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Astrological Beginnings Among The Greeks Essay

1504 words - 6 pages

Astrology and Astronomy were once a single science used for the same purpose: calculating time. Astronomy is the study and observation of the motions of heavenly bodies, and astrology, the study of the effects that the movements of these celestial bodies have on human affairs. Before the fifth century B.C., the Greeks, primarily sailors and farmers, used astronomy strictly to determine seasonal time. Even great thinkers and philosophers encouraged using the stars for practical purposes only, unaware that rising in other civilizations was a belief that certain constellations could do much more than assist in calculating the hour. Xenophon, who studied under Socrates in his early life (around 436 B.C.) said "...Sokrates told his pupils to learn astronomy only as far as needed to tell time from the stars at night..." (Lindsay, 68). By observing the positions of commonly known constellations, the Greeks were able to roughly estimate the time of year, marked and differentiated by each of the seasonal solstices. These estimates were by no means precise, as mathematical astronomy did not develop until late in the fifth century, but determining the position of a constellation above the horizon was beneficial to creating more accurate calendars. Most early data that the Greeks collected about celestial bodies was derived from Persian and Babylonian traditions and fables, as well as mere practical observation of the stars. In the fifth and sixth centuries B.C. many cities in which Greek scientists and philosophers lived were under Persian rule, exposing them to the budding ideas of those who lived farther east. This flow of information created a medium in which the Greeks could advance their knowledge and practical use of natural elements, and eventually adapt their own practices of astrology, beyond the restrictions of scientific astronomy.The Greeks, with their interest in the uses of astronomy growing, learned much elementary information regarding the heavens from civilizations that were already developing sophisticated systems in which to determine the distances between fixed stars and the horizon, an essential factor of astrology. "Once the idea of systematic investigation got through to the Greeks there were certainly large-scale borrowings from the East." (Lindsay, 67). The Persians and Babylonians, from whom the Greeks originally learned tales of constellations, were more advanced in their studies of the astronomy than Western cultures in the sixth century. The twenty-four hour day, for instance, was a concept from the Babylonians, determined by observing the rising and setting stars, in addition to calculating the moon's various positions in the sky. By recognizing the stars called the paranotellonta, which rose and set with the constellations of the zodiac but were not of them, one was able to determine where these constellations were in relation to the horizon, even if they were not visible. While the positions of the stars appeared to be always...

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