Egyptian Dates
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This page gives access to a set of conversion tables for determining the Julian equivalent of Egyptian civil and lunar dates in the Ptolemaic era. Two tables are provided: a table converting civil dates to Julian dates, and a table notionally converting lunar dates to civil dates according to the lunar cycle of pCarlsberg 9.
In this section, several topics are discussed:
Ptolemaic dates according to the Egyptian calendar can only be converted into Julian dates once the relationships between the Egyptian regnal eras and the Julian year count are known. This section summarises the analysis on which these relationships are established. Note that it only covers the number of complete regnal years assigned to each king. For the evidence on precise dates within the first or final regnal year on which a change of ruler took place, to the extent that these can be determined, see the discussion under individual rulers.
The Canon of Kings of Claudius Ptolemy
The reignlengths of Ptolemaic kings were accurately known, in the first instance, from the socalled Canon of Ptolemy, a kinglist contained in the Handy Tables of Claudius Ptolemy to allow easy conversions between regnal years and the years of the Era of Nabonassar. The canon was maintained and extended by Byzantine scholars throughout the Middle Ages. Its recovery and publication in the west was one of the major milestones in the development of scientific chronology in the 17th century.
The section of the list covering the Ptolemaic dynasty is as follows:
King 
Reign length 
Accession year 
Julian Date Range 
Ptolemy (I) son of Lagos 
20 
444 
7 Nov. 305 / 6 Nov. 304 
Ptolemy (II) Philadelphos 
38 
464 
2 Nov. 285 / 1 Nov. 284 
Ptolemy (III) Evergetes 
25 
502 
24 Oct. 247 / 23 Oct. 246 
Ptolemy (IV) Philopator 
17 
527 
18 Oct. 222 / 16 Oct. 221 
Ptolemy (V) Epiphanes 
24 
544 
13 Oct. 205 / 12 Oct. 204 
Ptolemy (VI) Philometor 
35 
568 
7 Oct. 181 / 6 Oct. 180 
Ptolemy (VIII) Evergetes II 
29 
603 
29 Sep. 146 / 27 Sep. 145 
Ptolemy (IX) Soter 
36 
632 
21 Sep. 117 / 20 Sep. 116 
Ptolemy (XII) Neos Dionysos 
29 
668 
12 Sep. 81 / 11 Sep. 80 
Cleopatra (VII) 
22 
697 
5 Sep. 52 / 4 Sep. 51 
[Augustus] 
43 
719 
31 Aug. 30 / 29 Aug. 29 
Since Ptolemy used the Egyptian wandering year, it is straightforward to calculate the Julian accession year of each of these kings according to this table once one absolute date has been fixed. Several such dates can be determined from the astronomical data that Ptolemy provides in the Almagest. If the list can be shown to match contemporary data, it provides a basic Julian framework for Ptolemaic chronology.
It is clear from classical histories, notably Eusebius, Chronicorum I 161ff. (which uses the Olympic calendar, not the Egyptian one), and from the papyrological data, that the Canon is greatly simplified compared to the actual historical sequence of rulers. These sources show that the regnal eras of several Ptolemaic rulers are not mentioned in Ptolemy's list, and the papyrological sources further show that there also some Egyptian rebel kings who had regnal eras. However, the reason Ptolemy omitted these eras is clear: they did not contribute to his purpose in compiling the list. Some rulers (Berenice III, Ptolemy XI) are clearly omitted because they reigned for less than a year, while others (Cleopatra II, Cleopatra III, Ptolemy X, Cleopatra V, Berenice IV, Ptolemy XIII, Ptolemy XIV, Ptolemy XV, and the rebel kings Horwennefer/Ankhwennefer and Harsiesi) are omitted because their reigns were subsumed by the eras of rulers who were included in the list.
The second problem with the Canon is more complex: not all kings used a regnal era in which the epoch was 1 Thoth of their accession year. We are told by other sources that Ptolemy II and Ptolemy VIII both counted their regnal eras from the year they became coregent, rather than the year they became sole ruler, and that the regnal era of Augustus was initially based on the anniversary of the fall of Alexandria. Since Ptolemy's concern is with the length of reign, not with regnal year numbers as such, the eras for these kings in the list are clearly based on the epochs that made most sense to Ptolemy for dating astronomical events. However, it is not immediately clear how the astronomical year numbers of these kings in Ptolemy's list correspond to the regnal year numbers of the historical record.
