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|The Foundation Chart of Baghdad
by James H. Holden
With the recent U.S. diplomatic moves against Iraq, possibly leading to war, that country is very much in the news again. Mundane astrologers generally consider Aries (and other quarterly) Ingresses, eclipses, and conjunctions to assess the political prospects for a country. In the case of Iraq, we are fortunate in having the actual foundation chart of its capital city. Examination of primary and secondary progressions in that chart and current transits may shed some light on its present and future situation. They also provide an unusual opportunity to examine these astrological techniques, since few foundation charts for major cities are available.
In one of his books, the 11th century astronomer/astrologer/scholar al-Bîrûnî has preserved the foundation chart of the city of Baghad. The Caliph al-Mansûr (c.679-777) desired to build a new capital city. He told his court astrologer, Nawbakht the Persian (c.679-777), to select a favorable time to begin construction. Nawbakht, with the assistance of the young Mâshâ'allâh (c.740-c.815) and other prominent astrologers of the time, selected the early afternoon of 4 Jumada I 145 A.H., which is equivalent to Saturday 31 July 762 in the Julian calendar.
The chart shows the planet Jupiter in the first house in Sagittarius. No cuspal degrees are given, but we can assume that the astrologers chose the time when Jupiter was in the ASC degree. This would have been at about 2:40 PM LMT on 31 July. The astrologers used a fixed zodiac that differed by about 4 degrees from the tropical zodiac. They may have used either the Sign-House system or the Alchabitius system of houses. The chart shown above has tropical longitudes and is drawn in Sign-House. Note Jupiter rising in in its own terms in Sagittarius, its own sign, opposed by Mars in the seventh. The Sun is in its own sign, Leo, in the 9th with a trine to Jupiter and a sextile to Mars, but it is also separating from a square to Saturn in the 6th. For many years after its founding Baghdad was a glorious seat of learning.
Baghdad has had many ups and downs in both its wealth and political importance. This is plainly signified by the evil influence of Mars in the house of open enemies opposing Jupiter, the ruler of the ASC. In 1258 the city was sacked and its great library burned to the ground by the Mongols under Hulagu Khan (1217-1265). In 1401 it was again sacked and virtually destroyed by the Mongol Timur (1336-1405). And several times in the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries it was pillaged and its population put to the sword by rival political factions in the area. Finally, after World War I Baghdad entered a new period of prosperity and importance when it was designated as the capital of the newly independent state of Iraq. More recently, it suffered some minor damage during the Gulf War.
Students interested in mundane astrology now have a rare opportunity to study the primary and secondary directions of a major city over a long period of time. The primaries will have rotated completely around the chart nearly three and a half times since 762. And the secondaries have now progressed into the latter part of December 765, where Saturn in the 7th house in Gemini is making a partile opposition to the foundation chartís rising Jupiter.
References: James H. Holden, A History of Horoscopic Astrology (Tempe: A.F.A., 1996), pp. 99-100; al-Bîrûnî, The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms, trans. by C. Edward Sachau (London, 1879), pp. 262-263.
All rights reserved © 2003 James H. Holden