Text #8199"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:
- [If the star(?)] … rises and passes over [from] east to west [… ]
- [it makes a frightful(?)] sound and the land hears, [… the …] hear,
- there is a sulphur [fire] , and (the bolide) is going along the horizon,
- (that means?): its message is by means of fire. The messenger(?) of Enlil brings greetings to Anu-rabû,
- [a mes]senger brings the greeting of Anu-rabû to Enlil and is immediately dispatched(?) with haste, then
- [they look(?)] (favourably) upon him(?), and (there is?) the sound of the opening (?) of the doors of heaven which the land hears.
- 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.