Nimrud Dagh Horoscope

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In this chapter we have seen what would happen if the treatises were taken at face value and used to interpret a particular horoscope.

What emerged was that the treatises could not teach anyone how to cast and interpret a horoscope. To any one question, a large number of contradictory responses was available, and there were no clues as to how to choose between them. This finding demanded an explanation. Rather than assume that this was the result of corrupt texts or the stupidity of the astrologers, the normal explanations for apparent confusion in astrological texts, I looked to the contemporary intellectual context. I suggested that different ideals and methods of education were operating. The process of learning was an apprenticeship, and it was akin to a process of initiation, like the mystery cults which were so important in the Greek world. The stages of initiation, in which each new level displaced the last, could explain the apparent reduplication of methods for finding out about any one matter. Furthermore, on analogy with other fields of knowledge, didactic texts were not the means of teaching, but rather of displaying knowledge. Secondly, I pointed to the importance of the institution of the ago-n, or public debate, in Greco-Roman intellectual culture. Here too was a possible explanation for reduplication—in such a context, the most important thing was to be able to find a more elaborate explanation than an opponent could.

In this chapter something of the social world of the astrologers emerged in the predictions for the horoscope. In the next, we shall examine this world more closely, attempting to delineate it and locate it in space and time. We will be returning to the idea of the techne, and looking at how this genre of writing affected the astrologers' reflections of the world.

Plate 1 Venus Tablet of Ammisaduqa, a seventh-century BCE version of observations which are probably of the seventeenth century BCE. Copyright British Museum.

Plate 2 Part of the ceiling of the sepulchral Hall of the tomb of King $eti I(1313-1292BCE) in the Valley of the Kings,depicting the sky. Here are some of the thirty-six decans, with the top register showing the star-names, some with epithets, the middle register the stars corresponding to the names, and the lowest register the names of divinites associated with the stars and the diviniters themselves. At the bottom in the middle are Isis and Osiris on a barge.

Plate 3 Sandstone relife of the zodiac on a celling in Dendera, Egypt, probably of the first century CE.

Plate 3 Sandstone relife of the zodiac on a celling in Dendera, Egypt, probably of the first century CE.

Plate 4 Thoth, the Egyptian god identified with Hermes Trismegistus, from the tomb of Amen-hr-Kopeshf, son of Rameses III, of the XX dynasty, at Deir-al-Medina. On the left he is shown with the head of a dog, and on the right with the head of an ibis, supporting a lunar crescent on his head. He was the scribe of the gods, the inventor of the arts and sciences, and the master of magic.

Plate 5 Coins of Augustus illustrating his use of his zodiac sign, Capricorn, in conjunction with different political messages. From top, left to right: Obverse, head of Augustus, reverse, Capricorn with a globe between its feet, symbol of world domination; legend referring to his being acclaimed 'Imperator' eleven times. Obverse, head of Augustus with small Capricorn, reverse, crocodile, symbol of Egypt, with the legend 'Egypt taken', referring to his defeat of Antony and Cleopatra. Bottom, reverse showing Capricorn with the legend referring to the return of the lost Roman standards from Parthia, a diplomatic victory. Reverse showing Capricorn with globe and rudder between its feet and horn of plenty on its back, associating Augustus with the goddess Fortune, and with the new Golden Age. Copyright British Museum.

Plate 6 The first Greek horoscope found on an original document, identified as the coronation-horoscope of Antiochus I of Commagene, of 7 July 62 BCE. It appears on the Western Terrace of his tomb-complex, which is on the summit of Nimrud Dagh, about 7,000 feet above sea-level in the Taurus mountains. Jupiter, Mercury, Mars and the Moon are shown in conjunction in Leo (according to Eudoxus' zodiacal division).

Plate 7 Celestial globe, supported by Atlas, the god who holds up the sky in Greek mythology, Roman, first century CE. The zodiacal band runs across the top. Naples, Museo Nazionale.

Plate 8 Octagonal altar from Roman Gaul, probably of the third century or later, found near Metz, showing the planetary deities of the days of the week, dediccate to 'Jupiter Best and Greatest'.

Plate 9 Mosaic from the centre of the floor of an exacavated synagogue of the first half of the sixth century CE in Palestine at Beth Alpha, today Hefzibah. It shows the Sun in his chariot at the centre, surrounded by the signs of the zodiac.

Plate 10 Gnostic relief, showing the goddess of the sky with the lunar crescent above her head, surrounded by seven stars representing the planets and the twelve zodiac signs. An inscription below it which dates the monument as second or third century CE, not visible here, gives the names of the seven Gnostic archons. The twelve signs may represent the Gnostic Aeons. Copyright British Museum.

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