Essays Relating To The History Of

Occidental Constellations and

Star Names to the Classical Period

The Recovery Of Babylonian Astronomy by Gary D. Thompson

Copyright © 2009-2014 by Gary D. Thompson

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The Recovery of Babylonian Astronomy

Strassmaier, Epping, Kugler, and Schaumberger: A History and Legacy of Their Co-operative Pioneering Effort to Recover Babylonian Astronomy

by Gary D. Thompson


(8) Peter Jensen, Robert Brown Junior, Carl Bezold, Ernst Weidner, Antonie Pannekoek, and Felix Gössmann, etc


Part 14: Peter Jensen

Peter Jensen. (life dates: 1861-1936). German assyriologist. Born in Bordeaux, France. The son of a Frisian pastor, he followed the traditional path taken by the first specialists in assyriology by taking a degree in theology at Strasbourg. He later studied at the universities of Leipzig and Berlin. He devoted himself to the study of Semitic and Hittite archaeology. He first became a professor at the age of 24, subsequently he became professor of Semitic philology at Marburg University (1892? (from 1895?)). Professor für semitische Sprachen; Professor für orientalische Geschichte (at the University of Marburg). In I928 he retired from the professorship of Assyriology at the University of Marburg.

Jensen was an accomplished assyriologist; philologically capable (= brilliant).

He did valuable early work with the translation of cuneiform texts. He also brought the Gilgamesh epic to prominence. In his day it was considered that he rendered good service in his time with his work on Babylonian cosmology (Die Kosmologie der Babylonier (1890)) and his treatise on Babylonian epics and myths (Assyrisch-babylonische Mythen und Epen (1900)). In the present-day it is still considered Jensen made major contributions to assyriology.

Peter Jensen was the first to show, in his book Die Kosmologie der Babylonier (1890), that the Greek zodiac (and zodiacal constellation names) was adapted (with few changes) from the (newly developed) zodiacal scheme of the Babylonians.

He became a firm supporter of Panbabylonist views and had an independent approach to the topic through the Gilgamesh epic (Das Gilgamesh-Epos in der Weltliteratur (Gilgamesh in World Literature) (1906)). His 2 massive (and unreasonable) tomes on this theme helped the final demise of Panbabylonism. his ideas were preposterous. Jensen argued that Abraham, Moses, Jesus and John the Baptist, for example, were borrowed from Babylonian mythology, specifically the myth of Gilgamesh. Jensen's broad position was that Christianity was based on a form of the Gilgamesh myth. His Panbabylonian ideas have been described as harebrained by Robert Smend (From Astruc to Zimmerli (2007, Page 161)).


Part 15: Robert Brown Junior

Robert Brown Junior (life dates: 1844-1912). Usually Robert Brown Junior FSA (Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries), MRAS (Member of the Royal Astronomical Society) is mistakenly described as an English Orientalist or Assyriologist. Actually he was an English Solicitor in Barton-on-Humber. (He lived at Priestgate House, in Priestgate (Road).) He was also the registrar of the county court in Barton-upon-Humber. He was also a writer on archaic religion, mythology, and astronomy. He was known (locally) as a writer on archaic religion. Brown was an amateur Orientalist. In his day Brown Junior was quite highly regarded as a popular writer. He worked for the legal firm of Brown and Son (later renamed Brown and Sons). He was born in Barton-upon-Humber and worked and died there. He is frequently confused with the American freemason and author Robert Hewitt Brown. Also, he is commonly mis-identified as an Assyriologist or Orientalist. He was educated at Cheltenham College, was a Fellow of the Antiquarian Society, a Member of the Royal Asiatic Society, and a Member of the Society of Biblical Archaeology. He was an avid amateur antiquarian and amateur philologist and a prolific writer on ancient Near Eastern mythology and astronomy. He was known (locally) as a writer on archaic religion. He was a strong supporter of the Solar mythology school and also a strong supporter of Semitic influence upon Greek mythology.

He corresponded with William Gladstone (on Greek literature no doubt) when Gladstone was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in 1880. His father was Robert Brown, Solicitor and Registrar of the County Court, Barton-on-Humber. (Robert Brown was admitted to the Queen's Bench as Attorney, in 1850. However, he was established as an Attorney at Burgate by at least 1841.) The business became Brown and Son, Solicitors, when Robert Brown Junior joined it. Some details for Robert Brown Junior for 1885 include: (1) is Clerk to the Magistrates Court, Priestgate; (2) County Court Office: is Registrar and High Bailiff of the County Court, Priestgate; (3) Public Office, Priestgate: is Steward of the Manors of Barton-on-Humber & of Winteringham.

The following information was recorded at the 1891 Census for Priestgate: 866 - Robert Brown Junior, Married, 46 years, Head of house, Solicitor; Ann Eliza Brown, Married, 42 years, Janet E. Hogarth, Single, 25 years, Visitor, Literary author; Ann Everatt, Single, 35 years, Domestic servant; Ann Glover, Single, 35 years, Domestic servant. Janet Hogarth was the 'pen name' for Janet Courtney, a noted 19th-century scholar, writer, feminist, and freethinker, who was born in Barton-on-Humber, 1865, and died in London, 1954.

In 1871 Brown is listed in the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of London; "Brown, Robert, Jun. Esq. Priestgate House, Barton-on-Humber, Lincolnshire." In 1887 he is listed in the published Register of the Parish Church of Calverley. (He is earlier listed in the published Register of the Parish Church of Calverley in the West Riding of the County of York, 1883.) In the Journal of the Transactions of the Victoria Institute, Volume 11, 1878, (under "Faith and Thought" ?) he (or his father) is also listed: "Brown, Robert, Esq. Solicitor and ex-Registrar of County court ...." Earlier, his father Robert Brown in listed in the Post Office Directory of Lincolnshire, 1855, Pages 20 & 21 as: Insurance Agent for Phœnix Fire & Pelican Life; clerk to the County court Office; public officer, "Clerk to the Magistrates [Court], Steward of the Manor of Winteringham, Perpetual Commissioner & Commissioner to administer Oaths in Chancery."

During the 1870s and 1880s he laboured to establish the influence of ancient Semitic cultures on Hellenic religious mythology. Along with George Cox and Abram Palmer he enthusiastically embraced and promoted the school of nature mythology originated by Max Müller. One of Brown's better books is Semitic Influence in Hellenic Mythology (1898), which is a critique of the views of Max Müller and Andrew Lang on mythology. (See the supportive (English-language) book review by George Goodspeed in The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures, Volume 15, Number 1, October, 1898, Pages 60-62.) Circa 1883 Brown Junior began working on the the origin of the extra-zodiacal constellations.

Brown corresponded with William Gladstone (on Greek literature no doubt) when Gladstone was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in 1880. According to the folklorist Richard Dorson (History of British Folklore (1999)) Brown claimed to have converted Prime Minister Gladstone from an old-fashioned interpretation of Homer to his own viewpoint (involving Semitic influences). There is little doubt of the accuracy of Brown's claim (see: Homeric Synchronism: An Enquiry into the Time and Place of Homer by William Gladstone (1876)).

It appears that for a time Robert Brown Junior practiced fraudulent physical mediumship (during at least 1890-1891) and his "séances" (mostly resulting in a table levitation trick) were investigated by officers of The Society for Psychical Research. (See: The Founders of Psychical Research by Alan Gauld (1968, Pages 221-222).)  His wife Ann was connected with - or a member of - the Society for Psychical Research (London). (See: Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, Volume 21, Pages 539; "Brown, Mrs. Robert, Priestgate House, Barton-on-Huber, Hull.".) Ann (or perhaps a daughter-in-law) may also have been a keen cyclist. A 1-page cycling log for a Mrs Brown of Barton, for 1909, records 1-day cycling journeys, one being 140 miles (Barton to Nottingham and return by the same route). (With the invention of the safety bicycle in 1885, women had taken to bicycle riding in great numbers.)

It is possible that Mary-Helen Brown, daughter of Robert Brown, Barton-on-Humber, (who married William Spry in 1852) was his sister.

It has been commented (by several persons) that if Brown Junior was right then it was often/usually for the wrong reasons. As example: On the origin of the constellations he accepted the erroneous ideas of Fritz Hommel and Peter Jensen, and opposed the ideas of Georg Thiele. In spite of holding some peculiar positions Antike Himmelsbilder (1898) by Georg Thiele is still regarded by some as the standard work on the constellations. Books by Fritz Hommel and Peter Jensen are largely forgotten and their ideas discarded.

