Talk:Seleucid era

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Suggestions for Modifying Article: Seleucid era[edit]

The actual counting of the Seleucid Era, or what is sometimes called "the dominion of the Seleucidae," or the Year of Alexander, begins in the 6th year of Alexander the Great's reign,[1] or in what was then the year 3449 anno mundi (312/1 BCE). Seder Olam puts the rebuilding of the Second Temple forty years before this date.[2] It is said that the Jews started this system of reckoning the years, in recognition of Alexander the Great who passed through their country and who received warmly the Jewish High Priest who came out to greet him.[3] When he saw the High Priest, he was dissuaded from any ill-designs he had formerly entertained about the Jews, saying that he had seen the likeness of the High Priest's image in a dream, which same person conducted him in his wars in the other habitable parts of the earth and gave him victory. Now, just as the Jewish New Year begins in the lunar month Tishri (a month usually corresponding with mid-September in the Gregorian calendar), so, too, the Seleucid Era counting begins anew each year with the lunar month Tishri. Our current Gregorian calendar date of August 2013 CE (or 5773 anno mundi) corresponds to the 2,324th year of the Seleucid Era (which year, as noted, actually began in Tishri of 2012, and ends in Elul of 2013). The following month, Tishri, will usher in a new year.

As noted, according to Jewish tradition, Alexander began to reign in anno 318 BCE. He died in 305 BCE after reigning 12 years and 7 months.[4] In 312 BCE, during the sixth year of his reign, they began the counting known as the Seleucid Era,[5] although it was not yet called by that name. The 2nd century chronicler, Rabbi Yose b. Halpetha (Halafta), in his book Seder Olam (chapter 30), explains the practice of counting dates by the Seleucid era calendar in this way: “…in the Jewish Diaspora they would write in their contracts, 'According to the counting of the Grecians - being a thousand [years since the exodus from Egypt]'… " Rabbi Eliyahu of Wilna, known also as the Gaon of Vilna, explains this dark sentence: "Being a thousand [years], meaning, from the exodus of Egypt is reckoned a thousand years. That is to say, 480 [years passed from Israel’s exodus] till the building of the [first] temple, and 410 [years being] the time of its duration, and 52 [years passed] till the kingdom of Persia [usurped authority over the Babylonian kingdom], and 52 [years being the duration] of the Persian kingdom, and 6 [years] of the kingdom of Greece – all total, one-thousand years. It was during that time that they began to reckon the date in contracts, 'According to the kingdom of Greece'."[6]

Jewish tradition can also be corroborated by other sources. For example, Alexander the Great is mentioned in an ancient surviving fragment of Cornelius Nepos's Chronica.[9] Nepos is generally acclaimed to have been the first Roman writer of chronography. He marks the birth of Alexander the Great in the 385th year after the foundation of Rome, giving also the names of the consuls for that year.[10] Rome's founding, or what is known as "A.U.C.," ab urbe condita, "from the foundation of the city [of Rome]," is fixed by Nepos, as also by Polybius, as falling in "the second year of the seventh Olympiad," a year corresponding roughly with 751/0 BCE.[11] Counting 385 years after this date puts the time of Alexander's birth in 366/5 BCE. Simple arithmetic reveals that, in 318/7 BCE, precisely six years before the 1st year of the Seleucid Era counting, Alexander the Great was aged 48 years when he was then made the king of Macedon.[12]

For Your Information: The Seleucid Era counting has been used almost incessantly by the Yemenite Jews from its inception up to our present time, and only recently abandoned by other Jewish communities. All Jewish authorities are in full agreement as to its starting point. Maimonides, some 837 years ago – that is, when counting from our present year of 2013 (or what was then 1176 CE) – put down in writing the Seleucid Era date with its corresponding anno mundi date for a lasting memorial, saying: "…This year, which is the 1,107th year since the destruction [of the second temple], being the 1,487th year of the counting of the Seleucid Era, being the 4,936th year of the creation (anno mundi), is a sabbatical year, and is the 21st year from the Jubilee."[7] Maimonides here, as his manner of recollecting the destruction, counted from the Jewish New Year (Tishri) which ushered in two months after the destruction, or what was then 380 of the Seleucid Era (68/69 CE).[8] Needless to say, the Seleucid Era counting mentioned by Maimonides and that which is called anno mundi (Year of the Creation) are in perfect agreement, just as we have them today. Maimonides' figures put the beginning of the Seleucid Era counting in 312/11 BCE.Davidbena (talk) 00:34, 30 August 2013 (UTC)


[1] Commentary of Rabbeinu Hananel, Babylonian Talmud (Avodah Zarah 10a).

[2] i.e. in 352 BCE.

