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A new Greek Calendar and Festivals of the Sun

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 September 2012


It is known that the Greeks found the means of time-reckoning when they began to observe and to record the rising and setting of the stars. Such recording had already been made in Babylonia and Egypt and taken up in Greece (and further developed) by Hesiod, Democritus, Eudoxus, and Ptolemy. Our knowledge of what they achieved was based until the end of the nineteenth century on the calendars of Geminus, Ptolemy, Aetius Amidenus, the Quintilii, Clodius Tuscus (and on some occasional references in other writers). In recent decades further examples have been found in astrological manuscripts and in papyri, amongst which the Calendar of Antiochus and that of the Pap. Hibeh 27 are the most prominent. Professor Rehm in his admirable Parapegmastudien has recently shown how much can be learnt from the simple entries in calendars about time-reckoning, astronomy, and, in general, about the cosmic system of a nation or a period. Religious entries on the other hand (which are of great importance for the origin and development of festivals) are less frequent—we find in the Hibeh Papyrus a number of local Egyptian festivals and in the Calendar of Antiochus two festivals of the Sun and a festival of the Nile.

Research Article
Copyright © Stefan Weinstock 1948. Exclusive Licence to Publish: The Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies

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1 Cf. Langdon, Babylonian Menologies, 1935, passim.

2 Cf. H. Brugsch, Drei Kalender, 1877, 7 ff.; Bilabel, Neue Heidelberger Jahrbücher 1929, 43 ff.

3 A new fragment of the Calendar of Democritus (see frg. 14 D.) is found in the same Cod. Barocc. 131, f. 422, in a commentary on Aratus, made up by Psellus of scholia on Aratus (not used by Maass). It is between schol. 137 and 152: ἡνίκα δὲ ὁ Λέων ἀνατέλλει, τηνικαῦτα καὶ οἱ ἄνεμοι πνέουσιν οἱ ἐτησίαι καὶ ἀκίνδυνος ὁ πλοῦς ἐπὶ ῆ (vel κ̄) ἡμέραις. Δημόκριτος δὲ ἐπὶ μίας (leg. μ̄ ?) ἡμέρας φησὶν αὐτοὺς πνεῖν….

4 These calendars are collected in the appendix to Wachsmuth's edition of Lydus' de ostentis; a more correct edition of the Calendar of the Quintilii is given by Boll, Sitz.-Ber. Heid. 1911, 1. Abh.; of Clodius Tuscus by L. Bianchi, Sitz.-Ber. Heid. 1914, 3. Abh.; of Aetius by Olivieri (1935), 3, 164. For further material see Cat. codd. astrol. graec. 7, 162; 11, 2, 168; 12, 109.

5 Ed. by Boll, Sitz.-Ber. Heid. 1910, 16. Abh.

6 Abh. Akad. München, N. F. 19, 1941; cf. Thomson, JHS 63, 1943, 52 ffGoogle Scholar.

7 Cf. Bilabel, l.c.

8 E.g. many of its entries agree with the Calendar of Aetius, who apparently depends on the mathematician Anatolios.

9 Cf. Mommsen, CIL I2, p. 231; id. Ges. Schr. iv, 102, 24.

10 Cf. Lyd. mens. 3, 22Google Scholar; 4, 42; Wissowa, Religion 2 144; Fink, R. O., Yale Class. Stud. 7, 1940, 83Google Scholar.

11 Cf. P-W 14, 2306 ff.; Wissowa, o. c. 185.

12 Cf. Wissowa, o. c. 159.

13 Cf. Nilsson, Arch. Rel. Wiss. 19, 1916–1919, 50 ff., 71 ff.Google Scholar; Schneider, ibid. 20, 1920, 87 ff.; my article in P-W 14, 2308.

14 The facts in Mommsen, Ges. Schr. 4, 102 ffGoogle Scholar.

15 Yale Class. Stud. 7, 1940, 1221Google Scholar.

16 Cf. Domaszewski, Religion des röm. Heeres 33 ff.; Fink, l. c.

17 CJL I2, p. 260; 280; Lyd. mens. 4, 45Google Scholar.

18 Cf. Veget. Epit. r. mil. 4, 39Google Scholar; Deubner, Ath. Mitt. 37, 1912, 180 ff.Google Scholar; Apul. Met. 11, 17Google Scholar.

