The Date of Alexander's Birth

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Re: The Date of Alexander's Birth

Post by sean_m » Sat Oct 12, 2019 2:04 pm

Taphoi wrote:
Sat Oct 12, 2019 12:06 pm
sean_m wrote:
Wed Sep 18, 2019 10:15 am
If I were going to celebrate an anniversary, I would pick Gaugamela where he became king of the world on 1 October 331 BCE.
If you want to celebrate the anniversary of Gaugamela/Arbela, it is on 26th September (Gregorian).
MesoCalc says that the dates it gives are Gregorian dates. So 24th day (in the Astronomical Diary), ulūlu (6th month, "same month" in the diary but we can confirm it from the eclipse), 4th year of Darius III king of all lands (implicit from other sources) is 1 October 331 BCE Gregorian.

I would assume that Leo Dupuydt's death date of 11 June is also Gregorian.

Edit: Jona criticizes Plutarch for giving the lunar date as 26 Boedromion, which implies that the Greek lunar month was two days out of sync with the moon (or a copyist has blundered ...)
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Re: The Date of Alexander's Birth

Post by Taphoi » Sat Oct 12, 2019 5:00 pm

1st October is a Julian date whatever they say. You can do the math yourself (the people you are quoting are clearly confused). Below is the NASA record of the famous eclipse 11 days before Gaugamela. NASA uses Julian dates for ancient eclipses. They also use a year zero, so their years are one short of the BCE year, hence Gaugamela was in 331BCE but NASA's year -330.
Jona is getting confused. Again you can verify for yourself. The eclipse occurred at Full Moon, so that was the fifteenth day of the Lunar month Boedromion. If you add eleven more days, you get the 26th day do you not?
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Gaugamela eclipse.png
The Gaugamela Lunar Eclipse (Julian Calendar Date)
Gaugamela eclipse.png (203.4 KiB) Viewed 1335 times

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Re: The Date of Alexander's Birth

Post by Taphoi » Sat Oct 12, 2019 5:41 pm

sean_m wrote:
Sat Oct 12, 2019 2:04 pm

I would assume that Leo Dupuydt's death date of 11 June is also Gregorian.

Edit: Jona criticizes Plutarch for giving the lunar date as 26 Boedromion, which implies that the Greek lunar month was two days out of sync with the moon (or a copyist has blundered ...)
No. 11th June is a Julian date. It is traditional to use Julian dates for ancient events, so that the dates given by Roman writers are not contradicted in translation.

11th June (Julian) is definitely not the day Alexander died. Plutarch directly quoted the Ephemerides in stating that Alexander was pronounced dead on the evening of 28th Daisios, which is 10th June (Julian). This is certain because he used a 4th century BC dating formula that was not used in his own time. Alexander's death was clearly not announced to the troops until the next morning. That is why Aristobulus and the Astronomical Diaries give 11th June. Alexander actually seems to have been in a terminal coma and did not technically die until a few days later (due to dehydration).

What Jona is doing is asserting together with his Babylonian source that the Full Moon happened on 13th day of the Lunar Month. That is impossible for a month that began on the day of the New Moon, because the time between a New Moon and a Full Moon (eclipse) is 14.765 days. What has obviously happened is that the Babylonian astronomers have started their Lunar month on the day that they first observed the New Moon, which might have been a couple of days late, if there was cloud.

The Greek chronologists were perfectly capable of calculating the New Moon from prior and subsequent observations, so the evidence I have seen is that they started the month on the actual day of the New Moon. Plutarch's date is a case in point. Jona should criticise the Babylonians, not Plutarch (Timaeus), who got it right.

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Andrew

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Re: The Date of Alexander's Birth

Post by Taphoi » Sat Oct 12, 2019 7:44 pm

sean_m wrote:
Sat Oct 12, 2019 2:04 pm
MesoCalc says that the dates it gives are Gregorian dates.
It looks as though MesoCalc is taking the viewpoint that a "Gregorian" calendar is one which uses our system of months and days and is Gregorian in its calculations from 1582 onwards when Pope Gregory introduced his changes and is Julian in its calculations prior to 1582. This is of course totally unscientific and incredibly confusing and completely misses the point of the Gregorian calendar, which was to keep the equinoxes in the same place in the year.
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Re: The Date of Alexander's Birth

Post by sean_m » Sat Oct 12, 2019 8:11 pm

Taphoi wrote:
Sat Oct 12, 2019 5:41 pm
No. 11th June is a Julian date. It is traditional to use Julian dates for ancient events, so that the dates given by Roman writers are not contradicted in translation.
...
The Greek chronologists were perfectly capable of calculating the New Moon from prior and subsequent observations, so the evidence I have seen is that they started the month on the actual day of the New Moon. Plutarch's date is a case in point. Jona should criticise the Babylonians, not Plutarch (Timaeus), who got it right.