[3] Sefer HaKabbalah of Rabbi Avraham Halevi ben David (Haravad), and so writes Rabbi David, the grandson of Rabbi Moses b. Maimon, in his commentary "Midrash David," on Mishna Tractate Avoth (Ethics of the Fathers, 1:6). For an account of the story of Alexander the Great and the Jewish High Priest, see the Babylonian Talmud (Yoma 69a); cf. Josephus, Antiquities xi.viii.5.

[4] See: Heckel and Yardley, Alexander the Great, pp. 279-80, quoting Diodorus Siculus.

[5] Commentary of Rabbeinu Hananel, Babylonian Talmud (Avodah Zarah 10a).

[6] Commentary of the Gaon, Rabbi Eliyahu, on "Seder Olam," chapter 30.

[7] Maimonides' Code of Jewish Law, Mishne Torah (Hil. Shemita weyovel, 10:4).

[8] Maimonides' Responsa (responsum # 389).

[9] Denis Feeney's Caesar's Calendar: Ancient Time and the Beginnings of History (Berkeley 2007), pp. 21-22.

[10] See: Aulus Gellius. NA 17.21.3 = Peter, HRRel. F2 (Homer); Solin. 40.4 = Peter, HRRel. F6 (Alexander).

[11] According to Josephus' reckoning of the Olympiads, the foundation of Rome would have been in anno 754 BCE, or thereabouts. This figure seems to be confirmed by E.J. Bickerman's, Chronology of the Ancient World. In Bickerman's momentous work, he also includes a table to convert Rome's AUC dates to BCE/CE dates. AUC, or what is ab urbe condita = "from the foundation of the city" = i.e. when Rome was first founded in the days of Romulus and Remus, is put by Bickerman at 753 BCE, and is nearly in complete harmony with Josephus' figures.

[12] Based on the Olympiads used by Josephus, Alexander's birth would have been in anno 369 BCE, and aged 51 when he was made the king of Grecia.

Sacha Stern wrote in his "Calendar and Community, A History of the Jewish Calendar Second Century BCE – Tenth Century CE," p. 106: "A Jewish date is only informative if it can be identified in relation to some other point of reference: typically, another known calendar." Davidbena (talk) 07:14, 8 September 2013 (UTC)

Absurd errors[edit]

"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."

This is barely possible because Alexander died 11 years before the start of the Seleucid era. The proposed correction on the talk page has more absurd enunciations, saying that Alexander was crowned king of Macedon at the age of 48, when everybody knows that he was crowned at the age of 20 and died aged 33. Maybe the date refers to the rule of Alexander IV of Macedon who ascended at the age of 5 or 6 in the year 317 BC and was in his sixth year at the start of the Seleucid era? Please clarify!--Hyphantes (talk) 00:04, 24 April 2015 (UTC)

See my comment in the next section.Davidbena (talk) 14:53, 19 May 2017 (UTC)

"Alexander the Great," or Alexander the Great's Infant Son, "Alexander IV of Macedon"[edit]

Hyphantes and Special:Contributions/, There is a proclivity among many untrained scholars to bypass Jewish sources. Even the renowned "Encyclopaedia Judaica", s.v. Alexander the Great, puts his lifespan from 356–323 BCE (i.e. 33 years), which if he reigned only 12 years and 7 months (based on Heckel and Yardley, "Alexander the Great," pp. 279-80, who quote from Diodorus Siculus) brings us to 336 BCE when he began to reign, and 323 BCE when he died (11 years before the start of the Seleucid era!), whereas in Jewish tradition his reign began in 318 BCE, and the Seleucid era commencing six years after his reign (312 BCE). You see, the modern dating system does not reflect the Jewish tradition. This enigma can be explained in Jewish tradition as simply being that many of the old dates used by western scholarship are purely anachronistic. According to Denis Feeney, author of "Caesar's Calendar" (pp. 12, 171) it took many hundreds of years for scholars to arrive at the dates that we now hold to be accurate. For example, in Grafton's book on "Joseph Scaliger," he shows how long it took for Roman consular dates (and archon dates, etc.) to be converted into BC/AD. Even so, all the ancient dating systems had to be aligned and converted into the modern system, and cross-referenced, but were not always easily translatable. In this regard, when we compare these old calendar systems with Jewish tradition, it is evident that the work is not yet completed, as there are still disparities between the two systems, the modern and the old. Even if we were to say that the reference in rabbinic literature refers merely to Alexander the Great's infant son, Alexander IV, there is still no rabbinic source to support such a claim. It must, therefore, remain as a mere speculative option.Davidbena (talk) 14:32, 19 May 2017 (UTC)