The report was presented for the first time on 10.11.2019 at the First European Conference on Astrology, Varna, Bulgaria.  (original title: The prototype of the Babylonian Zodiac)
kiril_stoychevKiril Stoychev, chairman of the Bulgarian Astrological Association

Summary: Historical development of the concept of zodiac signs. Why is there a 8-9 day difference between the start of the season and the beginning of the month in today’s calendar? Which comes first – the constellations, zodiac signs, or the calendar?  Where did zodiac signs come from? When did the Age of Aquarius begin, if we use the method of observing the stars with the naked eye, as the Sumerians and Babylonians did.

The emergence of the zodiac is hidden behind a veil, thrown by the millennia that have passed since its inception. Today, many confuse the concepts of zodiac constellations and zodiac signs, and are unaware of the existence of the two zodiacs – the tropical and the sidereal. But even for astrologers who can distinguish them and define their concepts, the question of their origin remains unclear.

Let’s first define the concepts:

The Zodiac constellations is a group of 12 constellations bearing the names Aries, Taurus, Gemini all the way to Pisces. They occupy the space 8 degrees below and above the ecliptic. Each constellation is different in size, ranging from 20 degrees for the smallest – Cancer, up to 44 degrees for the largest – Virgo (according to the astronomical atlases we use today).

Sidereal zodiac – is based around the stars in the zodiac constellations. It contains twelve 30 degree sectors bearing the same names as the zodiac constellations.

Tropical Zodiac – is based on the movement of the sun along the ecliptic and its turning points: the equinoxes and the solstices. They mark the beginning of the seasons in the annual cycle. It contains twelve 30-degree sectors bearing the same names. Its starting point (0 degrees in Aries) is marked by the spring equinox at which the celestial equator intersects the ecliptic.

As a result of the precession, the tropical and sidereal zodiacs diverge from each other by 1 degree every 71.5 years. The two zodiacs completely overlapped in 221 AD.

Astrologers following the classical western astrology, influenced mainly by Claudius Ptolemy, use the tropical zodiac without questioning its authenticity and validity. First Hipparchus and later Ptolemy transposed the names of the zodiac constellations to the 12 sectors of the tropical zodiac. Before that, they had already been transposed to the sidereal zodiac.

But it was not Hipparchus that created the tropical zodiac, the idea for it was born a couple of centuries earlier. What we know for sure is that the ancient Greek astronomer Euctemon (d. 432 BC) created the first tropical zodiac circle, it was based on the annual movement of the sun (in ancient greek the word tropikos means turning or turning point).

Based on the observation of a series of solstices, he published a stellar calendar. It contained information about the equinoxes and solstices, the rises and sets of the fixed stars and meteorological data.

Euctemon divided the solar year into 12 months, using the names of the 12 zodiac constellations. The summer solstice marks the first degree of the tropical sign Cancer, this is the longest day.

SWIf we observe the sunrise every day, we will see that the Sun moves along the horizon line. On the day of the summer solstice, the Sun rises as far north-east as possible. From that day forward, the sun‘s rising point begins to shift east towards the autumnal equinox point. After that the sun’s rising point starts to move southeast until the Sun reaches the winter solstice. On that day the Sun is in the first degree of the tropical sign Capricorn. This is the shortest day of the year. Following the winter solstice sun’s rising point starts shifting east again towards the spring equinox. The day starts to grow longer and during the spring equinox the day and the night are in equilibrium.

The tropical zodiac created by Euctemon was mainly used as a calendar. A century later, the Babylonian astronomer and astrologer Kidinnu (d. 330 BC), the author of the so-called System B – a methodology for calculating the positions of the planets, uses a zodiac in which the spring equinox point was in the 8th degree in sidereal sign Aries. Around the time of his death, the spring equinox point was exactly there.

