Paul Kosmin

Paul Kosmin (Harvard University): “A Monopoly of Legitimate Time? The Seleucid Era”

Empires make claims to time as well as space. This paper explores the relationship between the formal temporal structures projected by the Seleucid Empire and the indigenous temporalities that responded to, undermined, and ultimately resisted these. I will focus on the imperial year-count, known as the Seleucid Era. While often noted as an important invention in time-reckoning, the Era has not received scholarly attention as an agent and ideological component of Seleucid imperialism. This Era was the world’s first continuous annual dating system, beginning in year 1 (312/1 BCE) with the imperial founder’s conquest of Babylon and rolling on without break or restart through the reigns of the succeeding kings. It is the ancestor of every Era-based count, including the Jewish Era of Creation, the Christian Anno Domini, and the Islamic Hijrah and remains in use to this day among various Middle Eastern religious minorities. First, I will discuss the structuring logic of the Era count and, second, I will demonstrate the significance of a newly published fragment of an Astronomical Diary from Babylon that indicates for the first time the cultic environment within which the Era was created.



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