ASTROLOGY

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ASTROLOGY ; an art which pretends to foretell future events, especially the fate of men, from the position of the stars. It is among the oldest superstitions in the world, and, as Bailly conjectures, with great apparent probability, it owes its origin to the influence of the heavenly bodies, particularly the sun and moon, on the seasons, the weather, and the fertility of the earth. This led to the idea that these luminaries were created only for the use of the planet we inhabit, and that, as they have an influence upon the earth, they probably have some connexion with the destiny of individuals and of nations. The Egyptians have a tradition that Belus founded a colony from Egypt on the banks of the Euphrates, in Asia; and this colony was furnished with priests, according to the custom of the mother country, who were free from public taxes, and were called, by the Babylonians, Chaldees. Hence it may be conjectured, that astrology was invented by the Egyptians ; among whom the inhabitants of Thebes particularly claimed the honor of the invention. Most of the ancient writers are agreed, that astrology was communicated by the Chaldees to other nations. From this circumstance, astrologers used to be called Chaldees by the ancient writers; sometimes Genethliaci (see Genethliacon); and, in later times, Chaldee has been synonymous with astrologer. (See Horoscope.) The great antiquity of this art may be inferred from the fact, that most astrological observations are founded on the position of the stars in reference to the horizon, which was the first circle recognised in the heavens; also from its being mentioned in the Mosaic history. As ASTROLOGY, in later times, fell into disrepute on account of the cupidity and fraud of its practitioners, these assumed the name of mathematicians, by which they were generally known at the time of the Roman emperors. They caused so much trouble, that Tiberius at length banished them from Rome. The law relating to this banishment of astrologers, however, makes a distinction between geometry and the mathematical, i. e., astrological, art.However objectionable astrology may be in itself, it has been of essential use to astronomy. It has excited more interest in, and led to more careful observations of, the heavenly bodies. During the middle ages, astrology and astronomy were cultivated in connexion by the Arabs, and their works on the subject are still extant. Pico of Mirandola, who manfully combatted the errors of astrology towards the close of the 15th century, found but little attention paid to his labors. Even in the 16th and 17th centuries, astrology could boast of literary men, such as Cardano, and even Kepler, among its adherents. The Copernican system, the correctness of which experience has been continually confirming, has shaken the foundations of the ancient science ; but the disease is not wholly eradicated. A full account of astrological terminology is given in Lalande's Astronomy, vol. i. (2nd edition), sect. 497.