It should be noted that around 150 years before Kidinnu, the Babylonians used a similar sidereal zodiac, in which the spring equinox point was placed in the 10th degree of Aries in the sidereal zodiac. The supposed creator of this zodiac is Nabu-rimanni, a Babylonian astronomer/astrologer from the beginning of the 5th century BC. He is the author of the so-called System A – a methodology for calculating planetary positions, the precursor of System B. Both systems were used in Hellenistic world over the next 5-6 centuries.aaThe Aldebaran-Antares axis was used as the starting point for the creation of the Sidereal Zodiac. Aldebaran is located in the middle of the constellation Taurus. Its position marks the 15th degree of the sidereal sign Taurus, using this as a reference point the first degree of Taurus is determined. After that the entire ecliptic is geometrically divided into 12 equal sectors of 30 degrees. In the sky there is no star that can be used to mark 0 degrees in Aries (the beginning of the zodiac). However, Aries is the first sign of the zodiac, not Taurus.

frAccording to the assyrologist Ph.D. Francesca Rochberg, the earliest texts (lunar tables) in which the signs of the sidereal zodiac are used instead of the constellations, are from 475 BC. (In the Path of the Moon, 2010, p.364). This means that the sidereal zodiac was originally created for astronomical purposes – to be able to determine the position of planets, the Sun, the Moon, as well as the point of spring equinox in a coordinate system.

“The zodiac of twelve signs of equal 30-degree length had its origin in Babylonia sometime during the fifth century B.C, the period of development of scientific mathematical astronomy, and was invented for use in astronomical computation, not divination. It provides a standard reference system for measuring the daily (or monthly) progress of the sun and the planets with respect to the twelve equal 30-degree segments. ” [1]

Comparing the data, we see that both the sidereal and the tropical zodiacs emerged at almost the same time in the 5th century BC.

About 40-50 years after the death of Kidinnu on the island of Kos, an astrological school was established by the Babylonian Berossus (probably a disciple of Kidinnu). Thus, the zodiac created and used by Kidinnu, in which the spring equinox point is in 8th degree of Aries entered ancient Greece and later ancient Rome and was the most used zodiac during the time before and shortly after the birth of Christ (it was also used by astrologer Vetius Valens, 120-190 AD).

“The norm 80 Aries as the vernal point underlies many Hellenistic astrological texts and continued in use throughout late antiquity.” Franchesca Rochberg

However the equinox does no longer occur in the 8th degree of sidereal sign Aries (as it did during the time of Kidinnu). Every 72 years it shifts by one degree (7>6>5>4>3>2>1) towards the sidereal sign of Pisces. This event occurs due to the swinging of the Earth around its axis (the so-called precession). This caused a lot of confusion in the ancient world and continues to do so even today.

When the Julian calendar was created, the beginning of the year (January 1st) was set at 8 degrees in tropical sign of Capricorn, not at 0 degrees Capricorn, which marks the beginning of winter. My hypothesis is that this is due to Kidinnu’s sidereal zodiac, in which the winter solstice occurred in the 8th degree. The author of the Julian calendar probably confused the sidereal and tropical zodiac, and decided that he should put the beginning of the year in the tropical zodiac at 8 degrees Capricorn. This is why today there is an 8 or 9 days difference between each season and the beginning of its respective month. In an accurate solar calendar, the first day of each month should mark the beginning of the next tropical zodiac sign.

The earth’s axis swings like a spinning top, this motion is known as the precession. Due to it, every year the time of the spring equinox changes, it comes earlier. This was discovered and explained by Hipparchus (190 – 120 BC), we can assume that Kidinnu was also aware about the precession.

In the scientific world Hipparchus is known as an astronomer. However Pliny the Elder writes about him the following:

“No one  having done more than Hipparchus to prove that man is related to the stars and that our souls are a part of Heaven”

This surely places him amidst the great astrologers. In fact, in antiquity, the terms astrologer and astronomer were one and the same.

Hipparchus placed the 1st degree of Aries at the point of the spring equinox and divided the ecliptic into 12 zodiac signs, 30 degrees for each sign. Initially his discovery did not gain much recognition. Its publicity increased later on, thanks to Claudius Ptolemy and his work, Tetrabiblos, which became a mandatory book for astrologers in late antiquity and the early middle Ages. Ptolemy, who was well versed in both the Sidereal and Tropical Zodiac, favored the latter.

