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Skyscript Astrology Forum

The Hellenistic Zodiac
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Mark
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Posted: Mon May 04, 2009 9:39 pm    Post subject: The Hellenistic Zodiac Reply with quote

I have seen a few posts here on skyscript suggesting that that the zodiac used by the Greeks and Romans was basically sidereal before the ideas of Hipparchus and Ptolemy became widely accepted.

I want to challenge that perception here. As an excellent starting point for this discussion I suggest you read Deborah Houlding's article 'Heavenly Imprints' on the development of the zodiac.

http://www.skyscript.co.uk/zodiachistory_print.html

As the article makes clear there was considerable confusion in the classical era where the vernal equinox lay.

In particular:

Quote:
The early astrologers of the Classical period came to regard the Vernal Equinox as fixed and stationary, falling somewhere in the early degrees of Aries. But there was clearly a great deal of confusion and debate as to where exactly in Aries it could be found. Manilius, in the 1st century AD, writes of how unsettled astrologers were on the issue:

Some ascribe these powers to the 8th degree, some hold they belong to the 10th nor was an authority lacking to give the 1st degree the decisive influence and control of days.

We know also of earlier accounts placing the Vernal Equinox at the 12th or 15th degree of Aries. The early Classical astrologers had the means to understand the problem of precession, but they didn't have the philosophical interest, preferring instead to conceive of the heavens resting on four eternal, fixed points of power and support. Although Hipparchus (c. 190-120 BC), credited with discovering the precession of the equinoxes, provided indisputable evidence of the phenomena during the process of correcting earlier star charts, many of his contemporaries dismissed his findings, reluctant to relinquish their traditional beliefs. Hence, even as late as 77 AD, we find the Roman Historian Pliny ignoring his discoveries, writing in his Natural History that the Sun 'changes its course' at the 8th degree of Aries, in complete disregard to Hipparchus's work.


In fact most astrologers seem to have worked on the assumption that that the vernal point was either located at 8 or 12 degrees Aries throughout the classical era.

Censorinus (AD 238) wrote:
Quote:
'The sun creates the winter solstice when passing through the 8th degree of Capricorn...and the 8th degree of Aries is the vernal equinox (De Die Natali XXV)

In their book Greek Horoscopes first published in 1959 Otto Neugebauer and H.B. Van Hoessen researched a large number of horoscopes from the classical era and found they all relied on a zodiac calculated from 8 Aries or 12 Aries as the vernal point.

Does this mean these Greek and Roman astrologers were advocating a sidereal zodiac in preference to the one proposed by Ptolemy? Absolutely not. In reality there were several traditions of where the vernal equinox lay. Aside from the tropical zodiac proposed by Hipparchus/Ptolemy all other variant zodiacs assumed the equinox point was fixed. However, none of these zodiacs were sidereal. There was no fixed star as the marker of the zodiac. In all cases the vernal equinox was the reference point for the zodiac in the Greek and Roman astrology. Hellenistic astrology was always tropical.
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Last edited by Mark on Tue May 11, 2010 2:33 pm; edited 2 times in total
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geodorn



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Posted: Tue May 05, 2009 2:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

MarkC,
the fact they used some degree in Aries, which is different from zero would (for me) mean they did use siderial. I could imagine they used the vernal equinox point as a conveniently observed reference point. The spread in the values could have been just a question of their "precision" in defining the zodiacal boundaries, no?
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Martin Gansten
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Posted: Tue May 05, 2009 7:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

geodorn wrote:
the fact they used some degree in Aries, which is different from zero would (for me) mean they did use siderial.

