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We shall also perhaps conclude, that men capable of
such accurate observations, and who made them for so
long a period,, would not have assigned so much
importance as to worship him; for they would have
seen that the coincidence of his rising with the tropical
year, and the inundation of the Nile are only
temporary, and only took place in a determinate
latitude. In fact, according to the calculations of M.
Ideler, 2782 years before Christ, Sirius appeaired in
Upper Egypt, the second day after the Solstice; in
1322, the thirteenth; and in one hundred and thirty-
nine after Christ, the twenty sixth. (1)
At the present day it does not rise heliacally till
more than a month after the solstice. The Egyptians
would have had a decided preference in finding an
epoch which would afford a coincidence be tween the
commencement of the sacred year, with that of the
actual tropical year; and then they would discover that
their great period should be 1508 sacred years, and not
1461.(2) We certainly do not find any trace of this
period of 1508 years in antiquity.
Can we, generally speaking, defend ourselves with
the idea that if the Egyptians had such long series of
observations, and exact observations, their disciple
Eudoxus, who studied amongst them for thirteen years,
would have carried a more perfect system of
astronomy, maps of the heavens less inaccurate, and
even congruous in their different parts? (3)

(1) Ideler, bc. cit. p. 38.
(2) See Laplace, Systême du Monde, 3rd edit. p. 17, and
Annuaire of 1818.
(3) See M. Delambre, on the inaccuracy of the determination



How was it that the precession of the equinoxes was
not known to the Greeks but from the works of
Hipparchus, if it had been inserted in the registers of
the Egyptians, and written in such manifest characters
on the ceilings of their temples?
How is it that Ptolemæus, who wrote in Egypt, did
not deign to make use of any of the observations of the
Besides, Herodotus, who dwelt with them so long,
says nothing of these six hours which they added to the
sacred year, nor of that great sothaic period which
resulted from it. He, on the contrary, positively says,
that the Egyptians making their years three hundred
and sixty-five days, the seasons return at the same
periods; so that at his time there was no appearance
that they had as yet suspected the necessity of this
quarter of a day. (2) Thales, who had visited the
priests of Egypt less than a century before Herodotus,
in like manner did not make known to his fellow-
countrymen any other than the year of three hundred
and sixty-five days only;(3) and, if we reflect that the
colonies that went from Egypt, fourteen or fifteen
centuries be fore Christ, the Jews, and the Athenians
carried with them the lunar year; we may perhaps
judge that the year of three hundred and sixty-five
days itself, did not exist in Egypt at a period so
I know that Macrobius(4) attributes a solar year

of the Sphere, by Eudoxus, in the 1st vol. of his History of
Ancient Astronomy, p. 120, et seq.
(1) See M. Delambre's Preliminary Discourse on the History
of the Astronomy of the Middle Age, p. 8, et seq.
(2) Euterpe, ch. iv.
(3) Diog. Laerte. lib. 1., in Thalet.
(4) Saturnal, lib. 1, ch. xv.



of three hundred and sixty-five days and a quarter, to
the Egyptians. But this author, comparatively modern,
and who lived long after the fixed year of Alexandria,
may have confounded the epochs. Diodorus(1) and
Stabro(2) only give a similar year to the Thebans; they
do not say that it was generally adopted, and they lived
long after Herodotus.
Thus the sothaic year, the great year, may have been
but a modern invention, since it results from a
comparison of the civil year with this pretended heliac
year of Sirius; and that accounts for its not being
spoken of before the writings of the. second and third
century after Christ,(3) and that Syncellus alone, in
the ninth century, seems to quote Manetho, as having
mentioned it.
Whatever may be said on the subject, we have the
same ideas of the astronomical science of the
Chaldeans. That a people inhabiting vast plains, under
a sky always serene, may havebeen led to observe the
course of the stars, even from the times when they
were wandering tribes, and when the stars alone could
guide them at night, is natural. But since what period
did they become astronomers, and how far have they
carried the science of astronomy? That is the question.
It is agreed that Callisthenes sent Aristotle
observations made by them, which went as far back as
2200 years before Christ. But this is stated only by
Simplicius,(4) according

