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Greek Astronomical Calendars and their Relation to the Athenian Civil Calendar


van der Waerden, B L (1960). Greek Astronomical Calendars and their Relation to the Athenian Civil Calendar. Journal of Hellenic Studies, 80:168-180.

Abstract

Several investigations have been devoted to the Athenian calendar and to the cycles of Meton and Kallippos. However, most authors have not clearly distinguished between true and mean lunar months, nor between astronomical calendars and the Athenian calendar. In investigating the Athenian calendar, many authors have made use of the regular successions of full and hollow months described by Geminos in his<jats:italic>Isagoge</jats:italic>, without first making sure that these months were in actual use at Athens. Discussion as to whether ‘the month’ began with the astronomical New Moon or with the visibility of the crescent might have been avoided if the authors had realised that the word ‘month’ has several meanings and that in every particular case the meaning has to be inferred from the context. Peasants or soldiers, far away from civilisation, would start their month with the visible crescent, astronomers would make it begin at the day of true or mean New Moon, and cities would adapt their festival calendar to the needs of the moment, intercalating or omitting days in such a way that the festivals can be held at the days prescribed by law or tradition. Of course, it may happen any time that a civil month coincides with the astronomical or with the observed lunar month, but in absence of definite evidence we never have the right to identify a civil month with an astronomical month.

Abstract

Several investigations have been devoted to the Athenian calendar and to the cycles of Meton and Kallippos. However, most authors have not clearly distinguished between true and mean lunar months, nor between astronomical calendars and the Athenian calendar. In investigating the Athenian calendar, many authors have made use of the regular successions of full and hollow months described by Geminos in his<jats:italic>Isagoge</jats:italic>, without first making sure that these months were in actual use at Athens. Discussion as to whether ‘the month’ began with the astronomical New Moon or with the visibility of the crescent might have been avoided if the authors had realised that the word ‘month’ has several meanings and that in every particular case the meaning has to be inferred from the context. Peasants or soldiers, far away from civilisation, would start their month with the visible crescent, astronomers would make it begin at the day of true or mean New Moon, and cities would adapt their festival calendar to the needs of the moment, intercalating or omitting days in such a way that the festivals can be held at the days prescribed by law or tradition. Of course, it may happen any time that a civil month coincides with the astronomical or with the observed lunar month, but in absence of definite evidence we never have the right to identify a civil month with an astronomical month.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:National licences > 142-005
Dewey Decimal Classification:470 Latin & Italic languages
480 Classical & modern Greek languages
Language:English
Date:1 November 1960
Deposited On:18 Oct 2018 13:17
Last Modified:24 Nov 2018 03:04
Publisher:Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies
ISSN:0075-4269
OA Status:Green
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.2307/628385
Related URLs:https://www.swissbib.ch/Search/Results?lookfor=nationallicencecambridge102307628385 (Library Catalogue)

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