Ancient Zodiacs, Star Names,
and Constellations: Essays and Critiques
A Chronological History
of Babylonian Astronomy by Gary D. Thompson
Copyright © 2005-2018 by Gary D. Thompson
To Site Contents Page
A Chronological History
of Babylonian Astronomy
"We have to reconstruct it [Babylonian astronomy] exclusively from texts and
a few schematic drawings accompanying them. No instruments relating to astronomy
have been found. These texts were written on clay in cuneiform script which was
used in the Near East from ca. 3000 BCE to 100 [CE]. It was completely forgotten
and only deciphered in the middle of the 19th century Since then, hundreds of
thousands of clay tablets have been found in archaeological excavations, mostly
in present-day Iraq. Among these are a few thousand [fragmented] tablets related
to astronomy. Many have been published, but more still need to be worked on. And
of course an unknown number of such texts is still buried under the sands of
Iraq." (Hunger, Hermann. (2011). "The relation of Babylonian astronomy to its
culture and society." In: Valls-Gabaud, D. and Boksenberg, A. (Editors). The
Role of Astronomy in Society and Culture. Proceedings of the IAU Symposium No.
260, 2009. (Page 62).)
The two basic methods which characterise the Babylonian
approach to astral phenomena are observation and computation.
Both methods are found in the earliest cuneiform texts dealing
with astral phenomena (i.e., date to the Old Babylonian Period).
Whilst some texts are primarily either observational or
mathematical it is common for both methods to be integrated
within the same text. "Observations were of far less importance
than we would expect; simple schematic models for the movement of the celestial
bodies were for a long time considered sufficient." (Hunger, Hermann. (2011).
"The relation of Babylonian astronomy to its culture and society." In:
Valls-Gabaud, D. and Boksenberg, A. (Editors). The Role of Astronomy in Society
and Culture. Proceedings of the IAU Symposium No. 260, 2009. (Page 62).)
The main sources of the astral knowledge of the Babylonians
from circa 1800 BCE to circa 500 BCE are the Enuma Anu Enlil omen
series, the circular and tabular "astrolabes" (i.e.,
star calendars), the MUL.APIN series, and various observational
texts (i.e., reports to the kings and the earliest astronomical
A few texts (i.e., lists) also mentioning stars and constellations date to
the 3rd millennium BCE. However, Hermann Hunger points out that no principle is
evident in the order of these celestial objects. "It is only in the 2nd
millennium BCE that texts appear which are dealing with phenomena in the sky. In
these texts we see a desire to find out how the skies are organised, and a
belief that this organization can be understood and described in relatively
simple ways. The use of observation is limited: while obviously one must look at
the sky to be able to say something about it , schematic approaches were
predominant .... An example for this are the so-called Three-stars-each
texts which probably go back to between 1500 and 1000 BCE. They list, for each
month of the Babylonian calendar, three constellations which are supposed to
become visible in this month: one constellation to the North, one near the
equator [there is no word for equator in these texts], and one to the South; it
is furthermore stated that the same constellations disappear again after six
months. This gives a neat scheme of 36 constellations from whose risings one
could tell the time of year. However, it would not work in practice: first of
all, the period of visibility is different for stars depending on their
declination; it is simply incorrect to assign all of them a visibility of six
months. Then, the Babylonian calendar is not easily attuned to the solar year so
that helical risings of stars will not stay in the same month every year. And,
just to indicate that we are far from a secure interpretation, the lists also
include planets, which are subject to entirely different visibility conditions,
independent of the time of the year; finally there are even variant forms of the
list which have only ten constellations - instead of 12 - which makes an
alignment with the months of the year impossible. The Three-stars-each
lists may be seen as attempts to organise what is known about stars. At about
the same time an astronomical text was compiled, called Mul-Apin (which
means Plough star) after its first word. It is only attested on tablets from the
7th century [BCE] onwards, but probably goes back to the 13th century BCE."
