klio appears prominently in the charts of noted historians, or writers whose work depends heavily upon an intimate knowledge of history. Perhaps the best-known Enlightenment historian was Edward Gibbon, a British Member of Parliament whose seminal The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire remains a classic of the genre. Noted for a reliance upon primary source material unusual for its day, Gibbon’s “Decline and Fall” ran to six volumes, taking 17 years of the author’s life to create, the most extensive reconstruction of the West’s founding political entity to that date, perhaps ever. It became the formative model for much historical literature that followed, and its impact upon the academic community of the time is incalculable.

Edward Gibbon

Edward Gibbon, Klio at 25 Virgo

Born 27 April 1737, Gibbon’s natal asteroid Klio at 25 Virgo is sesquiquadrate the 7 Taurus Sun, indicating a historical bent as a defining characteristic of Gibbon’s life, inconjunct Mercury (writing) at 28 Aries, squared a Mars/Uranus opposition at 1 Cancer and Capricorn, also squared a Venus/Neptune conjunction at 20 and 26 Gemini. When the first volume of Gibbon’s masterwork was initially published on 17 February 1776, transit asteroid Klio at 10 Cancer was trine Mercury (writing) and Mars (effort) at 16 and 9 Pisces, broadly squared Saturn (career) at 20 Libra, and tightly semisextile Jupiter (publication) at 11 Gemini.

One of Gibbon’s most fervent admirers was Winston Churchill, remembered chiefly as the Prime Minister who saw Britain through the darkest days of World War II, but whose four-volume set of A History of the English-Speaking Peoples ranks as another magnum opus in the field. With a scope even broader than Gibbon’s, Churchill’s “History” illuminates Britain from Julius Caesar’s campaign of 55 BCE through the outbreak of World War I in 1914, and includes the histories of former colonies and possessions of the British Empire. Churchill spent more than 20 years on its compilation, but he also wrote the massive historical series The World Crisis (six volumes detailing the First World War) and The Second World War (another six-volume set, running to an excess of two million words).

Winston Churchill Klio

Winston Churchill, natal Klio at 4 Libra

Churchill’s mammoth literary output ranks him as among the most influential historical authors globally. Born 30 November 1874, Winston Churchill’s natal asteroid Klio at 4 Libra is sextile the 8 Sagittarius Sun, semisquare Mercury (writing, authorship) at 18 Scorpio, sesquiquadrate Pluto (uncovering hidden or secret matters) at 21 Taurus and trine Saturn (career) at 9 Aquarius.

But when it comes to extensive historical documentation, no one surpasses Will and Ariel Durant, the husband-and-wife team whose combined output in The Story of Civilization takes on the entire political, cultural and philosophic history of the West from its earliest roots in Mesopotamia through the age of Napoleon. The 11-volume set took more than 40 years to produce, and remains the most comprehensive “biography” of Western civilization ever attempted.

Will and Ariel Durant, opposing Klios

Will and Ariel Durant, opposing Klios

But even at 4 million words and 10,000 pages, it is incomplete. The Durants had hoped to take their story into the early twentieth century, but died in 1981, within weeks of each other, he at age 96 and she at 83. Born 5 November 1885, Will Durant’s natal asteroid Klio at 2 Libra is conjoined Jupiter (politics, culture) at 28 Virgo and Uranus (genius, multiculturalism) at 5 Libra, squared Saturn (work, career) at 8 Cancer and exactly trine Pluto (revealing secrets) at 2 Gemini. Saturn further opposes asteroid Hera, representing the spouse, at 9 Capricorn (which thus squares Klio), indicating the importance of his wife to his career, a trait reflected also in the conjunction of Juno (Greek goddess of marriage) at 22 Scorpio with Mercury (writing) at 25 Scorpio. Ariel Durant’s (born 10 May 1898) natal asteroid Kilo at 27 Pisces opposes Will’s own Klio (providing the complimentary balance so useful in their joint efforts) and her natal Jupiter at 0 Libra, also trine natal Uranus at 2 Sagittarius and squared natal Neptune at 21 Gemini.

Author James Michener

Author James Michener, natal Klio in Leo opposing Sun and Mercury

Three fiction authors who relied heavily on historical settings and events for their novels were James Michener, James Clavell and Alex Haley. Michener’s phenomenal output of more than 40 titles, most of them epic sagas extending over several generations of families in historical locales and periods, has never been equaled in popularity, and 14 were adapted into screenplays or TV miniseries. His works include such titles as Hawaii (1959), Centennial (1974), Chesapeake (1978) and Texas (1985). Noted for his meticulous research and accurate recreation of the times and places he was describing, Michener’s work made the past live again for countless millions of readers across the globe, in a career lasting more than 50 years.

