Micah Ross

A Tale of Two Tails


The division of the sky into twelve sections began in Mesopotamia and establishes continuityamong the astrological cultures of Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, and India. The iconography and names of the individual signs can vary but they also preserve unity. Names of zodiacal signsoften refer to the object imagined among the stars. In the case of the zodiac, the iconography and the linguistic representation often overlap. Two examples illustrate this variation and continuity. The iconography of Pisces details a path from local variants to standardization, while the iconography and terminology of Libra has raised unresolved questions. When entering foreign cultures, these names were subject to linguistic borrowing and the iconography was prone to cultural assimilation. Egypt adapted the names and images of Libra and Pisces in interesting ways. While the iconography of these two signs seems only tangentially related, Mesopotamians referred to these signs by similar words.Mesopotamians referred to the zodiacal signs with different names in different genres texts. Thus,the word "zibānītu" can refer to Libra and the word "zibbāti" can indicate Pisces. The derivation of these names from the same root serves as a point of departure for a consideration of the representation of these signs.


Micah Ross is a post-doctoral researcher under Kuang-tai Hsu at the National Tsing Hua University in Hsin Chu, Taiwan. He has studied Sanskrit astronomy and astrology at Kyōto Sangyō University and served as a researcher at the Institute d-EtudesAvancées and within the REHSEIS workgroup of Université Paris 7, both in Paris. He graduated from the Department of the History of Mathematics at Brown University in Providence.

The Sophia Centre
University of Wales Trinity Saint David