(1) Bibl. lib. i. p. 46.
(2) Geogr. p. 102.
(3) See the admirable dissertation of M. Riot, on the
probable newness of this period, in his researches on many
points of Egyptian Astronomy, p. 148,. et seq.
(4) See M. Delambre's Hist. d'Astro. v. 1, p. 212. See also
his Analysis of Geminus, ib. p. 211. Compare with them the



to the authority of Porphyry, and six hundred years
after Aristotle. Aristotle himself makes no mention of
it; no accredited astronomer speaks of it. Ptolemæus
relates and makes use of ten observations on eclipses
really made by the Chaldeans; but it only goes back to
Nebuchadnezzar (721 years before Christ;) they are
incorrect, the time is only expressed in hours and half-
hours, and the obscuration only in half or quarter
diameters. However, as they had certain dates, the
Chaldeans must have had some knowledge. of the
accurate length of the year, and some method of
measuring time. They appear to have known the period
of eighteen years which brings back the eclipses of the
moon in the same order, and which the mere inspection
of their registers would have informed them quickly;
but it is certain that they neither knew how to explain,
nor foretell the eclipses of the sun.
Cassini and Bailey, having misunderstood a passage
in Josephus, have asserted that they had discovered in
it a luni-solar period of six-hundred years, which must
have been. known to the early patriarchs. (1)
Thus all confirms the idea that the great reputation
of the Chaldeans were given to them in more modern
times, by their unworthy successors, who, under the
same name, sold throughout the Roman empire,
horoscopes and predictions; and who, to gain more
credit, attributed to their rude ancestors the honour of
the discoveries of the Greeks.

Memoirs of M. Ideler, on the Astronomy of the Chaldeans,
4th. vol. of Halma's Ptolemy, p. 166.
(1) See Bailey's Hist. of Ancient Astronomy, and M.
Delarmbre's work on the same subject, v. 1, p. 3.



As to the Indians, it is well known that Bailly,
thinking that the epoch which is used as a period of
departure in some of their astronomical tables, had
been really observed, has attempted thence to deduce a
proof of the remote antiquity of this science amongst
this people, or at least in the nation which had
bequeathed its knowledge to them. But the whole of
this system so laboriously conceived, falls to the
ground of itself, now that it is proved that this epoch
was subsequently adopted on calculations made
backwards, and the result of which was in correct. (1)
M. Bentley has discovered that the tables of
Tirvalour, on which, particularly, the assertion of
Bailly was founded, must have been calculated about
1281 after Christ (540 years since;) and that the Surya-
Siddhanta, which the Brahmins regard as the most
ancient and scientific treatise on astronomy, and which
they pretend was revealed more than twenty millions
of years ago, could not have been composed until
about 760 years since. (2)
The solstices and equinoxes marked in the Pouranas,
and calculated, according to the positions which were
assigned to them in the signs of the Indian zodiac,
have had a very remote antiquity as signed to them. A
more exact study of these signs or nacchatrons, has
lately shown M. de Paravey, that reference is only
made to solstices of twelve centuries before Christ.
This writer, at the same

(1) See Laplace's Exposé du Systeme du Monde, p. 330; and
the Memoir of M Davis on the Astronomical Calculations of
the Indians. Mem. de Calcutta, v. 2, p. 225, 8vo. edit.
(2) See Mem. of Bentley, on the Antiquity of Surya-
Siddhanta. Mem. de Calcutta, v. vi. p. 540; and on the
Astronomical Systems of the Indians, ib. v. viii. p. 165, of the
8vo. edit.



