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.