History of Astrology: The Development of Astrology from Mesopotamia to Ancient Greece
The history of astrology is a result of people’s curiosity and admiration for the sky. Astrology is a pseudoscience that assumes the celestial bodies have an impact on human life and destiny. The origin of astrology dates back to the Mesopotamian civilizations. These civilizations saw planets as powerful gods and made prophecies by recording their movements.
Mesopotamia Astrology Mesopotamia has been the cradle of many civilizations throughout history and has witnessed important developments in science, art, culture, and religion. One of these civilizations is astrology, a branch of science that studies how the stars and planets in the sky affect human life and destiny. Mesopotamian astrology was initiated by the Sumerians in the 3rd millennium BC and later developed by the Akkadians, Babylonians, and Assyrians.
Mesopotamian astrology divided the sky into 12 zodiac signs and 36 decans (three parts for each sign). These signs and decans were associated with animals, gods, and mythological creatures. For example, the Scorpio sign was symbolized by the scorpion god named Girtab, while the Sagittarius sign was represented by the half-human, half-animal god named Pabilsag.
Mesopotamian astrology also associated planets with gods. The Sun was called Shamash, the Moon was Sin, Mercury was Nabu, Venus was Ishtar, Mars was Nergal, Jupiter was Marduk, and Saturn was Ninurta. The movements and positions of these planets were interpreted as messages from the gods to humans.
Mesopotamian astrology was used both as a birth chart (natal) and an event chart (mundane). The birth chart was a diagram showing the positions of the planets in the sky at the time of a person’s birth. Based on this diagram, a person’s character, abilities, health, and destiny were determined. The event chart was a diagram showing the positions of the planets in the sky at the time of a particular event. Based on this diagram, the causes, effects, and impacts of the event were understood.
Mesopotamian astrology was both a mathematical and symbolic science. Its mathematical aspect was used to calculate and predict the movements of the planets. Its symbolic aspect was used to interpret the meanings and relationships of the planets and signs. Numbers also played an important role in Mesopotamian astrology. For example, the number 12 symbolized completeness, and the number 7 symbolized sacredness.
Astrology was believed to be both an individual and a social science in this society. Its individual aspect was used to determine the factors that affected a person’s life and to provide advice. Its social aspect was used to determine the factors that affected the government’s governance, wars, disasters, and other important events, and to develop appropriate policies.
Astrology developed and changed over time, influenced by different cultures. Ancient Greek, Roman, Chinese, Indian, and Egyptian civilizations contributed to astrology. In ancient Greece, astrology was accepted as a scientific tradition along with astronomy and was associated with fields such as philosophy, mathematics, and medicine. In ancient Greece, the zodiac belt was created, and the signs were determined.
Hellenistic astrology originated in Mesopotamia and spread to Ancient Greece with the conquests of Alexander the Great. In Ancient Greece, sky observations were initially related only to astronomy. However, with the influence of Mesopotamian civilizations, astrology also began to appear. Hellenistic astrology determined the characteristic features of planets and zodiac signs.
One of the fundamental characteristics of ancient Greek astrology was the emergence of the concept of the horoscope or birth chart. The horoscope is a diagram that shows the position of the sky at the moment and place of a person’s birth. The horoscope includes the positions of planets in zodiac signs, 12 regions called houses, and the angles between them. The horoscope is used to interpret a person’s character, potential, living areas, and events that may be encountered in the future.
Another characteristic of ancient Greek astrology is the definition of planets and zodiac signs. Planets are luminous objects that move in the sky and each has a different meaning and effect. In ancient Greek astrology, there are seven planets: Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. Zodiac signs are 12 regions separated by certain intervals in the sky, each with different characteristics and qualities. In ancient Greek astrology, the zodiac signs are: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces.
Another feature of ancient Greek astrology is the use of the four-element theory. The four-element theory argues that everything is composed of four basic elements: fire, air, water, and earth. Each of these elements has different qualities: fire is hot and dry, air is hot and moist, water is cold and moist, and earth is cold and dry. In ancient Greek astrology, these elements are attributed to planets and zodiac signs. For example, while the Sun belongs to the fire element, the Moon belongs to the water element. Aries is a fire sign, while Taurus is an earth sign.
Finally, another characteristic of ancient Greek astrology is its association with mythology. Ancient Greek mythology is a polytheistic belief system, and the gods have extraordinary abilities. In ancient Greek astrology, planets and zodiac signs are named after these gods and reflect their characteristics. For example, the planet Mercury takes its name from the god Hermes and is related to communication, intelligence, and commerce. The Cancer sign takes its name from the goddess Artemis and is associated with emotionality, protection, and family.
