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the origin of Astronomy: and the higher we have been able to trace it, and the closer we have made the investigation, so much the more firmly have we become convinced that astronomy, in its present form, took its rise at the building of the tower of Babel; and that the Chaldeans then began to record their observations, and deposited them in the temple of Belus at Babylon. According to the Bible chronology, the building of Babel began B. C. 2247; and Berosus states that they had records at Babylon for two periods of 480,000 days, and for 720,000 days. Now Berosus lived B. c. 262; to which add 720,000 days, or 1971} years, and it extends back to B. c. 22331, within 14 years of the building of Babel;-a coincidence which leaves no doubt on our mind of the truth of the statement of Berosus.
Another and most important branch of inquiry, is the origin of the Zodiac; and to this we now desire to direct the attention of our readers ;-an inquiry which will be found to present most remarkable coincidences, and point to the same conclusion, of one common origin for the divisions of the Zodiac, and of the figures by which these divisions are represented; indicating Chaldea as the place, and the foundation of Babylon as the time, of the adoption of these divisions and the invention of these figures.
There is a fashion in modern science, as well as in the politics and manners of our age. In the last century, Bianchini consulted the French Academy respecting an ancient sculptured zodiac found in the ruins of Rome: Fontenelle, expressing the opinion of his brethren, replied, "The monument, concerning which Bianchini has sought our assistance, belongs to the history of the folly of mankind, and the Academy has something better to do than to waste its time in researches of this kind.” The Plurality of Worlds, and speculations of that kind, though folly indeed, and the mere sport of imagination, Fontenelle thought no waste of time; for such speculations were the fashion of the day. But France would form a very different estimate now from that of the Academy, of what would be a waste of time, or what constitutes better employment. The successors of Fontenelle and his companions, the members of the Institute, would now unanimously forward "researches of this kind," as the only safe and legitimate mode of acquiring certainty on the early history and science of the scattered tribes, from whom, by the dispersion at Babel, the nations of the earth deduce their origin. The fashion in France is now changed, and the men of science manifest the greatest zeal and diligence in collecting and investigating such remains of antiquity as that which Bianchini endeavoured to bring under the notice of the Academy. Humboldt has made use of this very monument in his researches ; and a monument of the same class, and probably of the same age, the Zodiac of Denderah, has been transported entire from Thebes to Paris.
In the whole compass of antiquarian research there is no subject of inquiry of greater, none we think of such great, importance to science, as tracing the connection and the differences between the zodiacs of different ages and distant climes. The zodiac of each country carries us back to the very origin of its history,in most instances, and to the commencement of its science in every one of them ; the points of connection indicating community of origin, and the differences generally shewing at what time and in what way the science was introduced—whether by conquerors carrying the arts in their train, or by the peaceful triumphis attendant upon commerce with nations of greater civilization and superior skill. Astronomical records, however rude, carry internal marks for their own verification; and, contrary to all other scientific memorials, are most important and most obvious in the earliest monuments. The oldest records consist of astronomical facts, unincumbered with the dreams of astrology, or the Alexandrian and Arabian systems of the universe, speculations scarcely better than dreams. We know the motions and periods of the heavenly bodies with such exactness that we can determine with accuracy the relative positions of the sun, moon, and stars at any given period ; and the epochs at which certain conjunctions of these heavenly bodies take place are of such rare occurrence, that a record of them, however rude, determines with exactness all the phenomena connected with the same period. But the early Chaldean observations could not have been rude, to furnish data for such accuracy as they attained to, in respect to the true length of the year, and the cycles in which the planets returned to the same relative positions.
These data could only result from long-continued observations, or some of great exactness; and we believe that both concurred: that they very early began to observe, and that they had the strongest motives to induce them to make their observations as accurately as possible. The very subsistence of the first settlers after the Deluge depended on a knowledge of the astronomical periods, since on these depended the periodical return of seedtime and harvest, and the inundations of the rivers where the first settlements took place; from which annual inundations the fertility of the soil in those regions was derived. The seasons in general depended on the solstices and equinoxes : to fix and record these, therefore, was a primary object with the founders of the great nations of antiquity, and from one or other of these periods the fixed year of all the various tribes began : of the vague year, dependent upon lunations, we shall have to speak afterwards.
The plains of Mesopotamia, watered by the Euphrates and the Tigris, and the valley of Egypt, enriched by the overflowing of the Nile, were among the earliest of the postdiluvian settlements. To situations like these, where regular irrigations of the soil ensured an abundant harvest, great numbers were drawn ; just as Lot was attracted by the plain of Jordan, which was “ well watered every where, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar” (Gen. xiii. 10). But the same circumstances laid the foundation of other sciences also, in the necessity not only of providing in time for the inundations, but of again duly apportioning the lands to their former occupants, after the inundations had subsided; which could only be done by means of geometry, as the boundaries and land-marks would be obliterated by each flood of the river. It would, moreover, soon be discovered, not only that different rivers varied in their periodical overflowings, according to the latitudes whence the waters flow; but that the same river would vary considerably in different years, according to the relative positions of the sun and moon. These powerful motives constrained the Chaldeans and Egyptians to cultivate the sciences; and that with no figurative taste or appetite, but from the urgent necessity of providing for subsistence; and the same stern necessity forbade speculation in their science, and bound them, on peril of starvation, to plain matter of fact. Happy had it been for science if the same cheek now continued, and every idle speculator lost his bread for his folly: the world would have been saved much mischief, and it would have saved the inquirer much trouble in such investigations as these.
