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History of Astrology

Costas Tolis

Astrology over the centuries in various cultures


"If we had not looked at the stars and the sun and the heavens, we would never have pronounced any of the words that speak of the universe. But now the spectacle of the day and the night, and the months and turns of the times, have been imbued and have given us the concept of Time. And the power of research into the nature of the Universe. And from this source we have drawn the Philosophy that the greatest of good was never given or given by the Gods to the mortal man. "

Platon - Timaeus (47 a, b)

Plato's words remind us of the dynamic effect of celestial phenomena on the development of man's logic from ancient times when our primitive ancestors began to trace connections between what is done in the heavens and what is happening on earth. As they were totally dependent on their survival for the physical forces they had no control of, they constantly remembered that the strongest forces were far higher above them in the sky.

The instinct of survival is deeply rooted in all living creatures, and this motivates man's efforts to negotiate with any power superior to his own limited capabilities. The primitive man was incapable of distinguishing between the inanimate and the animate phenomena of Nature. He synchronized his activities so that they coincided with the natural forces that he considered as living creatures.

We have no way of determining when exactly the primitives have initially used the purposeful and methodical use of stars as a calendar and compass. However, we have the testimony that the people of the prehistoric times have to make this move. Before the civilization reached Western Europe, the inhabitants of Britain were among those who made a very practical use of their astronomical knowledge, for example Stonehenge - the megalithic temple of the Sun - built on astronomical bases and not just a place of religious rituals, but also an astronomical observatory.

Indeed, according to some astronomers, it was also an astronomical computer used to predict the positions of the sun, moon, and eclipses, if not for an unlimited period of time, for at least a few hundred years. In the Near East, called the cradle of civilization, the peoples who were responsible for the establishment of ancient civilizations, organized them according to their astronomical knowledge and astronomical beliefs. It must be borne in mind that astronomy and astrology were closely linked to the minds of the people who lived in pre-Christian times and until the seventeenth century AD. and that both were closely interwoven with the early religions.

This implies that it is no exaggeration to state that the practical application of astronomy - which is essentially astrology - has played a very important role in the development of civilization. We will find its stamp in the history of medicine and chemistry. He has given up the imagination of those who gave us some of the greatest works of art and has influenced the ideas of architects. And - to return to Plato again - he directed the most profound researchers among the spheres of philosophy.

But before referring to a very short history of astrology, it would be equally good to clarify the readers, what were the goals of astrology - and who they are today.

Initially, the practice of astrology was based on the belief that human destiny was under the dominion of celestial deities - ranked superior to all other deities - and that man had no choice but to subdue the will of the gods. But today no astrologer would claim that "the stars rule humanity" but rather that through the exercise of free will, man can carry out his impulses - appearing on his horoscope - under control so , to overcome them better in any circumstance.


Astrology in Mesopotamia

The recorded history of astrology begins in Mesopotamia (now known as Iraq) when the first true civilization was founded by the Sumerians. The Sumerian kingdom was developed in the delta between the lower banks of the Tigris and Euphrates, but during its three thousand-year history it had spread over the entire area of Mesopotamia and exerted a powerful influence on other cultures in the Near and the Middle East, as well as in the Eastern Mediterranean.

The Sumerians were very smart and inventive people and had a deep knowledge of astronomy and mathematics. The knowledge they passed on to the people they conquered (and eliminated) was so advanced that, in Mesopotamia, astronomy and mathematics have evolved as true sciences from the beginning. They were also the first to devise a writing method: clay plate images were the first type of writing. But as they spoke a language completely irrelevant to that of their conquerors or any other people in the Near East, translations had to be made and these translations spread throughout Mesopotamia and beyond. A Lexicon with Sumerian words and their corresponding Semitic, was eventually written in the seventh century for the tribes and was also found by archaeologists in the ninth century. Since then, historians have come to the conclusion that many of those that attributed to the later Mesopotamian civilizations had originated from the Sumerian sources.

