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Traditional Astrology For discussions on Traditional Astrology only. (Note: Typically, traditional astrology is defined as using techniques developed prior to 1700 by astrologers from the Hellenistic, Persian, Hebrew, and Renaissance eras. In general, it relies on Ptolemaic aspects (sextile, trine, square, opposition and conjunction) though there may be some exceptions, and always excludes modern planets (Neptune, Uranus and Pluto,) as well as any asteroids. The focus is less on what would be considered modern psychological chart interpretation and more on prediction. Members who wish to explore a combination of traditional and modern ideas should feel free to start a new thread in an appropriate forum for further discussion.)


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  #1  
Unread 01-09-2012, 11:58 PM
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Origins of Hellenistic Astrology

Following up on Frank's thread on domiciles I thought it would be worthwhile to start a new thread on the origins and early history of Hellenistic (Greek and Roman) horoscopic astrology. A lot is unknown, but both astrologers and classical studies scholars are contributing more research. Feel free to add to, subtract from, modify, or debate the following! I can add more references if anybody is interested. The books should be available via amazon.com.

One type of source that we have to treat with a lot of caution are what ancient astrologers themselves said about the origins of their craft. There is a big literature among classical studies scholars demonstrating that the Greeks and Romans were often mistaken about the origins of their knowledge disciplines at any given time, including the origins of astrology.

Good general overview sources are these books: Nicholas Campion, The Dawn of Astrology; Tamsyn Barton, Ancient Astrology; and the Oxford Classical Dictionary.

We might start with 3 ancient centres.

1. Mesopotamian/Babylonian (Chaldean). The Babylonians had a lot of really ancient "cultural astronomy" but much of it dealt with predicting eclipses and tracking planets as omens for king and country. We start getting horoscopic astrology for individuals in about the 6th century BC. However, the horoscopes are mostly in the form of cuniform writing on ostraca, or pottery pieces that ancient people used to write on. The horoscopes give some planetary placements, but hardly anything about how Babylonian astrologers interpreted their data.

Main contributions to western astrology: ephemerises, planets in signs, eclipses, dodekatemoira (dwads), planetary hours, rising times, and the trine aspect. Rochberg-Halton claims planetary exaltations (hypsomata), but another author (cited below) claims an earlier Egyptian origin. The Babylonians saw planetary placements as evidence of what the gods intended, not as bodies themselves having any ability to influence human events. Ptolemy gives both "Chaldean" and Egyptian terms. The Babylonians also established the "If....then...." nature of astrological predictions. The "If" conditions refer to specific astrological placements. The "then" material interprets the meaning of those placements for human outcomes.

The Babylonians did not use houses, nor many of the techniques that appear in Greek sources on astrology.

Good sources:
Ulla Koch-Westenholz, 1995, Mesopotamian Astrology (Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum Press.)

F. Rochberg-Halton, 1988, "Elements of the Babylonian Contribution to Hellenistic Astrology," Journal of the American Oriental Society 108: 51-62. (available through JSTOR)

Francesca Rochberg, 1998, "Babylonian Horoscopes," Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, v. 88 parts 1-3. (available on Google Books.)

Francesca Rochberg, 2004, The Heavenly Writing: Divination, Horoscopy, and Astronomy in Mesopotamian Culture (Cambridge University Press.)

Gavin White, 2008, Babylonian Star-Lore (London: Solaria Publications.)

1. Egyptian. Historians of astrology generally haven't found much in Egyptian tradition to validate the ancient Hellenistic astrologers' claim for Egyptian roots to Hellenistic horoscopic astrology. Some of them traced astrology's origin to a King Nechepso and his scribe Petosiris, yet the Egyptians kept detailed king lists, and nobody by this name shows up. There were two pharoahs named Neko, but there is no evidence that they were astrologers. I personally believe that the ancient Egyptian religions of death and renewal were the origins of our thematic houses, but this would take a lot more research to demonstrate (or dismiss) conclusively.

