Epicurus' Birthday 2023 - (The Most Comprehensive Picture Yet!)

  • That explains it. I was one day off in my calculation due to a moving day.


    I'll have to go back and check my numbers and revise the chart.


    (Edit: My error in calculation was in adding a +1 to the date of every 20 Gamelion entry. All of the other columns were accurate. I am currently reviewing my BCE dates to make sure they are still accurate given measuring inconsistency).

  • The Attic calendar was not meant to be an objective measurement of time, but simply a day-to-day, month-to-month tool that was regularly changed to accommodate the needs of the populace.

    Well said! You've stated that in a better, clearer, and more succinct way! :thumbup: :thumbup:

  • The monthly 20th being based on Epicurus's Birthday also makes sense in light of ancient Greek religion.

    The gods all had specific days of the month on which they were celebrated: Apollo, 7th; Aphrodite, 4th; etc. Epicurus was compared to a god (see Lucretius, for example), so establishing his birth date as the day of the month for celebrations makes perfect sense.

  • Recognition that the ancient Greek phrase τῃ προτέρᾳ δεκατῃ (“the early tenth”) refers to “the twentieth” seems to have been acknowledged by Stephen White, the most recent translator of Diogenes Laërtius with whom I am familiar (2021):


    “'Out of the revenues we have given Amynomachus and Timocrates, they are to set aside portions, in consultation with Hermarchus and so far as possible, for the sacrificial offerings for my father, my mother, and my brothers, and for conducting the customary birthday feast for us every year on the twentieth of gamelion, and likewise for the gathering of our fellow philosophers held on the twentieth of every month in memory of us and Metrodorus. they are also to join in celebrating the feast day for my brothers in Posideon; and they are to join in celebrating the feast day for Polyaenus in Metageitnion, just as we have done.'” (Lives of Eminent Philosophers translated by Stephen White)


    Nearly everyone else from Gassendi to Mensch seem to overlook this nuance.

  • I'm consolidating some papers and other sources that acknowledge τῃ προτέρᾳ δεκατῃ (“the early tenth”) referring to “the twentieth”. My goal is to get this all in one spot about the 7, 10, and 20 of Gamelion.

    Over the next few days is the goal!

  • Do we have access to Apollodorus of Athens' Chronicles (Χρονικά, Chronika) that identifies the date of Epicurus' birth?


    I can only find the phrase from Diogenes Laërtius who employs the phrase μηνὸς Γαμηλιῶνος ἑβδόμῃ.


    μηνὸς (mēnós) – genitive singular: “month of

    Γαμηλιῶνος (Gamēliônos) – genitive singular: “Gamelion’s

    ἑβδόμῃ (hebdómēi) – nominative singular: “Seventh


    "μηδὲν ἄλλο ἢ σαφήνειαν ἀπαιτεῖν. καὶ ἐν ταῖς ἐπιστολαῖς ἀντὶ τοῦ Χαίρειν Εὖ πράττειν καὶ Σπουδαίως ζῆν.

    Ἀρίστων δέ φησιν ἐν τῷ Ἐπικούρου βίῳ τὸν Κανόνα γράψαι αὐτὸν ἐκ τοῦ Ναυσιφάνους Τρίποδος, οὗ καὶ ἀκοῦσαί φησιν αὐτόν, ἀλλὰ καὶ Παμφίλου τοῦ Πλατωνικοῦ ἐν Σάμῳ. ἄρξασθαί τε φιλοσοφεῖν ἐτῶν ὑπάρχοντα δυοκαίδεκα, ἀφηγήσασθαι δὲ τῆς σχολῆς ἐτῶν ὄντα δύο πρὸς τοῖς τριάκοντα. Ἐγεννήθη δέ, φησὶν Ἀπολλόδωρος ἐν Χρονικοῖς, κατὰ τὸ τρίτον ἔτος τῆς ἐνάτης καὶ ἑκατοστῆς Ὀλυμπιάδος ἐπὶ Σωσιγένους ἄρχοντος μηνὸς Γαμηλιῶνος ἑβδόμῃ, ἔτεσιν ὕστερον τῆς Πλάτωνος τελευτῆς ἑπτά. ὑπάρχοντα δ' αὐτὸν ἐτῶν δύο καὶ τριάκοντα πρῶτον ἐν Μυτιλήνῃ καὶ Λαμψάκῳ συστήσασθαι σχολὴν ἐπὶ ἔτη πέντε· ἔπειθ' οὕτως εἰς Ἀθήνας μετελθεῖν καὶ τελευτῆσαι κατὰ τὸ δεύτερον ἔτος τῆς ἑβδόμης καὶ εἰκοστῆς καὶ ἑκατοστῆς Ὀλυμπιάδος ἐπὶ Πυθαράτου ἔτη βιώσαντα δύο πρὸς τοῖς ἑβδομήκοντα. τήν τε σχολὴν διαδέξασθαι Ἕρμαρχον Ἀγεμόρτου Μυτιληναῖον. τελευτῆσαι δ' αὐτὸν λίθῳ τῶν οὔρων ἐπισχεθέντων, ὥς φησι καὶ Ἕρμαρχος ἐν ἐπιστολαῖς, ἡμέρας νοσήσαντα τετταρεσκαίδεκα. ὅτε καί φησιν Ἕρμιππος ἐμβάντα αὐτὸν εἰς πύελον χαλκῆν " <https://el.wikisource.org/wiki/Βίοι_φιλοσόφων/Ι#p15>