Ancient Greek astronomy was a science that tried to explain the movements of celestial bodies mathematically. Ancient Greek astronomy was written in Greek in the Classical period and includes the Ancient Greek, Hellenistic, Greco-Roman, and Late Antiquity periods. Since Greek became the language of science in the process following the conquests of Alexander the Great, ancient Greek astronomy exceeded geographical boundaries. For this reason, it is also called Hellenistic astronomy. During the Hellenistic and Roman periods, many astronomers, Greek or non-Greek, conducted their studies in a large institute, including the Library of Alexandria in the Ptolemaic Kingdom, using Greek traditions. Historians consider the biggest step in the development of astronomy to be the introduction of mathematical methods in ancient Greece.
Greek astronomy began and developed with the search for reasonable physical explanations for celestial events. The names of many constellations in the northern hemisphere are derived from Greek astronomy, such as the names of many stars, asteroids, and planets. Greek astronomy was inspired by Egyptian and especially Babylonian astronomy and influenced Indian, Arab, and Western European astronomy.
Even in the earliest literary works in ancient Greece, astrology was mentioned. For example, Homer’s Iliad mentions constellations, stars, and star clusters such as Orion, Ursa Major, and Sirius. More detailed astronomical information can be found in Hesiod’s Works and Days, about a generation after Homer. Hesiod adds the star Arcturus to the poetical calendar Works and Days. Although neither Homer nor Hesiod did scientific work, they laid the cosmological foundation of the flat earth theory surrounded by the ocean. Some stars rise and set (according to ancient Greeks, they disappear inside the ocean), while others are always visible. Certain stars rise and set at specific times of the year.
Ptolemy: The Father of Modern Astrology
Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos is the most famous and influential astrology book of ancient times, so much so that he can be considered the architect of modern astrology with its impact up to the present day. Ptolemy was a famous mathematician, astronomer, and geographer who lived in the 2nd century BC. He was also a general of Alexander the Great and the founder of the first Ptolemaic dynasty in Egypt.
In the Tetrabiblos, he provided detailed information on astrology topics such as the qualities and effects of planets, the characteristics of zodiac signs, and the determination of auspicious and inauspicious days. He named the book Tetrabiblos (Four Books) because it consisted of four parts.
Ptolemy treated astrology as a science and tried to explain logically and systematically the effects of celestial events on human lives. In his work, he explained how the positions of celestial bodies at the time of birth determine a person’s character, destiny, and future. He also explained in detail how planets behave in different signs, which signs are compatible or incompatible with each other, and which planets govern which professions or illnesses.
His work is considered one of the most important works in the history of astrology. Ptolemy’s attempt to establish astrology on a scientific basis through observation and calculation shows that he was both a scientist and an artist. The work has been a reference source for those interested in astrology in both ancient and modern times. In the book, Ptolemy explains how celestial bodies affect human characteristics, health, professions, marriages, and futures.
Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos was widely read and translated into many languages in ancient Greece, Rome, and the Islamic world. In the Middle Ages, it was read and interpreted by scholars interested in astrology in Europe. Ptolemy’s astrological theory has survived to modern times.
Ptolemy’s astrology theory was accepted as valid until modern times and is still used by some astrologers today. The book is considered one of the most important works in the history of astrology. Ptolemy’s attempt to base astrology on a scientific foundation with his observational and computational skills shows him as both a scientist and an artist. His work has served as a reference source for those interested in astrology in both ancient and modern times.
Ancient Greek astrology was later transmitted to the Roman Empire and other cultures. Astrology was accepted as a scientific tradition for most of history and was associated with other studies such as astronomy, alchemy, meteorology, and medicine.
Post-Ancient Greek Astrology
Astrology also gained interest in the Islamic world during the Middle Ages. Islamic scholars translated ancient Greek and Indian sources and added new information to astrology. They also established observatories to study the sky in more detail. Astrology was transmitted to Europe from the Islamic world during the Renaissance.
Astrology was shaken by the scientific revolution at the end of the 17th century. New discoveries in astronomy and physics undermined the foundations of astrology. Astrology lost its academic and theoretical credibility and became a part of popular culture. Today, astrology has no scientific basis and is only used for entertainment purposes.
The history of astrology is a reflection of people’s interest in the sky for thousands of years. Astrology is a product of people’s efforts to understand and predict their own lives. Astrology is a shared heritage of different cultures.