It was commonly accepted in political and cultural circles, and some of its concepts were used in other traditional studies, such as alchemy , meteorology and medicine. Empirical scientific investigation has shown that predictions and recommendations based on these systems are not accurate. In the 20th century, astrology gained broader consumer popularity through the influence of regular mass media products, such as newspaper horoscopes. Astrology, in its broadest sense, is the search for human meaning in the sky; it seeks to understand general and specific human behavior through the influence of planets and other celestial objects.
It has been argued that astrology began as a study as soon as human beings made conscious attempts to measure, record, and predict seasonal changes by reference to astronomical cycles. There is scattered evidence to suggest that the oldest known astrological references are copies of texts made during this period, particularly in Mesopotamia Sumer , Akkad , Assyria and Babylonia. This describes how the gods revealed to him in a dream the constellations that would be most favourable for the planned construction of a temple. The oldest undisputed evidence of the use of astrology as an integrated system of knowledge is therefore attributed to the records that emerge from the first dynasty of Mesopotamia BC.
Babylonian astrology was the first organized system of astrology, arising in the 2nd millennium BC. By the 16th century BC the extensive employment of omen-based astrology can be evidenced in the compilation of a comprehensive reference work known as Enuma Anu Enlil. Its contents consisted of 70 cuneiform tablets comprising 7, celestial omens. Texts from this time also refer to an oral tradition - the origin and content of which can only be speculated upon.
Astrological symbols likely represented seasonal tasks, and were used as a yearly almanac of listed activities to remind a community to do things appropriate to the season or weather such as symbols representing times for harvesting, gathering shell-fish, fishing by net or line, sowing crops, collecting or managing water reserves, hunting, and seasonal tasks critical in ensuring the survival of children and young animals for the larger group. By the 4th century, their mathematical methods had progressed enough to calculate future planetary positions with reasonable accuracy, at which point extensive ephemerides began to appear.
Babylonian astrology developed within the context of divination. A collection of 32 tablets with inscribed liver models, dating from about BC, are the oldest known detailed texts of Babylonian divination, and these demonstrate the same interpretational format as that employed in celestial omen analysis. The gods were also believed to present themselves in the celestial images of the planets or stars with whom they were associated.
Evil celestial omens attached to any particular planet were therefore seen as indications of dissatisfaction or disturbance of the god that planet represented. An astronomical report to the king Esarhaddon concerning a lunar eclipse of January BC shows how the ritualistic use of substitute kings, or substitute events, combined an unquestioning belief in magic and omens with a purely mechanical view that the astrological event must have some kind of correlate within the natural world:.
In the beginning of the year a flood will come and break the dikes. When the Moon has made the eclipse, the king, my lord, should write to me. As a substitute for the king, I will cut through a dike, here in Babylonia, in the middle of the night. No one will know about it. In BC Egypt was conquered by the Persians so there is likely to have been some Mesopotamian influence on Egyptian astrology.
The city of Alexandria was founded by Alexander after the conquest and during the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC, the scholars of Alexandria were prolific writers. It was in Ptolemaic Alexandria that Babylonian astrology was mixed with the Egyptian tradition of Decanic astrology to create Horoscopic astrology. This contained the Babylonian zodiac with its system of planetary exaltations , the triplicities of the signs and the importance of eclipses. Along with this it incorporated the Egyptian concept of dividing the zodiac into thirty-six decans of ten degrees each, with an emphasis on the rising decan, the Greek system of planetary Gods, sign rulership and four elements.
The decans were a system of time measurement according to the constellations. They were led by the constellation Sothis or Sirius.
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The rising of a constellation just before sunrise its heliacal rising was considered the last hour of the night. Over the course of the year, each constellation rose just before sunrise for ten days. When they became part of the astrology of the Hellenistic Age, each decan was associated with ten degrees of the zodiac. Texts from the 2nd century BC list predictions relating to the positions of planets in zodiac signs at the time of the rising of certain decans, particularly Sothis. Particularly important in the development of horoscopic astrology was the astrologer and astronomer Ptolemy , who lived in Alexandria in Egypt.