Over time, Babylon became the main center of Mesopotamian civilization and why Babylonians were often referred to as the source of astrological knowledge and astrological practice. Because the vast amount of astronomical data that Babylonians gathered in the course of three thousand years was naturally put into astrological use.

Throughout his life, Mesopotamian culture was based on a religious level. From monarchy onwards, every member of society was part of the service of a pantheon of deities. The most important were the gods of the sky, the atmosphere and the waters of the Earth, so vital to the Mesopotamians who channeled the flow of the two great rivers into irrigation canals to produce an abundant amount of harvest and moon. The other heavenly gods were the god of the Moon (which was much more important for the people who founded their activities, primarily in a lunar calendar just like the god of the Sun) and a goddess who was identified with the planet Aphrodite.

The priesthood has devised a mythological reference to the origin, formation and organization of the Universe, which can be translated in purely astronomical terms. From this, we conclude that the Babylonians - who had only the raw tools for their help - were able, with a clear visual observation, to accurately predict, within a fraction of a second, the length of the lunar month, to distinguish and classify most visible constellations of the northern hemisphere and spot the equals and sunrise periods of time.

Indeed, the Babylonians planned the sky in great detail and paid special attention. Although practicing the divination by other means and believing in omen as important prophetic phenomena for the welfare of the state and the goodness of the king, many of their observations and predictions referred to heavenly phenomena and especially to the appearance and phases of the moon . They were able to predict eclipses, but not with the degree of precision they showed in estimating the length of the lunar month. They were largely based on the meteorological interpretations of the celestial phenomena - necessarily, since their economy was rural.

The writing of individual horoscopes was of interest to them only when their culture was in its final stage. Until then, they were influenced by Greek ideas.

Until this stage - the fourth and third century BC century - had chosen the twelve zodiac signs of the zodiac. Also, until then, the planetary gods appeared in their interpretation of the horoscope of anyone calling for their services. But it would be wrong to imagine that their horoscopic interpretations were nothing but frivolous, giving very inadequate details to the characteristics and opinions of the stakeholders.

We know very little about the Babylonian astrologers themselves. The most famous was Verosos, a Babylonian priest at the service of Mardak, in Babylon. He lived in the third century BC. and eventually settled on the island of Kos where he supervised the teaching of astrology to the students. The Hippocratic School of Medicine was also located in Kos. We can assume that Verosos contributed and, at the same time, learned everything that was taught there.

Another famous Babylonian astronomer was Cynthinus, which belongs to the fourth century BC. The only other known by his name was Namurianus, who acted around 500 BC. Everyone exercised the astrological prediction.

The Babylonians were the first to build the temples-observatories in the fertile crescent (the area encircled by Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, and Syria), and these temples must have a magnificent view as they were around a level landscape. They were elevated a few hundred feet high and had the shape of staggered pyramids, usually with a janitor at the top and sometimes on the side. Typically, they had seven steps each of them painted in the color that was attributed to the planet to which they were connected. The most famous of these pyramids was the Tower of Babel (Babylon): 200 tons of gold were used to decorate the temple at the top.

Although no full sign is found in any Babylonian sculpture, the boundaries of the earth's property reveal some of the zodiac constellations - it is worth mentioning the Capricorn, a jellyfish symbolizing the hegemony of the heavenly god Ea (or Enki) on the waters of the earth. Also described are Scorpio, Sagittarius and Cancer. In the Babylonian sculptures, there are easily recognizable symbols of the Sun, Moon, and Aphrodite.

Astrology in Egypt

The priests of Egypt had turned to the astrological study since the fourth millennium BC when the two Egyptian kingdoms were united. According to classical writers, they were thought to have been initiated into astrology by the Chaldeans (ie the Babylonians). They made use of their astronomical knowledge to regulate the New Year's most important religious feast, synchronized with the sunrise of Sirius, the brightest star in the sky. The appearance of this star above the eastern horizon announced the start of the Nile floods - so important for the Egyptians as the early, spring floods of the Tigris and the Euphrates for the Babylonians.