    I would like to see the original fragment from Apollodorus of Athens if it is available.

  • This is slightly off topic, but wondering ...since they used a lunar calendar...what phase of the moon would it be on the evening of the Twentieth, on each month?

  • This is slightly off topic, but wondering ...since they used a lunar calendar...what phase of the moon would it be on the evening of the Twentieth, on each month?

    Months of the Attic calendar were supposed to begin with New Moons.



    The 20th would usually host the beginning of a waning gibbous moon:


  • I'm not convinced by the author's argument. In fact, I can't really locate the author's argument.

    Quote

    “ἑβδόμῃ [hebdómēi] is Huebner’s conjecture. Long’s apparatus gives: ἑβδόμη [hebdómē] Bpc: έβδομης [hebdómēs] FP: om. Bac. (But see Usener’s apparatus on B, Epicurea, 366.)"


    I'm honestly not sure what this means. The authors sentence structure is so badly fragmented with colons and abbreviations and differently-formatted citations, I mean ... this is an example of an academic who needs to be held to task in writing complete sentences with nice subjects, objects, and verb for the sake of clarity.


    For my own comprehension, do you think they are indicating the following?


    The following is my attempt to paraphrase the author: "Numerous translators differ about the spelling of the ancient Greek word for 'seventh' as presented in the original text. The difference in translation could be the difference between 'the seventh month of Gamelion' versus 'the month of Gamelion's seventh'. One authority says hebdómēi. Another says hebdómē. Yet another says hebdómēs. As it turns out, I agree with the interpretation that lends credence to the proposition that 'the seventh' is an adjective that describes "the month" and not a noun indicating 'the nth sequential day'".


    (I HATE it when scholars mix citation formats mid-text as though it isn't wildly obfuscating. Do they expect their readers to speak ancient Greek and can read Usener in Latin without a problem?)


    I think I'm just having a tough time accepting this because I hate the way the author writes.


    I see how "the seventh" can be seen as a descriptive gloss meant to elaborate upon "the month". At the same time, I can just as easily see it as being "the seventh", especially because the noun is in its nominative form, whereas "Gamelion" is in its genitive form, indicating to me that "the seventh" is the object and not "the month".


    I'm further suspicious by this reasoning, which I see as being incomplete:


    He suggests that "Apollodorus is now known to have given dates by month and day only for Socrates (F 34) and Plato (F 37), successive days, with religious connections, and mythical, according to Wilamowitz (Aristoteles und Athen, i. 190), and by month only otherwise for Boethos (F 53)." How is this known? By whom? If he gave the days of Socrates and Plato, would it not be reasonable to assume that he would do the same for Epicurus, another Hegemon?

  • I think I just want more evidence that μηνὸς Γαμηλιῶνος ἑβδόμῃ should be translated to something like "the seventh month of Gamelion" instead of the traditional "month of Gamelion's Seventh."


    I do see a number of reasons that support this hypothesis. The former solves our birthday discrepancy. Apollodorus of Athens could have used the word "seventh" as a gloss to to clarify which month on the Attic calendar corresponded with "Gamelion" because there were dozens of dissimilar calendars in the ancient world and informing the reader which sequentially-numbered month they were in helps provide context. Hundreds of years later, I imagine biographers, living under different calendar systems, would have found approximations more useful than exact calculations. Early authors ran the same risk of having lost things in translation just as we are now. Similarly, for readers' sense of context, it would have been less helpful to know the date of an unknown time of year, than to know the time of year but not the date.


