Astronomy is defined as the scientific study of objects in outer space. However, in the ancient world, astronomy was used with astrology which is the study of the position and movement of celestial bodies and how these affect people’s lives. This is recorded on the Biblical Timeline with World History around 1954 BC. However, as early as 3000 BC, people in Mesopotamia observed the heavens and kept astronomical records. They divided time into minutes and seconds, developed a calendar system, and compiled star catalogs. Their knowledge of these subjects was also used in astrology as they lived in a harsh environment where food can be scarce, and they were surrounded by enemies from other lands. Which made them reliant on primitive astrology for signs, omens, and direction.
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Astronomy played a big part in ancient Mesopotamian religion with astral gods that included Anu (lord of the constellations), Nergal (god of the sun), Shamash or Utu (god of the sun), and Sin or Nanna (god of the moon). They are among the major astral deities worshiped by early Mesopotamians. This pantheon of gods was also included in the Sumerian folklore. Sumerians were credited to be world’s first known mathematicians and astronomers with their knowledge of geometry, algebra, and bookkeeping remarkably advanced.
The Sumerians were later subdued by Akkadians (called Babylonians by the Greeks) under Sargon the Great. Babylonians adopted the Sumerian beliefs in gods such as Inanna, Zababu, Anu, and Enlil. Sargon even included his daughter, Enheduanna as priestess to Nanna (Sin). Some of the oldest collections of astronomical observations were written and collected at the time of Sargon of Akkad’s reign. Babylon is credited as the birthplace of ancient astrology and was the first to organize astrology some time in second millennium BC. Clay tablets inscribed with names of constellations and other astronomical events that have been recovered. Such as the Venus Tablets of King Ammisaduqa (one of the cuneiform tablets included in the Enuma Anu Enlil) which records the rising and setting of the planet Venus over a period of 21 years. Babylonians were credited as the first ones who developed the earliest lunisolar calendar with 12 months divisions. As well as accurately predicting solar and lunar eclipses. Eclipses were bad omens for Babylonian kings. Predicting these caused a person in advance to be killed in the king’s stead to appease the wrath of their gods.
When Assyrians conquered Babylon, much of what is known about astronomy and astrology was kept alive after the King Ashurbanipal of Assyria transferred important literary, mathematical, and astronomical works of his empire to his own library. The clay tablets where the astronomical observations were inscribed were then dug up thousands of years later in Kouyunjik (Nineveh).
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