I agree with this. If, for reasons of semantic accuracy, we are unwilling to use the term 'sidereal' for a zodiac definition which has

Quote:
no fixed star as the marker of the zodiac

then by all means let us call it a fixed zodiac instead (as, in fact, James Holden -- a tropicalist -- does in his excellent paper on The Classical Zodiac). If we argue that

Quote:
In all cases the vernal equinox was the reference point for the zodiac in the Greek and Roman astrology. Hellenistic astrology was always tropical.

then strictly speaking there are few siderealists around today even in India! As far as I know, modern ephemerides and astrological software are all based on calculations using the vernal equinox as reference point, from which various ayanamshas may be subtracted; and only some of these are actually based on a fiducial star. But the difference between 'fixed-zodiac tropicalists' and 'moving-zodiac tropicalists' still persists.
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Deb
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Posted: Tue May 05, 2009 8:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Martin wrote:
then by all means let us call it a fixed zodiac instead (as, in fact, James Holden -- a tropicalist -- does in his excellent paper on The Classical Zodiac).

But I think you will find that Fagan – a sidearealist – argues differently in admitting the classical zodiac is tropical. The word ‘tropical’ means moving, or turning, so it is a bit of an oxymoron to refer to it as a ‘fixed-turning zodiac’. (Oh and plus Martin, we can call the tropical zodiac ‘fixed’ too if we shift our reference point - fixed to begin with the vernal point Smile).

Geodorn wrote:
I could imagine they used the vernal equinox point as a conveniently observed reference point.

The underpinning philosophy of the tropical zodiac is that it gives its priority to seasonal shifts. It doesn’t just begin from the point where the Sun crosses the equator in spring as a matter of convenience, it is also deliberately designed to preserve all the important calendrical contacts. That is why there is a big difference between a 360 zodiac which begins with the vernal point (tropical), and one which observes the constellation boundaries and begins with a fiducial star (truly sidereal). I agree, that means there are very few ‘truly sidereal’ astrologers around today. The reality is that all astrologers who use a 360° zodiac are using a system that is fundamentally designed to align with the Sun’s annual (apparent) circuit. That is the very reason why it has 360°.

Martin wrote:
But the difference between 'fixed-zodiac tropicalists' and 'moving-zodiac tropicalists' still persists.

No doubt. But it may be that this topic has suffered in the past because of misunderstandings connected to the terms that are used. Identifying the disagreement to be between 'fixed-zodiac tropicalists' and 'moving-zodiac tropicalists' allows us to identify the issues more clearly, so that we can better understand the reasons for the alternate approaches.

It is surely helpful to realise that our differences are mainly based upon alternate perspectives. Ultimately, let's remember that it is not our fault that the universe is designed with this inherent screw-up! I would have kept things simpler myself (and the ecliptic should have been on the equator as far as I'm concerned).
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Mark
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Posted: Tue May 05, 2009 10:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
But I think you will find that Fagan – a sidearealist – argues differently in admitting the classical zodiac is tropical. The word ‘tropical’ means moving, or turning, so it is a bit of an oxymoron to refer to it as a ‘fixed-turning zodiac’. (Oh and plus Martin, we can call the tropical zodiac ‘fixed’ too if we shift our reference point - fixed to begin with the vernal point


As Cyril Fagan, has been mentioned I thought it might be useful to give a few quotes from him on this topic:

Quote:
''About B.C. 331 Callisthenes, a general in the army of Alexander the Great, at the behest of his uncle Aristotle, sent from the fallen Babylon a large collection of Babylonian tablets believed to include those of Naburiannu, who placed the vernal-point in Aries 10 degrees, and Kidinnu who placed it in Aries 8 degrees.

In their eagerness to make Babylonian astronomy their own the Greeks, being unaware that the position of the vernal equinox was receding in the zodiac at the approximate rate of one degree in 72 years, concluded that the vernal point was fixed absolutely, in the 8th degree of the constellation Aries-A minority , however, favoured Naburiannu’s value of 10 degrees-and amended their zodiac accordingly. This was the Hellenistic zodiac of classical times , adopted by both Greece and Rome. It was the zodiac of Manilius, Firmicus, Vettius Valens and Manetho.''

''…it was in fact a tropical zodiac with the vernal –point styled ‘’Aries 8’’ and not , as in modern times ‘’Aries 0’’. ''

''….nowhere in the literature of Greece or Rome is mention made of any fiducial or marking star.''

