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Category: Reginald Campbell Thompson

Temple of Bel, Temple of Marduk, Temple of Babylon, E-Sagila

“He says of it:

Ka-khilibu, the gate of glory, as well as the gate of E-Zida within E-Sagila, I made as brilliant as the sun. The holy seats, the place of the gods who determine destiny, which is the place of the assembly (of the gods), the holy of holies of the gods of destiny, wherein on the great festival (Zagmuku) at the beginning of the year, on the eighth and the eleventh days (of the month), the divine king (Merodach), the god of heaven and earth, the lord of heaven, descends, while the gods in heaven and earth, listening to him with reverential awe and standing humbly before him, determine therein a destiny of long-ending days, even the destiny of my life; this holy of holies, this sanctuary of the kingdom, this sanctuary of the lordship of the first-born of the gods, the prince, Merodach, which a former king had adorned with silver, I overlaid with glittering gold and rich ornament.”

Just within the gate was the “seat” or shrine of the goddess Zarpanit, the wife of Merodach, perhaps to be identified with that Succoth-benoth whose image, we are told in the Old Testament, was made by the men of Babylon.

E-Zida, “the firmly-established temple,” was the chapel dedicated to Nebo, and derived its name from the great temple built in honour of that deity at Borsippa. As Nebo was the son of Merodach, it was only fitting that his shrine should stand within the precincts of his father’s temple, by the side of the shrine sacred to his mother Zarpanit.

It was within the shrine of Nebo, the god of prophecy, that the parakku, or holy of holies, was situated, where Merodach descended at the time of the great festival at the beginning of the year, and the divine oracles were announced to the attendant priests.

The special papakha or sanctuary of Merodach himself was separate from that of his son. It went by the name of E-Kua, “the house of the oracle,” and probably contained the golden statue of Bel mentioned by Herodotus.

Nebuchadnezzar tells us that he enriched its walls with ”glittering gold.” Beyond it rose the stately ziggurat, or tower of eight stages, called E-Temen-gurum, “the house of the foundation-stone of heaven and earth.” As was the case with the other towers of Babylonia and Assyria, its topmost chamber was used as an observatory.

This illustration depicts the dual ziggurats of E-temen-anki and the Temple of Bel, conflating them as E-Sagila, the Temple of Marduk.  http://www.dalamatiacity.com/urantia-clues23.htm

This illustration depicts the dual ziggurats of E-temen-anki and the Temple of Bel, conflating them as E-Sagila, the Temple of Marduk.
http://www.dalamatiacity.com/urantia-clues23.htm

No temple was complete without such a tower; it was to the Babylonian what the high-places were to the inhabitants of a mountainous country like Canaan. It takes us back to an age when the gods were believed to dwell in the visible sky, and when therefore man did his best to rear his altars as near to them as possible. “Let us build us a city and a tower,” said the settlers in Babel, “whose top may reach unto heaven.”

 The Babylonian Bel, accordingly, was Merodach, who watched over the fortunes of Babylon and the great temple there which had been erected in his honour. He was not the national god of Babylonia, except in so far as the city of Babylon claimed to represent the whole of Babylonia; he was simply the god of the single city of Babylon and its inhabitants.

This map depicts more clearly the relative positions of Etemenanki and the Temple of Marduk.  Map of Babylon Creator Jona Lendering Licence Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International Linked Babylon, Babylonian Empire, Capture of Babylon (Herodotus), Esagila, Etemenanki (the "Tower of Babel"), Zopyrus Categories Babylonia http://www.livius.org/pictures/a/maps/map-of-babylon/ http://www.livius.org/place/etemenanki/

This map depicts more clearly the relative positions of Etemenanki and the Temple of Marduk.
Map of Babylon
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Jona Lendering
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Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International
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Babylon, Babylonian Empire, Capture of Babylon (Herodotus), Esagila, Etemenanki (the “Tower of Babel”), Zopyrus
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http://www.livius.org/pictures/a/maps/map-of-babylon/
http://www.livius.org/place/etemenanki/

He was but one Baal out of many Baalim, supreme only when his worshippers were themselves supreme. It was only when a Nebuchadnezzar or a Khammuragas was undisputed master of Babylonia that the god they adored became “the prince of the gods.”

