My ideal is that there is just enough for the reader to understand the bases on which one could make a decision about how to interpret the evidence.
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Indeed for those who want to make up their own minds I have tried to provide a user-friendly indication of where to find the original sources, or the secondary accounts of them, in the notes. In the Introduction, I explain the special difficulties attending the sorts of evidence we have for the history of astrology. As a result of these difficulties, especially in the first three chapters—the chronological history—the reader has to suffer what could be tedious accounts of the uncertainties, conflicts and difficulties in the evidence.
This much is necessary for anyone who wants a history rather than a coffee-table book. But I have tried to avoid getting embroiled in the details of scholarly debates, or bogging down the text with endless notes. This has the unfortunate consequence that I have not been able to give as much credit to my secondary sources in the body of the book as I would like. Incidentally, where Greek is transliterated I have used the forms which make the relation to modern languages clearest, although it is unpleasing to a classicist. Furthermore, I have not been able in every case to ascertain if there is a copyright-holder of the material in the illustrations.
Similarly, I do not cover Arabic, Indian or Chinese astrology, which had their own lines of development. He was apparently writing the history of a dead superstition. The first publication of a newspaper horoscope in the world apparently appeared in the Sunday Express, for the birth of Princess Margaret in My horoscope for this week, interpreted by the doyen of newspaper astrologers, Patric Walker, says: The sun in the highly sensitive and emotional sign of Cancer only urges you to take a closer look at relationships, conditions or situations that have deteriorated over the past six months, and then to discard ruthlessly anything you feel to be a hindrance or of no further value.
There are bound to be days when the odds still seem to be stacked against you. However, with a little flair, confidence and the will to succeed, you can surmount any obstacles. It is not only that the prominence of the Sunsign, abstracted from its context, is a modern phenomenon, but that the whole style of the piece would have been quite alien to ancient astrologers. The tone is one of the counsellor, concerned for the emotional well-being of the reader. The most successful consultant astrologers today set themselves up as counsellors, combining their astrology with a background in therapy or psychology.
If we take extracts from the advice of a modern astrologer and compare it with those of an ancient one, a number of differences become obvious: The proficient astrologer may sometimes be called upon to help those of his fellow human-beings who have difficult personal problems to solve. In such circumstances he should recognize that his position is a privileged one and that the possession of astrological knowledge is a trust not to be regarded lightly.
He should refrain from giving advice unless it is asked for and then he should always try to suggest to those seeking help how they can best help themselves, by dwelling upon the strengths and not the weaknesses of the horoscope … Never delineate or predict in too much detail, for to do so requires a most unusual degree of inspiration.
Above all, never suggest the time when death is likely to take place as this must inevitably cause an unfavourable psychological reaction. Beware of replying to anyone about the condition of the State or the life of the Roman emperor. For it is not right, nor is it permitted, that from wicked curiosity we learn anything about the condition of the State… Have a wife, a home, many sincere friends; be constantly available to the public…avoid plots… In drawing up a chart, do not show up the bad things about men too clearly, but whenever you come to such a point, delay your responses with a certain reticence, in case you seem not only to explain but also to approve what the evil course of the stars decrees for the man.
It fitted in with ancient cosmology, it drew on the data of astronomy, it offered an extra dimension to medicine, it shared the convictions of philosophers, and it fitted in with much religious understanding of the divine. Not everyone believed in astrologers, but hardly anyone was willing to deny the stars some effect on human life. Naturally, the high intellectual profile of the subject did not weigh with everyone. If astrology offered answers to the pressing issues of everyday life, like love and money, as today, its credentials did not have to be scrutinised too closely.
There are some constants in astrological enquiries. A group called the Gambling and Spiritual Workshop meet each month in Holborn to predict the results of the main horse-racing meetings of the day by astrology, and sell their tips by telephone. Under the Roman Empire and its Byzantine successor there were also specialists in racing: astrologers used the stars to find out which team of chariot-drivers would win in the hippodrome: I look at the methods in Chapter 6.