time, states that the place of these solstices is so
indefinitely fixed, that we cannot decide on it nearer
than two or three hundred years. Those of Eudoxus and
Tcheou-Kong are the same.(1) It is confidently
asserted that the Indians do not make observations, and
have no instruments necessary for that purpose. M.
Delarnbre agrees with Bailly and Legentil, that they
have processes of calculations which, without proving
the antiquity of their astronomy, at least show its
originality;(2) and this conclusion cannot be extended
to their sphere, for independently of their twenty-
seven nacchatrons, or lunar houses, which are very
similar to those of the Arabs, they have in their zodiac
the same twelve constellations as the Egyptians,
Chaldeans, and Greeks;(3) and if we refer to M.
Wilfort, their extra-zodiacal constellations were the
same as those of the Greeks, and had names which
differ very slightly from the Greek names.(4)
The introduction of astronomy in China, is at
tributed to Yao, who sent, says the Chou-King,
astronomers towards the four cardinal points of his
empire to examine what stars presided at the four
seasons, and to regulate what was to be done at each

(1) Manuscript Memoirs of M. de Paravey, on the Sphere of
Upper Asia.
(2) See the profound treatise on the Astronomy of the
Indians, in the History of Ancient Astronomy, by M.
Delainbre, v. 1, p 400 — 556.
(3) See Sir W. Jones' Memoir on the Antiquity of the Indian
Zodiac. Mem. of Calcutta, V. ii. p. 289, 8vo. edit. and in the
French translation, v. ii. p. 332.
(4) We subjoin M. Wilfort's own words from his Memoir on
the Testimonies of the Ancient Hindoo books, concerning
Egypt and the Nile. Mem. de Calcutta, v. iii. p.. 433, of the
8vo. edit.
"Having requested my pundit, who is a learned, astronomer,



season. of the year. (1) As if it was necessary to send
them to different parts to effect this. About two
centuries later, the Chou-King mentions a solar
eclipse, but with absurd circumstances, as in all the
fables of this kind; for a general, and the whole
Chinese army is made to march against the
astronomers, because they had not properly predicted
it:(2) and it is known that for more than two thousand
years afterwards the Chinese astronomers had no means
of predicting the eclipses of the sun with precision. In
1629, of our era, at the time of their dispute with the
Jesuits, they did not even know how to calculate the
The real eclipses, recorded by Confucius in his
chronicle of the kingdom of Lou, do not begin until
1400 years after this, in 776 before Christ, and
scarcely fifty years earlier than those of the Chaldeans
recorded by Ptolemæus. So true it is, those nations
which escaped at the same period from the universal
catastrophe, have, under similar circumstances, reached
a similar degree of civilization about the same period.
But we should believe, by

to point out to me in the heavens the constellation of
Antarmada, he immediately directed me to Andromeda, which I
had taken care not to show to him as a constellation that I
knew. He then produced a very scarce and curious book, in
Sancrit, in which was a particular chapter on the
Upanacshatras, or extra zodiacal constellations, figures of
Capeya, and of Casyape sitting, holding a lotus flower in her
hand, of Antarmada, chained with the fish near her, and of
Parasica, holding the head of a slain monster dripping with
blood, and with snakes for hair."
Who does not here recognise Perseus, Cepheus and
Cassiopea? But let us not forget that this pundit of M. Wilfort,
has been much doubted.
(1) Chou-King, pp. 6 — 7.
(2) Chou-King, pp. 66, et seq.



the identity of the name of the Chinese astronomers
under different reigns. (they appear, according to the
Chou-King, to be called Hiand Ho,) that at this
remote epoch their profession was hereditary, as in
India, Egypt, and Babylon.
The only more ancient Chinese observation, which
does not bear in itself the proof of its own falsity, is
that of the observation calculated by Tcheou-Kong,
about 1100 before Christ, and even that is incorrect.(1)
Our readers may thus judge that the inferences
drawn from the high perfection of the astronomy of
ancient people are not more conclusive in favour of the
excessive antiquity of these people than the testimonies
which they have adduced in their own favour.
But what would this astronomy prove if it were even
more perfect? Have we calculated the progress which a
science could make in the bosom of nations which, in
some sort, had no other; when the serenity of the sky,
the wants of a pastoral or agricultural life, and
superstition made the stars an object of universal
contemplation; when colleges of the most respected
men were charged with keeping a register of
interesting phenomena, and of transmitting their
memory of them; where the inheritance of the
profession caused children to be brought up from the
cradle in the knowledge acquired by their fathers? If
amongst the multitude of persons solely occupied with
astronomy, there were one or

