Tag Archives: Eclipses

The solar eclipse of 1478

Visibility of the solar eclipse happened on July 29th, 1478. Yellow ovals determine the areas in which part of the eclipse took place below the horizon. The blue curve path “flies” over locations from where maximum occultation of the solar apparent surface could be observed (source: Xavier Jubier).

[…] They got into a fortress called the Ansita, which is in the parts of Tirajana. As the Governor knew it, he left with all the people on horseback and on foot that he could take, and went to the said fortress and surrounded it; and he had it surrounded in such a way they came to an agreement to save their lives and keep them from captivity and go to Castile, which were agreed. And the next day the faycán and the other Canarians came out of the fort, and brought them, and became Christians, on which day the Sun made a great eclipse, and afterwards it rained and a great wind blew; and over that island flew many birds that they had never seen before, which were cranes and storks and swallows, and many other birds they do not know their names.[1]MORALES (1978), p. 508. Translated and adapted from old Castilian by PROYECTO TARHA.

This curious passage, at the end of Chapter XXXVII in the Chronicle of the Catholic Monarchs written by Diego de Valera, shortly narrates the end of the conquest of Gran Canaria associating it with an astronomical phenomenon of undoubted transcendence for most of the ancient cultures: a total eclipse of the Sun.

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The 520 splendours of the Moon

Indigenous pitcher found at Agüimes (Gran Canaria), kept at El Museo Canario, catalogue number 260, featuring two shapes presumably depicting a sun and a solar eclipse (source: El Museo Canario).

To the Canarian historiography the legendary episode of the raid over the indigenous village of Agaldar (Gran Canaria) by Portuguese captain Diogo da Silva de Meneses is a well-known one.

After landing under cover of the night, the Luso-Castilian expedition, composed of about two hundred troops, tried unsuccessfully to raze the islander village at dawn getting trapped in turn by a threefold contingent of fighting men. Sieged inside a large facility surrounded by high walls of dry stone, the invaders remained locked there for two days and one night until the Guanarteme -chieftain- of Agaldar, uncle of the future Fernando Guanarteme, agreed to parley with Diogo da Silva. Chronicles tell that after berating the Portuguese his audacity and contravening the desire of his own warriors to end the lives of all the besieged, the indigenous leader pretended to fall into the hands of the Europeans to facilitate their release, who as a result of this supposedly pious act began to name him Guanarteme the Good.

But here we are not interested in describing the different versions of this story, from the shortest, most sober offered in the Cronica Ovetensis[2]MORALES (1978), pp. 116-119. to the novelistic rewriting by Leonardo Torriani,[3]TORRIANI (1959), pp. 120-126 but to draw attention to a curious datum provided by this Cremonese engineer in the baroque speech he makes the islander leader pronounce. This particular passage is as follows:

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