The House of David

"dawnbreak in the west"

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Zoroastrian calendar's roots in 400s BC Persia

I looked around and ran across Sacha Stern, Calendars in Antiquity (Oxford, 2012), fifth chapter.

In the Zoroastrian calendar, the first day of month Farwardîn does not coincide with the vernal equinox. But Sacha Stern points out that it used to, at least within 15 days, over 525-430 BC.

Stern next notes the Sogdian, Choresmian, and Armenian calendars. These place the new year on the sixth of Farwardîn. She brings de Blois 1996 and 2005, that the Sasanians enacted a calendar reform. But the Iranshahr being what it is, not every province accepted this. The three northern fringes in question maintained the pre-Sasanian calendar. As to that original, the Sogdians retained the Babylonian Aramaic month “Nisan” for the third month. The third solar month and the lunisolar Nisan coincided in the late 300s and early 200s. The same holds for the Mandaeans in Iraq – rather, for those Iraqis whose posterity would become Mandaeans.

So for the fifth century BC Persian administration, Stern’s proposal implies a calendar with Iraqi names in an Egyptian solar arrangement. This has additional implications in how we understand the “Babylonian” dates among the (pro-Persian) Israelites in Egypt; the dates might, in the later decades, be intended as solar. For Cantera’s purpose, if I may speak for him, this removes Elephantine from the evidence against him, which (weakened) evidence was constraining the Achaemenid retention of the lunisolar system to the last Persian decade.

To continue with Stern: When in the late 300s BC the Greeks cut the Iranians off from the Semites, such Iranians as kept their solar calendar relexified this with religious and Iranian terms. The “Younger Avesta” community (once more: east Iranian, not Farsi) may or may not have been the ringleaders; but they kept the best record. Elsewhere the Sogdians, being traders, were perhaps slowest to accept the pan-Iranian nativist programme.

posted by Zimri on 17:32 | link | 0 comments

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