(1) See in 'La Connoissance des Temps,' of 1809, p. 382,
and M. Delambre's 'History of Ancient Astronomy,' v. i. p.
391, extracted from a Memoir of P. Gaubil, on the observations
of the Chinese.



two expert geometricians, even then all that these
people knew might have been discovered in a few
We may learn, that since the Chaldeans., real
astronomy has had only two epochs, that of the
Alexandrian school, which lasted four hundred years,
and our own, which has not lasted so long. The age of
the Arabs scarcely added any thing to it. The other
ages have been mere nullities with respect to it. Only
three hundred years have intervened between
Copernicus and the author of La Mécanique Celeste
(Laplace,) and yet did the Indians require thousands of
years to arrive at their crude theories. (1)


Recourse has been had to another species of
argument. It is pretended, that, independently of the
knowledge which these nations might have attained,
they have left monuments which bear, by the state of
the heavens which they represent, a certain and remote
date; and the zodiacs engraved in two temples of Upper
Egypt, have appeared for some years to afford, on this
point, most perfectly conclusive proofs. They present
the same zodiacal

(1) The English translator of this Discourse (Jameson)
quotes, on this point, the example of the celebrated James
Ferguson, who was a shepherd in his youth, and who, whilst
watching his ifocks at night, had conceived the idea of a chart
of the heavens, and drew it, perhaps, more correctly than any
Chaldean astronomer. A similar account is given of Jamerey



figures that we now use, but arranged in a peculiar
manner. It has been thought that this distribution
represents the state of the heavens at the moment when
these monuments were delineated, and that it would be
possible thence to decide on the date of the building of
the edifices which contain them.(1)

(1) Thus, at Dendera (the ancient Tentyris,) a city above Thebes, in the
portico of the great temple which faces the north,*there are on the ceiling
the signs of the zodiac marching in two bands, one of which is along the east
side, and the other on the opposite side; they are each held in the embrace of
a female figure of similar length, whose feet are towards the entrance, the
head and arms towards the bottom of the portico, and consequently the feet
are towards the north, and the head towards the south.
The Lion heads the band which is in the western side; he is directing his
course towards the north, or the feet of the female figure, and his feet are
towards the eastern wall. The Virgin, the Balance, the Scorpion, the Archer,
and the Capricorn, follow in the same line. This latter is towards the bottom
of the portico, and near the hands and head of the large female figure. The
signs of the eastern band begin at that extremity when those of the other
band finish, and are consequently directed towards the bottom of the
portico, or towards the arms of the tall figure. They have their feet towards
the lateral wall of their own side, and the heads in the contrary direction to
the opposite band. The Aquarius (Verseau,) is advancing foremost, followed
by the Fishes, the Ram, the Bull, and the twins. The last of the series, which
is the Cancer, or rather Scarabæus (or beetle,) for this insect is substitated
for the Cancer of the Greeks in the zodiacs of Egypt, is thrown on one side
on the legs of the great figure. The place it should occupy is filled by a globe
placed on the apex of a pyramid composed of small triangles which
represent a kind of rays, and in front of its base is a large female head, with
two small horns. A second Scarabæus is placed sideways and across on the
first band in the angle which the feet of the large figure form with the body,
and in front of the space where the Lion is advancing, which s rather behind.
At the other end of the same band, the Capricorn is very near the bottom, or

* See the great work on Egypt. Antiq. v. iv. pl. xx.

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