A close reading of the authors concerned will further serve to give us a more nuanced picture of ancient practice. This does not necessarily mean the most common practice, but rather the ‘best practice’ endorsed by those authors. Just like today, astrologers in antiquity would have differed with regard to level of education and subtlety of understanding, and modern astrologers interested in recreating ancient methods need to decide which type of practice they are trying to emulate. In Valens, for instance, we find this statement (Anthologies II 17):
Ζεὺς Ἄρει τετράγωνος – ἐὰν ὁ μὲν ὡροσκοπῇ, ὁ δὲ μεσουρανῇ ἢ ἀγαϑοδαιμονῇ, ἰσχυρόν ·
Jupiter squaring Mars, when one is in the horoscope [= ascendant] and the other is in the midheaven or in [the eleventh place of] the Good Daimon, is strong.
If whole-sign houses are used, it is impossible for two planets placed in the first and eleventh houses to form a square either by sign or by exact degree, whereas they can easily do both if quadrant houses are used, and do so by sign using equal houses. Clearly, then, Valens did not have whole-sign houses in mind in this instance. We should note that this statement occurs in the context of a general discussion of aspects, not in connection with any particular predictive technique.
Sometimes we find nomenclature vacillating between ‘sign’ and ‘place’, as in ‘the sign/place of the Good Daimon’. Could this fact be construed as an instruction to use whole-sign houses? It would be an implied one at best; but as it happens, Firmicus throws a very different light on the matter in his description of the places (Mathesis II 19). For example:
Sextus locus in VI. ab horoscopo signo constituitur; qui a CL. parte horoscopi initium accipiens usque ad CLXXX. extenditur. In hoc signo causam vitii ac valitudinis inveniemus.
The sixth place is established in the 6th sign from the horoscope, which, taking its beginning from the 150th degree from the horoscope, extends up to the 180th. In this sign we shall find the cause of blemish and illness.
Similar statements are made for all the houses. Firmicus thus explicitly calls the thirty-degree segments counted off from the rising degree – in modern parlance, the equal houses – both ‘signs’ and ‘places’. At the very least, this raises a legitimate question as to whether ‘sign’ (ζῴδιον zōdion) in the Greek astrological texts always means Aries, Taurus, etc., or whether Firmicus was following an accepted convention where the meaning may vary with the context, ‘signs’ denoting segments of 30° reckoned from more than one possible starting point. Simply listing passages that speak of the places as ‘signs’ clearly cannot settle this question. It is worth noting that Ptolemy, too, uses a single word (δωδεκατημόριον dōdekatēmorion, twelfth-part) to describe both the signs beginning with Aries (liberally throughout the Tetrabiblos) and equal houses calculated by degree and called by names such as Good Daimon (Tetrabiblos III 11, or III 10 in the Robbins edition; arguably also in part of I 13, or Robbins I 12).