zodiac map.

The Origin of Zodiac Signs


No one is completely certain when horoscopes first came into being, but from the earliest of times, the zodiac has been used to predict or reflect characteristics of personality, whether from the Chinese, Mesopotamian, Egyptian and other cultures.

The term zodiac derives from Latin zōdiacus, which in its turn comes from the Greek ζoδιακoς κύκλος (zōdiakos kuklos), meaning ‘circle of animal’.

Ancient records show that the Greeks inherited their knowledge of the heavens primarily from the Mesopotamians, who in turn inherited their knowledge from the Sumerians.

Around the end of the 5th century BC, Babylonian astronomers divided the heavens into twelve equal signs and thus twelve months of thirty days each. Each sign contained thirty degrees of celestial longitude, thus creating the first known celestial coordinate system.

The earliest extant Greek text using this Babylonian division of the zodiac is the Anaphoricus of Hypsicles of Alexandria. In the development of Western horoscopic astrology, the work of the astrologer and astronomer Ptolemy’s work, the Tetrabiblos laid the basis of the Western astrological tradition. This set out the planets, Houses, and signs of the zodiac and their functions set down in a way that has changed very little to the present day.

The signs of the zodiac are subdivided into four groups:

  • Fire Signs: Aries, Sagittarius, Leo
  • Water Signs: Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces
  • Air Signs: Libra, Aquarius, Gemini
  • Earth Signs: Capricorn, Taurus, Virgo

While nowadays, people do not rely on or trust astrology in the same way that the Babylonian kings and Roman Emperors did, the basic knowledge of the zodiac is extremely widespread throughout the world. Most people today know their star sign, and many believe that Mercury, Venus and the other planets influence the world.

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