Zodiacs Old and New, page 25-26, Cyril Fagan, 1951


Fagan's theory is that the fiducial star of Mesopotamian astrology got literally 'lost in translation' in the transmission to the Greeks. However, I am wondering if there was ever one in the first place? From what I can see the late Mesopotamians used the vernal point as the reference point for their zodiac too.

This seems to be what Otto Neugebauer and H.B. Van Hoessen suggest in their book Greek Horoscopes:

Quote:
Babylonian astronomy of the Seleucid period uses two different methods for the description of the Sun and related phenomena. These two ‘Systems’ , called A and B respectively find a continuation in Hellenistic astronomy. For our purposes the following facts are characteristic for the two Systems:

(a) The venal equinox is assumed to correspond to a solar longitude of 10 degrees Aries, but 8 degrees Aries in System B (whereas Almagest uses 0 Aries). Especially the norm of system B is very frequently found in astrological writings into the Middle Ages.

(b) The rising times of the zodiacal signs are in both systems computed according to simple arithmetical schemes ( in contrast to the tables in the Almagest which are based on spherical trigonometry)

Greek Horoscopes, p13 , O. Neugebauer and H.B. Van Hoessen

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Martin Gansten
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Posted: Tue May 05, 2009 11:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Deb wrote:
But I think you will find that Fagan – a sidearealist – argues differently in admitting the classical zodiac is tropical.

Yes, well -- no disrespect intended, but Fagan is often a little too fanciful for my taste. Wink

Quote:
The word ‘tropical’ means moving, or turning, so it is a bit of an oxymoron to refer to it as a ‘fixed-turning zodiac’. (Oh and plus Martin, we can call the tropical zodiac ‘fixed’ too if we shift our reference point - fixed to begin with the vernal point Smile).

Agreed, on both points. Either the zodiac is fixed relative to the equinox, and the stars progress through it; or the zodiac is fixed relative to the stars, and the equinox regresses through it. And most early astrologers probably didn't know the difference. The question, to me, is whether or not you think the equinox should mark the starting point of the zodiac. And not a lot of people seem to have thought so in classical times (or before).

Quote:
Ultimately, let's remember that it is not our fault that the universe is designed with this inherent screw-up! I would have kept things simpler myself (and the ecliptic should have been on the equator as far as I'm concerned).

Very Happy I'm not sure John Frawley would agree with you, though -- I seem to remember him writing in his first book that this 'screw-up' is a condition caused by the Fall of Man...
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Wolfgang



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Posted: Tue May 05, 2009 4:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The subjec here is Hellenistic zodiac, but because here is also a link to the Zodiac History, I will tell you, that the old Babylon did know the Precision 1000 year before Hypparch.

This, you can read (only) in scientific papers in German!
Ernst F. Weidner is showing in his book "Alter und Bedeutung der babylonischen Astronomie und Astrallehre, nebst Studien über Fixsternhimmel und Kalender," a few corect logical and mathematical Examples of this knowledge by the Babylons.
Important for the old Babylonians was the exact autumn equinoctial. From there they counted (it should be 179 day) 183 or 184 days for the spring equinoctial. (They divided the year in 4 parts) So they where only wrong in this. So it was sometime 3 or 5 days to late! Only the winter and the spring equinoctial was not correct. For them it was important the falltime!
The Babylons used two Calendars or two zodiacs.

-It is also known a zodiacal table which starts with Taurus, and there the writer of this text wrote next to the sign Taurus : résu GÚ; the meaning is "in the beginning of the Taurus". So it was clear for later people, that the equinoctial point was on this time in Taurus.
(p40 Text Vat 7851, text of arsakid-time)

The big question is, why was this wisdom lost? Was it realy lost?


Ernst F. Weidner
"Alter und Bedeutung der babylonischen Astronomie und Astrallehre, nebst Studien über Fixsternhimmel und Kalender"
Leipzig 1914
p.38.39.40

Translation of the Title: Age and relevancy of the Babylonian Astronomy and Astral-myth, and studies about the Fix stars and the calendar.

