John the Lydian, “On the Roman Months 4”: October

The next chunk of the first ever English translation of the calendrical book by the 6th century antiquarian, John the Lydian, has arrived! And very seasonal it is too! 

The chapter is a short one, which means that it can appear here.  Please note the excellent note 7 by the translator.  A number of the references are drawn from astrological writers, such as Euctemon, who usually marked the date on which various constellations rose or set.

[161]  OCTOBER 

135. For the Macedonians, October[1] is the first month, but for the Romans, it is the eighth from the spring, and hence they call it October, meaning “eighth.”  This month was formerly named Sementilius, from “seed”—for that [i.e., semen] is what Romans call “seed.”

On the [162] Kalends of October,[2] the priests would speak oracularly to the people, that they ought not to pay attention to their dreams, because of the images that were due to the moist swelling connected to the autumn fruit.  But from the “Waxing of the Light,”[3] that is, from January, one ought especially to pay attention [i.e., to dreams], in accordance with the opinion of Herophilus, who accepted that dreams were actually god-sent, whereas Democritus [classifies them] among manifestations of images. 

On the Kalends of October, Varro says that the Pleiades rise in the East.

The Romans thought it good to eat leeks all through the month, on the basis of some ancient tradition, to ward off the condition of gout.

136.  On the sixth day before the Nones of October,[4] Eudoxus supposes that there will be rain in the evening.

137.  In the case of the seeds that are cast into the earth, there was a certain power, which the sun draws along as it goes around the lower hemisphere at the time of the winter solstice:  Corê [i.e., Persephone] is the seed-holding power, while Pluto is the sun under the earth, who is said to have seized Corê, whom Demeter sought while she was hidden under the earth.  And the myths tell that the seizure [took place] at Aetna in Sicily [163]; for it is said that grain was sown there first.

138.  On the fifth of October, the Regionarchai and Sebastophoroi would dance in the Gusteion, as it were, the “Fish-shop,”[5] in honor of Tiberius.  And now the common people call this sort of place Augusteion.  In the uncovered [area] of the Daphne,[6] in the small courtyard, Constantine the Great set up a statue [stêlê]of his own mother, after whom he named the place Augusteion.[7]

139.  On the day before the Nones of October,[8] Democritus asserts that the Kids [i.e., the constellation Haedi] rise and that the North wind blows, while Eudoxus says that the middle of Aries sets.

On the Nones of October,[9] Varro predicts that the Pleiades rise in the evening, and the West wind [zephyros] blows, and then also the South-West wind [lips].

140.  Concerning the wooden horse, Euphorion says that it was a boat called “Horse” by the Greeks.  But others say that it was a gate with this name in Troy, through which the Greeks entered.

141. On the day before the Ides of October,[10] Euctemon considers it to be the absolute middle of autumn.

On the 15th day before the Kalends of November,[11] the sun enters Scorpio, as Callipus says.

On the 14th day before the Kalends of November,[12] Metrodorus says that the Hyades rise in the evening, and [there is] a violent wind.

142.  There are said to have been three Asclepii:  First, the [son] of Apollo the [son] of Hephaestus; he invented the surgical probe.  Second, the [son] of Ischys the [son] of Elatus and Coronis; <he> was buried on the borders of Cynosuris.  Third, the [son] of Arsippus and Arsinoe the daughter of Leucippus; this one invented surgery and the forceps for extracting teeth, and he has a grave in Arcadia.[13]  The astronomers say that he is Ophiuchus, who stands over Scorpio.

143.  On the day before the Kalends of November,[14] Varro says that Lyra rises together with the sun.

[1] I.e., the Macedonian month Dios.
[2] 1 Oct.
[3] Gk. ta Auxiphôtia.  Cf. 4.121, 158.
[4] 2 Oct.
[5] So LSJ.  Alternatively, “Cook-shop” (Sophocles’ Lexicon).  Gk. opsopôleion.
[6] Part of the imperial palace at Constantinople.
[7] This place (Augusteum / Augustaeum / Augustaion / Augusteion—to be distinguished from the Augusteus, which was part of the palace) was an open courtyard in front of the imperial palace (ultimately between it and the Hagia Sophia), the earliest development of which is obscure:  It certainly existed in the 5th century, and was later remodelled by Justinian.  For John Lydus’ account, cf. Hesychius’ Patria Constantinopoleos 40 (Preger, Scriptores originum Constantinopolitanarum 1:17):  “And he [i.e., Constantine] erected a statue of his own mother Helena upon a column and named the place Augustaion“; Procopius (Buildings 1.2.1 and 1.10.5) refers to it as an agora (market-place) “which the Byzantines call the Augustaion.”  For the idea that it was originally a “fish-shop,” cf. Suda s.v. Augustus (with the account of the statue of Helena) [based on John Lydus, it seems] and s.v. Justinian; andthe late Byzantine Ps.-Codinus, Patria Constantinopoleos, 2.15 [based on John Lydus, it appears, but substituting “the current ruler” for “Tiberius”] and 2.17:  “Justinian, after building the Hagia Sophia, purified the courtyard and coated it with marble stucco—it had previously been a gusteion, or ‘fish-shop.'”  Cyril Mango, The Brazen House (1959), p. 46, notes that the Chronicon Paschale (p. 593 Dindorf) reports that in A.D. 459 the city prefect Theodosius “built the Augustaion alongside the Great Church”—and that this source nevertheless also (pp. 528-29 Dindorf) gives the account that Constantine erected a statue of Helena and called the place “Augustaion.”  Cameron and Herrin (eds.), Constantinople in the Early Eighth Century:  The Parastaseis Syntomoi Chronikai (1984),p. 262, citing Mango and the Chron. Pasch., consider the association with Constantine the Great legendary.  Finally, Mango (p. 46 n. 50) notes John Lydus’ placement of the statue of Helena in the open area of the Daphne as a piece of information that conflicts with the location of the Augustaion; yet John clearly does not see a conflict—it may be that he is using the term Daphne loosely to refer to the palace in general, or that the story about the statue of Helena originally did not refer to the familiar Augusteion, but has been garbled at some stage in the transmission.
[8] 4 Oct.
[9] 5 Oct.
[10] 14 Oct.
[11] 18 Oct.
[12] 19 Oct.
[13] For these Asclepii, cf. Cicero, De Natura Deorum 3.22(57)—Cicero also says (55) that the “first” Hephaestus (Vulcan), the son of Caelus, was the father of one particular Apollo.
[14] 31 Oct.


4 thoughts on “John the Lydian, “On the Roman Months 4”: October

  1. Thank you for your kind comment! It’s all raw data about what went on in the ancient world. I have November on commission as well, and am looking forward to it (in November!).

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