# Measurements

Michael Lahanas

Αρχαία ελληνικά μετρικά συστήματα

Part 2

The Enigma of Cleobulina the daughter of Cleobulus: A father had 12 children, and these 12 chldren had each 30 white sons and 30 black daughters which are immortal though they died every day.

Time Measurements

I will provide soon information about the units of time used by ancient Greeks. Only some funny remarks at the moment is that ancient Greeks used also in principle liquid measures for time measurements since as we know time “flows”. Using the clepsydra as a clock one could define the time by the amount of water that is required to empty a filled container with a hole in the bottom that allowed the water to escape which is approximately 4 minutes for 3 liters.

Using also the shadow length it was common for ancient Greeks to say that they will meet at a specific time that is given as the length of a shadow shown by a sundial. In Aristophanes' Ecclesiazusae, in the 4th century BC, a person says that he determines dinner time by the length of a gnomon's shadow.

SUN dials

Greek scaphe dial

The scaphe dial, probably the oldest form of sundials. Scaphe (Greek boat) a bowl-shaped cup within which the hour-lines are marked. At the time of summer solstice the shadow is shortest and falls exactly on the bottom line. In the following time the shadow grows again until it reaches the top line at the time of winter solstice. The days are divided into temporal hours. Their length is not fixed but instead the time between sunrise and sunset is divided into 12 intervals of equal length.

Universal Ring dial

Parmenio of Macedonia constructed the Philippi sundial a portable clock that was also an astronomical instrument. It was used to measure approximate latitude, azimuth and zenith in the distances of the stars. Its diameter was 7cm and a model was discovered by the Greek archaeologist Stylianos Pelekanidis in the Philippi of Macedonia in 1965. It was built in Alexandria and it is mentioned by Vitruvius who also describes other sundials (

 Month Cyprus Sicily Milet Aetolia December-January Kaisarios Agrianeios Lenaion Ληναιών Euthiaios Ευθυαίος January-February Sebastos ? Anthesterion Ανθεστηριών Homoloios Ομολώϊος February-March Autokratorikos Theudasios Artemision Αρτεμισιών Hermaios Ερμαίος March-April Dimarhexousios Artamitios Taureon Ταυρεών Dionysios Διονύσιος April-May Plithipatos ? Thargelion Θαργηλιών Agyieos Αγύειος May-June Arhiereus Badromios Kalamaion Καλαμαιών Hippodromios Ιπποδρόμιος June-July Esthios Yakinthios Panemos Πάνημος Laphraios Λαφριαίος? July-August Romaios Karneios Metageitnion Μεταγειτνιών Paaamos Πάναμος August-September Afrodisios Panamos Boedromion Βοηδρομιών Prokuklios Προκύκλιος September-October Apogonikos Thesmoforos Pyanopsion Πυανοψιών Athanaios Αθαναίος October-November Ainikos Dalios Apatourion Απατουριών Boukatios Βουκάτιος November-December Ioulios ? Poseideon Ποσειδεών Dios Θυίος?

The intercalary month usually came after Poseidon, and was called second Poseidon. For Athens the summer was the start of the year (the Hekatombion), other Greek cities states used a different start for their year (e.g., Sparta and Macedonia in fall, Delos in the winter). Changes by Meton to correct for the problem that this system has 750 days in 2 years compared to our 730 days today. The names of this list marked in red are from a Greek book which probably contains erroneously a shift of one month (for example using Plutarch's information about Alalkomenios that is the analog of Maimakterion in Attica ) and are used only to give an idea of the names used in various Greek cities. The most certain calendar is that of Athens. I cannot imagine how such a system could work today if we used also local names for the months. Preliminary version