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Melothesia in Babylonia

Medicine, Magic, and Astrology in the Ancient Near East

This monograph begins with a puzzle: a Babylonian text from late 5th century BCE Uruk associating various diseases with bodily organs, which has evaded interpretation. The correct answer may reside in Babylonian astrology, since the development of the zodiac in the late 5th century BCE offered innovative approaches to the healing arts. The zodiac—a means of predicting the movements of heavenly bodies—transformed older divination (such as hemerologies listing lucky and unlucky days) and introduced more favorable magical techniques and medical prescriptions, which are comparable to those found in Ptolemy's Tetrabiblos and non-Hippocratic Greek medicine. Babylonian melothesia (i.e., the science of charting how zodiacal signs affect the human body) offers the most likely solution explaining the Uruk tablet.

Author Information

Mark Geller, Free University, Berlin.

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Audience: All those interested in Ancient Near Eastern medicine, astrology, and divination.