Astrology and religion among the Greeks and Romans - by Franz Cumont - PDF ebook

Astrology and religion among the Greeks and Romans

Franz Cumont
Astrology and religion among the Greeks and Romans



Excerpt from the introduction:

It is the purpose of these lectures delivered under the auspices of the American Committee for Lectures on the History of Religions, to sum up, the results of researches carried on by me for many years in the field of ancient astrology and astral religion. For some facts set forth herein a summary fashion, I can refer the reader interested in the details to a number of special articles published in various periodicals; the proof of other assertions will be given in a larger work that I hope at some future date to publish on this same general theme.


My sincere thanks are due to Mr J. B. Baker of Oxford who has carried out the task of translating these lectures in so satisfactory a manner; and I am also largely indebted to my friend, Mr J. G. C. Anderson of Christ Church, who was kind enough to undertake the revision of the manuscript. I also owe some valuable corrections to Prof. Morris Jastrow, Jr., of the University of vi Preface Pennsylvania, who, as Secretary of the American Committee, may be said to have called this book into existence, and to whom I take pleasure in dedicating the volume, as a mark of recognition of his own researches in the cognate field of Babylonian-Assyrian astrology. Franz Cumont. Brussels, January 1912.  American Lectures on the History of Religions are delivered under the auspices of the American Committee for Lectures on the History of Religions. 

Thus various reasons commended to the attention of scholars these old writings of the Greek astrologers so long neglected. They set to work to re-read and to re-publish these repulsive-looking books which had not been reprinted since the sixteenth century. 

The last edition — and a shockingly bad one — of the Tetrahihlos. of Ptolemy is dated 1581. Further, a number of unknown authors emerged from obscurity, a crowd of manuscripts mouldering in the tombs of libraries were restored to light. 

I shall not dwell on the interest afforded to the scholar by a series of texts spread over more than fifteen centuries, from the Alexandrine period to the Renaissance. Nor, again, will I attempt to estimate the importance which might be claimed in the political sphere by a doctrine which has often guided the will of kings, and decided their enterprises.

 Nor can I prove here by examples how the propagation of astrological doctrines reveals unsuspected relations between the oldest civilisations, and leads him who traces it from Alexandria and from Babylon as far as India, China, and Japan, bringing him back again from the Far East to the Far West. So many questions of such varied interest can- not be considered all at once. We must exercise restraint and confine ourselves to one view of the subject. 

Our object in this course of lectures shall be limited to showing how oriental astrology and star-worship transformed the beliefs of the Graeco-Latin world, what at different periods was ' See Franz Boll, Zur Erjorschung der antiken Astrologie (Neue Jahrbucher f. d. Klass. Altertum), xxi. (1903). xxiv Introduction the ever-increasing strength of their influence, and by what means they established in the West a sidereal cult, which was the highest phase of ancient paganism.


 In Greek anthropomorphism, the Olympians were merely an idealised reflection of various human personalities. Roman formalism made the worship of the national gods an expression of patriotism, strictly regulated by pontifical and civil law. Babylon was the first to erect the edifice of -a cosmic religion, based upon science, which brought human activity and human relations with the astral divinities into the general harmony of organised nature. This learned theology, by including in its speculations the entire world, was to eliminate the narrower forms of belief, and, by changing the character of ancient idolatry, it was to prepare in many respects the coming of Christianity.


Some contents of the book

Introduction xv Recent researches concerning astrology, xv — Their interest and importance, xvi. Lecture I. — The Chaldeans . . . I The "Pan-Babylonians," 2 — Fundamental error of their theories, 3 — Astral religion implies scientific ideas developed at the end and not at the beginning of Babylonian civilisation, 4 — Sketch of the history of Chaldean astronomy, 6 — Its discoveries in the second century b. c, 12 — ^Its influence upon the religion, 15 — Development of astral theology, 21 — The Chaldean creed in the Alexandrine period, 28. Lecture II. — Babylonia and Greece. 36 Sidereal religion originally foreign to the Greeks, 36 — 

Anthropomorphism opposed to the cult of celestial bodies, 38 — Greek philosophers as defenders of star- worship, 39 — Practical motives and theoretical reasons, 40 — Influence of Oriental religions proved, 41 — The Platonic Epinomis, 48 — Greeks at first rejected astrology .-52 — Changesets in after the days of Alexander the Great, 54 — Interpenetration of Greek and Chaldean science, 55 — Berosus, 56 — Kidenas intermediary be- tween Hipparchus and Chaldeans, 62 — Seleucus of Seleucia and scientificrajdgcalism, 67 — Stoicism as the conciliator of star-worship and philosophy, 68 — End of the Babylonian schools, 71. III. — 

The Dissemination in the West ..... 73 Power of astrology, 73 — Babylonia and Egypt, 74 — Astrology unknown in Egypt before the sixth century B. c, 75 — Petosiris and Nechepso {circa 150 B. c.) 76 — Hermetic books, 77 — Syria, 77 — Israel and astrology, 78 — Transformation of Semitic paganism, 79 — Chaldaism and Hellenism in the empire of the Seleucids, 81 — Oriental Stoicism and Posidonius of Apamea, 82 — His influence on Roman thought, 85 — Manilius' Astronomica, 86 — Neo-Pythagoreans, 87 — Literary and popular propagandism, 88 — The Oriental/mysteries, 89 — The devotion of the emperors to the Sun-cult, 94 — 

The house of the Severi, 96 — Official cult founded by Aurelian (274 A. d.), 97 — The solar dynasty of the fourth century, 98 — Conclusion, 99. Lecture IV. — Theology . . . .101 The contemplation of the heavens, 10 1 — Divinity of the heavenly bodies, 102 — Qualities of the astral gods: (a) Eternity, 104 — ^Worship of Time and its subdivisions, 107 — Sacred numbers, iii — (b) Universality and omnipotence, 112— Worship of Heaven and constellations, 115 — ^Worship of plants and elements, 1 1 9 — The leading power of the cosmic organism, 123 — The Sun as the highest god, 124 — Development of solar theology, 126 — Transformation of paganism, 135.


book details :
  • Author: Franz Cumont
  • Publication date: 1902
  • Company: New York and London, G.P. Putnam's sons

  • Download Astrology and religion among the Greeks and Romans - 7.5 MB

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