Best wishes,

Andrew
Ok, now we are getting somewhere! Because you are giving evidence for your statements about dates.

MesoCalc uses the "-" notation for years which does usually imply astronomical years (Julian, sometimes with a year zero) but I don't have Parker and Dubberstein to hand. It is possible that the MesoCalc team messed up but I would like to check some paper references next time I have a few spare hours and a library is open.

The key dates on the Astronomical Diary are:

Ulūlu, 13th day: total lunar eclipse (= 20 September ?Julian?, NASA agrees that there was a lunar eclipse on that date)
Ulūlu, 24th day: battle between the king and the King of the World (= 1 October ?Julian?)

So the date for the eclipse in the Astronomical Diary + Mesocalc matches the date in the NASA table, whether or not Ulūlu started exactly at the new moon. Aside from disagreements between calendars about when the lunar month began, another possible source of off-by-one errors is that Babylonian days begin at sunset, so they overlap two Julian days counted from midnight. I don't know when the Macedonians reckoned that a day began.
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Re: The Date of Alexander's Birth

Post by Taphoi » Sat Oct 12, 2019 9:18 pm

We are not really talking about Macedonian calculations. This is Timaeus of Tauromenium, possibly the greatest Greek chronologist. He invented the Olympiad dating system. He was based in Athens for a long while and he was famous for his fussiness. Cleitarchus was one of his followers and Plutarch used Alexander dates from Cleitarchus (as well as from the Ephemerides). I am not sure where he defined the day to begin, but it was obviously midnight or dawn from the few surviving dates.

It cannot lightly be dismissed that the Babylonian month was out of kilter with the true lunar month and based on observations rather than calculations. It means nobody should be using Babylonian days-of-the-month as a check or control on Greek dates, which were based on calculations. Rather the opposite. That being said, good old Arrian, some time Archon of Athens, evidently used Athenian Archon Dates from the city archives, which were tweaked to accommodate favoured days for festivals and are therefore chronologically astray. I think there is no single unitary Greek or Macedonian approach to chronology. It varied with the era and place and individual. But Timaeus is the absolute best :D

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Andrew

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Re: The Date of Alexander's Birth

Post by Paralus » Sun Oct 13, 2019 8:23 am

I would agree with Alexias that a good read of this thread would shed light - especially on Gaugamela. This thread also has the merit of not having an appeal to one's own authority in the third person...
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Re: The Date of Alexander's Birth

Post by sean_m » Sun Oct 13, 2019 1:32 pm

Paralus wrote:
Sun Oct 13, 2019 8:23 am
I would agree with Alexias that a good read of this thread would shed light - especially on Gaugamela. This thread also has the merit of not having an appeal to one's own authority in the third person...
I agree that there are some good things there!
Taphoi wrote:
Sat Oct 12, 2019 9:18 pm
It cannot lightly be dismissed that the Babylonian month was out of kilter with the true lunar month and based on observations rather than calculations. It means nobody should be using Babylonian days-of-the-month as a check or control on Greek dates, which were based on calculations. Rather the opposite.
Andrew, I see it the other way around: our understanding of the early Athenian and Macedonian calendars is fragmentary (remember the story about Alexander ordering a month intercalated before the Granicus?) and based on statements by writers who were not astronomical experts (eg. Plutarch saying "Alexander was born in this Macedonian month which is that Athenian month" when they probably were not the same to the day or when intercalendary months intervened), but for Babylonia we have enough surviving documents that we can show how long each individual month in a given year was and when months were intercalated. We don't need to cross our thumbs and hope that they followed the system as we reconstruct it, we can watch them do it and mark the rare times someone interferes.

