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By Tamysn Barton

An account of astrology from its beginnings in Mesopotamia, targeting the Greco-Roman global, Ancient Astrology examines the theoretical improvement and altering social and political function of astrology.

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There is no full text of Nechepso and Petosiris, but there are plenty of quotations of writings attributed to them, in some cases extensive. The extant citations in the standard collection35 are very diverse; indeed it is hard to believe that the same authors were responsible for them. 36 The first offers a variety of astral omens which seem to be Egyptian developments of Mesopotamian models—presumably Ptolemaic, if not earlier. These citations are found in late authors: Hephaestion of Thebes (fl.

Now, however, that a fifth- or early fourth-century date is confirmed, it seems difficult to justify the old view that the Greeks could have invented the casting of nativities. Certainly in Babylon the conditions were ideal for such a practice to be started, since, as we have seen, there had long been an active pursuit of a system for predicting the future from celestial events, there had equally long been systems for producing predictions for individuals, and the zodiac had recently been invented.

The diagonal calendars of 1800–1200 BCE show this division. They were long out of relation to the calendar when they were put on coffin lids of Ramessid kings at the beginning of the first millennium BCE (see Plate 2). However, they survived as representations of the year’s decades (groups of ten days), and were eventually brought into a schematic relation to the zodiac in the Hellenistic age, probably at the time when leap years were introduced. Each was taken to preside over 10 degrees of the zodiacal circle (hence the Greek name of decans, from deca, ten).

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