Posts Tagged ‘Ancient Eclipses’

Eclipses of conflict

4 June, 2009

Before science flourished and mankind was enlightened, eclipses were interpreted as omens or portents, especially when associated with battles. During the Zulu War in South Africa, a British battalion was massacred by Zulu warriors on 22 January 1879. At 2:29 pm, there was a solar eclipse. The conflict was named the Battle of Isandlwana, which translates from Zulu as “the day of the dead moon”.

King XerxesBesides the ancient battles of the Medians and the Lydians mentioned in the previous post, eclipses also happened in Xerxes’ expedition against Greece.

An annular one took place on February 17, 478 BC as the Persian king departed for Greece. It was recorded by Herodotus, but also supported by Hind and Chambers over a century ago.

Another eclipse was observed in Sparta (yes, yes, Xerxes attacking Sparta like in the movie 300, only well after that battle) a year later, on August 1, 477 BC where Herodotus recorded that the sky darkened in the middle of the day.

A solar eclipse was recorded on June 29, 512 AD in the Chronicle of Ireland, and another one was reported to have happened during the Battle of Stiklestad in the summer of 1030.

Eclipses of ancient history

3 June, 2009

What the earliest solar eclipse known to man?

The earliest mention comes from an Assyrian text, known as the  eclipse of Bur Sagale, having taken place on June 15, 763 BC. The text from which it was taken is considered one of the important works of the Chronology of the Ancient Orient, a framework of dates for various events, rulers and dynasties of the 3rd and 2nd millennia BC.

There is an earlier but still-unproven mention of an eclipse in May 10, 2907 BC, made on the basis of several ancient flood myths that links this eclipse with a possible meteor impact in the Indian Ocean. Other unproven ancient eclipses that are still being disputer and rely on much supposition include that of Mursili II (around 1312 BC) in Babylonia, and in China during the 5th year (2084 BC).

Astronomers Studying an EclipseGreek historian Herodotus wrote of an eclipse which occurred during the war between the Medians and the Lydians. As a result of the eclipse, soldiers on both sides lay down their weapons and declared peace.

Although studied by ancient as well as modern scientists, the exact eclipse is not known. One possibility is the eclipse that took place on May 28, 585 BC, near the Halys river in the middle of modern Turkey.

Further east, the ancient Chinese astronomer Shi Shen (4th century BC) had deduced  the relation of the Moon in a solar eclipse, and even provided instruction to predict them by using relative positions of the Moon and Sun. He was also aware of the Moon’s light being reflected light from the Sun, as were the ancients Greeks, such as Parmenides of Elea and in the time of Aristotle as well.

Chinese astronomer Zhang Heng wrote of both solar and lunar eclipses, and that was in 78-139 AD.


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