    At the same time, Apollodorus of Athens could have chosen to write an ancient greek numeral instead of the name of the number (I believe "Z" for the numeral "VII" or "7"), or he could have placed the words μηνὸς (mēnós) "month of" and ἑβδόμῃ (hebdómēi) "seventh" together. He was also only born 90 years after Epicurus died, and lived in Athens, so he and his readers would have been familiar with the Attic calendar, and a descriptive gloss may have been unnecessary. Having lived just a century earlier, I imagine that Epicurus' exact birthdate would have been recorded. Given that Apollodorus recorded Socrates' birthdate, who lived 300 years before him, it seems like he could have easily verified Epicurus', particularly given his popularity and the availability of documentation.


    Then again, it seems weird to me that 7's would be used so repetitively. It seems more likely that Epicurus' birthday fell on the Twentieth celebration than it does that he was born in the seventh day, of the seventh month, seven years after Plato. Though, I suppose that, too, could have been a coincidence, and such a coincidence is worthy of writing about, so maybe instead of just including the month (and/or date), Apollodorus of Athens also included the Plato fact for rhetorical emphasis. Of course, that may have, itself, been an exaggeration made with a poetic license.


    Still, if that is the case, and he was born on Gamelion 7, I think it begs an answer to the question of "Why did Epicurus adopt the the celebration date of the pre-existing cult of the Twentieth when he could have used his birthday?" Nearly every day of the Attic month is holy on some level, and has some symbolic meaning, and we already discussed the Attic symbology of the Seventh. It seems to me that Epicurus having been being born on the 20th is what makes the Twentieth significant, sort of like being born on a February 29th of a Leap Year.


    This is why I am still split on what I see as being an unknown.

  • You've been busy, Nate . Let me try and give my responses (if warranted) chronologically from your posts. And I agree that Lewis's short work is obscure and wrapped in the jargon of Academia. I'm working my way through it, but I do find the 7th month idea intriguing to say the least....

    Quote

    Long’s apparatus gives: ἑβδόμη [hebdómē] Bpc: έβδομης [hebdómēs] FP: om. Bac. (But see Usener’s apparatus on B, Epicurea, 366.)"

    Honestly, I got hung up on "apparatus" right away, on top of the abbreviated citations, etc. I had to look it up, and it appears, according to the Oxford English Dictionary: "Materials for the critical study of a document. In full critical apparatus: = apparatus criticus n." So, it's just shorthand for a researcher's materials they've cobbled together taken as a whole. B, F, and P are all Diogenes Laertius manuscripts:

    "B 1. The oldest representative of the first class is B, the Codex Borbonicus gr. iii. B. 29 (formerly 253), a parchment codex of the twelfth century, in the public library at Naples: it was corrected by a hand of the fourteenth century whose readings not infrequently agree with those of Co." (Bailey: Epicurus: The Extant Remains) The superscripts of B appear to be different copies of the original B manuscript.


    Here is the pertinent section of what I *think* is codex Parisinus gr. 1759 (14th c.) known as P. The 4th line is where the Gamelion line is which looks to me line .... μηνος γαμηλιωνος *βδομ*... I'm not sure what the superscripts before and after *βδομ* are.


    cdkYjj66QKN0q4CsmR7uFhGqAxWt_S8hqivG4NIQpj1DbKzG8xXw1M21FnjNzfcxX9fc-ve6UrsL7V22N3squBHzeao9jEuV2gT59xDS0gHEPES39zt0CnKVUkCRlWVnXSuy8WZ3BPIQkH-zcKjkC6hcGat9C1ZHp-P18HohGyyEcJZoFO5AzDaxCPYyzA


    Here is end of the section in manuscript codex Laurentianus LXIX. 35 (14th c.) known as H. This is the top of the folio with the ending of Gamelionos from the previous page: [γαμηλι]ωνος εβδομ**. Again, I'm not sure what to make of the superscripts but it looks to me like -Ης so έβδομης which appears to be modifying Gameliōnos. But why would ebdomēs be feminine and the name be masculine? Is it attached to the earlier της? Is it something like "the month of Gamelion, the seventh one" which is not an uncommon construction (e.g., the ball, the red one):

    AxOeOI8jxynEeiNB52xaSR1yH0IsgUjsbswQ-gDk232MpOlk5UOXAFnvFBOX-nWSJpRsOWYkLTK-jWsXpk-rVBBtnQL4ydHp1ZkG42wpu7VdoFGL6Oib4aC0Fmr3BYA6KiK2qBK4kihqQN1tu-YWkVmVmWj_C4kV7y2ap4vdrACTNeUdRYL5z2HE3eDQsQ


    Unfortunately, I couldn't get to the other manuscripts or they aren't available digitized.

