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The story of the constellations; From legend to history

Some of these constellations are known even today. Like the constellation “Sagittarius” which was associated with a deity called Ninurta (or in some texts, Pabilseg) who was considered the deity of hunting. Or the constellations “Thorn” and “Lion” which were associated with Ishtar (in Sumerian, Inana), the goddess of love and war.

A number of Mesopotamian constellations are incompatible with what we know today. Like the “Arrow” and “Sagittarius” constellations, which we know today as the “Big Dog” constellation. Or the “Swallow” constellation, which today includes parts of the “Cytus” and “Pisces” constellations.

Numerous clay tablets with astronomical applications have survived from ancient Babylon, including celestial maps and lists of stars. Despite the astrological use of these writings, there are detailed reports of the positions of the stars in them, which are the result of the mathematical knowledge and scientific observations of the people of ancient Babylon.

The collection ofEnoma Anu Enlil(meaning, during the time of the gods Anu and Enlil), it contains about 70 tablets with an age of more than 1500 years before the current era (P.D.K.). This collection includes 6,500 to 7,000 horoscopes and interprets the relationship of various celestial and weather phenomena with the affairs of the king and the government. Enuma Anu Enlil was the main astrological source for the astrological reports of scholars that were regularly sent to Neo-Assyrian kings.

An example of these reports is as follows:

  • If the month on the first day [ماه تقویمی] It was visible: reliable speech; It will be a happy land.
  • If the day reaches its natural length: royalty with long days.
  • If the moon appears to be wearing a crown, the king will reach the highest position.

These reports followed a specific pattern that examined the behavior of the moon, then the phenomena related to the sun and weather conditions, and finally, the behavior of various stars and planets.

Around 1350 A.D., during the Kasi era, stones were built and installed on these lands to announce the official transfer of land by the government to individuals and to mark their boundaries. A stone copy was kept in one of the temples and a clay copy was delivered to the owner as a document. These stones thatKodorowere called, they contained images and symbols of gods and mythical religious creatures that were thought to protect the ownership of land. Many of these symbols later became symbols of constellations Ecliptic became The symbols of cow, lion, scorpion, bow, goat and Aquarius are some of them. The symbol of the sun, moon and star (the symbol of the planet Venus) is also engraved on these stones.

The next evidence of the formation process of the constellations is a collection of tablets known as the Enoma Elish from the royal library of Ashurbanipal, the last powerful king of Assyria (631-669 AD). This collection, the Babylonian creation legend, is more than 17 thousand years old. At the end of the fourth tablet and the beginning of the fifth tablet of this collection, it is mentioned that Marduk (the king of the Babylonian gods) made places for the three great gods Ea, Enlil and Anu in the sky, and then the constellations and stars were installed and organized.

The division of the sky into three parts in this story is the basis for the arrangement of the subsequent lists of stars in Mesopotamia. In the triple division of the Babylonian sky, the northern part is the “Enlil path”, the celestial equator and half of the ecliptic are the “Ano path” and the southern part of the sky is the “Ea path”. The border of these three parts is considered at the distance of 17 degrees north and south of the celestial equator; In such a way that the sun spends three consecutive months of the year in each sector.

A list called “Each, Three Stars”, which appears to have been written for the first time in the 12th century AD, is the earliest known list of stars. This list was written on circular tablets which are wrongly called astrolabes. There are also lined versions of it.

The official Babylonian calendar is based on the positions of the moon and the sun in the sky and is a type of calendar Solar-lunar calendar is considered. In this calendar, the new year was determined by the sighting of the new moon near the vernal equinox, and therefore each year could have 12 or 13 months and be shifted relative to the solar year. Ancient Babylonians used a calendar based on the “morning sunrise” of the stars for agricultural purposes. The ancient Egyptians also had a similar calendar based on the morning sunrise, the most well-known example of this calendar is the morning sunrise relationship. Night star With the rise of the Nile River.

The “One, Three Stars” tablets list the 3 stars for each month, each in one of the three paths of the sky, whose morning rising occurs at the beginning of that month. Many of the stars named in this list are actually constellations; But the names of single stars and even planets can be seen in it.

The order of some stars in this list is astronomically incorrect, which may be due to the design of this list for non-astrological purposes. It is also possible that the mistake of the authors in the reproduction of these tablets or the mistake of modern archaeologists in the translation of the cuneiform script may have caused the mistake.

In the list of some discovered tablets, there are constellations that are not seen in other tablets or are grouped under another path.

There are two tablets similar to the tablets of each, three stars, which include the list of 12 stars of Elam, 12 stars of Akkad and 12 stars of Amor. These names have remained from the political situation in the period of ancient Babylon (1595-1894 AD), which were located in the east, north and west of the city of Babylon, respectively. These listings match perfectly with the list of each, three stars. It seems that the basis of the formation of each list is three stars, the stars of Akkad are assigned to Enlil, the stars of Elam to Anu, and the stars of Amor to Ea.


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