Eclipses: Calculating and Predicting Eclipses

  • J. M. Steele
Reference work entry

Many reports of attempts to predict the occurrence of eclipses of the sun and moon are preserved in the histories of non‐Western cultures. The majority of these records come from ancient Mesopotamia, ancient and medieval China, and medieval Japan, with a few scattered examples from Demotic and Greco‐Roman Egypt, India, and the Islamic world. In addition, descriptions of the methods by which the circumstances of eclipses can be calculated are known from China, India, the Islamic World, and Mesoamerica (for the latter, see the entry Eclipses in the Americas).

The earliest reports of attempts to predict eclipses are recorded in the correspondence between the Neo‐Assyrian kings of Mesopotamia and their scholars during the seventh century BCE (Hunger 1992; Parpola 1993; Steele 2000b; Brown 2000: 200–206). For example, a letter sent by one Mar‐Issar to the king reads (Parpola 1993: 347):

To the king, my lord: your servant Mar‐Issar. Good health to the king, my lord! May Nabû and Marduk bless...

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  • J. M. Steele

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