According to the folklorist Richard Dorson (History of British Folklore (1999)) Brown very much felt his isolation in Barton-on-Humber - and his distance from London to attend meetings. Eventually he became the only member of his family to remain living in Barton-on-Humber. (In 1930 the population of Barton-on-Humber was approximately 6,500 people.)

Brown's relationship with assyriologists

Brown was highly reliant on continual assistance and guidance from professional assyriologists such as Theophilus Pinches (1856-1934) and George Bertin (1848-1891). However, he was keen for recognition and also to promote his particular ideas.

On ancient astronomy he corresponded/associated with – and relied upon for material and guidance – professional assyriologists such as Archibald Sayce, Theophilus Pinches and George Bertin. He was obviously frequently corresponding with Pinches - in his Primitive Constellations he frequently acknowledges assistance/advice given by Pinches. In a letter to the American Journal of Archaeology and of the History of the Fine Arts (1893) he acknowledges that Theophilus Pinches has called his attention to Babylonian tablet BM 85-4-30, 15 in the British Museum which gives the 12 months and month stars connected with each. A number of Brown's mistakes are their mistakes. However, he frequently ignored their expert guidance on a range of issues (such as philology and cultural transmission) and they frequently expressed their disappointment with Brown’s 'independent' (speculative and undisciplined) ideas on a range of issues (such as philology and cultural transmission). The eminent French historian of ancient astronomy, Paul Tannery, found Brown's work erudite and ingenious, but took issue with the method, and other issues. Both volumes of Researches into the Origin of the Primitive Constellations of Greeks, Phoenicians and Romans are (1) thoroughly dated and unreliable, and (2) still mistaken as important and the standard work.

It has been claimed that the British assyriologist Theophilus Pinches confirmed that Robert Brown Junior was the first to connect the “three stars” for each month in the Creation Epic Enuma Elish (tablet 5, lines 1-8) with the “three stars” for each month set out on a circular star calendar (“astrolabe”) fragment. In Volume II, Chapter IX, of his Primitive Constellations, Brown certainly discusses and connects the “three stars” for each month in the Creation Epic Enuma Elish with the "three stars" for each month set out on a circular star calendar (“astrolabe”) fragment. In Theophilus Pinches’ review of Volume II of Primitive Constellations (Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (1900)), he writes: "There are, therefore, three stars or constellations for each month, corresponding with the statement in the Babylonian Creation-Story, and there is every probability that Mr Brown is right in regarding as those which are referred to in that Legend." Later, in his book The Religion of Babylon and Assyria (1906, Page 67) Pinches mentions that Brown junior has identified the "three stars" for each month on a circular planisphere fragment with "three stars" for each month in the 6th (sic) tablet of the Enuma Elish. Pinches does acknowledge that Brown Junior has made the connection but nowhere does Pinches actually acknowledge 'first.' It may indeed be that Brown Junior was 'first' to make a 'constellation connection.'  The assyriologist Wayne Horowitz has, since 1998 (Mesopotamian Cosmic Geography), clearly shown the close connection between tablet V, lines 1-8, of the Babylonian creation epic Enuma Elish (comprised of 7 tablets) and the astrolabes. ... The parallels between the Enuma Elish and the astrolabes .... demonstrates that the astrolabes are not only astronomical-calendrical works (presenting an astronomical-calendrical theory), but also have important religious and theological implications. Brown Junior made no such connection.

Also, in Pinches' review of Volume 1 of Brown's Researches into the Origin of the Primitive Constellations of Greeks, Phoenicians and Romans (1899) he states: "... it grieves me that I cannot follow him in much of what says concerning the statements of the Assyro-Babylonian tablets bearing upon the subject." In Pinches' review of Volume 2 of Brown's Researches into the Origin of the Primitive Constellations of Greeks, Phoenicians and Romans (1900) he states: "It is a matter of regret to me that I find myself unable to follow the author in all his conclusions, and that my readings, ... often differ greatly to his."

Brown Junior was for many years reliant on the guidance given to him (i.e., discussion of material) by the assyriologist George Bertin (1848-1891). In the pages of the late 19th-century journal The Academy it is clearly Robert Brown Junior who George Bertin is referring to for breaching trust and publishing some of Bertin's significant work unacknowledged - inferring it was Brown's own work. Trying to work out at this late stage what was Brown's own work and what was a copy of the help of others is impossible.

Basic problems with volume 2 of Brown's Researches into the Origin of the Primitive Constellations of Greeks, Phoenicians and Romans (1900)

Brown Junior mistook the early circular "three stars each" texts (commonly called "planispheres," but actually functioning as star calendars) as representing the standard Mesopotamian scheme of constellations. On the basis of three small fragments of these circular "star calendars" (Sm. 162, Sm. 608, and Sm. 94) he attempted to re-establish what he believed was a complete standard Babylonian "planisphere." His speculative and erroneous reconstruction of such was based on his belief that the "planispheres" set out an ecliptic based scheme with the 12 stars in the Path of Ea (outer ring) marking southern constellations, the 12 stars in the Path of Enlil (inner ring) marking northern constellations, and the 12 stars in the Path of Anu (middle ring) marking the 12 zodiacal constellations along the ecliptic.

He was also led into error by the text of the Enuma Elish ("When on high") the 7 tablet series usually described as the Mesopotamian "Epic of Creation" He began Volume II of Researches into the Origin of the Primitive Constellations of Greeks, Phoenicians and Romans with a chapter setting out his analysis of the fifth tablet of the Enuma Elish series. In the fifth tablet there occurs a passage ("For the twelve months he placed three stars (constellations) each.") that is interpretable as pointing to the existence of a scheme of 36 constellations: 12 northern, 12 zodiacal, and 12 southern. These are 36 selected stars (constellations) to mark the progress of the months through the course of the schematic year and not the total number of constellations within the scheme of Mesopotamian uranography.

On the basis of his mistaken "planisphere" reconstruction Brown Junior believed the constellations, including a 12-constellation zodiac scheme, in something like their present form, originated in Mesopotamia in the late 3rd millennium BCE. He denied (quite incorrectly) that anyone in Mesopotamia was inventing the 12-constellation zodiac as late as circa 500 BCE.

Part of the problem was Brown Junior was unaware of the star lists of the Mul.Apin series. Mul.Apin tablet 1 (BM 86378) was not published until 1912 by Leonard King (CT 33, Plates 1-8) and it was perhaps first discussed by Franz Kugler in his Supplement 1 (1913) to his Sternkunde und Sterndienst in Babel. The first section of Mul.Apin tablet 1 lists considerably more stars in the Paths of Enlil, Anu, and Ea than are found in the "planispheres." Brown Junior was also misled by the limited listing of stars/constellations in the Paths of Enlil, Anu, and Ea through Tablet 82-5-22 512.

In his book review in the American Journal of Theology, George Barton comments of Volume 2: "Mr. Brown is a disciple of Professor Sayce, and an admirer both of him and Professor Hommel. His method of work is their method, and, as some of us believe, it is not a method which it is safe to follow."

Book reviews of Researches into the Origin of the Primitive Constellations of Greeks, Phoenicians and Roman

See the (English-language) book reviews by Anon in Nature, Volume LIX, (Number 1537), April 13, 1899, Pages 553-544, and Volume LXXIV, (Number 1921), August 3, 1906, Pages 410-411; Theophilus Pinches in The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1900, Pages 371-375, & Pages 571-577; Anon in The Journal of the British Astronomical Association, Volume IX, Number 8, 1898/1899, Pages 386-387, and Volume X, Number 10, 1899/1900, Pages 414-415; William Crooke in Folk-Lore, Volume XLIV, 1899, Pages 339-341; W. W. B. in The Observatory, Number 283, Volume 22, September, 1899, Pages 345-346, and The Observatory, Number 294, July, 1900, Pages 292-293; George Barton in The American Journal of Theology, Volume 4, 1900, Page 152, and Volume 5, Number 1, January, 1901, Pages 124-125; and the (French-language) book reviews by Henri Hubert in Revue de L'Histoire des Religions, Volume 41, 1900, Pages 240-242, and Volume 45, 1902, Pages 440-441.

Uninformed support for Brown's Researches into the Origin of the Primitive Constellations of Greeks, Phoenicians and Romans

As late as 1932 Basil Brown in his Astronomical Atlases, Maps and Charts (unreliably) advised that Brown's Researches into the Origin of the Primitive Constellations of Greeks, Phoenicians and Romans "should certainly be consulted." The historian Mircea Eliade, in his The Encyclopedia of Religion (1987) also (unreliably) recommended use of Brown's Researches into the Origin of the Primitive Constellations of Greeks, Phoenicians and Romans.

