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From De Die Natale, by Censorinus, translated into English by William Maude, New York: The Cambridge Encyclopedia Co., 1900; pp. 9 to 26.





(A. D. 238)

Part I.




It is not incredible that Music has some relation to our birth. Either, as says Socrates, because it resides in the voice, or as Aristoxenus pretends, because it arises from the voice and the movements of the body, or because to these two conditions must be added the aspirations of the soul, as was thought by Theophrastus. Certainly music has in it something divine and it can do much to move the soul. If music was not agreeable to the immortal gods, who are essentially divine, melodrama would not be employed to honour them; public prayers by the sound of the flute, with which their temples resound, would not be made; and one would not see a flute-player precede the march of triumph; Apollo would not be given a cithara, as an attribute, nor the Muses given flutes and other musical instruments; flute-players, who invoke the beneficent gods, would not be permitted to usher in the public games, to play during feasts in the capitol, nor during the small quinquatribus, that is to say in the ides of June; nor to run around the city clothed according to their fancy, masked and inflamed with wine.

The souls of men, which are divine, notwithstanding the opinion of Epicurus, are elevated by songs. Even the pilot amidst the storm raises his voice in song to give courage and alacrity to the sailors. It is the trumpet that banishes from the field of battle the fear of death. This is why Pythagoras, who wished that his soul should be always embued with the sentiment of divinity, had, it is said, the habit of playing the cithara before abandoning himself to sleep. Asclepiades, the physician, with the aid of harmonious music, brought back reason to troubled minds. Erophilus, who practiced the same art, pretended that the pulsations of the veins were made rhythmically.1 If, then, music presides over the movements both of the body and the soul, it cannot be foreign to our birth.




To the foregoing add what Pythagoras has demonstrated, that all the universe moves upon the principles of music; that the seven planets which float between the sky and the earth and which rule the generation of mortals, have a movement called by the Greeks “Harmonic” and intervals corresponding to musical ones: that they give, each according to its place in space, divers sounds and so perfect that the sweetest melodies result; only they are inaudible to our ears which are too coarse for their sublime sounds. Eratosthenes found, by geometrical calculations, that the greatest circumference of the Earth is 252,000 stadia;2 Pythagoras indicated how many stadia there were between the Earth and each of the planets. The particular stadius in question is that which is called Italique, which is of 625 feet; because there are others which differ from it in length, as the Olympic stadius of 600 feet and the Pythic, of 1000. From the Earth to the Moon, Pythagoras thought that there were about 126,000 stadia, which responds to the interval of a musical tone; that from the Moon to Mercury there was half this distance, or a semi-tone; that from this star to Venus there was about as much, that is to say, another semi-tone; that from this to the Sun there was three times this distance, which is equivalent to one tone and a half; and that the Sun is distant from the Earth three tones and a semi-tone, an interval which is called a diapente; that the Sun is distant from the Moon two tones and a half, an interval called diatessaron; that from the Sun to Mars, called by the Greeks “Fire,” there is the same distance as from the Earth to the Moon, or the interval of a tone; that from Mars to Jupiter, called in Greek “Twinkling,” there is half of that, or a semi-tone; that there is the same interval from Jupiter to Saturn, called in Greek “Brilliant,” or another semi-tone; that from here to the superior heaven, where the Signs are, there is also an interval of a semi-tone; that from the superior heaven to the Sun there is a diatessaron, that is to say, an interval of two tones and a half; and that from the same part of the heaven to the most elevated part of the Earth, there are six tones, which gives the diapasonic consonance. To other stars are applied many rules which belong to the musical art. Pythagoras has also shown that all the universe is “Harmonius.” Dorylaus has written that the universe is the musical instrument of God; others have called the universe the “Ball-room” on account of the movement of the seven 11 revolving planets. But all these things deserve a minute explanation and this is not the place for it. I have devoted an entire book to this subject and even that is not space enough. I return to my proper subject; the charms of music having carried me too far.



