Celestial / Comet

79AD Mar. 22 , Duration 20d ± 10d

Event #253: Vespasian's comet

Stable URL: http://cof.quantumfuturegroup.org/events/253

Geographical sites:

  • Korea (click here to focus in map)


Text #8793

Dio Cassius. Roman History. Vol. 8
[DioCass. 66. Translated by Earnest Cary. Harvard University Press. 1925. (9 Vols.) p. 295]

HTML URL: http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Rom...

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[…] Vespasian fell sick, not, if the truth be known, of his accustomed gout, but of a fever, and passed away at Aquae Cutiliae in the Sabine country. […] Portents had occurred indicating his approaching end, such as the comet which was visible for a long time and the opening of the mausoleum of Augustus of its own accord. […] To those who said anything to him about the comet he said: “This is an omen, not for me, but for the Parthian king; for he has long hair, whereas I am bald.” When at last he was convinced that he was going to die, he said: “I am already becoming a god.”

Text #8791

Juvenal, "The Satires of Juvenal", in The Satires of Juvenal, Persius, Sulpicia and Lucilius, translated by Evans, Lewis
[Ch. 6 p. 53]

HTML URL: http://books.google.be/books?id=VxmJ_5T-r...

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She1 is the first to see the comet that menaces the Armenian and Parthian king; and she intercepts at the gates the reports and freshest news. Some she invents as well. That Niphates2 has overwhelmed whole nations, and that the whole country is there laid under water by a great deluge; that cities are tottering, the earth sinking down - this she tells in every place of resort to everyone she meets.3

  1. The gossiping woman. [nE].

  2. A mountain in Armenia [nE].

  3. While describing the gossiping woman who knows everything that is going on, Juvenal (Satires, 6.407-412) is the only source for claiming that a comet preceded the 115 Antioch earthquake. Barrett thinks that it is solely a reference to comets in general, whereas Ramsey postulates that this is the Chinese comet of January 117. (Barrett. "Observations of Comets in Greek and Roman Sources before A.D. 410". Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. Vol. 72 ; Ramsey. "A Descriptive Catalogue of Greco-Roman Comets from 500 B.C. to A.D. 400". Journal for the History of Astronomy. Vol. 38 [pp. 175--197]) However, it appears to actually refer to the comet of 79. At the time, as noted above, Vespasian was told that comets portend evil and responded that the comet was intended for the Parthian king who wore his hair long, and not for him because he was bald. This suggests that Barrett was correct in assuming that this was a comment on comets in general because there is no other source for a comet associated with the Antioch earthquake of 115 AD while there is an implicit association between a comet and the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD. [nE]

Text #8792

Tranquillus. The Twelve Caesars
[Bk. 8 Ch. 23 p. 287]

Nothing could stop this flow of humour, even the fear of imminent death. Among the many portents of his end was a yawning crevice in the Mausoleum of Augustus. ‘That will be for Junia Calvina,’ he said; ‘she is one of his descendants.’ And at the fatal sight of a comet he cried, ‘Look at that long hair! The King of Parthia must be going to die.’ His deathbed joke was ‘Dear me! I must be turning into a god.’

Text #8794

Victor. "Epitome De Caesaribus"
[Verse 143 ]

HTML URL: http://www.roman-emperors.org/epitome.htm...

And so, passing the sixty-ninth year of his life, he died, mingling with serious matters the jests in which he always took pleasure. 18. Indeed, first, when a comet had appeared, he said, “That concerns the King of Persia” (whose hair is rather long). Then, exhausted by an exudation of the bowels, he rose up and said, “It becomes an imperator to depart the earth standing.”

Text #328

Yeomans. Comets

79 AD, April, Korea, Italy.

A broom star comet was first seen in the east and then in the north, disappearing after 20 days. This may be the comet that prompted the Roman emperor Vespasian to joke - “this hairy star is an omen for the king of the Persians” - since Persian kings wore their hair long and Vespasian was balding.

Text #327

Kronk. Cometography: A Catalog of Comets. Series: Cometography. Vol. 1
[p. 36]

X/79 F1: This comet was apparently observed in Italy and Korea. Although it was not observed well enough for the computation of an orbit, the comet is still noteworthy because this marked the first time the phrase “hairy star” was used in reference to a comet.

The Roman historians Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, Dio Cassius, and Aurelius Victor all tell the story of the comet being brought to the attention of the Roman emperor Vespasian. The suggestion was made that the comet could be a bad omen for the emperor, to which Vespasian replied “this hairy star is an omen for the king of the Persians…for he has long hair, whereas I am bald.” Although the description stuck, Vespasian’s prediction proved incorrect when he died on 79 June 4. Dio Cassius added that the comet was “visible for a long time.”

Although some historians consider Korean accounts to be inaccurate during this time, the Chronicle of Silla, contained in the Korean text Samguk Sagi (1145), says a “broom star” was seen sometime during the month of 79 March 22 to April 20. The object is said to have appeared in the east, and was eventually seen in the west. It vanished after 20 days of visibility. The time period would seem close enough to the Roman comet to warrant the suggestion that they were one and the same.

Full moon: April 4

Sources: Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus, Dio Cassius, Samguk Sagi

Text #8789

Pankenier & Xu & Jiang. Archaeoastronomy in East Asia

23rd year of King Talhae of Silla, spring, 2nd month; a broom star was seen in the east then was seen again in the north, and after 20 days, it was extinguished.

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