From at least the early second millennium BC the Babylonians observed the stars as messages from the gods predicting the future. In Mesopotamia you could change your fate and, by performing the correct ritual, you could prevent portended disaster.
Astronomers/astrologers were still active in Hellenistic Babylon from the 4th century BC on. They developed sophisticated astronomical models and recorded their observations of the night sky and other notable events, including the arrival of Alexander the Great. But how were traditional Babylonian astrology and rituals going to stay relevant in the Hellenistic age?
At the end of his first Ode, the Roman poet Quintus Horatius Flaccus (65–8 BC) announces that he will hit his head against the stars as a lyric poet, with the help of his friend and patron Caius Maecenas: 'So if you insert me among the lyric bards, With uplifted head I shall strike the stars'. A prediction of his future fame, obviously; and maybe a humorous reflection on the consequences of fame (will it hurt?). But is there something more? The answer begins in Alexandria, a hundred years earlier….
In this Classics and Oriental Studies taster study day for Year 12/Lower 6th students participants will discuss these and other
topics with Oxford tutors and explore the enduring influence of the stars.
St Hugh’s College
St Benet’s Hall