A man from Halifax wrote to Russell Grant, the television astrologer who also does the stars for the national newspapers, to find out whether his wife would come back to him. You can find a discussion of how to answer the same question in the work of Dorotheus of Sidon, of the first century CE, from which I quote in Chapter 6. In fact, Grant put the man in touch with a marriage guidance clinic; we do not learn whether he proffered astrological advice as well.
The high status of astrology explains the difference between the use of astrology in high places today and in the ancient world.
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It is true there were superficial resemblances to the Roman Empire in the story which emerged in May about President Reagan. Just like the emperors, he was supposedly converted to astrology by a dramatically successful prediction. The San Francisco astrologer Joan Quigley warned that late March would be dangerous, and there was an assassination attempt which wounded the president on 30 March. Just as the emperors would get advice on the best moment for a particular enterprise, Reagan was supposed to have selected the hour for the signing of the treaty with the Soviet Union after Quigley studied the relevant horoscopes.
Reagan is not alone in being a head of state in an economically developed Western country this century who was believed to have made decisions with the help of astrologers—the British intelligence sevices seem to have taken seriously the idea that Hitler was being advised by astrologers during the war,7 and it was reported in The Economist on 27 April that Papandreou had chosen the date for the elections in Greece with astrological guidance.
But such situations are different from the Roman one in a most important respect. Neither Reagan, nor Hitler, nor Papandreou published their horoscopes in order to show that they were destined to rule, or had coins stamped with their birth sign, as Augustus did Chapter 2. Astrology today simply cannot command that kind of respect. Indeed even those who have less serious reputations to keep up, like Princess Diana, play down their consultations with astrologers. Academics, if they do find themselves in the field, tend to concentrate on safer areas, such as the history of mathematics and astronomy revealed in astrological texts, or confine themselves to the manuscript tradition, so that they are not at risk of being perceived as moving outside the borders of acceptable scholarship.
To be fair, it is not an easy field to enter, since it is technically demanding and there are many problems with the sources, as we shall see. Though one of the most eminent scholars in the field has said that no general history of astrology should be written until more monographs and critical editions of texts are published, in particular on the oriental material which preserves the Greek,9 it is in fact long past time for a provisional history of the topic for the general reader.
It may surprise, and even enrage, some readers that there is a volume on astrology in a series dedicated to the history of science. But this recategorisation of the subject is necessary to jolt us out of our preconceptions. For some time now this has been a live issue in the history of ideas in the Early Modern period. Most famously, Frances Yates led the attack against a history of science which carried back categories from the modern world to the ancient one, seeing the same clear division between science and pseudo-science as is generally accepted now.
The debate continues, with her opponents still arguing that what was science then is science now, and the same goes for pseudoscience. The situation with the study of the ancient world is rather different. Little produced in antiquity could be accepted as scientific by modern standards, but there was a form of proto-science which could be seen to lie beneath the edifice of modern science. So, once the highlights, from Democritean atomic theory to the discovery of the Fallopian tubes, had been set out, interest centred on seeing how the rules of enquiry developed the beginnings of a scientific culture.
Astrology has always been a very poor relation in studies of ancient science. Because the same word astronomia, or astrologia, was used until the sixth century more or less indiscriminately, and because the two subjects were closely intertwined at one level, astrology had to be mentioned. Astrological sources had to be used in the study of astronomy, one of the glories of ancient science.
But it was rarely of interest in its own right, except to specialists outside the history of science, and until quite recently it was seen as an embarrassing lapse on the part of astronomers like Ptolemy that he should write on astrology as well, and appear to see the two as part of a single enquiry. Above all it is important to see how the intellectual and social context shaped the rules of enquiry.
Crucially, there was no privileged set of disciplines which enjoyed high status because of their special access to the truth, as is the case with the sciences today. It was the poets in the Greek world who were traditionally seen as the privileged purveyors of truth, rather than the scientists, and it was philosophers who tried to take on that mantle, philosophers who might look to us more interested in religion than science. But it remained true that it was literary studies which represented elite culture more than any other area.
Except for medicine, and the astrological part of astronomy, studies which we could see as proto-science were the pursuit of a tiny minority, who were not much celebrated. This is exemplified by the imperial court, which would be filled with literary figures who could add lustre to the imperial household, while the only plausible candidates for scientists would be the doctors and the astrologers.