Recent studies on the mechanism of the Antikythera (which is essentially an ancient analog computer that calculates the motion of the bodies in the solar system) shows that it used the tropical zodiac of Hipparchus.

nick2According to the researcher PhD Nicholas Kollerstrom from the University College London, the zodiac used in this mechanism is tropical.

„The front dial has a zodiac around which a solar pointer revolved yearly and the one clear inscription of a zodiac sign name is ‘chelae’, meaning ‘claws’. What we now call Libra the zodiacal Scales between the Virgin and the Scorpion were, in ancient times, the claws of the huge, powerful Scorpion that lay in wait for the Sun at the autumnal equinox.

These stars were ‘Chelae’ to the Greeks and Romans until the time of Julius Caesar’s calendar reform in 46 BC. This antique use of the term ‘chelae’ firmly anchors the mechanism in those centuries.  On ‘fragment C’ one can faintly read Untitled-1  for Chelai, and to the left two of the last letters N and N of the ‘Parthenon’ – the sign Virgo, reminding us that the goddess of the Parthenon’s Acropolis was ‘the Virgin,’ Athena. Then to the right, I was shown, using the X-ray viewing method that goes below the surface, all the letters of  Untitled-2 , the sign Scorpio (Note: this is a new discovery, not hitherto reported in the literature on this mechanism).

Thus its zodiac revolved clockwise. The letter ‘alpha’ can be read next to the zero degrees Libra (autumnal equinox) position, suggesting that this zodiac was tropical, in accord with the Hipparchian innovation of starting at zero degrees Aries for the spring equinox“ [2]

This proves that some Greek astrologers and astronomers of the 2nd and 1st century BC already used the tropical zodiac. Furthermore we can see how ancient Greek mythology began to implement the zodiac signs. The names of the zodiac signs are taken directly from the names of the zodiacal constellations (which are of Sumerian origin).

It is clear to any unbiased observer that the sidereal zodiac appeared before the tropical, and that the circle of the zodiac constellations precedes the sidereal zodiac.

The question remains why these 3 different zodiacs were created and whether there is another system from which they draw their foundations.

We also have the question whether the names of the constellations attributed to the meaning of the signs, or is there another mechanism that explains why each sign has its specific characterizations?

Another question that needs answers is whether the meaning (the characteristic) of a sign, for example Aries, is somehow related to the zodiacal constellations, to the sidereal or to the tropical zodiac.

veThe answers are given by the Russian sumerologist, candidate of historical sciences, a doctor of philosophy and currently a professor at the St. Petersburg University – Vladimir Emelianov.

Because he is not an astrologer, his studies remain unknown to both the Russian astrologers and the entire astrological community. This is why I will base this report on his studies of the early zodiac, which shed light on these issues. In his monograph, he starts a dispute with the famous Danish historian, mathematician and researcher B.L. Van der Waerden.

“According to B.L. Van der Waerden’s hypothesis, the first model of the zodiac circle used the 18 constellations on the Moon’s path, which are mentioned in MUL.APIN. Subsequently, in the 6th – 5th centuries BC, the sun’s ecliptic and its associated 12 zodiac signs was introduced (used for the first time in lunar tables from 476 BC). This hypothesis is not convincing for two reasons. First, the 12 constellations on ecliptic were already mentioned in the cuneiform texts LU / LU2.MAS = lumaSu (CAD L). The word (lumaSu) has an unclear origin. It is known that it originally referred to the heliacally rising constellations that served to divide the year into 12 parts, and later on for the constellations of the solar zodiac (CAD L 1, 3)). Therefore, we can assume that the Sumerian word LU / LU2.MAS is an abstract name, formed by the abbreviation of the first and third name of the constellations placed on the sun’s ecliptic: LU2. (HUNGA) – MAS. (TAB.BA) «Aries – Gemini»”.


