Olympic Dates

Intro page      |      How to Read the Tables      |      The Olympiad System      |       Sources      |      Analysis

These pages give access to conversion tables in Excel format, with copies in HTML format and in CSV format, useful for determining the Julian equivalent of years dated according to Olympiads during the Ptolemaic era. This system was used by Greek historians to provide a common frame of reference to reconcile historical dates given in many different local calendars. It is particularly important for interpreting the regnal years attributed to the Ptolemies by Porphyry, as transmitted through the works of Eusebius.

Porphyry's chronographic extracts have been transmitted to us in Greek and Armenian editions, and in Syriac which confirms closely to the Armenian. The two are not identical, although they are close. An online translation into English, which combines elements of both, is available at Attalus' website. The text includes Eusebius' (rather inaccurate) summaries of the chronology in the texts of Porphyry which he has transcribed.

To my knowledge, the standard, if not the only, serious modern analysis of Porphyry's chronology is that of Jacoby:

F. Jacoby, Die Fragmente der greichischen Historiker (FGrH) IIB Kommentarium 854ff.

The discussion at this site is essentially a summary and critique of Jacoby's argument that Porphyry's chronology consists of postdated regnal years, a conclusion which I agree with for his Macedonian and Seleucid chronologies, but not for his Ptolemaic chronology.

Eusebius' chronographic tables have likewise been transmitted to us in Armenian and Latin editions. The Latin version was prepared by St Jerome in the late fourth century and was standard in the Middle Ages. The Amenian version was recovered in the 18th and 19th centuries. Two different formats for the tables are represented in the MSS tradition, one more reliable than the other. The most widely available modern edition (though not by any means the best) is

A. Schoene (ed.), Eusebi Chronicorum Libri (Berlin, 1866/75) (Vol 1 = Chronographia, II = Chronici Canons)

A summary of the main MSS of Jerome's transcription is available at Roger Pearse's website here. The website also provides access to a full transcription of the tables and to images of the Merton MS, Merton Codex 315. I have not found a study of Eusebius' Ptoemaic chronology; the remarks here are my own notes.

The history of the transmission of Eusebius, his place in the tradition of Christian chronography, and his rediscovery and analysis by modern scholars, starting with Scaliger in the 16th century, are all fascinating topics. They are also topics which I do not intend to explore here since they have virtually no relevance to my Egyptian interests, although he is, of course, one of our primary sources for Manetho.

The subject area has enjoyed a small renaissance in recent decades. The following short bibliography should provide a useful starting place for anyone interested in researching it. The fundamental work is Mosshammer.

W. Adler, Time Immemorial : archaic history and its sources in Christian chronography from Julius Africanus to George Syncellus (Washington DC, 1989)
W. Adler & P. Tuffin, The Chronography of George Synkellos: a Byzantine chronicle of universal history from the creation (Oxford, 2002)
R. W. Burgess, Studies in Eusebian and Post-Eusebian Chronography (Stuttgart, 1999)
A. Grafton, Joseph Scaliger - A Study in the History of Classical Scholarship II: Historical Chronology (Oxford, 1993)
A. A. Mosshammer, The Chronicle of Eusebius and the Greek Chronographic Tradition (Cranbury NJ, 1979)

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