19 The evidence is indirect, consisting of inscriptions found in the temple of Isis (published by Papadakis, Arch. Belt. I, 1915, 161Google Scholar = IG 12, Suppl., 557 f.) with lists of ναύαρχοι. Papadakis suggested that the task of these ναύαρχοι was to perform the ceremonies at the festival of the πλοιαφέσια; cf. Ziebarth, Berl. Philol. Wochenschr. 1916, 388; Cumont, Relig. orientales 4 243, 94. Mr. M. N. Tod kindly tells me that he finds this suggestion very probable.

20 Apul. Met. 11, 17Google Scholar; against the conjecture of Dieterich, Mithrasliturgie 38, see Weinreich's addenda, ibid.3 227; Berreth, J., Studien z. Isisbuch in Apul. Met., Diss. Tübingen, 1931, 85 ff.Google Scholar; cf. also de Saint-Denis, E., REL 25, 1947, 194 ff.Google Scholar; Levi, D., Antioch Mosaic Pavements 1947, I, 165Google Scholar.

21 Alföldi, A Festival of Isis in Rome 1937, 59 ff.; cf. 46 ff.

22 Cf. Cumont, Arch. Rel. Wiss. 9, 1906, 323 ff.Google Scholar; id. P-W 9, 445.

23 Diod. 2, 30, 3; Sen., NQ 7, 4, 2Google Scholar; Hystasp. frg. 19, Bidez-Cumont; Tac. Hist. 5, 4Google Scholar; Mart. Cap. 2, 197; cf. Bouché-Leclercq, , Astrol. gr. 94, 2Google Scholar; Reitzenstein, Poimandres 112; Cumont, , Ant. class. 4, 1935, 14Google Scholar.

24 Cf. Plut. sept. sap. conv. 3, 149AGoogle Scholar; Firmic. 2, 3, 2; Sext. astrol. 33, 35Google Scholar; Vett. Val. 2, 18; Porphyr. Introd. 6; Bouché-Leclercq, Astrol. gr. 193 ff.; Boll-Bezold, Sternglaube 3 59.

25 Cf. e.g. Ptolem. Tetrab. I, 18Google Scholar; Finnic. 2, 2; Bouché-Leclercq, l.c. 185 ff.; Boll-Bezold, l.c. 58, 148.

26 Firmic. 2, 3, 5 ‘Sol in Arietis parte XIX exaltatur, in Librae vero parte XI X deicitur …’; Doroth. Sidon. ap. Heph. Theb. I, 8; Cat. codd. astrol. 5, 2, 133, 4. This doctrine is somewhat varied in the new text of Hermes Trismegistos c. 25 where the degrees 10–15 of Aries are given the name ‘exaltatio’ (Gundel, , ‘Neue astrol. Texte d. Herm. Trism.’, Abh. Akad. München, NF. 12, 1936, 51Google Scholar; cf. p. 275).

27 Paul. Alex. T 1; Macrob. Somn. I, 21, 23 f.Google Scholar; Firmic. 3, 1, 1; Bouché-Leclercq, o. c. 186 ff.; Boll-Bezold, o. c. 148.

28 Cat. codd. astrol. 5, 2, 133, 26; Firmic. 3, 1, 17; Verg. Georg. 2, 323 ff.Google Scholar; Philo, de septen. 19 (quoted by Norden 17, 1); Housman, ad Manil. I, 262Google Scholar; Boll, Offenbarung Joh. 38; Norden, Geburt des Kindes 16 f. I ought to add that, by distinguishing these two traditions, I attempt to bring order into confused evidence: ancient (and modern) writers usually omit the one genitura mundi or the other.

