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THE ECLIPSE OF XERXES IN HERODOTUS 7.37: LUX A NON OBSCURANDO*

  • Eric Glover (a1)

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Reports of lunar and solar eclipses are of interest to students of both history and the history of science. Used with care, they can anchor significant historical events in time. Greek literature, like that of other civilizations, has its fair share of such reports. Often they motivate the actions of characters or expose aspects of belief. Sometimes they shed light on the assumptions of the writer. There are three places in the Histories of Herodotus where the author mentions darkenings of the sky (generally taken to be solar eclipses), which have narrative significance and which assist in dating the wars between the Lydians and the Medes (1.74) and between the Greeks and the Persians (7.37 and 9.10).

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My thanks are due to Elizabeth Glover for her insightful remarks, to CQ's anonymous reader for assisting with focus, and to Professor Brian Everitt for encouragement and advice.

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1 An important caveat arises for distant epochs, owing to the risk of circular reasoning. Dated observations of astronomical phenomena are the basis for estimation of the critical parameter ΔT, which is the accumulated deviation from a uniform time scale caused by the Earth's variable rate of rotation. These observations become sparser the further back in time one goes. Yet, ΔT in turn may be used to fix the dates of astronomical phenomena and thus the contexts in which they are described: see Stephenson, F.R., ‘How reliable are archaic records of large solar eclipses?’, JHA 39 (2008), 229–50; Morrison, L.V. and Stephenson, F.R., ‘Historical values of the Earth's clock error ΔT and the calculation of eclipses’, JHA 35 (2004), 327–36. However, by comparing two sets of independent data, the authors show that the values for ΔT can be quite accurately interpolated with cubic spline functions down to about 700 b.c.e. (a parabolic estimator being used for earlier times) and are thought to be reliable to this date.

2 The first of these, the Eclipse of Thales, has been controversial with some historians of science: see Neugebauer, O., The Exact Sciences in Antiquity (Princeton, NJ, 1951), 142–3, a view I do not share.

3 It was already debated over a century ago: see Lynn, W.T., ‘The eclipse of Xerxes’, The Observatory 13 (1890), 327–8; Stockwell, J.N., ‘On the rectification of chronology by means of ancient eclipses’, Astronomical Journal 10 (1891), 185–9.

4 Commentaries repeatedly cited are H&W = How, W.W. and Wells, J., A Commentary on Herodotus (Oxford, 1928), and Macan = Macan, R.W., Herodotus: The Seventh, Eighth, & Ninth Books: With Introduction, Text, Apparatus, Commentary, Appendices, Indices, Maps (London, 1908).

5 Plin. HN 2.15 charts the transition from ignorance to knowledge.

6 An anonymous commentary on Hom. Od. 20 (P. Oxy 3710, col ii, fr. c, 36–43) attributes to Aristarchus the view that Thales understood the geometry of solar eclipses. Stronger is the evidence for Anaxagoras, as stated in Pl. Cra. 409a7–b8. It has been suggested that Anaxagoras witnessed the annular solar eclipse of 17 February 478 b.c.e. in Athens and derived estimates for the size of the Sun and Moon; see Graham, D.W. and Hintz, E., ‘Anaxagoras and the solar eclipse of 478 bc’, Apeiron 40 (2007), 319–44. For detailed analysis (though prior to the Oxyrhynchus evidence for Thales), see O'Brien, D., ‘Derived light and eclipses in the fifth century’, JHS 88 (1968), 114–27.

7 Neugebauer, O., A History of Ancient Mathematical Astronomy (Berlin, 1975), 1.2, Introduction. The Babylonians were not dispassionate observers, however, and concentrated on phenomena which they deemed to be ominous: see Rochberg-Halton, F., ‘Between observation and theory in Babylonian astronomical texts’, JNES 50 (1991), 107–20. They also invented astronomical phenomena which could never occur, such as constellations approaching each other: see Brown, D., Mesopotamian Planetary Astronomy–Astrology (Groningen, 2000), §3.2.1.

