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By Tamysn Barton

An account of astrology from its beginnings in Mesopotamia, targeting the Greco-Roman global, Ancient Astrology examines the theoretical improvement and altering social and political function of astrology.

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Sample text

27 By this stage then, Egypt was established as the home of astrology. In order to assess what evidence there is to substantiate the Greek image of Egypt, in the first place, we should survey what is known from evidence which is properly Egyptian rather than GreekEgyptian. Egyptian origin by no means precludes Mesopotamian influence, since Persia conquered Egypt in 525 BCE. In the era after Alexander’s conquests, there may have been independent links between Egypt and Persia, even discounting the Greek channel of communication.

Here is a selection: If Nergal [Mars] approaches the Scorpion, there will be a breach in the palace of of the prince. If the Worm is massive—there will be mercy and reconciliation in the land. If the star of Dignity, the vizier of Tispak, approaches the Scorpion—for three years there will be severe cold, cough and phlegm will befall the land. If in Month I the Demon with the gaping mouth rises [heliacally]—for five years in Akkad at the command of Irra there will be plague, but it will not affect cattle.

The Mesopotamians found messages from the gods in fields such as noises, animal behaviour and monstrous births, or looked for messages by techniques such as throwing oil or flour on water or burning incense. It has often been remarked on the basis of the Enu¯ma Anu Enlil that Mesopotamian astrology was not concerned with individuals. But the apparent abundance of material on sky-omens should not encourage too much generalisation, since it may only typify one sort of text. The concentration on the fate of the king or the whole country does not preclude interest in the fate of ordinary individuals, as is clear from the texts concerning omens of other sorts; even in the royal archives there are records of the meaning of omens for their perceiver, and a large number of predictions from individuals’ physical appearance, or their dreams.

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