Ancient Eclipse Found in "The Odyssey," Scientists Say

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The new findings also assume a level of astronomical sophistication among Odyssey-era Greeks that many historians would find unrealistic, Magnasco said. Little or no evidence exists of Greeks during this time tracking the movements of stars and planets in detail.

"The use of astronomical clues to set the dates of works of art is a very intriguing field that has seen a recent increase in popularity," astronomer Geza Gyuk of Chicago's Adler Planetarium said by email.

"The ability to do this relatively accurately for ancient solar eclipses is fairly new."

"Fairly Sound"

Jerry Oltion, a telescope maker, amateur astronomer, and science fiction writer from Eugene, Oregon, finds the astronomical reasoning "fairly sound."

From an artistic standpoint, he doubts Homer ever saw an eclipse himself—though that has no bearing on whether an eclipse , as Homer is thought to have lived in the ninth and eighth centuries B.C., hundreds of years after the events depicted in The Odyssey.

"Any writer who has seen an eclipse—or even heard one described—would never put his characters indoors during the climactic moment," he said.

The moment takes place at a luncheon as the oracle-like Theoclymenus speaks the passage in question to suitors courting the wife of the main character, Odysseus, who is thought dead.

Also, Oltion notes that the story leaves out many details about eclipses, such as the sun's corona.

"I don't believe Homer could have ignored all those effects," Oltion said.

However the controversy resolves, the Adler Planetarium's Gyuk lauds the study for making us think about Homer's story in new ways.

"This article celebrates Homer and pays homage to the Odyssey in the most sincere way," he said.

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