8 Neugebauer (n. 7) 1.2, 550, points out that understanding the true nature of a lunar eclipse is tantamount to knowing the Earth to be spherical, whereas understanding a solar eclipse does not entail knowing more than what is already apparent to the eye, namely that the Sun and Moon present themselves as discs. Anaxagoras, who espoused the notion of a flat Earth and was mindful of the geometrical problem that this would cause, postulated celestial bodies, in addition to the Earth, as causes of lunar eclipses. It seems likely that Herodotus' own astronomical understanding was rudimentary, judging from his analysis of the annual Nile flood (2.24). However, he may have understood the basic cause of eclipses to be the blockage of the Sun's light by the Moon or the Earth.

9 Established by Sachs, A.J., ‘Babylonian observational astronomy’, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A 276 (1974), 4350. The standard edition is Sachs, A.J. (completed by H. Hunger), Astronomical Diaries Vols I–VI (Vienna, 1988–2006).

10 Alm. 3.6 (Syntaxis Mathematica Teubner 254, 3–13). The date is generally accepted: see Neugebauer (n. 7), 1.2, 549.

11 For the haphazard provenance, relative sparsity, and complexity of the Babylonian ‘mathematical’ sources, see Neugebauer (n. 7), 1.2, 351–3. A recent account can be found in Brown (n. 7), Introduction.

12 Steele, J.M. and Stephenson, F.R., ‘Lunar eclipse times predicted by the Babylonians’, JHA 28 (1997), 119–31.

13 Steele, J.M., ‘Solar eclipse times predicted by the Babylonians’, JHA 28 (1997), 133–9.

14 Plut. Vit. Per. 35.1–2 ; Cic. Rep. 1.16.

15 This was possible owing to the incorporation of Babylonian numerical data into Greek geometrical analysis: see Neugebauer (n. 7), 1.1, 308–9. Note also that Plin. HN 2.10 credits Hipparchus as the originator of contemporary eclipse theory.

16 All translations from Greek are mine unless otherwise stated. Unless indicated otherwise, Greek text is taken from the appropriate OCT.

17 The term magnitude refers to that proportion of the diameter of the eclipsed body which is obscured. A total eclipse has a magnitude of 100% or greater, a partial eclipse has a magnitude of less than 100%. The abbreviation UT refers to Universal Time, essentially the modern form of Greenwich Mean Time. Locations in ancient Greece and western Anatolia can be thought of (anachronistically) as being between 1.5 and 2 hours ahead.

18 I have given the text according to Dover, K.J. (ed.), Aristophanes: Clouds (Oxford, 1968). He notes (ad loc.) that this part of the play was composed in late 424 b.c.e. As he observes, there was a total lunar eclipse on 9 October 425 b.c.e. and a partial solar eclipse in Athens on 21 March 424 b.c.e. but, while topical, these can hardly be used to ‘date’ the action of the play.

19 Meton appears in Ar. Av. 993–1018 and is mentioned in Ptol. Alm. 3.2 (Teubner 205, 15–21) as having observed the June solstice of 432 b.c.e. in Athens, during the archonship of Apseudes.

20 For emergent subject specialisms, see Bromberg, J.A., ‘Academic disciplines in AristophanesClouds (200–3)', CQ 62 (2012), 8191.

21 For analysis and nomenclature, see Neugebauer (n. 7), 1.2, 497–9 (also Neugebauer [n. 2]), 502–4, 525.

22 Neugebauer (n. 7), 1.2, 542.

23 Airy, G.B., ‘On the eclipses of Agathocles, Thales, and Xerxes’, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 143 (1853), 179200.

24 The disparagement of Airy's analysis in North, J., Cosmos (Chicago, IL, 2008), 95, seems overdone and to be based on the scepticism of scholars such as Neugebauer towards the Eclipse of Thales. It arises, perhaps, from unfamiliarity with the typical formulaic vagueness of early Greek eclipse descriptions.

