Text #8751

Obsequens. "A Book of Prodigies After the 505th year of Rome"


51. C. Caelio L. Domitio coss. AUC 660/94 BC

There was a nine-day sacrifice, because among the Volscian tribe it had rained stones. At Vulsinium a new moon waned and did not reappear except on the following day at the third hour. A two-headed, four-footed, four-handed girl with twin sets of female genitalia was born dead. A fire-bird was seen and killed. In the territory of the Vestini it rained stones in a villa. A torch appeared in the sky and the whole sky seemed to be ablaze. The earth flowed with blood and congealed. Dogs gnawed stones and tiles in public. At Faesulae a huge multitude was seen wearing funereal garments and with pallid expressions, walking as a group among the tombs. Because of Nasica the Spanish chieftains who were in revolt, were put to death, and their cities laid waste.

Text #877

Seneca. Natural Questions. Series: The Complete Works of Lucius Annaeus Seneca
[Sen. 7.20.4. Translated by Harry M. Hine. The University of Chicago Press. 2010 p. 127]

“On Comets”

We fail to see many comets because they are concealed by the sun’s rays. Posidonius records that once when the sun was eclipsed a comet appeared, which the nearby sun had hidden from view. Often when the sun has set, scattered fires appear not far from it; clearly the star itself is bathed in the sun’s light and so cannot be seen, but its hair escapes the sun’s rays.

Text #8752

Editorial comment by Laura Knight-Jadczyk

Seneca’s words seem to imply that Posidonius (c.130-c. 51 BC) had observed the phenomena personally. Thus, there are three dates possible for this eclipse: 19 August 115, 19 July 104 and 29 June 94. Barrett1 favors 94 BC since Obsequens reports a torch in the sky in this year, while Ramsey2 dates it to 104 BC since Obsequens records the eclipse of 19 July: “a new moon waned and did not reappear except on the following day at the third hour”.

  1. Barrett, A. A., Observations of Comets in Greek and Roman Sources Before A.D. 410, Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 72, p. 81-106

  2. Ramsey J.T., A Catalogue of Greco-Roman Comets from 500 BC to AD 400, JHA, 38, 2007, p. 175-197

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