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Myths of Babylonia and Assyria

Page: 169

As a result of the world-rocking process, the present-day "signs of the Zodiac" do not correspond with the constellations. In March, for instance, when the sun crosses the equator it enters the sign of the Ram (Aries), but does not reach the constellation till the 20th, as the comparative table shows on p. 308.

When "the ecliptic was marked off into the twelve regions" and the signs of the Zodiac were designated, "the year of three hundred sixty-five and one-fourth days was known", says Goodspeed, "though the common year was reckoned according to twelve months of thirty days each[351], and equated with the solar year by intercalating a month at the proper times.... The month was divided into weeks of seven days.... The clepsydra and the sundial were Babylonian inventions for measuring time."[352]

The sundial of Ahaz was probably of Babylonian design. When the shadow went "ten degrees backward" (2 Kings, xx, II) ambassadors were sent from Babylon "to enquire of the wonder that was done in the land" (2 Chron. xxxii, 31). It was believed that the king's illness was connected with the incident. According to astronomical calculation there was a partial eclipse of the sun which was visible at Jerusalem on 11th January, 689 B.C, about 11.30 a.m. When the upper part of the solar disc was obscured, the shadow on the dial was strangely affected.

The Babylonian astrologers in their official documents were more concerned regarding international omens than those which affected individuals. They made observations not only of the stars, but also the moon, which, as has been shown, was one of their planets, and took note of the clouds and the wind likewise.

As portions of the heavens were assigned to various countries, so was the moon divided into four quarters for the same purpose--the upper part for the north, Gutium, the lower for the south, Akkad or Babylonia, the eastern part for Elam, and the western for Amurru. The crescent was also divided in like manner; looking southward the astrologers assigned the right horn to the west and the left to the east. In addition, certain days and certain months were connected with the different regions. Lunar astrology was therefore of complicated character. When the moon was dim at the particular phase which was connected with Amurru, it was believed that the fortunes of that region were in decline, and if it happened to shine brightly in the Babylonian phase the time was considered auspicious to wage war in the west. Great importance was attached to eclipses, which were fortunately recorded, with the result that the ancient astronomers were ultimately enabled to forecast them.

The destinies of the various states in the four quarters were similarly influenced by the planets. When Venus, for instance, rose brightly in the field of Anu, it was a "prosperor" for Elam; if it were dim it foretold misfortune. Much importance was also attached to the positions occupied by the constellations when the planets were propitious or otherwise; no king would venture forth on an expedition under a "yoke of inauspicious stars".

Biblical references to the stars make mention of well-known Babylonian constellations:


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