Astronomy

Lunar Eclipses of Historical Interest



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Lunar eclipses are always of interest, and they always will pique the interest of those who are fascinated by the heavens. The natural phenomenon that we take for granted today were a source of awe for the people who lived before the era of modern science. Since an eclipse seemed to be such a supernatural event, there is no doubt that there were some people who were able to manipulate others fear into their own gains. Some lunar eclipses actually changed the course of history, and allowed some people to keep their lives.

Did you know that Christopher Columbus was actually a pretty mean guy? When he first arrived on the islands of the Bahamas, he was greeted warmly by the natives, and they treated him well. After awhile though, his condescending attitude toward them, and his belittling of them as nothing more than savages caused them to not like him. They refused to give him food and supplies, and Columbus needed some sort of tactic to get him food.

On February 29th, 1504 Columbus need something to go his way, and he got his wish with the occurrence of an eclipse that night. He told the natives that God would be angry if he was not treated well, and to prove this there would be a symbol in the sky. Sure enough, the lunar eclipse was taken by the natives as this sign from God, and they were so scared that they gave him everything he wanted until he was able to safely leave.

The democracy that we take for granted today was actually wiped out in Ancient Greece thanks to an eclipse of the Moon. During the Peloponnesian war, the Athenian army had the Sicilian city of Syracuse under a siege. As the Greeks were about to attack, there was a lunar eclipse. The Athenians took this eclipse as a sign from the Gods, and thought that it would be better off if they stayed put.

The Greek commander Nicia waited 27 days before finally pulling out, however by the time they had made any type of move, the Syracuscans had already managed to bust free of the siege. The entire fleet of the Athenians were destroyed, Athens was eventually overrun, and the democracy they had founded had collapsed.

So a lunar eclipse may not seem like a big deal today, and may seem routine in our times, but it was a big deal back in the day. A simple lunar eclipse was able to destroy democracy! It was also able to help a ruthless Christopher Columbus keep his life, and manipulate an entire island of people. Eclipses certainly were a source of wonder, and a little scary, and with good reason. Luckily we know enough now to not let an eclipse end civilization.

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