Wolfgang
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Mark
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Posted: Tue May 05, 2009 5:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello Wolfgang,

Quote:
The subjec here is Hellenistic zodiac, but because here is also a link to the Zodiac History, I will tell you, that the old Babylon did know the Precision 1000 year before Hypparch.


Thats a very controversial view. It hasn't had the support of any academics for over 60 years as far as I am aware. I cannot say with personal authority that makes this view wrong. Academia has its fashions too. However, at present such a view is definitely very 'alternative' and not highly respected by any authorities in this field of study.

Weidner was a leading member of the so called Panbabylonist school of Babylonian and Assyrian studies.

On his website Garry D Thompson has an article about the Panbabylonist school and the 'myth' of an ancient discovery of precession.

http://www.members.optusnet.com.au/~gtosiris/page9f.html

From Garry Thompson's article:

Quote:
A central claim of the Panbabylonists (a group of German Cuneiform Philologists and Assyriologists at the beginning of the 20th-century) was that the Babylonians had discovered precession. The various forms of proof included arguments involving: believed early Babylonian ability for accurate observations and involved calculations, calendrical systems, believed early zodiacal scheme, solstice-equinox-Sirius texts, the Astronomical Diaries, zero points in System A and System B, and legends and symbols. The hypothesis that the Babylonians knew precession can be confidently dismissed. The hypothesis has been adequately refuted by the studies of the astronomer and Assyriologist Franz Kugler, the mathematician Otto Neugebauer, and the Assyriologist Abraham Sachs.


Nevertheless, despite its rejection by modern scholarship the Panbabylonist view still has a few passionate supporters even today. Rumen Kolev is the most prominent supporter I am aware of.

I accept there was a change over in Mesopptamian constellation order from the Pleiades to Aries ( The Hired Man) in later Mesopotamian culture. I dont dismiss there might have been some recognition of the effects of precession over that time. Although whether this was conscious or not I am not sure. Hipparchus may have benefited from Mesoptamian knowledge in this area as Greek astronomy did in so many other ways from the Mesopotamians. However, I find the idea this was all neatly worked around 1200 BC by the Babylonians rather hard to accept.

Personally, the issue that fascinates me is the fact that the Mesopotamians tied their zodiac into the vernal equinox point. However, I suspect like the Greeks they thought of the equinox as a fixed point in the zodiac. The existence of zodiac A and B focused on 8 and 10 Aries seems to indicate that the tradition shifted where they perceived the fixed equinox to be. Zodiac A focused on 10 Aries probably stemmed from older observations while zodiac B represented a later period. I am not convinced though this means that the Mesopotamians were ever really fullly conscious of the process of precession.

Robert Hand's article ' On The Invariance of the Tropical Zodiac' develops these issues in relation to Babylonian Astronomy-Astrology.

http://www.robhand.com/tropzo.htm

Mark
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geodorn



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Posted: Wed May 06, 2009 2:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Deb wrote:
The underpinning philosophy of the tropical zodiac is that it gives its priority to seasonal shifts. It doesn’t just begin from the point where the Sun crosses the equator in spring as a matter of convenience, it is also deliberately designed to preserve all the important calendrical contacts. That is why there is a big difference between a 360 zodiac which begins with the vernal point (tropical), and one which observes the constellation boundaries and begins with a fiducial star (truly sidereal). I agree, that means there are very few ‘truly sidereal’ astrologers around today. The reality is that all astrologers who use a 360° zodiac are using a system that is fundamentally designed to align with the Sun’s annual (apparent) circuit. That is the very reason why it has 360°.

