TR102b History of Western Astrology: Antiquity to the Renaissance
9 Class Meetings
This course will cover the history of western astrology from its inception in the Old Babylonian period to the Renaissance. You will not learn astrological technique in this course. Instead, we'll be exploring the philosophical, cultural and historical developments that helped to shape astrology and its place in the world.
Class Meeting 1: Mesopotamian Astrology
We start our investigation at the beginning of recorded written history in the west, where astrology has its earliest roots. We'll examine the contributions of the Babylonians, as well as those of other Mesopotamian civilizations, to astrology. We'll also discuss our definitions from last week in the context of Mesopotamian astrology.
Class Meeting 2: Egyptian Contributions
By the 3rd century BC, we encounter the historical imprint of astrology in Hellenized Egypt. This week we examine the contributions of indigenous Egypt to astrology, as well as the transmission of Babylonian astrological concepts into the Hellenistic world.
Class Meeting 3: Philosophical Influences
This week we dig deeply into the philosophical foundations of Hellenistic astrology. To what extent does the astrology of the Hellenistic and Roman periods reflect the ideas of classical philosophers? What religious and philosophical concepts of the Hellenistic world helped to shape the development and popularization of astrology?
Class Meeting 4: Hellenistic Astrology
What we call 'traditional' astrology today is rooted in the techniques and innovations of two pivotal historical periods in astrology. The 1st of these occurs in Egypt after the conquest of Alexander. This week, we'll examine some of the astrologers practicing Hellenistic astrology and the techniques that form the basis of this type of astrology.
Class Meeting 5: Rome and Astral Religions
Two important developments affect the spread and popularity of astrology in Rome as well as set up future opposition to it from the Church. The 1st is a religious development, the second a political one. This week we look at the political applications of astrology and the importation of astral religions from the east. This will set up the discussion for next week.
Class Meeting 6: Early Christianity and Astrology
Today, fundamentalist Christians are taught that astrology is wicked. The position of the early Christian Church was far more complicated. We'll examine some of the religious, political and philosophical issues confronting the Church with regard to astrology and look at how they wrestled with them.
Class Meeting 7: The Islamic World
The second great historical period of technical innovation in astrology occurs during the beginning of Islam. Much of what we know today as traditional astrology, comes from the writers of this period. Arabic astrologers also had a large impact on the transmission of astrology to the Christianized Latin west. It is to a large extent thanks to them that we know anything today about Hellenistic astrology.
Class Meeting 8: The Latin West
This week we pick up on the Arabic translation movement of the 12th century and examine its impact on the Latin western world. What new philosophical and religious problems were Church authorities faced with regard to astrology? What role did the Universities have to play in the teaching of astrology?
Class Meeting 9: The Renaissance
Astrology has another resurgence during the Renaissance. This week we examine the role of printing, the reformation, and the second wave of classical influences on the development and spread of astrology. In particular, we'll look at the influence of magical and alchemical ideas on the study and acceptance of astrology.
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