Mul-Apin is a composite text that can be thought of as a general compendium dealing with many diverse aspects of celestial divination.The first sections of tablet 1 list all the mainstream Babylonian constellations along with the deities associated with them. Various other sections give the rising dates for the stars and provide further useful information that helps to locate the constellations in relation to each other and as such it is the single most important resource for reconstructing the overall plan of the Babylonian starmap.
Even though the earliest copy so far discovered was only written shortly after 700 BCE, the text was probably composed sometime between 1200 and 1000 BCE.
The following lists are derived from ‘Mul.Apin, An Astronomical Compendium in Cuneiform’ by Hermann Hunger and David Pingree, 1989. The locations of the Babylonian stars in terms of the Greek stars are my own attributions.
Mul-Apin divides the stars into northern, equatorial and southern paths:
33 Northern stars on the path of Enlil
The Plough, Enlil, the lead star of the stars of Enlil (Most of Draco)
The Wolf at the seed funnel of the Plough (Head & middle of Draco)
The Old Man, Enmesharra (Perseus)
The Crook, the Crouching god (Auriga)
The Great Twins, Lugalirra and Meslamtaea (Gemini)
The Little Twins, Alammush and Ninezengud (Canis Minor)
The Crab, the seat of Anu (Cancer)
The Lion, Latarak (Leo)
The stars that stands in the breast of the Lion, the King Star (The star Regulus in Leo)
The dusky stars that stand in the tail of the Lion, the Frond of Erua, Zarpanitu (Coma Berenices & the western part of Virgo)
Shupa, Enlil, who decrees the fate of the land (Bootes)
The star before him, the Star of Abundance, the messenger of Ninlil (A star in the western part part of Bootes)
The star behind him, the Star of Dignity, the messenger of Tishpak (A star in the eastern part of Bootes)
The Wagon, Ninlil (The 7 principal stars of Ursa Major)
The star at the shaft of the Wagon, the Fox, Erra, the strong one among the gods (The star Zeta in Ursa Major)
The star at the front of the Wagon, the Ewe, Aya (Probably the star Epsilon in Ursa Major)
The Hitched Yoke, Anu, the great one of the heavens (the star Eta in Ursa Major)
The Wagon of Heaven, Damkianna (Ursa Minor)
The star on its rope, the Heir of the Sublime Temple, the first ranking son of Anu (The star Polaris in Ursa Minor)
The Standing Gods of the E-kur, the Sitting Gods of the E-kur (The western part of Ophiuchus; Corona Borealis)
The She-Goat, Gula (Lyra)
The star before the She-Goat, the Sitting Dog (Most of Hercules)
The bright star of the She-Goat, Lamma, the messenger of Baba (The star Vega in Lyra)
Two stars behind her, Ninsar and Erragal (The stars Beta & Gamma in Lyra)
The Panther, Nergal (Most of Cygnus & probably part of Cepheus)
The star to his right, the Swine, Damu (Probably Delphinus)
The star to his left, the Horse (front legs of Pegasus & Lacerta)
The star behind him, the Stag, messenger of the Star Cluster (Cassiopeia & part of Andromeda)
The dusky stars at the breast of the Stag, Harriru, god of the Rainbow (The spiral galaxy M31 in Andromeda)
The bright red star at the kidney of the Stag, the Destroyer (The star Gamma in Cassiopeia)
23 Equatorial stars on the Path of Anu
The Field, the seat of Ea, which leads the stars of Anu (The 4 stars of the Square of Pegasus)
The star at the Field, the Swallow (The head & neck of Pegasus, & the western fish of Pisces)
The star behind the Field, Anunitum (The northern fish of Pisces)
The star behind it, the Hired Man, Dumuzi (Aries)
The Star Cluster, the Seven Gods, the great gods (The Pleiades)
The Bull of Heaven, the Bull’s Jaw, the Crown of Anu (Taurus, or at least its head)