Ptolemy's work the Tetrabiblos laid the basis of the Western astrological tradition, and as a source of later reference is said to have "enjoyed almost the authority of a Bible among the astrological writers of a thousand years or more". According to Firmicus Maternus 4th century , the system of horoscopic astrology was given early on to an Egyptian pharaoh named Nechepso and his priest Petosiris.
This is principally shown by their sacred ceremonial. For first advances the Singer, bearing some one of the symbols of music. For they say that he must learn two of the books of Hermes, the one of which contains the hymns of the gods, the second the regulations for the king's life. And after the Singer advances the Astrologer, with a horologe in his hand, and a palm, the symbols of astrology. He must have the astrological books of Hermes, which are four in number, always in his mouth.
Greek overtook cuneiform script as the international language of intellectual communication and part of this process was the transmission of astrology from cuneiform to Greek. With this, what historican Nicholas Campion calls, "the innovative energy" in astrology moved west to the Hellenistic world of Greece and Egypt. By the 1st century BC two varieties of astrology were in existence, one that required the reading of horoscopes in order to establish precise details about the past, present and future; the other being theurgic literally meaning 'god-work' , which emphasised the soul's ascent to the stars.
While they were not mutually exclusive, the former sought information about the life, while the latter was concerned with personal transformation, where astrology served as a form of dialogue with the Divine. As with much else, Greek influence played a crucial role in the transmission of astrological theory to Rome.
The first definite reference to astrology comes from the work of the orator Cato , who in BC composed a treatise warning farm overseers against consulting with Chaldeans. One of the first astrologers to bring Hermetic astrology to Rome was Thrasyllus , who, in the first century CE, acted as the astrologer for the emperor Tiberius. While doing so, he coined the term "geography".
Even though some use of astrology by the emperors appears to have happened, there was also a prohibition on astrology to a certain extent as well. In the 1st century CE, Publius Rufus Anteius was accused of the crime of funding the banished astrologer Pammenes, and requesting his own horoscope and that of then emperor Nero. For this crime, Nero forced Anteius to commit suicide.
At this time, astrology was likely to result in charges of magic and treason. Astrology was taken up enthusiastically by Islamic scholars following the collapse of Alexandria to the Arabs in the 7th century, and the founding of the Abbasid empire in the 8th century. Zael , whose texts were directly influential upon later European astrologers such as Guido Bonatti in the 13th century, and William Lilly in the 17th century.
Amongst the important names of Arabic astrologers, one of the most influential was Albumasur , whose work Introductorium in Astronomiam later became a popular treatise in medieval Europe.
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The Arabs greatly increased the knowledge of astronomy, and many of the star names that are commonly known today, such as Aldebaran , Altair , Betelgeuse , Rigel and Vega retain the legacy of their language. The Chronicle mostly interprets eclipses and comets as symbols of foreboding. In , we are told, an eclipse on 10 May brought not only the death of the King of Kent, but a plague; fourteen years later, a comet in August presaged Bishop Wilfrid's expulsion from his bishopric.
Among the astronomical reports appear records of more astonishing incidents: a number of fiery dragons flew over Northumbria in possibly the Leonide meteors ; in 'was seen a bloody welkin oft times in likeness of a fire'. But for the most part the authors concentrate on comets and eclipses - including the most famous comet of all, Halley's, which appeared in , and is shown in the Bayeux Tapestry above the head of the crowned King William the Conqueror.
By the beginning of the 8th century, the names of individual astrologers begin to appear: such men as Aldhelm, who was taught at the school in Kent started by Abbot Hadrian and his friend Theodore, Archbishop of Canterbury - the latter came from Tarsus in Asia Minor, and the two men certainly taught in Greek as well as Latin. Aldhelm left treatises on astrology, as well as on logic and arithmetic, meant as textbooks for future students.
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Alcuin, or Ealhwine, was educated at York, at a school with a long history it has been suggested that its tradition went back to the Roman occupation , and went on to become a friend and adviser of the Emperor Charlemagne. He learned, he said, among other things, 'the harmony of the sky', the laws governing the rising and setting of the stars and the seven planets. Some of the art and architecture of Britain before the 11th century has astrological references - sometimes at a distance, as when we hear for instance that the old Abbey of Glastonbury had a zodiac in its floor.