(Hunger, Hermann. (2011). "The relation of Babylonian astronomy to its culture
and society." In: Valls-Gabaud, D. and Boksenberg, A. (Editors). The Role of
Astronomy in Society and Culture. Proceedings of the IAU Symposium No. 260,
2009. (Pages 62-33).)
"The goal of the Babylonian scholars can best be called knowledge of the
sky without any quantification whether it is a science or not." (Hunger,
Hermann. (2011). "The relation of Babylonian astronomy to its culture and
society." In: Valls-Gabaud, D. and Boksenberg, A. (Editors). The Role of
Astronomy in Society and Culture. Proceedings of the IAU Symposium No. 260,
2009. (Page 62).) From circa 1800 BCE to circa 500 BCE the main phenomena the
Babylonians sought to be proficient with were: (1) the appearance
and disappearance of Venus; (2) the duration of day and night; (3)
the rising and setting of the moon; and (4) planetary and stellar
risings and settings. All appear within the protases of the
celestial omens of the 2nd millennium period (i.e., the Enuma Anu
Enlil series). The Kassite Period and the Early Period saw the completion of
the omen series Enuma Anu Enlil, the introduction of the circular then tabular
star calendars "the three stars each," the compilation of the MUL.APIN series,
and the start of a continuing series of observational texts: Reports to the
Kings, and Astronomical Diaries.
1. The Sumerian and Akkadian Period (circa 3100-2100 BCE)
Note: Dates for the Early Dynastic
(Sumerian) Period vary from 3100-2330 BCE to 2900-2334 BCE. The Neo-Sumerian
period is usually dated circa 2100-2000 BCE. The Akkadian Period is usually
dated circa 2350-2100 BCE. [In this section I have included some of the earlier
speculations of assyriologists i.e., a scheme of lunar houses. In some Sumerian
texts dated circa 2500 BCE there are references to apparent stations of the moon called
the Post Sargonic/Ur III Period the Sumerian term "house" (é) is
(apparently) used to denote
the celestial positioning of the moon (and to all appearances dropped during the
Old Babylonian Period). Some of the
earlier assyriologists proposed Pre Sargonic/Sargonic Period dates.]
(Hermann Hunger ("The Cultic Calendars of the ancient Near East." in The Journal
of the American Oriental Society, October-December, 1996) makes the informed and
elucidating comment: "I find it misleading to mention the zodiac (and its
subdivisions), which was invented around 400 B.C., in connection with the term
"house" of the moon, since the meaning in the older texts is clearly not the
same as in the younger. Even if the passages quoted refer to places in the sky,
they could not be defined by fixed stars, because the moon is not in the same
place on the same calendar date each year. Also, e-[u.sub.4]-7 seems to me to
mean "house of day seven" and not "seventh house." And that could be a building
on earth, as are the other "houses of the moon" mentioned.")
Simple descriptive astronomy. The Sumerians undoubtedly
watched the sky and defined and named some of the constellations
and planets. Bendt Alster believed astronomical observations could be discerned
in Sumerian compositions dating circa 3500 BCE, which refer to the movement of
the heavenly bodies and the constellations. He believed that the cyclical return
of the planets, (and the sun and moon) played an important role in Mesopotamian
religion. Most of the names of celestial bodies were Sumerian
throughout the later periods and some of them at least must have
Some astronomical features include:
- Implementation of the "two ways" as a scheme
for the division of the sky?
- Incorporation of informal astronomical knowledge into
- Names given to the sun, moon and a few stars and
Circa 3000 BCE
- Uruk tablets contain several references to the "Festival
of the Morning Goddess, Ianna" and the "Festival
of the Evening Goddess, Ianna" - presumably in her
identification with the planet Venus (as morning star and
- Development (establishment) of lunar calendar by the
Sumerians. At this early date (Archaic Period) the Sumerians were able
to regulate an intercalated lunar calendar by inserting a 13th lunar month
approximately every third year.