25 I have used two: F. Espenak and J. Meeus, Five Millennium Catalog of Solar Eclipses: –1999 to +3000 (2000 bce to 3000 ce), Revised (NASA Technical Publication NASA/TP-2009-214174, 2009), cited as FMCSE and available online at http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/SEcat5/SEcatalog.html, and F. Espenak and J. Meeus, Five Millennium Catalog of Lunar Eclipses: –1999 to +3000 (2000 bce to 3000 ce) (NASA Technical Publication NASA/TP-2009-214173, 2009), cited as FMCLE and available online at http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/LEcat5/LEcatalog.html (both last retrieved 17 February 2013). Espenak and Meeus use the estimates for ΔT as derived by Morrison and Stephenson (n. 1). For the time period we are concerned with (c. 480 b.c.e.), the interpolated value of ΔT is approximately 16,800 seconds (4 hours and 40 minutes) and the standard error estimate for ΔT (given by σ = 0.8 t 2, where t = [year – 1820] / 100) is 416 seconds or nearly 7 minutes, which corresponds to 1° 44′ in longitude. At the latitude of Sardis this gives a longitudinal error of approximately ±150 kilometres.

26 This is the eclipse of the Oxyrhynchus commentator (n. 6). It is not unanimously accepted. For recent support, see Baikouzis, C. and Magnasco, M.O., ‘Is an eclipse described in the Odyssey?’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 105 (2008), 8823–28, which is challenged in Gainsford, P., ‘Odyssey 20.356–7 and the eclipse of 1178 b.c.e.: a response to Baikouzis and Magnasco’, TAPhA 142 (2012), 122.

27 For context, see Arist. Rh. 3.17.16.

28 The eclipse of 648 b.c.e. was total over the central Aegean (though not quite total over either Paros or Thasos), reaching a maximum in the mid-morning at 08:06 UT. The eclipse of 661 b.c.e. was annular, reaching a maximum around 13:30 UT.

29 Probably the eclipse of 30 April 463 b.c.e., which was partial at Thebes (not total, as reported in many commentaries), reaching a magnitude of 98% at 13:01 UT. See Rutherford, I., Pindar's Paeans: A Reading of the Fragments with a Survey of the Genre (Oxford, 2001), 189200, for analysis.

30 For a chronology of events see Sacks, K.S., ‘Herodotus and the dating of the battle of Thermopylae’, CQ 26 (1976), 232–48.

31 So H&W (n. 4) and Macan (n. 4), ad loc. For the date of the Carneia, see Burkert, W., Greek Religion, tr. Raffan, J. (Oxford, 1985), 234. If the festival ended on the full Moon, this was on 20 August.

32 See Flower, M.A. and Marincola, J., Herodotus: Histories: Book IX (Cambridge, 2002), ad loc.

33 Vannicelli, P., Erodoto: Le Storie: libro IX (Milan, 2006) ad loc., rightly dismisses the suggestion of a cloudy sky as being the cause of the darkness, although, of course, clouds often assist in witnessing a solar eclipse.

34 Such ‘border crossing’ sacrifices are mentioned elsewhere at Hdt. 6.76.2 and 9.19.2 and also in Thuc. 5.54.1, 5.55.3, and 5.116.1. Their importance is discussed in Xen. Lac. 13.2–5.

35 Flower and Marincola (n. 32), ad loc., assume that the very fact of the eclipse was sufficient to halt the intended attack. Cf. the Eclipse of Nicias mentioned earlier (Thuc. 7.50.4).

36 H&W (n. 4) at 7.37.1, following Hdt. 8.51.1, allow a month for the march from Sardis to Abydos, a month for the sojourn and crossing at the Hellespont, and three months from Sestos to Athens. This suggests that Xerxes left Sardis in early April.

37 This, of course, is acknowledged in all the major commentaries and a variety of solutions proposed which I discuss below.

38 That Ahuramazda was the guiding principle of Darius and Xerxes is confirmed by the Old Persian inscriptions at Behistun, Persepolis, and elsewhere, but the details and rituals of the accompanying belief system have been the subject of controversy. It now seems established, however, that the Achaemenian dynasty from Cyrus the Great onwards were Zoroastrians: see Boyce, M., History of Zoroastrianism, vol. 2 (Leiden, 1982), Foreword.

