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New date determined for eclipse in Homer's Odyssey

Scientists from the University of Athens have attempted once more to date Homer's Odyssey based on the study of astronomical phenomena described in the ancient Greek literary materpiece.

New date determined for eclipse in Homer's Odyssey
The slaughter of the suitors by Odysseus and Telemachus by Louis Vincent Palliere, 1812 
[Credit: WikiCommons]
“We believe that the story unfolds around some real events,” says professor of Astrophysics of University of Athens Panagiota Preka–Papadima, who led the research team.

“Odysseus arrived in Ithaca on October 25, 1207 BC. Five days later a 75% solar eclipse was recorded over the Ionian Sea. This is when Odysseus killed the suitors,” says Mrs. Papadima.

“We know from astronomical maps provided by NASA that between 1300 BC until 1130 BC, when the Homeric epics are dated, 14 solar eclipses took place. Only five were visible in the Ionian. Two of these were only at 2% and so were probably not noticed, while a third took place at sunset. The fourth eclipse occurred in 1143 BC, a date close to the decline of the Mycenaean civilization. Another eclipse, however, took place half a century earlier, on October 30, 1207 BC, from 14:30 until 17:30,” she explains.

Mrs. Papadima considers that this eclipse is in full accordance with the description found near the end of the Odyssey, when the seer Theoclymenus foretells the death of all the suitors, saying:

Poor men, what terror is this that overwhelms you so? Night shrouds your heads, your faces, down to your knees — cries of mourning are bursting into fire — cheeks rivering tears — the walls and the handsome crossbeams dripping dank with blood! Ghosts, look, thronging the entrance, thronging the court, go trooping down to the realm of death and darkness! The sun is blotted out of the sky — look there — a lethal mist spreads all across the Earth.

"This is a description of the eclipse which hid 3/4 of the sun," says Mr. Papadima. "The date of the eclipse, October 30, 1207 BC, is also in complete agreement with the Homeric descriptions of the autumn rural life and the mid-afternoon killing of the suitors," she says.

"Two such important developments like the murder of all the successors in Ithaca and the solar eclipse must have spread rapidly throughout Greece as an extremely memorable event" concludes Mrs. Papadima.

The study, titled 'The Anatomy of a Complex Astronomical Phenomenon Described in the Odyssey', is freely available here.

Source: Kathimerini [January 02, 2016]

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