The True Shepherd of Anu, Papsukal, the messenger of Anu and Ishtar (Orion)
The Twins who are opposite the True Shepherd of Anu, Lulal and Latarak (Cetus & part of Eridanus)
The star behind him, the Rooster (Lepus)
The Arrow, the arrow of the great god Ninurta (The star Sirius & probably other stars in Canis Major)
The Bow, the Elamite Ishtar, the daughter of Anu (Puppis)
The Serpent, Ningishzida, lord of the Underworld (Hydra)
The Raven, the star of Adad (Corvus)
The Furrow, Shala with her ear of barley (The eastern part of Virgo)
The Scales, the Horn of the Scorpion (Libra)
Zababa (The eastern part of Ophiuchus), the Eagle (Aquila) and the Dead Man (Sagitta)
15 Southern stars on the Path of Ea
The Fish, Ea, the lead star of the stars of Ea (Pisces Austrinus)
The Great One, Ea (Aquarius). The Star of Eridu, Ea (Vela)
The star to his right, Ninmah (Vela)
The Wild Boar, Ningirsu (Most of Centaurus)
The star to its side, the Harrow, the weapon of Mar-biti, within which one sees the Abyss (The western part of Centaurus)
The two stars that are behind him, Shullat and Hanish, Shamas and Adad (Two stars in Centaurus)
The star behind them, rises like Ea and sets like Ea, Numushda, Adad (Unknown, possibly part of the Milky Way)
The star to the left of the Scorpion, the Mad Dog, Kusu (Lupus)
The Scorpion, Ishhara, the governess of the lands (Scorpio)
The Breast of the Scorpion, Lisi and Nabu (The star Antares in Scorpio)
The two stars on the Stinger of the Scorpion, Sharur and Shargaz (The stars Lambda and Nu in Scorpio)
The star behind them, Pabilsag (Sagittarius)
The Cargo-Boat (Corona Australis)and the Goatfish (Capricorn)
Reblogged this on Vanaland and commented:
Nice but tell me, when is the exact start day in Mul.Apin?
The start date of the Babylonian calendar was set to the lunar months – so the first day of the year is defined as the first new moon after the spring equinox. That would generally give a western date of between 22nd March and 22nd April, but of course every year would be different. Gavin
Ah, thanks Gavin, that is a very interesting. And what for a year is the mul.apin started by spring equinox? The begin of Mul.Apin was a important point. The stars was a mirror of earth.
And can you help me, I search the exact interpretation of Pleyades Stars in Mul.Apin.
Thanks and greets from Vanaland…
I’m not sure what you mean by the first question. The start of the Babylonian calendar is a bit like the date of Easter, which is defined as the first sunday, after the first full moon after the spring equinox.
The Pleiades or Babylonian ‘Star Cluster’ or ‘Stars’ are ruled over by the 7 Gods, they are characterised as warriors who bring war & strife. When they are seen with the moon they often relate to the kingship. They were once the ‘lead stars of heaven’ but that title has since been passed on to Aries, and then Pisces and before too long Aquarius will assume the role of ‘lead star’ – ie rising on the eastern horizon just before sunrise at the time of the spring equinox.
Thanks for your answer. But i search the Year 1 of Mul.Apin.
At some point, someone has begun to count the heraclidic sunrises, this date I’m looking for.
I have no idea what is a heraclidic sunrise, but i know that date is so extrem important.
You think that astronomy came first, but that worldview is incorrect.
The astronomy is a mirror of events on earth, what is written in heaven.
I understand that it is astronomical tables, but each count has a beginning.
Look, Gilgamesh is more as a starsign or religion, it is a real person.
Please, help me to find out and I can check it with my timetable.
Then i can write my story.
