Sunday, June 22, 2008

Dating Homer

Call me a geek, you wouldn’t be the first, but I think this is totally cool.
Some scholars have used astronomical clues in The Odyssey to put a date to the day Odysseus killed his wife’s suitors April 16, 1178 B.C.

How do they know? According to a story by the Associated Press, Marcelo Magnasco at Rockefeller University and Constantino Baikouzis of the Astronomical Laboratory in La Plata, Argentina, searched the text of the Odyssey carefully for clues to the position of the stars in the sky throughout the story. If you’ve read the story, there are frequent mentions of constellations (and even more frequent mentions of rosey fingered and saffron robed Eos.) (When I read it out loud, the family jokes that all they ever do is eat and watch the sun come up!). They did fudge some things. For instance, they interpreted a statement that Hermes had gone far to the West to deliver a message to mean that Mercury was near the Western end of its trajectory.

Anyway, it’s all very cool and yes, maybe some people have too much time on their hands, but there are worse ways to spend your time.