The calendar of Antiochus of Athens as a ‘parapegma’, and an existing translation (!)

In a very useful comment on a recent post, Alexander Jones drew my attention to the term “parapegma”, and to Daryn Lehoux, “Astronomy, weather, and calendars in the ancient world: parapegmata and related texts in classical and Near Eastern societies”, CUP, 2007.

The link is to the Google Books preview.  At a price of $155,[1] this is the only way most of us will ever see any of this book.  The table of contents is online at the start, and from it I learn that Dr Lehoux is a man with a sense of humour, as well as a detailed knowledge of this recondite subject.  From the preview, the book looks very well written and referenced.  It looks like a fine piece of work, indeed.  The preview is a generous one, for which we may all be grateful.  I notice that Dr Lehoux has wisely kept the copyright in his own hands.  When it falls out of print, I hope that he will make the book available online.

Now I had never heard the term parapegmata, but this is what the calendar of Antiochus is.  The early examples were engraved on marble with holes for pegs, which could be advanced each day, as a way to determine astronomical and weather information.

Lehoux catalogues these sort of texts, and describes each, and then — I nearly missed this — gives the text and translates them.  The calendar of Antiochus is described on p.162, and is item A.x in Lehoux’s classification.  Here is what he says.

A.x. The Antiochus parapegma [27] is a short Greek parapegma that correlates stellar phases with changes in the weather and occasionally with causal statements such as ‘July 14: The whole of Orion rises at the same time as the sun; it causes (poiei=) rain and wind.’ All dates are in what I call the modified Julian calendar (i.e., dates are given as 1 July, 2 July, etc. rather than by the traditional method ofcounting down to the Kalends, Nones and Ides), which system seems to have begun to be used in the fourth century ad, rather than the sixth, as Mommsen thought.[28] Unique features of this parapegma are its mention of the ‘u9ywma of the sun’ on 10 April, and the duration of a change in the weather ‘for seven days’ on 23 May and 5 November, ‘nine days’ on 5 October, and ‘fifteen days’ on 6 November. It mentions a religious festival to celebrate the Nile flood on 22 October. Only one stellar phase is attributive (19 July: ‘Rising of Sirius, according to the Egyptians’), and it also has ‘birth of the sun, light increases’ on 25 December.


27.  Extant in six manuscripts, of which the earliest is fourteenth-century, and the latest is seventeenth.  Edition: Boll, 1910a.
28.  For this argument see Ferrua, 1985.



I wish I’d known about this book, as it would have saved me a couple of days work making my own translation.  Lehoux’s translation of Antiochus is on pp.338-343.

  1. [1] UPDATE (April 2012): Now available in paperback at $40, and on Amazon here!  Now that’s much more possible!

2 Responses to “The calendar of Antiochus of Athens as a ‘parapegma’, and an existing translation (!)”

  1. Dioscorus Boles

    Don’t worry, Roger. Every translation has a special value. I read Russian literature in various English translations, and each one gives you a different insight. Happy New Year, and wish you an even more productive year ahead. I have certainly benefited from your work a lot, and this is to say thank you for all your contributions in this field.

  2. Roger Pearse

    Thank you very much for your kind words. The encouragment is very much appreciated. Happy New Year to you too!