By Tamysn Barton
An account of astrology from its beginnings in Mesopotamia, targeting the Greco-Roman international, Ancient Astrology examines the theoretical improvement and altering social and political position of astrology.
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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.
There were, however, significant contributions from Ancient Egypt to the development of astrology. Most important was the Egyptian calendar. The Egyptian calendar’s relative simplicity in relation to the chaotic variations of the Greek city states, or the complexities of the arrangement of months varying between twenty-nine and thirty days used by Babylonian astronomers, 19 ANCIENT ASTROLOGY meant that it continued to be used by astronomers and astrologers until the time of Copernicus. Probably devised on the basis of the mean date of the Nile flood at the beginning of the third millennium BCE, it offered a year of twelve months of thirty days each, with five ‘epagomenal’ or extra days, modified late in the Hellenistic period by the addition of a leap day every four years.
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 300 BCE comes in the fifth-century CE philosopher Proclus, who says that Theophrastus (c.