The Athenian Year Primer: Attic Time-Reckoning and the Julian Calendar

by Christopher Planeaux


Ancient Athenians typically used two or, at times, three separate calendars from the 6th to 1st Centuries BCE.

Scholars have long known that all ancients followed the Moon, Sun, and Stars to organize their lives, but exactly how the Calendars of Ancient Athens functioned on a daily basis has remained a point of contention since studies began earnestly in the late-19th Century CE.

Translating ancient Athenian dates into exact Julian-Gregorian equivalents has proven at best problematic and at worst impossible. The present study seeks first to open this very specialized field within Classical Studies to a much needed wider audience.

The author begins by outlining the history behind its two chief competing schools of thought as well as reviewing the numerous difficulties, which plagued efforts to decipher ancient Athenian calendar dates.

The definitive tool needed for Classicists and Ancient Historians to unlock the methodologies ancient Athenians devised has simply remained impossible to grasp absent readily accessible technology: Positional Astronomy – accurate recreations of the night sky over Ancient Athens as it appeared to the naked eye from a specific location in Attica. The limitation no longer exists.

The ability to translate ancient Athenian calendar references into precise Julian-Gregorian dates will not only assist Ancient Historians and Classicists to date numerous historical events with much greater accuracy but also aid epigraphists in the restorations of numerous Attic inscriptions.

Christopher Planeaux is an independent scholar with degrees in Ancient History and Classical Studies from Indiana University and the University of Cambridge (Darwin College).

A work of this complexity in such a specialized field will unfortunately suffer errors, especially considering almost no experts still exist. Thus, a corrigendum of Errata et Addenda enim The Athenian Year Primer has become available here: