Dates and Imperial Rulers Trexler Library

Dates in Roman Egypt reflected the social and cultural complexities of the province.  The traditional Roman calendar did not function well in this cultural situation, and the long cultural and astronomical heritage of Egypt required that the traditional Egyptian calendar continue to be used and adapted as necessary.

Given the differences of dating the New Year, the dates recorded in the papyri almost always refer to regnal years of particular rulers.  In papyrus 1038, “in the third year of the reign and consulship of our most godly and pious sovereign Flavius Justinus” is the equivalent of 568 AD.  Modern historians can resolve regnal years according to known sources of the succession of emperors.  The text of papyrus 1038 continues “Mesore 2, 1st indiction,”  referring to a month and a tax-cycle.

The Egyptian months were:                    

Thoth or Sebastos 29 August—27 September
Phaophi 28 September—27 October
Hathyr 28 October—26 November
Choiak 27 November—26 December
Tybi 27 December—25 January
Mecheir 26 January—24 February
Phamenoth 25 February—26 March
Pharmouthi 27 March—25 April
Pachon 26 April—25 May
Payni 26 May—24 June
Epeiph 25 June—24 July
Mesore 25 July—23 August

There were five “additional days,” 24-28 August (depending upon solar cycle);  in leap years there were six additional days.

An “indiction” is a 15-year cycle originally referring to land taxes.  Although it was used informally for several centuries, in 537 AD Emperor Justinian decreed that all dates must include indictions, dated from the Byzantine first day of the year, September 1.  Successive indictions were not numbered, however, thus supplementary evidence is required to date a document securely.