But the other gods maintained their separate positions by his side, and in their own cities would have jealously resented any interference with their ancient supremacy. As we have seen, Nabonidos brought upon himself the anger of heaven because he carried away the gods of Marad and Kis and other towns to swell the train of Merodach in his temple at Babylon.”

 A.H. Sayce, Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion as Illustrated by the Religion of the Ancient Babylonians, 5th ed., London, 1898, pp. 94-7.

E-Sagila, The Great Temple of Bel in Babylon

The temple or “tomb”of Bêlos, as it was also called by the Greeks, was one of the wonders of the world.

Hêrodotos, quoting probably from an earlier author, describes it in the following terms :

“The temple of Zeus Bêlos,with bronze gates which remained up to my time, was a square building two furlongs every way. In the middle of the temple was a tower of solid masonry, a furlong in length and breadth, and upon this tower another tower had been erected, and upon that again another, and so on for eight towers.

And the ascent to them was by an incline which wound round all the towers on the outside. About the middle of the incline are a resting-place and seats, where those who ascend may sit and rest. In the topmost tower is a large shrine, within which is a large and well-appointed couch, with a golden table at its side.

But no image is set up there, nor does any one pass the night there except a single woman, a native of the country, whom the god selects for himself from among all the inhabitants, as is asserted by the Chaldeans, the priests of the god.

They further say, though I cannot believe it, that the god himself visits the shrine and takes his rest upon the couch. … There is another shrine below belonging to this Babylonian temple, and containing a great statue of Zeus [Bêlos] of gold in a sitting posture, and a great golden table is set beside it.

The pedestal and chair of the statue are of gold, and, as the Chaldeans used to say, the gold was as much as 800 talents in weight. Outside the shrine is a golden altar. There is also another great altar upon which full-grown sheep are sacrificed, for upon the golden altar only sucklings are allowed to be offered.

Upon the larger altar also the Chaldeans burn each year a thousand talents of frankincense at the time when they keep the festival of the god. In this part of the temple there was still at that time a figure of a man twelve cubits high, of solid gold.”

It is clear from this description that the great temple of Babylon resembled a large square enclosure formed by huge walls of brick, within which rose a tower in eight stages. Below the tower was a shrine or temple, and outside it two altars, the smaller one of gold for special offerings, while the larger one was intended for the sacrifice of sheep as well as for the burning of incense.

We learn a good deal about this temple from the inscriptions of Nebuchadnezzar, which show that although Hêrodotos was correct in his general description of the building, he has made mistakes in the matter of details.

The Temple itself stood on the east side of Babylon, and had existed since the age of Khammuragas (B.C. 2250), and the first dynasty which had made Babylon its capital. It bore the title of E-Sagila or E-Saggil, an Accadian name signifying “the house of the raising of the head.”

Its entrance also bore the Accadian title of Ka-khilibu, which Nebuchadnezzar renders “the gate of glory.”

 A.H. Sayce, Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion as Illustrated by the Religion of the Ancient Babylonians, 5th ed., London, 1898, pp. 92-4.

Marduk of Babylon: Baal

” … Nebuchadnezzar may invoke Merodach as “the lord of the gods,” “the god of heaven and earth,” “the eternal, the holy, the lord of all things,” but he almost always couples him with other deities–Nebo, Sin or Gula–of whom he speaks in equally reverential terms.

Even Nabonidos uses language of Sin, the Moon-god, which is wholly incompatible with a belief in the exclusive supremacy of Merodach. He calls him “the lord of the gods of heaven and earth, the king of the gods and the god of gods, who dwell in heaven and are mighty.” Merodach was, in fact, simply the local god of Babylon.

Events had raised Babylon first to the dignity of the capital of Babylonia, and then of that of a great empire, and its presiding deity had shared its fortunes. It was he who had sent forth its people on their career of conquest; it was to glorify his name that he had given them victory.

The introduction of other deities on an equal footing with himself into his own peculiar seat, his own special city, was of itself a profanation, and quite sufficient to draw upon Nabonidos his vindictive anger. The Moon-god might be worshipped at Ur; it was out of place to offer him at Babylon the peculiar honours which were reserved for Merodach alone.