Deb, yes, I think I understand this. The tropical zodiac does make some sence. After all, it’s quite plausible to assume the seasons influence a person one way or the other. This is one sort of (co-)causality, but what if there is another, which is associated with fixed stars, position in the galaxy, etc.? I am a novice and just want to understand how things work, what is the underlying “theme”. I am slowly reading Valens and I am trying to imagine how was it like in those times. They could be just lucky that the tropical and sidereal zodiacs were not that different and did not bother (or were not aware that they should) to write: “use the stars” or “use the seasons” or “use both”. Is there a metaphysical or whatever reason to use one vs. the other system? If I want to apply something like techniques of Valens to contemporary charts, which system should I use? I mean, you can easily re-calibrate “cookbook” descriptions of Venus in Scorpio to Venus in Libra (just substitute Libra for Scorpio and you are done), but what to do with something more sophisticated, all the dignities and rulerships could shift dramatically if one uses sidereal. I am cautiously using tropical. One reason being that all the horary is based on tropical and it apparently works, plus all the solar circuit based approaches you mentioned. Still, it’s not an easy feeling.
Did anyone consider a possibility that both sidereal and tropical could have an effect? I understand it just multiplies the complexity, but still...
Recalling the concluding sentences from Robert Hands article:
Quote:
It was not a problem with which the ancients were seriously concerned. Given the limits of their computational accuracy, both systems would have given them the same results. This is a question that we have to solve for ourselves. An appeal to history will not work

I would be very grateful if somebody using Hellenistic techniques with sidereal zodiac could share their experiences: does it work, does it work better than tropical?
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Wolfgang



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Posted: Wed May 06, 2009 9:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello Mark,

in this thread I dont want to take much more time in account, at is neccesary.
First of all, I am impressed and glad to see, that you have a good knowledge about the Panbabilonian .
Short memo to the background by this Group. In the early Years of 20. Centurie the thesis of the Panbabylonian (in short words: they "found" out that big part of the text in the Bible, could be found also in old Babyl. texts, as the secret Name of God, the Sintflood and so on...) waked up a great opposite by the jewish/christian Groups, because of there meaning, they will loosing there Basis of there religions. This was in that time a great explosive theme. So some Groups of sienctist as Kugler, later also Neugebauer worked in this direktion of the (old) mainstream.
The curiosity is, that in the example of Weidner, which I gave before, -it is not disproofed - ( I think I am right!) Neugebauer did the controlling of the mathematical work. In a footnote Weidner say thanks to Neugebauer by recalculations of his results.

My Intention is, to animate Astrologers, as like Schmidt or Zoller, to start investigation in this course. To translate the texts, which are still lying nottranslated in the British Musuem. Maybe we can so find the missing link to the Ägypt and Hellenistic Astrology.

Wolfgang


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Deb
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Posted: Wed May 06, 2009 10:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

MarkC wrote:
Hello Wolfgang,

Quote:
The subjec here is Hellenistic zodiac, but because here is also a link to the Zodiac History, I will tell you, that the old Babylon did know the Precision 1000 year before Hypparch.


Thats a very controversial view. It hasn't had the support of any academics for over 60 years as far as I am aware. I cannot say with personal authority that makes this view wrong. Academia has its fashions too. However, at present such a view is definitely very 'alternative' and not highly respected by any authorities in this field of study.


I don't think it is so controversial nowadays, and there seems to be some respect for the view that the principle of precession may have been understood by the ancient civilisations, and is suggested in the alignment of their temples. I comment on this in my article, saying:

Quote:
The problem of precession has been the subject of much intense research of late, with a number of dense and highly researched books in the field of archeoastronomy arguing that Hipparchus's 'discovery' was more a 'rediscovery' of a principle not only known to the ancients, but considered by them to be the basic mechanism of the universe. Precession represents a shift of only 1° in 72 years so is virtually imperceptible in one life time, yet the ancients had been recording their data for thousands of years and aligning their constructions with the positions of the stars, in some cases rebuilding them to keep the alignment accurate. As meaning comes to light of the true nature and design of ancient monuments, there appears to be a wide body of evidence to suggest that an experience of precession, if not the formal knowledge attained by Hipparchus, is embedded in the myths of many cultures, in the form of recurring themes such as usurpation and replacement. If this theory can be proved, it has to be demonstrated against the previous precessional shift - the movement of the Vernal Point out of Taurus and into Aries, which took place within the golden heyday of ancient astrological worship, in the 2nd millennium BC. If we try to go beyond that period of time, we are in danger of committing a modern viewpoint on a period of prehistory that we know very little about.

