But their movements were recorded me- celestial mysteries.
They refined the calendar, fixed constellations provided convenient reference points devising a method for adjusting the lunar months to the so- for plotting their movements. The seers divided the heavens lar year in a more orderly manner. Observations became into three broad avenues, which carried the stars along as more exact, with researchers using mathematics to pinpoint.
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The northernmost circuit ap- various astral bodies. A scribe might report that "on the peared to revolve around the North Star when viewed from eighteenth day of the month, the goddess Ishtar was 2 de- the Northern. Hemisphere of the spinning earth, and its con- grees 55 minutes above the King" the King being Regulus, stellations never set below the horizon. According to some the brightest star in Leo. Sundials and water clocks helped authorities, this belt belonged to Anu, the ruling sky deity. For precision, the researchers Enlil, god of wind and rain, controlled the middle belt, split the day and night into standardized periods: twelve whose stars were seen to rise and set with the daily turning hours from one noonday to the next, with each hour divided of the earth.
The southernmost belt, with stars that might into sixty minutes, and each minute into sixty seconds. Ev- vanish for months on end in the winter, when the Northern ery standard clock face in the world thus reflects the work Hemisphere was tipped away from them and the sun, was of the Babylonian astrologers, although their time units the domain of the water god Ea, who would periodically were exactly twice as long as ours.
A back into his native ocean. Envisioned as a wise old man fair number had been identified in earlier times, to be sure. BC They used the data they collected to predict such events as tides, eclipses, and propitious planting times. In response, they prematurely descending over the land.
The Chaldeans, more than About BC, the Greek philosopher nese as dragons attacking the golden 4, years ago, thought the disap- and astronomer Anaxagoras correctly globe. The Chinese believed that these pearance of the moon was caused by explained why eclipses occur. Yet raids on the sun could be foreseen by an attack of seven demons, signaling more than fifty years later, in BC, royal astronomers and that any dire the end of the world. At the onset of superstition superseded science, with consequences might be prevented by an eclipse, a ceremony was performed dire historical consequences.
It was shooting arrows at the sky, beating in hopes of staving off ruin: A Chal- the time of the Peloponnesian War be- their drums, and generally tween the city-states of Ath- creating pandemonium. This ens and Sparta. The Athe- time, however, Chung nian army, camped on the K'ang's astronomers, Hsi island of Sicily, had suffered and Ho, had issued no fore- one setback after another. But in spite of the One day, as the Athenian failure to mount a counter- commander, Nicias, was attack, thesun once again about to order his troops to shone within a few minutes.
Nicias interpret- not so the astronomers. For ed this as a sign from the their failure to warn of the deities to stay his ground. This disaster was the alone in their fear of the turning point of the war, darkening of the day or leading to the eventual de- the sudden waning of the mise of Athens.
Over the following centu- Indeed, the word eclipse, ries, through the growing. This ability moon in the month of Hiyar [April- dean priest lit a torch, placed it on could be a powerful tool, as Christo- May] was put to shame. The sun an altar, and chanted dirges for the pher Columbus, anchored in Jamaica went down in the daytime," reads safety of the fields, rivers, and great and running short of provisions, dis- the earliest known observation of a divinities.
People gathered and covered in early When the Ja- solar eclipse, etched on a tablet in the removed their turbans, covered their maicans refused to furnish him with Syrian city of Ugarit in BC. People heads with their robes, and shouted at supplies, Columbus, aware of an im- all over the world struggled to under- the sky. It seemed to work: The sun pending lunar eclipse, threatened the stand and explain them.
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The mysteri- always reappeared. He predicted that on that very was linked to disaster, deaths, and the hunchbacks and dwarfs during night "the light of the moon would displeasure of the gods. Before BC, eclipses, and the Indians of the Yukon fail. The stand eclipses. The he gladly restored their moon -in re- it mean a heavy fall of snow, or is the Qagyuhl Indians of northwest America turn for his ship's provisions. But the philosophers,. They discerned a total of had no practical end in view.
Nor did they seek ern zodiac except Aries, the to divine the future; the Greek Ram. Each constellation took oracle at Delphi was judged on an astrological character, sufficient for that. No, the phi-.
