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Cappadocian calendar

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Map depicting the Achaemenid Empire in c. 500 BC, by William Robert Shepherd (1923)

The Cappadocian calendar is a solar calendar derived from the Persian Zoroastrian calendar. It is named after the historic region Cappadocia in present-day Turkey, where it was used. The calendar, which had 12 months of 30 days each and five epagomenal days, originated between 550 and 330 BC, when Cappadocia was part of the Persian Achaemenid Empire. The Cappadocian calendar was identical to the Zoroastrian calendar; this can be seen in its structure, in the Avestan names and in the order of the months. The Cappadocian calendar reflects the Iranian cultural influence in the region. Extant evidence of the calendar dates back to Late Antiquity through the accounts of Greek astronomers, by which time it had already been adapted to the Julian calendar.


The Cappadocian calendar was evidently devised at a time when Cappadocia, a historical region in present-day Turkey, was a province (satrapy) of the Achaemenid Empire.[1] The calendar is named after the region in which it was used and there is no consensus about its precise starting date. According to historian Josef Marquart, the calendar commenced in 490 BC, whereas according to philologist Jacques Duchesne-Guillemin, it began between 490 and 480 BC.[2] It is a solar calendar that had 360 days divided into 12 months, which were followed by five epagomenal days.[3]

The calendar was effectively an imitation of the Zoroastrian one;[4] because the Persians were the dominant political group in Cappadocia at the time. It then became the region's main calendar and survived as such in the Kingdom of Cappadocia.[5] Although the passage of time and local dialect differences resulted in minor differences in spelling, the names of the months of the Cappadocian calendar are almost identical to those of the Zoroastrian (Avestan) calendar.[6] The Persians in Cappadocia spoke western Iranian; therefore, the Cappadocian month-names are, in some aspects, linguistically closer to the Middle Persian (Pahlavi) spelling rather than the Avestan spelling.[7] The Cappadocian forms, however, are more archaic and are closer in this regard to the Avestan forms.[8]

The Cappadocian calendar is evidence of the long-lasting Iranian cultural and religious influences on Cappadocia.[9] According to Iranologist Mary Boyce, the Cappadocian calendar, together with the Middle Persian, Parthian, Sogdian, Khwarazmian, Bactrian, and Old Armenian calendars, were all derived from the Achaemenian state calendar that the Persians had introduced in the early Achaemenid period to establish the "accepted means of time-reckoning for all their Zoroastrian subjects".[10] Over time, local language changes resulted in different local versions.[11] Other than that, these calendars are almost identical.[12] The Cappadocian calendar survived the texts of Greek astronomers of Late Antiquity and was still known as late as the 4th century AD.[13]

Names of the months[edit]

Months[14] Cappadocian Young Avestan Early Middle Persian Middle Persian proper (Pahlavi) New Persian
1 [Ar]artana[a] Fravašinąm Fravartīn Frawardīn Farvardīn
2 Artegeste (Artēye<s>tē) Ašahe vahištahe Artvahišt Ardwahišt Ordībehešt
3 Aratata Haurvatātō Harvatāt Xordā̌d Ḵordad
4 Teiri (Teirei) Tištryahe Tīr Tīr Tīr
5 Amartata Amərətātō Amurtāt Amurdā̌d Mordād
6 Sathriore (Xathriorē) Khšathrahe vairyehe Šahrevar Šahrewar Šahrīvar
7 Mithre (Mithpē) Mithrahe Mihr Mihr Mehr
8 *Apomenapa Āpa̧m Āpān Ābān Ābān
9 Athra Āthrō Atur Ādur Āḏar
10 Dathusa (Dathousa) Dathušō Dadv Day Dey
11 Osmana[b] Vaŋhə̄uš manaŋhō Vahuman Wahman Bahman
12 Sondara (Sondara<mat?>) Spəntayå ārmatōiš Spendārmat Spandarmad Esfand

According to Boyce and the historian Frantz Grenet, the "exactness in the main of the correspondences between the calendars" shows the uses adopted by the Zoroastrians in Cappadocia were "largely uniform".[17] They add that the only divergences lay in the substitution of Teiri (Teirei) for Avestan Tištrya, a change reportedly widespread in many Zoroastrian communities, and the "dedication of the eight month" to Apąm Napāt ("son of the waters") rather than to Apąm ("waters"), here being Varuna.[18] Boyce and Grenet wrote that this "month-dedication" was apparently unique to the Cappadocian calendar, meaning there may have been controversy among the Zoroastrians in Cappadocia regarding the elevation of Anahita over Varuna.[19] Boyce and Grenet added that this phenomenon shows that even under the strong polity created by the Achaemenids in a region known for its strong Persian religious influences, the local Persian priests apparently held some minor priestly autonomy.[20]

Adaption to the Julian calendar[edit]

