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Lightning, Solar Eclipses, and Roman Technology

The Romans were masters of engineering and observation. It is said that the Roman Civilization did not observe or record solar eclipses very much in comparison to Eastern cultures and that the Roman period was an astronomical "dark age." I believe nothing could be further from the truth. We know that the Antikythera mechanism likely was an analog computer used to predict lunar and solar eclipses. This mechanism was found in a shipwreck off the Turkish coast in 1901 and may date to before 150 BC.

The above coin displays the Temple of Jupiter on the Roman Capitoline Hill in 78 BC. This Temple was not only for the worship of Jupiter or Zeus but also a meeting place for the transaction of legal agreements and the taking of oaths. One would take an oath and swear that he would be "struck down from Jupiter" if he broke it. Jupiter was the god of the sky. His weapon was the lightning bolt. The pediment of the temple shows a winged thunderbolt. It is likely the frond like objects on the roof were some form of an early lightning rod. To think Benjamin Franklin was the first human to conceive a lightning defense mechanism takes much more faith. When visiting Rome today, one would see every ounce of iron removed from the ancient monuments and the residual pitting on the columns. Iron brackets and strips held the stone together. Metal was recycled for multiple uses for thousands of years and the Romans cleary were able to construct long metal wires. No doubt the connection was made with electrical conductivity well before Ben Franklin. It is interesting to think that one of the reasons why science was interrupted with the fall of the Western Empire is that it was used as a secret in pagan religious ceremonies. As Christianity gained ground and the economic and intelectual elite moved east to Constantinople, the electrical wizardry in the pagan temples was no longer popular. The Greeks developed static electric wheels which created large sparks and there is good evidence ancient cultures had developed some early forms of arc lights and batteries. Imagine while worshipping Jupiter if metal conduits connnected roof spikes to the central rotunda where statues appeared to interact with lightning bolts. Not very hard for the Romans to do considering what they have left behind......

Lightning defense was in important technology for any ancient city to master and an important tool for population control. It was the nuclear technology of the day and its knowledge was likely confined to very few people. The Romans buried statues struck by lightning and would view the area as sacred afterward. Lightning, Zeus, and Satan continued on in the Christian world view. At the time Ben Franklin resurrected lightning defenses, hundreds of church bell ringers would die from lightning strikes in North America and Europe each year. Not to mention the fires and physical destruction to church buildings and cities. The church viewed this destruction as punishment from God due to sin. The churches finally accepted Franklin's lightning rods and hundreds of lives were saved.



We know this coin from a prior post. The reverse is likely the Roman temple at Caesarea Philippi. The circular object at the center is most likely representative of the solar eclipse of 29 AD. Since Jupiter not only controlled solar eclipses along with lightning, the temple apex is modified only on this coin issue in 30-31 AD after the solar eclipse. The inverted triangle on the temple roof apex is likely a lightning rod. Whether it was grounded or not, lightning striking a metal device might glow after the strike or conduct it away from people and the building. A building not destroyed by lightning would signify divine favor from Zeus and have a strong impact on an uneducated population. This would give people confidence and strength after experiencing a solar eclipse.


This coin was minted in the city of Tiberius along the Sea of Galilee by Hadrian in 119 AD. Again one can see devices mounted on the roof to conduct lightning into or away fron the building. Jupiter or Zeus is seen sitting inside. Interestingly this coin may represent the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus built or soon to be built on the temple mount in Jerusalem. It is likely the Kitos war and the Bar Kochba revolt were separated by just lower levels of conflict.

The historian Josephus Flavius describes the Second Temple roof as being covered with metallic spikes to prevent nesting birds from defiling it. It is highly unlikely the Jews engaged in Roman religious " electrical wizardry." He clearly reported the spikes were only to prevent pests on the roof. Remember as the Roman General Pompey the Great rode his horse into the "Holy of Holies," he remarked how empty it was. The Judeo-Christian religion is based on the worship of the true and living God, not the idols and statues the Romans used to trick their people into submission and emperor worship.

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