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The Heavenly Writing
Divination, Horoscopy, and Astronomy in Mesopotamian Culture

$44.99 (P)

  • Date Published: October 2007
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521716611

$ 44.99 (P)

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About the Authors
  • Celestial phenomena in ancient Mesopotamia was observed and interpreted as signs from the gods as well as physical phenomena. Relating the various ways the heavens were contemplated and understood, this study traces the emergence of personal astrology from the tradition of celestial divination and how astronomical methodology developed for horoscopes. Its importance lies in its treatment of Babylonian celestial sciences (celestial divination, horoscopy, and astronomy) as subjects relevant to the history of science and culture.

    • Examination of ancient Near Eastern culture
    • Study of Babylonian astrology and astronomy
    • Relates ancient Mesopotomian celestial divination, horoscopy, and astronomy to the history and philosophy of science
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    Reviews & endorsements

    "Francesca Rochberg has written a reliable account of Babylonian celestial science in a lively style accessible to the non-specialist, based on years of research in the primary documents. She has woven the story around the components of astral omens, astrology, and astronomy, while challenging many assumptions about disciplinary boundaries as they apply to ancient texts. Her nuanced approach is informed by a critical analysis of relevant materials in the history and philosophy of science and, as a result, the earliest scientific enterprise can now be appreciated in its proper cultural context."
    Bernard R. Goldstein, University Professor Emeritus, University of Pittsburgh

    "The Babylonian science of the heavens, divination through ominous phenomena and personal horoscopes, and astronomy both observational and mathematical, is the earliest of all sciences, at once empirical and theoretical. The Heavenly Writing is a comprehensive and penetrating study of the entire subject, in particular of the most important and complex questions concerning this science: the relation of its branches, to each other and to other forms of divination, to religion and to magic, and in what sense it truly is science. Professor Rochberg sets out expositions of each branch that will be of interest and intelligible to readers without specialized background, indeed, no one has done this better, and answers to the central questions that will establish the standard for all future investigations. This is a great and profound book on a great and profound subject."
    Noel M. Swerdlow, The University of Chicago

    "This is a fascinating book, one that readers interested in the history (and, perhaps, philosophy) of science will want to read."
    MAA Reviews, Fernando Gouvea, Colby College

    "Readers ... will come away with a deeper sense of the complexity, the profundity, and the antiquity of ancient Mesopotamian scholarship."
    American Historical Review, William W. Hallo, Yale University

    "...much to provoke further thought and research. ...'Heavenly Writing' is a book that lives up to its name". Bryn Mawr Classical Review, 2005

    "It is a long time since I've enjoyed a book this much, found so much in it to agree with, and so much to provoke further thought and research...The Epilogue is an excellent way in, while the 'Descriptive survey of the "unprovoked" omen texts' is the best introduction of its kind I have read...She is generous with translated quotes from both published and unpublished sources...All in all, though, Heavenly Writing is a book that lives up to its name."
    Eleanor Robson, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge

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    Product details

    • Date Published: October 2007
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521716611
    • length: 360 pages
    • dimensions: 221 x 150 x 23 mm
    • weight: 0.48kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. The historiography of Mesopotamian science
    2. Celestial divination in context
    3. Mesopotamian genethlialogy: the Babylonian horoscopes
    4. Sources for horoscopes in Babylonian astronomical texts
    5. Sources for horoscopes in the early astrological tradition
    6. The scribes and scholars of Mesopotamian celestial science
    7. The classification of Mesopotamian celestial inquiry as science.

  • Author

    Francesca Rochberg, University of California, Berkeley
    Francesca Rochberg is Catherine and William L. Magistretti Distinguished Professor of Near Eastern Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. She is a recipient of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship and the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship. She is the author of Babylonian Horoscopes (1998) and Aspects of Babylonian Celestial Divination: The Lunar Eclipse Tablets of Enuma Anu Enlil (1988).

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