Circa 2700 BCE
- The goddess Nisiba [note: early and current spelling Nisiba but now
usually spelled Nisaba or Nidaba] hhad a knowledge of astronomy
attributed to her that that was used to correct the
vagaries of the lunar calendar. Nisiba, goddess of grain
and scribal arts is said to measure heaven and earth, to
know the secrets of calculation and, together with Suen,
to "count the days." Her temple in Eresh was
called the "house of the Stars." She had a
lapis-lazuli tablet which is sometimes called the "tablet
with the stars of the heavens" or "tablet with
the stars of the pure heavens." It was kept in her
"House of Wisdom." [It is possible that this
lapis-lazuli tablet - which was connected with astronomy
- was a kind of star-map or symbolic representation of
Circa 2600 BCE
- Cylinder A of Gudea: (Reference to heliacal rising of
star marking the month - possibly Aldebaran in Taurus.
Also, a system of named stars is indicated. [Recognition
of Nidaba mul ku-ba as constellation of 'corn-goddess'?])
- Cylinder B of Gudea: (Reference to celestial positioning
of moon by use of lunar "houses"?) Cylindrical
Stone Jar (Elamite) (Bestiary and pantheon iconography
that are identifiable - from later Kassite kudurru - as
possibly related to the stars.)
Circa 2500 BCE
- British Museum Cuneiform Texts: In the Post
Sargonic/Ur III Period the Sumerian term "house" (é) is (apparently) used to
denote the celestial positioning of the moon. Early 20th-century
British Assyriologists believed reference to celestial positioning of moon
by use of lunar "houses". Probably due to
early difficulties with the decipherment of texts and their dating.
(Hermann Hunger ("The Cultic Calendars of the ancient Near East." in The
Journal of the American Oriental Society, October-December, 1996) makes the
informed and elucidating comment: "I find it misleading to mention
the zodiac (and its subdivisions), which was invented around 400 B.C., in
connection with the term "house" of the moon, since the meaning in the older
texts is clearly not the same as in the younger. Even if the passages quoted
refer to places in the sky, they could not be defined by fixed stars,
because the moon is not in the same place on the same calendar date each
year. Also, e-[u.sub.4]-7 seems to me to mean "house of day seven" and not
"seventh house." And that could be a building on earth, as are the other
"houses of the moon" mentioned.")
- Sumerian Literary Compositions: (Several refer to the
movements of the heavenly bodies and the constellations.)
Cylinder Seal (From Elamite capitol of Susa) (Bestiary
and pantheon iconography that are identifiable - from
later Kassite kudurru - as possibly related to the stars.)
Circa 2400 BCE
- Circa 2400 BCE Sumerian records provide evidence for the government
practice of arbitrarily inserting calendar months to keep in order to keep
the traditional month of the barley harvest (Nisanu of the Babylonians) in
the harvest season.
Circa 2300 BCE
- Seal of Adda (Elamite?): (Bestiary and pantheon
iconography that are identifiable - from later Kassite
kudurru - as related to the stars.)
- Sargon of Agade: (Records [omens incorporated in the canonical series Enuma Anu Enlil] dating to Sargon of
Agade imply observation of planetary movements and
recognition of constellations? Most probably simply back-dated
- Cylinder Seals: (From this period onwards many seals show
forms which are possibly identifiable as being related to
Circa 2250 BCE
- Sumerians possibly systematically name the more prominent stellar
objects and develop a scheme of constellations linked to
the twelve calendar months.
- Start of systematic naming of stars and constellations. (Aids
for establishing the months of the Babylonian calendar.)
[During reign of Sargon of Akkad?]
- Possible evidence pointing to an Ur III origin of
at least some constellation and star names. (The Nippur Forerunner to Tablet 22 of Urra =
hubullu) lists 2 star names in Sumerian (line 396 having: mul gisz apin; and
line 410 having: mul lu2.hun.ga2) which were possibly in use in Sumer and Akkad
in the 3rd millennium BCE.)
Circa 2100 BCE
- Cylinder Seals: (Sun-Moon-Venus triplet on seals becomes
- Circa 2100 BCE Šulgi, king of Ur (reigned
circa 2100 to circa 2150 BCE), recorded that he had learned how to calculate
the appearance of the new moon while a student in a scribal school.
