Though comets appeared to the general population as spontaneous events, ancient Greco-Roman astronomers were familiar with the theory that these smaller bodies, such as the planets, moved along orbital paths. Some of the more notable works of ancient astronomy from the Greco-Roman world include Aristotle’s Meteorologica and De Caelo, Seneca’s Naturales Quaestiones, Pliny’s Naturalis Historia and Claudius Ptolemy’s Almagest and Tetrabiblos.
Donald K. Yeomans, Comets: A Chronological History of Observation, Science, Myth, and Folklore (New York: J. Wiley and Sons, 1991), p. 11. (See Pliny, Naturalis Historia 2.23–24.)
Yeomans, Comets, p. 11.
For a thorough discussion regarding the evidence for both the dates and nature of these games, see John T. Ramsey and A. Lewis Licht, The Comet of 44 B.C. and Caesar’s Funeral Games (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1997), pp. 19–54.
Suetonius, Life of Julius Caesar 88. According to the calculations of astronomer A. Lewis Licht, the “11th hour” corresponds to approximately 5:00–6:15 p.m.; see Ramsey and Licht, The Comet, p. 84.
The Roman Senate issued such a decree on January 1, 42 B.C.E.
Venus was the patron goddess of the Julian family; a symbol of a star was the popular interpretation of the comet that appeared during Octavian’s games in honor of Julius Caesar, likely because comets were generally seen as baleful rather than favorable omens.
Servius, In Vergilii Aeneidem Commentarii 8.681.
Pliny, Naturalis Historia 2.23.