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Text #3621

Stephenson. Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation
[pp. 125--127]

By far the most well known observation of a solar eclipse from Assyria occurred in 763 BC.1 This is recorded not on an astrological text but in the Assyrian Chronicle:

(Eponym of) Bur-Saggile of Guzana. Revolt in the citadel; in (the month) Siwan, the Sun had an eclipse (samas attain). [Assyrian Chronicle; trans. Millard (1994, p. 58).]

[…] The Assyrian Chronicle records very few natural events. It is mainly a list of the annual limmu, senior officials after whom the year was named. […]

[…] The month Siwan, the third month of the year, was equivalent to May-June. Reference to the charts of Oppolzer (1887) shows that between 777 and 745 BC only two eclipses could have been large in Assyria: BC 765 Feb 10 and 763 Jun 15. Of these, Feb 10 is far too early for Siwan and hence the date of the eclipse must be BC 763 Jun 15. This date was accepted by Fotheringham (1920b).

As no other eclipse is mentioned in the Assyrian Chronicle, Fotheringham supposed that it must have been total somewhere in Assyria. However, this suggestion is unfounded; the record gives no information regarding magnitude, although the eclipse was presumably very striking. It may well have been seen at the Assyrian capital of Ashur (lat. = 35.48 deg, long. = -43.23 deg), but the report could have come from some provincial location instead.

  1. This solar eclipse is the keystone date of Neo-Assyrian chronology and by extension to the whole chronology of Antiquity. [nE]

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