he early kingdoms of Mesopotamia, in the area now known as modern day Iraq, basically consisted of Babylonia on the southern plain and Assyria in the northern. Earlier references to Chaldea are not known but the territory seems to have been settled by semi-nomads from Arabia, who occupied Ur, “of the Chaldeans” and the neighboring territories.
The first known reference to the name Chaldea, is found in the annals of Ashirnasirpal II, king of Assyria (884 to 859 BC). The land of Chaldea is located south of early Babylonia and borders the head of the Persian Gulf between the Arabian Desert and the delta of the Euphrates. The Assyrians called the area, now known as Southern Iraq, Kaldu and by the Babylonians, Kasdu.
The Assyrians, who came on the scene about 1000 years later, quickly became a leading power owing to their military and administrative skills. Although Babylon remained the cultural center, political power continually shifted back and forth between the Assyrian and Babylonian governments. During the latter years, Chaldean Kings played an important role by ruling and maintaining separate borders between Assyria and Babylon. This period became the Neo-Babylonian kingdom. The Persian conquest into Babylon ended the history of the Babylonians in BC 539.
The Persians continued to rule the Babylonian peoples until Alexander the Great conquered the land in 330 BC. Upon Alexander’s death, Seleucid, one of his generals, claimed ruler ship over the land and began to Hellenize the region. This period became known as the Seleucid Period. During this period, the scribal school at Erech remained active and continued to flourish; collecting ritual text and further developing astrology.
Of Gods and Humans
The basic characteristic of Mesopotamian religion was its view of the numina (spiritual force) behind natural phenomena. Each act of nature was believed to be the force of some god who had the appropriate appearance in external form. The pantheon of gods covered everything and extended from the highest god, to the various gods of different winds to even the god of a pickax and shovel.
Omens, as they were known, considered everything under the Sun: wind direction, rain, abundance of crops and cattle, fog, mist and even the coloration of clouds at sunset. Most omens were associated with natural mundane events along with meteorological and celestial phenomena. Omens upheld ancestral beliefs that heaven and Earth were complimentary without one having more influence over the other. Crop failures, pestilence, wars, even the death of a nobleman were thought to depend upon natural events, the Moon and planetary synodic cycles.
The gods held positions of power in the heavens and each person would serve and petition his personal god who took interest in him and his personal needs and fortune. The gods were
expected to take care of immediate problems and sometimes the gods were badgered if they didn’t do so. Through every situation the individual was likely to seek divine guidance through omens, that he might interpret the will of the gods. From the farmer to the kings and rulers, such guidance by divine instruction was sought in all matters of importance.
Over time, many records of daily lunar activity and periodic solar eclipses were developed and kept for each and every day of the year along with each omen that accompanied the event. Through their empiricism the Chaldeans developed theories that the same phenomena would recur in cycles.
One of the cycles was discovering seasonal alignments with fixed stars. This discovery marked a turning point in post-neolithic communities. It gave them a sense of religious evidence that the Earth and heaven were complementary. This is the probable basis for their cosmological-religious beliefs.
The usefulness of the fixed star markers must have been discovered early as they are mentioned in the fifth tablet of the creation myth the Enuma elish. It states that the Babylonian god, Marduk, determined the seasonal boundaries and defined the divisions by setting up three constellations for each month for the twelve-month year. The sets of three constellations were set up into four groupings. The four cardinal points came about by using the summer solstice as a mooring peg. Once established, the Babylonians followed the Sun along the ecliptic, referred to as the Way of Anu. The year was divided into approximate 90-day periods, depending on the length of the Moon's lunation. These are recorded on tablets known as "astrolabes", the earliest of these tablets dating around BC 1100. By this, we know that the Babylonians had knowledge of the sun’s motion, phases of the moon and periodicities of certain planets. However, it wasn’t until the Seleucid period that the Chaldeans began to develop their science and religion into an art.
By the fourth century BC, the Greeks were becoming aware of the Egyptian and Mesopotamian cosmic views. At that time, the Greeks were making rapid advances in the field of mathematics and astronomy and were primed for the view that advancing knowledge of the cosmos was identical with a growing knowledge of the divine. Long before, the Greeks had already structured their religious beliefs with a host of human-like gods that ate, drank, fought and begot children. By the time of the Seleucid period, many of the renowned Greek thinkers were ready to accept and further the idea that the heavens not only indicated but also might cause terrestrial events. The old Mesopotamian mundane astrology was being transformed into what would become the personal astrology of Hellenistic Greece. The age of astrology was about to be born.
The astrological methodologies that are studied on this web site are derived from a time period in Chaldean history that dates back to the Pre-Seleucid period which is from BC 530 to BC 332 . •