39 Proposed by Hind, J.R., Astronomical Register 10 (1872), 207–14 (apparently, first stated in a letter to The Times), and supported by Butler, A.F., Herodotus VII (London, 1891), ad loc.

40 For discussion, see H&W (n. 4), ad loc.

41 So H&W (n. 4), ad loc., but Macan (n. 4) thought that it was at Tyana, 120 kilometres south-west.

42 The limit of partiality was longitude 36° 11′ E, 700 kilometres east of Sardis and thus outside the margin of error for ΔT.

43 For discussions of his knowledge of Persia, see Boyce (n. 38), 179; Miller, M.C., Athens and Persia in the Fifth Century bc: A Study in Cultural Receptivity (Cambridge, 1997), 105–8.

44 So Macan (n. 4); H&W (n. 4); etc.

45 The remarks of the Magi may be a marginal comment (cf. προδέκτορα, ‘predictor’, a hapax legomenon formed from the preceding verb), but if so they must be an ancient incorporation. The text as described in Hude, C., Herodoti Historiae (Oxford, 1927 3), Praefatio, seems secure and there is no external evidence to support interpolation.

46 Boyce (n. 38), 180–1, states that his presentation of Persian society, though eclectic and superficial, is not fundamentally inaccurate.

47 Most authorities agree on the significance of the Sun in Persian religion: see Boyce, M., History of Zoroastrianism, vol. 1 (Leiden, 1975), 113–14.

48 FMCLE (n. 25), 1.2.11 and 1.7.1.

49 Airy, of course, supplies no figures for the discounted eclipse of 25 March 480 b.c.e., but he does for the eclipse he himself suggests, that of 14 March 479 b.c.e. That his calculations have been improved upon in recent times is hardly surprising and can be verified by examination of the data which he submits for the later eclipse. For example, he predates it by about twelve hours to 13 March (a ΔT error) and states that totality lasted for ‘nearly two hours’, whereas in FMCLE (n. 25) the duration is given as 95 minutes. With regard to alignment, he says that the Moon's limb was ‘at least within 16′ of the inner boundary of the Earth's penumbra’. The modern calculated parameter (γ = –0.1841) implies that the actual figure should be about 31 minutes of arc (my estimate), indicating that the error bounds for Airy's calculations were sufficiently large to allow the partiality of the eclipse of 25 March 480 b.c.e. to go unnoticed by him.

50 FMCLE (n. 25), 1.7.1.

51 For an impression of a partial lunar eclipse of small magnitude (5.9%, that of 4 June 2012), see Espenak's personal website: http://mreclipse.com/LEphoto/PLE2012Jun/PLE2012galleryA.html (last retrieved 17 February 2013). It can be seen that the umbra diffuses over more of the disc (an effect of the Earth's atmosphere) than may be supposed from calculation.

52 Although Herodotus remains our most important source for the customs of the Lydians and the Hellenizing tendencies of their kings, there is a certain amount of external evidence to back up the general assertion of a common Greek–Lydian culture during the sixth and seventh centuries, which persisted into later times: first, early Lydian inscriptions are written in Greek characters (though sometimes featuring different sound values): see Melchert, H.C., ‘Lydian’, in Woodard, R.D. (ed.), The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the World's Ancient Languages (Cambridge, 2004), 602; second, Xanthus, the Lydian historian, wrote in Greek: see Marincola, J., Greek Historians (Oxford, 2001), 1617; third, coinage was (somehow) a joint Greek and Lydian invention: see Jenkins, G.K., Ancient Greek Coins (London, 1990 2), 1314, and Schaps, D.M., The Invention of Coinage and the Monetization of Ancient Greece (Ann Arbor, MI, 2004), 93101; finally, Lydian religious and vernacular architecture shows Greek influence, as does Lydian pottery and funerary sculpture: see, for example, Ratté, C., ‘Anthemion stelae from Sardis’, AJA 98 (1994), 593607, who emphasizes the persistence of Greek influence even after the fall of Sardis. The reciprocal cultural influences of Ionia and Lydia during this period, when the two peoples were in frequent and often hostile contact, are discussed generally in Boardman, J., The Greeks Overseas: Their Early Colonies and Trade (London, 1999 4), 94102, and Roosevelt, C.H., The Archaeology of Lydia: From Gyges to Alexander (Cambridge, 2009), ch. 4.

