In my previous article, we examined astrology from the Babylonian (Mesopotamian) and Hellenistic (Greek) cultures. If you have yet to read the full first-part of this series, check out the article in the link here.
In this second-part article, we continue the time line of the astrology tradition from the period of Hellenistic astrology’s decline in Europe till the age of enlightenment.
Persian Astrology (226 CE to 632 CE)
After the fall of the Roman Empire and the decline of Hellenistic astrology in Europe, its manuscripts travelled eastwards, making their way to Asia Minor where the Sassanid Persian Empire was. Hellenistic astrologers were invited to the court of Sassanian Persian kings to translate their Greek text to their native language, Pahlavi. Persian astrologers applied natal techniques to mundane astrology, a branch of astrology that attempts to determine past, present and future fates of nations and dynasties (George, 2019). New astrological methods were used such as the Jupiter-Saturn cycle and the Aries ingress chart.
Arabic Astrology (600 CE to 1300 CE)
The Arabs conquered the Sassanid Persians in AD 632 and Persian astrology texts were translated into Arabic. By the end of the 11th century, the Arabs have produced hundreds of works on astrology. There were many changes made to the approaches to the house systems, rulership and aspects. The Arabic Parts were added to the Greek system of Lots. The 28-lunar mansions were derived from the 27 Indian nakshatras (George, 2019). This period saw the rise of horary astrology.
Arabic astrology made its way to the Byzantine courts of Constantinople sometime in the 1100s, where numerous works were again translated into Greek. These works included not only the original Hellenistic astrology but those of the Arabs themselves. These Arabic works also found its way to the Moorish culture in southern Spain.
Medieval Astrology (1200 CE to 1500 CE)
Latin astrologers began translating the Arabic treatises, and that was how some texts from Persian and Indian astrology was received and adapted into the Latin works. There were some adaptations from Hellenistic works but a lot of those originals were lost into obscurity.
The fall of Constantinople in 1453 led to the influx of Greek scholars and texts to Italy, resulting in the birth of the Renaissance as well as classical paganism.
Renaissance Astrology (1500 CE to 1700 CE)
The early renaissance era saw the rise of astrology as a popular subject. The works of astrology was further refined and more advanced techniques were added to enhance calculations for planetary positions. The invention of printing press enabled widespread dissemination of astrology publications to the masses, giving rise to various forms of predictions and prophecies that not only never came to pass but created a lot of panic among the common folks.
Following this, the Church eventually condemned all forms of divination. With the acceptance of Copernicus’ heliocentric model of the universe and the rise of experimental science, astrology lost its scientific rationale and fell into disrepute over the next few hundred years (George, 2019).
Despite its disrepute, a number of astrological works were published in England during the 1700s. Among the authors, was the William Lilly, a leading figure of golden-age English astrology who published Christian Astrology.
Astrology in the Age of Enlightenment (1700s to 1900s)
The age of enlightenment saw the decline of astrology’s influence in the scientific community. Astrology tradition vanished and went underground again. By the late 1800s, Spiritualist and Theosophical movements, as well as depth psychology, gave birth to the resurrection and renewed interest in astrology. And this time, astrology was used as a tool for self-discovery and understanding. The birth chart, which was usually used as a tool for forecasting events fated to befall the native, was then used a map of the psyche and soul (George, 2019).
As much as we want to quantify our way of life through the scientific method, there are some things in this world which are intangible and non-scientific. While we all know by now that astronomy is the scientific study of the cosmos, astrology in contrast, is the semantical study of terrestrial movements in our solar system. Both are useful in their own ways and by adopting a more holistic perspective in our worldview, gives us a much bigger picture of how we can live our lives to its fullest potential.
This concludes the two-part series on “A Brief History of Astrology”. I have considered a third-part article featuring modern astrology in the 20th century but I’ve decided to do that as a separate topic altogether. Perhaps a comparison between traditional and modern astrology and why I’ve decided to use traditional astrology in my works and analysis of the birth charts.
Goerge, Demetra, 2019. Ancient Astrology: In theory and Practice. Rubedo Press.