Geographical sites:

  • Babylon (click here to focus in map) (see also Pleiades #727082)
    Pleiades_icon Babylon settlement, fort Geocontext: Fostat, Cairo
    Description: An ancient fortified city of the Delta of Egypt, located at Babylon in the area today known as Coptic Cairo.


Text #8199

Bjorkman. "Meteors and Meteorites in the Ancient Near East". Meteoritics. Vol. 12

A striking account of a bolide comes from a poorly-preserved Neo-Babylonian text (Biggs, 1967, 120-121), dating to ca. 650 B.C. The outline of events is reasonably clear:

  1. [If the star(?)] … rises and passes over [from] east to west [… ]
  2. [it makes a frightful(?)] sound and the land hears, [… the …] hear,
  3. there is a sulphur [fire] , and (the bolide) is going along the horizon,
  4. (that means?): its message is by means of fire. The messenger(?) of Enlil brings greetings to Anu-rabû,
  5. [a mes]senger brings the greeting of Anu-rabû to Enlil and is immediately dispatched(?) with haste, then
  6. [they look(?)] (favourably) upon him(?), and (there is?) the sound of the opening (?) of the doors of heaven which the land hears.
  7. Anu [commands] Enlil to promulgate a misaru-act (etc.)

The following characteristics of a bolide are obvious in the text: a loud noise, the appearance of fire, the smell of sulphur, and the linear path of flight. The mention of sulphur is particularly interesting. It also occurs with the account of a bolide in Virgil’s Aeneid (Newton, 1897, 5), as well as in the much later account of a shower of stony meteorites near Crema, Italy, in 1511. Of the heavy stones which fell, in the latter case, it was reported that “the odor … was similar to that of sulphur” (LaPaz, 1969, 96).

The exact sequence of events in the Neo-Babylonian text is problematic, however, since it is impossible to smell sulphur from a bolide. The smell would be noticeable only after nearing very large meteorites after they have fallen.

Text #8577

Edouard Biot. Catalogue général des étoiles filantes et des autres météores observés en Chine pendant vingt-quatre siècles
[p. 7]

644: Au printemps, à la 1ere lune, jour wou-chin, 1er de la lune (24 décembre 645), il tomba cinq pierres dans le pays de Soung (Ho-nan oriental): c’étaient des étoiles tombantes.

Text #9026

Editorial comment by Laura Knight-Jadczyk

The reader might wish to pay special attention to the mythical language used to describe a bolide and realize that much, if not most, mythological language found in ancient texts is similarly being used to describe astronomical and/or atmospheric events.

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