The Flood of 1524
In 1499 the astrologer Johann Stöffler predicted that catastrophe would rain down on Europe on February 4, 1524 because of an ominous conjunction of the planets which would occur at that time. As 1524 approached, mass hysteria engulfed Europe. People anticipated that the catastrophe would take the form of a flood because the planetary conjunction occurred under the zodiacal sign of pisces (the fish). Many people built boats or moved to higher ground. The philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli even penned some verse urging the women of Florence to run away to the high hills and live with the hermits to avoid perishing in the predicted flood. Nervously everyone waited. On February 3 people partied and caroused, expecting that they would die the next day. Then February 4 arrived, and nothing happened. It didn't even rain. The astrologers were duly heckled, but (perhaps not surprisingly) the bogus prediction did little to diminish the popularity of astrology itself.