An insider with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) published a very interesting treatise on Unidentified Flying Objects in classical antiquity that combined history and science. It seems that the ancients recorded many accounts involving UFOs and their occupants.
In a 2007 edition of the Classical Journal, Richard Stothers examined “ancient reports of what might today be called unidentified flying objects(UFOs).” He tossed out the cases that were easily explained and presented only the more puzzling evidence.
Eliminated were historical mentions of solar and lunar eclipses, comets, new stars (novae), aurorae inferred from Greek and Roman reports of “chasms,” “sky fire,” “night suns,” and such, as well as aerial lights that sometimes coincide with earthquakes.
Also discounted were reports that the sun for a few years appeared dim, red, and sometimes haloed after large volcanic eruptions due to aerosols injected into the stratosphere.
The researcher used the four categories of UFO sightings first proposed by famed astrophysicist and ufologist Dr. J. Allen Hynek: Close Encounters of the First, Second and Third Kinds, which escalate based on proximity (distance from the observer to the craft), material remains (physical evidence), and the presence of occupants (aliens).
Hynek defined a Close Encounter of the First Kind as an observation at close range of a UFO that neither interacts with the observer nor leaves a physical trace.
In 74 BC, a Roman army under L. Licinius Lucullus was about to engage the forces of King Mithridates VI of Pontus. The historian Plutarch preserved what thousands of witnesses, including himself and Mithridates, saw:
“But presently…with no apparent change of weather, but all of a sudden, the sky burst asunder, and a huge, flame-like body was seen to fall between the two armies. In shape, it was most like a wine-jar (pithōi), and in color, like molten silver. Both sides were astonished at the sight and separated. This marvel, as they say, occurred in Phrygia, at a place called Otryae.”
The flaming wine jar might have been a meteorite but Plutarch makes no mention of any noise or an impact site. Stothers reasoned that the falling silvery object must have been more than a yard wide since it was easily seen “at a distance greater than half the range of a bowshot.”
An older case came from a biography of St. Anthony, thought to have been written by Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, after conducting a personal interview with the witness years afterward. Around 285 AD, in or near the Fayûm in the Egyptian desert:
“Anthony saw on the desert floor a large silver disk that suddenly vanished like smoke.”
Was this a mirage – or a shy UFO?
A Close Encounter of the Second Kind does leave a physical trace.
While there are no accounts of tell-tale marks left by UFOs – impressions in the ground from landing gear, scorching, discoloration or broken tree branches – the NASA researcher wondered if ancient reports described a modern phenomenon called “angel hair” that on rare occasions falls from a UFO.
This whitish gossamer substance quickly vanishes once in contact with the earth. Witnesses have also described glassy fibers left by a UFO after takeoff from the ground or a residual chalky substance.
Compare those modern reports to this one from Cassius Dio, another Roman historian, who wrote in 196 AD:
“A fine rain resembling silver descended from a clear sky upon the Forum of Augustus. I did not, it is true, see it as it was falling, but noticed it after it had fallen, and by means of it I plated some bronze coins with silver; they retained the same appearance for three days, but by the fourth day all the substance rubbed on them had disappeared.”
Two other ancient accounts of a solid whitish substance dropping from the sky are two “chalk rains,” one at Cales in 214 BC and a second at Rome in 98 BC.
In a Close Encounter of the Third Kind, the observer or experiencer sees both a UFO one or more association occupants, usually described as human or humanoid. This might have happened more than two thousand years ago because yet another Roman historian, Livy, recorded that, in 218 BC:
“…in the district of Amiternum, in many places, forms of men dressed in shining white were seen at a distance; they did not approach anyone.”
Four years later, Livy wrote that “at Hadria, an altar was seen in the sky; around it were forms of men dressed in shining white.”
Was this “altar” a sky-platform – in modern terms, a UFO?
Finally, around 150 AD, on a sunny day near the Via Campana between Rome and Capua, a “beast” resembling a piece of pottery (ceramos) about 100 feet in size, multicolored on top, and shooting out fiery rays, landed in a dust cloud, accompanied by a “maiden” dressed in white.
The lone witness to that startling event was probably Hermas, brother of Pope Pius I.
How did the great scientific thinkers of ancient Rome and Greece interpret these tales of High Strangeness? Alas, history is silent in that regard.
You, Dear Readers, may draw your own conclusions.