Geographical sites:

  • Gaugamela (click here to focus in map) (see also Pleiades #874478)
    Pleiades_icon Gaugamela settlement Geocontext: perhaps Tell Gomel IRQ
    Description: An ancient place, cited: BAtlas 89 F4 Gaugamela


Text #8691

Arrian. Alexander the Great: The Anabasis and the Indica
[Arr. 3.7.6. Translated by Martin Hammond. Oxford University Press. 2013 p. 75]

The Anabasis

There was an almost total eclipse of the moon, and Alexander made sacrifice to the Moon, the Sun, and the Earth, who are generally thought to cause eclipses. Aristander gave it as his opinion that the change in the moon was favourable to the Macedonians and Alexander, that the battle would take place during that month, and that the sacrifices indicated a victory for Alexander.

Text #4023

Plutarch. Lives. Vol. 7
[Plut. Alex. 31.6--31.9. Translated by Bernadotte Perrin. Harvard University Press. 1967. (11 Vols.) p. 317]


Now, the great battle against Dareius was not fought at Arbela, as most writers state, but at Gaugamela. The word signifies, we are told, “camel’s house,” since one of the ancient kings of the country, after escaping from his enemies on a swift camel, gave the animal a home here, assigning certain villages and revenues for its maintenance. It so happened that in the month Boëdromion the moon suffered an eclipse, about the beginning of the Mysteries at Athens, and on the eleventh night after the eclipse, the armies being now in sight of one another, Dareius kept his forces under arms, and held a review of them by torch-light; but Alexander, while his Macedonians slept, himself passed the night in front of his tent with his seer Aristander, celebrating certain mysterious sacred rites and sacrificing to the god Fear.

Text #4024

Quintus Curtius Rufus. The History of the Life and Reign of Alexander the Great. Vol. 1
[Bk. 5 Ch. 10 Verse 39 ]

About the first watch, the moon became eclipsed, despoiled of her reflected luster. Afterwards a bloody hue, suffusing her face entirely- tarnished her light. The soldiers, previously filled with anxiety, on account of the approaching conflict, are struck with religious awe, wich is followed by boding terrors. They complained, “That they were led towards the bounds of the earth in defiance of the gods: rivers refused them a passage, and stars withdrew their light. Before them lay immense, unpeopled regions. The blood of so many thousands was about to be shed to gratify the restless pride of one man, disgusted with his native land, disavowing his father, and madly affecting affinity with heaven.”

Their murmurs bordered on open sedition. Alexander, undisturbed, required the Egyptian sages, whom he esteemed as superior astronomers, to disclose their sentiments respecting the phenomenon, in the presence of his generals and minor officers, whom he had summoned to head-quarters. These philosophers well knew, that the celestial bodies perform their revolutions in appointed periods of time, and that the moon suffers an eclipse whenever it passes under the shadow of the earth, or is otherwise shut out from the sun: nevertheless they withheld from the multitude the true cause of the appearance; affirming, “That the sun was the planet of Greece, as the moon was of Persia – and that a lunar eclipse portended the slaughter and overthrow of the Barbarians.”

In confirmation, they recited ancient accounts of Persian kings, who had been warned by occultations of the moon, “That to fight were to rebel against the gods.” Nothing has more influence over the many than superstition. The populace, otherwise turbulent, cruel and fickle, when carried away by a solemn imposture, yield that obedience to soothsayers wich they refuse to their rulers. Thus the answer of the Egyptians, circulated among the soldiers, revived their drooping hopes, and inspired them with new confidence.

Text #8695

Pliny. Natural History. Series: Natural History. Vol. 1
[Plin. Nat. 2.72. Translated by H. Rackham. Harvard University Press. 1967. (10 Vols.) p. 313]

Consequently inhabitants of the East do not perceive evening eclipses of the sun and moon, nor do those dwelling in the West see morning eclipses, while the latter see eclipses at midday later than we do. The victory of Alexander the Great is said to have caused an eclipse of the moon at Arbela at 8 p.m. while the same eclipse in Sicily was when the moon was just rising. An eclipse of the sun that occured on April 30 in the consulship of Vipstanus and Fonteius a few years ago was visible in Campania between 1 and 2 p.m. but was reported by Corbulo commanding in Armenia as observed between 4 and 5: this was because the curve of the globe discloses and hides different phenomena for different localities.

Text #8693

Ptolemy. Geography
[Bk. 1 Ch. 4 p. 63]

Most intervals, however, and especially those to the east or west, have been reported in a cruder manner, not because those who undertook the researches were careless, but perhaps because it was not yet understood how useful the more mathematical mode of investigation is, and because no one bothered record more lunar eclipses that were observed simultaneously at different locations (such as the one that was seen at Arbela at the fifth hour and at Carthage at the second hour) from which it would have been clear how many equinoctial time units separated the localities to the east or west.

Text #8692

Sachs & Hunger. Astronomical Diaries and Related Texts from Babylonia
[p. 177]

BM 36390 + BM 36761

2’ The 13th, moonset to sunrise: 32 minutes […]
3’ […lunar] eclipse, in its totality covered. 40 minutes of the night [totality …] Jupiter set; Saturnus
4’ […] During totality the west wind blew, during clearing the east wind. […] fourth; during the eclipse deaths and plague in […]

Text #8694

Pritchett. The Greek State at War. Series: Dictionary of arts, sciences, literature and general information. Vol. 1
[p. 112]

After Alexander had crossed the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, he rested for two days. During the night a total lunar eclipse occurred on 20 September 331, 11 days before the battle of Gaugamela. The soldiers were struck by terrors. Alexander assembled his officers (Curtius) to hear to hear the opinion from his own seer Aristander (Arrian) and from Egyptian seers (Curtius) . They proclaimed that the Sun favored the Greeks and the Moon the Persians. Thus the eclipse portended victory to the Macedonians. The soldiers were restored to confidence before the battle.

Text #9135

Stephenson. Historical Eclipses and Earth's Rotation
[pp. 372--375]

Greek, Roman and Babylonian sources record this eclipse. Only Pliny the Elder notes that on the same evening the Moon was seen to rise eclipsed in Sicily, in a section of his Natural History discussing the effect of the curvature of the Earth (and, in particular, of terrestrial longitude) on the visibility of eclipses. In the same passage, Pliny also describes a relatively recent solar eclipse (30 April 59 AD) that was visible in Campania.

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