Open main menu

Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 2.djvu/42

This page needs to be proofread.


thorities on astrology and the most skilful casters of horoscopes.

India influenced and aided the development of astrologj' in ancient China; both India and Mesopo- tamia that of the Medes and Persians. The Assyro- Babylonian and Egj'ptian priests were the teachers of the Greek astrologers. Both of these priestly castes were called Chaldeans, and this name remained the designation of all astrologers and astronomers in classic antiquity and in the period following. It speaks well for the sound sense of the early Grecian philosophers that they separated the genuine astro- nomic hypotheses and facts from the confused mass of erroneous astrological teaching which the Egyptian priests had confided to them. At the same time it was through the old Hellenic philosophers that the astrological secrets of the Oriental priestly castes reached the profane world. The earliest mention of the art of astrological prediction in early classical literature is found in the "Prometheus Vinctus" of ^schylus (line 486 sqq.) — a comparatively late date. The often quoted lines of the Odyssey (Bk. XVIII, 136 sqq.) have nothing to do with astrology. As- trology was probably cultivated as an occult science by the Pythagorean school which maintained the exclusiveness of a caste. The teaching of Pythagoras on the "harmony of the spheres" points to certain astrological hypotheses of the Egyptian priests. It is a striking fact that Greek astrology began to flourish when the glory of the early classical civiliza- tion had begun to wane. It was in the age of Euripi- des, who refers to astrological predictions in a little comedy, that the belief in astrology began to grow popular in Greece. After the overthrow of the Assyro- Babylonian Empire, the priests of those regions found refuge in Greece and spread their astrological teachings by word of mouth and writing. In this way astrology lost the character of occult science. Astronomy and astrology remained closely united, and both sciences were represented by the so-called Chaldeans, Mathematici, and Genethliacs. Astrology proper, from the time of Posidonius, was called diroTeXea-fiaTiKo. (rendered into English, "apoteles- matics" inorder to indicate more clearly the influence of the stars upon man's final destiny; d-n-6, "from", and tAos, "end"). Astrology soon permeated the entire philosophical conception of nature among the Greeks, and rapidly attained a commanding position in religious worship. Plato was obliged to take astrology into consideration as a "philosophical doc- trine", and his greatest disciple, Aristotle, was the first lo separate the science of astrologj- from tliat of meteorology, which was reserved for the phenom- ena of the atmosphere. The Stoics who encouraged all forms of divination were active promoters of astrology. Tlie more plainly the influence of Orien- tal teaching manifested itself in Greek civilization, and the more confused the political conditions and religious ideas of the Greek States became, the greater was the influence of astrologers in public, and the more mischievous their acti^-ity in private, life. Every professional astronomer was at the same time an astrologer. Eudoxus of Cnidus, the author of the theory of concentric spheres, was perhaps the first to write in Greek on purely astrological topics, being led to select this subject by his studies in Egypt. Most of the Greek astronomers known to us followed in his footsteps, a.s, for instance, Geniinus of Rhodes whose most important work treating of astronomy and astrology Ei'£ra7w77) els ra "taicA^eva (Introduction to Pha?nomena) was commented on even by Hipparchus. About 270 B. c. the poet .\ratus of Soli in his didactic poem, "Pluienomena", explained the system of Eudoxus, and in a poem called "Diosemeia", which was appended to the former, he interprets the rules of judicial and natural astrology that refer to the various changes of the


stars. The poem of Aratus was greatly admired by both the Greeks and the Romans; Cicero translated it into Latin, and Hyginus, Ovid's friend, wrote a commentary on it. In this age astrology was as highly developed as in its second period of pros- perity, at the Renaissance. Medical astrology had also at this date secured a definite position. Hippoc- rates of Cos in his work "De Aere, Aqua et Locis", which shows the influence of the Pythagoreans, discusses at length the value of astrologj' and its prognostications for the whole domain of medicine. In the Alexandrine school of medicine, astrological prognosis, diagnosis, and hygiene soon covered with their rank growths the inherited .scientific teachings that had been tested by practice. In this way "astrological" cures grew in favoiu-. These forms of the art of healing are not without interest botli for the history of suggestion and for that of Innnan error. The diseases of the more important bodily organs were diagnosed according to the influence of the sign of the zodiac at the time, and a medicine applied which either acted by suggestion, or was wholly inoperative. In the division of the zodiac ac- cording to its medical eft'cct on the different parts of the body the first sign taken was the Ram (Aries). which ruled the head, and the last of the series was the Fishes (Pisces), which controlled the health or ailments of the feet. As the appetite of the Greeks for the mysterious wisdom of astrology grew keener, the Egyptian and Chaldean astrologers continually drew out still more mystical, but, at the same time, more dubious treasures from their inexhaustible store-house. The newly founded city of Alexandria, where the later Hellenic culture flourished, was a centre for all astrologers and practitioners of the occult arts. From time to time books appeared here, professing to have had their origin in the early days of Egyptian civilization, which contained the .secret knowledge pertaining to astrological and mystical subjects. These writings seemed to meet the aspi- rations of ordinary men for the ideal, but all they of- fered was a chaotic mass of theories concerning astrology and divination, and the less they were understood the more they were applauded. In the Renaissance these pseudo-scientific works of an- tiquity were eagerly studied. It suffices here to mention the books of Neehepso-Petosiris which were believed by the neo-Platonists to be "the most ancient Egj'ptian authority on astrology but which, probably, were written in Alexandria about 1.50 b. r. About this same time, in all probability, Manet ho, an Egyptian priest and traveller repeatedly men- tioned by Ptolemy, WTOte on astrology. In order to meet the exigencies which arose, each degree of the heavens in late Egyptian astrology was assigned to some special human acti\'ity and some one disease. Besides this, the "heavenly spheres", which play so important a part in the history of astronomj', were increased to 54, and even a higher number, and from astrological calculations made from the complicated movements of these spheres the fate both of men and nations was predicted. Thus arose in late classic times the spha-ra barbarica (foreign sphere) which in the Middle Ages also had a controlling influence over astrology.

It was to be expected that the sober-minded, prac- tical Romans would soon be dissatisfied with the mystical and enigmatical doctrines of Alexandrian astrology. Cato uttered warnings against the mis- chievous activity of the Chaldeans who had entered Italy along with Greek culture. In the year 139 b. c. the Prsetor Cneius Cornelius Hispallus drove all astrologers out of Italy; but they returned, for even the Roman people could not begin an important un- dertaking without the aid and ad\'ice of augurs and auspices. It is only necessary to recall the greatest man of ancient Rome, Julius Ca-sar. Cicero, who in