Validating the Canon
Note: At the time I first wrote this section in 2005 I was not aware of any published validation of the Canon for the Ptolemaic period, its general correctness being just assumed. Louis Goguillon (whose website on calendars is available here) subsequently drew my attention to F. Robiou, Recherches sur le calendrier macédonien en Égypte et sur la chronologie des Lagides, which gives a very similar analysis, subject to the limits of the data available in 1877. Another similar analysis is given in M. L. Strack, Die Dynastie der Ptolemäer, 149ff., which includes discussion of a couple of additional documents not considered in my original discussion; I have added these.
There are several types of contemporary data that we can use to test the reign lengths in Ptolemy's list, to determine the dates of rulers not mentioned in the list, and (where necessary) to determine the relationships between the eras of the list and the regnal eras of the historical record. The contemporary coverage is sufficiently complete that the Canon is not only fully vindicated but may be considered replaced by this data as the foundation of Ptolemaic chronology.
The most important confirmations are:
Highest Regnal Years
The highest attested regnal years for the kings in the Ptolemaic Canon are as follows:
King 
Reign length 
Highest attested year 
Source 
Ptolemy (I) son of Lagos 
20 
21 
pdem BM 10.537 
Ptolemy (II) Philadelphos 
38 
39 

Ptolemy (III) Evergetes 
25 
26 

Ptolemy (IV) Philopator 
17 
18 
pMed. Inv 83.03 
Ptolemy (V) Epiphanes 
24 
25 

Ptolemy (VI) Philometor 
35 
36=1 
pdem Fuad I 
Ptolemy (VIII) Evergetes II 
29 
54 
Edfu VII 9.3 
Ptolemy (IX) Soter 
36 
37 
Brugsch ZÄS 24#51 
Ptolemy (XII) Neos Dionysos 
29 
30 
OGIS 190 
Cleopatra (VII) 
22 
22 
This table glosses over issues of identifying the kings in the source data, e.g. Ptolemy XII changed his epiklesis from "Philopator Philadelphos" to "Neos Dionysos" partway through his reign. The assignment of some of the sources, e.g. those for Ptolemy III and IV, are determined indirectly, usually on prosopographical grounds, which may risk inducing circular reasoning, although I do not think there is any. The resolution of such issues is discussed under individual rulers.
The case of Ptolemy I, marked in blue, requires separate discussion. The literary sources explain that Ptolemy II accounted his years from the date of his coregency with Ptolemy I, which was two years before his actual accession. For this reason, the generally accepted reconstruction of Ptolemy I's chronology predicts a highest Egyptian regnal year number of 23, not 21, since his last two years were in coregency with Ptolemy II. While the highest attested year number of 21 accords with the Canon, this means that it is not sufficient proof that his Egyptian regnal years only covered the 20 years of the Canon, although that position has been argued recently by B. Muhs, Fs. Pestman 71. However, this analysis is based on tax receipts, which used a financial year, at this time equivalent to the Macedonian regnal year. Moreover, if correct Muhs' solution implies discrepancies with the dates recorded according to his Macedonian regnal years, which certainly carried on to his death. Muhs' solution implies that some Greeks dated according to Ptolemy I while other Greeks in the same place, and Egyptians, dated according to Ptolemy II. Further, iBucheum 3 (discussed below) is clear if indirect evidence of 22 completed Egyptian years, notwithstanding Muhs' attempt to argue this datum away through the form of the numeral. On these grounds, this particular "highest year" is unlikely to be accurate.
The probable explanation of the absence of higher dates is simple lack of evidence. Our attestations for regnal years of Ptolemy I are very sparse compared to those of later kings. At least as of 1967, we had no attestations for Egyptian years 1, 3, 7, 910, 15 and 19  a third of his reign (P. W. Pestman, Chronologie égyptienne d'après les textes démotiques, 1315). For the rest of the Ptolemaic era, there are dated records from almost every year. For this reason, the attestations can reasonably be taken as reliable indicators of the highest actual regnal years from Ptolemy II onwards.
It is clear that in general the highest attested year is one greater than the reign length assigned by Ptolemy. This shows that the first regnal year of an incoming king usually annexed the last year of his predecessor. The two clear exceptions, marked in blue, are explicable by departures from that custom, for reasons explicitly discussed or clearly traceable in the sources:
Ptolemy VIII accounted his years from the date of his joint reign with Ptolemy VI and Cleopatra II. The reignlength of Ptolemy VIII in Ptolemy's list rejects this convention.
 Augustus accounted his years initially from the fall of Alexandria, and after the Alexandrian reform from the start of the following year; he never annexed Cleopatra VII's last year.
Direct Statements of Reign Length and Distanzangaben
These two classes of evidence are treated together.