Horoscopes were found - but they were nothing more than hieroglyphic charts - in cenotaphs, coffin covers, tombstones and temples. And these are also New Year's horoscopes. Their purpose was to use them as Maps for the souls of the dead to make it easier for them to meet the Sun in their chariot at the right time.

The oldest surviving horoscope model is that of King Nectanebush, born in 358 BC.

The only addition that the Egyptians gave to the astronomical knowledge of the Babylonians was a solar calendar. This was a marked improvement in the Babylonian (in fact, our own modern calendar is based on this). It also appears that when they set the twelve signs of the zodiac, presumably in the seventh century, the Babylonians gave the Egyptian name of Ram to Mars and the Egyptian names of God with Rays and Two Fish in the constellations of Aquarius and Pisces.

Astrology could not be applied in Egypt in the form of an individual horoscope, before civilization reached its end - that is, after the Babylonian occupation of the country in the seventh century BC.

The Greek Astrology

Although Thalis (639-546 BC), Pythagoras (569-470 BC), Anaxagoras (500-428 BC), Plato (429-348 BC) and Eudoxus (408-355 BC) traveled all to Egypt to study astronomical issues, only Thalis apparently made use of his astronomical knowledge for astrological purposes as he is said to have foreseen the eclipse that determined the outcome of the struggle between the Medes and the Lydians in May of 585 BC.

In fact, astrology gained popularity only in Greece as a result of Alexander the Great's raids in Asia and the resulting spread of Hellenistic Empire and influence. After Alexander founded Alexandria in Egypt, the establishment of the Greeks in this country made them familiar with the popular stream of astrology in the third century BC.

However, he was a Greek born in Alexandria who wrote the first comprehensible text, the second century AD. This was the famous Tetrabibus of Claudius Ptolemy. He systemalized astrology by dividing the constellations into groups of four elements (Fire, Earth, Air, Water) and three properties that described their functions. The horoscope's "houses" (ie the areas that refer to specific areas of activity and kinship) were another discovery of Ptolemy. Nevertheless, some surviving horoscopes designed by Greeks in the third century BC do not attempt any detailed analysis of the character or prospects of the lives of the individuals concerned.

It should not be thought that in Greece, astrology was accepted without a critical spirit. In fact, opinions among the most eminent thinkers were shared. But it is clear that Plato must have believed in her. And he was a Greek poet, Aratos from Soli first composed a detailed description of all the known stars in the sky.

Astrology in Rome

The Romans quickly adopted everything that came from the Greeks, and astrology in Rome flourished much more than ever before. From the Roman emperors, and anyway, anyone who could cope, was eager to acquire the horoscope's syntax. But the emperors had the right to exile astrologers from time to time when they were worried about their own security. However, the Emperor August, having previously expelled the professional astrologers, made his own horoscope known to the public and issued a coin with his moon sign (Capricorn) in it.

Astrology in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance

After the fall of Rome astrology suffered from its first test. Because with the development of Christianity, astrology was subjected to a critical examination by the Church, which was understandable because the new religion had to oppose its power against its idolatrous opponents - and, in particular, against the mystical cults that, their origin in Egypt.

But opinions about astrology were so divided between the fathers of the church and among the Greeks. Astrology had on its side the Biblical account of the Bethlehem star that announced the birth of the Savior. And in the end, the efforts of the clergy who were their leader were St. Augustine, to suppress it, failed.

Astrology itself was covered with preconceptions, and too many of those who practiced it also engaged in magic, so that during the Middle Ages there was no scientific advancement and it suffered from a very dubious reputation in Europe. However, in the Byzantine Empire and the Arab countries, the opposite happened. Why it was from those areas where students were looking for knowledge. Particularly the Arabs became skillful in mathematics that applied them to astrology, and to the creation of scientific instruments for astronomical purposes.

Many famous astrologers practiced their art during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Re-published books on this subject exist, even nowadays, in the shops that specialize in supernatural literature. Among these astrologers was John Hollywood, a professor of mathematics who, in the third century, wrote the first astrological text of western Europe. At the same time, the priest and physicist of Pope Urban Io - who was also a mathematician - invented a new system to separate the houses. Another system was introduced in the fifteenth century by a professor of astronomy called Johan Myller, known as the Regiomondans.

