(Investigator 24, 1992 May)

In April 415 BC Athens sent 40,000 troops in 134 huge galleys and numerous smaller ships to besiege Syracuse on the island of Sicily.

In September 413 BC it was obvious that the siege had failed. The Athenian commanders, Nicias and Demosthenes, decided to pull out. All the ships were readied, but an eclipse of the moon occurred.

Nicias was superstitious and insisted on delaying the evacuation until there was a more favourable omen. The delay allowed the Syracusans to blockade the harbour. The Athenian navy and army were completely destroyed and 7,000 survivors were worked to death in the stone quarries.

It was a blow from which the military power of Athens did not recover. Athens went on to lose the Peloponnesian war against Sparta and lost its chance to be a major power.

Adolf Hitler is known to have trusted in astrology. So did President Reagan and his wife. Astrologer Joan Quigley claims: "Through Nancy, I had a direct line to the president. I was responsible for timing all press conferences, most speeches, the State of the Union addresses, the takeoffs and landings of Air Force One." Quigley claims she changed the course of history by turning Reagan away from his "evil empire" idea of the Soviet Union.

Superstitions believed in by members of the British Royal Family include ghosts and astrology. Author Andrew Morton who wrote Diana's Story (1990) says of her trust in astrology: "I wouldn't know if she'd ever altered her life to accommodate the predictions, as Nancy Reagan did, but she thinks about it. The stars — she is Cancer — are not the best for her, and that's one of the reasons she got interested in the first place. The stars say that Charles will never come to the throne." (Women's Weekly, December 1990, p. 52)

The Bible reveals that Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, sometimes determined military strategy by divination:

"For the king of Babylon stands at the parting of the way, at the head of the two ways, to use divination; he shakes the arrows, he consults the teraphim, he looks at the liver. Into his right hand comes the lot for Jerusalem..." (Ezekiel 21:22)

Another belief which has been popular at different times and places was the value and usefulness of human sacrifice. Such sacrifices supposedly placated gods, made crops bountiful, won victories and averted catastrophes.

This theme of superstition in history needs much more research. It appears, however, that superstitious beliefs of people in authority have had major influences on the political and military history of the world!