Ernst Weidner's estimate of Robert Brown's publications on the constellations

In his Handbuch der babylonischen Astronomie the assyriologist Ernst Weidner wrote that Robert Brown's studies on the Babylonian fixed stars, most published in PSBA and summarised in the 2 volume Primitive Constellations, is of extremely low value, and comprise a striking example of where dilettantism can get lost.

Aratus' Phainomena

Robert Brown believed that Aratus' poem embodied astronomical ideas derived from Babylon. Specifically, the constellations described by Aratus - including the zodiacal constellations - are of Babylonian origin and date circa 2000 BCE.

In his lengthy article 1892 address/paper in "The Celestial Equator of Aratos." (In: Morgan, E. (Editor). Transactions of the Ninth International Congress of Orientalists. 2 Volumes. (Pages 445-485). [The paper is in Volume 2.]) is the address/publication in which Brown (erroneously) dates the origin of the Babylonian zodiac to 2084 BCE. This error had also been touched upon in his earlier 1885 book The Phainomena, or, ‘Heavenly Display’ of Aratos: Done into English Verse. Brown believed that nobody was inventing the zodiac circa 500 BCE. (By way of noting Robert Brown Junior was appointed Secretary of the Archaic Greece and the East Section (for the duration/terms of the Ninth International Congress of Orientalists?).)

Basic problems with Brown's The Phainomena, or, ‘Heavenly Display’ of Aratos: Done into English Verse 

Brown believed that nobody was inventing the zodiac circa 500 BCE. In fact we now know that the zodiac was developed by the Babylonians over circa 700 BCE to circa 400 BCE. Nobody was inventing a zodiac prior to the Babylonians in the first millennium BCE.

Book reviews of The Phainomena, or, ‘Heavenly Display’ of Aratos: Done into English Verse

See the (English-language) reviews by J[ohn?]. Watson in The Academy, August 29, 1885, Number 695, Pages 137-138; and by Anon in the Astronomical Register, Volume 24, 1886, Page 317.]

Uninformed support for Brown's The Phainomena, or, ‘Heavenly Display’ of Aratos: Done into English Verse

Brown's ideas on such have influenced multiple other persons (including modern scholars such as Mary Blomberg and Göran Henriksson, Uppsala University) to ascribe a very early date to the constellations in the Phainomena of Aratus. These ideas are now no longer tenable. A suitable understanding of Babylonian cuneiform sources clearly show a late origin for the zodiac (originating circa 500 BCE in Babylon). The complex set of Babylonian constellations contained in the Mul.Apin series can be dated to the latter half of the 2nd-millennium BCE.

Other persons have more recently argued that the Phainomena of Aratus can be dated to circa 3000 BCE. However, the assumption of accuracy for Aratus' reworking of Eudoxus' earlier works describing the constellations is perhaps misplaced. The Greeks were not too concerned about accuracy until after the 4th-century BCE. Also, the needs of Aratus for reworking the descriptions of Eudoxus into into suitable versification could easily have introduced some looseness in accuracy of description.

Biographical information for Robert Brown Junior

See brief biographical entries in A Supplement to Allibone's Critical Dictionary of English Literature and British and American Authors, by John Kirk (1891, Volume 1, Page 227); and Men and Women of the Time, 15th edition, by Victor Plarr (1899, Page 137).

Some books and monographs by Robert Brown Junior

Poseidon (1872)

The Great Dionysiak Myth (2 Volumes, 1877-1878)

The Unicorn – A Mythological Investigation (1881)

The Law of Kosmic Order (1882)

Eridanus: River and Constellation. A Study of the Archaic Southern Asterisms (1883) [Note: Now thoroughly dated. Full of erroneous speculations.]

The Myth of Kirke (1883)

The Phainomena, or, ‘Heavenly Display’ of Aratos: Done into English Verse (1885) [Note: Considered to be a mostly faithful translation.]

Semitic Influence in Hellenic Mythology (1898)

Researches into the Origin of the Primitive Constellations of the Greeks, Phoenicians, and Babylonians (2 Volumes, 1899-1900) [Note: Volume II focuses on the Babylonian constellations. Both volumes are full of errors and should not be used.]

Some articles by Robert Brown Junior

Brown, Junior., Robert. (1885). "The Zodiacal Crab." (The Academy, February 21, Number 668, Pages 135-136). [Note: No material by Robert Brown is reliable. However, his mistaken ideas still continue to influence some people who write on the origin of the constellations.]

Brown, Junior., Robert. (1886). "The Names of the Great Syrian Goddess." (The Academy, April 10, Number 727, Page 257).

Brown, Junior., Robert. (November, 1886 - June, 1887). "On Euphratean Names of the Constellation Ursa Major." (Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology, Volume 9, Pages 127-130). [Note: This is a communication to the Society.]

Brown, Junior., Robert. (1887). "Babylonian Astronomy in the West - The Aries of Aratos." (The Babylonian and Oriental Record [The Babylonian & Oriental Record], Volume 1, Number 3, January, Pages 33-35). [Note: See also: "Note on Babylonian Astronomy." by William Lynn. (The Babylonian and Oriental Record, Volume 1, Number 5, 1887, March, Pages 78-79).]

Brown, Junior., Robert. (1887). "The Babylonian Zodiac." (The Academy, January 29, Number 769, Page 73). [This is a letter which appears in the Correspondence section.]

Brown, Junior., Robert. (1887). "Remarks on some Euphratean Astronomical Names in the Lexicon of Hêsychios." (The Babylonian and Oriental Record, Volume 1, Number 9, July, Pages 140-143; and Volume 1, Number 10, August, Pages 148-150).

Brown, Junior., Robert. (1887). "Etruscan Divinity-Names." (The Academy, November 12, Number 810, Pages 323-324).

Brown, Junior., Robert. (1888). "The Euphratean Kosmological Theogony Preserved by Damaskios." (The Platonist [Magazine], An Exponent of Philosophic Truth, Volume 4, Number 3, March, Pages 113-118).

Brown, Junior., Robert. (November, 1888 - June, 1889). "Names of Stars in Babylonian." (Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology, Volume 11, Pages 145-151). [Note: This is a communication to the Society.]

Brown, Junior., Robert. (November, 1889 - June, 1890). "Remarks on the Tablet of the Thirty Stars. Part I." (Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology, Volume 12, Pages 137-152).

Brown, Junior., Robert. (November, 1889 - June, 1890). "Remarks on the Tablet of the Thirty Stars. Part II." (Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology, Volume 12, Pages 180-206).

Brown, Junior., Robert. (November, 1890 - June, 1891). "Remarks on the Euphratean Astronomical Names of the Signs of the Zodiac." (Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology, Volume 13, Pages 246-271).

Brown, Junior., Robert. (1890). "The Zodiacal Crab." (The Academy, December 6, Number 970, Pages 532-533).

Brown, Junior., Robert. (November, 1891 - June 1892). "Euphratean Stellar Researches [Part I]." (Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology, Volume 14, Pages 280-304).

Brown, Junior., Robert. (1892). "The Milky Way in Euphratean Stellar Mythology." (The Academy, January 9, Number 1027, Page 43).

Brown, Junior., Robert. (November, 1892 - June, 1893). "Euphratean Stellar Researches [Part II]." (Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology, Volume 15, Pages 317-342).

Brown, Junior., Robert. (November, 1892 - June, 1893). "Euphratean Stellar Researches. Part III." (Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology, Volume 15, Pages 456-470).

Brown, Junior., Robert. (1892). "The Celestial Equator of Aratos." In: Morgan, E[?]. (Editor). Transactions of the Ninth International Congress of Orientalists. 2 Volumes. (Pages 445-485). [Note: The paper is in Volume 2.]

Brown, Junior., Robert. (1894). "The Dawn of Astronomy." (The Academy, March 31, Number 1143, Pages 271-272). [Note: An article book-review of The Dawn of Astronomy by J. Norman Lockyer.]

Brown, Junior., Robert. (1894). "The Connexion between Babylonian and Greek Astronomy." (The Academy, November 10, Number 1175, Pages 379-380).

Brown, Junior., Robert. (January - December, 1895). "Euphratean Stellar Researches. Part IV." (Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology, Volume 17, Pages 16-36).

