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It is a recurring theme in fiction that a knowledgeable person scares off some ignorant person/people by pretending that the solar eclipse is caused by the wrath of gods, or similar. For example, see the Pharaoh by Prus. [MetaQuestion: What is the first literary work where this happens?]

Did such a thing ever happen in real?
Here I mean some historical event, and not just your neighbors scaring their kids.

The only event I am aware of where the eclipse allegedly changed history is the Battle of the Eclipse, though this is debated, and also would not be an example where one side would have used it to their advantage by knowing about it beforehand.


For predictions of eclipses, see this other question on this site.

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    There is a well-known episode where the Jesuits in China used an eclipse to impress people, e.g. at en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sabatino_de_Ursis
    – Jan
    Jan 19 at 8:44
  • As many many people were afraid of eclipse ("In most types of mythologies and certain religions, eclipses were seen as a sign that the gods were angry and that danger was soon to come, so people often altered their actions in an effort to dissuade the gods from unleashing their wrath. Eclipses in mythology and religion), no doubt (but no historical credible source either) that some used them to scare/dominate people. Any preacher in any religion could use it to take power over people. Is that what you're looking for?
    – OldPadawan
    Jan 19 at 10:16
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    Like this?
    – DevSolar
    Jan 19 at 12:53
  • I'm looking for a credible source when someone used their knowledge of an eclipse over some people who didn't really understand what an eclipse was, and that this had some interesting consequences.
    – domotorp
    Jan 19 at 16:04
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    A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court - 1889. 8 years earlier.
    – Gangnus
    Jan 19 at 17:00

1 Answer 1

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A total lunar eclipse occurred on 1 March 1504, visible at sunset for the Americas, and later over night over Europe and Africa, and near sunrise over Asia.

During his fourth and last voyage, Christopher Columbus induced the inhabitants of Jamaica to continue provisioning him and his hungry men, successfully intimidated them by correctly predicting a total lunar eclipse for 1 March 1504 (visible on the evening of 29 February in the Americas). Some have claimed that Columbus used the Ephemeris of the German astronomer Regiomontanus,1 but Columbus himself attributed the prediction to the Almanach by Abraham Zacuto.[2]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/March_1504_lunar_eclipse

It is rather surprising that nobody mentioned this before now, 12:45 AM, Saturday, January 20, 2024.

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  • Unfortunately, T.E.D. did in the comments, and I've asked him to convert his comment to an answer, as you can see among the comments.
    – domotorp
    Jan 20 at 6:00
  • Well, apparently T.E.D. is not converting his comment into an answer, so let me accept this then.
    – domotorp
    Jan 23 at 12:41
  • An article in Sky and Telescope from many years ago discussed this use of a lunar eclipse. It also described a North American Indian leader who used his knowledge of a solar eclipses to rally his people against the British, in the North Central United States. Date and exact details have faded...
    – DJohnM
    Jan 23 at 20:11

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