Pliny the Elder (23–79 CE) in his Natural History refers to the eclipse (Greek, ekleipsis, “abandonment, failing of power”) of the moon and the sun as “the most marvelous and indeed portentous occurrence in the whole of our observation of nature” (1944, II.VI.46). He notes how the sun and moon “retaliate on one another” as they cross paths, the rays of the sun being taken away by moon and earth (1944, II.VI.47). Pliny says that for a long time people in the ancient world have dreaded an eclipse as a portent of crime or death and how the dying of the moon meant that “she was poisoned” (1944, II.viii.54). In his Tetrabiblos, the Greek astronomer Claudius Ptolemaeus (ca. 100–178 CE) refers to the eclipse as the first and most potent cause of the general conditions of countries or cities (Ptolemy 1940, ii, 75). He interprets the meanings of the colors of eclipses or formations such as light rays (rabdōn) and halos. Black colors “signify the effects” (phanenta sēmantika) of the cooling,...
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