so that from being day it became night. This event terrified Xerxes very much; but his fears were allayed by his soothsayers, who told him that the sun represented the states of Greece, which were going to be obscured, whereas Persia was denoted by the moon.

The same writer says, that as soon as the people of Peloponnesus heard of the death of Leonidas at Thermopylæ, a great force, from all their cities, went in haste, under the command of Cleombrotus, to the Isthmus, which they fortified with a wall, as quickly as possible, working day and night, the Olympia and Carnea being then over.† He also says, that when the consultation was held in consequence of the offers made to the Athenians by Mardonius, the Lacedemoniaus were celebrating the Hyacynthia, which was in the month Hecatomboon, in the year following, and that they had nearly completed that wall; for they were then building the turrets (Tas).‡

During that festival, the Lacedemonians sent Pausanias, the son of Cleombrotus, with an army out of the Peloponnesus, Cleombrotus having died not long after he had brought away those who were building the wall on the Isthmus; and he had brought them away because when he was sacrificing on account of the Persian war, the sun was darkened, (ó λos nμavpwdn,) which, I believe, is generally supposed to mean that this luminary was then eclipsed. This eclipse, therefore, if it was one, happened some time between the middle of Metagitnion of one year, and the Hecatomboon of the year following, or between the beginning of September and the end of June. It evidently happened between the battle of Salamis and that of Platea, the former of which, Petavius says, was upon the 20th of Boedromion, answering to the 23d of our September, § and the latter on the third Boedromion, in the year following. ||

* Hist. L. vii. C. xxxvii. (P.)

+ Ibid. L. viii. C. vii. The Olympic Games began on the 11th, and ended on the 15th day of Hecatombœon, the first month of the Grecian year, which began with the first new moon after the summer solstice; and the Carnea began on the 18th day of the month Carneus, answering to Metagitnion, the second month in the Grecian year, and lasted 9 days. This, therefore, was about the beginning of September. (P.)

Hist. L. ix. C. vi. (P.)

Sir Isaac Newton says, (Observations on Daniel, p. 142,) that "the battle at Salamis" was " in autumn, on the 16th day of the month Munychion;" but in this he must have been mistaken; for then it would have been about the beginning of April. The same thing is repeated by him in his Chronology, (p. 356,) where he says, the eclipse that followed was "of the moon." It ought to have been of the sun. (P.)

|| Rationarium Temporis, p. 87. (P.)

I have carefully examined all the eclipses for all the years that are usually ascribed to the reign of Xerxes, by the help of Mr. Ferguson's tables, the ingenious author himself being so obliging as to give me his assistance in this work; and I find no total eclipse of the sun, visible at Sardis in that whole period; so that Herodotus's account of the former of the eclipses above-mentioned must be exaggerated. But I do find an eclipse of the sun, of about five digits, visible at Sardis on the 20th of March in the year 470 B. C., in which year he must have left Sardis upon the supposition of his having reigned only 11 years. The greatest obscuration was at 11 minutes past five in the afternoon. Now, this being in the spring of the year, and about the time that so great an armament as that of Xerxes may be supposed to have been in motion, appears to me to make it very probable that the year 470 B. C. was the very year of the expedition.

I do not, indeed, find any eclipse of the sun visible at the Isthmus within the limits marked out for the second of the eclipses mentioned above; but I think it very possible that Herodotus, by the expression above-mentioned, might not intend an eclipse. He only says, that the sun was darkened; and considering how ignorant and superstitious the Lacedemonians were, above all the other people of Greece, it is very possible that Cleombrotus and his army would be sufficiently alarmed, if, when they were sacrificing on so very interesting an occasion, thick clouds should have arisen pretty suddenly, and have obscured the sun. This is the sum of the evidence from eclipses, in favour of the expedition from Sardis having been in the year 470 B. C.

They who give Xerxes a reign of 21 years, suppose that this expedition was in 480 B. Č.; but there was no eclipse of the sun visible at Sardis that year, though there was an eclipse of about 6 digits visible at the Isthmus on the 2d of October of the same year, which was a little after the time of the battle of Salamis, and therefore sufficiently within the limits above-mentioned; and for this reason Sir Isaac Newton has pitched upon the year 480 B. C. for that event; saying that, by calculation, this eclipse fell on the 2nd of October.†

There was a small eclipse of the sun, visible at Sardis on the 20th of April, 481 B. C., but this could hardly be said

* See supra, p. 25, Note ↑.

† Observations on Daniel, p. 142. (P.) See supra, p. 43,

to be early in the spring in that warm climate, it being in the time of harvest; and the hypothesis of this having been the year of that expedition, is not helped by the computation of the eclipse at the Isthmus in 480 B. C.; because this eclipse would be much too late, being within a very few days of the time of the battle of Platea; whereas that eclipse, if it was an eclipse, was evidently over at the time of the consultation above-mentioned, before the Grecian army had left Peloponnesus.

Those who, with Sir Isaac Newton, adopt the chronology of Ptolemy, as confirmed by the eclipses which he represents as observed in certain years of the reign of Cambyses and Darius, are not at liberty to avail themselves of the eclipse in 481, as fixing the time of Xerxes's expedition for the whole series of eclipses fixes that expedition to the year 480 B. C. and no other, and will no more admit of its having been in 481 B. C. than in 470 B. C.

