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:

It has long been known that a series of silver tetradrachms and didrachms of unknown origin, carrying the portrait of Ptolemy Soter on the obverse and the Ptolemaic eagle on the reverse, are dated according to an unknown era (J. Svoronos, Die Münzen der Ptolemäer, Nos 849 etc (Pl. 26a. etc)). O. Mørkholm, NNA 1975-6 23, listed the catalogued specimens for years 48-52, 70-92 (75 unattested), and 101-117 (103 and 108 unattested).

Mørkholm noted several prior suggestions that had been made to explain this era:

Mørkholm's analysis of the evidence showed that the era must have begin c. 260, though "in order not to press the material unduly" he was willing to accept any year between 265 and 255. His own proposal was that these coins were minted in the free Phoenician city of Aradus, and were dated according to the well-known era of that city, starting in 259/8. He suggested that they were intended for trade with the overseas territories of the Ptolemaic kingdom. He showed that the years of issue and the gaps could be correlated with fluctuations in power between the Ptolemaic and Seleucid kingdoms on this solution. Finally, he noted that an E which appeared (though not always certainly) as a mark on the reverse of many, though not all, coins from years 109-117 also appeared on Aradan coins of year 108.

R. A. Hazzard, Imagination of a Monarchy, 25ff., noted that it is necessary first to establish that the numbers on the series actually constitute year numbers. Several other such "eras" which had been claimed by numismatists had later been found to have other explanations. In support of this one, he noted that Mørkholm had shown that the sequence of the dies was also the sequence of the numbers (i.e. no obverse die was correlated with two different "years"). Although he did not note the point, it is also worth noting that both obverse and reverse die sequences change at a much faster rate than the numerical sequence, typically three or four times a "year". Finally, he suggested that the E represented E[NIAUTOU] (i.e. year).

Hazzard then argued that their era, christened the "Soter Era", was an Egyptian era, and that it was introduced by Ptolemy II in 262/1. He does not mention Mørkholm's proposal, nor any other. He adduced the following items of evidence:

Hazzard argues that the political reverses and difficulties of the first 20 years of the reign required a relaunch and renewal, which was achieved in part through the creation of this new era, named after the king's father. He supposes that the era lasted until it was abolished by Ptolemy VIII on his accession in year 117 = 146/5.


That Ptolemy II sought to overhaul and reinvigorate his regime in various ways at this time, possibly even including the publication of the chronicle recorded in the Parian Marble, is plausible enough, and it may even be that the Ptolemaieia was reregulated as Hazzard argues. That this activity led to the launching of a new and otherwise-undocumented Egyptian era that lasted for over a century is, in my opinion, in the highest degree unlikely.

As to the date of devaluation, Hazzard's argument depends on accepting a priori that the coinage is an Egyptian series. If it is not then there is no necessary correlation between the date of an Egyptian devaluation and the date of devaluation in the series. It doesn't seem difficult to suppose that it took the Aradans a little while to respond to an Egyptian action, especially since the devaluation was so minor. It may be that it was one of the reasons for ceasing production a few years later.

In short, at this time I find no reason to accept the Soter Era as Hazzard proposes it. Even if his arguments are correct, there seems no justification for making it an Egyptian era rather than a provincial one. Mørkholm's arguments, while not conclusive, appear to me to be sufficient explanation for the coinage.

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