But the most famous of all was Michael Nostradamus, born in 1503 in Saint Remy, Provence. He was a physician practicing astrology. But his famous predictions seemed to be the result of a second glance at the astrological forecast because he gives no indication as to what astrological data they can cause.

With the advent of the Renaissance, once again the thirst for knowledge flourished in Europe, and this came to the benefit of astronomy, more than astrology, because that was the time of the great scientific revolution when Copernicus demonstrated that the earth it turns around the sun and not the opposite. And the Aristotelian claim to the contrary turned out to be a totally wrong finding. You would assume that this would circumvent any belief in astrology. Because astrologers had of course accepted the Aristotelian theory. In fact, it is irrelevant which body is rotating around which - it has no difference in the accuracy of astrological analysis and prediction. But scientists were not convinced by the above.

However, although many astrologers have been named after the Renaissance period, no further evolution has been made to astrological techniques from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries, and once again, astrology gradually sank into decline.

Instead, it was the order of astronomers to come out on the spot as they benefited from much more documented supplies. The telescope was invented by Galileo in the seventeenth century, so a closer observation could be made on the constellations and the planets, and new phenomena were discovered around them.

After the Renaissance

Larger and better telescopes were built from the seventeenth century onwards. More detailed celestial maps could be designed. Increasingly, scientific knowledge increased the scope of astronomy, and public opinion became increasingly hostile to astrology's twin sister.

The astrologer, once a respectable and very powerful figure, from antiquity to the Renaissance, has suffered a growing loss of prestige in the West.

Astrology in the East and the New World

In ancient times, astrology had spread to the east as well as to the west. In India and China, it gained great importance, although the names of the constellations of the zodiac and observation techniques differed from those of the West. But in the Middle East and the Middle East, astrology still retains its popularity (despite the fact that it was recently banned for a while in India). But this may have come from a fundamental difference in view in life, the peoples of the East and the West. We in the West have learned to think - if nothing else - very scientifically, so that religion has been greatly diverted. In the East, however, mentality is much more "spiritual". And it is doubtful whether the progress of science will ever change this situation. For the peoples of the East it is possible, at the same time, to accept the scientific truth and strong belief in beliefs that can not be ascertained by scientific research. Astrology did not only spread to the distant East but also developed in America. Maya in Mexico created a huge stone calendar that we can still see and that is full of astrological symbols. From this, they could predict eclipses and other astronomical phenomena, with a very high degree of precision. Again in Mexico, there are astronomical observatories that bring some resemblance to the escalating pyramids of Mesopotamia.

Astrology today

Once again, astrology seems to be going through an ascending phase, and for the first time, after a few centuries, attracts the interest of scientists. This is because scientists themselves have to reconsider many of their ideas. New events around the universe have been discovered. Moon theories were rejected as the astronauts stepped their foot there and took samples from the moon's ground. In 1980, interest in the photographs sent from the NASA observatories showed a close look at Saturn.

What is of particular interest to astrologers is the scientific discovery of the biological rhythms that can be recorded electrically as they seem to have some connection to the solar, lunar and planetary rhythms. It is known that the phenomenon of sunflower cycles has an effect (or we can say, correlation) with economic fluctuations. Radiation from space, now, is known to have varying intensity, depending on the positions of the different stars. When the sun is below the horizon, none of the X-rays or ultraviolet rays can reach that area of ​​the earth where the sun is no longer shining. Some planets appear to be radiation-specific transmitters from space to the surface of the earth.

The spirit of exploration is very much alive to modern, serious astrologers. And they have dealt with the application of the results that came from their careful study of empirical data to certify their theories. Testimonials that support astrological theories and beliefs nowadays are receiving much more attention - even where radio and television programs have a different gradient than in the recent past, ten years ago.

Tags: Astrology History