It is true that the. Ptolemaic court in Alexandria did patronise some scientific activities but even they were outnumbered by their literary equivalents.
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Moreover, there were significant differences between Romans and Greeks in their attitudes to intellectual pursuits, in particular under the Republic and Early Empire. The Greeks had been conquered by the Romans, and were as often to bring their intellectual talents in the guise of slaves as in the guise of cultural ambassadors in the Republic. Given this background, the cultural stereotype—which had its influence on attitudes—was that elite Romans might be expected to be acquainted with Greek culture, but their real business was to govern.
Though past studies of ancient science which dealt with astrology have given prominence to the question of whether it was the Greeks who contributed the scientific basis to astronomy on which astrology could flourish, in this book there will be no prizes awarded for scientific achievement to any particular person or group, nor censure for those who fail to match up to modern ideals of science. Indeed, I think that the old tendency to see astrology as a pseudo-science is an anachronistic diversion from the more fruitful enquiry into how astrology functioned in antiquity.
There were technai of a range of subjects which claimed to offer practical instruction, in medicine, rhetoric, architecture and dreaminterpretation, to name a few. These were a literary genre: they were meant to represent the body of knowledge on a particular subject. Ptolemy represented astrology as a stochastic techne, that is an art which had carefully developed rules for conjecture, and said that it was like medicine in this. Doctors might not always be correct in their diagnosis or prognosis, because of the number of variables they had to deal with, but if they knew their techne, they would have followed the procedure most likely to yield success.
Inevitably, however, to make sense of the ancient world, we have to operate in modern categories. In Chapter 4, on the principles of ancient astrology, I consider the scientific and religious background to ideas about astral influences, while making it clear that there was a substantial overlap, which could crudely be subsumed under the ancient category of philosophia, literally, love of wisdom. Wisdom and truth could be sought in the religious arena as much as in the scientific.
Indeed there were technai of aspects of religion, in particular, of varieties of divination. Thus, to stress that overlap, in the final chapter, where I consider areas of knowledge related to astrology, I examine Mithraism, other forms of solar cult and magic, as well as medicine, geography and physiognomics, the art of relating character to the physique. There are a few caveats to issue before launching into the chronological history. In the crucial period during which astrology emerged, the sources are particularly difficult.
It is not much more than a century since the cuneiform tablets which provide our information on Mesopotamia were again made intelligible. The difficulties attendant on translation are obvious in the texts which I cite in Chapter 1. In addition, thanks to the buccaneering attitude of the earliest excavators, in the second half of the nineteenth century, collections of tablets were split up and dispersed around the museums of the world to moulder, and opportunities to provide information about the circumstances in which they were found were thrown away.
The great historian of science, Neugebauer, doubts whether as much as one-tenth of all tablets have ever been identified in any sort of catalogue. Early work on astronomy and astrology was restricted to a particular archive in the British Museum which had been deciphered and copied by one amazingly diligent scholar, and further work proceeds slowly. Again, manuscripts and papyri are all too often languishing unpublished in libraries round the world. Each of the twelve volumes contains a first section which describes the manuscripts, while the second contains editions of parts of the texts.
But these are Byzantine codices written from five hundred to fifteen hundred years after the original versions, and because of the nature of astrology it is often impossible to be sure, especially where there are not large numbers of manuscripts to compare, how much successive copyists have inserted their own material. Astrological texts might have been Greek translations of Arabic translations of Pahlavi versions of the original Greek, because of the shifts in centres of astrological learning. The Catalogue badly needs a modern commentary.
In addition, there is much work to be done on Latin manuscripts. Though new studies have been appearing on these works attributed to the god Hermes Trismegistos and his circle, the astrological texts have been largely avoided. But the picture is brighter than it was: new editions of astrological texts have been coming out, and some have even been translated, with commentaries.
There is a list of the major editions in the Bibliography. A collection of Greek horoscopes on papyrus, or pottery and stone, which are astronomically dated, along with those embedded in astrological texts, has been available now for thirty years. All these difficulties have to be taken into account, in a context where ancient evidence is already a threadbare rag from which to weave any historical tapestry, in fact where the historian has to begin by unravelling, because of the biases of the source-material which has survived.