There are two documents giving explicit statements of reign length:
Edfu VII 9.3: Ptolemy VIII died on 11 Payni year 54
 pOxy 12.1453: year 1 of Caesar (i.e. Augustus) followed year 22 of Cleopatra
Additionally there are at least two documents showing an implicit regnal transition:
PSI 6.583: Annual accounts for (financial) years 3539 [Ptolemy II], 24 [Ptolemy III]
 BGU 6.1292: Annual accounts for years 36 [Ptolemy IX], 1 and 2 [Ptolemy XII]
Distanzangaben are provided by funerary stelae of priests and sacred animals, most importantly the Buchis bulls, which give an explicit birth date, death date, and distance between the two. When the birth and death dates are in the reigns of different kings, it is easy to determine the total number of years for the reigning king's predecessors, back to the king reigning at the time of birth. For the sacred bulls in particular, the two kings usually reigned consecutively. However, the calculations on the stelae are not always accurate. This is usually not a problem if the error is in months or days, but in some cases the error apparently is in the calculation of years.
The useful Distanzangaben I have located of this type are as follows (if you know of others, please email me). Dates are given in the format dd/MM/<regnal year>, where the Roman numerals give the position of the Egyptian month. Corrections and completions are shown in [green]; note that Egyptians often omit the 5 epagomenal days in calculating lifespans:
Source 
Deceased 
Birthdate 
Deathdate 
Lifespan 
iBucheum 3 
Buchis of Thenuhab 
19/X/14 Pt. I 
25/VI/13 Pt. II 
20y 8m 13d 
Vienna 153 
Anemhor II HPM 
3/VII/16 Pt. I 
26/VIII/5 Pt. IV 
72y 1m 23d 
Berlin 2118 
Kha'hapi, priest 
14/VII/11 [Pt. II] 
4/V/2 [Pt. V] 
69[68]y 9m 20d 
Vienna 154 
Djedhor HPM 
29/XI/18 [Pt. II] 
23/VI/24 [Pt. III] 
43y 6m 29d 
iBucheum 6 
Buchis of TaAmen 
20/XI/13 [Pt. III] 
12/X/8 Pt. IV 
18y 5[10]m 23d 
BM 378 
Heriu II HPL 
24/X/8 Pt. IV 
26/III/7 Pt. VIII 
50y 6[5]m 5[7]d 
Brugsch ZAS 22#6 
Apis of TaRenenut II 
13/IV/19 Pt. V 
6/VII/6 Pt. VIII 
22y 2m 23d 
iBucheum 8 
Buchis of TiKhnumt 
2?/VII/25 Pt. V 
7/V/19 Pt. VI 
17y 9m 6d 11hr 
iBucheum 9 
Buchis of TiKhnumt 
3/VII/19 [Pt. VI] 
27/XII/36=25 Pt. VIII 
17y 5m 20d 
Vienna 82 
Pedubast III HPM 
1/III/50 Pt. VIII 
7[?2]/VI/5 Pt. XII 
43[44]y 2[3]m 2[?6]d 
Ashm 1971/18 
Psherenptah III HPM 
21/II/25 Pt. X 
16/XI/11 Cl. VII 
48y 7[9]m 
BM 377 
Taimhotep his wife 
9/IV/9 Pt. XII 
16/VI/10 Cl. VII 
30y 2m 6d 
iBucheum 13 
Buchis of Tenen 
12/VII/28 [Pt. XII] 
21/VIII/1 Caesar 
24y 1m 8d 
Brugsch Thes. V 934 
Woman NeferHo 
13/V/19 Pt XII 
18/II/7 Caesar 
38y 9m 10d 
pdem Rhind 1 
"Archon Sauf" (Strack) 
27/III/13 Pt. XII 
10/XI/21 Caesar 
59y 7m 14d 
I have found two other documents that give similar Distanzangaben data:
The dedication inscription of the Temple of Edfu (Edfu IV 79) notes that the distance from the "stretching of the cord" on III Shomu (Epeiph) 7 year 10 of Ptolemy III to "the feast of entering it" on IV Shomu (Mesore) 18 year 28 of Ptolemy VIII is 95 years.
pChoachiti 12 = UPZ 1.162, dated to 22 Hathyr year 54 of Ptolemy VIII, is the record of a court case brought by a certain Hermias related to events stated to have occurred 88 years earlier = 205/4 in the reign of Ptolemy V. It notes that the 88 year is comprised of 24 years under Ptolemy V, but the breakdown of years under Ptolemy VI and Ptolemy VIII is lost.
