Babylon And Greece

Astro Elements

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In the text just discussed one can already see some developments in astrological theory which recur in later Greek texts; further refinements occur in different horoscopes. One, for 264 BCE, deals with conception as well as birth, establishing the standard duration of pregnancy as 273 days, or ten sidereal lunar months, a figure commonly used in Greek texts; another refers to the exaltation of a planet (the sign in which its influence was enhanced). A recent publication of a text on lunar eclipses in relation to planetary positions and zodiac signs has suggested that the Babylonians anticipated the trine 'aspect' in grouping signs according to triplicities.17 Nevertheless, the Ascendant, or point emerging in the East as the child is born, and all the secondary data dependent on it, which are so central to Greek astrology, are never mentioned.

As far as the texts we have are concerned, there remains a fundamental difference between the Babylonian approach to their science of the heavens and that of the Greeks; that is that their system, which had become very sophisticated by the last centuries BCE, was built on numerical relationships, rather than on a geometrical, kinematic model of the relationships between Earth and the stars, which, according to much later texts, appears in Greece in a crude form with the sixth-century Anaximander. This model is certainly evident in the work of Eudoxus of Cnidos in the fourth century BCE, who combined uniform motions of homocentric spheres about different axes in his model of the heavens. The Babylonians were interested in constructing periodic relationships, to establish the first and last visibility of planets in analogy to those of the fixed stars, and it was thus that they applied systematic mathematical theory to astronomical data, probably from about 500 BCE. One of the indications of the difference between the two systems is evident in the way they ordered the planets: the Greeks ordered them according to their relative distance from Earth, while the Babylonians seem to have ordered them in accordance with ideas of their beneficent or maleficent effects.

However, despite the dearth of contemporary evidence for Hellenistic astronomy and astrology, it has become increasingly clear in recent years that Babylonian data were very important in Greek constructions of models of the universe. Whereas Otto Neugebauer, the major authority on the early history of the exact sciences, tended to argue that little more than a few concepts, numerical parameters and simple procedures passed from Babylon to Greece, recent work has revealed the use of Babylonian methods and data well into the Common Era, even after Ptolemy's Almagest of the second century CE.18 Babylonian rules for the rising and setting of the Moon reappear almost unchanged in Pliny's encyclopaedia and in the secondcentury astrologer Vettius Valens.19

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