There is no written record of the beginning of astrology, but it is believed to have originated in Mesopotamia, now Iraq, around the fourth millenium B.C.. Whether or not the civilizations of that time influenced one another is unknown. We do know however, that the observation of the heavens played an important role in all the highly developed civilizations of the early Stone Age and was usually entrusted to the priveleged caste, usually priests. This caste had the responsibility of using their observations of the heavens to forecast important events and decide ont he most propitious time for such vital activities as sowing and harvesting. In the course of time, methods of predicting what the future held for people and nation, especially for the rulers, were developed. These predictions were probably undertaken in China and Egypt during the third millennium B.C. as well as in Mesopotamia. The first written proof of the use of astrology dates from the seventh century B.C. and was found in the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal's (688-626 B.C.) library. It consists of a collection of clay tablets including nearly seventy on which
predictions based on observation of the heavens had
been written. These
predictions dealt with matters affecting the entire
country and its
rulers such as
war and peace, drought and floods, plagues and famines.
They did not
deal with
individual people. The source used for the predictions
was the "Enuma
Anu
Enlil," which is generally dated at 1000 B.C. and
believed to be based
on even
older documents.
The oldest personal horoscope known date from
409 B.C.. We also know
that Mesopotamian astrology spread to Persia, India,
China and Greece in
the
sixth century B.C. and that the Greek and Mesopotamian
astrologers of
the fifth
century B.C. communicated closely with one another.
The modern method
of
dividing the zodiac into twelve equal parts of thirty
degrees each dates
from this
period. Greek doctors of the time used astrology to
diagnosis and
therapy
purposes and Greek philosophers developed it further.
Astrology
flourished during
the Hellenistic period from the third century B.C. to
the third century
A.D. and
was the absis of a uniquely comprehensive conception of
the world.
Astrology
had lost its elitist aura by this time and schools for
the study of
astrology were
founded. The earliest such school that we know of was
founded in 270
B.C. by
the Babylonian Bal priest Berossos on the Greek island
of Kos. The most
famous of these schools was in Alexandria, where
Ptolemy wrote one of
the most
important astrological works of all time, the
"Tetrabiblos." The
geocentric
concept of the world was named after him and lasted a
millennium and a
half.
Eastern slaves spread astrology throughout the
Roman Empire in a form
closer to necromancy than to serious astrology. This
took such extreme
forms
that astrologers were banned both from Rome and from
all Italy in an
edict of
139 B.C.. Astrology returned to educated roman circles
in the first
century B.C.
thanks to the persuasive research on the influence of
the stars and
climate and
people undertaken by the Syrian stoic Poseidonios.
With sole exception
of
Trajan, all the Roman emperors believed in astrology.
Ptolemy took the
view that
the stars were influential but not determining, in
contrast to Syrian
and Persian
astrologers at the Byzantine court after the fall of
the western Roman
Empire
who were convinced that the stars predetermined every
feature of human
life.
The Christian church opposed this determinism of
astrology with the
freedom of
the will.
Islamic culture absorbed astrologers as part of
the Greek heritage and
developed highly complex methods of interpretation and
calculation.
Famous
schools, the most important in Baghdad, were maintained
for the training
of
astrologers. European astrology flourished briefly in
Charlemangne's
Europe only
to be forgotten again.
Astrology schools returned to the scene in the
13th century Byzantine
Empire and spread to Europe. In the late Middle Ages,
chairs of
astrology
existed at the universities of Paris, Padua, Bologna,
Florence and
Oxford, among
others. Members of both the spiritual and the temporal
Renaissance
aristocracy
were believers in astrology, including Popes. The
Copernican revolution
of the
16th century replaced geocentric world view with the
heliocentric. Many
famous
learned men took up practical astrology in the 16th
17th century,