Having elsewhere explained what passes before the day of our birth, I will mention the climacteric years and how the different ages of man are distinguished. Varro thinks that human life is divided into five equal epochs, each of fifteen years, except the last. Thus the first epoch, which lasts to the fifteenth year, embraces childhood. Children are called pueri, because they are pure, that is to say, impubescent; the second epoch, which extends to thirty years of age, embraces the adolescents, thus called from the word adolescere (to begin life); the third epoch, which continues until the forty-fifth years, embraces the young men, called the juvenes, because they defend (juvant) the republic, sword in hand; the fourth epoch, which extends to the sixtieth year, embraces those who are called seniors, because the human body then commences to grow old (senescere); the fifth epoch comprehends all the remaining time until death, and this class is called old men (senes) whose bodies are already debilitated by age (senio). Hippocrates, the physician, divides life into seven periods; the first, according to him, terminates at seven years, the second at fourteen, the third at twenty-eight, the fourth at thirty-five, the fifth at forty-two, the sixth at fifty-six, while the seventh extends to the last day of life. As to Solon, he made ten periods, which he calls septennates, halving the third, the sixth and the seventh periods of Hippocrates; so that each period is of seven years. Staseas, the Peripatetic, added two to the ten hebdomades of Solon and assigned eighty-four years as the last term of life, comparing those who passed this limit to those racers and charioteers who had passed the goal. According to Varro, the Etruscans, in their books called Fatalibus, (Books of Fate,) also divided human life into twelve hebdomades. They thought that by prayers, there could be obtained from the gods postponement of the fatal moment by adding two other hebdomades to the first ten; but that having passed eighty years this favour should neither be solicited nor received from the gods; that man, after eighty-four years, insensibly loses the use of his faculties and is not worth such efforts. Of all the writes on this subject, those who divide human life into 12 hebdomades of seven years, appear to me to approach nearest the truth. In effect, it is by intervals of seven years that nature changes us and affects a series of revolutions. So we learn from the Elegy of Solon. He says that in the first hebdomade man loses his first teeth; in the second, appears the down; the beard appears in the third; in the fourth, he acquires all his strength; in the fifth, comes the maturity that is necessary for procreation; the sixth moderates his passions; the seventh achieves the perfection of his reason and language; this perfection is maintained in the eighth and according to some authors his eyes lose their force; in the ninth, all his faculties commence to become enfeebled; and the tenth precipitates him towards death. In the second hebdomade or the commencement of the third, the voice becomes strong but unequal. Aristotle calls this “change of voice” and our fathers called it hirquitallire; they also call the young man of this age hirquitallos, from the word hircus. The third age, which embraces adolescents, the Greeks divided into three degrees; thus they say “child” at fourteen years; “near puberty” at fifteen; “puberty” at sixteen and “ex-puberty” at seventeen. There are many things to learn about these hebdomades in medical and philosophical works. They teach us that in illness the seventh day is the most perilous and is called “critical” by the Greeks; and that during the course of life each seventh year brings dangers and crises, which have been named “climacteric.”3 Among these years there are some which the astrologers regard as more critical than others; the most dangerous, according to them, are those which terminate each period of three hebdomades, that is to say, the twenty-first year and the forty-second, then the sixty-third and the eighty-fourth, which is that which Staseas has made the term of life. Many others admit but one climacteric year, the most critical of all, the forty-ninth, which is composed of seven times seven, and they have adopted this opinion, on account of the influence attributed to the squares of numbers. Plato, the greatest of philosophers, (without depreciating the others,) thought that human life had, as limit, the square of nine, which gave eighty-one years. There are some who admit the two numbers, that is to say, 49 and 81, applying the lesser number to children born during the night and the greater one to children born during the day. Many philosophers, guided by another theory, have established between these two numbers an ingenious distinction. They say that the septenary number referred to the body and the ninth to the soul.4 I regard 13 this as less dangerous than the others; because if it contains the two numbers stated above, it is not the square of either of them and notwithstanding the relation that it has with one and the other, it has no influence; and this year of life has been fatal to not a few celebrated men of antiquity. I may be contradicted by the example of Aristotle the Stagirite; but such was said to be the natural feebleness of his temperament and the continuance of the maladies which assailed his debilitated body, to which he only opposed the force of his vast soul, that it is more surprising that his life was prolonged to sixty-three years, than that it should not have passed this term.



Thisis why, virtuous Cerellius, although thou hast without trouble passed this year, the most critical of all, I dread less for thee the other climacteric years; because these offer less danger. I know that with thee it is the soul which dominates. Men thus formed pay no tribute to nature before having attained their eighty-first year, which is, according to Plato, the legitimate term of life and which was that of his own. It was at this age that Dionysius Heracleotes, in order to die, deprived himself of nourishment and that, contrariwise, Diogenes, the Cynic, choked to death from excess of food. Eratosthenes, who measured the rotundity of the earth and the Platonist Xenocrates, chief of the ancient Academy, lived just to this year. There are those, who triumphing by the force of moral energy over their corporal maladies, have passed this limit: as Carneades, founder of the third Academy, called the New and Cleanthes, who accomplished his ninety-ninth year. Xenophanes Colophonius lived more than one hundred years. Democritus of Abdera and the rhetorician Isocrates, lived, it is said, nearly as long as Georgias Leontinum, who attained the most advanced age of all antiquity and passed one hundred and eight years. If these disciples of wisdom, either by the force of their souls, or by a law of destiny, enjoyed such a long life, I do not doubt that, thanks to the vigour that thou hast maintained in soul and body, an old age as long to thee is reserved. Who can we cite among the ancients who were superior to thee in wisdom, in temperance, in justice and grandeur of soul? Who among them, if he lived, would not take thee as an unique model of all the virtues? Who would blush to come but after thee in this panegyric? According to my view, the most worthy of admiration are they who, if they 14 have not been given to forgetfulness, notwithstanding their extreme prudence and their severance from public affairs, have lived without incurring reproaches or exciting deadly hatred. Thou who hast filled municipal functions, whose sacerdotal honours have placed him at the head of the citizens, just as the dignity of the equestrian order is elevated above the rank of the provincial, not only hast thou always been exempt from reproach and hatred, but thou hast drawn to thyself the love and esteem of all. Who has not searched among the illustrious order of senators for those who had the honour to be known to thee; or who has not envied thee in the more modest ranks of the people? What man has seen thee, or only knows thy name, who does not cherish thee as his brother and who does venerate thee as a member of his family? Who does not know that, united in thee, is the most scrupulous probity, a fidelity which stands all ordeals, an incomparable goodness, modesty and bearing, without equal, in fact all the human virtues; and to such a degree that it is not possible for anybody to fitly praise them. I do not say anything of thy eloquence, which is known to all the tribunals and to all the magistrates of our provinces: and which has won the admiration of Rome and of the most august audiences. It equally recommends itself to our own time and to future ages!



