Sunday, February 16, 2014

Evidence, The Founding of Rome and a Starry Etruscan Mirror (Part II, the Stars Represented)

Evidence, The Founding of Rome and a Starry Etruscan Mirror (Part II, the Astronomy)

The Starry Etruscan Mirror can be understood by comparing the following clip of star positions from Starry Night Pro for ca. the Spring Equinox, 785 B.C.  Note that we have added larger labels and rings of red for the various star groups in order to show what the Starry Etruscan Mirror represents - Orion, Canis Major and Canis Minor (instead of Lepus), as already identified by others before us, but we have now added our identification of the representation of Gemini and Auriga at the time of the Sun at the Vernal Equinox. We have put a blue ring around the Pleiades to indicate that they were NOT represented on this mirror, for they are NOT directly above Orion. Moreover, the stars of the Pleiades have a different shape.

 Stars of the Sky at Rome, ca. Sunrise, Vernal Equinox, 26 March, 785 B.C.

It seems clear to us that the individual "stars" on the Starry Etruscan Mirror show stars above Orion. Gemini is represented by the line of stars closest to Auriga, while Auriga is marked by the three brightest stars in that section of the sky (compare these to the actual Starry Night Pro sky map above):
  • alpha Aurigae (Capella), magnitude 0.06, 3rd brightest star in the northern sky (the lower the magnitude number, the brighter the star)
  • beta Aurigae (Menkalinan), magnitude 1.87
  • and beta Tauri (Elnath), magnitude 1.62.

When we first discovered this correspondence, it looked like it might be useful as a tool to help prove the correct date of the founding of Rome, which is disputed, but the matter is complex, as the Metonic Cycle of 19 years puts the Moon near this position every 19 years for about 100 years each side of 785 B.C. We definitely have the right general era, but can not be sure of the year.

It must be emphasized here that this Etruscan mirror shows "why" GEMINI was significant for Rome, arguably marking its founding date in the heavens. According to Giuliano and Larissa Bonfante, The Etruscan Language, Manchester University Press, 2002, p. 204,  Gemini's twins Castor and Pollux (Etruscan Kastur and Pultuce) are pictured on other Etruscan mirrors, so that these might be seen as comparable to the later mythological twin brothers who allegedly founded Rome, Romulus and Remus, with Canis Major as the legendary wolf (dog). Likely as the origin for those names is an Indo-European variant term similar to Latvian rimmulis "a round piece of ground" viz. rimulis "hill, ring clump", i.e. thus probably rooted in the naming of Rome for its hills, with the closest term in Latin being rÄ«mulae "cracks, chinks" (in the earth?).

As for the importance of Gemini to Rome, Richard Hinckley Allen in his seminal work on Star Names writes:
"Greek Alexandria, and Ostia, the harbor of Rome, specially being under the tutelage of the Twins ... who were often represented on either side of the bows of vessels owned in those ports."
The date for the image from Starry Night Pro that we use above is March 26/27, 785 B.C: (or, (minus) -784 by astronomy) which corresponds, according to John Walker's Fourmilab Calender Converter, to Nisan 13/14 in the year 2976 in the Hebrew Calendar. Recall then in this context that the Babylonian calendar in this era presumably began the New Year on Nisan 15, so this is a good match. Is this thus technology transfer from the Ancient Near East, as we might now suspect from the genetic DNA evidence? See our previous posting about that genetics.

The currently accepted date for the founding of Rome is 753 B.C. Why for our sky map did we initially choose the date of 786 B.C. to check stars on the Etruscan Starry Mirror? It actually turned out to be some months later in 785 B.C. See our next posting.

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