    Usener's apparatus on B on p.366 of Epicurea reads:

    The note on line 17 is the one that is pertinent to the Gamelion 7 issue. Which, using my rudimentary Latin (and Google Translate) reads something like:

    "|| 17 between μηνὸς and τῆς there is one empty space, and what is left in verse B1 παπυλεῶνος ἑβδόμη. ... ἔτεσιν ὕστερον he supplied B2 | ἑβδόμη B2: ἑβδόμης FPQHf"

    So, Usener seems to be saying that manuscript B2 had εβδομη while manuscripts F, P, Q, Hf had εβδομης. I have no idea what παπυλεωνος refers to, and Gamelionos makes more sense in context. I'm also now sure how "he" is when Usener refers to "he supplied." Usener seems to think the εβδομης, the genitive singular feminine form of έβδομος, is supported by 4 manuscripts while the other is supported by a version of B. Is he saying that "he" supplied εβδομη(ς) in the "one empty space" between μηνὸς and τῆς which would imply something like "the seventh month of Gamelion"?


    I realize I'm not even a couple lines into replying to your posts, but there's a lot here so I'm going to his Reply here and open a new post.

  • The following is my attempt to paraphrase the author: "Numerous translators differ about the spelling of the ancient Greek word for 'seventh' as presented in the original text. The difference in translation could be the difference between 'the seventh month of Gamelion' versus 'the month of Gamelion's seventh'. One authority says hebdómēi. Another says hebdómē. Yet another says hebdómēs. As it turns out, I agree with the interpretation that lends credence to the proposition that 'the seventh' is an adjective that describes "the month" and not a noun indicating 'the nth sequential day'".

    Yes, that's my general take, too.


    Do they expect their readers to speak ancient Greek and can read Usener in Latin without a problem?)

    ^^ LOL. Yes, I do think they expect that! And, most likely, most of them can/could. I doubt they ever considered us lay researchers being interested in their esoteric work!


    Here's a link to Wilamowitz's work Aristoteles und Athen. On p. 190 it says:

    geburtstage können nur gelegentlich wie bei Epikur und in seinem kreise geschichtlich sein ; Sokrates und Piaton haben mythische.

    Birthdays can only occasionally be historical, as with Epicurus and in his circle; Socrates and Plato have mythical ones.


    That implies to me that Epicurus's birthday was only considered important within his circle/school. Socrates' and Plato's took on mythic proportions due to their (undue) stature within Greek philosophy.


    How is this known? By whom? If he gave the days of Socrates and Plato, would it not be reasonable to assume that he would do the same for Epicurus, another Hegemon?

    Epicurus was "the most reviled and most revered" so any number of authors wouldn't feel his exact birthdate warranted mention. I don't see why we would expect every author - especially the student of Stoics! - to bother with recording Epicurus's birthdate. Plus, Diogenes Laertius included Epicurus's Will which (to me) gives his birthdate anyway. Not everyone wants to acknowledge the importance of Epicurus!

  • it seems like he could have easily verified Epicurus', particularly given his popularity and the availability of documentation.

    That's assuming Apollodorus *wanted* to verify it.

    Apollodorus of Athens could have used the word "seventh" as a gloss to to clarify which month on the Attic calendar corresponded with "Gamelion" because there were dozens of dissimilar calendars in the ancient world and informing the reader which sequentially-numbered month they were in helps provide context.

    Remember, too, that Diogenes Laertius (DL) would not have been using the autographs from Apollodorus's own hand. DL was probably using a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of Apollodorus's Chronicle from possibly decades if not hundreds of years later. A later scribe could have easily inserted a 7 or Z or VII or εβδομ* into their copy of the manuscript to make help show what Gamelion was in the ancient Athenian calendar. Especially since Gamelion and similar sounding months were different numbers for different city-states. Maybe Apollodorus never even wrote the word "seven/th"! Then the word or symbol got transposed, misinterpreted, etc., etc., etc. As I understand it, the only "copy" of this Fragment about Epicurus's birthday is preserved in Book 10 of DL's book!!


    Another line of interest for me is the line in Epicurus's Will:

    καὶ ἡμῖν εἰς τὴν εἰθισμένην ἄγεσθαι γενέθλιον ἡμέραν ἑκάστου ἔτους τῇ προτέρᾳ δεκάτῃ τοῦ Γαμηλιῶνος, ὥσπερ καὶ εἰς τὴν γινομένην σύνοδον ἑκάστου μηνὸς ταῖς εἰκάσι τῶν συμφιλοσοφούντων ἡμῖν εἰς τὴν ἡμῶν τε καὶ Μητροδώρου <μνήμην> κατατεταγμένην.