Brown, Junior., Robert. (January - December, 1895). "Euphratean Stellar Researches. Part V." (Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology, Volume 17, Pages 284-303).

Brown, Junior., Robert. (January - December, 1895). "Euphratean Stellar Researches. [Part VI]." (Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology, Volume 18, Pages 25-44).

Brown, Junior., Robert. (1901). "A Greek circle of late times showing Euphratean influence." (Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology, Volume XXIII, Pages 255-257).

Brown, Junior., Robert. (January - December, 1902). "Note on the Heavenly Body MUL . MUL." (Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology, Volume 24, Pages 126-129). [Note: This is a communication to the Society.]


Brown, Junior., Robert. (1892). "The Celestial Equator of Aratos." In: Morgan, E. (Editor). Transactions of the Ninth International Congress of Orientalists. 2 Volumes. (Pages 445-485). [Note: The paper is in Volume 2. By way of noting Robert Brown Junior was appointed Secretary of the Archaic Greece and the East Section (for the duration/terms of the Congress?). This is the publication in which Robert Brown (erroneously) dates the origin of the Babylonian zodiac to 2084 BCE. Brown believed that nobody was inventing the zodiac circa 500 BCE. If fact we now know that the zodiac was developed by the Babylonians over circa 700 BCE to circa 400 BCE. Nobody was inventing a zodiac prior to the Babylonians in the first millennium BCE.]

Brown, [Junior]., Robert. (2010). Remarks on the Euphratean Astronomical Names of the Signs of the Zodiac. [Note: A Kessinger Publishing print-on-demand book containing 2 out-dated 19th-century articles by Robert Brown, Junior. The 2 articles are: Remarks on the Tablet of the Thirty-Stars (Part I and Part II), and Remarks on the Euphratean Astronomical Names of the Signs of the Zodiac. Both were originally published in the Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology.]


Part 16: Carl Bezold

Carl Bezold. (life dates: 1859-1922). German assyriologist. He was born at Donauwörth in Bavaria in 1859 and died in Heidelberg (Germany) in 1922. He lived in London (England) from 1888 to 1895 whilst engaged in preparing a catalogue of the British Museum tablet collections. The end result was the Catalogue of the Cuneiform Tablets of the Kouyunjik Collection of the British Museum (5 Volumes, 1889-1899). This catalogue contains descriptions of approximately 14,500 tablets and fragments. He was a friend of both Johann Strassmaier and Franz Kugler. Whilst in London he was assisted by Strassmaier in the preparation of the Catalogue of the Cuneiform Tablets of the Kouyunjik Collection of the British Museum (5 Volumes, 1889-1899). His knowledge of assyriology was considered encyclopedic. He was proficient in numerous ancient and modern languages including Chinese, Assyrian, Arabic, Syriac, English, French, and Italian. From 1886 to 1915 he was the editor of Zeitschrift für Assyriologie. In 1894 he was appointed Professor of Semitic Philology and Director of Oriental Seminars at the University of Heidelberg. He held this prestigious academic position until his death. Kugler was involved in several years of self-training to learn cuneiform script. However, between 1900 and 1907, Kugler also, for 6 to 12 months, "formally" studied cuneiform philology in Heidelberg. It can be reasonably speculated that Kugler went to Carl Bezold at the University of Heidelberg for such.

Bezold's 1911 pamphlet Astronomie, Himmelsschau und Astrallehre bei den Babylonier strongly defended Franz Kugler's chronology of Babylonian scientific astronomy and also his critique of Panbabylonism. His key publication (booklet/pamphlet) setting out a joint attempt to identify Babylonian constellations was Zenit- und Aequartorialgestirne am babylonischen Fixsternhimmel (1913, in collaboration with August Kopff and Franz Boll). It was an early study of Mul.Apin tablet 1 and the identification of Babylonian constellations with modern star groups. Carl Bezold, with the assistance of August Kopff and the participation of Franz Boll, examined the contents of BM 86378. The identification of 78 Babylonian constellations and star names is made. The 59-page pamphlet gives the transcription and (German-language) translation of BM 86378 and a detailed comparison of the results of Franz Kugler, Ernst Weidner, and August Kopff and Carl Bezold, in identifying the stars and constellations listed. The pamphlet is valuable in reproducing the particular cuneiform signs for all 78 constellations and star names investigated.

Circa 1900 little was known with certainty regarding the identification of of Babylonian constellation names and star names. Though cuneiform script had been successfully deciphered for decades the meanings of numerous words either remained unknown or were incorrectly understood. The types of astronomical texts available circa 1900 were (1) late Babylonian observational texts (4th to 1st century BCE); (2) mathematical-astronomical texts (from the latest period of Babylonian astronomy); and (3) omina literature regarding celestial events and (4) a few lists of constellation/star names. The observational texts and mathematical-astronomical texts contained few names of celestial bodies - mostly the names of planets and the constellations of the zodiac. The type of information contained in the constellation/star lists in Mul.Apin tablet 1 (BM 86378), an autograph copy of which was first published by the British Assyriologist Leonard King in 1912, provided a unique opportunity for the identification of Babylonian constellations.

The primary effort in successfully identifying the constellations and star names listed in BM 86378 was carried out by first by Franz Kugler and then by Carl Bezold and August Kopff. The Kopff-Bezold results largely agree with the identifications made by Franz Kugler in his Supplement 1 (1913) to his Sternkunde und Sterndienst in Babel. Further work by later scholars largely confirmed their results. There were 16 agreements in identification between Kugler, Weidner, and Kopff-Bezold. The lower number is due to the lesser number of identifications made by Ernst Weidner.

August Kopff was a German astronomer who worked in Heidelberg; then Berlin. In Berlin he was Director of the Institute for Astronomical Calculation of the Friedrich-Wilhelm-University (now the Humboldt-University).

Franz Boll was a renowned German classical philologist who specialized in ancient astronomy. He had the ability to combine astronomy, religion, and literature with great originality. His death in 1924 at the age of 57 put an end to his further masterly contributions to elucidating little-known traditions. His last academic position was Professor of Classical Philology at the University of Heidelberg.

The two tablets comprising the Mul.Apin series are essentially a series of structured lists grouped into 18 sections. Tablet 1 basically contains eight sections (including five star lists):

(1) A list of 33 stars in the Path of Anu, 23 stars in the Path of Enlil, and 15 stars in the Path of Ea.

(2) A sequential list of (heliacal rising) dates in the ideal calendar (i.e., based on a year comprised of 12 months of 30 days each) on which 36 fixed stars and constellations rose heliacally.

(3) A list of simultaneously rising and setting constellations.

(4) Time intervals between the heliacal rising dates of some selected stars.

(5) The visibility of the fixed stars in the East and the West.

(6) A list of 14 ziqpu-stars (i.e., stars which culminate overhead).

(7) The relation between the culmination of zipqu-stars and their heliacal rising.

(8) A list of stars and planets in the path of the moon. (The beginning of the second tablet continues the listing of (8) in tablet 1.)

The data contained in the Mul.Apin series is not quantifiable (i.e., precisely defined) and appropriate assumptions are required to be made (i.e., of the stars forming each constellation and which of these stars were listed to rise heliacally).

Kugler in his Sternkunde und Sterndienst in Babel, Erg. 1, used lists (2) (3) and (6) and computed for 500 BCE at Babylon. Kopff used the same lists and computed for 600 BCE at Nineveh. I am presently unsure what lists Weidner used and what date and location he computed for. Later researchers used different lists. The German assyriologist Johann Schaumberger in his Sternkunde und Sterndienst in Babel, Erg. 3, used lists (1) and (2). The Dutch mathematician Bartel van der Waerden in his Anfänge der astronomie (1966) used lists (2) and (4). List (4) is compiled from list (2) and its data is most subject to inaccuracy. Many significant differences exist between the identifications made by these four scholars. Erica Reiner and David Pingree, Babylonian Planetary Omens: Part Two (1981), using lists (3) and (6) in conjunction with a planetarium projector, concluded that the data best fit the date 1000 BCE and the location of Nineveh (circa 36° north). List (3) is independent of the schematic dates of risings in list (2).Also, the simultaneously setting constellations of list (3) are clearly determined by observation. List (3) was also the foundation for the constellation identifications (and the date and place of the observations) made by Herman Hunger and David Pingree in their Astral Sciences in Mesopotamia (1999).