I don’t think anyone can actually answer your question. Mul-Apin is a composite text made up of many sections. Some parts are probably much older than others. Some ideas, such as the way that the watches of the night are reckoned probably go back to the Old Babylonian period (first half of the 2nd Millennium BCE). The text, pretty much as we know it was probably composed in the later half of the 2nd millennium, but as no copies date to this time it is impossible to tell. Some scholars reckon 1000 BCE others 1200 BCE, but there are many other opinions. And the versions we have, the earliest dating to 686 BCE could have been updated in the mean time. You may be able to get an approximate answer to your question by going back to the stars. The start of the year could be gauged by the rising of the Hired Man (our Aries) which has its traditional rising date on the 1st of Nisan, the first month of the Babylonian calendar. Similarly the summer solstice was reckoned as falling on the 15th day of month 4 when Sirius had its traditional rising date – but these will only give very rough estimates and there are still inherent uncertainties about observation methods. They were using naked eye observation and there are many uncertainties about the parameters – this means an accurate date for its composition cannot be deduced from the text. Two degrees of arc of uncertainty equates to around an uncertainty of 144 years. However I believe something else is going on. The table of rising stars doesn’t fit together – you cannot get a single solution to all the listings. Hunger & Pingree reckoned that the lists were put together in different places but it is equally possible that it was put together in different times, or as I believe an older Old Babylonian version was partly updated in the Kassite period. From a historical perspective, the time around 1200 BCE is a likely period as this was a time of intense scholarly activity when all the major literary works were re-edited or re-organised.
If you are looking for a precise date – like 1254 or 2380 BCE – for instance, I don’t think you will find it, and if someone comes up with one I would be extremely cautious over it. I have never heard of a ‘Herclidic sunrise’ perhaps you mean ‘helical rising’, which refers to the stars rising just before dawn (again a rather hazy and inaccurate proposition dependent on the weather and the observer’s location). Gavin
Thanks for your answer, yes of course, helical rising.
I think the Mul.Apin was going in many hands: Kassites, Assyrer, Babylon, Elam and all the city dynasties in Mesopotamia.
The problem is, I can say in this text is a secret date, that is elementar important for ancient astronoms. Not for maths for stars, but for her astrological interpretation.
But I cant say what it is.
I had listen from Omen in Mul.Apin? Had you a list of this part?
I think that can say more what I search.
Greetings from Vanaland
Hi, I have attached a complete copy of both Mul-Apin tablets. These docs were derived from Hunger & Pingree’s edition. Tablet 2 has all the omens. The bit that interests me most is tablet 1, II.36 to III.12 where you have the list of stars rising on dates in the ideal calendar. The increments of 5 days suggests to me that this list was designed to be changable. Every 360 or 720 years you would subtract 5 or 10 days from the count to revise your star calendar to keep in line with the effects of precession. This phasing may help you work out a ‘start date’ or as I think a set of periodic ‘revision dates’. One date of around 1100 alongside one in the 8th century BCE might be a good place to start. Gavin
I just ordered your book and looking forward to get it. My special interest is beta Andromeda star (Mirach). I found that in MUL.APIN this star was known as mulKA.MUS.I.KU.E. Can you please comment on that and also give your opinion to which Babylonian constellation this star belonged, if any?
Thank you very much!
Hi Sinisha, in MUL.APIN, the star KA.MUSH.I.KU.E is described as being located at the kidney of the Stag. No one is entirely sure where the Stag was located on the celestial sphere. Most likely in the Andromeda-Cassiopeia area. Its also very difficult to tell the orientation of the star figure, so guessing where its kidney may be is even more difficult! The most recent editors of the text – Hunger & Pingree – reckon that the Stag is in the eastern half of Andromeda and its kidney = the star Beta. I prefer to reconstruct the Stag in Cassiopeia (largely on the grounds of the Arabic Camel constellation – see fig 81 & 132 in the book) and suggest the violent star Beta as a possible location for KA.MUSH.I.KU.E.
The name itself can be translated as the Destroyer or Deleter, it is sometimes used as an attribute of demons. In astrology there is little known about this star except that it can be used as a name for Saturn.
As for Mirach in Andromeda, take a look at fig 4. This is an alternative Arabic version of Andromeda with otherwise unknown fish placed over her middle – Mirach would be a part of this. I suggested that behind all this material on Andromeda there may be some recollection of a mermaid figure but this is pretty speculative.
Hope this helps, Gavin
thank you very much for your quick and precise answer. I will wait for your book and ask probably some additional questions after reading it.
All the best,
Gavin, thank you so much for your book. Your scholarship was both most impressive and readable or a layman. On page 121 you have a Greek image of Aquarius. Could you tell me a bit more about the image and how I could get a copy?