There is zodiacal ornamentation in a number of pre-Conquest churches in Kent, and the new Canterbury Cathedral had some zodiac figures in it simply because the old one, burned down in , had had them. There are 8th-century zodiacal drawings among the Harleian manuscripts in the British Library, and when the Abbey of Croyland was burned in , according to a history compiled from ancient manuscripts that survived the fire,.
Saturn was of copper, Jupiter of gold, Mars of iron, the Sun of lattern [a yellow metal like brass], Mercury of amber, Venus of tin, and the Moon of silver. The eyes were charmed, as well as the mind instructed, by beholding the coloured circles, with the Zodiac and all its signs formed with wonderful art of metals and precious stones, according to their several natures, forms, figures and colours.
After the Norman conquest a new flow of astrological material reached England with Jewish scholars from France and elsewhere who settled not only in London, Oxford and Cambridge, but in other large towns, bringing with them books which contained astrological lore, particularly from Arabic and Moorish sources. There is a tradition that William the Conqueror had his own astrologer, who set the time for his coronation midday on Christmas Day, - and astrologers claim that this was a particularly auspicious moment, unlikely to have been chosen at random, and take it as the moment for which to set up a general 'horoscope' for England.
It was during William's reign that perhaps the most notable of 11th century English scholars was born, at Bath. Much of the life of Adelard, or Aethelhard, is dark to us, although he certainly travelled extensively in Europe, and perhaps further afield, for in one of his books he says with authority that 'what the schools of Gaul do not know, those beyond the Alps reveal; what you do not learn among the Latins, well-informed Greece will teach you. Among his works are many on mathematics, astronomy and alchemy. He seems to have been somewhat strait-laced, or at least to have found the atmosphere of England uncongenial after his travels to more refined lands, for on his return he finds the country under Henry I filled with villainous fellows:.
Princes are violent, prelates wine-bibbers, judges mercenary, patrons inconstant, the common men flatterers, promise-makers false, friends envious, and everyone in general ambitious. He intends, he says, to settle down to serious work, and certainly did so.
He translated several Arabic astrological works, including some the tables of al-Khowarizmi, for instance which were directed at teaching the reader to set up a horoscope. He would scarcely have done this had he not been interested in the subject, or indeed had been unable himself to set up a chart. His view was that the planets were 'superior and divine animals' which were 'the causers and principle of inferior natures'. One who studied then could understand the present and the past and predict the future.
His charming view of the stars as celestial pets extends to a consideration of their food, which he believed consisted of the humidities of earth and water, refined by a long journey through the upper air, and which by the time they reached the planets were sufficiently light and ethereal not to dull their wits or make them put on weight. Another treatise which was probably written by Adelard quotes from Hermes Trismegistus, Ptolemy, Apollonius and other ancient authorities, and argues for the use of astrology in medicine, for its study makes for better doctors than 'the narrow medical man who thinks of no effects except those of inferior nature merely'.
He also deals with the planets' effects on animals and plants, and ascribes to them certain metals and colours - and indeed religions: the Jews are ruled by Saturn, the Arabs by Mars and Venus, Christianity by the Sun and Jupiter for the Sun stands for honesty, liberality and victory, and Jupiter for peace, equity and humanity. The continual battles between the Jews, the Muslims and the Chrktians are explained by the fact that neither Mars nor Saturn is ever in friendly relation with Jupiter.
More or less contemporary with Adelard was William of Conches.
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He also travelled extensively before becoming associated with the court of Geoffrey Plantagenet as tutor of his son, the future King Henry II of England, between and Interestingly, William is one of the first scholars to attempt a definition of the difference between astronomy and astrology. Authorities, he says, speak of the planets in three ways: the fabulous, the astrological and the astronomical. Those interested in fables interpret the Greek myths as if they were astronomical. The astrologers treat phenomena as they appear to be, whether accurately or no. Astronomers deal with things as they are, whether they seem to be so or not.
He takes the argument no further, but does not seem to be intending to denigrate astrology, for he goes on to misquote Plato in support of the theory that the planets control nature and the human body.