Documented sightings spanning thousands of years, across cultures, match reported UFO encounters today. The scholarly article “Unidentified Flying Objects In Classical Antiquity” (download here: .2007_Stothers_2) tries to decode the patterns:
The UFO phenomenon, whatever it may be due to, has not changed much over two millennia. Throughout recorded history, reports of what we today might call unidentified flying objects have been made and preserved. Embedded in the mass of relatively explicable ancient reports, is a small set of unexplained (or at least not wholly explained) reports from presumably credible witnesses.
At Rome in the winter of 218 BC “a spectacle of ships (navium) gleamed in the sky”. In 217 BC “at Arpi round shields (parmas) were seen in the sky”. In 212 BC “at Reate a huge stone (saxum) was seen flying about” In 173 BC “at Lanuvium a spectacle of a great fleet was said to have been seen in the sky” In 154 BC “at Compsa weapons (arma) appeared flying in the sky”. In 100 BC, probably at Rome, “a round shield (clipeus), burning and emitting sparks, ran across the sky from west to east, at sunset.” [In 93 BC] Romans on a journey saw a gold-colored ball roll down from the sky to the earth; after growing larger, it was seen to rise upward again from the earth toward the rising sun and to block the sun itself by its size.
A Close Encounter of the Third Kind involves a UFO seen in association with an occupant, usually described as human or humanoid. According to Livy, in 214 BC “at Hadria an altar was seen in the sky; around it were forms of men dressed in shining white.” Four years earlier, “in the district of Amiternum, in many places, forms of men dressed in shining white were seen at a distance; they did not approach any- one.” The last encounter is again from the early Christian hagiographical literature and took place near the Via Campana between Rome and Capua ca. AD 150. On a sunny day, a “beast” like 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” clad in white.
Although UFOs vary in morphology and behavior, consistent patterns have emerged. At close range, UFOs appear as disks or other extended objects, including vertical cylinders enveloped in “clouds” and associated with smaller disks. Depending on the viewing angles, their intrinsic shapes might be similar or even identical: a disk seen face-on looks circular, although edge-on it looks elliptical or oblong. Colors in the daytime are usually described as silvery or gray, and in the night as resembling red or multicolored lights.
Any viable theory must reckon with the extraordinary persistence and consistency of the phenomena discussed here over many centuries. Whether one prefers to think in terms of universal recurrent visions from the collective unconscious, misperceptions of ordinary objects, unusual atmospheric effects, unknown physical phenomena or extraterrestrial visitations, what we today would call UFOs possess an intrinsic interest that has transcended the passage of time and the increase of human knowledge.