The author is neither quoted nor mentioned by any ancient writer. Even his name is uncertain, but it was probably Marcus Manilius; in the earlier books the author is anonymous, the later give Manilius, Manlius, Mallius. The poem itself implies that the writer lived under Augustus or Tiberius, and that he was a citizen of and resident in Rome. According to R. Bentley he was an Asiatic Greek; according to F. Jacob an African. His work is one of great learning; he had studied his subject in the best writers, and generally represents the most advanced views of the ancients on astronomy (or rather astrology).
Manilius frequently imitates Lucretius, whom he resembles in earnestness and originality and in the power of enlivening the dry bones of his subject. Although his diction presents some peculiarities, the style is metrically correct.
Firmicus, who wrote in the time of Constantine, exhibits so many points of resemblance with the work of Manilius that he must either have used him or have followed some work that Manilius also followed. As Firmicus says that hardly any Roman except Caesar, Cicero and Fronto had treated the subject, it is probable that he did not know the work of Manilius. The latest event referred to in the poem is the great defeat of Varus by Arminius in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest. The fifth book was not written till the reign of Tiberius; the work appears to be incomplete, and was probably never published.