Although the Cappadocian calendar originated during the Achaemenid period, extant evidence only dates back to Late Antiquity, when it had already been adapted to the Julian calendar.[21] Historian Sacha Stern stated that the Cappadocian calendar may have been adapted to the Julian calendar in 44 BC.[22] It was probably the first calendar in the Roman East to become "Julianized",[c] even before the Egyptian calendar.[24] Even after the "Julianization" of the calendar in the Roman period, however, the date of the Cappadocian New Year was still "approximately compatible to an originally Persian Zoroastrian calendar", and its structure was still based on the original Persian calendar of 12 months with 30 days in each month followed by five epagomenal days.[25]


  1. ^ The Cappadocian term relating to the "fravashis of the ashavans", i.e., Fravašinąm (Younger Avestan), Fravartīn (Early Middle Persian), Frawardīn (Middle Persian proper, Pahlavi) and Farvardīn (New Persian).[15]
  2. ^ The Cappadocian rendering of Vohu Manah, i.e., Vaŋhə̄uš manaŋhō (Younger Avestan), Vahuman (Early Middle Persian), Wahman (Middle Persian proper, Pahlavi) and Bahman (New Persian).[16]
  3. ^ For the Cappadocian calendar, this involved the addition of an extra epagomenal day in Julian leap years.[23]


  1. ^ Boyce 2009; de Jong 1997, p. 144; Stern 2012, pp. 181–182, 269; Skjærvø 2018, p. 594
  2. ^ Panaino, Abdollahy & Balland 1990, pp. 658–677.
  3. ^ Stern 2012, pp. 181–182, 269; de Jong 1997, p. 144; Panaino, Abdollahy & Balland 1990, pp. 658–677.
  4. ^ Panaino, Abdollahy & Balland 1990, pp. 658–677; de Jong 1997, p. 144; Stern 2012, pp. 181–182, 269.
  5. ^ Boyce & Grenet 1991, p. 279.
  6. ^ Boyce & Grenet 1991, p. 279.
  7. ^ Boyce & Grenet 1991, p. 279.
  8. ^ Boyce & Grenet 1991, p. 279.
  9. ^ de Jong 1997, p. 144.
  10. ^ Boyce 2009.
  11. ^ Boyce 2009.
  12. ^ Boyce 2009.
  13. ^ Panaino, Abdollahy & Balland 1990, pp. 658–677; Boyce & Grenet 1991, p. 279; de Jong 1997, p. 144.
  14. ^ Panaino, Abdollahy & Balland 1990, pp. 658–677; Boyce & Grenet 1991, pp. 279–280.
  15. ^ Rose 2011, p. 36.
  16. ^ de Jong 1997, p. 266.
  17. ^ Boyce & Grenet 1991, p. 280.
  18. ^ Boyce & Grenet 1991, p. 280.
  19. ^ Boyce & Grenet 1991, p. 280.
  20. ^ Boyce & Grenet 1991, pp. 280–281; Weiskopf 1990, pp. 780–786; Boyce 2001, p. 85.
  21. ^ de Jong 1997, p. 144; Stern 2012, pp. 181–182, 269–271.
  22. ^ Stern 2012, pp. 181–182, 269–271.
  23. ^ Stern 2012, p. 269.
  24. ^ Stern 2012, p. 269.
  25. ^ Stern 2012, p. 182.


  • Boyce, Mary; Grenet, Frantz (1991). Beck, Roger (ed.). A History of Zoroastrianism, Zoroastrianism under Macedonian and Roman Rule. Brill. ISBN 978-9004293915.
  • Boyce, Mary (2001). Zoroastrians: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices. Psychology Press. ISBN 978-0415239028.
  • Boyce, Mary (2009). "NOWRUZ i. In the Pre-Islamic Period". In Yarshater, Ehsan (ed.). Encyclopædia Iranica, Online Edition. Encyclopædia Iranica Foundation.
  • de Jong, Albert (1997). Traditions of the Magi: Zoroastrianism in Greek and Latin Literature. Brill. ISBN 978-9004108448.
  • Panaino, Antonio; Abdollahy, Reza; Balland, Daniel (1990). "CALENDARS". In Yarshater, Ehsan (ed.). Encyclopædia Iranica, Volume IV: Bāyju–Carpets XIV. London and New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul. pp. 658–677. ISBN 978-0-71009-132-1.
  • Skjærvø, Prods Oktor (2018). "festivals and calendars, Persian and Zoroastrian". In Nicholson, Oliver (ed.). The Oxford Dictionary of Late Antiquity. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-866277-8.
  • Rose, Jenny (2011). Zoroastrianism: An Introduction. I.B.Tauris. ISBN 978-0857719713.
  • Stern, Sacha (2012). Calendars in Antiquity: Empires, States, and Societies. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0199589449.
  • Weiskopf, Michael (1990). "CAPPADOCIA". In Yarshater, Ehsan (ed.). Encyclopædia Iranica, Volume IV: Bāyju–Carpets XIV. London and New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul. pp. 780–786. ISBN 978-0-71009-132-1.