Sunday 28 May 2023

path of totality (10. 774)

Hailed by Isaac Asimov and others as the singular advent of science though some doubts persist to the accuracy of the claims of having forecasted the event in advance and what method was used, the 585 BC solar eclipse over Anatolia predicted by Thales of Miletus (the first philosopher to have broke with the tradition of mythology as a explanation for the state of the Cosmos, used deductive reasoning, proposed navigating by the stars and credited with the maxim “Know Thyself” as well as being a shrewd entrepreneur, having bought up all the olive presses in his archontes ahead of what was a very good harvest) that occurred on this day is a cardinal date used for triangulating other historical events, and, if true, is the earliest instance known of such an advanced vaticination. The announced event happened during a skirmish in the protracted war between the Medes and the Lydians, under the leadership of Cyaxares and Alyattes respectively, at Halys—the river bordering the two kingdoms, with the belligerents taking it as an omen to call a truce, though Miletus had no dog in this fight. Though astronomical knowledge at this point in history was not sufficiently advanced to know that the shadow of the Moon caused eclipses (not an avowed flat-earther, he provisionally believed that the continents floated on an infinite ocean under the dome of the firmament until a better idea came along)—that would come a century later—it is speculated that Miletus had noticed patterns in the periodicity, known to the Babylonians and programmed into the Antikythera Mechanism.