But even if it is strung together from fragments, it is a colourful picture which emerges in the following pages. The astonishing declarations astrologers made are reflected in our sources. In the first century CE, the Elder Pliny, who wrote a great compendium of natural-philosophical scientific matters, mentions that Berossus, who was believed by many to have brought astrology to Greece from Babylon, claimed that observations had been carried out in Chaldaea for , years.
In the previous century, Cicero was sceptical of the figure of , he had heard. Diodorus, who accepted in the first century BCE that the Chaldaeans were colonists from Egypt, and was impressed by the antiquity of their predictive star-science, still baulked at the figure of , Others who favoured Egypt were less sceptical, and claimed that in the 48, years from Ptah to Alexander, eclipses of the Sun and lunar eclipses had been observed.
Such sweeping theories naturally generated strong reactions, and many of those who worked on astrology and astronomy were driven to overemphasise the role played by Egypt in response. Assigning intellectual achievements to one culture over another is a process which carries a heavy ideological load. This work, which attempted to put the case for giving more credit to non-Western peoples, in particular the Egyptians and the Phoenicians, than to the Greeks for the roots of European cultural accomplishments, was taken up with enthusiasm by Afro-American activists but received little endorsement for the basic thesis from Classical scholars.
Although astrology itself has not been seen as one of the glories of the Greek legacy, there remained a role for cultural stereotyping in arguments that it was Greek astronomy and the Greek scientific approach which transformed a crude form of divination into a sophisticated enquiry into the relation between the cosmos and the Earth, which retained the prestige of a science at least until the Early Modern era.
Inevitably, in giving a historical picture of the development of astrology, we need to address real questions about the contributions of different civilisations. However, in doing so it would be unwise to rely on generalisations about ethnic mentalities to fill in the gaps in our evidence, as has too often been done.
Each used the script to represent their language. One of the first surviving clues to the existence of divination based on the stars among the Sumerians comes from a document concerning Gudea, who ruled Lagash from around to BCE. It is recorded that in a dream the king was told to build a temple. He saw a woman razing a buildingplot; she studied a clay tablet on which were set down the constellations. This was the dominant method of seeking messages from the gods during the second millennium BCE.
The secondary status of divination from celestial phenomena in relation to extispicy is suggested by a letter from a diviner found in Mari, on the middle Euphrates, which dates back to the time of Hammurabi around BCE. The writer reports an eclipse of the Moon, which he suspects is a bad omen. However, he is not content to interpret it on its own terms, but checks it by means of extispicy. An example is the following statement. The first ten omens are followed by the date of the eighth year of Ammisaduqa. Scholars have dated them between and , but most agree on BCE.
Here we have the first detailed observations of planetary movements. The first fifty tablets deal with lunar, solar and meteorological omens, while the last twenty are concerned with the planets and the stars. Early or late rising and setting, position, size, colour, brightness are all taken into consideration. Here is a selection: If Nergal [Mars] approaches the Scorpion, there will be a breach in the palace of of the prince.
If the Worm is massive—there will be mercy and reconciliation in the land. If the star of Dignity, the vizier of Tispak, approaches the Scorpion—for three years there will be severe cold, cough and phlegm will befall the land. If in Month I the Demon with the gaping mouth rises [heliacally]—for five years in Akkad at the command of Irra there will be plague, but it will not affect cattle.
The Mesopotamians found messages from the gods in fields such as noises, animal behaviour and monstrous births, or looked for messages by techniques such as throwing oil or flour on water or burning incense. But the apparent abundance of material on sky-omens should not encourage too much generalisation, since it may only typify one sort of text. Apin the Plough-star , reveals these foundations. It lists the constellations in three broad bands running roughly parallel to the equator.
Each band is envisaged as the path of one of the gods, who enter through gates on the horizon. Seventeen constellations along the ecliptic are set down. Though there are many unfamiliar stargroups, the origins of the modern zodiac are clearly here. In BCE, dated observations of eclipses begin at Babylon.