One of the books I would recommend (presently out of print but about to be re-issued) is The Death of Gods in Ancient Egypt by Jane Sellars. This is an information-packed, and very reputable survey of the evidence to support this theme. Unfortunately I leant my copy to Sue Toohey just before her untimely death, so I am waiting for the reprint to get a new copy myself.

Quote:
The hypothesis has been adequately refuted by the studies of the astronomer and Assyriologist Franz Kugler, the mathematician Otto Neugebauer, and the Assyriologist Abraham Sachs.


Neugebauer and Sachs were great, but this is a little like quoting David Pingree – the opinion of these ‘experts’ is always worth considering, but their own ideas changed over time and they were not correct on all points. When we are looking at the development of concepts within the period of pre-history, it is hard to prove or disprove anything definitively. The opinion of Ernst Weidner is not something that I would consider to be uninformed.
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Deb
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Posted: Wed May 06, 2009 10:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Geodron

Quote:
This is one sort of (co-)causality, but what if there is another, which is associated with fixed stars, position in the galaxy, etc.?


There is no doubt in my mind that this exists. And of course, it is just philosophically ugly that the signs of the zodiac do not relate directly with the constellations! During my frequent, bumbling attempts to identify the stars that I can see, I am often trying to imagine everything one sign away from itself, so that what I know of a chart can be related to what I see in the sky. And the worst is yet to come, because at some stage we are going to be talking about the sign of Aries roughly overlapping the constellation Libra.

Quote:
If I want to apply something like techniques of Valens to contemporary charts, which system should I use? I mean, you can easily re-calibrate “cookbook” descriptions of Venus in Scorpio to Venus in Libra (just substitute Libra for Scorpio and you are done), but what to do with something more sophisticated, all the dignities and rulerships could shift dramatically if one uses sidereal. I am cautiously using tropical. One reason being that all the horary is based on tropical and it apparently works, plus all the solar circuit based approaches you mentioned. Still, it’s not an easy feeling.


I agree. It’s not an easy feeling. And I don’t have the answer. I know that many astrologers who consider themselves tropicalists do employ the techniques of Valens but as you can see in this forum, others take the opposite approach. Either approach leaves us with a significant disadvantage. A sidereal approach misses out on the seasonal justification for its symbolism, but the tropical position misses out just as much by being unrelated to the stars. My own choice, and it is purely subjective one, is to keep the calendrical significance, but to bring in the stellar influence by incorporation of fixed star meanings.


Quote:
I would be very grateful if somebody using Hellenistic techniques with sidereal zodiac could share their experiences: does it work, does it work better than tropical?


I think you might struggle to get an unbiased report on that, because most astrologers adopt a position for reasons that are not necessarily well thought through in the beginning. There have been several times when I have considered changing to the sidereal approach, because I have been impressed by the technical knowledge of the astrologers that are known as siderealists. But I (subjective opinion here) think there is a bit of a myth that the most intelligent astrologers will graduate towards the sidereal zodiac, and so this myth may have influenced a few good astrologers to go down that route.
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Mark
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Posted: Wed May 06, 2009 2:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello Deb,

Quote:
I don't think it is so controversial nowadays,


I am not so sure. I think you would struggle to put together a list of contemporary scholars supporting that view. However, that may be partly because the whole of notion of being a supporter of any of the elements of Pan-Babylonism is still seen as academic suicide.

Deb wrote:
Quote:
Neugebauer and Sachs were great, but this is a little like quoting David Pingree – the opinion of these ‘experts’ is always worth considering, but their own ideas changed over time and they were not correct on all points. When we are looking at the development of concepts within the period of pre-history, it is hard to prove or disprove anything definitively. The opinion of Ernst Weidner is not something that I would consider to be uninformed.