Perhaps more relevant for the history of astrology is the blend of Greek, Egyptian, and other cultures that appeared in centres of learning like Alexandria, Egypt (home to Ptolemy and Vettius Valens) and elsewhere in the Greek and Roman empires. Egyptians emigrated to different parts of the Hellenized world, just as Greeks, Jews, and other ethnic groups moved to Egypt. When we first find archaeological horoscopes in Egypt, for example, they often appear in a script called "Demotic": the Egyptian language written in Greek characters. The Dendera planisphere (or zodiac) on the temple of the goddess Hathor shows a mix of Babylonian zodiac and Egyptian religious motifs. The multi-authored, esoteric "hermetic" literature attributed to a mythical Hermes Trismegestus (discussed by Campion, Dawn of Astrology) and the "Greek magical papyri" contain astrological material.

Main contributions to western astrology: The decans derived from the ancient Egyptian star calendar used to predict Nile floods and religious festivals. They had a detailed systematic system of star-watching in order to time risings and settings. They adopted the Babylonian practice of star and eclipse omens. They had their own system for planets in terms. They may be responsible for our orientation of the MC not only as "up" but also as "south." Their observation of the sun's passage across the heavens from east to west, re-emerging at dawn, in combination with their beliefs about the regenerative gods Hapi, Re, Isis, Osiris, and Horus may have a lot to do with our current house systems. Joanne Conman also gives them the origins of our system of planetary exaltations.

Good sources:

Hans Dieter Betz, The Greek Magical Papyri in Translation, 2nd ed. (University of Chicago Press)

www.sofiatopia.org/maat/hidden_chamber01.htm (not an astrological source, but highly relevant)

Joanne Conman, 2003, "It's about Time: Ancient Egyptian Cosmology," Studien zur Altagyptischen Kultur, 31: 42-57.

Joanne Conman, 2006-09, "The Egyptian Origins of Planetary Hypsomata," Discussions in Egyptology 64: (found on-line, sorry-- n.d.!)

Joanne Conman, 2010, "Origins of Astrology," Kepler College website at www.kepler.edu

O. Neugebauer, 1955, "The Egyptian Decans," Vistas in Astronomy 1:47-51.

R. A. Parker, 1974, "Ancient Egyptian Astronomy," Philosophical Transactions, Royal Society of London 276: 51-65.

Neugebauer, Otto, 1943, "Demotic Horoscopes," Journal of the American Oriental Society 63: 115-27.

Neugebauer, Otto and Richard A. Parker, 1960-1969 Egyptian Astronomical Texts, 3 vols (Brown University Press)

3. Greek and Roman (to be continued)
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Unread 01-11-2012, 05:16 AM
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Re: Origins of Hellenistic Astrology

3. Greek and Roman ("Hellenistic") continued...

Again, please add to, subtract from, modify, discuss, or debate this material!

Good sources: too numerous to be covered in one post. Again, good general sources are Nicholas Campion, The Dawn of Astrology; Tamsyn Barton, Ancient Astrology; and the Oxford Classical Dictionary. James Herschel Holden, A History of Horoscopic Astrology is a set of sketches of leading astrologers, of whom 18 would be called Hellenistic. Unfortunately the works of most of these astrologers no longer exist and we know about them only because of what other Hellenistic astrologers reported about them.

There is also a lot of information at the Skyscript website, and in Deborah Houlding, Houses: Temples of the Sky. If you google "Robert Schmidt astrology" you will find a lot of essays by him (see "Project Hindsight"), as well as his Hellenistic astrology forum that seems mostly inactive, but that includes interesting material. Joseph Crane and Chris Brennan are practitioners and interpreters of Hellenistic astrology for today.

The major Hellenistic astrologers that are easily available in print and in English translation (available at amazon.com) are: Manilius, Astronomica; Dorotheus of Sidon, Carmen Astrologicum; Vettius Valens, Anthologies; Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, Firmicus Maternus Matheseos Librii VIII; Porphyry's Introduction to Tetrabiblos; and James H. Holden's translation of Rhetorius the Egyptian. Robert Schmidt has made many additional minor (and some major) original sources available through the Project Hindsight website www.projecthindsight.com . Dorian Giesler Greenbaum also has a translation of Paulus Alexandrinus and Olympiodorus available for sale at her website www.classicalastrology.org .

