Homer’s Odyssey Said to Document 3,200-Year-Old Eclipse

From Scientific American:

Eclipse Researchers say that references to planets and constellations in the Odyssey describe a solar eclipse that occurred in 1178 B.C., nearly three centuries before Homer is believed to have written the story. If correct, the finding would suggest that the ancient poet had a surprisingly detailed knowledge of astronomy.

The Odyssey, commonly dated to near 800 B.C., describes the 10-year voyage of the Greek general Odysseus to his home on the island of Ithaca after the fall of Troy in approximately 1200 B.C. Toward the end of the story, a seer named Theoclymenus prophecies the death of a group of suitors competing for the affection of Penelope, the wife of Odysseus, who is believed to be dead. Theoclymenus delivers his prophecy as the suitors are sitting down for their noontime meal. He foresees them entering Hades and ends his speech with the statement, “The Sun has been obliterated from the sky, and an unlucky darkness invades the world.” Odysseus dispatches the suitors not long thereafter.

Greek scholars Plutarch and Heraclitus advanced the idea that Theoclymenus’s speech was a poetic description of an eclipse. They cited references in the story that the day of the prophecy was a new moon, which would be true of an eclipse.

More here.