It goes on as follows “The fact that the Luma-shu (the constellations) are related only to the Sun is evidenced in a fragment from cuneiform tablets from the 7th century BC. It states the following: “ina sitan и silan LU^MAS-Si uszizma harranu mala[ku (?) ijsruk sunuma […]”, it can be translated asAt sunrise and sunset, he (Marduk) found Luma-shu and gave them path […]” (ABRT 1:31: 9).


To my knowledge, the 18 constellations on the lunar ecliptic have never been referenced using this term. Therefore they cannot be called “a zodiac.” Secondly, Van der Waerden himself writes about his observations of the Sun’s annual motion across the four seasons as a basis for the 12 sign ecliptic. Therefore what role does the moon play here? It is more reasonable to assume that in Mesopotamia the two ecliptics were used – the Moon’s (18 signs) and the Sun’s (12 signs). Subsequently only the latter remained relevant, which is explained by the greater number of solar-oriented calendars.” [3]

The biggest contribution Emelianov has made is the unfolding of the semantic connection between the names of the months in the sacred for the Sumerians, Nippurian calendar and the names of the constellations in the Babylonian Sidereal Zodiac. According to the professor, the only reliable source for restoring the Sumerian astronomical and astrological knowledge is their calendar.

The Sumerian calendar was widely used by the people of Southern Mesopotamia. It was created in the holy city of Nippur, dedicated to the ruling God of the world order, and the Lord of Nature, Enlil. The calendar is based on the coordination between the cycle of the moon and the annual movement of the Sun through the zodiac constellations.

The calendar accounts for the equinoxes and the solstices, it consists of 360 days, 12 months and 4 seasons. In order for the solar and lunar cycles to be in sync, every few years an additional 13th month was added to the calendar.

The unification of the Nippurian calendar was completed after the demise of the 3rd Ur Dynasty (c. 2017–1985 BC), after which it became not only the main but also the only calendar of Mesopotamia. In the eighteenth century BC, the first characters (letters) used in the spelling of the names of the Nippurian months are accepted as logograms for the respective months in the Babylonian calendar (Cohen, 1993, 9). After the end of the Kassite period (XII-XI centuries BC), the first bilingual names for each month were created. They were used for explaining the names of the holy Sumerian months, to the Semitic population that had forgotten their original meaning. Later on, at the end of the Neo-Assyrian period, monthly astrological forecasts were created, whose characteristics were largely related to the names of the months and their meanings.

This is how the familiar to us Babylonian Zodiac appeared.

ARIES – In Sumer, this constellation was called Lu-hunga (lu2-hunga), “Hired Worker” or “Volunteer,” and was associated with the shepherd-god Dumuzid.


When the Nippurian calendar was created, before sunrise during the spring equinox, the constellation Aries rose and was visible above the horizon. It was the time of the Nippurian New Year. According to tradition, a new king was chosen at this time of the year, the candidate had to be a volunteer. He must challenge the forces of the old world (the old ruler) and fight them. The candidate is a sacrificial young man who knows that because of his determination, he will face double jeopardy. Either he will be killed in the duel or after some time, already as king, will die at the hands of another contender.


The sacrifice of the volunteer (because most often the young contender was killed in the duel) is related to the custom of offering a sacrificial lamb at the beginning of the year. When the cuneiform inscriptions began to shrink, the name lu-hunga was reduced to “lu”. It was spelled with a sign that means man and with a sign that represents a stylized image of a ram. The sacrificial king and the sacrificial lamb merge into a single image symbolizing the spring sacrifice for the New Year.


The following chain of words can be put together: “the suffering god (Dumuzid) – shepherd – ram – king – hired worker”, the semantic core of which is the idea of voluntary sacrifice: the shepherd offers a ram from his herd, the ram loses its life, the hired worker offers himself at his master’s disposal, the king accepts his destiny and in the end sacrifices his life. In context, we can translate lu2-hunga not only as “hired man”, but also as “volunteer”. Interpreters from the later centuries chose only one of these meanings and began to call the constellation Aries.