If Ruritania and Sylvania both use lunar calendars running from the exact date of every New Moon, but Ruritania starts the day at sunset and Sylvania at sunrise, then events in the evening and night will be one day later in Ruritania than Sylvania. (I would guess that handbooks give the Babylonian day whose sunlit hours correspond to a Julian day, because its rare that someone says "sundown! quick, find me 9 witnesses and a scribe, I have a mortgage to sign before I go to bed!")

Anyways, the dates for the eclipse and the battle in the Astronomical Diary are consistent with modern calculations of a lunar eclipse in 331 BCE, and can be reconciled with Plutarch's date for the battle on the 26th day of a lunar month, but it does look like "20 September" and "1 October" are Julian dates. I just wanted to get the sources and authorities I was using on the table, because having one person say "that is Julian!" and someone else say "that is Gregorian!" is not helpful for readers.
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Re: The Date of Alexander's Birth

Post by Taphoi » Sun Oct 13, 2019 3:12 pm

I did a couple of quick calculations and realised that the correction to the calculations of New Moons from NASA’s Lunar eclipses due to the eccentricity of the Lunar orbit (which I mentioned above) could in extreme circumstances be as much as a day (although it would only normally be hours.)
However, I found a site online that gives accurate modern computations of the Julian dates and times of all Lunar phases including New Moon here:
http://www.astropixels.com/ephemeris/ph ... -0399.html
So I can now tell you to within minutes when Hekatombaion started in July 356BC (wait for it….)
June 15th (Julian) at 08:42 Universal Time, which was about 10:15am local time in Macedonia.
So Alexander’s birthday is confirmed as 20th July 356BC (Julian).
I can also tell you exactly when Boedromion started in September of 331BC, so we can check whether Gaugamela/Arbela happened on 26th Boedromion, knowing that it happened on 1st October (Julian):
September 6th (Julian) at 1:22am Universal Time, about 3am in Greece or about 4:15am in Iraq
That means that the battle took place on 26th Boedromion if the Greek Chronologist started the day in the middle of the night as we do (this seems to be what Timaeus actually did) or 27th Boedromion if the new day was kicked off at dawn. Anyway, the Greek chronologist followed by Plutarch essentially got it right and the Babylonian priests, patiently waiting two more days until the 8th September (Julian) for the Moon goddess to actually manifest herself, got it hopelessly wrong.
Best wishes,
Andrew

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Re: The Date of Alexander's Birth

Post by Taphoi » Sun Oct 13, 2019 3:24 pm

sean_m wrote:
Sun Oct 13, 2019 1:32 pm

Andrew, I see it the other way around: our understanding of the early Athenian and Macedonian calendars is fragmentary (remember the story about Alexander ordering a month intercalated before the Granicus?) and based on statements by writers who were not astronomical experts (eg. Plutarch saying "Alexander was born in this Macedonian month which is that Athenian month" when they probably were not the same to the day or when intercalendary months intervened), but for Babylonia we have enough surviving documents that we can show how long each individual month in a given year was and when months were intercalated. We don't need to cross our thumbs and hope that they followed the system as we reconstruct it, we can watch them do it and mark the rare times someone interferes.

If Ruritania and Sylvania both use lunar calendars running from the exact date of every New Moon, but Ruritania starts the day at sunset and Sylvania at sunrise, then events in the evening and night will be one day later in Ruritania than Sylvania. (I would guess that handbooks give the Babylonian day whose sunlit hours correspond to a Julian day, because its rare that someone says "sundown! quick, find me 9 witnesses and a scribe, I have a mortgage to sign before I go to bed!")
Nevertheless, if they started days at dusk, the Babylonian priests should have made the daytime of 6th September (Julian) to be 1st Ulūlu. In fact they were two whole days out, which means you have to know the weather forecast at the start of each Babylonian month for Babylonian Lunar dates to be accurately translatable to Julian dates in general. We are only able to line up Ulūlu in 331BC with the Julian calendar because they observed the eclipse on the correct date. Usually there would not be such a marker. Conversely, we can convert Timaeus's Lunar date for Alexander's birthday, because Plutarch's Gaugamela date of 26th Boedromion shows that he kicked off months exactly at the New Moon.
Best wishes,
Andrew

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Re: The Date of Alexander's Birth