53 H&W (n. 4) and Macan (n. 4) on 7.27 report an older suggestion that Pythius was a grandson of Croesus (through his son Atys), and point out that his name itself bears witness to the Delphic interests of his grandfather. For the role and resonances of the Pythius story within the overall text, see Lewis, S., ‘Who is Pythius the Lydian?’, Histos 2 (1998), 185–91.

54 See Neugebauer (n. 7), 1.2, 5. The first known horoscope dates from 410 b.c.e., according to Sachs, A., ‘Babylonian horoscopes’, Journal of Cuneiform Studies 6 (1952), 4975, at 52. For the relationship between Babylonian and Greek astrology see Rochberg-Halton, F., ‘New evidence for the history of astrology’, JNES 43 (1984), 115–40; Rochberg-Halton, F., ‘Elements of the Babylonian contribution to Hellenistic astrology’, JAOS 108 (1988), 5162.

55 We need not suppose, on this interpretation, that Pythius was as superstitious as the unfortunate Nicias in the face of a lunar eclipse during the Peloponnesian War (Thuc. 7.50.4.). His may be taken as a normal ‘Greek’ reaction.

56 The Old Testament offers parallels to the practice of divided sacrifice in Genesis 15:9–10 and Jeremiah 34:18–19.

57 Myres, J.L., Herodotus: Father of History (Oxford, 1953), 109.

58 The other two being the mule giving birth to a horse at 7.57.2 and a horse giving birth to a hare at 7.57.1.

59 For reports on stellar visibility during partial eclipses towards sunset, see Fotheringham, J.K., ‘Visibility of stars in Great Britain during the solar eclipse of 1925 January 24’, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 85 (March 1925), 509.

60 For a recent interpretation of the Eclipse of Thales, suggesting home-grown ingenuity and luck rather than reliance on Babylonian expertise, see Couprie, D.L., ‘How Thales was able to “predict” a solar eclipse without the help of alleged Mesopotamian wisdom’, Early Science and Medicine 9 (2004), 321–37. Despite a recent attempt to champion the idea that Thales used Babylonian data by O'Grady, P.F., Thales of Miletus: The Beginnings of Western Science and Philosophy (Aldershot, 2002), ch. 8, the warning issued in Neugebauer (n. 7), 2.4, 603, remains valid.

61 The description of the Magi in 1.101.1 is somewhat confused but not without a grain of truth. Darius himself refers several times in the Behistun inscription (DB1 36–73) to the usurper Gaumata as being a Magian in much the same ethnic manner as the other rebellious kings whom he eliminates: see Kent, R.G., Old Persian: Grammar, Texts, Lexicon (New Haven, CT, 1953 2) 117–20. For a general discussion, emphasizing the priestly role, see Boyce (n. 38), 19–20.

62 The influence extended beyond Iran to India: see Brown (n. 7), 108.

63 The Assyrians were great consumers of Babylonian skylore: see Brown (n. 7), ch. 1. For published texts, see Hunger, H. (ed.), Astrological Reports to Assyrian Kings (Helsinki, 1992); Parpola, S. (ed.), Letters from Assyrian Scholars to the Kings Esarhaddon and Assurbanipal (Kevelaer, 1970).

64 Systematic observation in Mesopotamia seems to have started at least as early as the time of the Ur III period with omens in EAE tablets 20 and 21 referring to lunar eclipses, most probably, of 27 June 1954 b.c.e. and 17 March 1912 b.c.e. respectively. See Gurzadyan, V.G., ‘On the astronomical records and Babylonian chronology’, Akkadica 119 (2000), 175–84.