Part 17: Ernst Weidner

Ernst Weidner (born 7-10-1891 in Pasewalk (a town in the Vorpommern-Greifswald district, in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in Germany) - died 18-2-1976 in Graz (the capital of the federal state of Styria in Austria)) was a German Assyriologist, ancient astronomy historian, and Near Eastern archaeologist. He was an outstanding cuneiform philologist. (He is considered to be one of the most outstanding cuneiform philologists of the 20th-century.) Weidner specialised in the study of Babylonian astronomy, astrology, and calendars. His brilliance was recognised whilst he was still in his (late) teens. He began publishing books and articles on Babylonian astronomy whilst still in his (late) teens.

In 1922 Weidner graduated with his PhD from the University of Leipzig. He was a student of the assyriologist Felix Peiser. His doctoral thesis under Felix Peiser was Der babylonische Fixsternhimmel. I. Die Gestirne des Tierkreisgürtels [The Babylonian fixed stars. I. The stars of the zodiac belt.]. His Habilitation (Die Reliefs der assyrischen Könige [The reliefs of the Assyrian kings. Part I. The reliefs in England, in the Vatican City, and in Italy]) was completed in 1942. Until 1942 he lived in Berlin (apparently relying on journalism as a principal means of income). At the beginning of 1943, Weidner gained the position of Professor in the Department of Oriental Research at the Karl-Franzens-Universität, Graz. During his early career he focused on  Assyriology and Babylonian astronomy. Later, he focused on Babylonian chronology (Near Eastern archaeology) and did excellent work in this area.

As a young assyriologist Ernst Weidner was strongly influenced Felix Peiser who was editor of the journal Orientalistische Literaturzeitung and used it as a platform for his Panbabylonist views. The very young Weidner was also a convinced Panbabylonist and an active supporter of the Panbabylonist ideas of Hugo Winckler and Alfred Jeremias. His first substantial publication  was Beitrage zur Babylonischen Astronomie (1911). In 1923 he began his own periodical Archiv für Keilschriftforschung [Archives for cuneiform research]. With the issue of Volume 3 in 1926 the name of the periodical was changed to Archive für Orientforschung [Archives for Oriental Research]. (The periodical was published direct by Ernst Weidner as the editor.) Weidner remained its editor until his death. (Its address, and his address, at his death was Goethestrasse 43, A-8010, Graz, Austria.) Unlike Peiser's approach as editor of Orientalistische Literaturzeitung Weidner did not make Archive für Orientforschung a platform for Panbabylonist views. The journal published scholarly papers encompassing a wide outlook and primarily dealt with cuneiform material.

In his periodical Archive für Orientforschung Weidner published, in the 1940s and 1950s, a series of valuable papers on the first 50 tablets comprising the omen series Enuma Anu Enlil.

Weidner edited several volumes of cuneiform documents from Boghazköi (Politische Documente aus Kleinasien: die Staatsverträge in akkadischer Sprache aus dem Archiv Boghazköi (2 Volumes, 1923). He also put together a collection of more than 50 neo-Assyrian reliefs from the palace and temples, that were spread over several museums worldwide. (See: Ernst F. Weidner, "Assyrische Beschreibungen der Kriegs-Reliefs Assurbanaplis," Archiv fur Orientforschung Band 8, 1932-1933, Pages 175-203.)

Weidner as a Panbabylonist

As a Panbabylonist and opponent of Franz Kugler, Weidner tried to prove that the earliest Babylonians to leave records were already in possession of an exact astronomical science. However, Franz Kugler, in his pioneering researches, established that Babylonian astronomical science was the result of a gradual development within historical times; the culmination coming in the last period of their history.

Weidner's contribution to knowledge of Babylonian astronomy

Weidner began publishing studies of Babylonian astronomy whilst in his teens. However, Weidner made numerous erroneous assumptions. He began with the study of early, premathematical astronomy. Also, very early he was a Panbabylonist and readily assigned early dates to astronomical/astrological texts i.e., as far back as 5000 BCE. Weidner later turned his focus to astral omen texts/astrological texts. As well as investigating a large number of astral omen/astrological texts he investigated the omen series Enūma Anu Enlil, establishing the contents of the first 50 tablets based principally on Virolleaud's copies.

The original texts and transcriptions (without translation) of the omen series Enuma Anu Enlil are found in: Virolleaud, Charles. (1905-1912(1913/14?)) (Editor). L'astrologie chaldéenne: Le livre intitulé "enuma (Anu) ilu Bêl." (14 parts (fascicles) in 4 vols.) The intention Virolleaud had for a comprehensive edition, including translation, was never realized. Virolleaud's works were comprised of autograph texts and Akkadian transliteration (no indexes or translation). He has been criticized for apparently manipulating/combining some of the original sources. Different texts from various times and places were made into composite texts which he then rewrote in cuneiform. Also, Virolleaud, in his original volumes, does not number the tablets in the manner that his later partial editions do. Rather, he arranges the texts in groups under 4 headings: Sin, Shamash, Ishtar and Adad. Additionally, Virolleaud calls the overall collection "Enūma (Anu) ilu Bêl" instead of "Enūma Anu Enlil." (Life dates for Charles Virolleaud: 1879-1968. See: "L'oeuvre assyriologique de M. Charles Virolleaud." by Paul Garelli (Syria, Volume 33, Issue 1, 1956, Pages 13-16.)

Weidner's contribution to knowledge of Babylonian chronology

Weidner made valuable contributions to ancient Near Eastern chronology.


Review: Albright, William. "A Revision of Early Assyrian and Middle Babylonian Chronology." (Revue d'assyriologie et d'archéologie orientale, Volume 18, Number 2, 1921, Pages 83-94).


Weidner's personality

Ernst Weidner was described by C. W. Ceram (actually the German journalist Kurt Marek, 1915-1972) as rather ponderous and grave (Narrow Pass, Black Mountain (1956), Page 77). He was also described as a great hulk of a man. During World War I he was conscripted into the Heavy Artillery and made the rank of Corporal.

Weidner's Handbuch der babylonischen Astronomie

Weidner's early announced plan to publish a comprehensive 3-volume study of Babylonian astronomy titled Handbuch der babylonischen Astronomie was abandoned after publication of Volume 1 in 1915. It was a study of Babylonian constellations and star names from the Panbabylonian standpoint. Weidner also states it was aimed against Kugler, and that with this publication and the current publication by Jeremias [Das Alter der babylonischen Astronomie = The Age of Babylonian Astronomy], Kugler was defeated. Of course neither publication did this. Regrettably, Handbuch der babylonischen Astronomie was published without pages 147-180 which had been printed for it. It is possible that the contents of these pages later appeared in journal articles. It was also published before the appearance of the star list in BM 86378 in CTXXXIII (Plates 1-8). The book was reprinted in 1976 but is now thoroughly dated and unreliable. (BM 86378 was studied by Franz Kugler (SSB Ergan.) and Carl Bezold (Bezold, Carl., Kopff, August. and Boll, Franz. (1913). Zenit- und Aequartorialgestirne am babylonischen Fixsternhimmel.) The usefulness of Weidner's early publications on Babylonian uranography were limited by his trenchant Panbabylonist views and his readiness to assign dates for constellation and star list material to the third and fourth millennium BCE. His sky map of Mesopotamian constellations for 2000 BCE is his own particular fantasy.

Handbuch der babylonischen Astronomie by Ernst Weidner (1914) was written from the Panbabylonism standpoint and is a veritable wonderland of Panbabylonism. (It was completed several years prior to its publication in 1914, and was in press from 1913.) The intended 3 volumes were to comprise a manual of Babylonian astronomy. Volume 1 was to present all that was known about the Babylonian fixed stars (but was published without pages 147-180); Volume 2 intended to cover the moon, sun, and planets; and Volume 3 intended to cover Babylonian meteorology. Weidner believed the large quantity of material on Babylonian stars and constellations enabled an almost complete reconstruction of Babylonian uranography.

