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A brief comparative study of the Tetrabiblos of Claudius Ptolemy and the Vedic Surya Siddhanta.

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The Ancient Indians and Greeks had similar beliefs in the concepts of magic, superstition, and astrology. First I will look briefly at the beliefs of the ancient Greeks and the main astrological text- the Tetrabiblos of Claudius Ptolemy. Ptolemy moves away from the scientific account that he provides us in his Almagest, to defining astrology as an art acquired from the observation of the movements of the heavenly bodies. The main argument however is based on the fact that Ptolemy uses an almost apologetic tone in his defence of the Tetrabiblos. Whereas the ancient Indians appeared to be strong believers in astrology, the ancient Greeks always sought to justify it in terms of science. To analyse this concept in depth I will provide a comparative study of both these belief systems. But whereas the Greeks distinguished astrology from astronomy, in the Vedic tradition astrology consisted of observable science as well as mythological and magical elements. Some consideration must therefore be given to astronomical aspects of this tradition in drawing a comparison between the two. Astrology was prevalent in ancient India a long time prior to the writing of the Surya Siddhanta or any other astronomical text. The Surya Siddhanta is often held to be the main text on Indian astronomy as it tries to address the reasons why certain religious practices were performed at those specific times. However, much information can also be obtained from the verses of the Rig Veda, a religious text that formed the basis of Indian astrology. This mini-dissertation will first discuss the Surya Siddhanta and its relationship to the more 'mythological' Rig Veda. In order to reach a conclusion I will look specifically at the issue of the belief in individual human difference and fate and destiny in these two cultures.


Thesis (M.A.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, 2005.


Ptolemy, 2nd cent. Tetrabiblios., Astronomy, Ancient., Theses--Classics.