The Seleucid era or Anno Graecorum (literally "year of the Greeks" or "Greek year"), sometimes denoted "AG", was a system of numbering years in use by the Seleucid Empire and other countries among the ancient Hellenistic civilizations. It is sometimes referred to as "the dominion of the Seleucidæ," or the Year of Alexander. The era dates from the return of Seleucus I Nicator to Babylon in 311 BC after his exile in Ptolemaic Egypt, considered by Seleucus and his court to mark the founding of the Seleucid Empire. According to Jewish tradition, it was during the sixth year of Alexander the Great's reign that they began to make use of this counting. The introduction of the new era is mentioned in one of the Babylonian Chronicles, the Chronicle of the Diadochi.
Two different uses were made of the Seleucid years:
- The natives of the empire used the Babylonian calendar, in which the new year falls on 1 Nisanu (3 April in 311 BC), so in this system year 1 of the Seleucid era corresponds roughly to April 311 BC to March 310 BC. This included the Jews, who call it the Era of Contracts. It is used in the Jewish historical book, now "deuterocanonical", 1 Maccabees, in 6:20, 7:1, 9:3, 10:1, etc.
- The Macedonian court adopted the Babylonian calendar (substituting the Macedonian month names) but reckoned the new year to be in the autumn (the exact date is unknown). In this system year 1 of the Seleucid era corresponds to the period from autumn 312 BC to summer 311 BC. By the seventh century AD / tenth AG, the west Syrian Christians settled on 1 October-to-30 September. Jews, however, reckon the start of each new Seleucid year with the lunar month Tishri.
These differences in the beginning of the year mean that dates may differ by one. Bickerman gives this example:
- For instance, the restoration of the temple of Jerusalem by Judas Maccabaeus, approximately 15 December 164 BC, fell in the year 148 of the Seleucid Era according to Jewish (and Babylonian) calculation, but in the year 149 for the court.
The Seleucid era was used as late as the 6th century AD, for instance in the Zebed inscription in Syria, dated the 24th of Gorpiaios, 823 (24 September, 512 AD), and in the writings of John of Ephesus. Syriac chroniclers continued to use it up to Michael the Syrian in the 1100s AD / 1400s AG. It has been found on Nestorian Christian tombstones from Central Asia well into the 14th century AD.
- Babylonian Talmud (Avodah Zarah 10a), Rabbeinu Hananel's Commentary; RASHI's commentary on Babylonian Talmud (Avodah Zarah 9a); Sefer Hakabbalah of Rabbi Avraham ben David (Ravad); Midrash David on Mishnah Tractate Avot (Ethics of the Fathers, 1:6)
- Babylonian Diadochi Chronicle (BCHP) 3; obverse, line 4.
- Emil Schürer (1890). A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ. T&T Clark. pp. 36–44.
- Andrew Palmer (1993). The Seventh Century. Liverpool University Press. pp. xxxiv, xxxvii, lii–lviii.
- Elias J. Bickerman (1943). "Notes on Seleucid and Parthian Chronology". Berytus 8: 73–84.
- M. A. Kugener, "Nouvelle Note Sur L'Inscription Trilingue De Zébed", Rivista degli Studi Orientali (1907), pp. 577-586.
- Peter Charanis, "On the Question of the Hellenization of Sicily and Southern Italy During the Middle Ages", American Historical Review, 52:1 (1946), p. 82.
- Syriac Gravestones from Central Asia
- Jewish Encyclopedia
- Boiy, Tom (2000). "Dating methods during the early Hellenistic period" (PDF). Journal of Cuneiform Studies 52: 115–121. doi:10.2307/1359689.
- The Babylonian Calendar (with a date converter based on Parker & Dubberstein (1956))