Circa 2000 BCE
- Sumerian Composition "Enki and the World Order":
(Possible reference to celestial positioning of moon by
use of lunar "houses".)
- Celestial divination: (Star names and constellations
developed as reference points for the description of
2. The Old Babylonian Period (circa 2000-1600 BCE)
The first phenomenon the Babylonians sought to master were: (1)
the duration of day and night; (2) the rising and setting of the
moon; and (3) the appearance and disappearance of Venus. The computation of day and night
appeared in two forms. An early form appears in the protases of the Enuma Anu
Enlil omen series and also in the circular astrolabes.
Circa 1800 BCE
- The rising and setting of the moon (and its phases). (Early Old Babylonian Period. Hammurabi imposed a
single official lunar calendar upon the Babylonian Empire.)
- First identifiable star-list appears in "Prayer to
the Gods of the Night."
- The duration of day and night.
Circa 1750 BCE
- The Venus tablet (dealing with the appearance and
disappearance of Venus and omens, over 21 years).
Circa 1500 BCE
- The "three ways" established on the eastern
3. The Kassite Period (circa 1570-1160 BCE)
Within the protases of the celestial omens of the period (i.e., Enuma Anu
Enlil) appear: (1) planetary and stellar risings and settings, (2) daylight
lengths, (3) lunar visibility, and the appearance and disappearance of Venus.
The moon was also divided into 4 equal sectors for omen purposes; representing
the 4 countries Akkad, Subartu, Elam, and Amurru.
The use of heliacally rising stars along the eastern horizon and the
introduction of Astrolabe texts.
Between 1400-900 BCE the following things happened:
- The composition of the great Omen Series "Enuma Anu
- Exact observations of the heliacal risings of fixed stars.
- Observations of daily risings, culminations, and settings.
- Composition of the circular and rectangular Astrolabes
before 1000 BCE.
- A very primitive representation of the Venus phenomena by
arithmetical sequences (Tablet 63 of the great Omen
- Calculations of the lengths of day and night by
increasing and decreasing arithmetical series (Tablet 14
of the great Omen Series).
Circa 1400 BCE
- Observations of the heliacal risings of fixed stars.
- Babylonians develop a scheme/list of 30 heliacally rising
stars (and their constellations) (3 x 10 scheme) associated with the
twelve calendar months. (Basis for/used by later stars list such as (i)
"The Three Stars Each", (ii) "The Stars of Elam, Akkad and Amurru", and
Apin series.) [In Babylonian astronomy the "fundamental
stars" were those stars by whose horizon position
time and the calendar were reckoned.]
Circa 1350 BCE
- Stars of Elam, Akkad and Amurru. (Establishment of system
of paranatellonta - simultaneously rising stars on the eastern horizon.)
Circa 1250 BCE
- Possibly finalisation of the series "Enuma Anu Enlil". (Refers to the
Stars of Elam, Akkad and Amurru.)
Circa 1200 BCE
- Tabular list of the 12 stars of Elam, 12 stars of Akkad,
and 12 stars of Amurru. [Some differences to tabular
- Start of exact observations of heliacally rising stars.
Circa 1150 BCE
- Circular "astrolabes." The "astrolabes"
(circular star calendars) of the "3 stars each" (12
stars of Ea, 12 stars of Anu, and 12 stars of Enlil).
- Start of simple mathematical astronomy.
- Planetary movements of primary interest. [Accurate
observations of the risings and settings of the planets (and
sun and moon).]
Circa 1100 BCE
- Rectangular (tabular) "astrolabes".
4. The Late Assyrian Period (circa 1000-600 BCE)
Note: The Late Assyrian Period is also dated
circa 900-600 BCE. This would place MUL.APIN data in the Middle Assyrian Period.
The period from 750-350 BCE saw refinements
in the development of non-mathematical astronomy including the introduction of
(1) Astronomical Diaries, (2) Almanacs, and (3) the Goal Year Texts.
