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Published by Audrey Mary Eve
In astronomy, the zodiac (Greek: ζῳδιακός, zōdiakos) is the ring of constellations that lines the ecliptic, which is the apparent path of the Sun across the celestial sphere over the course of the year.
In astronomy, the zodiac (Greek: ζῳδιακός, zōdiakos) is the ring of constellations that lines the ecliptic, which is the apparent path of the Sun across the celestial sphere over the course of the year.

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Published by: Audrey Mary Eve on Mar 28, 2011
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Inastronomy, the
(Greek: ζ
) is the ring of  constellationsthat lines the ecliptic,which is the apparent path of theSunacross thecelestial sphereover the course of the year. The paths of theMoonandplanets also lie roughly within the ecliptic, and so are also within the constellations of the zodiac. Inastrology, the zodiac denotes thosesignsthat divide the ecliptic into twelve equal zones of celestial longitude. As such, the zodiac is acelestial coordinate system, or more specifically anecliptic coordinate system, taking the ecliptic as the origin of latitude, and the position of the sun atvernal equinoxas the origin of longitude. It is known to have been in use by the Roman era, based on concepts inherited byHellenistic astronomyfromBabylonian astronomyof theChaldean period(mid-1st millennium BC), which, in turn, derived from an earlier system of lists of stars along the ecliptic.
The construction of the zodiac is described inPtolemy's
(2nd century AD).The term
derives fromLatin 
, which in its turn comes from theGreek ζ
ςκύκλος (
zōdiakos kuklos
), meaning "circle of animals", derived from ζώδιον (
), thediminutive of ζ
ον (
) "animal". The name is motivated by the fact that half of the signs of the classical Greek zodiac are represented as animals (besides two mythological hybrids
).Although the zodiac remains the basis of the ecliptic coordinate systemin use in astronomy besides theequatorialone, the term and the names of the twelve signs are today mostlyassociated withhoroscopic astrology.The term "zodiac" may also refer to the region of thecelestial sphere encompassing the paths of  the planets corresponding to the band of about eight arc degrees above and below the ecliptic.The zodiac of a given planet is the band that contains the path of that particular body; e.g., the"zodiac of the Moon" is the band of five degrees above and below the ecliptic. By extension, the"zodiac of the comets" may refer to the band encompassing mostshort-period comets.
Early history
Main article:Babylonian zodiacFurther information: MUL.APINThe division of the ecliptic into the zodiacal signs originates inBabylonian ("Chaldean") astronomy during the first half of the1st millennium BC, likely duringMedian/"Neo- Babylonian" times (7th century BC),
The classical zodiac is a modification of the MUL.APINcatalogue, which was compiled around 1000 BC. Some of the constellations can be traced evenfurther back, to Bronze Age (Old Babylonian) sources, including Gemini "The Twins", fromMAŠ.TAB.BA.GAL.GAL "The Great Twins", and Cancer "The Crab", from AL.LUL "TheCrayfish", among others.Babylonian astronomers at some point during the early 1st millennium BC divided the eclipticinto twelve equal
of celestial longitudeto create the first known celestial coordinatesystem: a coordinate system that boasts some advantages over modern systems (such asequatorial coordinate systemor ecliptic coordinate system). TheBabylonian calendar as it stood in the 7th century BC assigns each month a constellation, beginning with the position of the Sunatvernal equinox,which, at the time, was the Aries constellation("Age of Aries"), for which reason the firstastrological sign is still called "Aries" even after the vernal equinox has moved away from the Aries constellation due to the slow precession of the Earth's axis of rotation.
Knowledge of the Babylonian zodiac is also reflected in theHebrew Bible.E. W. Bullinger   interpreted the creatures appearing in the books of EzekielandRevelation as the middle signs of  the four quarters of the Zodiac,
with the Lion as Leo, the Bull is Taurus, the Man representingAquarius and the Eagle standing in
Some authors have linked the twelve tribes of Israelwith the twelve signs.Martinand others have argued that the arrangement of the tribes around theTabernacle (reported in theBook of Numbers) corresponded to the order of the Zodiac, with Judah,Reuben,Ephraimand Danrepresenting the middle signs of Leo, Aquarius, Taurus and Scorpio, respectively.
Such connections were taken up byThomas Mann, who in his novel
, attributes characteristics of a sign of the zodiac to each tribe in hisrendition of theBlessing of Jacob.
Hellenistic and Roman era
The 1st century BC Denderah Zodiac (19th-century engraving)The Babylonian star catalogues enteredGreek astronomy in the 4th century BC, viaEudoxus of  Cnidusand others. Babylonia or Chaldea in the Hellenistic world came to be so identified with astrology that "Chaldean wisdom" became amongGreeksand Romansthe synonym of  divinationthrough theplanetsandstars.Hellenistic astrology syncreticallyoriginated from Babylonian andEgyptian astrology.Horoscopic astrologyfirst appeared in Ptolemaic Egypt.The Dendera zodiac, a relief dating to ca. 50 BC, is the first known depiction of the classical zodiacof twelve signs.Particularly important in the development of Western horoscopic astrology was the astrologer and astronomer Ptolemy,whose work 
laid the basis of theWestern astrologicaltradition. Under the Greeks, and Ptolemy in particular, the planets, Houses, and signs of thezodiac were rationalized and their function set down in a way that has changed little to thepresent day.
Ptolemy lived in the 2nd century AD, three centuries after the discovery of theprecession of the equinoxesbyHipparchus around 130 BC, but he ignored the problem, by dropping the concept of a fixed celestial sphere and adopting what is referred to as atropicalcoordinate systeminstead.
Hindu zodiac

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