An Analysis of Celestial Omina in the Light of Mesopotamian Cosmology and Mythos
Taylor, Robert Jonathan
Celestial divination may be understood as the interpretation of celestial phenomena as signs portending the occurrence of future events. In ancient Mesopotamia, schools of professional diviners and scholars existed as early as the Old Babylonian period (ca. 1800 B.C.E.) for the primary purpose of interpreting these signs. It is for this reason that diviners became a valuable asset that could be exploited by rulers and kings in order to avert any calamities that might affect the kingdom or nation. Over the centuries celestial omens were collected in systematized compendiums, the most famous being Enûma Anu Enlil, and they became authoritative reference sources for diviners in Mesopotamia until the Hellenistic period. The development of omen interpretation in Mesopotamia did not take place in a cultural vacuum but was forged under the auspices of Mesopotamian religion, mythology, and cosmology. It is within the religious and cultural context of ancient Mesopotamia that omen literature was born and developed. The purpose of this project is to elucidate how Mesopotamian narrative and mythos influenced the interpretation of celestial phenomena and how this influence was manifested in the schematic formulation of omina. In this way it is possible to determine how and to what extent Mesopotamian cosmology and mythology are expressed in celestial omina.