The Battle of the Eclipse

Today in History, May 28: 585 BC – “In the sixth year a battle took place in which it happened, when the fight had begun, that suddenly the day became night. And this change of the day Thales the Milesian had foretold to the Ionians laying down as a limit this very year in which the change took place. The Lydians however and the Medes, when they saw that it had become night instead of day, ceased from their fighting and were much more eager both of them that peace should be made between them.” –Herodotus (Greek historian, author of “The Histories”. After a five year war between two factions in what is now Turkey, the Battle of the Halys River, or The Battle of the Eclipse, was being fought when a solar eclipse suddenly turned day to night. Both sides took this as an omen, ended the battle, and subsequently the war. More importantly to history over all is the fact that astronomers are able to set the exact dates of past eclipses. As a result, this battle is the earliest historical event which historians are able to determine the specific date on which it occurred. How cool is that? As in all things, there is a proviso. While most historians agree on this, some say that it is possible the battle could have been ceased by a lunar, rather than solar eclipse, which would change the date.

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