Working backwards through the monarchs of the Canon:
Cleopatra VII: From pOxy 12.1453, we have a direct attestation of a 22 year reign, per the Canon.
Ptolemy XII: From BM 377, noting that the birth month precedes the death month, the distance from the accession of Ptolemy XII to the accession of Cleopatra VII is 30+910 = 29 full years, matching the Canon.
From iBucheum 13, noting that the birth month precedes the death month, the distance from the accession of the king preceding Cleopatra VII to the accession of Augustus is 24+281 = 51 years. Subtracting 22 years for Cleopatra, the preceding king reigned for 29 full years, matching Ptolemy XII in the Canon.
From Brugsch Thes. V 934, noting that the birth month succeeds the death month, the distance from the accession of Ptolemy XII (here named as "Neos Dionysos") to the accession of Augustus is 38+1+197 = 51 years. Subtracting 22 years for Cleopatra, Ptolemy XII reigned for 29 full years, matching the Canon.
From pdem Rhind 1, noting that the birth month precedes the death month, the distance from the accession of Ptolemy XII (here named as "Philopator") to the accession of Augustus is 59+1321 = 51 years. Subtracting 22 years for Cleopatra, Ptolemy XII reigned for 29 full years, matching the Canon.
The last two equations prove that Ptolemy "Philopator" is the same as Ptolemy "Neos Dionysos".
Ptolemy IX: We do not have a Distanzangabe directly involving this king. From Vienna 82, we have a distance from year 50 of Ptolemy VIII to year 5 of Ptolemy XII of 43 years. From the temple of Edfu, Ptolemy VIII died in year 54. Noting that the birth month precedes the death month, the interval between the accession year of Ptolemy VIII's successor [Ptolemy IX] and the accession year of Ptolemy XII is 4353 = 35 years. This might suggest that Ptolemy IX actually reigned only 35 full years. However, since we have an attestation of year 37, and of year 1, and of a transition from year 36 to year 1 which must be attributed to Ptolemy IX and Ptolemy XII, it is clear that the calculation of Vienna 82 is in 1 year in error.
Ptolemy VIII: From iBucheum 9 and other data, the accession year of the final reign of this king was year 36=25. From the temple of Edfu, he died in year 54. Noting that the birth month precedes the death month, the reignlength was 5425 = 29 years, matching Ptolemy VIII in the Canon.
From UPZ 1.162, the 88 years from an unspecified point in the reign of Ptolemy V to year 54 of Ptolemy VIII included 24 years of Ptolemy V. 882453 = 11, hence year 1 of Ptolemy VIII = year 12 of Ptolemy VI.
Ptolemy VI: From iBucheum 9 and other data, the final year of this king was year 36=25, matching the 35 full years for Ptolemy VI in the Canon.
Ptolemy V: UPZ 1.162 explicitly gives Ptolemy V 24 years. From iBucheum 8, the Buchis bull born in year 25 of Ptolemy V died 17 years later in year 19 of Ptolemy VI. Noting that the birth month succeeds the death month, the 17th birthday was in year 18. 1817 = 1, so year 1 of Ptolemy VI = year 25 of Ptolemy V, giving Ptolemy V 24 full years, matching the Canon and UPZ 1.162.
From Brugsch ZAS 22#6, the Apis bull born in year 19 of Ptolemy V died 22 years later in year 6 of Ptolemy VIII. From iBucheum 9 and other data, year 36 of Ptolemy VI = year 25 of Ptolemy VIII, hence year 1 of Ptolemy VIII = year 12 of Ptolemy VI. Noting that the birth month precedes the death month in Brugsch ZAS 22#6, we have a reignlength of 18+22511 = 24 full years, again giving Ptolemy V 24 full years, matching the Canon and UPZ 1.162.
Ptolemy IV: From BM 378 the distance from year 8 of Ptolemy IV to year 7 of Ptolemy VIII, noting that the birth month succeeds the death month, was 50+1=51 years. From iBucheum 9 and other data, year 36 of Ptolemy VI = year 25 of Ptolemy VIII, hence year 1 of Ptolemy VIII = year 12 of Ptolemy VI. Hence the distance from the accession of Ptolemy IV to year 7 of Ptolemy VIII is 7+51 = 58 years. Subtracting 24 years for Ptolemy V, 11 for Ptolemy VI and 6 for Ptolemy VIII, the reign of Ptolemy IV = 5824116 = 17 full years, matching the Canon.
Ptolemy III: From iBucheum 6 the distance from year 13 of [Ptolemy III] to year 8 of Ptolemy IV, noting that the birth month succeeds the death month, was 19 years. Hence the reignlength of [Ptolemy III] is 19+126 = 25 full years, matching Ptolemy III in the Canon.