TAURUS – a name directly related to a ritual that was carried out during the second Nippurian month. The god Ninurta was called the bull, he was originally known as the god of agriculture and healing, later he acquired more warlike characteristics. After defeating all his rivals in his city he performs ritual of marriage with his bride. At this time of year, a ritual associated to marriage was performed. The ritual consisted of plowing the wet earth after the spring river floods (marriage between earth and water that will later produce life), herds of oxen and harnesses were taken out on the fields as well. The events of the month are characterized with war, love and plowing. The images of the fierce, fertile and hard-working bull are combined into one.


GEMINI – a name associated with the worship of the twin brothers Sin and Nergal, born in the underworld from the marriage of Enlil and Ninlil. Later on in his life, Sin becomes the god of the moon and ascends to the skies, Nergal on the other hand remains in the underworld to rule the world of the dead.


CANCER – this name is a complex net of associations. The heliacal rise of this constellation coincides with the summer solstice, after which the Sun begins to move backwards in the direction of the autumnal equinox point (back to the underworld). It is also related to the early sowing of the grain in Mesopotamia. The grain falls into the ground, the same way the Sun descends to the underworld (after the summer solstice, the Sun rises more and more to the south-east, following a lower path in the sky, thus the days become shorter). Rituals are associated with the sending of the spring god Dumuzid into the underworld and his subsequent mourning. Dumuzid is а epitome of the grain sinking into the earth and the days becoming shorter.


LEO – a name associated with competitions held in honor of the hero-king Gilgamesh by adolescents in urban areas. Gilgamesh and Sargon, striving to leave an immortal legacy with their military campaigns, were often compared to lions. This animal embodies the royal figure (the same way the lion is the king of all animals). The sun also symbolizes the mane of the lion. The relationship between the fifth constellation and the fifth Nippurian month is furthermore indicated by the Assyrian image of Gilgamesh with a small lion next to him.


VIRGO – a name associated with the purification of the goddess Inana after she returned from the underworld, where she searched for Dumuzid to no avail.


LIBRA – a symbol of the autumnal equinox, when the day is equalized with the night. In the Sumerian tradition, during this time the Sun God judges the living and the dead. Also honors were given to the gods that judge the souls of the dead in the underworld. [4]

Thus, Prof. Emelianov explains the correspondences between the seasonal and ritual activities for each month in the Nippurian calendar, and the name of the zodiac constellation that rises heliacally during that month. Thanks to Prof. Emelianov work we can surely say that, the characteristics of the rituals and activities that took place in ancient Sumer 2000 years B.C., played a significant role in naming the zodiac constellations (Aries, Taurus, etc.).

The events that took place on earth were dictated by the position of the Sun and its characteristics during each season. These events then shaped the features and qualities that were given to the zodiac constellations, and not vice versa, as many people think.

In the calendar we also find the same concept of opposite signs we use in astrology today. The months of the first and second half of the Nippurian calendar have opposite and complementary meanings.

I – VII – (Aries – Libra): the beginning of the world and the judgment of the world

II – VIII – (Taurus – Scorpio): the fight (dispute) of the two beginnings

III – IX – (Gemini – Sagittarius): the coexistence of the two beginnings

IV – X – (Cancer – Capricorn): descend and escape from the underworld

V – XI – (Leo – Aquarius): in search for immortality (the individual path and the path of universal salvation)

VI – XII – (Virgo – Pisces): reaping the fruits from the cycle, end of the cycle. [3]

There is no doubt, says V. Emelianov, astrology as a system was created in Babylon and Assyria, after the fall of the Sumerian civilization. But, undoubtedly, the roots of astrology are based on the Sumerian views of the world and the correspondence between the Sumerian monthly rituals and the name of the constellation rising heliacally that month. For Sumerians, the understanding of life as a series of correspondences is organic and inner related to their religion and ideology. But for the descendants of the Sumerians, the Babylonians, the understanding of life and the world acquires the characteristics of a teaching, a rational postulate.