Here, then, is one of the results of that localisation of religious worship which was characteristic of Babylonia. Nabonidos not only offended the priests and insulted the gods of other cities by bringing their images into Babylon, he also in one sense impaired the monopoly which the local deity of Babylon enjoyed. He thus stirred up angry feelings on both sides.

Had he himself been free from the common belief of the Babylonian in the local character of his gods, he might have effected a revolution similar to that of Hezekiah; he had, however, the superstition which frequently accompanies antiquarian instincts, and his endeavour to make Babylon the common gathering-place of the Babylonian divinities was dictated as much by the desire to make all of them his friends as by political design.

Now who was this Merodach, this patron-god of Babylon, whose name I have had so often to pronounce? Let us see, first of all, what we can learn about him from the latest of our documents, the inscriptions of Nebuchadnezzar and his successors.

In these, Merodach appears as the divine protector of Babylon and its inhabitants. He has the standing title of Bilu or “lord,” which the Greeks turned into βμλος, and which is the same as the Baal of the Old Testament. The title is frequently used as a name, and is, in fact, the only name under which Merodach was known to the Greeks and Romans.

In the Old Testament also it is as Bel that he comes before us. When the prophet declares that “Bel boweth down” and is “gone into captivity,” he is referring to Merodach and the overthrow of Merodach’s city.

To the Babylonian, Merodach was pre-eminently the Baal or “lord,” like the Baalim or “lords” worshipped under special names and with special rites in the several cities of Canaan.”

 A.H. Sayce, Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion as Illustrated by the Religion of the Ancient Babylonians, 5th ed., London, 1898, pp. 90-2.

The Fall of Nabonidos

“The destruction of the local cults, the attempt to unify and centralise religious worship, was to the Rab-shakeh, as it was to the Babylonian scribes, and doubtless also to many of the Jews in the time of Hezekiah, an act of the grossest impiety.

An annalistic tablet, drawn up not long after the conquest of Babylonia by Cyrus, hints that before making his final attack on the country, the Elamite prince had been secretly aided by a party of malcontents in Chaldea itself.

It is at all events significant that as soon as the army of Nabonidos was defeated, the whole population at once submitted, and that even the capital, with its almost impregnable fortifications, threw open its gates.

The revolts which took place afterwards in the reigns of Dareios and Xerxes, and the extremities endured by the Babylonians before they would surrender their city, prove that their surrender was not the result of cowardice or indifference to foreign rule. The great mass of the people must have been discontented with Nabonidos and anxious for his overthrow.

The anger of Merodach and the gods, in fact, was but a convenient way of describing the discontent and anger of an important section of the Babylonians themselves. Nabonidos did not belong to the royal house of Nebuchadnezzar; he seems to have raised himself to the throne by means of a revolution, and his attempt at centralisation excited strong local animosities against him.

Religion and civil government were so closely bound up together, that civil centralisation meant religious centralisation also; the surest sign that the cities of Babylonia had been absorbed in the capital was that the images of the gods whose names had been associated with them from time immemorial were carried away to Babylon. The cities lost their separate existence along with the deities who watched over their individual fortunes.

The removal of the gods, however, implied something more than the removal of a number of images and the visible loss of local self-government or autonomy. Each image was the centre of a particular cult, carried on in a particular temple in a particular way, and entrusted to the charge of a special body of priests.

It was no wonder, therefore, that the high-handed proceedings of Nabonidos aroused the enmity of these numerous local priesthoods, as well as of all those who profited in any way from the maintenance of the local cults.

Most of the cities which were thus deprived of their ancestral deities were as old as Babylon; many of them claimed to be older; while it was notorious that Babylon did not become a capital until comparatively late in Babylonian history.

The Sun-god of Sippara, the Moon-god of Ur, were alike older than Merodach of Babylon. Indeed, though in the age of Nabonidos the title of Bel or “lord”had come to be applied to Merodach specially, it was known that there was a more ancient Bel–Belitanas, “the elder Bel,” as the Greeks wrote the word–whose worship had spread from the city of Nipur, and who formed one of the supreme triad of Babylonian gods.”