Born 3 February 1907, James Michener’s natal asteroid Klio at 16 Leo is opposed the 13 Aquarius Sun and Mercury (writer) at 14 Aquarius, semisquare Jupiter (publishing) at 1 Cancer, and inconjunct Saturn (career) at 13 Pisces.

Writer James Clavell

Writer James Clavell, Klio in Leo

James Clavell’s 1100+ page Shogun (1975), set in feudal Japan, with 32 weeks on the best seller’s list and 15 million copies sold worldwide, became the second-highest-rated TV miniseries ever when it was adapted in 1980, with more than 120 million viewers. Part of a six-novel series including Tai-Pan and Noble House, Shogun became a cultural icon of its time, in the same class as Alex Haley’s Roots: The Saga of an American Family (1976).

This multi-generational story of African Americans spanning two hundred years from slavery to Civil Rights took Haley ten years to write, and became a record-breaking miniseries in 1977, with its final episode still the fourth highest rated TV show ever. “Roots” spent 26 weeks on The New York Times Best Seller List (22 weeks at #1), and the miniseries received a record 36 Emmy nominations, with 9 wins.

Alex Haley

Alex Haley, Klio in Leo conjunct Sun/Mercury/Neptune

Born 10 October 1924, Clavell’s natal asteroid Klio at 3 Leo is sextile Mercury (writing) at 5 Libra, sesquiquadrate Jupiter (publishing) at 15 Sagittarius, squared Saturn (career) at 2 Scorpio and exactly sextile Venus (creative expression) at 3 Virgo.

Alex Haley’s (born 11 August 1921) natal asteroid Klio at 16 Leo conjoins his Sun/Mercury/Neptune stellium at 18, 13 and 6 Leo respectively.


James Ivory, Klio conjunct Mercury and Pluto

But history need not be about the so-very-long-ago; it encompasses much of the recent past as well. A film-maker noted for the lushness and accuracy of his historical, period piece romances, set in Victorian and pre-War England, is James Ivory, who with partner Ismail Merchant dominated the genre in the 1980s and ‘90s, with such titles as “A Room With a View” (1985), “Maurice” (1987), “Howards End” (1991) and “The Remains of the Day” (1993), which between them garnered 26 Academy Award nominations, and won 6 Oscars. Born 7 June 1928, James Ivory’s natal asteroid Klio at 5 Cancer conjoins Mercury and Pluto at 9 and 15 Cancer, sextiles Jupiter at 0 Taurus, and squares Uranus at 6 Aries.

Two modern historians, specializing in American Presidential history and frequent guest contributors on the cable news networks, are Doris Kearns Goodwin and Michael Beschloss. Kearns Goodwin is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of six books, including biographies of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, the Kennedy Family, and Abraham Lincoln. She has described her philosophy of history writing as “I just want them to come alive again. That’s all you really ask of history.”

Doris Kearns Goodwin

Doris Kearns Goodwin, Klio conjunct Jupiter

Born 4 January 1943, Doris Kearns Goodwin’s natal asteroid Klio at 20 Cancer conjoins Jupiter (publishing) at 21 Cancer, opposes her 13 Capricorn Sun and 25 Capricorn Venus (creative expression), and is semisquare Saturn (career) at 6 Gemini.

Michael Beschloss is a trustee of the White House Historical Association and the author of nine books, including a biography of Eisenhower and studies of World War II, the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, and his latest, Presidential Courage: Brave Leaders and How They Changed America, 1789-1989 (2007), which was #1 on the Washington Post Best Sellers List.

Michael Beschloss

Michael Beschloss, Klio conjunct Sun and Mercury

Born 30 November 1955, Michael Beschloss’s natal asteroid Klio at 13 Sagittarius conjoins Mercury and the Sun at 5 and 7 Sagittarius, is semisquare Neptune at 29 Libra, and sesquiquadrate Uranus at 2 Leo.

A strong Klio in the birth chart need not manifest as a career choice, but a love of history is likely, and some sort of involvement with a historical organization or venue possible. There may also be an attraction for arcane knowledge or an old-fashioned, perhaps “antiquated” outlook or views. In my own case, with Klio at 11 Gemini forming a Yod with Venus at 14 Leo, both inconjunct Saturn at 13 Capricorn, there was a voracious appetite for history from an early age. Eventually I accumulated a private library of more than a thousand volumes in European history, much larger than that offered by my small town’s library. At one point, a career in history as an academic was mooted, but finally discarded as impractical (as I had no desire to teach), though the love of history was retained, and it remains my favorite nonfiction reading.

To determine the degree of your natal Klio, visit; simply plug in your birth date, and add Klio’s asteroid number (84) to the “Additional Objects” field. Click on “Go”, and you’ll have your data (changing the default “Sort by” field to “Name” for an alphabetical listing will make finding Klio simpler).

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