The constellation later delight of puzzling things out. Virgo, seen originally verse that they observed. This early Greek bas-relief depicts Fanes, the god of light, as a furrow in a grain field, truth, and justice, surrounded by the zodiac signs and the symbols One of the earliest Io- stood for fertility.
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Scorpio, an of the four elements a coiled snake for earth, a nian thinkers, born around drinking bowl for water, wings for air, and a lion's head for fire. Well versed in Eastern mathematics he is said to Eventually, seers divided the Way of Enlil into twelve have brought geometry to Greece , Thales devised a new evenly spaced, month-long segments, and they named each approach to cosmic study.
He sought to sweep the sky clean segment after its corresponding star group. It did not matter of the ancient mythologies and to substitute physical laws. Some were dropped, and the differences in the cosmos from her parts. Rather, Thales declared, it size among the rest were ignored.
And sometime before the evolved through natural causes from one physical ele- end of the fifth century BC, the zodiac assumed its final ment-which he took to be water. Applying his physical form, with the twelve signs dividing the sky into equal seg- laws, Thales became adept at analyzing and predicting the ments of thirty degrees each. With a few minor changes, it movements of heavenly bodies. Various pupils of Thales continued to work at deter- m. Anaximander pro- By then the urge to scrutinize the night sky in an organized posed a geometric picture of the heavens, in which the uni- manner had spread well beyond the kingdoms of Mesopo- verse was contained inside a huge wheel of fire with holes tamia.
Among the most ardent surveyors of the heavens in its rim that allowed the stars to shine through. Another were the philosophers of Greece. Greek mariners since the pupil, Anaximenes, suggested that the stars and planets time of Homer had set their helms to various astral sign- were like the heads of shiny nails that had been driven into posts, and Greek farmers would harvest their grapes when orbiting spheres of a transparent, crystal-like substance.
Atlas balances a celestial globe upon his shoulders in this statue, copied in the second century AD from a Greek original. According to Greek mythology, Atlas had to hold up the heavens after losing a war against Zeus, god of the sky. Each sign of the zodiac would eventually come to be asso- But both men sought a rational explanation for natural ciated with one or another. His neighbor in Cos was the events. And for all their lofty speculation, the students of physician Hippocrates, honored as the father of medicine, Thales could be resolutely down-to-earth.
Anaximander, for who suggested that a patient's good health depended on a example, took time to draw a map of the known world, proper balance between four bodily fluids, or humors, which was astonishing in its overall accuracy.
And no physi- As these heady ideas swirled about in the intellectual cian, Hippocrates maintained, could practice effectively. The most influential by far originated the classical cosmos: an earth-centered uni- with another Ionian Pythagoras, known to every modern Ihus verse governed by a divine intelligence, which ex- high-school student for his famous theorem on the geome- ercised its powers through mathematical laws of try of right triangles. Pythagoras was a giant in his own day, nature.
And no one did more to perpetuate this im-. He journeyed to Egypt, then to Babylon, est of all Greek thinkers. Plato embraced the astral knowl- and he returned home steeped in astral lore. The cosmos, edge of his day and lifted it to the highest levels of mystical. To him there was only one reality an un- gence that expressed itself in numbers. All parts of the uni- changing ideal realm of divine spirit, which cast its light.
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Beside this, the physical world as per-. The result was a numerical harmony, a even the sky itself was mere illusion. Any exceptions to. Each planet, as it circled in space, produced a tered to him. Perfection was all, the natural habitat of truth musical note, and together the notes vibrated in a single and beauty. Each human soul was a part of the divine spirit,. The wise individual, and each had its own private star to which one day it would Pythagoras declared, should strive for perfection by attun- return.
Plato's scheme would profoundly affect the doc- ing the self to this prevailing symphony. But tellectual currents that wafted in from Babylon, a more there remained one glaring contradiction in this neat pic- thorough mingling was now about to occur. It came, like so turethe odd backward pirouettes of the planets. Pythago- many cultural marriages in that unsettled age, through the ras could not explain them. His disciple Philolaus offered a agency of military conquest.
The earth was not stationary, he said; it, too, In BC an army of 35, Greeks and Macedonians moved in orbit. Centuries would pass, however, before this tiny force for the task at hand marched out of Europe and strange idea caught on.
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