- The systematic observation of celestial phenomena (i.e., "Astronomical
in the Assyrian Period and continued without a break into
late Seleucid times.
- Astronomy of the MUL.APIN series. [Note: Hermann Hunger
(2011) dates the composition of both the Astrolabe/Three-stars-each texts
and the Mul.Apin compilation to the same period circa 13th-century BCE.]
The main astronomical achievements of this period are:
- Detailed study of the fixed stars, their risings,
culminations, and settings.
- Calculations of the duration of daylight and the rising
and setting of the moon by "linear methods".
- Recognition of the zodiac as path of the Moon, the Sun,
and the planets.
- Establishment of zodiacal constellations.
- Position of the zodiac with regard to the zones of Enlil,
Anu, and Ea.
- The seasons of the year established.
- Systematic observation and prediction of eclipses starting circa 750
- By about 1000 BCE the calendar had become astronomically
regulated by the risings of stars and constellations.
Circa 1000 BCE
- Babylonian constellations and star names fully developed.
- The tabular form of the "3 stars each" (12
stars of Ea, 12 stars of Anu, and 12 stars of Enlil).
- Lunar eclipses predicted with reasonable accuracy.
Circa 800 BCE
- Astronomical nomenclature established by Greeks for most
prominent stellar objects.
- Babylonian establishment of rules for lunar and planetary
phenomena (written down in Seleucid times in tablet TU II).
- Use of water clocks in Babylonian astronomy.
Circa 750 BCE
- Dated observations of eclipses in Babylon.
- Recognition of ecliptic and establishment of zodiacal
- Use of 18 "counting stars" along the path of
the moon to measure the progress of the moon through the
- Development of "Astronomical Diaries." ["Observational" texts.
Record "daily" astronomical phenomena for half a Babylonian year (6 or 7
months). Source of other "observational" texts.
The Astronomical Diaries recording project was conceived of and designed
circa the middle of the 8th-century BCE (and likely the beginning was the
1st year of king Nabū-nāşir, 746 BCE. The basis for Babylonian mathematical
astronomy was the information recorded in the so-called Astronomical
Diaries. The later mathematical basis of Babylonian
planetary theory (derived from Astronomical Diaries) is set out in the form
of either 'procedure texts' (containing collections of rules for the
computation of 'ephemerides') or as (tabular) 'ephemerides' i.e., tables
enabling at least approximate prediction of future lunar and planetary
Babylonian Goal-Year texts contain collections of ‘raw’ astronomical
observations (derived from Astronomical Diaries) to make predictions of
future astronomical phenomena (for a given year) using known lunar and
Babylonian almanacs contain collections of predicted astronomical phenomena
for a given year. However, the Almanac data is not excerpted from
observational texts (Astronomical Diaries) but is computed.]
Circa 700 BCE
- Aspects of Babylonian traditional knowledge of heavenly
phenomena (i.e., MUL.APIN) not much greater than Hesiod's knowledge of
- The stars of the "3 ways" (path of Ea, path of
Anu, and path of Enlil) of the MUL.APIN series.
- MUL.APIN. [A summary of most of Babylonian astronomical
knowledge exclusive of omens, from before the 7th century
BCE.] [The MUL.APIN tablets give lists of secondary stars
(i.e., to those fundamental stars which rise and set on
the horizon) - the ziqpu stars - that culminated (crossed
the meridian) at the same time as the more fundamental
stars were heliacally rising. This list of ziqpu stars is
scientifically important, for it represents a step
towards a more reliable measure of time.] Aspects of
Babylonian traditional knowledge of heavenly phenomenon (i.e.,
MUL.APIN) not much greater than Hesiod's
- Astronomical compendia: I-NAM-GIS-HAR and MUL.APIN of
Babylonian origin, copied in Assyria about 700 BCE.
- The definitive constellating of the ecliptic with 12
constellations (connected with the endeavour to reform
the fixing of the 12 months astronomically.)
