The problem of determining an orbit may be regarded as coeval with Hipparchus, who, it is supposed, found the moving positions of the apogee and perigee of the moon's orbit.
Assuming the mean motion of the moon to be known and the perigee to be fixed, three eclipses, observed in different points of the orbit, would give as many true longitudes of the moon, which longitudes could be employed to determine three unknown quantities - the mean longitude at a given epoch, the eccentricity, and the position of the perigee.
Thus the apogee and perigee became two definite points of the orbit, indicated by the variations in the angular motion of the moon.
By taking three eclipses separated at short intervals, both the mean motion and the motion of the perigee would be known beforehand, from other data, with sufficient accuracy to reduce all the observations to the same epoch, and thus to leave only the three elements already mentioned unknown.
The Babylonians knew of the inequality in the daily motion of the sun, but misplaced by to' the perigee of his orbit.
We may conclude the ancient history of the lunar theory by saying that the only real progress from Hipparchus to Newton consisted in the more exact determination of the mean motions of the moon, its perigee and its line of nodes, and in the discovery of three inequalities, the representation of which required geometrical constructions increasing in complexity with every step.