On This Day in 585 BCE, a Solar Eclipse Ended a War

iStock // Ig0rZh
iStock // Ig0rZh

On May 28, 585 BCE, a solar eclipse ended a six-year war.

The Greek philosopher Thales lived in the seaside town of Miletus. He hypothesized that water was the source of all matter, and according to several accounts, he predicted the solar eclipse of May 28, 585 BCE. It's unclear whether he really called it—or how he understood eclipses to work, especially given that he thought the Earth was a flat disk floating in water. But according to writings by Herodotus and the philosopher Xenophanes, Thales predicted a total solar eclipse.

In 585 BCE, King Alyattes of Lydia was at war with King Cyaxares of Media. They had been fighting for six years with neither side making significant progress. Their war was particularly bitter because a group of hunters working for the Medes had killed one of Cyaxares's sons and served him up as a meal (yikes). This fight was personal.

On May 28, during a battle along the Halys River, the eclipse arrived. Herodotus wrote an account of this battle in The Histories, reporting that Thales had predicted the eclipse:

...[A]nd as they still carried on the war with equally balanced fortune, in the sixth year a battle took place in which it happened, when the fight had begun, that suddenly the day became night. And this change of the day Thales the Milesian had foretold to the Ionians laying down as a limit this very year in which the change took place. The Lydians however and the Medes, when they saw that it had become night instead of day, ceased from their fighting and were much more eager both of them that peace should be made between them.

The warring armies saw the eclipse as an omen indicating that they should stop fighting. They dropped their weapons, called a truce, and ultimately sealed the peace with a royal wedding between Alyattes's daughter and a living son of Cyaxares.

Writer Isaac Asimov believed that the eclipse of Thales was the first scientific experiment. Assuming we believe Herodotus, Thales hypothesized that an eclipse would occur on a given date and tested that hypothesis by observation. Whether it happened that way, we will likely never know—but it makes for a great story.

Because modern astronomers can pinpoint the date and location of that solar eclipse, the Battle of Halys is one of the oldest historical events with a precise date attached. Whether Thales predicted the eclipse or not, it did occur—and it stopped a war.

Blue Apron’s Memorial Day Sale Will Save You $60 On Your First Three Boxes

Scott Eisen/Getty Images
Scott Eisen/Getty Images

If you’ve gone through all the recipes you had bookmarked on your phone and are now on a first-name basis with the folks at the local pizzeria, it might be time to introduce a new wrinkle into your weekly dinner menu. But instead of buying loads of groceries and cookbooks to make your own meal, you can just subscribe to a service like Blue Apron, which will deliver all the ingredients and instructions you need for a unique dinner.

And if you start your subscription before May 26, you can save $20 on each of your first three weekly boxes from the company. That means that whatever plan you choose—two or four meals a week, vegetarian or the Signature plan—you’ll save $60 in total.

With the company’s Signature plan, you’ll get your choice of meat, fish, and Beyond foods, along with options for diabetes-friendly and Weight Watchers-approved dishes. The vegetarian plan loses the meat, but still allows you to choose from a variety of dishes like General Tso's tofu and black bean flautas.

To get your $60 off, head to the Blue Apron website and click “Redeem Offer” at the top of the page to sign up.

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Why Did Noon Used to Mean 3 p.m.?

3 p.m. is basically noon for people who wake up at 12 p.m.
3 p.m. is basically noon for people who wake up at 12 p.m.
Mckyartstudio/iStock via Getty Images

If you’re a late sleeper, you might find yourself thinking 12 p.m. seems way too early to be considered midday, and the word noon would much better describe, say, 3 p.m. It turns out that ancient Romans would have agreed with you, if only for etymological reasons.

As Reader’s Digest explains, the days in ancient Rome were split into four periods of three hours each. The first hour was at sunrise around 6 a.m.—called prime, for first—followed by 9 a.m. (terce, denoting the third hour), 12 p.m. (sext, for sixth), and 3 p.m. (none, for ninth).

According to Merriam-Webster, Middle and Old English borrowed the time-keeping tradition, along with the Latin word for ninth, which was changed to nōn and eventually noon. Though we’re not sure exactly when or why noon started referring to 12 p.m. instead of 3 p.m., it could have something to do with Christian prayer traditions. In the Bible, Jesus’s crucifixion is said to have taken place at the ninth hour, and that’s when worshippers partook in their second of three daily prayers; the others were in the morning and evening. It’s possible that hungry monks were behind noon’s gradual shift from 3 p.m. to 12 p.m.—since their daily fast didn’t end until after the midday prayer, they had a built-in motive for moving it earlier.

While we didn’t exactly stay true to the original Latin meaning of noon, there’s another important remnant of ancient Rome hiding in the way we tell time today. Romans referred to 12 p.m. as meridiem, for midday, and so do we. A.M. is an abbreviation for ante meridiem, or before midday, and P.M. means post meridiem, or after midday.

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