The eclipse prior to the Battle of Gaugamela

September 20, 331 before our era … the full moon shines on the plains of Mesopotamia, modern Iraq, as if to observe what was about to happen there. But suddenly, before the superstitious and frightened eyes of tens of thousands of soldiers, its radiance faded, apparently devoured by darkness. A sign of the gods? A bad omen for those who soon after had the mission to defeat an army much greater than their own? Perhaps this event indicated the imminent defeat despite the genius and charisma of the young general who directed them?

Those men came from mainland Greece, the young general who led them would go down in history as Alexander the Great and the epic confrontation would be known as the Battle of Gaugamela … there, near the present Mosul, the history of the western world would change for always. And the stars seemed not to want to miss that culminating moment.

It was the end of a road begun 2 years earlier, when Alexander, with an army of some 40,000 men, landed in Asia Minor, and victory after victory had taken him to the very heart of a Persian empire that could well be considered a world empire. , because its borders extended from the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean to India. Compared to this immense multinational state Macedonia, which had gone from being a backward and divided land to hegemonic military power in the Heleno world a few years ago under the command of Philip, Alexander’s father, seemed like a small, unimportant threat, a mosquito that attacked an elephant, nothing that military force or gold could not deactivate. And for that reason they did not initially give much importance to the invasion.

They did not understand until much later the determination or the genius that drove that young man who commanded them. An error that they would pay dearly.

Thus, on October 1 of 331 before our era, in the plains of Mesopotamia, Darius, who had already been defeated in Issos, gathered all the troops he could mobilize to stop once and for all this «arrogant young man». … there was the empire of the capacity that had during the stages of maximum splendor under the reign of Darius and Xerxes, but it was still solid enough to be a fearsome enemy, especially after having managed to reunite after decades of division and chaos. And that, unexpectedly, he had a «heavenly» help: An eclipse of the Moon.

In an era of myths and gods, of omens and signs, every event hid a meaning, a message from the gods that had to be interpreted … and, evidently, an astronomical phenomenon of such magnitude could only be a warning of what was about to happen. And for the Hellenic soldiers that was interpreted as a bad omen, filling with fear some troops who had before a confrontation that was expected terrible and uncertain outcome. The effect on morale certainly must have been remarkable.

But Alexander has not gone down in history as the greatest strategist and general of all time for letting himself be carried away by doubts and fears, but for being someone whose determination grazed the supernatural, and it was clear that he would not let the capricious skies deprive him of victory … skillfully and in cold blood the one who was a disciple of Aristotle, together with the help of the fortune tellers who accompanied the army, especially Aristandro, managed to give a completely opposite interpretation, pointing out that far from being a bad omen it was a sign of his impending victory, and his soldiers faced the battle with a faith that the eclipse might have destroyed but that eventually made it even stronger.

eclipse
Computer simulation that allows us to attend the eclipse of the Moon of October 20, 331 before our era, which preceded the clash between Persians and Greeks (The Macedonians were considered as such). Thanks to this astronomical event, this historical event can be dated exactly.

The rest is already history … Alexander, despite the great numerical disadvantage, of fighting in a terrain especially favorable for the Persians, because his greatest weapon was cavalry, and that there were critical moments that could have changed everything, , with his tactical genius, his charisma, the courage he showed personally leading the attacks by setting an example to others and the professionalism and toughness of the army he inherited from his father, won the battle. The destiny of the world changed that day for the determination of a general and king of barely 25 years that nothing and nobody, neither on earth nor in the sky, could stop.

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