Evidence shows that astrology has been around since the time of our ancient ancestors almost 25,000 years ago - and not to my surprise some suggest it may be even older. Despite its deep roots all throughout human history, many speculate its beginnings and in what order astrology and astronomy were created. Some to this day see astrology as a complete hoax, but a growing New Age movement is steadily bringing this very old age study back to life in the 21st century.
Waaaay in the Beginning
Your name is Og, or Ogette, and you're an early cave dwelling human from the Upper Paleolithic age about 25,000 years ago. For a little less than 12 hours each day you have the pleasure of witnessing an unpolluted night sky and you're stricken by the feminine beauty that is our planet's Moon. Each night you watch the pale Moon appear from the darkness and depending on the time of month you notice gradually changing patterns of light reflecting off the Moon's surface. Now of course you have no idea what the Moon is or how it worked, but over time you make the conclusion that the water level rises and falls depending on the sequence of said Moon. You're so excited about your discoveries that you paint them onto the walls of your cave and carve them into the dried bones of hunted prey - then - 25 Millennia later your decedents discover your artwork, concluding that you are the earliest human to chart the phases of the Moon and its effects on Earth.
In 1972 Alexander Marshack, an independent scholar and Paleolithic archaeologist, interpreted these discoveries as the earliest point of origin for astrology. After this revolutionary discovery, there's a wide gap in history before astrology makes its official debut in Ancient Babylon and Egypt.
The Cradle of Civilization
Around 2,000 BC the Babylonians had begun establishing early concepts of astrology and within 400 years it became a common part of their culture. Babylonian astrology focused primarily on predictions of weather patterns, tracking harvest seasons and political omens. Curiously enough, for the next 2,000 years astrology and astronomy would be considered to be the same field of science. For example, Encyclopedia Britannica Online clarifies that astrology was once considered a field of science: "Though often regarded as a science throughout its history, astrology is widely considered today to be diametrically opposed to the findings and theories of modern Western science."
525 BC - Persia has conquered Babylon and Egypt through a long series of military campaigns. This subsequently lead to the astrological blending of all three cultures, but this would not be the last time astrology would be reformed through acts of war. Skipping ahead to the year 332 BC we find a man of legend, Alexander the Great, leading his mighty army toward the second capturing of Egypt. He was so successful that the Egyptians made him a Pharaoh and proclaimed him to be a god. Alexander's victorious return to Greece was abundant with astrological knowledge and it gained popularity so rapidly that other great minds, Plato and Aristotle included, came together with the goal of making astrology their own. The merging of Hellenistic Greece, Ancient Babylon and traditional Egyptian beliefs gave birth to what we know today as Horoscopic Astrology. This period in astrology is credited with the application of the Zodiac, eclipses, sign rulership, the four elements and the embodiment of Greek gods as planets in our solar system.
When in Rome
Alexander the Great's conquest through Asia brought an intense mixture of cultural influence. Syria, Babylon, Persia and a majority of central Asia had greatly impacted Greek life and vice versa; yet Rome remained uninfluenced by astrology. Through a little cultural osmosis the contagious nature of astrology had gripped the hearts and minds of every social class in the Roman republic. Some star-gazers became full blown astrologers, seeking employment by political leaders or wealthy Roman scholars. During his reign from 14 AD to 37AD, Emperor Tiberius was the first notable sovergn of Rome to seek the council of a master astrologer. Tiberius held public trials for any astrologer that wished to become his distinguished advisor of the stars.
If an astrologist were to fail Tiberius' test they would be tossed off the side of a cliff to their certain doom, a high price to pay for failing to read an astrological chart properly. The only astrologer to have survived this test was Thrasyllus of Mendes, as he was able to foresee danger in his immediate future by casting a horoscope. Tiberius' response to the worried astrologer's forecast was the equivalent of "you're hired" in Latin.
Food for Thought - Could the outcome of Thrasyllus' horoscope test have been influenced by an outside source? It's possible that the clever man pieced together the dreadful sound of each failed astrologer in line before him.
Without a doubt, astrology predates nearly every faith and philosophy recorded in human history. Astrology has made some close calls with being forgotten between the pages of time but in the 21st century it's made a resounding comeback, becoming a globally popular field of study. In this author's opinion, petty political differences in human history are to blame for the separation of astrology and astronomy. If astrology and astronomy had such tightly knit origins thousands of years ago, what makes them unable to harmonize today? After all, metaphysics is just a category for something that science can't explain yet.