A.H. Sayce, Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion as Illustrated by the Religion of the Ancient Babylonians, 5th ed., London, 1898, pp. 85-6.

Portents of Thunder

“No. 257.

When it thunders in Ab, the day is dark, heaven rains, lightning lightens, waters will be poured forth in the channels.

When it thunders on a cloudless day, there will be darkness (or) famine in the land.

Concerning this sickness the king has not spoken from his heart.

The sickness lasts a year: people that are ill recover.

Do thou grant, O king my lord, that they pursue the worship of the gods and pray the gods day and night.

Does truth ever reach the king and his family?

A man should kill a calf (?) without blemish, he should cut it in pieces; he himself should say as follows, ‘A man that is in full health, his days are short (?): he is sick, his days are long.’

From Ištar-šuma-íris.”

Reginald Campbell Thompson, The Reports of the Magicians and Astrologers of Nineveh and Babylon, Vol. II, London, 1900, p. lxxx.

The Omen of a Star Lasts a Month

“No. 245.

When the Moon occults Kilba, there will be an eclipse of Subarti.

When Spica (Pafi) is darkened over the Moon and enters the Moon, the days of the prince will be long.

The Moon for one year is long.

Let the king give heed, let him not pass it by, let him guard himself, let not the king go into the street on an evil day until the time of the omen has passed. (The omen of a star lasts for a full month.)

From Irašši-ilu, the king’s servant.”

Reginald Campbell Thompson, The Reports of the Magicians and Astrologers of Nineveh and Babylon, Vol. II, London, 1900, p. lxxvii.

Portents of the Moon

“No. 234.

When Mars approaches the Moon and stands, the Moon will cause evil to inhabit the land.

When a planet stands at the left horn of the Moon, the king will act mightily.

When a star stands at the left front of the Moon, the king will act mightily.

When a star stands at the left rear of the Moon, the king of Akkad will work mightily.

When Virgo (Dilgan) stands at its left horn, in that year the vegetables of Akkad will prosper.

When Virgo (Dilgan) stands above it, in that year the crops of the land will prosper.

When a star stands at the left horn of the Moon, a hostile land will see evil.

When a star stands at its left horn, there will be an eclipse of the king of Aharrû.

The Gan-ba of that land will be diminished; it will rain.

When a star stands at its left horn, an eclipse of the king of Aharrû will take place.

When at its left horn a star (stands) Rammanu will devour in a hostile land (or) an eclipse will take place, (or) an eclipse of the king of Aharrû: his land will be diminished.

From Zakir.”

Reginald Campbell Thompson, The Reports of the Magicians and Astrologers of Nineveh and Babylon, Vol. II, London, 1900, p. lxxiv.

Portents of Venus

“No. 207.

Venus is appearing at sunset in the Tropic of Cancer: this is its interpretation.

When Venus appears in Siwan, there will be a slaughter of the enemy.

When Venus appears in the Tropic of Cancer, the king of Akkad will have no rival.

Five or six days ago it reached Allul. This is its interpretation.

When Venus (Uza) approaches Allul, there will be obedience and welfare in the land: the gods will have mercy on the land.

Empty . . (?) will be full and the crops of the land will prosper; the sick in the land will recover. Pregnant women will perfect their offspring. The great gods will show favour to the sanctuaries of the land, the houses of the great gods will be renewed. ( Uza = Venus.)

From Šumaï.”

Reginald Campbell Thompson, The Reports of the Magicians and Astrologers of Nineveh and Babylon, Vol. II, London, 1900, pp. lxix-lxx.

Martian Portents of Evil

“No. 195.

When Jupiter stands in front of Mars, there will be corn and men will be slain, (or) a great army will be slain.

When Jupiter and Mars . . . the god will devour (or) rains will be given upon the land. (Ustaddanu šutadunu resolved?)

When Mars approaches Jupiter, there will be a great devastation in the land.

When Jupiter and a planet, their stars face, evil will befall the land.

When Mars (Lubad-dir) and Jupiter (Rabú) approach, there will be a slaughter of cattle. (Lubad-dir is Mars, Rabú is Jupiter.)