65 Rochberg, F., ‘“If P, then Q”: form and reasoning in Babylonian divination’, in Annus, A. (ed.), Divination and Interpretation of Signs in the Ancient World (Chicago, IL, 2010), 1928. On the complex relationship between the EAE omen literature and later astronomical reports, see N. Veldhuis, ‘The theory of knowledge and the practice of celestial divination’, in ibid., 77–91.

66 Hunger (n. 63), letter 103 (parts 6 and 12), from the scholar Akkullanu, dated 15 October 667 b.c.e. Most eclipses, however, indicated royal demise: see Brown (n. 7), 145. Note the impossible eclipse on the 21st of the month.

67 See Rochberg, F., The Heavenly Writing (Cambridge, 2004), 68. The first 22 EAE tablets concern the Moon and the next 17 the Sun, while the remaining tablets deal with the weather and planets.

68 Oppenheim, Taken from A.L., ‘A Babylonian diviner's manual’, JNES 33 (1974), 197220, at 203.

69 See Hunger (n. 63), letter 316, from the scholar Munnabitu, dated 22 May 678 b.c.e. The correspondences are analysed in detail in Brown (n. 7), §3.2.2.

70 Brown (n. 7), 112.

71 F. Rochberg-Halton (n. 7), 107–20. For the methodological aspect, see Brown (n. 7), 166–8.

72 Rochberg (n. 67), 50–1; Oppenheim (n. 68), 209. For the general point, see Steele, J.M., ‘Eclipse prediction in Mesopotamia’, AHES 54 (2000), 421–54, and Rochberg (n. 67), 77–8. The fact of prediction did not of itself annul the omen, but afforded an opportunity to do something about it. The most common rituals were those of king-substitution (Rochberg [n. 67], 78 and 222) or making a noise (Brown [n. 7], 161 n. 376). For the latter, see Beaulieu, P.-A. and Britton, J.P., ‘Rituals for an eclipse possibility in the 8 year of Cyrus’, Journal of Cuneiform Studies 46 (1994), 7386, where the banging of a copper kettledrum on 15 June 531 b.c.e. is reported (this eclipse was penumbral and therefore not visible). An apotropaic ritual featuring king-substitution at the time of a predicted lunar eclipse is described in a letter to the Assyrian king Esarhaddon (681–669 b.c.e.) in Pritchard, J. (ed.), The Ancient Near East, (Princeton, NJ, 2011), 443–4.

73 Modified by the author, one assumes, for his narrative purposes. Xerxes makes Artabanus take his place in order to forestall the visitation of a dream.

74 See Hunger (n. 63), Introduction, xix; Brown (n. 7), 168.

75 This was the transition, in Brown's terminology, from the EAE paradigm to the PCP (Predicting Celestial Phenomena) paradigm of the Astronomical Diaries: see Brown (n. 7), ch. 4. In fact, the accuracy of Babylonian eclipse prediction did not improve very much once the basic periodic techniques were discovered. In the case of lunar eclipses, typical accuracy improved from 1.12 hours before 550 b.c.e. to 0.95 hours after that date: see Steele and Stephenson (n. 12), 130. For solar eclipses there was no improvement over the four hundred years of available records from 357 b.c.e. onwards, a consequence of the lack of Babylonian geometrical theory and geographical understanding: see Steele (n. 13), 138–9.

76 See Aaboe, A., ‘Remarks on the theoretical treatment of eclipses in Antiquity’, JHA 3 (1972), 105–18.

77 Steele, (n. 72), 442 and n. 48. According to Neugebauer (n. 7), 1.2, 525, solar eclipses were tabulated at least as far back as 475 b.c.e.

78 Neugebauer (n. 7), 1.2, 474; Steele (n. 72), passim. The fact that eclipses were often associated with the death of a king must also have encouraged royal patronage of astronomy.

79 Parpola (n. 63), letters 41 and 42.

80 This is a supposition but, I contend, a reasonable one. See Boyce (n. 38), ch. 4 and esp. 66–7, for discussion of the influence of the Babylonian astronomer-priests upon the Zoroastrian Magi around the time of the fall of Babylon in 539 b.c.e., where the latter gathered and the former continued to function well into the Achaemenian era and beyond.