The same may be said concerning another eclipse of the sun, visible at Sardis on the 17th of February, 478 B. C., which Kepler thought to be the eclipse described by Herodotus, and to have happened when he was at Sardis the second time, viz. on his return from Greece; and which, in Mr. Costard's opinion, fixes the expedition to the year 478; saying, that at Smyrna this eclipse was of 11 digits. But, computing by Mr. Ferguson's tables, † (which, by comparing a computation of the eclipse of 470 made by these tables, with another made in the most exact manner by Mr. Reuben Burrow, I find to be sufficiently exact for these purposes,) I find that this eclipse must have been a very inconsiderable one, the moon having, at that time, too

[ocr errors]

"George Costard, a clergyman of the Church of England, and author of several learned works, was born about the year 1710," and died in 1782. Dr. Priestley here, I apprehend, refers to a work published by Mr. Costard in 1764, entitled, "The Use of Astronomy in History and Chronology, exemplified in an Inquiry into the Fall of the Stone into the Egospotamos, said to be foretold by Anaxagoras; in which it is attempted to be shewn that Anaxagoras did not foretell the Fall of that Stone, but the Solar Eclipse in the First Year of the Peloponnesian War: that what he saw was a Comet, at the Time of the Battle of Salamis : and that this Battle was probably fought, the Year before Christ, 478; or Two Years later than it is commonly fixed by Chronologers." See Biog. Brit. IV. pp. 289-294.

+ [See supra, p. 44.] To those who have occasion to examine ancient eclipses, 1 would recommend the use of Mr. Ferguson's New Rotula, by the help of which a person may see, in a very short time, all the eclipses of any year whatever, so as to form a pretty good judgment whether they will answer his purpose or not. And in a very few hours, any of them may be computed and projected with sufficient exactness by the tables and precepts in his treatise of Astronomy. I cannot express how much satisfaction I have had in the use of them upon this occasion. (P.)

much northern latitude to occasion a considerable eclipse in any place.

Upon the whole, I think it very probable, from this evidence, that the expedition of Xerxes was in the year 470 B. C.; when there was a real eclipse of the sun visible at Sardis, which Herodotus describes in terms that cannot possibly admit of any other interpretation, and at the very time of the year in which he represents it to have happened, though the quantity of the eclipse does not answer to his description of it. Whereas, with respect to the year 480 B. C., it is by no means certain that Herodotus mentions any eclipse visible at the Isthmus, in the passage in which he has been supposed to speak of one, and there was no eclipse in that year at Sardis, where he certainly does describe one.

If my deductions from this eclipse, concurring with Mr. Taylor's historical observations, be just, we must take ten years from the whole period of time preceding the reign of Xerxes; and I do not know of any historical or astronomical reason to the contrary.

Before this eclipse described by Herodotus, I find no mention of any other eclipse, certainly connected with any historical event, besides that which appeared during the battle between the Lydians and Medes, on the banks of the river Halys, in the reign of Cyaxares. But this was so remote from that which was seen in the reign of Xerxes, and the intermediate events are so little known, that neither of them can be of the least use in fixing the other.

Besides these, there are six eclipses of the moon mentioned by Ptolemy, as having been visible at Babylon in certain years of the Nabonassarian æra, viz. 257, 246, 225, 127, 28, and 27. To these dates he has also connected certain years of the Persian and Babylonian kings, making 257, of the Nabonassarian æra correspond to 31 of Darius Hystaspes; 246 to 20 of the same prince, &c. And because it is found by computation, that there were eclipses of the moon visible at Babylon in those years of the Nabonassarian æra, it is taken for granted by Sir Isaac Newton, Prideaux, and, I believe, all chronologers without exception, that Ptolemy's catalogue of kings is confirmed by eclipses, and therefore cannot be disputed.

But it appears to me that this foundation of Ptolemy's chronology is a very weak one; since there is no proper historical evidence that those eclipses were connected with any events in the corresponding years of those reigns. For

any thing that appears to the contrary, Ptolemy has only annexed to the table of eclipses, originally adjusted to a table of the Nabonassarian æra only, the years of the kings, according to his own ideas of their correspondence. This table of eclipses, Montucla says, Ptolemy, no doubt, had from Hipparchus, who collected every thing that he could of that kind; and Hipparchus being merely an astronomer, it is the more probable that he was not solicitous about the adjustment of the years of the kings' reigns to those of the eclipses; and therefore that the years of the kings were added by Ptolemy himself. But whenever these years were added, there is no proof of their having been connected from the beginning; and without this, their proper correspondence ought not to be admitted.

The opinion of Pelavius does not require any deduction from the whole period of years before the reign of Xerxes. For though he adds ten years to the reign of Artaxerxes, he takes nothing from the life or the reign of Xerxes, and though Archbishop Usher does take from the reign of Xerxes, yet he adds just so much to that of Artaxerxes.


Of the Duration of Christ's Ministry.

It is remarkable that, in collecting the opinions of Christian critics on the subject of this Section, the farther we go back into antiquity, the shorter we find the duration of Christ's ministry was thought to be; and the oldest Christian fathers were almost universally of opinion, that our Lord preached no longer than one year, † or one year and a few months.


Sir Isaac Newton says, that "the Christians who first began to inquire into these things, as Clemens Alexandrinus, Origen, Tertullian, Julius Africanus, Lactantius, Jerome, Austin, Sulpicius Severus, Prosper, and as many as placed the death of Christ in the 15th or 16th year of Tiberius, make Christ to have preached but one year, or at most but two. At length Eusebius discovered four successive passovers in the Gospel of John, and thereupon set on foot an opinion that he preached three years and a half, and so died in the 19th year of Tiberius."

Histoire des Mathématiques, I. p. 60. (P.)

↑ «Clemens, in his first book of Traditions, sets forth that Christ preached only one year.' Hist. of Popery, 1735, I. p. 254.

Observ. on Daniel, pp. 145, 146. (P.)

[ocr errors]
« ElőzőTovább »