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By Tamysn Barton

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

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The names were probably chosen because Petosiris represented the prestige of the Egyptian priesthood, and Nechepso that of the Egyptian monarchy— like the other Hermetic texts, they are pseudepigraphical. Petosiris is usually identified as the priest whose tomb, which cannot be later than 341 BCE, was the object of a cult, while Nechepso was the name of a king listed among the rulers of the twenty-sixth dynasty (663–522 BCE). There is no full text of Nechepso and Petosiris, but there are plenty of quotations of writings attributed to them, in some cases extensive.

Thus there were thirty-six for the year (excluding the epagomenal days). They were probably chosen to have the same period of invisibility as Sothis, and so all lie parallel to or south of the ecliptic. The risings of the decans in the night were used to divide the time into ‘hours’. Since at the time of the rising of Sothis, twelve are seen to rise before dawn, the night hours are twelve. The diagonal calendars of 1800–1200 BCE show this division. They were long out of relation to the calendar when they were put on coffin lids of Ramessid kings at the beginning of the first millennium BCE (see Plate 2).

Vitruvius, in his treatise on architecture written under Augustus, records that he established a school of astrology on Cos, and mentions the work of otherwise unknown successors from the school. He credits him for his account of the waxing and waning of the Moon, and for inventing a particular type of sundial. 25 However, the first datable individual given credit by at least one astrologer as a source was the Babylonian diviner Sudines, about a generation later. Strabo, the geographer (64 BCE–21 CE), calls him an astrologer, and a first-century writer on generalship refers to him as a Chaldaean prophet advising Attalos I during the war against the Galatians in 240 BCE, but he mentions extispicy rather than astrology.

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