From the dedication inscription of the Temple of Edfu, the distance from year 10 of Ptolemy III to year 28 of Ptolemy VIII is 95 years. Hence the reignlength of Ptolemy III is 95+9(27+11+24+17) = 10479 = 25 full years, again matching the Canon.
Ptolemy II: From Vienna 154 the distance from year 18 of [Ptolemy II] to year 24 of [Ptolemy III], noting that the birth month succeeds the death month, was 44 years. Hence the reignlength of [Ptolemy II] is 44+1723 = 38 full years, matching Ptolemy II in the Canon.
From Berlin 2118 the distance from year 11 of [Ptolemy II] to year 2 of [Ptolemy V], noting that the birth month succeeds the death month, was 70 years. Hence the sum of the reignlengths of the predecessors of [Ptolemy V] covered by Berlin 2118 is 70+101 = 79 years. There is no match in the Canon. The closest is from Ptolemy II to Ptolemy V at 80 years. Noting the other evidence places year 11 of Ptolemy II before the point at which he adopted a coregencybased epoch, this suggests a calculational error in the stele.
Ptolemy I: From Vienna 153 the distance from year 16 of Ptolemy I to year 5 of Ptolemy IV, noting that the birth month precedes the death month, was 72 years. Hence the reignlength of Ptolemy I is 72+1538254 = 20 full years, matching Ptolemy I in the Canon.
From iBucheum 3 the distance from year 14 of Ptolemy I to year 13 of Ptolemy II, noting that the birth month succeeds the death month, was 21 years. Hence the reignlength of Ptolemy I is 2112+13 = 22 full years, exceeding the canonical reign by 2 years.
This discrepancy is one of the major items of evidence supporting accounts that Ptolemy II was a coregent for two years and switched from an accessionbased epoch to a coregencybased epoch part way through his reign. Based on iBucheum 3, year 13 (accessionbased count) is a terminus post quem for the date of the change in the Egyptian regnal year count.
Hence the contemporary data generally supports the Ptolemaic Canon, and explains some of the simplifications in it, although it is also clear that if we had to reconstruct Ptolemaic chronology solely on the basis of the contemporary data there would be some discrepancies that would be quite controversial.
The Noncanonical Regnal Eras
Having established the validity of the Canon, the next step is to establish the noncanonical regnal eras. The accessionbased count of Ptolemy II and the coregencybased count of Ptolemy VIII have already been discussed in connection with the Distanzangaben. There is one remaining Distanzangabe, which gives the most important of these eras:
Ptolemy X: From Ashm 1971/18, noting that the birth month precedes the death month, the distance from year 25 of Ptolemy X to year 11 of Cleopatra VII is 48 years. Hence the distance from year 1 of Ptolemy X to year 1 of Ptolemy XII is 48+241028 = 34 years. Since the reign of Ptolemy IX covers 36 complete years, we have the equation year 1 of Ptolemy X = year 4 of Ptolemy IX.
This allows us to explains a series of double dates from years 11=8 to 17=14 as the period of his joint rule with Cleopatra III (who used the same regnal series assigned to Ptolemy IX in the Canon) and years 26=29 and 29=30 as marking the restoration of Ptolemy IX.
The synchronisation between the canonical regnal eras and the remaining noncanonical regnal eras can be derived from the double dates. These occur for a number of reasons, and not all of them are useful in establishing the position of one reign relative to another. Details are discussed under individual rulers. The following double dates indicate the start of noncanonical eras:
year 1 = 39: Cleopatra II (noncanonical) in opposition to Ptolemy VIII (canonical)
 year 36 = 1: Ptolemy IX (canonical) and Berenice III (noncanonical)
 year 1 = 23: Berenice IV (noncanonical) and Ptolemy XII (canonical)
The Regnal Eras of the Rebel Kings
Finally, there are the regnal eras of the rebel Egyptian kings Horwennefer/Ankhwennefer and Harsiesi. There is no direct synchronistic data which tells us how the era of Horwennefer/Ankhwennefer is related to those of the Ptolemaic rulers. Rather, the dates are bounded by the internal evidence of the papyri and inscriptions. The era has recently been established by a subtle and complex analysis which I have tried to summarise on the page for that king. For Harsiesi, the synchronisation is a little more direct, since his rule in Thebes is inferred from a papyrus of year 40 of Ptolemy VIII; however there is some doubt whether the "enemy of the gods" referred to there is the same as the late period pharaoh Harsiesi.
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