Classical studies scholars have also published a lot of books and articles on astrology and relevant topics. While astrologers have criticicized the professors for not knowing their astrology, these scholars generally have far greater backgrounds than astrologers do in the whole context of Greek and Roman literature and history. Many are experts in ancient languages and how to resurrect ancient texts, well beyond what the typical astrologer who studied university Latin or Greek would acquire. Some of the scholarly works are partly archaeological in nature, such as Otto Neugebauer's work on ancient astronomy and horoscopes.

If anyone is interested in a particular topic or author, let me know and I will try to look up references for you, as I have access to an on-line university library data base. However, you would have to contact the journal publisher or an on-line article delivery service such as JSTOR on how to purchase any scholarly journal articles.

main contributions to western astrology: too many to mention! What didn't they invent? This is partly because the Islamic astrologers who came next had access to classical works; and once Ptoelmy's Tetrabiblos was re-discovered in the West in the Middle Ages, his work had a huge impact on the development of traditional astrology from then on. But if you review inventions of the Babylonians and Egyptians, you can see all kinds of techniques in traditional astrology that go well beyond their contributions. One thing the Hellenistic astrologers didn't fuss with particularly was developing an improved quadrant house system, which came later. Horary astrology was a later development, although a few Hellenistic astrologers were concerned with electional (choosing an auspicious date) astrology.


The Big Question (to me) in the origins of western astrology, is what happened in the centuries just prior to the explosion of some pretty technical astrological delineations in the first and second centuries AD. There is hardly any discussion of horoscopic astrology by insiders or preserved horoscopes prior to the 2nd century BC, although there is abundant mention of astrologers practicing their craft by Latin and Greek authors. An analogy would be starting up a car from being parked during long over-nights in the dead of winter, and then reaching a speed of 60 mph (100 kph) in a matter of seconds.

Alexandria, Egypt seems a likely place to look. It was conquered by the Greeks (Alexander the Great) in 331 BC, and then by the Romans in 80 BC. Not only many Greeks and Romans settled in Alexandria, but also members of many other cultures: Jews, Babylonians, Persians, and so on. Consequently it was a hub where many different ideas could be exchanged. It was the second largest city in the Roman empire after Rome itself, and was home to Vettius Valens and Ptolemy. It also had a famous library where many ancient manuscripts were preserved until it was burn during one of the Roman invasions.

Astrology in Hellenistic times was far more diverse than what most of us think of "astrology" today. The Greeks and Romans developed their own star calendars long before the introduction of astrology to assist farmers in forecasting appropximate dates for various agricultural activities. Sailors used star calendars to know when to end the shipping season with approaching storms on the Mediterranean Sea, and they were also used to time religious festivals. Although some of these calendars were set down in verse form, they also had actual devices called perapegmata for this purpose.

The Hellenistic astrologers like Ptolemy also developed a kind of astrological anthropology or geography to explain cultural differences between different nationalities, by assigning them different planetary rulers and signs.

Astrology filtered into black magic spells (Greek Magical Papyri) discovered in Egypt, and into an esoteric semi-religious/philosophical belief system called hermeticism (after the god Hermes, i.e., Mercury.) A new religious mystery cult, Mithraism, that flourished in the Roman empire during the first four centuries AD, made extensive use of astrological symbolism.

Understandably, today astrologers are most interested in focusing the scope of Hellenistic astrology on natal chart interpretation, but it is worthwhile realizing that it was not so narrowly understood in ancient times. Back then, astrology might also be a way for you to decide when to plant your barley crop, celebrate a holy day dedicated to one of the gods, make a recalcitrant lover come to your home at night (via a spell,) or understand why the different ethnic groups you encountered looked and acted so different from your own.
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Unread 01-11-2012, 05:31 AM
dr. farr dr. farr is offline
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Re: Origins of Hellenistic Astrology

Relative to your last paragraph, that WAS the original purpose of macrocosmic analysis and prediction (forgive me, that is how the hermeticists always refer to "astrology", and am I guilty of being one of them); TIMING of events, actions, physical and spiritual, was (once) the all-important thing to know: the most ancient Egyptian indications show this, and it is also clear from astrological references in the Vedas and Puranas of India (dating to as early as 2000/3000BC) , that this katarchic understanding held sway, possibly for millenia.
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Unread 01-14-2012, 08:55 PM
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Re: Origins of Hellenistic Astrology

thanks for doing these posts waybread.. i think it is a fascinating exercise to try to unearth the origins of hellenistic astrology, or astrology in general..