29 That is why the astrologers of Asia Minor asserted that what the Egyptians called exaltations were in fact houses, cf. Firmic. 2, 3, 6: ‘Babylonii haec signa, in quibus exaltantur singuli, domus eorum esse voluerunt dicentes Saturni quidem domicilium esse Libram, Iovis Cancrum …, Solis Arietem’.

30 Ptolem., Tetrab. I, 20Google Scholar, 1.

31 Sternglaube u. Sterndeutung 3 59.

32 Landsberger, Der kultische Kalender der Babylonier 119; Langdon, Babylonian Menologies 86 ff.; W. v. Soden, OLZ 1936, 368; R. Labat, Hémérologies et ménologies d'Assur 45.

33 See also γέννα κόσμον in the magical Leiden papyrus (below, p. 41, n. 54).

34 The Calendar of Clodius Tuscus which notes at 1st January (Lyd. de ost. 59 = L. Bianchi, l. c. 22): Καλένδαις μακραὶ ἡμέραι ἄρχονται· ὁ Ἤλιος ὑψοῦται (cf. Lyd. mens. 4, 8Google Scholar ἰστέον δὲ κατὰ τὴν ἡνέραν τῶν Καλένδων τὸν Ἥλιον ἐφ῾ ὕψους γίνεσθαι) seems to imply that a third date was 1st January. This date is not less well chosen than the other two: it is a few days after the birthday of the Sun (see below, p. 41) and another New Year. But the value of this passage cannot be determined for lack of further evidence.

35 Rome's birthday on 21st April was celebrated after A.D. 121: cf. Wissowa, Religion 2 201; Hoey, , Yale Class. Studies 7, 1940, 102 ffGoogle Scholar. We hear of the birthday of Cyrene (Astydromia: Suid. S. V.), Naucratis (Athen. 4, 194d), Brundisium (Cic., Att. 4, 1, 4Google Scholar). We also hear of the horoscope of Seleucia (App. Syr. 58, 300 f.Google Scholar), Rome (by Tarutius Firmanus, contemporary of Varro: Cic., De div. 2, 98Google Scholar, etc., see Kroll, P-W 4A, 2408 f.), Constantinople (Zonar. 13, 3); cf. Cat. codd. astrol. 5, 1, 118, 2; 8, 1, 148; Boll-Bezold3 106 f.

36 Cf. Ginzel, , Handbuch der math. u. techn. Chronologie I, 187 ff.Google Scholar; Sethe, Nachr. Gött. Ges, 1919, 307 f.; Nilsson, , Arch. Rel. Wiss. 30, 1933, 145Google Scholar.

37 Censor. 18, 10; cf. Ginzel, l.c.; Nilsson, l.c.; id. P-W 17, 149.

38 Cf. Censor. 21, 10; Ginzel, l.c.; Vogt, Alexandr. Münzen I, 115Google Scholar.

39 Cf. Brugsch, H., Drei Kalender, 1877, 9, 19, 22Google Scholar; Nilsson, , Arch. Rel. Wiss. 19, 19161919, 70Google Scholar, 1; Erman, Religion der Aegypter 1934, 371. As a New Year's day, the rising of Sirius was the given time to make meteorological and astrological prognostics for the following year, cf. Manil. I, 401 ff.; Geopon. 1, 8 ( = Zoroastr. frg. O 40, Bidez-Cumont); Vett. Val. 4, 9; Heph. Theb. 1, 23; Cat. codd. astrol. I, 129, 171; 4, 125; 5, 1, 204; Cumont, Mélanges Glotz 1, 258 fGoogle Scholar.

40 A copy of the decree is preserved, Dittenberger, OGIS 458. The whole literary and epigraphical evidence relating to this change in the calendar of Asia is collected and discussed by Snyder, W. F., Yale Class. Stud. 7, 1940, 227 ff.Google Scholar, 286; cf. also CIL I2, p. 330; Scott, K., Yale Class. Stud. 2, 1931, 213 f.Google Scholar; Gagé, Res gestae 157, 1Google Scholar. On the religious significance of this change—implying, as it does, that the birthday of Augustus is the starting point of a new age of the world—see L. R. Taylor, The Divinity of the Roman Emperor 205. I intend to discuss this subject elsewhere.