Mars has approached Jupiter. When Mars (Šanamma) approaches Jupiter, in that year the king of Akkad will die and the crops of that land will be prosperous.

This omen is evil for the lands; let the king, my lord, make a Nambulbi-ceremony to avert the evil.

From Nabû-ikiša of Borsippa.”

Reginald Campbell Thompson, The Reports of the Magicians and Astrologers of Nineveh and Babylon, Vol. II, London, 1900, pp. lxvii-lxviii.

A Star as a Portent of Slaughter

“No. 187

(Obv. 1-6). When Jupiter (Sagmigar) passes to the place of sunset, there will be a dwelling securely, kindly peace will descend on the land. (It appeared in front of Allul.)

When Jupiter (Sagmigar) assumes a brilliance in the tropic of Cancer and (becomes?) Nibiru, Akkad will overflow with plenty, the king of Akkad will grow powerful.

(Rev. 5 ff.) When a great star like fire rises from sunrise and disappears at sunset, the troops of the enemy in battle (or) the troops of the enemy in slaughter will be slain.

At the beginning of thy reign Jupiter was seen in its right position; may the lord of gods make thee happy and lengthen thy days!

From Asaridu, the son of Damka.”

Reginald Campbell Thompson, The Reports of the Magicians and Astrologers of Nineveh and Babylon, Vol. II, London, 1900, p. lxvi.

A Magician and a Handmaiden

“No. 183.

When a bright star appears in the ecliptic (?), there will be a slaughter of Elam with the sword.

When the Sun reaches its zenith in a parhelion (?), the king will grow angry and raise the sword. (Explanation of ideograph.)

Jupiter has stood for a month over its reckoned time. When Jupiter passes to sunset, the land will dwell peacefully. Jupiter has stood for a month over its reckoned time.

Marcheswan is the month of the king, my lord.

(Rev. 5 ff.). The handmaiden of the king, my lord, has gone (?) to Akkad; I cannot tarry, [for] she has run away; let the king, my lord, [send and] fetch her and give her to me.

From Bil-li’, son of Igibi, the magician.”

Reginald Campbell Thompson, The Reports of the Magicians and Astrologers of Nineveh and Babylon, Vol. II, London, 1900. pp. lxiv-lxv.

Politics Among the Magicians and Astrologers

“No. 124.

When the Moon reaches the Sun and with it fades out of sight, its horns being dim, there will be truth in the land, and the son will speak the truth with his father. (On the fourteenth the Moon was seen with the Sun.)

When the Moon and the Sun are invisible, the king will increase wisdom; the king of the land, the foundation of his throne will be secure. (On the fourteenth day the Moon was seen with the Sun.)

When the Moon and Sun are seen with one another on the fourteenth, there will be silence, the land will be satisfied; the gods intend Akkad for happiness. Joy in the heart of the people. The cattle of Akkad will lie down securely in the pasture-places.

When a dark halo surrounds the Moon, it gathers clouds, that month will bring rain. When its horns are dim, a flood will come. (On the fourteenth the Moon was seen with the Sun.)

About the people concerning whom I sent to the king, my lord, the king does not say ‘Why ?’ but has said ‘let them bring them hither.’

Now the king knows I hold no land in Assyria: I, what is my family to them, or what my life? Who is my god, who is my lord, to whom and how are my eyes turned?

Now let my lord king, lor whose life I pray Samas, send it unto Ahisa, by royal authority, and let his messenger bring the people: let the governor of Babylon cause him to leave.

Let Nabu-itir-napsati, my son, the king’s servant, come, that with me he may visit (?) the king.”

Reginald Campbell Thompson, The Reports of the Magicians and Astrologers of Nineveh and Babylon, Vol. II, London, 1900. pp. lvi-lvii.

Zodiacal Portents

“No. 117.

When the greater halo surrounds the Moon, that land will be enlarged, destructions will surround men.

When it surrounds and Cancer (Alhit) stands within it, the king of Akkad will prolong life.

When Regulus stands within it, women will bear male children.

When the greater halo surrounds the Moon and is thin, there will be a giving of years to the king.

(A great halo has surrounded it and has remained for many nights and is uninterrupted.)

From Sapiku, of Borsippa.”

