Synopses & Reviews
In the second millennium b.c., Babylonian scribes assembled a vast collection of astrological omens, believed to be signs from the gods concerning the kingdom's political, military, and agricultural fortunes. The importance of these omens was such that from the eighth or seventh until the first century, the scribes observed the heavens nightly and recorded the dates and locations of ominous phenomena of the moon and planets in relation to stars and constellations. The observations were arranged in monthly reports along with notable events and prices of agricultural commodities, the object being to find correlations between phenomena in the heavens and conditions on earth. These collections of omens and observations form the first empirical science of antiquity and were the basis of the first mathematical science, astronomy. For it was discovered that planetary phenomena, although irregular and sometimes concealed by bad weather, recur in limited periods within cycles in which they are repeated on nearly the same dates and in nearly the same locations.
N. M. Swerdlow's book is a study of the collection and observation of ominous celestial phenomena and of how intervals of time, locations by zodiacal sign, and cycles in which the phenomena recur were used to reduce them to purely arithmetical computation, thereby surmounting the greatest obstacle to observation, bad weather. The work marks a striking advance in our understanding of both the origin of scientific astronomy and the astrological divination through which the kingdoms of ancient Mesopotamia were governed.
Originally published in 1998.
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Table of Contents
|Introduction, Planetary Omens, Observations, and Calculations|
|Ominous Phenomena in the Heavens||1|
|Observation of Phenomena||16|
|Calculation of Phenomena||23|
|Pt. 1||Periodicity and Variability of Synodic Phenomena|
|Units of Distance and Location and of Time and Date||34|
|Dates and Locations of Phenomena in the Diaries: Observed and True Dates||39|
|Periods and Their Errors||57|
|Synodic Arc, Synodic Time, and Their Relation||64|
|Pt. 2||Derivation of the Parameters for Synodic Arc and Time from the Dates of Phenomena|
|Theoretical and Empirical Considerations||73|
|Mercury: Systems A[subscript 1] and A[subscript 2]||104|
|Pt. 3||Alignment to the Zodiac, Initial Position, Elongation, Subdivision of the Synodic Arc and Time|
|Alignment to the Zodiac||135|
|Initial Position and Elongation||141|
|Elongation and Subdivision of the Synodic Arc and Time||147|
|Summary and Conclusion|
|App||Alternative Methods of Deriving Parameters|
|Derivation of System A from the Number of Phenomena||183|
|Finding the Synodic Arc from the Direct Measurement of Longitude||186|
|Notation and Abbreviations|
|Index of Names|
|Index of Subjects|