- [Perhaps the system of 36 stars marking the "three ways"
give way to a system involving 27-30 "normal stars" (= reference stars) being placed
along the ecliptic, to serve as markers for the paths of
the planets. The Babylonian reference system for stars employed the
horizon or meridian, and later the ecliptic (path of the moon); the equator
is never mentioned.]
The series MUL.APIN and the related texts show significant
astronomical advances, namely:
- The better ratio 3 : 2 of longest day to shortest night.
- The primitive calculation of the shadow length of an
upright rod (Gnomon).
- First steps towards the introduction of the zodiacal
signs: constellations in the path of the moon and
- Determination of time intervals between the culminations
of various stars.
Accurate period relations are not to be found in the early
texts. For example, the MUL.APIN compendium does not give a
single period for the sun, moon or planets, apart from the
schematic year of 12 months of 30 days each. The situation
changed rapidly during the Persian period.
In the middle of the 8th century BCE astronomy seems to have
received a new impetus, as shown by:
- Systematic observation of eclipses from the time of
Nabonassar (Nabu-nasir) (747-734) on. (Start of frequent record
keeping regarding lunar and solar eclipses, occultations,
etc till 50 BCE.)
- Successful predictions of lunar eclipses in the 7th
century BCE. These last two points indicate the beginning
of a new line of development continued in the Neo-Babylonian
and Persian Period, namely the systematic observation and
prediction of lunar, solar and planetary phenomena.
Circa 650 BCE
- Continuing tradition of daily observation of major
5. The Neo-Babylonian (Chaldean) Period (626-539 BCE)
Once Babylon became independent of Assyrian rule in the 7th-century BCE, the
focus of how astronomy was done changed. Unlike the astronomy of the
Neo-Assyrian Empire, where scholars were employed in many cities across the
region, almost all astronomy from the Late Babylonian Period originates from the
city of Babylon.
Note: Conquest of Assyria by the Chaldeans (inhabitants of māt
Kaldu) in 609 BCE - fall of Babylon to the Medes in 539 BCE.
Main astronomical features:
- Progress towards the division of the zodiac into 12 signs
of 30 degrees each.
- Systematic observation of the Moon and the planets, their
positions in relation to the fixed stars, their first and
last visibility, stationary points, conjunctions, etc.
Circa 630 BCE
- Start of accurate systematic observations of the moon and
planets and their positions, with respect to the fixed
Circa 600 BCE
- Perhaps earliest evidence of Babylonian influence upon Greek
astronomy (seen in the names of the zodiacal
- Observations of moon and planets.
- Start of developed mathematical astronomy.
- System of normal stars. (Used to mark the positions of
the moon and planets across the sky.)
- The positions of the stars and planets are now always
determined with respect to the ecliptic.
6. The Persian (Achaemenid) Period (539-331 BCE)
Note: Persian (Achaemenid) Period (535-331 BCE; fall of Babylon to the Medes
- fall of Babylon to the Macedonians).
The astronomy of the Persian (Achaemenid) and Seleucid (Hellenistic) periods has the
following typical features:
- Systematic, dated and recorded observations of eclipses
and lunar and planetary phenomena.
- Calculation of Periods.
- Prediction of eclipses.
- Division of the zodiac into 12 signs of 30 degrees each.
- Rise of horoscope astrology.
- Development of mathematical astronomy.
The most important achievements of this period are:
- Determination of accurate periods for the Sun, the Moon,
and the planets.
- Calculation of the motion of the Sun, the Moon, and the
planets, of eclipse magnitudes and other lunar and
planetary phenomena. (These calculations were based upon
an admirable mathematical theory.)
The six lunar phenomena that were regularly observed and
(1. Observed just after New Moon on the evening of first
visibility of the crescent.):
- Time between setting of sun and moon on the evening of
the first visibility of the crescent.
(2. Observed just before and after Full Moon.):
- Time between the last setting of the moon before sunrise
- Time between the last rising of the moon before sunset
- Time between sunrise and the first setting of the moon
- Time between sunset and the first rising of the moon
(3. Observed on the day of last visibility of the moon in the
- Time between the rising of the moon and sunrise on the
morning of last visibility of the moon just before New
Circa 540 BCE
- Increased accuracy of observations of the Zodiac.