In conclusion, here is a quote from V. Emelianov’s monograph:

“We see that there is a semantic connection between the names of the Nippurian months and the zodiacal constellations. This probably happened because some characteristics of the ritual performed during a given month were carried over to the corresponding constellation. Subsequently, individual features of the months and constellations were once again transferred to segments of the solar ecliptic, the so-called “zodiac signs”. This has defined the main apparatus for the Middle-Eastern and European astrology.


In general, the nature of the predictions based on the zodiac constellations is similar to that of the predictions of the months. The basis is the ritual corresponding to the given time, characterized by its constant scenario. The main functions of the characters in the given scenario (e.g. the young contender challenging the king and sacrificing himself) are given as properties to the celestial bodies. In the first stage of the development of astrology, the “carriers” of these properties were the Moon, Venus and the Sun, occupying a certain place in the sky, during a given month. In the second stage – the same characteristics were acquired by the constellations on the Sun’s ecliptic.” [3]

Thanks to the research of Prof. Dr. Emelianov, we can trace the origin of the Babylonian zodiac – the holy Nippurian calendar, consisting of 12 months and 4 seasons. The calendar’s cycle is related to the seasons and the social and economic activity in the northern hemisphere, and it is closely intertwined with the sacred rituals and the gods of the Sumerian pantheon, as well as with the heliacal rise of the constellations relevant for that time of the year. This is in full interconnection and fulfillment of the second Hermetic principle – As above, so below; as below, so above.


When does the Age of Aquarius begin?

If we use mathematics we can calculate that on the 20.03.2377 AD, the spring equinox point will reach the sign of Aquarius (sidereal zodiac, ayanamsha Fagan)
If we use the constellations boundaries calculated by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in 1928, this event will happen around the year 2600 AD. This is because the constellation of Pisces occupies more than 30 degrees (the size of zodiac sign Pisces).
However, the ancient Sumerians did not calculate, but instead observed the rising constellations and gave them proper names and meanings. If you look at the Sun at sunrise on the day of the equinox, you will not see stars around it, because its light makes the stars invisible.
Only if you look east 40-60 minutes before sunrise, you will see which constellation is rising heliacally. Let’s see what people of different ages saw in the sky at the moment. The astronomical software Stellarium was used to illustrate this.

2000 BC
On the day of the spring equinox, in the morning just before sunrise, the ancient Sumerians observed the rising of the constellation Aries.



During the time of Christ, 33 AD.
On the day of the spring equinox, in the morning just before sunrise, the ancient Jews observed the rising of the constellation Pisces.



1900 AD
On the day of the spring equinox, in the morning just before sunrise, over Jerusalem, the star Simmah (gamma Pisces) rose for the last time, and the stars of the Aquarius constellation were visible above it. According to the spiritual teacher Beinsa Douno (Peter Deunov), the Age of Aquarius began on March 22, 1914 AD.

It should be noted that on the 43rd parallel, this happened about 2 centuries earlier – in the period between the years 1700-1800. This is when the Industrial Revolution began in Europe, as did the French Revolution (1789).
But why do I use the coordinates of Jerusalem? If we use the birth of Christ as a starting point for counting time, we must also account for the place of his birth, in order to make an accurate assessment.




2019 AD

Today, if we go out 1 hour before sunrise on the day of the spring equinox, we will be able to see the stars of the constellation Aquarius rising above the horizon. We are already in the Age of Aquarius.



1. Rochberg, Franchesca. In the Path of the Moon: Babylonian Celestial Divination and Its Legacy. Brill. 2010. ISBN 978-90-04-18389-6.

2. Kollerstrom, Nicholas. Decoding the Antikythera mechanism

3. Emelianov, Vladimir. Nippur calendar and the early history of zodiac. St. Petersburg Oriental Studies. 1999. ISBN 5-85803-112-9

4. Emelyanov, Vladimir. Ancient Sumer. – SPb .: “Petersburg Oriental Studies”, 2001.

5. Sarton, George. Hellenistic Science and Culture in the Last Three Centuries B.C. Courier Corporation, 1993, 978-04-86-27740-0


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