Post by hiphys » Mon Oct 14, 2019 5:59 pm

Taphoi wrote:
Fri Oct 11, 2019 11:38 pm

An important point is that Plutarch’s (or Cleitarchus’s or Timaeus’s) date for Alexander’s birth means the king was born when the Sun was in the constellation of Leo the lion (i.e. his star sign was Leo). This is why Alexander is strongly associated with lions and why he wore his hair in a style that imitated a lion’s mane. He was the original Lion King. For example, we have the story in Plutarch that Philip dreamt that Olympias’s womb was sealed with a lion and we have the information that lion statues guarded Alexander’s catafalque. If we reject Plutarch’s date, as numerous 20th century historians have done, in the futile cause of upholding the supposed infallibility of Arrian, then we lose this insight into Alexander’s motivations. We know from the Cleitarchan sources that he was told as a child that he was descended from Zeus via Achilles on his mother’s side and again from Zeus but via Heracles on his father’s side. Add to this that he thought of himself as the future Lion King because of his auspicious birth and you can see why he felt that he was fated to do remarkable things.
I found this debate very interesting. However I can't understand why we must keep on preserving the double calendar (Julian and Gregorian). Isn't much more easy to keep the Gergorian one and let go the Julian? Secondly, I agree that Plutarch's (or his source) date for Alexander's birth means the king was born when the Sun was in the constellation of Leo the lion, and Alexander was strongly associated with lions. However I think this association was made only AFTER the conquest of Babilon, perhaps ever AFTER Alexander's death, i.e. ex post by the king's biographers (Timaeus, Cleitarchus, and so on...). I think no one in Greece, and even more in Macedon of 356 B.C., was able (or was of interest) to associate star signs and date of birth.

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Re: The Date of Alexander's Birth

Post by sean_m » Mon Oct 14, 2019 7:08 pm

Astronomers work in "Julian days" (a date is 'Julian day +23143214' not 'March 22nd, 11 CE') but I do not know why historians don't convert to Gregorian for events far too early to have been dated according to the Roman calendar. But the following article explains early on that it uses Julian days:
Leo Depuydt, 'The Time of Death of Alexander the Great: 11 June 323 B.C. (–322), ca. 4:00–5:00 PM.' Die Welt des Orients, Bd. 28 (1997), p. 124 n. 23 wrote: In a discussion of the date of the Battle of Gaugamela (1 October 331 B.C.), in which Alexander defeated Darius III, Hauben (CdE 67, 149 [see note 2]) notes the difficulty of referring to 13 Ululu, with Bernard (BCH 114, 516 [see note 1]), as the "expected" Babylonian date of the lunar eclipse of the evening of 20 September 331.
As Hauben rightly notes, one expects 14 Ululu. In fact, the cuneiform Diaries do give 14 Ululu. Lines 1' and 2' and the beginning of line 3' of tablet BM 36761 + 36390 are as follows (Sachs/Hunger, Astronomical Diaries ..., p. 177):
1' [...]...[...]
2' The 13th, moonset to sunrise: 8?...[...]
3' [... lunar] eclipse, in its totality covered, (etc.)
Only illegible traces remain of line 1'. "The 13th" in line 2' must mean "daytime of the 13th." The observation in line 3' must therefore pertain to a night following day time of 13 Ululu, because lunar eclipses are visible only at night. This following night cannot be that of 13 Ululu, because night always precedes daytime in the astronomical Diaries. That the night in question is that of 14 Ululu, and not a later night, is certain because the night of 15 Ululu is described from line 5' onward
(So an evening eclipse would be on the same Julian day as the 13th, but the next Babylonian day).
Leo Depuydt, 'The Time of Death of Alexander the Great: 11 June 323 B.C. (–322), ca. 4:00–5:00 PM.' Die Welt des Orients, Bd. 28 (1997), pp. 126, 127 wrote: According to Plutarch's Life of Alexander (75.6), Aristoboulos reports that Alexander died on Day "30" of the month of Daisios. It has long been known that the last day of Greek lunar months is always called Day 30, whether the month has 29 days or 30 days. In 29-day months, number 29 is skipped; Day 30 follows Day 28 and is in effect the 29th of the month. However, it is not certain whether Daisios had 29 or 30 days in 323 B.C. It is not because the parallel Babylonian month Aiaru had 29 days (see section 1) that Daisios should too. Daisios belongs to a different lunar calendar. It is therefore difficult to derive anything definite from Aristoboulos's date. It can only be interpreted in light of the Babylonian date. It has no independent value as proof.

...

