Using clues from star and sun positions mentioned by the ancient Greek poet Homer, scholars think they have determined the date when King Odysseus returned from the Trojan War and slaughtered a group of suitors who had been pressing his wife to marry one of them.
It was on April 16, 1178 B.C. that the great warrior struck with arrows, swords and spears, killing those who sought to replace him, a pair of researchers say in Monday’s online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
Homer reports that on the day of the slaughter the sun is blotted from the sky, possibly a reference to an eclipse. In addition, he mentions more than once that it is the time of a new moon, which is necessary for a total eclipse, the researchers say.
Other clues include:
- Six days before the slaughter, Venus is visible and high in the sky.
- Twenty-nine days before, two constellations — the Pleiades and Bootes — are simultaneously visible at sunset.
- And 33 days before, Mercury is high at dawn and near the western end of its trajectory. This is the researchers’ interpretation, anyway. Homer wrote that Hermes, the Greek name for Mercury, traveled far west to deliver a message.