It does seem to me academic opinion often works like a dialectic. The Pan-Babylonists were the dominant view in the 19th century up until about WWI. Then scholars like Kugler, Neugebauer and Sachs challenged all the fundamental tenets of their view. This has probably led to an over-reaction and a rather defensive, conservative attitude to anything suggested by Pan-Babylonian scholarship was wrong. Some of the more enterprising scholars today like Finnish authority Simo Parpola do seem more open to re-examining the evidence. Although he is not an academic authority , I find it most interesting that Gavin White's research contained in his book Babylonian Star-lore, does favour the idea that the ancient Babylonians had a knowledge of precession.

Maybe with a new generation of scholars the pendulum may swing back to a more sympathetic view of ancient Babylonian knowledge of precession. Its certainly not there yet though. In terms of contemporary scholarship I would stick to my statement that the Pan-Babylonian view on precession is still controversial and largely excluded or dismissed from contemporary academic discussion.

We see a similar shifting change in attitudes to Ancient Egypt. In the 19th century the British astronomer Norman Lockyer suggested in his book ‘The Dawn of Astronomy’ that many Egyptian temples and Pyramids were aligned to fixed stars and solsticial and equinoctial points. However, his findings were largely condemned and /or rejected by 20th century archaeologists working in Egyptology as some of his chronology was inaccurate. Reflecting this prevailing attitude Otto Neugebauer wrote the definitive series of books on the Ancient Egyptian decans while rejecting all ideas of site alignments to fixed stars. Only in the last few years has this issue been re-opened by the research of the Spanish archeoastronomer J.A. Belmonte which has confirmed the basic thesis of Lockyer was actually correct. Shocked

Despite his excellent scholarship the conservatism of Neugebauer has recently been criticized by Belmonte. He has suggested Neugebauer’s influential opinions effectively held back understanding in this area for decades. Of course those reading the works of Robert Bauval have probably surmised this long ago. Its an interesting insight into the conservatism and prevailing ‘fashions’ in academic opinion.

Its true the best scholars like Pingree were always reviewing and changing their views in the light of new evidence and perspectives. However, it seems to me much scholarship develops strong pre-conceptions that prevent them exploring areas outside their basic perspective. I can't remember who said it but it was suggested something to the effect that new ideas in science progess more by funerals than academics engaging with new ideas!

Deb wrote:
Quote:
The opinion of Ernst Weidner is not something that I would consider to be uninformed.


That is a fair point. Actually his name crops up frequently in bibliographies of other scholars in this area to this day. The label Pan-Babyloninism is a little to simplistic and masks differences between Weidner and some other earlier writers whose ideas were left rather discredited by Kugler’s life-long reaseach.

I know many of the Pan-Babylonists clung to the notion of an ancient 12 constellation zodiac (of equal divisions) developed by the Babylonians. The general view of scholarship today is that the development of the 12-constellation zodiac does not appear anywhere until its origin in Babylonia circa 700 BCE.. The development of the equally divided 12-constellation zodiac does not appear until after the start of the Persian Period in Babylonia (circa 500 BCE). I dont know where Weidner stood on this issue. Maybe Wolgang can elucidate on this point for us? Confused

Moreover, I do not read German. Wolfgang has a valid point that it is a distinct asset to read German as much of the most important scholarship around ancient Babylonia has only been available in German.

The quote from Garry Thompson also needs to be seen in the context of an amateur astronomer who is clearly hostile to astrology and any notions that precession may have been understood before Hipparchus.

Deb wrote:
Quote:
...and there seems to be some respect for the view that the principle of precession may have been understood by the ancient civilisations, and is suggested in the alignment of their temples.


That’s a rather different point and not one I have an issue with. I was questioning the notion that the ancient Babylonians had a precise understanding of the mechanism of precession by 1200 BC. I am certainly open to the idea that many societies may have had some degree of generalised understanding of the principle.