Daisios is the name of a Greek-Macedonian lunar month. In recent years, there has been a major paradigm shift in the theory of the beginning of the Greek month and day. There used to be no doubt that the Greek month began with first crescent visibility, like the Babylonian lunar month. But it seems now much more likely that it began earlier, with last crescent visibility. In fact, according to this new paradigm, it is altogether statistically typical for a Greek lunar month and a corresponding Babylonian month to begin in the morning and the evening respectively of the same day. Accordingly, the day number of an event that occurred during
daytime would be typically one higher in the Macedonian calendar than in the Babylonian calendar.
Since a new Babylonian lunar month, Simanu, began in the evening Alexander died, it would be statistically normal for his death to have occurred on Day 1 of the Greek lunar month.
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Re: The Date of Alexander's Birth

Post by sean_m » Mon Oct 14, 2019 7:20 pm

The same article, by the way, has an example of Alexander taking time during the siege of Tyre when you would think he had better things to do to add some intercalendary days.
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Re: The Date of Alexander's Birth

Post by Taphoi » Mon Oct 14, 2019 7:29 pm

hiphys wrote:
Mon Oct 14, 2019 5:59 pm

I found this debate very interesting. However I can't understand why we must keep on preserving the double calendar (Julian and Gregorian). Isn't much more easy to keep the Gergorian one and let go the Julian? Secondly, I agree that Plutarch's (or his source) date for Alexander's birth means the king was born when the Sun was in the constellation of Leo the lion, and Alexander was strongly associated with lions. However I think this association was made only AFTER the conquest of Babilon, perhaps ever AFTER Alexander's death, i.e. ex post by the king's biographers (Timaeus, Cleitarchus, and so on...). I think no one in Greece, and even more in Macedon of 356 B.C., was able (or was of interest) to associate star signs and date of birth.
Every manuscript or book or document dating from Julius Caesar's introduction of the Julian calendar up to the Gregorian calendar reform in 1582 (and for 100s of years after in some places) used Julian dates. They cannot be replaced with Gregorian dates, because they are antiques. The compromise is often to use the Julian up to 1582 and the Gregorian afterwards, but that is complicated and unsatisfactory. It leads to well-meaning people on this forum and elsewhere celebrating Alexander anniversaries on entirely the wrong day. Pothos has an annual informal celebration of Alexander's birthday on July 20th and people "light a candle for Alexander" on June 10th, when the dates in our calendar (it is no secret) were July 15th and June 5th :oops:

I fear you are wrong to think that astrology was not important to the ancients: it was crucial and intimately tied to their practice of religion. There was a huge and important series of coins in Roman Alexandria celebrating Greek astrology called the zodiac drachms. Every Greek knew his/her star sign and virtually all believed that their horoscope (the exact configuration of the Heavens at their birth) dictated their future. Alexander is especially depicted with lion mane hair as a youth in the Acropolis portrait and the youthful Megara head. There is the story about Olympias's lion sealed womb. Pseudo-Callisthenes 1.13.3 says, "When he grew, Alexander... had the body of a man but the hair of a lion... his gait was swift like a lion's." (cf Julius Valerius 1.7). He is depicted wearing a lion-scalp helmet on the Alexander sarcophagus depicting the battle of Issus. It is a tragic witness to the power of the Arrian mafia, that you, as an Alexander expert, find all this surprising when you accept that he was a Leo. :cry:

Best regards,

Andrew

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Re: The Date of Alexander's Birth

Post by Taphoi » Mon Oct 14, 2019 7:43 pm

sean_m wrote:
Mon Oct 14, 2019 7:20 pm
The same article, by the way, has an example of Alexander taking time during the siege of Tyre when you would think he had better things to do to add some intercalendary days.
I think that Depuydt in his struggles to make sense of what the Greeks did is missing the fact that their astronomy was so good that they could predict eclipses, let alone New Moons. Look at the Antikythera mechanism: an absolute marvel! They did not need to rely on observations of last or first crescents to tell when a New Moon happens. They could usually predict it well ahead and could choose the correct day on which to start each month in advance. They seem to have used a predictive model with regular corrections in the light of observations. This was driven by the fact that you needed a calendar that everyone agreed upon in advance to get everyone to turn up to festivals or games on the right day. The Babylonians on the other hand were driven by religious motivations in their astronomy.
Best wishes,
Andrew

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