‘Star Anu, Lord of Heaven’: The Influence of the Celestial Sciences on Temple Rituals in Hellenistic Uruk and Babylon

  • Julia KrulEmail author
Part of the Why the Sciences of the Ancient World Matter book series (WSAWM, volume 2)


The scholarly activities of the cuneiform-literate elite of Hellenistic Uruk ranged from astronomy, astrology, and medicine to theology and religious worship. Most scholars had priestly duties in the temples and many of Uruk’s leading minds were involved in the celestial sciences as well as in the city’s cultic reforms centred on the sky god Anu. The influence of these scholars’ intensive engagement with the stars on other disciplines, leading to new intellectual fields like birth horoscopy and astral medicine, is well-known. In this article, it is argued that the predominance of the celestial sciences in Hellenistic Babylonian scholarship also left its mark on local religious thought and ritual practice, both in Uruk and in Babylon. Stars and planets were included in daily offering cycles at the temples, cultic calendars were reinterpreted in astrological terms, and the astronomically significant events of the summer and winter solstice became occasions for religious festivals.



The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007–2013)/ERC Grant Agreement No. 269804 and from the Gerda Henkel Stiftung (project AZ 17/F/15).


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Durham UniversityDurhamUK
  2. 2.Leiden UniversityLeidenNetherlands

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