Astrology has been around for thousands of years, providing guidance and insight to people across different cultures and time periods.
But who originally came up with the idea of dividing people into different astrological signs based on their date of birth?
The origins of this practice are complex and span many centuries.
Ancient Beginnings in Babylon
The first organized system of astrology signs and meanings is believed to have originated in ancient Mesopotamia, particularly in Babylon, around the 2nd millennium BCE. The Babylonians were meticulous observers of the night sky and kept careful records of the movements of the planets and stars. They correlated these movements with events on Earth and eventually developed an elaborate astrological system involving 12 signs of the zodiac.
Hellenistic Astrology Spreads Through the Ancient World
Around the 2nd century BCE, Babylonian astrology was adopted by the ancient Greeks. Astrology became popular in Greek culture, where the signs of the zodiac were associated with various gods and goddesses. The Greeks refined Babylonian astrology into a complex system that included things like planetary rulerships of the astrological houses.
Greek astrology was eventually passed on to the Romans. Under the Roman Empire, astrology flourished and was used by figures such as the emperor Tiberius to help guide decisions. The Romans translated Greek astrological texts and helped spread astrology across their empire.
The Medieval Period and Beyond
After the fall of Rome, astrology entered a long period of decline in Europe. But it remained an important part of other cultures, such as in the Islamic world where it was used to help make medical diagnoses. Starting in the late Middle Ages, astrology experienced a revival in Europe. New astrological texts were translated and ideas like horoscopes became popular.
Renaissance Europe saw another resurgence of interest in astrology. Figures like Copernicus were known to practice astrology. And in the 17th century, astrology was bolstered by Johannes Kepler’s work that provided the first mathematical confirmation of its accuracy.
Over the centuries since, astrology has continued to evolve. New branches like Jungian astrology have emerged while astrology itself has permeated into our popular culture. But the roots of today’s 12 signs of the zodiac still extend all the way back to those ancient Babylonian astronomers observing the night sky millennia ago.
- “A Brief History of Astrology.” Ancient Origins, Ancient Origins, 16 Nov. 2020, https://www.ancient-origins.net/human-origins-folklore/brief-history-astrology-0014020.
- Curry, Patrick. A Brief History of Astrology: From the Middle East to the Modern West. Inner Traditions/Bear & Co, 2020.
- “The History of Astrology – from Ancient Beliefs to Modern Astrophysics.” Astrology.com, Astrology.com, www.astrology.com/us/history-of-astrology.
Tracing the full history of astrological signs is difficult given how far back the origins of astrology go. But the available evidence points to the ancient Babylonians as the first to outline a system of astrology involving 12 signs, even if early forms may have existed earlier.
This Babylonian astrology was then developed further by ancient Greek and Roman culture before continuing to evolve across millennia to our current understanding. The story of astrology is rich and complex, but it appears to have begun more than 2000 years ago with curious Babylonian astronomers who looked to the stars for meaning and correlation with life on Earth.
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