Since all celestial observations in Mesopotamia served divinatory purposes—to discover the hidden meaning of divine messages inscribed in the movements of stars and planets—the two terms are inseparable. The primarily esoteric purpose did not preclude very detailed, regular, and “scientific” measurements and calculations. Astral and planetary phenomena were only one part of a whole range of observable subjects that included the behavior of animals and human beings, the layout of cities, malformations of organs or fetuses, prices of staple commodities, war, famines, and so forth. The principle was that deviations from a perceived “normality” were inherently “ominous” and had either positive or negative connotations. The collection and interpretation of such spontaneously occurring omens, as opposed to those solicited in specific rituals, was the task of highly trained scribes. They compiled lists of omens, in series covering different categories, with a column of text providing the interpretation. To establish astronomical “regularity,” planetary and astral data were collected and collated. The scholars aimed to include all possible permutation of phenomena and encoded them in such a way that they could be meaningfully decoded when unusual celestial events occurred.
   The earliest celestial series date from the Old Babylonian period, from around 1700 B.C. They chart not only unusual astral phenomena but also weather patterns at the time of observation. The collection of data kept growing and was compiled in a work called Enuma Anu Enlil, after its initial words. Copies were found in the library of Ashurbanipal at Nineveh. The entries concentrate on omens for the king and the country (e.g., “If the sun is surrounded by a halo and a cloud bank lies on the right, there will be a catastrophe everywhere in the country”).
   Lunar and solar eclipses were considered particularly ominous. It was crucial for diviners to predict the timing of an eclipse in time for apotropaic rituals averting any evil influence to be performed. The so-called mathematical-astronomical texts (MUL.APIN “The Plough-Star”) from the last centuries of the first millennium B.C. incorporate methods whereby such phenomena could be predicted to a high level of accuracy.
   During the Achaemenid period, divinatory practices became less popular and individual predictions were solicited, which led to the introduction of the horoscope in the Seleucid period, perhaps as a Greek influence. ABabylonian invention was the assignment of four groups of zodiacal signs to the moon, Saturn, and Mars. Astronomical diaries, recording lunar, planetary, meteorological, and economic data were kept well into the Christian era.

Historical Dictionary of Mesopotamia. . 2012.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Astrology and astronomy — are historically one and the same discipline (Latin: astrologia ), and were only gradually recognized as separate in western 17th century philosophy (the Age of Reason ). Since the 18th century they have come to be regarded as completely separate …   Wikipedia

  • Astrology in medieval Islam — Astrology in medieval Islam …   Wikipedia

  • astrology vs astronomy —   Astrology (n) The study of the movements and positions of the sun, moon, planets and stars, and the skill of describing the expected effect that some people believe these have on the character and behaviour of humans.   For example: I always… …   English dictionary of common mistakes and confusing words

  • Astrology — • The supposed science which determines the influence of the stars, especially of the five older planets, on the fate of man Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Astrology     Astrology …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • ASTROLOGY — ASTROLOGY, the study of the supposed influence of the stars on human events and the predictions based on this study. Bible and Apocrypha There is no explicit mention of astrology in the Bible, but two biblical passages dealing with the diviner… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Astronomy — (from the Greek words astron (ἄστρον), star , and nomos (νόμος), law ) is the scientific study of celestial objects (such as stars, planets, comets, and galaxies) and phenomena that originate outside the Earth s atmosphere (such as the cosmic… …   Wikipedia

  • astrology — late 14c., from L. astrologia astronomy, the science of the heavenly bodies, from Gk. astrologia telling of the stars, from astron star (see ASTRO (Cf. astro )) + logia treating of (see LOGY (Cf. logy)). Originally identical with ASTRONOMY (Cf …   Etymology dictionary

  • Astrology — As*trol o*gy ([a^]s*tr[o^]l [ o]*j[y^]), n. [F. astrologie, L. astrologia, fr. Gr. astrologi a, fr. astrolo gos astronomer, astrologer; asth r star + lo gos discourse, le gein to speak. See {Star}.] In its etymological signification, the science… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • astrology — [ə sträl′ə jē] n. [ME astrologie < L & Gr astrologia, astronomy, astrology < astron, STAR + logia, LOGY] 1. Historical primitive astronomy 2. a system of methods, theories, etc. based on the assumption that the positions of the moon, sun,… …   English World dictionary

  • astronomy — (n.) c.1200, from O.Fr. astrenomie, from L. astronomia, from Gk. astronomia, lit. star arrangement, from astron star (see ASTRO (Cf. astro )) + nomos arranging, regulating, related to nemein to deal out (see NUMISMATICS (Cf …   Etymology dictionary

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.