The Zodiac in Images

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Sochi Clock Tower

Close-up Sochi Clock Tower (c)Belyaev Viacheslav via Cliparto.

A Wheel Across Time and Cultures

The Zodiac represents the energies of the celestial sphere. This gallery presents the Zodiac across cultures and eras, a visual reference for those interested in astrology.

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Dendera Illustration

An artist's illustration (possibly 19th-century) of the Dendera Circular Zodiac.

An artistic reproduction of the Dendera Circular Zodiac, possibly from the 19th-century (artist unknown). The Dendera Zodiac was part of the Temple of Hathor in Egypt and dates to 50 B.C. The original bas-relief sculptured ceiling is now in the Louvre Museum, Paris.

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A Teaching Wheel

(c) Carmen Turner-Schott.

This Zodiac illustrates the signs and houses around the astrological wheel.

The Zodiac begins here with Aries and travels its astrological route through the twelve signs. This wheel shows how the sign-rulers for each of the twelve houses, begins with Aries in the 1st House and ends with Pisces in the 12th House.

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Classic Zodiac

A fine Zodiac of unknown origin in the public domain.

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Beit Alpha Zodiac

This mosaic tile Zodiac was discovered in 1929, at the site of the Beit Alpha Synagogue.

The Beit Alpha ruins are in the Beit She'an Valley in Israel. The Zodiac has been dated to the Byzantium era of the 5th-6th centuries. The Zodiac was used as a decorative element in synagogues at this time. Each symbol has the corresponding Hebrew name beside it. In the center, the Sun God Helios is depicted in a chariot drawn by four horses. At each corner are the 4 seasons, with their Hebrew names -- Nisan (Spring); Tamusz (Summer); Tishri (Autumn) and Tevet (Winter).

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The Zodiac and the Body

15th-Century Illuminated Manuscript.

A stunning representation of the Zodiac and its bodily associations from the 15th-century.

This image is a page from a Book of Hours commissioned by the Duke of Berry in the 15th-century. Miniature prayer books were common in this era, but this one is artistically masterful, having been done by the court painters of the region. The symbols of the Zodiac encircle the female figure and show the established belief in associations with the body.

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Zodiac Man

Astrology and Medicine.

An illustration from the medieval period, showing the Zodiac and body associations.

Physicians of the medieval period, like Nostradamus, used their knowledge of astrology to treat patients. This diagram is of unknown origin but shows the common associations of the time.

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Ptolemaic System

The Earth at the Center.

This is an illustration of the Ptolemaic system of astrology, created around 1660 by Andres Cellarius.

Early astronomer-astrologers subscribed to the theory that the Earth is at the center, with planets in motion around the ecliptic. 2nd-century Hellenistic (a.k.a. Greek) astronomer Ptolemy published a comprehensive work called Almagest, with this geocentric model as the foundation. The Earth-as-center theory was challenged around the 17th-century by Copernicus and Galileo. The geocentric model was replaced with the heliocentric model, one with the Sun at the center.

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Copernican Model

The Sun at the Center.

A well-known illustration of the Copernican Model, with the celestial spheres moving around the Sun.

Nicolaus Copernicus lived in Italy from 1473 to 1543 and published his comprehensive book on heliocentric theory the year he died. De Revolutionibus Orbium Colelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres) was the culmination of his study of the planetary movements. He determined that the planets were orbiting the Sun, not the Earth. He also concluded that direct or retrograde movement of planets was an illusion from the perspective of a moving Earth, not from their own motion, as previously thought. His theories kicked off their own revolution, and are considered a milestone in science.

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Dendera Circular Zodiac

This Egyptian bas-relief was created around 50 B.C.​ and was part of the Temple of Hathor.

The original Dendera Circular Zodiac shown here, is now in the Louvre Museum, Paris. The Egyptians were influenced by Hellenistic (Greek) astrology at the time of its creation around 50 B.C. It was part of the ceiling at the Temple of Hathor, in a section devoted to Osiris.

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Brescia Clock Tower

(c) Paolo Negri/Getty Images.

This astronomical clock is from the 14th century and located in Brescia, Italy.

This gold-plated astronomical clock follows the Sun around the Zodiac. Above the clock are two statues that have been nicknamed, "i macc de le ure" or "the madmen of hours," who ring the bells on the hour.

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Prague Orloj

(c) Grant Faint/Getty Images.

This astronomical clock from the Town Hall in Prague, Czech Republic, is like a mechanical astrolabe.

This is a close-up image of the Prague Orloj, or Astronomical Clock. The clock was first created in 1410, with additions and repairs made over the centuries since then. There are three components of the clock, which is located at the Prague Town Hall. One is an astronomical clock, with hands following the Sun, Moon, and their movement through the Zodiac. There's also a calendar dial with gold medallions for of the months of the year. The third section has moving sculptures of the Apostles and is called Walk of the Apostles.

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Wheel of Fortune

This comes from the Librode la Venutura or Book of Fortune by Lorenzo Spirito.

The Book of Fortune was first published in 1482, but this is from a revised 1508 edition. The notion of fate determined by a wheel of fortune was popular in the late Medieval period to the Early Renaissance. This illustration shows the Sun at the center, with the Zodiac signs around the wheel. It was distributed in Catholic countries, like Italy, where the Book of Fortune was a popular bestseller.

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Padua Astrarium

The astronomical clock in Padua was the earliest of its kind, built first in 1344.

It's called an astrarium and originally had an astrolabe, and calendar dials. The first was created in 1344 by scholar and physician, Jacopo de 'Dondi, but destroyed in fighting with Milan in 1390. The original had figures that moved to show the lunar aspects to the Sun. The Zodiac is complete except for Libra, with its symbol the Scales. The story is that it was left out by guild workers who felt they were unfairly treated by the city commissioners.

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St. Mark's Clock

Torre del' Orologio (c) Margarit Raler.

This astronomical clock in Venice was created from 1496 to 1499.

This astronomical clock is in the Torre del' Orologio on St. Mark's Square in Venice, Italy. The original clock had concentric rings that showed the positions of the Sun, Moon, as well as the relative positions of Saturn, Jupiter, Venus, Mercury, and Mars. The Roman Numerals show the hours of the day. During the 14th and 15th-centuries, these mechanical astronomical clocks were created in several European cities.