- Increased accuracy of Periods of the planets.
- Establishment of accurate lunar calendar.
- Beginnings of applied mathematical science beyond the
needs of astrological requirements.
Circa 500 BCE
- By circa 500 BCE the Babylonians had accurately determined the various
periods for lunar motion (i.e., the sidereal, synodic, draconitic, and
- Astronomical Tables (and Procedure Texts). "Computed" texts.
ephemerides of the moon and planets. The texts consist of "Procedure texts"
explaining the method of calculation; and "Ephemerides texts" listing the
results of the calculations.
- Invention of System A for the [moon and] planets [Jupiter,
Saturn, & Mars]. [System A was invented between 610
and 470 BCE. The beginning of the Achaemenid reign 540 to
470 BCE seems most probable.]
Circa 430 BCE
- The zodiac of signs invented for use as a reference point
in mathematical astronomy.
Circa 400 BCE
- [Majority of 48 Greek constellations and star names
- Invention of System B for the [moon and] planets [Jupiter,
Saturn, & Mars]. [System B was invented between 500
and 260 BCE. The evidence indicates that 480 to 440 BCE
seems most probable.]
- Accurate methods of mathematical astronomy.
7. Macedonian Period (331-circa 275 BCE)
Note: Macedonian Period (331-circa 275 BCE;
fall of Babylon to the Macedonians - end of era of the Diadochi). [Era of
the Diadochi (first generation of
important Macedonian military and political (administrators) successors after
the death of Alexander) is taken to be 323-circa 275 BCE.]
Mathematical astronomy. The largest and most highly developed
part of the theoretical astronomy of the Macedonian period and Seleucid period is
devoted to the computation of the new moons.
Circa 320 BCE
- Lunar and planetary tables. (In the lunar and planetary
tables of the Seleucid Period circa 200 BCE, longitude and latitude are
the only co-ordinates used.)
Circa 300 BCE
- Developed mathematical theory of planetary motions.
- Development of accurate predictions of lunar movement and lunar
- Beginnings of true mathematical science - grounded in astronomical
observations. The multiplicity of phenomenon were able to be reduced to
mathematical expressions, and to predict what would happen in the future.
- In Seleucid (Hellenistic) times two different systems (A and B) were
used to compute the course of the sun and moon. (Hugh Thurston estimates
System A was used at least from 263 BCE to 14 BCE, and System B was used at
least from 251 BCE to 68 BCE.)
- Almanacs: "Observational" texts comprising monthly reports of certain
astronomical phenomena (using zodiacal signs as reference), and covering one
- Normal-Star Almanacs: "Observational" texts similar in structure to the
Almanacs but using the "Normal-stars" as reference.
- Goal-Year Texts: "Observational" texts containing information for
enabling the prediction of planetary and lunar phenomena for a given year.
8. Seleucid (Hellenistic) Period (275 BCE - 116 CE)
Seleucid Period (275 BCE - 116 CE; end of era of the Diadochi - Roman
conquest of Mesopotamia).
All classes of Seleucid astronomical texts
contain at least some predictions.
- Non-mathematical astronomic texts of the Seleucid (Hellenistic) Period
consist of: (1) Almanacs, (2) Normal-Star Almanacs, (3)
Goal-Year Texts, and (4) Diaries.
- [Note: The "Astronomical" Diaries" date back to the Late Assyrian Period
(circa 740 BCE) and were the source of the other "observational" texts.
The only true observational texts were (1) (Astrological) Reports to the
(Assyrian) Kings, and (2) Astronomical Diaries.]
- Lists of lunar and solar eclipses.
Circa 200 BCE
- Ephemerides for the moon and planets.
to top of page.
This web page was last updated on: Sunday, November 5, 2017,
This web page was created using Arachnophilia 4.0 and FrontPage 2003.
You can reach me here by email (but first delete the obvious attempt in
the email address to foil the spammers):
To Site Contents Page