‘Then I felt as some watcher of the skies’ was Keats’ reaction when he first heard the works of Homer in 1816, and this is precisely where my research is taking me this June. It is fast becoming apparent that in all aspects of the ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern worlds there is an underlining realm of astral imagery, metaphor and allegory. It can be found in the art, architecture, literature, science, philosophy and coins (numismatics) of the ancients and is so blindingly obvious that we have forgotten to notice it. This blog does not intend to argue that there is some ‘great secret’ hidden in ancient culture that can be ‘revealed’ by dedicated and informed study, but the complete opposite. The astral imagery and science of the ancients has only become ‘hidden wisdom’ because the ability to read the obvious has been lost through the imposition of centralised orthodox religion and the subsequent rewriting of history. Book burning is a practice as old as the production of books themselves, even the first Roman Emperor Augustus partook (Seneca De Ira III.xxiii.5) and it should come as no surprise that between this practice and the natural ravages of time that few references to the stellar practices of the pagans survive. However, plenty of evidence remains to account for the stellar and solar preoccupations of the ancients, and a thorough and complete examination of this evidence is the purpose of my research. All humans across geographical and temporal space have in common this one thing – the beautiful night skies, and I believe that the stars pervade far more of ancient culture than we generally think. From pre-historic man and the first ever metaphors for the skies, through planetary divination for political control in Mesopotamia, the great monuments of Egypt, Nemrut Dag (Turkey), Stonehenge, Greece and Rome, the epics of Homer, the Tanakh, New Testament, Gnostics, Qumran Scrolls and beyond – this is my journey through the ancient views of the ancient skies and I welcome you to follow me in my discoveries.
Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-browed Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star’d at the Pacific — and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise —
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.
~ John Keats October 1816