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Ancient Calendars 4: Syria

The imperialistic expansion of the Assyrians and, later, the Babylonians in the first millennium introduced the Babylonian calendar throughout Syria. Before this time, a number of local Bronze-age calendars existed. Below the fold is a brief survey of some of these.

A. Hurrian Calendars

As with the Canaanite calendar, the Hurrian calendar may have either followed the Mesopotamian or the Egyptian model. Evidence is too meager to reach a conclusion. In Alalakh and Nuzi, the year probably began in the fall (Attana/Attanašwe), as in the Canaanite calendar.

The Mitanni rulers of Hanigalbat/Washshukani were apparently of Indo-Aryan origin, as indicated by their personal names and the gods they worshiped, although they no longer spoke an Indo-Aryan language. It is therefore remotely possible that they observed a solar calendar comparable to the earliest Vedic system, with years of 360 days and an intercalary month added every sixth year. (This system is also analogous to the Old Assyrian commercial calendar.)

Nuzi Mitanni Alalakh
Oct Attanašwe, Sabûtu Šabātu Attana, Attanatu
Nov Šeḫli Šeḫalu ?
Dec Kinūnu Kinanu ?
Jan Ḫuri Ḫuru Pagru
Feb Mitirunni Mitirunnu ?
Mar Ḫutalši Ḫutalše Ḫiyaru
Apr Impurtanni Impurtannu ?
May Arkuzzi, Ḫiaru Ḫiaru ?
Jun Kurilli, Ḫinzuru Ikkuratu ?
Jul Šeḫali ša dTešup, Tammūzu Ḫinzuri Kiraru
Aug Šeḫali ša dNergal Ulūlu ?
Sep Arkabinni, Ulūlu Arkapinnu ?

Disclaimer: Mitanni month-names come from an Internet source that does not cite sources. I include them provisionally in hopes that someone can point me to better documented information.

The month of Pagru at Alalakh corresponds to Canaanite [PG]RM and Ugaritic Pagrūma. Kiraru is a Hurrian loanword (cf. Canaanite KRR). Alalakh also has months named Palae/Palai and Ḫutizzi, both of uncertain placement.

B. Semitic Calendars

The New Year probably began in the fall in Ebla (Hunger, 299). I tentatively suggest that the calendars of Chagar Bazar and Mari also had a fall New Year. In Emar, the year most likely begins with Isi (spring reckoning), although some propose it began with Zarati (fall reckoning; Fleming, 164 n. 107).

Ebla Chagar Bazar Mari Emar
Apr È ? Uraḫum Isi
May Kur6 Ayarum Malkānum ?
Jun dA-dam-ma-um Abum Laḫḫum Za’atim
Jul Še-gur10-ku5 Dumuzi Abum ?
Aug dAMA-ra Niqmum Ḫibirtum ?
Sep dKà-mi-iš Kinūnum dIGI.KUR ?
Oct Be-li Tamḫīrum Kinūnum Zarati, SAG.MU
Nov dAš-tá-gibil Nabrium dDagan dNIN.KUR.RA
Dec NI.DU Mamītum Liliyatum dAn-na
Jan dÉ-da, A-nun-nun,
Ì-nun-nun
? dBēlet-bīri dA-dama,
dA-dam-ma(-um)
Feb Er-me, NI-la-mu ? Kiskissum Mar-za-ḫa-ni, Abî
Mar Ḫu-lu-mu, Ḫur-mu, Izi-gar Addarum Ebūrum dḪal-ma, Ḫiyar

The order of the Chagar Bazar months is conjecture based on comparison with the Eshnunna and Babylonian calendars. The remaining months are called Mana, Magrānum, and Tīrum; their position is uncertain.

In Hellenistic times, a “Syro-Macedonian” calendar was instituted combining the features of the Greek and Babylonian systems. This calendar is described later in the discussion of Greek calendars.

Resources

  • K. D. Abhyankar, “A Search for the Earliest Vedic Calendar,” Indian Journal of History of Science 28/1 (1993) 1–14.
  • I. E. S. Edwards, C. J. Gadd, and N. G. L. Hammond, The Cambridge Ancient History: Early History of the Middle East (Cambridge University Press, 1971).
  • Daniel E. Fleming, Time at Emar (Eisenbrauns, 2000).
  • Hermann Hunger, “Kalender,” Reallexikon der Assyriologie und Vorderasiatischen Archäologie, ed. Erich Ebeling and Bruno Meissner (Walter de Gruyter, 1980) 299–303.
  • Nick Wyatt, Space and Time in the Religious Life of the Near East (Sheffield, 2001).
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