In Handbuch der babylonischen Astronomie Weidner declared a sophisticated Babylonian astronomy existed at least circa 2,000 BCE, misunderstood and incorrectly used 'The Hilprecht Text' (HS 229/HS 245) – which he could not date (but is Middle Babylonian Period circa latter part of the 2nd-millennium BCE) - as evidence of an early sophisticated mathematical astronomy (before the Kassite Period), and asserted texts from the library of King Ashurbanipal go back to at least 4,500 BCE. (For Weidner 'The Hilprecht Text,' which he believed likely dated to the 3rd-millennium BCE, provided evidence for an equator-based system of coordinates for measuring the the locations of fixed stars. Weidner wrote the 'Nippur text' (= Hilprecht Text) was the oldest purely astronomical text known at that time (1915) and was written at the turn of the third and second millennium BCE, and recorded surprisingly fine measurements of stellar distances. Basically, conclusions and controversy raged over the 6 lines only of the text (reverse 1-6) published by the assyriologist and Panbabylonist Fritz Hommel in Beilage der Münchener neuesten Nachrichten, August 27, 1908, Number 9, Page 459. (See: "Stellar Distances in Early Babylonian Astronomy: A New Perspective on the Hilprecht Text (HS 229)." by Francesca Rochberg-Halton (Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Volume 42, Number 3, July 1983, Pages 209-217).)

Weidner also wrongly claimed that the Babylonians identified the Pole of the Equator and the Pole of the Ecliptic. In Handbuch der babylonischen Astronomie Weidner holds that (Pages 32-34) Nibiru is the Pole of the Ecliptic (= Enlil is the Pole of the Ecliptic), and (Page 97) kakkab MU-SIR-KEŠ-DA = kakkab Niru, is the Pole of the Equator (= Anu is the Pole of the Equator).) (It is now clear that the Mesopotamians used the term 'Nibiru' to mark an astronomical event; a "crossing" at some point in the sky of Jupiter, Mercury, and a star.)

In dealing with the star-list from Boghazkoi (Bogazkoi) (which he mistakenly dated too early), Weidner mistranslated the names of 4 stars as planets.

Weidner asserted the genre of 'astrological' texts from the Royal Library of Ashurbanipal were written towards 4500 BCE, or at least backdated to this time. Sargon of Agade was dated to circa 2850 BCE, and the oldest historical astrological omens were dated to this time.

Discussed in the first chapter is the history of the controversy over the identification of the star name KAK-SI-DI. During the late 19th-century: (1) the German assyriologist Julius Oppert thought it was the North Star; (2) the German assyriologist Peter Jensen thought it was Antares; (3) the French Orientalist Joseph Halevy thought it was Sirius; and (4) the German Orientalist Fritz Hommel thought it was Procyon. In 1906, in the first volume of his work on Gilgamesh, Peter Jensen changed his previous identification and identified KAK-SI-DI as Betelgeuse. The identification of KAK-SI-DI as Betelgeuse was accepted by the German assyriologist Franz Kugler in his SSB1.

Also, Weidner gives no great praise to Astronomisches aus Babylon by Joseph Epping but prefers to think more highly of Die Kosmologie der Babylonier by Peter Jensen (1890), and Fritz Hommel's studies (articles) on Babylonian astronomy published 1891-1892. (Fritz Hommel, preferring rounded numbers for some reason, fixed the dated of the first Vernal rising of the various zodiacal signs as: Cancer, 7000 BCE; Gemini, 5000 BCE; Taurus, 3000 BCE; and Aries, 1000 BCE.) Franz Kugler's efforts on the identification of Babylonian star names and constellations is also given little praise by Ernst Weidner. Weidner, in this first chapter, asserts that Kugler lacks suitable knowledge of Assyrian and also the texts. Weidner asserts that the right persons to deal with the material are the Panbabylonists, Alfred Jeremias and Hugo Winckler. Weidner states that both Jeremias and Winckler have made many valuable contributions to the understanding of Babylonian astronomy. High praise is given to Das Alter der babylonischen Astronomie by Alfred Jeremias. Weidner states that this is an in-depth and highly perceptive study that demonstrates the high age of Babylonian astronomy. Weidner also states his work supports the claims made by Jeremias.


Review: The Journal of American Folklore, Volume 15, Number 57, April-June, 1902, Page 138.


Weidner also claims that Kugler's arguments against Panbabylonism can be considered rebutted; that Kugler's position has been defeated; and that the Panbabylonian controversy has been ended. Weidner was completely wrong.

Weidner made a study of 'planisphere' K 8538. He described it as one of the most mysterious Babylonian documents. He copied the text and published part of it in Babyloniaca, Volume VI, Page 157. A lengthy analysis and discussion forms part of HBA. Weidner did rather accurately date it (or at least maintain the conventional dating) to circa 700 BCE, and that the 'planisphere' use is relevant to this date. Weidner sets out his conclusion that the document served the purposes of divination and sorcery, with the aid of astrology. The apparently pointless, multiple repeated syllables strung together are spells. Examples of such are already known and published by Carl Bezold (Catalogue IV), Alfred Jeremias (Handbuch der altorientalischen Geisteskultur, Page 110), and François Thureau-Dangin (RA, IX, Page 80; Text AO 5399 from the Old Babylonian period). The magic involves the frequent repetition of syllables. The constellations drawn are not in their correct order/relation to each other. That only a few important constellations are shown refutes the assumption of K 8538 as a sky map. The constellations and incantations appear in conjunction with each other. The assumption can be made that the formulas relate to astrologically important star positions (i.e., dawn, culmination, etc). The number 8 had considerable importance to the Babylonians. Ernst Weidner thought the division into 8 sectors could simply go back to the symbol AN "sky" which in earliest times was an 8-pointed star.

Weidner's Alter und Bedeutung der babylonischer Astronomie und Astrallehre

This small book (brochure) - published in 1914 - was comprised of essays written from the Panbabylonism standpoint and was also aimed against Kugler. One book review was by Eduard Mahler in Deutsche Literaturzeitung, 1915, Number 48.

In the Foreword, Weidner set out the publication had 2 different purposes: (1) To meet the requests of professional colleagues for a presentation of the most important new material that establishes the great age of scientific astronomy in Babylonia; and (2) A response to Kugler's criticisms of Weidner's arguments for the high antiquity of Babylonian scientific astronomy. Furthermore, Weidner viewed Alter und Bedeutung der babylonischen Astronomie und Astrallehre as being a sequel to Das Alter der babylonischen Astronomie by Alfred Jeremias. Also, in conjunction with Handbuch der altorientalischen Geisteskultur by Alfred Jeremias, Weidner stated an almost overwhelming wealth of material had been presented to substantiate the great age of Babylonian scientific astronomy, and the position of opponents of such could no longer be maintained. Weidner also made the point that in publishing a large amount of new material he has avoided any personal polemic and focused solely on the factual aspects of the controversy.

In the first chapter Weidner corectly made the point that the question of the age of Babylonian astronomy has nothing to do with the question of Panbabylonism.

Ernst Weidner (Alter und Bedeutung der babylonischen Astronomie und Astrallehre) tried to prove that the Saros must have been known at least 1000 BCE but he was not successful in this. Kugler (SSB Ergän.) decisively demolished his arguments. (See the English-language discussion by Anton Pannekoek in: "The Origin of the Saros." (Proceedings of the Section of Sciences of the Koninklijke Akademie van Wetenschappen, Volume 20, 1918, Pages 943-955).)

Weidner also claimed to have identified evidence establishing a very accurate 38-year intercalary cycle as early as the time of the dynasty of Ur (3rd-millennium BCE), and vigorously supported this. Kugler stoutly denied the existence of any intercalary cycle before the year 528 BCE.

Relations Between Weidner and Kugler

Both Ernst Weidner and Franz Kugler, the trenchant scholarly critic of Panbabylonism and the leading expert on Babylonian astronomy, were mutually combative and when Kugler died Weidner made only a brief mention of such in his periodical. Ernst Weidner was in competition with Franz Kugler (the leading authority on Babylonian astronomy) to understand Babylonian astronomy. There was a long and acrimonious controversy on aspects of Babylonian astronomy between Ernst Weidner and Franz Kugler. It centred on (1) the age of Babylonian 'scientific' astronomy, (2) the visibility of the phases of Venus, and (3) whether the Babylonians were aware of precession. (There was also a long and acrimonious controversy on aspects of Babylonian astronomy between Paul Schnabel and Franz Kugler.)

The Weidner-Kugler debate(s)

The prolonged Weidner-Kugler debates can be classed as significant debates.

In his early days Weidner supported the Panbabylonian ideas of Hugo Winckler and Alfred Jeremias. This position, and its early dating for Babylonian scientific astronomy, was contrary to the work of the then leading German historian of Babylonian astronomy, Franz Kugler. Weidner was totally confident that with his arguments he was showing that Kugler was in error.

