The Babylonian Astrologers Invent the Circle

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Because the changes in the positions of the planets were possible celestial signs and therefore very important to the Babylonians, they needed a way to keep track of the planets' movements. This was not as easy to do as you might think. Many civilizations tried to devise a reliable way of keeping track of the movements of the planets but did not succeed in doing so. The Babylonian astrologers were the first to accomplish this. To do it, they invented the circle.

Have you ever wondered why a circle has 360 degrees instead of 50 degrees or 100 degrees? A circle has 360 degrees because the circle was designed by Babylonian astrologers to be a map of the sky. And there are 360 degrees in a circle because the Sun moves almost exactly one degree a day. The Sun actually moves about 0.9856 degrees per day, but one degree a day was close enough for the Babylonians 4,000 years ago.

Figure 3B at the end of this chapter is an example of how the Babylonians used the circle as a map to help them both record and illustrate the positions of the planets in the sky. The way they did this was both simple and ingenious. Since the planets moved around and around in the sky, they placed the Earth at the center of the circle and drew the positions of the planets on the circumference of the circle. They began to do this more than 4,000 years ago.

The Babylonian astrologers invented and used their circle with its 360 degrees to help them record and illustrate the positions of the Sun, Moon, and the planets every single night for thousands of years as they looked for celestial signs in the sky of impending mega-events. For thousands of years!

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