81 Poebel, A., ‘The names and the order of the Old Persian and Elamite months during the Achaemenian period’, American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures 55 (1938), 130–41. See also Stern, S., Calendars in Antiquity: Empires, States, and Societies (Oxford, 2012), 170–4.

82 An apparent difficulty arises with respect to writing. If the Magi were astronomer-priests in the Babylonian sense, they must have been literate and numerate (see Brown [n. 7], 109) in order to carry out their calculations. Old Persian texts are notoriously limited to the formulaic stone and metal inscriptions of the Achaemenian royal dynasty. However, the recent find of an administrative clay tablet in Old Persian cuneiform (along with texts in Aramaic, Elamite, and Greek) at the Persepolis Fortification Archive, which dates from around 500 b.c.e., suggests that writing was more widespread than previously thought. See Stolper, M.W. and Tavernier, J., ‘An old Persian administrative tablet from the Persepolis Fortification’, Arta (2007.001), available at http://www.achemenet.com/document/2007.001-Stolper-Tavernier.pdf (last retrieved 17 February 2013). In any case, it is quite possible that, by the fifth century b.c.e., facilitated by the conquest of Egypt under Cambyses, the data tabulated, calculations performed, and advice proffered would have been set down on papyrus rather than clay. Furthermore, the Magi may well have used Babylonian for astronomical purposes.

83 Steele and Stephenson (n. 12), 130.

84 Couprie (n. 60).

85 As far as I am aware all the reactions to eclipses in pre-Hellenistic Greek literature are reactions to the event itself and not based on considerations as to whether the eclipse was expected, even if, as in Hdt. 1.74, it was. Cf. Pind. Paean 9, as previously mentioned, where possible disasters are foreseen and the song itself acts as an apotropaic ritual.

86 F. Rochberg-Halton (n. 7), 111.

87 On this topic, we may note that Achaemenian inscriptions are often trilingual in Old Persian, Elamite, and Babylonian, reflecting the high cultural status of the latter two civilizations within the Persian Empire and suggesting the polyglot character of the Iranian ‘intelligentsia’.

88 See Neugebauer (n. 7), 1.2.B, esp. 521–4.

89 See Hunger (n. 63), letter 320 (from the scholar Munnabitu); Brown (n. 7), 203–6.

90 Parpola (n. 63), letter 104.

91 Ibid., letter 135. The ‘gods in opposition’ are the full Moon and the Sun.

92 Especially pertinent, given his preference for locating the sources of scientific knowledge and expertise in Egypt, rather than in Anatolia or Mesopotamia.

93 Neugebauer (n. 7) 1.2, Introduction, 348, points out that Hellenistic Greeks, although they had access to the data, knew little of the underlying motivation for Babylonian astronomy.

94 Notwithstanding possible Iranian (Zoroastrian) influences on Ionian philosophy for the period 550–480 b.c.e. as outlined in West, M.L., Early Greek Philosophy and the Orient (Oxford, 1971), particularly ch. 7 (a thesis which is not incompatible with the specific Babylonian influence suggested here) and the more general cultural influence described in Boardman (n. 52), 102–9, which, however, seems to be mainly from Greece to Persia (cf. Hdt. 1.135.1, 3.129.3, 6.119.1–2). All this fits in well with the suggestion of Boyce (n. 38), 67, that the Magi were split into two groups along a conservative (pre-Zoroastrian) to progressive (Zoroastrian) axis. She envisages members of the Zoroastrian group travelling to Lydia and Ionia prior to the accession of Cyrus in 550 b.c.e. to escape persecution under the Median king Astyages and, later, others of the group being sent by Cyrus to Babylon in anticipation of the war against Nabonidus. This latter group would then have become the vector by which Babylonian astronomical learning infiltrated Persia.

* My thanks are due to Elizabeth Glover for her insightful remarks, to CQ's anonymous reader for assisting with focus, and to Professor Brian Everitt for encouragement and advice.

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