The prolonged Weidner-Kugler debate waged around issues concerning (1) the age of Babylonian 'scientific' astronomy (the Hilprecht tablet/text), (2) the visibility of the phases of Venus (Venus and the so-called 'Venus-tablet'), (3) whether the Babylonians were aware of precession (calendrical issues), and (4) Babylonian chronology (including the age of Babylonian astronomy). (There was also a long and acrimonious controversy on aspects of Babylonian astronomy between Paul Schnabel and Franz Kugler.) Two heated debates are of particular note. The most significant debate centred on Venus. There was a furious debate between Kugler and Weidner over Fritz Hommel's partial publication of the Hilprecht's Nippur Text in August, 1908. (See: Weidner Handbuch der babylonischen Astronomie, page128, for references to this controversy.) The debate - somewhat misplaced - concerned the exactitude of measurements of stellar distances. This debate continued to 1911 at least. Another furious debate followed the publication of Weidner's KAO volume in 1914 (Alter und Bedeutung der babylonischen Astronomie und Astrallehre). This debate concerned whether the phases of Venus had been observed by the Babylonians.

Some lines of Hilprecht's Nippur Text were published by the German Semiticist Fritz Hommel in 1908 in his "Münchener Neuesten Nachrichten." Hommel's publication initiated a fierce argument between Kugler and Weidner over the accuracy of the measurement of stellar distances or right ascension differences in the Old Babylonian Period. Also the dating of the text was an issue of difference between Weidner and Kugler. Weidner believed the 'Nippur text' dated to circa 2000 BCE. In light of what is now known about the text the whole Weidner-Kugler discussion appears pointless. The noted French Assyriologist and Sumerologist Paul Thureau-Dangin (1837-1913) was the first to point out that the distances in the text could very well be radial distance, if the text is taken literally. If this is the correct interpretation then the numbers given in the text are not derived from actual measurement, but simply pure speculation. After Hommel's partial publication the text was lost until 1931 when Otto Neugeubauer rediscovered it in Hilprecht's collection in Jena. Neugebauer copied the text and later published the remainder of the text. It is clear from this publication of the remainder of the text that whether the numbers given in the text signify radial or transverse distances in neither case can they have been the result of accurate astronomical measurement, as Weidner had supposed. HS 229/HS 245 is basically a (student) mathematical problem text of the same type as numerous others; the only difference being that stellar distances are used instead of sums of money.

Weidner's estimate of Robert Brown's publications on the constellations

In his Handbuch der babylonischen Astronomie Weidner wrote that Robert Brown's studies on the Babylonian fixed stars, most published in PSBA and summarised in the 2 volume Primitive Constellations, is of extremely low value, and comprise a striking example of where dilettantism can get lost.

Biographical information

See the brief entry: "Ernst Friedrich Weidner" in Wikipedia.


Part 18: Arthur Ungnad

Prof. Dr. Arthur Ungnad was an outstanding assyriologist of vast erudition. He was born in 1879 in Magdeburg and died in 1945 in Berlin.

During the late pioneering period of assyriology Ungnad was considered one of the foremost of the younger assyriologists, and a master of the whole range of Semitic languages.

By 1910 at least he was associated with the Royal Museum, of Berlin. The eccentric American scholar Cyrus Gordon stated (Forgotten Scripts, 1982) that Arthur Ungnad composed the most lucid shorter Akkadian grammar (approximately 180 pages). The revised and thoroughly reworked editions by the Czech assyriologist and sumerologist Lubor Matoŭs (one of the early specialists in Old Assyrian) (published under the title of Grammatik des Akkadischen (1949, 1964, 1969)) is still be used by successive generations of students as a standard text. A 5th revised edition by Matoŭs (died 1984) appeared in 1993.

Though  it was due to the efforts of the German assyriologist Peter Jensen (beginning 1900) that the Epic of Gilgamesh was given wide scholarly attention, it was the translation by Arthur Ungnad that finally brought it recognition as a masterpiece of world literature.

In 1914-1915 he joined the staff of the University of Pennsylvania but appears to have returned to Germany. By 1915 at least he was a Professor at Jena. by 1919 he was also a Privatdozent in Greifswald.

In the early 1900s Arthur Ungnad developed a Pan-Subaraic theory. (Akkadian term Subaraic = Subartum/Subartu, meaning Assyria.) It was most developed in his Subartu, Beiträge zur Kulturgeschichte und Völkerkunde Vorderasiens (1936).

He also proposed that the Babylonian paradise was a celestial garden located in the constellation l-Iku. See: Ungnad, Arthur. (1923). Das wiedergefundene Paradies. He held that l-Iku (the Pegasus-square = alpha beta gamma Pegasi and alpha Andromedae) enclosed by the constellation Pisces is "Paradise" i.e., the primordial field. (The measurement (key dimension) ikû was held to be visible in the night sky, where it was the great square of Pegasus, the celestial counterpart of both the Babylonian cult-centre temple building E-sangil (believed to be an image of the Iku constellation), and the city of Babylon. ("The Kassite iku measured by the "big" (= 75- cm) cubit is equal to 2.25 Sumerian-Old Babylonian iku measured by the original (= 50-cm) cubit, ie, ca. 0.81 ha (the Sumerian-Old Babylonian iku = 1 4400 square cubits » 0.36 ha)" (The House of the Father as Fact and Symbol by J. Schloen (2001, Page 294)).))

See also: Ungnad, Arthur. (1923). Ursprung und Wanderung der Sternnamen. [Note: Pamphlet. Title in English: Origin and Migration of the Star Names. The author was a noted German assyriologist.]


Part 19: Anton(ie) Pannekoek

Anton [Antonie] Pannekoek (life dates: 1873-1960). Dutch astronomer and Marxist theorist. (His first given name is sometimes given as Antonie.) Born January 2, 1873, in Vaassen ((province of Gelderland), the son of Johannes Pannekoek and Wilhelmina Dorothea Beilis, members of the rural middle class); died April 28, 1960 in Amsterdam (some sources have Wageningen).  In 1903 he married Johanna Maria Nassau Noordewier. Both Anton and his wife Johanna were active in literary and musical circles in Amsterdam.

Pannekoek studied mathematics and physics (astronomy) in Leiden from 1891. In 1898 he became an observer at the Astronomical Observatory there. He was awarded his PhD in 1902 with his thesis on the variable star Algol. A devoted socialist, he became a member of the SDAP (Social Democratic Worker's Party) in 1902, and in 1905 he left the observatory to accept a position at the Socialist party school in Berlin and later Bremen.

After reading Edward Bellamy's Equality, Pannekoek became a convinced socialist and started studying Karl Marx's theories. Pannekoek became a well-known Marxist writer, writing for both Dutch and German magazines. He also became active in the Dutch workers' movement. In Germany, he regularly contributed theoretical articles to both Die Neue Zeit and Bremer Bürger-Zeitung. During the period of WWI he continued his political activities, adopting a revolutionary international position, contributing a number of articles to Lichtstrahlen and Arbeiterspolitik, important left-wing journals.  He was an active contributor, and later editor, of De Nieuwe Tijd and emerged as an important theoretician of the left wing of the German SPD. Pannekoek remained one of the most important theoreticians of the international Socialist, and the Communist, movement. He is best known for his insistence on the autonomous action of the workers who after the revolution must organize themselves into independent, self-governing Worker's Councils.

Even before he went to college he was interested in astronomy and studied the variability of Polaris. He published his first article, On the Necessity of Further Researches on the Milky Way, as a student. Some years after he had finished his study he started work at the Leidse Sterrewacht (Leiden observatory), where he wrote his thesis. Dissatisfaction with his job at the observatory led him to move to Berlin, where he became a lecturer at the school funded by the Social Democratic Party of Germany. His radical opinions soon got him in trouble with both the German government and the unions.

He was on holiday in the Netherlands when the First World War broke out. Prevented from returning to Germany, he started work as a chemistry and science teacher, at secondary schools in several places. (According to one source the First World War forced Pannekoek to return to the Netherlands.) Though the Leidse Sterrewacht wanted him back, government opposition because of his Marxist sympathies made this fall through. His political activities caused the Minister of Education to hold up and eventually, after the communist revolution in Hungary, to reject his appointment as vice-director of the Leiden Observatory. Pannekoek was first a lecturer (1918–25) and then a professor of astronomy (1925–42) at the University of Amsterdam. (The Amsterdam city council got him an appointment at the University of Amsterdam in 1925, first as a part time professor, and 7 years later, in 1932, he became a full professor. If the Minister of Education could veto an appointment at the (national) University of Leiden, he did not have that power at the (municipal) University of Amsterdam, where Pannekoek had already been appointed lecturer of Mathematics and Astronomy in 1918.) He was dismissed by the German government of the Netherlands in 1941.

