Ancient Astrology (Sciences of Antiquity Series) by Tamysn Barton

By Tamysn Barton

An account of astrology from its beginnings in Mesopotamia, concentrating on the Greco-Roman international, Ancient Astrology examines the theoretical improvement and altering social and political position of astrology.

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Sample text

In Aratus’ thirdcentury verse version of one of Eudoxus’ works, there is a list of the stars rising and setting with the zodiac, the paranatellonta, which were later to be used by astrologers. 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.

Egypt. 29 It is the predictions which suggest a period in the mid-second century, as they concern kings of Egypt and wars with Syria and Parthia. There are other texts of this type from the Roman period, whose origins are difficult to locate. 30 The apparently primitive nature of texts clearly does not help dating, since old and new styles and methods seem to have coexisted. 32 But the background to such horoscopes is hard to trace. The beginnings of recognisable Hellenistic astrology have long been located by scholars in the Hellenised milieu of Alexandria, and are taken to be exemplified by a group of theoretical astrological works, whose origins are difficult to date.

The oldest texts in existence are written in cuneiform script, a form of writing invented by the Sumerians, who dominated the 10 HISTORICAL BACKGROUND area from at least the fourth millennium BCE, and continued by the Akkadians, who were dominant by the latter half of the third millennium BCE. 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 2122 to 2102 BCE.

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