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By the seventh century BCE, the royal archives at Nineveh reveal that skyomens have taken priority over those revealed by extispicy in the reports of diviners to their Assyrian rulers. But if you give the order, I can write down the pertinent omen and send it to you. As regards the planet Jupiter about which I previously wrote to the king my lord: It has appeared on the way of the Anu stars, in the area of the True Shepherd of Anu [Orion].
If the star of Marduk Jupiter moves into Orion, the gods will consume the land, but if it appears on the way of the Anu stars, a crown prince will rebel against his father and seize the throne. It was from the middle of the seventh century BCE that monthly summaries of planetary movements were kept.
Dates of first and last visibility and precise positions in relation to the constellations were recorded. A probable motivation for these records was an interest in constructing a calendar. In fact there were two calendars in use, a more precise one for astronomical records, and another, schematic one, which assumed a year of twelve months of thirty days each, for day-to-day affairs such as economic transactions. It was in an attempt to gain precision for the astronomical Diaries and other similar texts that the division of the ecliptic into twelve equal parts of 30 degrees was adopted, probably early in the Achaemenid period, after the Persians conquered Babylon in BCE.
The first time the zodiac is used in a Diary, consisting mainly of monthly summaries, is in BCE. Instead of recording the positions of planets in relation to the zodiac on the day of the birth, it is constructed around the synodic appearances of the planets surrounding the birth, and even records calendaric and meteorological data. There is the bare minimum of interpretation in the other Babylonian horoscope cast for a birth only a short time later, on 29 April BCE, but here we have for the first time the positions of the planets on the day: Month [? Mercury, which had set [for the last time], was [still]in[visible].
Month Nisan, the 1st [day of which followed the 30th day of the preceding month], [the new crescent having been visible for] 28 [US], [the duration of visibility of the Moon after sunrise on] the 14[? Now, however, that a fifth- or early fourth-century date is confirmed, it seems difficult to justify the old view that the Greeks could have invented the casting of nativities. Certainly in Babylon the conditions were ideal for such a practice to be started, since, as we have seen, there had long been an active pursuit of a system for predicting the future from celestial events, there had equally long been systems for producing predictions for individuals, and the zodiac had recently been invented.
Moreover, the earliest surviving Greek horoscope found in a literary source was only cast for a birth in 72 BCE see below. A corpus of the thirty-two Babylonian horoscopes now found is being prepared, and already it is possible to see both continuity with Babylonian tradition, and anticipation of developments of astrology previously assigned to the Hellenistic world.
Furthermore, where interpretations are given, they are clearly reminiscent of predictions for individuals in the omen-literature. Just as it is predicted in that literature, for instance, that a man with a mark? This closeness to the omenliterature is clearest in a horoscope which offers an interpretation of each datum, cast for 3 June BCE: Year 77 [of the Seleucid Era, month] Siman, [from? That day, Moon in Leo.
The place of Jupiter [means]: [his life? Venus in 4 degrees Taurus. Mercury in Gemini with the Sun. The place of Mercury [means]: the brave one will be first in rank, he will be more important than his brothers,… Saturn; 6 degrees Cancer. There is another nativity of a man with a Greek name in the corpus. Another horoscope, for 4 April BCE sets out the predictions in a mass at the end, but seems to conform to the pattern of earlier single-omen literature: …was born…love[? He will be lacking in wealth… His food will not suffice for his hunger[?
The wealth he had in his youth[? His days will be long. His wife whom people will seduce in his presence will…[or; his wife, in whose presence people will overpower him, will bring it about…] He will have…s and women. He will see profit. Between [among or along?
One divides each zodiac sign into beginning, middle and end, and offers predictions accordingly. It begins with a schematic discussion of the increase and decrease of the lunar disc in any Babylonian month, and then appears to give instructions for finding the dodecatemories, a division of each zodiac sign into a microzodiac according to a method which we find in later Greek astrology.
The place of Aquarius: [at the age of? If a child is born when Mercury has come forth, [then his life will be] brave, lordly;…If a child is born when Mars has come forth, [then]…, hot[? If a child is born when Saturn has come forth [then his life? One, for BCE, deals with conception as well as birth, establishing the standard duration of pregnancy as days, or ten sidereal lunar months, a figure commonly used in Greek texts; another refers to the exaltation of a planet the sign in which its influence was enhanced. As far as the texts we have are concerned, there remains a fundamental difference between the Babylonian approach to their science of the heavens and that of the Greeks; that is that their system, which had become very sophisticated by the last centuries BCE, was built on numerical relationships, rather than on a geometrical, kinematic model of the relationships between Earth and the stars, which, according to much later texts, appears in Greece in a crude form with the sixth-century Anaximander.
