Dating Formulae

This papyrus from the Zenon archive can be dated precisely to the January 5, 254 BCE. This is beacuse the beginning of the text contains a dating formula that tells us exactly when the papyrus was written. Many other papyri do not contain these types of formulae, and must instead be dated on the basis of paleography, the letter forms of the hand that wrote the text.

The first character in this papyrus is an abbreviation for the word ἔτοϲ, or year. This is then followed by a number that indicates the regnal year of the current king, in this case, Ptolemy II. The dating formula then records the name of the month and the date. The year and the month are in the genetive case, while the date is in the dative. In this case, the month, Ἁθύρ, is an Egyptian word, and has not been declined. The Egyptians used a lunar calendar of twelve 30-day months; the final month was followed by 5 holy days to align the lunar calendar with the solar year. The months of the Egyptian calendar and their modern equivalents are:

The Egyptian Calendar

Egyptian Months
Modern Months
Agricultural Cycle
Φαῶφι September Nile peaks and begins to recede
Ἁθύρ October Planting of crops, olive and date harvest
Χοίακ November Cultivation
Τῦβι December Cultivation
Μεχείρ January New season of olives and vines
Φαμενώθ February Preparation for harvest
Φαρμοῦθι March Preparation for harvest
Παχών April Grain harvest
Παῦνι May Grain harvest. threshing
Θώθ June Rise of the nile, end of harvest
Ἐπείφ July Nile in flood stage
Μεσορή August Highest point of Nile flood
αἱ ἐπαγόμεναι August (extra days)  

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