41 Cf. Simplic. in Aristot. Phys. 5, 3, p. 226Google Scholar b 34 (p. 875D.): ἃς δὲ ἡμεῖς ποιούμεθα ἀρχὰς ἐνιαυτοῦ μὲν περὶ θερινὰς τροπὰς ὡς Ἀθηναῖοι, ἤ περὶ μετοπωρινὰς ὡς οἱ περὶ τὴν νῦν καλουμένην Ἀσίαν, ἢ περὶ χειμερινὰς ὡς Ῥωμαῖοι, ἢ περὶ ἐαρινὰς ὡς Ἄραβες καὶ Δαμασκηνοί; Ginzel, l.c. 3, 17 ff. The New Year of the province Syria fell on 18th November, see Domaszewski, Abhandlungen zur röm. Religion 206 f.; Boll, , Arch. Rel. Wiss. 19, 19161919, 191Google Scholar; W. Weber, ibid. 325.

42 Cf. e.g. Zimmern, Das babyl. Neujahrsfest, passim; Meissner, , Babylonien u. Assyrien 2, 98Google Scholar; Dhorme, Les religions de Babylonie et d'Assyrie 1945, 242, 255; Bousset-Gressmann, Religion d. Judentums 3 371 f.

43 The word occurs in this sense in Vett. Val. p. 362, 35; 363, 21; 25 Kroll.

44 Macrob. 1, 21, 26; cf. Achill. Isag. 23 (Comm. Arat. p. 54, 29 M.); Mommsen, , CIL 1, I2, p. 336Google Scholar; Rehm, Parapegmastudien 1941, 36.

45 Porphyr. περι ἀγαλμάτων frg. 7 Bidez ( = Eus. pr. ev. 3, 11, 9 ff.Google Scholar; cf. Lyd. mens. 4, 137Google Scholar).

46 Kronos represents the Sun of the night or of winter on a bronze in Graz (Dussaud, Rev. arch. 1903, I 356, 380Google Scholar), in Paris (Dussaud, Mon. Piot 30, 1929, 99Google Scholar), and on the Palmyran altar in the Museo Capitolino (Cumont, Syria 9, 1928, 102 ff.Google Scholar).

47 ‘Plat.’ Epin. 987c.; cf. Bidez, , Rev. phil. 29, 1905, 319Google Scholar; id. Eos ou Platon et l'Orient 94, 183, 7; Cumont, Syria 9, 1928, 104Google Scholar; id. Ant. Class. 4, 1935, 11, 6; 14, 2.

48 Dasii, Acta S., ed. Cumont, , Anal. Bollandiana 16, 1897, 11Google Scholar (reprinted by Knopf-Krüger, Ausgew. Märtyrerakten 3 91): Μηνὶ Νοεμβρίῳ κ’.τῶν…βασιλευόντων Μαξιμιανοῦ καὶ Διοκλητιανοῦ ἦν…συνήθεια…ὥστε καθ’ ἕκαστον ἐνιαυτὸν τοῦ Κρόνου τὴν ἐπίσημον ἑορτὴν ἐκτελέσαι … ἐπεὶ οὖν ἕκαστος … κομιӡόμενος βασιλικὸν ἔνδυμα προϊὼν κατὰ τὴν αὐτοῦ τοῦ Κρόνου ὁμοιότητα … ἐτεμβαίνων μετὰ πλήθους στρατιωτῶν ἔχων ἄδειαν συγκεχωρημὲνην ἐπὶ ἡμέρας τριάκοντα … πληρωμένων δὲ τῶν τριάκοντα ἡμερῶν πέρας ἐδέχετο ἡ ἑορτὴ τοῦ Κρόνου: cf. Lyd. mens. 4, 158Google Scholar; Procl. rep. 2, p. 61Google Scholar Kr.; Cumont, l.c.; Weber, W., Arch. Rel. Wiss. 19, 19161919, 316 ff.Google Scholar; Peterson, ΕΙς θεός 167. The thirty days of the festival of Kronos were not unintentional; they were made (as explained by Boll. Arch. Rel. Wiss., ibid. 346) to correspond to the thirty years of the revolution of the planet of Saturn.