Hi Rex, the image is from a Mesopotamian seal that was found in Thebes. I got the image from ‘First Impressions. Cylinder Seals in the Ancient Near East’. Domonique Collon 1987. British Museum Press. It is fig 240 in this volume.
You can also find it on the net – a good image can be found halfway through the following website:
All the best, Gavin
Hello Gavin, it is fascinating to be able to have so much access to information, I am so elated to find others with a great passion .
I write for local paper on myth and mythology and find so many tangents that lead me around and I find how connected everything is, so much to learn and the more you learn you realise you know nothing.
Hello Gavin, I am very interested in trying to find all of these Babylonian constellations, I’m bored using the modern star charts all the time. Does this book contain instructions on finding these stars from MUL.APIN. at all? I haven’t had any success looking all over the Internet finding a Babylonian constellation map, any advice. I want to hunt down all these ancient stars in my backyard.
Hi Henry, I assume that you are looking for a map with the stars marked on it along with the outlines of the constellation figures. I have never come across any thing like this and if there is one out there I think it would be very questionable.
Even the well-known figures of the zodiac are difficult to reconstruct accurately as you only get statements like such and such a figure has a star on its head and another on its hand. My own reconstruction of the star-map, which doesn’t even attempt to correlate the figures with the stars, is in places, a set of educated guesses.
Given that there are still considerable uncertainties regarding the general location of some figures, not to mention their size or deportment – an accurate star-map is just not feasible. Perhaps one day an armillary sphere or such like may be found in Mesopotamia – we can only hope!
Hope this helps, all the best, Gavin
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The asterism called DAR.LUGAL (The Rooster) is most likely to be located in Lepus – the Greek Hare below Orion. The stars of Canis Minor were probably called the Little Twins in Babylonian star-lore.
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This is a stunning piece of work. I have spent a couple of weekends pouring over regressed star maps seeking for something approx 2500BC which would give precise houses for the progression of the constellations and have arrived at mostly the same conclusions. I wondered if, as some translations pf the Mul.apin suggest, precisely which constellations fit which houses, with the division of 10 degrees between each. Some houses seem to have more divisions if you include set stars, others virtually nothing. I know one of the major problems is the changes over thousands of years history and equals to the Greek terminology which doesn’t always work. Our modern 12 houses follow the Greek sun signs though the ecliptic, was there something equivalent previously – I suspect the work above is about as close as anyone can get, and its simplicity belies a great depth of experience and knowledge. I also suspect there was in the dim distant past more than 3 divisions within each 12th. Please could you also advise if there is a decent translation in English of the Mul.apin?
Lastly, if URSA Major is known as the opener, why doesn’t the progression work as it doesn’t seem to fall in the first house? Am I missing something?
I also suspect this is the answer as to why the opening of the mouth ceremony depicted in ancient Egyptian tombs, is performed by the next Pharoah on the mummy of the last pharoah, with a strange shaped implement – it is in the shape of the start of the Plough. So the opening of the mouth becomes the opening of the way to through the stars.
Thank you, with respect for your work.
Hi Yeshe, the Babylonians of the 2nd and 3rd millennium BCE used an ‘ideal calendar’ for administrative purposes. This ideal year had 12 equal months of 30 days each. In Mul.Apin this same calendar is used as the basis of a star-calendar where certain stars and constellations are listed as rising on a certain day of a certain month. It is not very accurate as the star’s rising dates are only listed in increments of 5 days.
There is a new (and expensive) translation of Mul.Apin –
‘The Babylonian Astronomical Compendium MUL.APIN (Scientific Writings from the Ancient and Medieval World) Hardcover – 26 Jul 2018
by Hermann Hunger (Author), John Steele (Author)’
I haven’t seen it so cannot comment on its nature or accessibility. But be assured it is a scholarly work on cuneiform astronomy – so by definition will be pretty heavy.
If you would like a complete copy of the Mul.Apin texts – I have my own version which I derived from the predecessor to the above by Hermann Hunger & David Pingree. If you would like it, then send me a mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will forward it to you.
All the best, Gavin
oops a typo … principal stars not principle – the Wagon
Yes – a very common error for me! thank you
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