September 12, 2001 (with updates)
NOSTRADAMUS, the most famous astrologer who ever lived, was born in France in 1503 and published his barely scrutable collection of prophecies, The Centuries, in 1555. Each four-line verse (or "quatrain") purported to foretell world events far into the future, and ever since Nostradamus' time devotees have claimed his work accurately predicted wars, natural disasters and the rise and fall of empires.
Yet it's plain to see that Nostradamus couched his "prophetic" verses in language so obscure that the words can be, and have been, interpreted to mean almost anything. What's more, the interpreting is always done after the fact, with the benefit of hindsight, and with the concerted aim of proving the relevance of a given passage to an actual event.
If the aftermaths of past world catastrophes are any indication, we can expect to see a bumper crop of arcane tracts in the coming weeks and months purporting to show beyond a doubt that Nostradamus foresaw the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks of September 11, 2001. In fact, thanks to the efforts of anonymous Internet pranksters, the he-told-you-sos have already begun. "Spooky" quatrains allegedly foretelling the events of 9/11 with incredible specificity were circulating online within hours of the first jetliner crash in New York City — completely bogus quatrains, as it turned out. It wasn't a question of whether or not they accurately predicted anything; Nostradamus simply didn't write them.
New York, the 'City of God'???
The first quatrain to hit email inboxes on 9/11 contained the prediction that a "great thunder" would be heard in the "City of God":
"In the City of God there will be a great thunder,
Two brothers torn apart by Chaos,
while the fortress endures, the great leader will succumb",
The third big war will begin when the big city is burning"
- Nostradamus 1654
Let the interpreting begin! Assuming "the City of God" is New York City, then the "two brothers torn apart by Chaos" must be the fallen towers of the Word Trade Center. The "fortress" is clearly the Pentagon, the "great leader" succumbing to Chaos must be the United States of America, and "the third big war" can only mean World War III.
Spooky, right? Not so fast.