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A Note on Rockenbach's De Cometis

Carter Sutherland

In Worlds in Collision (Doubleday editions, pp. 81 ff.), Velikovsky argues for the identity of the pillar of fire, which led the Israelites, with Typhon of legend, the monster which battled Zeus.  If this identification can be made, all the material on Typhon can be used in expanding our knowledge of the pillar of fire.  Also of course, the two separate traditions, one mythical and one biblical, tend to confirm the argument that there is behind both a historical reality.

A number of ancient authors clearly state that Typhon was a comet.  Velikovsky's thesis demands more, however:

Typhon must be dated to the time of the Exodus.  If this can be done, there is impressive evidence that the pillar of fire was a comet or material from a comet.

During his investigation of the works of chronographers, Velikovsky found a 1688 book, Cometographia, by Hevelius; he quoted earlier writers who had in turn quoted still earlier and lost manuscript books.  From one of his sources, an author called Calvisius, Hevelius got the statement that the Exodus was in the year of the world 2453, or 1495 B.C.  Another writer cited by Hevelius was Rockenbach who gave the same date for the Exodus and who also mentioned a comet which appeared at that time.  This work was published in 1602 with the title De cometis tractatus novus methodicus which may be translated, "An Up to Date and Systematic Essay on Comets."

Velikovsky quotes the pertinent passage (p. 83) and gives an English translation of the Latin original.  I give here the Latin and a new translation.  Velikovsky made editorial omissions; [1] these have been supplied in square brackets in both the Latin and English.  One omitted passage directs our attention to the giants and opens a possibly fruitful, if certainly tedious, area of investigation.  A major change is to read all the symbols which apparently are semicolons not as such but as diacritical marks.  These marks were labor saving devices, first used by medieval scribes; the ampersand for and is a survivor of the custom.  In Rockenbach the device which looks like a semicolon is clearly meant to stand for a terminal -que in the Latin and to mean "and."  The new translation, if accepted, gives a stronger evidence because it gives a reading which savors of a preserved eyewitness account.

The Latin original:

"Anno mundi, bis millesimo, quadrigentesimo tertio, Cometa (ut multi probate autores, de tempore hoc statuunt, ex conjectures multis) cuius Plinius quoque lib. 2 cap. 25 mentionem facit, igneus, formam imperfecti circuit, & in se convolute caputq; globi repraesentans, aspectu terribilis apparuit, Typhonq; a rege, tunc temporis ex Aegypto imperium tenente, dictus est, [qui rex, ut homines fide digni asserunt, auxilio gigantum, reges Aegyptoru (1) devicit.] Visus quoq; est ut aliqui volut, in Siria, Babylonia, India, in signo capricorni, sub forma rotae, eo tempore, quando filii Israel ex Aegypto in terram promissam, duce ac viae monstratore, per them columna nubis, noctu vero columna ignis, ut cap. legitur profecti sunt."

This new translation is submitted for the comment of Latinists:

"As many reliable authors, from much evidence, have ascertained the time, a comet (2) appeared in the year of the world 2453 (3).  Pliny also mentions it in Book 2, Chapter 25.  Being fiery and in the shape of an imperfect circle and wrapped in itself and a head showing as a globe, it appeared dreadful to the sight; and it was called Typhon after the king then holding the lordship of Egypt. [This king, as reliable men assert, subjugated the kings of the Egyptians by the help of the giants.]  The comet was also seen, as if rolling along another road, in Syria, Babylonia, and India; it was in the Sign of Capricorn, in the form of a wheel.  This was at the time the Children of Israel were led (4) from Egypt to the Promised Land by a leader and teacher of the route, in daytime by a column of cloud, at night time by a column of fire [as chapters 7, 8, 9, and, 10 succeed in establishing. ] "

It will be noticed that better grammatical subordination could have been secured, but this involves some interpretation; and it seems best to adhere to the staccato, note-entry style of the original.


(1)       The "m" is to be supplied at the end of the word.

(2)       This word is nominative singular, its unusual form being the result of its Greek origin.  The capitalization may indicate that Rockenbach meant, "an important comet."

(3)       1495 B.C.

(4)       The words "were led" are supplied.

PENSEE Journal V

[1] We should note that 1) Velikovsky quotes the Latin text in full (Worlds in Collision, Doubleday, p. 83); 2) the single omitted sentence in Velikovsky's English translation is marked with an ellipsis.  Ed.

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