This model is certainly evident in the work of Eudoxus of Cnidos in the fourth century BCE, who combined uniform motions of homocentric spheres about different axes in his model of the heavens. One of the indications of the difference between the two systems is evident in the way they ordered the planets: the Greeks ordered them according to their relative distance from Earth, while the Babylonians seem to have ordered them in accordance with ideas of their beneficent or maleficent effects. However, despite the dearth of contemporary evidence for Hellenistic astronomy and astrology, it has become increasingly clear in recent years that Babylonian data were very important in Greek constructions of models of the universe.
It should first be explained that Egyptian mathematics was rudimentary in comparison to that of Babylon; most importantly, there was no place-value system. The Babylonians had a sexagesimal place-value system, which allowed far more complicated operations, in particular with fractions. It is due to this that degrees are divided into 60 minutes. The Egyptians were therefore not in such a good position to bring mathematical theory to bear on observations of the sky, despite a keen interest in the heavenly bodies.
There were, however, significant contributions from Ancient Egypt to the development of astrology. Most important was the Egyptian calendar. This civil calendar was extended over the whole of Egypt, because power was centralised, so that the alternative lunar calendar, according to which religious festivals were established, receded into the background. While there was a schematic Babylonian calendar, as mentioned above, it never became standard: different methods of measuring time coexisted for different purposes.
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The other contribution to astrology was less direct. A system of time measurement according to the constellations first appears in drawings and texts on the inner sides of coffin lids of the Tenth Dynasty about BCE.
Led by the constellation of Sothis Sirius , there were thirty-six constellations, known as bakiu, or decans in the anglicised version of the Greek term. Thus there were thirty-six for the year excluding the epagomenal days. They were probably chosen to have the same period of invisibility as Sothis, and so all lie parallel to or south of the ecliptic. Since at the time of the rising of Sothis, twelve are seen to rise before dawn, the night hours are twelve.
The diagonal calendars of — BCE show this division. They were long out of relation to the calendar when they were put on coffin lids of Ramessid kings at the beginning of the first millennium BCE see Plate 2. Each was taken to preside over 10 degrees of the zodiacal circle hence the Greek name of decans, from deca, ten. The Egyptian names survive in astrological work into late antiquity, and the decans played many different roles in astrology thereafter. However, it was the Babylonian system of equinoctial hours, unvarying with the seasons, which prevailed among astronomers.
Ancient Egypt thus contributed relatively little to astrology. But before that, we should survey briefly the background to astrology in Greece. There remains controversy about the dating of Mesopotamian influence on Greek thought evidenced in Hesiod: his Theogony contains Greek versions of Babylonian myths, and the Works and Days draws on Mesopotamian collections of wisdom-literature. Nevertheless, the influence of Babylon is clearly present at the beginning of Greek cosmological speculation.
The Greeks translated Babylonian star-names as early as the sixth century. The heterogeneous group of thinkers known traditionally as the Presocratics, though some are contemporary with Socrates, did concern themselves with cosmological speculation which could be called astronomy. Their role in the development of theories about the heavens is difficult to reconstruct, as the later authorities tend to retroject recent developments.
Their love for numerology led to the notion of offering mathematical values for relationships between bodies in the heavens, as part of a grand scheme in which everything had its number. Again, it is difficult to disentangle earlier from later doctrines, but the discovery of numerical ratios in musical harmonies was clearly important in the elaboration of the theory of the harmony of the spheres.
We shall see that it was influential in propagating the idea of a relationship between stars and human souls Chapter 4. However important such philosophical backing may have been to later astrologers, and however much contact with Babylon may have increased after the Persian wars in the fifth century, there is little reason to suppose that more than calendrical schemes and astral names and mythology had reached Greece in this period from Babylon, and it was Babylonian data which combined with Greek cosmologies to yield something more recognisable as Greek astronomy and astrology.