Reginald Campbell Thompson, The Reports of the Magicians and Astrologers of Nineveh and Babylon, Vol. II, London, 1900. p. lv.

Signs in the Heavens

“No. 94.

Last night a halo surrounded the Moon, and Jupiter (Sagmigar) and Scorpio stood within it.

When a halo surrounds the Moon and Jupiter (Sagmigar) stands within it, the king of Akkad will be besieged.

When a halo surrounds the Moon and Jupiter (Nibiru) stands within it, there will be a slaughter of cattle and beasts of the field.

(Marduk is Umunpauddu at its appearance; when it has risen for two (or four ?) hours it becomes Sagmigar; when it stands in the meridian it becomes Nibiru.)

When a halo surrounds the Moon and Scorpio stands in it, it will cause men to marry princesses (or) lions will die and the traffic of the land will be hindered.

(These are from the series ‘When a halo surrounds the Moon and Jupiter stands within it, the king of Aharru will exercise might and accomplish the defeat of the land of his foe.’ This is unpropitious.)

From Nabu-mušisi.”

Reginald Campbell Thompson, The Reports of the Magicians and Astrologers of Nineveh and Babylon, Vol. II, London, 1900. p. lii.

Omens and Gossip From the Royal Fortunetellers

“No. 90.

To the king of countries, my lord, thy servant Bil-ušizib (?)

May Bel, Nebo and Samas bless the king, my lord.

When the Sun stands within the halo of the Moon, in all lands they will speak the truth, the son will speak the truth with his father.

(Saturn has stood within the Moon’s halo.)

When a halo surrounds the Moon and Allul stands within it, the king of Akkad will prolong his life.

When a “river” surrounds the Moon, there will be great inundations and rains. (Allul has stood within the Moon’s halo.)

(Obv. 10-Rev .5 mutilated, Re 6v (iff.).

Arad-Gula . . . Bi’l-ikisa (?) in my presence I heard . . . this . . . which Mardia heard …. the chief: Yadi’, the chief, and the chieftainess of all the land of Yakimanu before the general in Van they appointed, and now they say ‘the murderer of our lord shall not grow great before us.’

Let the lord of kings ask the general (that he may hear the health of the king), how it troubles (?) me: and Mardia, who is chief of the servants of the household of the general, his lord, when I had left, entered under Nérgal-ašarid: the interpreter (?) and the chief officers he brought before Nirgal-asarid.

They entered into agreements and carried away to their homes a talent of silver with them ….”

Reginald Campbell Thompson, The Reports of the Magicians and Astrologers of Nineveh and Babylon, Vol. II, London, 1900. p. li.

Astrological Omens

“No. 88.

When the Moon out of its calculated time tarries and is not seen, there will be an invasion of a mighty city.

(It was invisible on the fifteenth; on the sixteenth it was seen with the Sun.)

When Mars stands opposite a planet, corn will be valuable.

When a comet reaches the path of the Sun, Gan-ba will be diminished; an uproar will happen twice.

These words concern Akkad.

(Mars left an interval of four degrees (?) away from Saturn, it did not approach : to … it reached.

(So) I determine. Without fail (?) let him make a nam-bul-bi ceremony for it.)

When the Moon appears on the sixteenth, the king of Subarti will grow powerful and will have no rival.”

Reginald Campbell Thompson, The Reports of the Magicians and Astrologers of Nineveh and Babylon, Vol. II, London, 1900. p. l.

The Evil of Lunar Eclipses

“No. 85.

When the Moon disappears, evil will befall the land.

When the Moon disappears out of its reckoning, an eclipse will take place. (The Moon disappeared on the twenty-fourth day.)

When a halo surrounds the Sun on the day of the Moon’s disappearance, an eclipse of the left side of the Moon will take place.

In Kislew a watch was kept for the eclipse, the halo surrounding the Sun and the disappearance of the Moon (being the causes of the watch for an eclipse in Kislew) having been observed.

May the king, my lord, know, and may he rest happy.

From Irassi-ilu, the king’s servant (the greater).”

Reginald Campbell Thompson, The Reports of the Magicians and Astrologers of Nineveh and Babylon, Vol. II, London, 1900. p. xlviii.

