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The Theory of Elam

The action of killing the lion single-handedly symbolised that the king would not allow his civilization to be threatened or harmed by outside forces.

Astrology is inherently political.

Its purpose began with finding ways to make the unknowable certain, and the most effective way for the Mesopotamians to do that was to find the fixed stars, track the path of the sun and the moon each day, watch the rivers for flooding, and stay out of the path of hurtling comets. Meanwhile, bad things kept happening.

Kings died, for example. So one way Sumerians, Babylonians and, later, the Assyrians, felt in control of what would otherwise seem random events, was by noticing themes or patterns in the heavens and connecting them to earthly occurrences. This was especially true where the king was concerned, for his fate governed the future of an entire civilization.

Transcribed in approximately 8th century Assyria, the likely consequences of a Moon-Mars conjunction had already been noted:

“When a halo surrounds the Moon and Mars stands within it, a king will die and his land be diminished; the King of Elam will die.”

Now, this was actually an historical fact that became a form of prophecy. At some earlier time, a king of Elam had died during a Moon-Mars conjunction; subsequently, it became the norm for all future kings to be warned if there was a similar conjunction occurring, for the fear was obvious. That which had gone before, could occur again.

Therefore, a belief grew over time, that a preceding event such as a Moon-Mars conjunction occurring at the same time as a king’s death could be linked to a potential future event. By the 8th century BC, when for the first time there is evidence of the consistent collection of astronomical data, the idea was clearly taking shape that if the planetary movements could be forecast, and future Moon-Mars conjunctions could be plotted, then the Babylonians or Assyrian monarchs would know in advance when Elam was likely to be vulnerable. This, at least, was the theory, and the very important political motive behind the study of astronomy and history (Nicholas Campion, The Great Year, 57).

So, astrological principles of observation and prophecy are based on a theory that involves a civilization that once flourished in what is modern-day Iran. Finding the predictability within the chaos of humanity: this was the astrologer’s task. It was accomplished by discerning the mathematical order that lay behind the the rotation of the sun and the moon, and calculating the likelihood of the next celestial event.

Astrologers were early statisticians as much as mathematicians. They were also politicians and scientists, compelled to prophesy doom or fortune for their king, and live with the consequences.

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