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Article

Lucy Grig

The Kalends of January was a festival that involved both official and private celebrations and rituals; its durability as a new year festival into Late Antiquity and beyond is striking.

January 1 was the beginning of the consular year (from the mid-2nd century onwards, codified in the reform of the calendar under Julius Caesar),1 and marked by the public consultation of the auguries and the procession of the new consuls to the Capitol for the customary vows and sacrifices.2 During the imperial period vows of loyalty to the emperor were made by the senate,3 the army,4 and provincials on this date.5 As part of the extension of the period of Kalends celebration, the making of yearly vota publica, originally on January 1, became fixed on January 3.6 Strenae (“good luck presents”) were given both to and by the emperor, as well as being shared by individuals more broadly.

Article

Alexander Jones

The Antikythera Mechanism (National Archaeological Museum, Athens, inv. X 15087) was a Hellenistic gearwork device for displaying astronomical and chronological functions. Substantial but highly corroded remains of the instrument were recovered from an ancient shipwreck (see Figure 1).

The most complex scientific instrument to have survived from antiquity, it resembled the sphaerae or planetaria described by Cicero (1) and other Greco-Roman authors. The date of its construction is in dispute but must have been earlier than the middle of the 1st centurybce and can scarcely have been before the end of the 3rd centurybce. It is an invaluable witness for ancient mechanical technology at its most advanced level (see mechanics) as well as for Hellenistic astronomy.

Article

Stephen Hinds

Born in 43 bce, Ovid first made his name at Rome as a playful and experimental love poet, in the Amores, the epistolary Heroides, and the didactic Ars Amatoria and Remedia Amoris; by about 2 ce, he was able to claim that “elegy owes as much to me as epic does to Virgil.” Concurrently with the epic Metamorphoses, he was at work (2–8 ce) on the elegiac Fasti, a poetical calendar of the Roman year, with one book devoted to each month; and he would spend his final decade further extending the range of elegy with the pleas and laments of the Tristia and Epistulae ex Ponto, sent to Rome from afar, along with the curse-poetry of the Ibis. When Ovid turned in his forties to epic, he did not attempt direct competition with the already classic Aeneid. The 15-book Metamorphoses recounted dozens of tales from classical and Near Eastern myth and legend, with no central hero, but with characters and settings changing every few pages; every episode was in some way a story of supernatural transformation, and the whole took the ostensibly chronological form of a history of the universe. As the epic neared completion in 8 ce, the poet was suddenly banished by the emperor Augustus to the Black Sea frontier, (a) for the perceived immorality of the almost decade-old Ars Amatoria, and (b) for a still-mysterious error or indiscretion.