Read Wonders in the Sky Online

Authors: Jacques Vallee

Wonders in the Sky (6 page)


Source: Lycosthenes,
Julii Obsequentis Prodigiorum Liber…per Conradum Lycosthenem Rubeaquensem integrati suae restitutus
(Basel, 1552).


404 BC, Attica, Greece
Guided by a glowing pillar in the sky

“When Thrasybulus was bringing back the exiles from Phyla, and wished to elude observation, a pillar became his guide as he marched over a trackless region…The sky being moonless and stormy, a fire appeared leading the way, which, having conducted them safely, left them near Munychia, where is now the altar of the light-bringer.”

Note: We have found no comet recorded for that period, and the observation remains unexplained.


Source: Clement of Alexandria,
, Book I, Chapter 24. Cited in
The Ante-Nicene Fathers, translations of the writings of the Fathers down to AD 325
, by Rev. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (eds.) revised and arranged by A. Cleveland Coxe, Vol. II: Fathers of the Second Century (Edinburgh reprint, 2001).


Circa 343 BC, Near Sicily, Italy: a blazing light

In Diodorus Siculus' first century text
Historical Library
, (book 16, 24-5) we read that the voyage of Timoleon from Corinth to Sicily was guided by one or more blazing lights referred to as
: “Heaven came to the support of his venture and foretold his coming fame and the glory of his achievements, for
all through the night he was preceded by a torch blazing in the sky
up to the moment when the squadron made harbor in Italy.”

Note: This might have been a comet, but it has never been matched with any known cometary object, according to Gary Kronk's
. P. J. Bicknell, writing in
The Classical Quarterly
(“The Date of Timoleon's Crossing to Italy and the Comet of 361 BC” in
New Series
, Vol. 34, No. 1, 1984, 130-134) argues that “a cometary hypothesis is barely compatible with the implication of Diodorus' account that the
were visible in the east at nightfall and therefore in opposition to the sun…All in all it is difficult to resist the conclusion that Diodorus (or his source) elaborated on the
for dramatic effect…”

Bicknell leans towards the interpretation of the objects as a spectacular meteor shower, possibly the Lyrids, which would put the date of his voyage at 21 March 344 BC However this does not account for a phenomenon seen “all through the night” in a fixed direction.


Source: Gary Kronk.
Cometography–A Catalog of Comets, Volume 1 Ancient-1799
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 511.


218 BC, Amiterno, Italy: phantom ships

“During this winter many portents occurred in Rome and the surrounding area, or at all events, many were reported and easily gained credence, for when once men's minds have been excited by superstitious fears they easily believe these things…A phantom navy was seen shining in the sky; in the territory of Amiternum beings in human shape and clothed in white were seen at a distance, but no one came close to them.”

There is no evidence that the aerial sightings had any connection with the other reports, so the mystery only seems compounded by the juxtaposition of strange events. In their chronological chapters, both Pliny and Livy appended a list of all prodigies reported for a given year, which were compiled in the
Annales Maximi
for the Consuls. These Annals, which were lost even before the time of Livy and Pliny, are now lost. This explains why the Roman prodigies that have reached us are only dated by their year, with an odd juxtaposition of unrelated events.


The History of Rome Vol III by Livy
, trans. Reverend Canon Roberts (Montana: Kessinger Publishing 2004), 51.


216 BC, Arpi, Apulia, Italy: Shields


“At Arpi shields had been seen in the sky and the sun had appeared to be fighting with the moon; at Capena two moons were visible in the daytime.”

This description from Livy suggests disk-shaped flying objects but could also refer to meteors, as we do not know the duration of the observation.


The History of Rome Vol III by Livy
, trans. Reverend Canon Roberts (Montana: Kessinger Publishing 2004), 54.


2 August 216 BC, Cannae, Apulia, Italy
Round objects, white figures

During the famous battle won by Hannibal in Cannae (2 August, 216 BC), in the Apulian plain near Barletta, which saw the largest defeat in the history of Rome, a mysterious phenomenon was observed: “On the day of the battle, in the sky of the Apulia, round objects in the shape of ships were seen. The prodigies carried on all night long. On the edge of such objects were seen men dressed in white, like clergymen around a plow.”


Source: Italian magazine
Cielo e Terra
(August 1967): 2. We were unsuccessful in tracking down an original source. We include this quote from a popular magazine with reservations, given the abundance of fictional historical material in that period, and acknowledge a possible confusion with case 8 above.


June 213 BC, Hadria, Gulf of Venice, Italy
Men seen in the sky

Other books

El tercer lado de los ojos by Giorgio Faletti
The Guardian by Jordan Silver
The Meridians by Michaelbrent Collings
India Black by Carol K. Carr
Dare by Glenna Sinclair
The Typhoon Lover by Sujata Massey
Floating Worlds by Cecelia Holland, Cecelia Holland
A Sending of Dragons by Jane Yolen