Illustrating the Destructive Influence of Comets

Illustrating the Destructive Influence of Comets Social Studies Aviation & Space Exploration World History STEM Astronomy Visual Arts

Stanilaus Lubienietski included this woodcut illustration, depicting the destructive influence of a fourth-century comet, in his seventeenth-century book Theatrum Cometicum (“The Theater of Comets”).

The book—published in Amsterdam between 1667-68—features 415 different comets, from ancient times to 1665.

NASA provides some background on why people throughout the world often feared comets. Sometimes they actually were associated with troubling events:

Comets' influence on cultures is not limited simply to tales of myth and legend, though. Comets throughout history have been blamed for some of history's darkest times. In Switzerland, Halley's Comet was blamed for earthquakes, illnesses, red rain, and even the births of two-headed animals.

The Romans recorded that a fiery comet marked the assassination of Julius Caesar, and another was blamed for the extreme bloodshed during the battle between Pompey and Caesar. In England, Halley's Comet was blamed for bringing the Black Death. The Incas, in South America, even record a comet having foreshadowed Francisco Pizarro's arrival just days before he brutally conquered them.

Comets and disaster became so intertwined that Pope Calixtus III even excommunicated Halley's Comet as an instrument of the devil...

Click on the image for a better view.

Media Credits

Illustration from Lubienietski's "Theatrum Cometicum," Amsterdam (1668).

Image online via NASA.



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"Illustrating the Destructive Influence of Comets" AwesomeStories.com. Oct 07, 2013. Oct 17, 2019.
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