In his scientific work, Pannekoek started studying the distribution of stars through the Milky Way, as well as the structure of our galaxy. Later he became interested in the nature and evolution of stars. At Amsterdam, Pannekoek became one of the founders of astrophysics in the Netherlands. In 1920 he developed a method of determining distances to dark nebulae and in 1921 studied the surface brightness of the Milky Way, disregarding the influence of interstellar light absorption. He was one of the first astronomers (in 1922 and 1926) to study the process of ionization in stellar atmospheres. He investigated the structure of the Milky Way through detailed photometric investigations, publishing his results on the northern hemisphere in 1924-29, and on the southern hemisphere in 1949. He also did important work on the atmospheres of stars: the abundance of hydrogen in stellar atmospheres, the quantitative analysis of the flash spectrum during a solar eclipse, and the low mass of giant stars. Because of these studies, he is considered to be the founder of astrophysics as a separate discipline in the Netherlands. His work in galactic structure, astrophysics and the history of astronomy was of international renown and won him an honorary doctorate from Harvard University in 1936, as well as the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1951. Apart from his theoretical work, he also went on several foreign expeditions to observe solar eclipses and take spectra of stars. In 1926 he went on an expedition to Java in order to chart the Southern Constellations.

In 1925 he became a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Pannekoek founded the Astronomical Institute at the University of Amsterdam (and became its director), and his longer monographs on astronomical subjects appeared in its publications between 1924 and 1949. The Astronomical Institute Anton Pannekoek at the University of Amsterdam, of which he had been a director, still carries his name.

Early in his career Pannekoek became interested in the history of astronomy. His book, Wonderbouiv der wereld (The Wonderful Construction of the Universe) was an introduction to astronomy through its history. His later book, De groei van ons wereldbeeld (The Growth of Our World Picture), later published in English as A History of Astronomy, was considered the most reliable general history of astronomy for 3 decades and is still considered a standard reference on the subject. In a paper published in 1916 and another paper published in 1917 made two pioneering contributions to the recovery of Babylonian astronomy. These papers were: "Calculations of Dates in the Babylonian Tables of Planets." (1916); "The Origin of the Saros." (1917). Also published later were: "Some Remarks on the Moon's Diameter and the Eclipse Tables in Babylonian Astronomy." (1941); "Planetary Theories." (1948); "Periodicities in Lunar Eclipses." (1951).


Part 20: Felix Gössmann


Anton (Felix) Gössmann O.S.A. Life dates: 1907-1968. Felix Gössmann was born on 19 September, 1907, on a small cattle farm, in the small hamlet of Sulzwiesen, Germany. He died, aged 61 years, on the night of 21 August, 1968, in the Convent of St. Augustine in Würzburg. He was the son of Joseph Gössmann, a cattle farmer.

Enters the Augustinian order

He was a member of the Augustinian order, which he entered in 1927. Gössmann entered the 'Klosterschule der Augustine' (Augustine Seminary School) after graduating, in 1927, from the Gymnasium Mūnnerstadt (Mūnnerstadt High School).

O.S.A./O.E.S.A.=  The Order of St. Augustine (Latin: Ordo Sancti Augustini, abbreviated as O.S.A) - historically Ordo Eremitarum Sancti Augustini," O.E.S.A.), generally called Augustinians.

Academic training

After completing his novitiate he went to the University at Wūrzburg to begin studying philosophy and theology. In the Autumn of 1928 he then, at the direction of the Provincial Fr Clement Fuhl, went to International College of St. Monica in Rome (Internationale Kolleg St. Monika in Rom) to continue his studies.

Felix Gössmann earned 2 PhD degrees. He had a Doctor of Theology degree (= Doctor of Philosophy degree) and a Doctor of Assyriology degree. In Rome in 1933 he received his PhD (Doctorate in Theology) from the Gregorian University for his thesis, Der Kirchenbegriff bei Wladimir Solovjeff (which was published in Würzburg in 1936).

After completing his (first) PhD in 1936 Gössmann then he took up the study of Biblical Exegesis at the Pontifical Biblical Institute. In 1938, after lecturing on Old Testament Exegesis at the Augustinian College of Nijmegan, he returned to Rome to study under Anton Deimel S.J.

In 1943 he obtained his Doctorate in Biblical Exegesis (Biblical Studies/assyriology) for his thesis on the Era epic, which involved his discovery and decipherment of a previously unknown section of the epic. His doctorate title was Das Era-Epos, and it was published as a book in 1955. His thesis supervisors (at the Papal Institute for Bible Studies, Rome) were Antonio Deimel and Alfred Pohl. Gössmann was the top student of his teacher, Father Anton Deimel, S.J., with whom he remained closely connected.

Academic history

During 1937/1938 he was a professor (Professor of Holy Scripture and Bible Languages) at the Augustinian College (Ordensschudium) at Nijmegan (Dutch municipality/province and a city), where he lectured on Old Testament Exegesis. At one period (when studying for his 2nd PhD degree?) he was Professor of Old Testament Exegesis at the Augustinian Order of St. Monica College in Rome (at age 41 years?). He later came to the Convent (Seminary School) of St. Augustine, in Würzburg where he remained.

Ordination as a priest

In Rome he received his ordination as a priest (at age 38 years) on 12 July, 1931.

Study trip abroad

Before permanently moving to Convent of St. Augustine (Augustine Seminary School), in Würzburg Gössmann took part in a study trip to the Middle East and Near East.

Planetarium Babylonicum oder die sumerisch-babylonischen Stern-Namen

His book Planetarium Babylonicum oder die sumerisch-babylonischen Stern-Namen (1950) still remains the most comprehensive source of material. The recently completed CAD (Chicago Assyrian Dictionary) is also comprehensive and more up-to-date. Though the entries in Gössmann's book are usually brief and can be somewhat cryptic this book remains the most useful compilation/compendium of all Mesopotamian constellation names/star names known up till circa 1950. (Also, all the entries are hand-written with very few slips.) Though compiled from references that can date back to the turn of the 19th-century it is still considered to be the standard reference. (Two-thirds of the sources used by Felix Gössmann pre-date 1920 i.e., fall within the pioneering period of assyriology and efforts to recover Babylonian astronomy. Because the majority of his sources are over 90 years old and the book itself is over 60 years old it needs to be used with caution.) Improved modern translations of some constellation and star names (due to various changes in transliteration format since 1950) are, of course, not reflected in the book and some revision is required.

Useful aspects of the book include it contains a most extensive list of planet to constellation correspondences, not easily found elsewhere.

For corrections/improvements to constellation and star names, and their identifications, see Babylonian Planetary Omens 2 by Erica Reiner and David Pingree (1981); and Astral Sciences in Mesopotamia by Hermann Hunger and David Pingree (1999).

To date I have not come across any book review for this volume.

To keep in mind when reading the material and interpretations in this book: The Akkadians borrowed Sumerian cuneiform script for writing their own language and whilst they retained numerous Sumerian signs they also added their own. According to the cuneiform philologist John Heise, Akkadian speakers systematically used the Sumerian language at least to the Old Babylonian Period. It was the language of the Akkadian-speaking scholars. However, Sumerograms did not necessarily represent Sumerian loan words in the Akkadian language. It may be that there has been an Akkadian adaptation of a Sumerian logogram. A logogram used in an Akkadian text could represent either a loan word from Sumerian or a native Akkadian word. It was a general convention in ancient Mesopotamian scientific texts to use Sumerian word-signs to render Akkadian vocabulary words. However, it is not (always) possible to decide whether the Sumerian words used in later (non-Sumerian) times are actually Sumerian in origin or are just later Babylonian notions recorded in anachronistic Sumerian. No conclusion can be confidently drawn from the later use of Sumerian terms regarding the time or place of the origin of the content of the texts.

Academic passions

Gössmann's great academic passions were assyriology, and the Old Testament.

Biographical information

See obituaries for Pater Felix Gössmann O. S. A. in Augustinianum (Review) [Augustijns Historisch Instituut (Louvain, Belgium)], Volume 8, Issue 3, December, 1968, Pages 547-550; and Cor Unum (Review), Volume 26, 1968, Pages 119-120. Also see: Who's Who in the Catholic World (1967, Volume 1, page 264), edited by Stephen Taylor and Ludwig Melsheimer.


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