49 Lyd. mens. 4, 158Google Scholar; Procl., rep. 2Google Scholar, p. 61 Kr.

50 In Egypt: Brugsch, H., Thes. inscr. Aegyptiacarum 2, 403 ff.Google Scholar; Sethe, ‘Altägyptische Vorstellungen vom Lauf der Sonne,’ Sitz.-Ber. Akad. Berlin, 1928, 264 f.; Nilsson, , Arch. Rel. Wiss. 30, 1933, 144Google Scholar, 3.—In Greece, Heraclitus perhaps had already formed this view when he said that Helios is young every day (frg. 6 D., ὁ ἥλιος…νέος ἐφ᾿ ἡμέρῃ ἐστίν). But Manilius is the first among classical authors to speak unequivocally of the daily birth and death of the Sun (I, 184, ‘solisve assiduos partus et fata diurna’; cf. Serv., ad Aen. 4, 584Google Scholar; later evidence in Boll, Sitz.-Ber. Held. 1910, 16. Abh., 42, n. 35); two old metaphors, however, help to fill the gap. According to the one, evening is the old age of the day (Arist. poet. 21, 1457Google Scholar b 22: ὃ γῆρας πρὸς βίον καὶ ἑσπέρα πρὸς ἡμέραν, ἐρεῖ τοίνυν τὴν ἑσπέραν γῆρας ἡμέρας ἢ ὥσπερ Ἐμπεδοκλῆς [frg.152 D.] καὶ τὸ γῆρας ἑσπέραν βίου ἢ δυσμὰς βίου. Cf. Boll, Neue Jahrb. 31, 1913, 96Google Scholar), and to the other, old age is the setting, or evening, of life (Plat., Legg. 6, 770aGoogle Scholar, ἡμεῖς δ᾿ ἐν δυσμαῖς βίου and Alexis, FCG.3, p. 488, Mein.: ἤδη γὰρ ὁ βίος οὑμὸς ἑσπέραν ἄγει. Athen. 13, 5926). Unless I am mistaken, this conception of the daily life of the Sun in the regions of the heavens led ultimately to the doctrine of hellenistic astrology according to which those four heavenly regions influence the four ages of man, one his birth, the other his youth, the third his adult age, the fourth his old age (Manil. 2, 788 ff.).

51 Macrob. 1, 18, 10; Mart. Cap. 1, 76.

52 Sitz.-Ber. Held. 1910, 16. Abh. There is an analogy in Egyptian festivals, concerning the birth and death of Kronos, Plut., Is. 32, 363eGoogle Scholar: καὶ θρῆνός ἐστιν ἱερὸς ἐπὶ τοῦ Κρόνου γενόμενος, θρηνεῖ δὲ τὸν ἐν τοῖς ἀριστεροῖς γιγνόμενον μέρεσιν, ἐν δὲ τοῖς δεξιοῖς φθειρόμενον. His birthday was celebrated in Oxyrhynchus in the third century A.D. on the 10th of an unknown month, P. Oxy. 7, 1025 (Wilcken, Chrest. 493): συνεορτάσοντες ἐν τῇ πατρῴᾳ ἡμῶν ἑορτῇ γενεθλίῳ τοῦ Κρόνου θεοῦ μεγίστου; cf. Bilabel, Neue Heidelberger Jahrb. 1929, 43.