Cicero, writing in the last century BCE, in a part of his work On Divination disparaging astrology, tells us that Eudoxus rejected Chaldaean prophecies based on the day of birth, which has been taken to give us evidence of the existence of astrology at this time. Even if we can trust our source, though, there is no certainty that astrology is at issue here, rather than hemerology, or omen-literature simply based on the date of birth.
A more convincing reference to Greek knowledge of Chaldaean horoscopy before about BCE comes in the fifth-century CE philosopher Proclus, who says that Theophrastus c. Various suggestions have been made about the crucial role of individuals in bringing astrology from the East to Greece, from antiquity to the present day. In the late first century CE, the historian Josephus credited him with revealing Chaldaean astronomia and philosophy to the Greek world.
Vitruvius, in his treatise on architecture written under Augustus, records that he established a school of astrology on Cos, and mentions the work of otherwise unknown successors from the school. He credits him for his account of the waxing and waning of the Moon, and for inventing a particular type of sundial. He wrote a work giving a general account of his own country, the lost Babyloniaca, dedicated to the Seleucid ruler Antiochus I in about BCE. Strabo, the geographer 64 BCE—21 CE , calls him an astrologer, and a first-century writer on generalship refers to him as a Chaldaean prophet advising Attalos I during the war against the Galatians in BCE, but he mentions extispicy rather than astrology.
Sudines was a commentator on Aratus BCE , and is cited by Pliny as the author of a work on the properties of stones. However, most modern historians have less inclination than the ancients to identify individuals as responsible for intellectual developments, and look rather to the circumstances of the period to explain traffic in ideas. In fact, there is no way of ascertaining whether Greek astrology began in the third century BCE or later, though it seems unlikely to be earlier, given that the Babylonian development from omen-literature to astrology proper took place so late.
Most Babylonian horoscopes date from the third century onwards, as we have seen. As early as Aristotle, there is reference to Egyptian astronomy as equal to that of Babylon, but the first definite reference to astrology from a contemporary writer comes in Diodorus of Sicily, writing in between 60 and 30 BCE: The positions and arrangements of the stars, as well as their motion, have always been the subject of careful observation among the Egyptians, if anywhere in the world…they have observed with the utmost keenness the motions, orbits and stoppings of each planet, as well as the influence of each of them on the generations of all living things—the good and evil things, namely, of which they are the cause.
And while they often succeed in predicting to men the events that will befall them in the course of their lives, not infrequently they foretell destruction of the crops, or, on the other hand, abundant yields, and pestilences…they have prior knowledge of earthquakes and floods, of the risings of comets, and of all things which the ordinary man regards as quite beyond finding out. In order to assess what evidence there is to substantiate the Greek image of Egypt, in the first place, we should survey what is known from evidence which is properly Egyptian rather than GreekEgyptian.
If it is correctly dated, an ostrakon, or potsherd, listing the planets and the zodiac signs in the vernacular Demotic, is a vital piece of evidence for the development of Egyptian astrology. It has been dated to before BCE on astronomical grounds;28 however, that is an unusually early date for an ostrakon. The Egyptians however called the sign the Horizon, because it marked the beginning of the Egyptian year.
An example of the Egyptian form of the zodiac is to be seen on the ceiling of a temple at Dendera see Plate 3. Other astrological Demotic ostraka are dated between 17? Moreover, the Eternal Tables attributed to Egypt by writers of the first century CE and later were compiled from Babylonian almanacs. There are a couple of papyri of the Roman period in Demotic which are apparently versions of texts going back to the mid-second century BCE. One lists predictions relating to the positions of planets in zodiac signs at the time of the rising of Sothis. They are predictions for the ruler and the land: The King of Egypt will rule over his country.
An enemy will be [his and] he will escape from them again. Many men will rebel against the king. An inundation which is that which comes to [? Seed [and] grain will be high in price [in] money, which is… The burial of a god will occur in Egypt. There are other texts of this type from the Roman period, whose origins are difficult to locate. One, of the second or third century CE, which lists the concordance of Babylonian and Egyptian years, deals with eclipse-omens, without mentioning the zodiac.
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