    Epicurus talks about celebrating his birthday on the 20th of Gamelion, ὥσπερ..


    ὥσπερ means "like as, even as" the members of the school assemble every month on the 20th in remembrance of Metrodorus and Epicurus. That like as seems to me to say "Keep celebrating my birthday as we have been on Gamelion 20 just like we meet on the 20th of every month to remember Metrodorus and me." The discrepancy of Gamelion 7 and 20 is resolved elegantly by the fact that Gamelion was the 7th month of the Attic calendar in Epicurus's and Apollodorus's time.

    Nearly every day of the Attic month is holy on some level, and has some symbolic meaning, and we already discussed the Attic symbology of the Seventh. It seems to me that Epicurus having been being born on the 20th is what makes the Twentieth significant

    That is *exactly* where I'm coming down on this.

  • This makes a lot of sense. Thank you so much for the sources!


    So, as you demonstrated, we have found a documented disagreement between scholars going back at least decades regarding the form of the word "seventh" that was used after Γαμηλιῶνος (Gamēliônos) in Diogenes' manuscript. The form of "seventh" will indicate whether or not the author was using "seventh" as a gloss to inform the read which month it was, versus making a point to identify the individual date of the month on which Epicurus was born.



    That works for me! Given that the scholars from whom most other academics pull have acknowledged that this is an on-going debate that has not been conclusively resolved, I think it is appropriate to question the prevailing translations of "seventh day" and propose that not only is "seventh month" just as possible, but it is more consistent.

  • Cassius

    Changed the title of the thread from “Epicurus's Birthday 2023” to “Epicurus' Birthday 2023 - (The Most Comprehensive Picture Yet!)”.
  • Just this morning, I had a thought on codex Parisinus gr. 1759 (14th c.) known as P.

    Look at that manuscript, and it looks like the actual spelling of the word that everyone just translates as "seven/th". To me it looks like:

    ευδομ(*superscript*) and not εβδομ/. Well, lol and behold, according to LSJ "εὕδομος" is Boeotian for ἕβδομος!

    Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, ε , εὐδιά-φθαρτος , εὕδομος

    And Boeotia didn't use Gamelion as the name of a month. So, here's my scenario: Somewhere along the line, Apollodorus's work was copied by a scribe from Boeotia who didn't think his readers would know what Gamelion was, so he decided to put in the word "seventh" in his dialect as opposed to "standard" Greek to make sure to specify Gamelion was the seventh month.

    All this is wild conjecture on my part, but I've seen academic theories built on less ^^

  • Let's pare that pertinent sentence down to its bare bones:


    Ἐγεννήθη δέ, φησὶν Ἀπολλόδωρος ἐν Χρονικοῖς, κατὰ τὸ τρίτον ἔτος τῆς ἐνάτης καὶ ἑκατοστῆς Ὀλυμπιάδος ἐπὶ Σωσιγένους ἄρχοντος μηνὸς γαμηλιῶνος ἑβδόμῃ,


    Ἐγεννήθη "he was born"


    φησὶν Ἀπολλόδωρος ἐν Χρονικοῖς

    Apollodorus says in (his) Chronicle


    δέ is just the conjunction "and, so, etc."


    κατὰ τὸ τρίτον ἔτος τῆς ἐνάτης καὶ ἑκατοστῆς Ὀλυμπιάδος

    during the 3rd year (τὸ τρίτον ἔτος) of the 109th Olympiad


    ἐπὶ Σωσιγένους ἄρχοντος

    in the archonship of Sosigenēs


    μηνὸς γαμηλιῶνος ἑβδόμῃ,


    μηνὸς "month" noun singular masculine genitive of μήν

    γαμηλιῶνος "Gamelion" noun singular masculine genitive

    ἑβδόμῃ "seventh" adjective singular *feminine* dative

    ἑβδόμης adjective singular *feminine* genitive

    ἑβδόμη adjective singular *feminine* nominative


    Words in ancient Greek have to agree with each other in number, case, and gender. Every permutation I've seen of "seventh" is *feminine*. There's no word in that sentence that seems to fit with being modified by a feminine adjective. There has to be a seventh something. However, used by itself it can mean "the seventh one" as in

    ἡ ἑβδόμη "the seventh day". So, my theory continues to be "of (the) month of Gamelion, (the) seventh one (i.e., seventh month).

  • It's honestly pretty shocking we even have his birth date nearly 24 centuries later. With most people from antiquity we have quite literally only their name. Stephen Greenblatt gives a citation in which an ancient writer runs down a list of Latin authors he thought were worth reading. Of some dozen names, only Lucretius' book survived.