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The History behind Ancient Greek Astrology

Sep 15, 2008
If you are acquainted with OEDIPUS TYRANNUS - celebrated ancient Greek playwright Sophocles' poignant tragedy of destiny, you have surely come across the ORACLE OF DELPHI and been witness to the prophecies which brought about the downfall of a noble and venerated king of the land of Thebes.

Oracular instances are also found to recur in the dramas of other playwrights like Euripides and Aeschylus. All these go on to prove that the ancient Greeks had a lot of faith in astrology.

The History behind Ancient Greek Astrology

The word astrology's etymological source has its roots in ancient Greece. It literally means SCIENCE of the stars. This is a branch of ancient philosophy or rather metaphysics, which dates back to approximately three thousand years before the birth of Christ.

Babylonians (CHALDEANS), Sumerians, the people of Egypt and a little later, people of China and India practiced astrology. To this illustrious list, one may add the name of Greece (c.500 B.C. practiced by philosophers like Plato).

Determining an agricultural civilization's most important events - the course of rivers, floods, deposition of fertile alluvial soil and the fruits/yield of the labor of a whole race - was the chief use to which astrological forecasts were put.

The belief that celestial entities have their influences on childbirth, death, life was manufactured by the ancient Greeks. You can also accord them the credit of creating the idea that significant future events like natural calamities (flood, earthquake, plague, famine etc), political turmoil and war can be predicted through astrological calculations.

Fragmented instances of astral fatalism are also found to recur in early Greek philosophical practice. Pythagoras believed that every incident takes place in the present or has occurred in the past or will happen in future at a particular time that is pre-determined by the celestial or cosmic clock.

Whatever takes place is pre-ordained. The whole world will be engulfed by a destructive fire and incinerated to ashes after all the planets are reinstituted in their original places. This cosmic reorganization will lead to the emergence of the brave new world. These two latter beliefs were adhered to by the Stoics.

Philosophers before the era of Socrates such as XENOPHANES, ANAXIMENES, ANAXIMANDER and HERACLIDES used to speculate on the nature and matter of heavenly bodies like planets and stars.

Ancient Greek Zodiac and Calendar

The ancient Greeks can be credited with the invention of a new zodiac sign - LIBRA (HARMONIA). The ancient Greek zodiac was at first divided into only ten sections. Later one sign was broken up into 2 - VIRGO AND CADMUS i.e. Scorpio.

The Samothracian priestly college introduced Libra into the zodiac and thus we now have 12 signs. Each and every Greek polis followed its own solar or lunar or seasonal or stellar calendar.

Proper astrology in Greece was denoted not by ASTRONOMIA or ASTROLOGIA, but by KATARKHE and APOTELESMA.
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