Deb wrote:
Quote:
One of the books I would recommend (presently out of print but about to be re-issued) is The Death of Gods in Ancient Egypt by Jane Sellars. This is an information-packed, and very reputable survey of the evidence to support this theme. Unfortunately I leant my copy to Sue Toohey just before her untimely death, so I am waiting for the reprint to get a new copy myself.


I am unclear from Amazon if the new book has been issued or not. I have the original version. Yes it is an interesting and well researched book.

Its worth mentioning here that J.A. Belmonte is planning to publish a book this year entitled 'In Search of Cosmic Order' which sets out much of his research team findings on site alignments linked to fixed stars (esp Sirius , Canopus and certain circumpolar stars) and Equinoxes/Solstices. This is the first orthodox academic research to look at site alignments across Egypt since the work of Norman Lockyer in the 19th century. Belmonte also ties these observations into aspects of Egyptian religion and star-lore. Here is a video link to Belmonte's recent presentation on this topic at the Astronomical Union Conference in January this year:

http://canalc2.u-strasbg.fr/video.asp?langue=en&idVideo=8328

For anyone interested in this kind of research another excellent book is The Secret of the Incas by Dr William Sullivan. The following is from a review on Amazon:

Quote:
Secrets of the Incas explores the baffling and tragic vulnerability of the Inca empire and comes to a startling conclusion: the Spanish had appeared at precisely the right place and at just the right time to fulfil an ancient, astronomically based prophecy of doom.
This conclusion is the result of two decades of research by American scholar Dr William Sullivan into the sophisticated astronomical knowledge of the Incas and how they encrypted this in their myths. Secrets of the Incas presents completely new evidence taken from an Inca myth. In this, Dr William Sullivan believes, lies the key to the basis of the old man's prophecy and, indeed, to the formation of the Inca empire itself. This myth is nothing less than a dire warning of an impending precessional event that, to the Incas, predicted future ruin.
The 'gate' or 'bridge' to the land of the ancestors - that is, the rising of the December solstice Sun with the Milky Way - was about to be washed away. Drawing on their ancient mythological database, the Incas reasoned - from the principle 'as above, so below' - that loss of contact with the ancestors, upon which their religious beliefs were founded, would mean their way of life would be destroyed on Earth.
It was this prophecy that stirred the first Inca emperor to action: if time was merciless, it had to be stopped. So the entire Inca empire, which was less than a century old when the Spanish arrived, became involved in an attempt at cosmic regulation - to change the course of the stars by changing the course of human history on Earth: 'as below, so above.'
William Sullivan decodes the myths of the Incas to reveal an astoundingly precise record of astronomical events. The Incas accepted their fate as written in the stars.

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Last edited by Mark on Wed May 06, 2009 5:49 pm; edited 2 times in total
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GR



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Posted: Wed May 06, 2009 4:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

MarkC wrote:

For anyone interested in this kind of research another excellent book is The Secret of the Incas by Dr William Sullivan.


While I have read the book and do like it, there is the issue of his reliance on the thesis of Hamlet's Mill (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamlet%27s_Mill), which is not currently acceptable by academia, though I also have read and liked that book.
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Mark
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Posted: Wed May 06, 2009 5:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello Gabe,

Quote:
While I have read the book and do like it, there is the issue of his reliance on the thesis of Hamlet's Mill http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamlet%27s_Mill), which is not currently acceptable by academia, though I also have read and liked that book.


True but Sullivan's academic credentials in this field are impeccable. He is in a totally different frame from the kind of wild speculations you find in books by authors like Graham Hancock.

While Hamlets Mill has been criticised a lot its interesting that many researchers seem to find inspiration in the book to follow up its basic thesis. In short the notion that mythology can reveal knowledge about the process of precession. I seem to recall Jane B Sellars references this book too and Bernadette Brady relies on it heavily in her book on fixed stars. I think books like The Death of Gods in Ancient Egypt and The Secret of The Incas need to assessed on their own merits.
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