The Royal Astrologer Asaridu Reports

“No. 48. When the Moon appears on the first of Kislew, the king of Akkad wherever he goes will ravage the land (or) the king of Akkad wherever his face is set will rule the land.

(On the fourteenth day the Moon was seen with the Sun.)

There will be an overthrowing of fortresses and downfall of garrisons ; there will be obedience and good will in the land.

As for the rest, the king (will see?) their good luck. May the king soon hear a happy report and greeting.

From Asaridu.”

Reginald Campbell Thompson, The Reports of the Magicians and Astrologers of Nineveh and Babylon, Vol. II, London, 1900. p. xli.

Tablets of Astrology and Omens in the Royal Library of Nineveh

“When Assurbanipal, king of Assyria, b.c. 668-626, added to the royal library at Nineveh, his contribution of tablets included many series of documents which related exclusively to the astrology of the ancient Babylonians, who in turn had borrowed it with modifications from the Sumerian invaders of the country.

Among these must be mentioned the Series which was commonly called The Day of Bel, and which was declared by the learned of the time to have been written in the time of the great Sargon I, king of Agade, c. 3800 B.C.

With such ancient works as these to guide them, the profession of deducing omens from daily events reached such a pitch of importance in the last Assyrian Empire, that a system of making periodical reports came into being, and by these the king was informed of all occurrences in the heavens and on the earth, and the results of astrological studies in respect to future events. The heads of the astrological profession were men of high rank and position, and their office was hereditary (see Diod., II, 29).

[ … ]

The variety of the information contained in these reports is best gathered from the fact that they were sent from cities so far removed from each other as Assur in the north and Erech in the south, and it can only be assumed that they were dispatched by runners or men mounted on swift horses.

As reports also come from Dilbat, Kutha, Nippur and Borsippa, all cities of ancient foundation, the king was probably well acquainted with the general course of events in his empire.”

Reginald Campbell Thompson, The Reports of the Magicians and Astrologers of Nineveh and Babylon, Vol. II, London, 1900. pp. xv-xvi, xvii.

Chaldean Astronomy and Magic

“For more than two thousand years the records of Babylonian and Assyrian astronomy lay buried and forgotten under the ruins of Assyrian palaces, and all that was known of the subject came from a few passages in the Bible and in the works of Greek and Roman writers.

To the Hebrews the sorceries of Babylon were an accursed thing, and the prophet Isaiah scoffs at them in these words:

“Stand now with thine enchantments, and with the multitude of thy sorceries, wherein thou hast laboured from thy youth; if so be thou shalt be able to profit, if so be thou mayest prevail.

Thou art wearied in the multitude of thy counsels. Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up, and save thee from these things that shall come upon thee.” (Isaiah 47:12).

Among Greek writers Strabo (died a.d. 24) asserted that the Chaldeans were skilled in astronomy and the casting of horoscopes, and Aelian (3rd century a.d.) mentions the fact that both the Babylonians and Chaldeans enjoyed a reputation for possessing a knowledge of astronomy.

Achilles Tatius  (6th century) reports the existence of a tradition to the effect that the Egyptians mapped the heavens, and that they inscribed their knowledge on their pillars; the same tradition declared that the Chaldeans claimed the glory of this science, the foundation of which they attributed to the god Bel.

For this last belief there seems to be some evidence in a statement of Berosus, to the effect that the god Bel created the stars and sun and moon, and the five planets. Diodorus Siculus, a contemporary of Augustus, tells us that the Babylonian priests observed the position of certain stars in order to cast horoscopes, and that they interpreted dreams and derived omens from the movement of birds and from eclipses and earthquakes.

The general evidence of serious writers leads us to believe that astrology formed part of the religious system of the Babylonians, and it certainly exercised considerable influence over the minds of the dwellers between the Tigris and the Euphrates.

In any case, the reputation of the Chaldeans, i.e., the Babylonians and Assyrians, for possessing magical powers was so widespread, that the very name Chaldean at a comparatively early date became synonymous with magician.”

Reginald Campbell Thompson, The Reports of the Magicians and Astrologers of Nineveh and Babylon, Vol. II, London, 1900. pp. xiii-xiv.

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