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Second Punic War, Solar Eclipse 216 BC

Minted in Rome during the height of Hannibal's invasion of Italy(217-215 BC), this coin likely represents the solar eclipse of 216 BC as shown in the figure below.

Note the Battle of Cannae was on August 2, 216 BC in Southern Italy. This Solar eclipse would have been clearly visible in Carthage and all over Italy. The obverse of the coin has the head of Sol the sun god. The globe in the bottom left has previously been attributted to signify denominational status. I propose it likely is representative of either the Earth or the Moon in space. The reverse has the solar crescent with the globe representing the Moon during the solar eclipse. Note that the view is of a partial solar eclipse in Rome. The two stars above are the peripheral solar corona as the moon transits the sun. The Romans were well aware of the spherical Earth from the Greeks and the motions of heavenly bodies.

There was no time in Roman Republican history as desperate as the Second Punic War after the Battle of Cannae. Rome suffered its greatest military defeat at the hands of the Carthaginian Hannibal. Panic gripped Rome and her now dictatorial leaders were on the verge of leaving the city. Human sacrifice occured and the solar eclipse seen several months before the battle appeared to confirm the omen of war and destruction. The above coin however still celebrates the enduring sun. Through sheer willpower and determination the Romans went on to finally defeat Carthage and Hannibal. This coin gives us insight as to how the Roman mindset functioned after being exposed to dark omens. Faith, hope and eventual victory at all cost were classic elements of the Roman persona. It was this attitude that Jesus Christ praised in the Roman centurion some 200 years later.



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