53 Cf. Cumont, CRAI 1911, 292 ff.; Rev. hist, rel. 78, 1918, 207 ff.; 82, 1920, 85 ff.; Syria 9, 1928, 108; Holl, Sitz.-Ber. Akad. Berlin, 1917, 426 ff. ( = Ges. Aufsätze 2, 123 ff.); Weber, W., Arch. Rel. Wiss. 19, 19161919, 331Google Scholar, 1; Sethe, NGG. 1920, 38; R. Kittel, Die hellenist. Myst.-Rel. u. d. AT. 1924, 23; Norden, Geburt des Kindes 24 ff.; Nilsson, , Arch. Rel. Wiss. 30, 1933, 149 ff.Google Scholar; Bousset, , Kyrios Christos 174, 3Google Scholar; 272; B. Botte, Les origines de la Noël et de l'Épiphanie 1932, 60 ff.; Noiville, , Hespéris 8, 1928, 363 ff.Google Scholar; RÉA 38, 1936, 145 ff.Google Scholar; Nock, , Harv. Theol. Rev. 27, 1934, 90 ff.CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Strittmatter, Thought 17, 1942, 600 ffGoogle Scholar.

54 In addition, it is fair to presume that the exaltation of the Sun on 12th April is to mark its third age when it is at the height of its power. In the magical Leiden papyrus the four seasons of the year are marked by the following four dates (P. Leid. J. 385, ll. 386 ff. = PGM xiii, vol. 2, p. 107, Preisend.): (1) γέννα κόσμου καὶ ἡλίου (ll. 387 and 399); (2) ůψωμα of the Sun, also called birth of Horus (ll. 389 and 401 (3) rise of Sirius (ll. 390 and 402); (4) ἡλίου ταπεινωσις (l. 408). It is apparent that this arrangement comes from a source similar to that of our calendar; but further conjectures seem impossible as the context of the papyrus is obscure.

55 Lyd. mens. 4, 151Google Scholar: ἀπὸ δὲ τῆς πεντεκαιδεκάτης τοῦ Νοεμβρίου μέχρις ὅλου τοῦ Δεκεμβρίου ἤργουν οἱ Ῥωμαῖοι ἐν μόναις εὐωχίαις ἐνασχολούμενοι διὰ τὴν βραχύτητα τῶν ἡμερῶν. cf. 4, 158; Geopon I, 1, 9: ἡ δὲ τῶν Βρούμων ἑορτή ἑστι τῇ πρὸ ὀκτὼ Καλανδῶν Δεκεμβρίων. 1, 5, 3; Tertull. idol. 10; Mommsen, CIL I2, pp. 276 f., 287, 1.

56 Agathias 5, 3, p. 282, Niebuhr; Const. Porphyr. de caer. 2, 18Google Scholar; Reiske ad l. (2, pp. 701 ff.); Tomaschek, Sitz.-Ber. Wien 60, 1868, 360 ff.Google Scholar; Fink, , Yale Class. Stud. 7, 1940, 160Google Scholar, n. 736.

57 Lyd. de ost. 70.

58 Its date is c. A.D. 320: Domaszewski, Abhandlungen sur röm. Religion 206; Boll, , Arch. Rel. Wiss. 19, 19161919, 191Google Scholar; W. Weber, ibid. 324; Reitzenstein, Iran. Erlösungsmyst. 180.

59 Is it just a coincidence that this period of waiting for the Sun's return roughly corresponds to the period of Advent?

60 Macrob. I, 18, 10.

61 Cosmas Hierosolym., Patr. graec. 38, 464Google Scholar; cf. Cumont, CRAI 1911, 293 ff.; not accepted by Nilsson, l.c. 155 f. The mysterious ‘Bodleian’ MS. (so quoted everywhere because of Lobeck's [Aglaoph. 1227 n.] vague reference ‘Schol. Gregor. Bodlej. p. 48’) is the Cod. Clarkianus 12 of Greg. Naz. (saec. x); its marginal scholia written in the same hand represent an earlier text of Cosm. Hierosolym. than the Vaticanus used by A. Mai (Migne is just a reprint of Mai). These scholia were published by Gaisford (Catal. … mss. qui a cel. E. D. Clarke comparati in Bibl. Bodl. adservantur 1812, pp. 35 ff.), but, except what was quoted by Lobeck, remained unnoticed (the following readings are changed by Lobeck: ἐτησίαν; ἔτεκεν; Ἐπιφ. ὁ μέγας; σεβ. τιμῶντες).

62 Chronogr. A.D. 354, CILI2, p. 338; Usener, Weihnachtsfest 2 348.

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