Eclipses cast shadows on history

Posted at 11:38 AM, Aug 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-18 11:38:25-04

(RNN) – Eclipses cast shadows over the daily lives of earlier folk, who regarded the sun's disappearance as the work of a god or a portent of trouble. 

Some people blamed various large, hungry creatures for trying to eat the sun.

Chinese tradition calls for the beating of drums to scare away a hungry dragon, The Independent said. 

In Vietnam, it's a frog that's blamed for devouring the sun, according to the BBC.

The Incas of South America also blame creatures for eating the sun, the Exploratorium wrote.

The Vikings blamed hungry wolves, the National Geographic said, and Kwakiutl tribe faulted the mouth of Heaven.

According to legend, an eclipse that may have occurred in 2136 BCE, or Before Common Era.

It led to the death of two Chinese astronomers - Hi (or Hsi) and Ho, known throughout history as "the drunken astronomers."

An unknown author penned a poem about the hapless duo, NASA said:  "Here lie the bodies of Ho and Hi Whose fate though sad was visible, Being hanged because they could not spy Th'eclipse which was invisible."

The Greek poet Archilochus described an eclipse in 647 BCE, which he blamed on Zeus. He describes his shock at seeing the phenomenon:

Nothing can be surprising any more or impossible or miraculous, now that Zeus, father of the Olympians has made night out of noonday, hiding the bright sunlight, and . . . fear has come upon mankind. After this, men can believe anything, expect anything. Don't any of you be surprised in future if land beasts change places with dolphins and go to live in their salty pastures, and get to like the sounding waves of the sea more than the land, while the dolphins prefer the mountains.

Throughout history, some events have coincided with eclipses, and some events have been spurred on by the sun's brief disappearance.

In 400 century BCE, combatants in a lengthy border war between the Lydians and the Medes near what is now Turkery brokered a peace after seeing an eclipse. 

An eclipse in 1133 coincided with the death of King Henry I of England, which ushered a time of chaos.

Historian William of Malmsbury laid the drama on thick when describing the eclipse: 

For the Sun on that day at the 6th hour shrouded his glorious face, as the poets say, in hideous darkness, agitating the hearts of men by an eclipse; and on the 6th day of the week early in the morning there was so great an earthquake that the ground appeared absolutely to sink down; an horrid noise being first heard beneath the surface.

in 1831, Nat Turner, a slave, witnessed an eclipse and took it as a sign to start a deadly slave rebellion in Virginia.

Though modern man knows a lot more about astronomy than the ancients, people still take precautions. 

It is considered bad luck for pregnant women in India to be outside during the eclipse.

In 2016, apprehensive Dayak tribesmen in Palangkaraya, on Borneo island in Asia, chanted to make sure the sun didn't disappear completely, said.

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