Calendars in Antiquity: Empires, States, and Societies

Calendars in Antiquity: Empires, States, and Societies


By (author) Sacha Stern

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  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Format: Hardback | 472 pages
  • Dimensions: 156mm x 234mm x 36mm | 880g
  • Publication date: 15 November 2012
  • Publication City/Country: Oxford
  • ISBN 10: 0199589445
  • ISBN 13: 9780199589449
  • Illustrations note: 17 tables
  • Sales rank: 941,363

Product description

Calendars were at the heart of ancient culture and society, and were far more than just technical, time-keeping devices. Calendars in Antiquity offers a comprehensive study of the calendars of ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, Persia, Greece, Rome, Gaul, and all other parts of the Mediterranean and the Near East, from the origins up to and including Jewish and Christian calendars in late Antiquity. In this volume, Stern sheds light on the political context in which ancient calendars were designed and managed. Set and controlled by political rulers, calendars served as expressions of political power, as mechanisms of social control, and sometimes as assertions of political independence, or even of sub-culture and dissidence. While ancient calendars varied widely, they all shared a common history, evolving on the whole from flexible, lunar calendars to fixed, solar schemes. The Egyptian calendar played an important role in this process, leading most notably to the institution of the Julian calendar in Rome, the forerunner of our modern Gregorian calendar. Stern argues that this common, evolutionary trajectory was not the result of scientific or technical progress. It was rather the result of major political and social changes that transformed the ancient world, with the formation of the great Near Eastern empires and then the Hellenistic and Roman Empires from the first millennium BC to late Antiquity. The institution of standard, fixed calendars served the administrative needs of these great empires but also contributed to their cultural cohesion.

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Author information

Sacha Stern is Professor of Jewish Studies at University College London. His research and publications are centred on ancient and medieval time and calendars, as well as on other aspects of Jewish history in Antiquity.

Review quote

Stern's detailed and carefully argued description of the genesis and diffusion of the Julian calendar exhibits all the features we might hope top find in such a study. ... represents a tremendous moment of synthesis within calendrical studies and is an essential purchase for both research libraries and specialists in calendrics. J. Cale Johnson, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies No doubt calendar specialists will want to debate some of Stern's interpretations, but this is a well-argued book with an extensive bibliography. It is the place to begin for anyone interested in any of the ancient Near Eastern or eastern Mediterranean calendars. Lester L. Grabbe, Journal of Jewish Studies This brilliantly conceived and magisterially executed book deserves to attract a readership from well beyond the relatively small circles of calendar specialists and aficionados, Alden A. Mosshammer, The Journal of Theological Studies,

Table of contents

LIST OF TABLES ; INTRODUCTION ; PART I: FROM CITY STATES TO GREAT EMPIRES: THE RISE OF THE FIXED CALENDARS ; 1. Calendars of ancient Greece ; 2. The Babylonian calendar ; 3. The Egyptian calendar ; 4. The rise of the fixed calendars: Persian, Ptolemaic, and Julian calendars ; PART II: THE EMPIRES CHALLENGED AND DISSOLVED: CALENDAR DIVERSITY AND FRAGMENTATION ; 5. Fragmentation: Babylonian and Julian calendars in the Near East, 3rd century BCE 7th century CE ; 6. Dissidence and subversion: Gallic, Jewish, and other lunar calendars in the Roman Empire ; 7. Sectarianism and heresy: from Qumran calendars to Christian Easter controversies ; CONCLUSION ; REFERENCES ; INDEX