The History of Mathematics

Greek and Roman Mathematics

Why were early Greek calendars such a mess?

Unlike the Mesopotamian cultures, the early Greeks paid less attention to astronomy and more to cosmology (they were interested in studying where the Earth and other cosmic bodies stand in relation to the universe). Because of this, their astronomical observations were not accurate, creating confusing calendars. This also led to a major conundrum: Almost every Greek city kept time differently. In fact, during the Greek and Hellenistic times, most dates were given in terms of the Olympiads. This only created another time-keeping problem: If something happened during the 10th Olympiad, it meant the event occurred within a four year span. Such notation creates headaches for historians, who end up making educated guesses as to the actual dates of Greek events, important people’s deaths and births, and sundry other historical occurrences.


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