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Astronomers in Babylon Breger, Gil


Scribes residing in Babylon and associated with the Esagila, the temple of Marduk in Babylon, and producing numerous kinds of astronomical texts, most prominently the Astronomical Diaries and the mathematical astronomical texts (referred to as ACT in modern scholarship). Their collective identity and their capacity, particularly early on, is not entirely clear. Initially, these scribes were most likely part of the prebendary system, an inherited, part-time privilege in which certain families and individuals had duties to serve the gods on certain days of the month or the year, including but not exclusively celestial observation. In return, they were given a share of the temple offerings. Following the failed rebellion against Persian rule in the 5th century, the prebendary system was abolished. After a period of recuperation, the Esagila was re-organized and governed by guild-like professional associations, one of which bore the title of “scribes of Enūma Anu Enlil” (the celestial omens series), the closest equivalent to the term “astronomer” in the cuneiform record. These individuals received some kind of monthly payment referred to as kurummatu-rations.

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Attribution 4.0 International