Astrology / History
Mesopotamia, the land of the Tigris - Euphrates river valley, now Iraq, was long considered by historians the "cradle" of civilization. Although we now know that Mesopotamian civilization was predated in world history by several earlier cultures, this particular civilization is of great importance to us for it spawned the Semitic culture of Palestine, and hence is responsible for the Judeao-Christian tradition. Most people have a general image of the civilization of Mesopotamia, especially in connection with ancient Babylon, but it is important to realize that in over three thousand years of history the area experienced a number of changes. The length of civilization in Mesopotamia also gives us an idea of just how long it took astrology to develop. It is almost 2,000 years since astrologers invented natal horoscopes and house systems, yet astrology was nearly 2,000 years old when these techniques were first used.
Mesopotamian civilization emerged about 4,000 B.C. with the foundation of the first Sumerian city-states. Unity came around 1830 B.C. with the first Babylonian Empire, whose most famous monarch was the great lawgiver Hammurabi. Around 1,000 B.C. Assyrian domination began, reaching its height in about 700 B.C., and in 612 B.C. the Assyrian Empire was destroyed by the Second Babylonian Empire, whose most well known king was the Biblical Nebuchadnezzar. The Babylonians were, in their turn overrun by the Persians, who dominated much of the Middle East and central Asia from 538 to 331 B.C. Each of these cultures was marked by an improvement in the quality of the astrology practiced, and the final invasion, by Alexander the Great in 331 B.C., marks the crucial date at which the Mesopotamian culture came face to face with the Greeks, resulting in the birth of modern astrology.
The most famous astrologer of these times was the prophet Daniel who served first the Babylonian Emperor Nebuchadnezzar and then the Persian conqueror Cyrus in around 570-530 B.C. This, at any rate, is the claim made by the Biblical Book of Daniel around 150 B.C. When historians talk loosely of Mesopotamian civilization they are often in fact referring to the Assyrian era which commenced around 1,000 B.C., and it is not always possible to distinguish between the cosmologies of the different eras. However we know that early Mesopotamian cosmology was essentially that described in the book of Genesis chapter 1, verses 6-10. In this the entire universe was contained between two sheets of water, below and above the Earth. The water above the Earth was supported by a great dome across which trooped the planets and the stars on their daily and annual journeys. It is suggested by some authorities that, at least by the time of the Persians (c 500 B.C.), the Mesopotamians were aware of the concept of a spherical Earth. This assumption is based on the fact that Pythagoras, the Greek philosopher, believed the Earth was a sphere and that he studied in Babylon, but there is no more evidence than this.
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