The stars on the position of which the common people made their remarks, were principally Arcturus and the Pleiades for the equinoxes, and the altitude of Sirius for the summer solstice. But the astronomers, who were generally the priests, and who had their observatories and kept their records in the temples, calculated with great exactness the risings and settings of all the stars, the cycles of the moon, the periods of the planets, and the effects arising from conjunctions or oppositions of the sun and moon in different quarters of the heavens, in accelerating or retarding the periodical heats, winds, or rains on which their prosperity depended.
On such conjunctions as these, the truth and importance of which are beyond contradiction, the follies of astrology were soon engrafted, though its absurd details are the spurious growth of a later age. It seems in most instances to have been at first but a kind of memoria technica of the priests, unknown in its true signification to the vulgar; and by degrees moulded into fable, to meet the cravings of superstition in an ignorant, besotted people: not originally got up by the priests with the deliberate purpose of deceit and extortion, though we fully grant that they quickly turned it into such an engine of power, and transmitted it, accumulating fresh additions of absurdity, from generation to generation.
Such a perversion of science would be sure to arise quickly among a people ignorant both of God and of science; and would also arise, sooner or later, in any people who have not the fear of God, however scientific and refined. Unless the mind of man habitually and immediately resolves all power which is above and beyond investigation by the means he then possesses, into the act of God; the inferior agency of demons or planetary influences will be substituted, to explain those operations which will not range themselves under any laws of nature or principles of science at that time discovered. It is far from the truth to suppose that an advanced state of science, or any thing but the fear of God, is a safeguard against superstition ; as the increase of Popery and fortune-telling in our own day, and in the most enlightened capitals of Europe, may testify.
We have adverted in a former Number to the perversions of mythology, which all grew out of the impersonation of astronomical truths. The constellations and planets were symbolized in the persons of some living or traditional heroes; the planetary motions were represented by that of serpents, beasts, or birds; their cycles were transferred to the life of the hero; and the influence which conjunctions of the planets had upon the seasons, or the periodical returns they denoted, were, by being wrought into a story where the planetary heroes did every thing necessary to be remembered, brought distinctly and concisely to mind. Men, abandoned to follow their own delusions, quickly perverted this into kuavery and folly still more gross than that of the astrologers : and Ben Jonson's Alchemist is 'not one whit more strongly drawn than the portrait which any contemporary satirist might have drawn of the mythology of Greece and Rome in the time of Alexander and Augustus. But the earlier mythologists clearly refer to the true origin of these old-wives' fables, and to the policy and necessity of wrapping up in mystery that which the people either would not bear, or would misuse.
Ιδμεν ψευδεα πολλα λεγειν ετυμοισιν ομοια
Now casting o'er its form a mythic veil. -- Hes. Theog. To find the facts of science unmixed with these fictions, we must have recourse to the astronomical records and monuments which remain, and pick our way from fact to fact, regardless of the toil, and of the many obstacles which beset and encumber the path.
The point in which the science of all countries is found most
nearly to coincide, is that of the zodiac; the oldest record of science, and, although entirely arbitrary and conventional in its origin, presenting so many circumstances of agreement, that we think it impossible to come to any other conclusion than that all the zodiacs were derived from one source, and that the slight variations in different countries are only occasioned by local varieties of climate and product-modifications added by the different colonists after their migrations, and no part of the original contrivance. All nations divide the zodiac into twelve constellations, grouping the stars into the same forms, and arranged in the same order. The nations of the West received their zodiac, through the Greeks, from Egypt; but from whence came the Tartar, Indian, and Mexican zodiacs ? No competent inquirer can doubt of their common origin; and this origin must be thrown back to the period of the dispersion of mankind, when by the confusion of tongues men were scattered abroad on the face of all the earth, and carried with them, to Egypt, to Tartary, to China, to India, and to Mexico, traces of primitive science thus indelible, which the lapse of four thousand years has not been able yet to obliterate.
All are agreed that the origin of the Zodiac must be referred to some one country; and the dispute for precedency can only lie between India, Chaldea, and Egypt. The astronomy of India, including that of Chiņa, has been alternately too much exalted and depressed. From total mistake of its principle, and misunderstanding of those enormous lists of figures by which their cycles were indicated, Indian astronomy was at one time carried back for millions of years : while at other times it was inferred, from loose analogies and fanciful etymologies, that the Arabians carried astronomy into India, subsequent to the time of the Greeks, and even of Ptolemy. Montucla supposes the Indian constellations to have been thus derived, and says, “ It is highly probable that they received them, at some time or another, by the intervention of the Arabs :" to which Sir William Jones replied, “ I undertake to prove that the Indian Zodiac was not borrowed mediately or directly from the Arabs or Greeks; and since the solar division of it in India is the same in substance with that used in Greece, we may reasonably conclude that both Greeks and Hindoos received it from an older nation, who first gave names to the luminaries of heaven, and from whom both Greeks and Hindoos, as their similarity in language and religion fully evinces, had a common descent.” He then goes on to shew, from the very different present state of Hindoo astronomy, that it could not be borrowed from the Arabs; a state proved to have had existence in India many centuries before the rise of Arabian astronomy, by a reference to Indian authors who lived before the Christian era. “ This testimony being
VOL. VII.-NO. 1.