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The Heavenly Writing: Divination, Horoscopy, and Astronomy in Mesopotamian Culture Hardcover – September 27, 2004

ISBN-13: 978-0521830102 ISBN-10: 0521830109

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (September 27, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521830109
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521830102
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,627,902 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"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

Book Description

The subject matter of this book consists of the various ways the heaven were studied and understood in ancient Mesopotamia, namely, celestial phenomena observed and interpreted as signs from the gods as well as observed and studies as physical phenomena in their own right. It discusses the emergence of personal astrology from the tradition of celestial divination and the way astronomical methods were employed for horoscopes. Its importance lies in its treatment of Babylonian celestial sciences as a whole (celestial divination, horoscopy, and astronomy) as a su bject for the history of science and culture.

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Steven on September 29, 2013
Format: Paperback
In ancient Mesopotamia there was no distinction between astronomy and astrology, but this
does not mean that the astronomical studies were not scientific. The author uses about 1/2 of the book to convince the reader of this dazzling-clear truth, and the rest of the material is not organized in a systematic way. There are 0 figures and 0 tables. A quite unuseful book.
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3 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Cheng on June 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Francesca is an amazing instructor at her college, and her years of expertise in the field are truly insightful. The book thoroughly educates and provokes further thought.
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