i did go and look at the book you mentioned -"babylonian horoscopes" by fancesca rochberg which is the basis for your statement babylonian astrology was sidereal based..

while i didn't read the whole book, i note that they were dividing up space in 30 degree segments and seemed to be using the star data specifically for finding the location of the moon... the astrology is more interested in lunar position then anything else from what i read.. i find it interesting the desire to put the data in 30 degree increments while ignoring the constellation boundaries.. if they were indeed doing a form of sidereal astrology, it was nothing of as i think of it from the late cyril fagan, but instead a very different kind.. i would call it lunar astrology mostly it seems a tool to map the sky in order to keep tabs on lunar cycles, or solar lunar cycles...

what is also interesting is the starting point at 8 or 10 aries which seems to suggest they were also making the equinox point - or basis for the tropical zodiac - an important consideration as well.. perhaps i will have to read the whole book and it doesn't appear that long either.. here is a google e book link to it..

http://books.google.ca/books?id=dSEL...page&q&f=false
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Unread 01-14-2012, 09:22 PM
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Re: Origins of Hellenistic Astrology

Quote:
Originally Posted by dr. farr View Post
Relative to your last paragraph, that WAS the original purpose of macrocosmic analysis and prediction (forgive me, that is how the hermeticists always refer to "astrology", and am I guilty of being one of them); TIMING of events, actions, physical and spiritual, was (once) the all-important thing to know: the most ancient Egyptian indications show this, and it is also clear from astrological references in the Vedas and Puranas of India (dating to as early as 2000/3000BC) , that this katarchic understanding held sway, possibly for millenia.
dr. farr, you may be interested to read what Rumen Kolev posted on ACT asatrology forum on Thu Mar 12, 2009 8:42 pm http://actastrology.com/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=97

I have rock-solid proof for many elements in Hellenistic coming directly from Babylonian.......

Hellenistic astrology used the Babylonian Calendar to compute its Birth-Day
Exaltations go very far back - at least to 500 - 700 BC minimum.
But I think the first traces of exaltations are much before Omhros - from around 5,500 BC.
Syzygies go back to at least - 700 BC - firm textual evidence, but ultimately they go again to around 5,500 BC when Agriculture started.........

So, the Greeks are the meeting Point: Point in Time where the True Astrology finished .The Keys were being lost gradually. The Greeks are in the Center: Sumer-Babylonia-Greece-Arabs-Europe"


http://www.babylonianastrology.com/
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Unread 01-14-2012, 09:30 PM
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Re: Origins of Hellenistic Astrology

old keys lost and new keys found...

reminds me of the conversation about whether the glass is half empty or half full..
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Unread 01-14-2012, 09:44 PM
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Re: Origins of Hellenistic Astrology

Is there a 'glass'?
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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=82p-D...eature=related Hippocrates Let food be your medicine: let medicine be your food. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cvz9uSK3zXo Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead Tom Stoppard http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KchhSIVwMdY Every exit is an entrance to somewhere else. VETTIUS VALENS FREE http://www.csus.edu/indiv/r/rileymt/...s%20entire.pdf
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Unread 01-14-2012, 11:36 PM
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Re: Origins of Hellenistic Astrology

Quote:
Originally Posted by sandstone View Post
old keys lost and new keys found...

reminds me of the conversation about whether the glass is half empty or half full..
and

Quote:
Originally Posted by JUPITERASC View Post
Is there a 'glass'?
"There is no spoon..."

Both of you remind me of the pragmatist's view...the glass is neither half empty nor half full, there is just too much glass...

sandstone, I do believe the "True Astrology" comment was a quote from Rumen Kolev.

I haven't read the entire pdf (220 pages), but this link to a Western Sidereal textbook has an interesting first few chapters on the origins of astrology...

http://starscience.info/as_above_so_below.pdf
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