CHAPTER IX. SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE AMONG THE ROMANS.
But the Greeks, after all, were the only people of antiquity who elevated astronomy to the dignity of a science. They however confessed that they derived their earliest knowledge from the Babylonian and Egyptian priests, while the priests of Thebes asserted that they were the originators of exact astronomical observations. [Footnote: Diod., i. 50.] Diodorus asserts that the Chaldeans used the Temple of Belus, in the centre of Babylon, for their survey of the heavens. [Footnote: Diod., ii. 9.] But whether the Babylonians or the Egyptians were the earliest astronomers, it is of little consequence, although the pedants make it a grave matter of investigation. All we know is, that astronomy was cultivated by both Babylonians and Egyptians, and that they made but very limited attainments. The early Greek philosophers, who visited Egypt and the East in search of knowledge, found very little to reward their curiosity or industry; not much beyond preposterous claims to a high antiquity, and an esoteric wisdom which has not yet been revealed. They approximated to the truth in reference to the solar year, by observing the equinoxes and solstices, and the heliacal rising of particular stars. Plato and Eudoxus spent thirteen years in Heliopolis for the purpose of extracting the scientific knowledge of the priests, but they learned but little beyond the fact that the solar year was a trifle beyond three hundred and sixty-five days. No great names have come down to us from the priests of Babylon or Egypt. No one gained an individual reputation. The Chaldean and Egyptian priests may have furnished the raw material of observation to the Greeks, but the latter alone possessed the scientific genius by which indigested facts were converted into a symmetrical system. The East never gave valuable knowledge to the West. It gave only superstition. Instead of astronomy, it gave astrology; instead of science, it gave magic and incantations and dreams - poison which perverted the intellect. [Footnote: Sir G. G. Lewis, Hist. of Anc. Astron., p. 293.] They connected their astronomy with divination from the stars, and made their antiquity reach back to two hundred and seventy thousand years. There were soothsayers in the time of Daniel, and magicians, exorcists, and interpreters of signs. [Footnote: Dan. i. 4, 17, 20.] They were not men of scientific research, seeking truth. It was power they sought, by perverting the intellect of the people. The astrology of the East was founded on the principle that a star or constellation presided over the birth of an individual, and either portended his fate, or shed a good or bad influence upon his future life. The star which looked upon a child at the hour of his birth, was called the horoscopus, and the peculiar influence of each planet was determined by professors of the genethliac art. The superstitions of Egypt and Chaldea unfortunately spread both among the Greeks and Romans, and these were about all that the western nations learned from the boastful priests of occult science. Whatever was known of real value among the ancients, is due to the earnest inquiries of the Greeks.
[Researches of the Greeks.]