But as I am to write of thy Natal Day, I shall now try to follow my subject more closely. I will designate as clearly as possible the present time, that in which they noble life passes and I will make known exactly the day when thou wast born.

I mean by limited time (tempus) not merely a day, a month, or a year, but that which some call a lustrum, or great year, and others a cycle. As to infinite time (ævum) which is without limits, I have little to say just now. It is in fact eternity; having neither commencement nor end; it has always been and it will always be; it does not belong more to one man than to another. It can be considered in three relations, the past, the present and the future. The past has no commencement, the future no end, and the present, which holds the middle, is so ephemeral, so unseizable, that it does not admit of any measurement and seems to be but a point with unites the past and the future. Thus it is so mobile that it never stops; all that it touches in its precipitate course it takes from the future and adds it 15 to the past. Compared among themselves, these times (I speak of the past and the future) are neither equal, nor such that one can be considered as shorter or longer than the other; that which has no limit not being susceptible to any measure. I will then not try to measure infinite time (ævum) by any number of years or cycles, neither by any revolution of finished time; because these divisions compared to infinite time do not equal a single short hour of winter.5 Also in the examination which I am going to make of past cycles and for the designation of the present age, leaving aside those times which the poets have named the Golden Age, the Age of Silver and others, I will take as my point of departure Rome, our common country.



Cycles being either natural or civil, I shall first speak of the natural ones. A natural cycle or age is the longest duration of human life, having for its limits the birth and death of man. Those who have confined the age to a space of thirty years, seem to have committed a great error. According to Heraclitus this interval of time is called not an age but a generation, because in such interval a period transpires in the age of man and such period is the interval comprised between the moment of birth and that in which he expires.6 The number of years of which a generation is composed has been differently fixed. Herodotus says 25 years; Zeno, 30. It is a question the examination of which has not as yet received sufficient care. Much that is incredible has been written on the subject by poets and even by Greek historians, who should have been able to approach the truth. In Herodotus we read that Arganthonius king of Tartessus lived 150 years and in Ephorus that the Arcadians pretended that some of their 16 ancient kings had lived 300 years. I put these accounts aside as fabulous.7 A similar diversity of opinion is found even among the astrologers, who search for truth by observing the stars and celestial Signs. Epigenes fixed 112 years as the longest duration of human life, and Berosius 116 years. Others have pretended that life could be prolonged to 120 years, and others even beyond this time. There are some who have thought that the duration of life was not the same everywhere, but that it varied in each country according to the local inclination of the heavens (stars) at the horizon. The Greeks call this “Climate.”8 But although the truth is hidden and obscure, the ritual of the Etruscans enlightens us as to the (sæcular) cycles employed in their states. From their books we learn how these cycles were established. Going back to the day of the foundation of cities and states they select from those who were born on that day, he who lived the longest time; and the day of his death marks the end of the first cycle or age. Amongst those whose birth dates back to this period, it is him who lives the longest whose death will serve to mark the end of the second cycle or age; and in this manner the duration of the following cycles is measured. But in their ignorance of the truth, men have imagined that the gods apprised them by portents of the end of each cycle. Accomplished in the art of the aruspice, the Etruscans after having searched for these portents with attention, enter them in their books. So the Annals of Etruria, written, as Varro tells us, in the Eighth age, mention how many ages are reserved to the nation, how many have passed and by what portents the end of each is signalized. Thus we read that the first four cycles were of 105 years,9 the fifth of 123, the sixth of 119, as was also the seventh; that the eighth cycle was then begun, and that there remained but the ninth and tenth to run their course, after which the Etruscan name would perish. As to the Ages of Rome, some authors think they are (also) measured by the Cyclical Games or Ludi Sæculares. If this opinion is held to be true, the duration of the Roman cycles is vague, because both the interval of time at which the Games were formerly celebrated and even the epoch at which they should be held, is uncertain. Their return was fixed after each hundredth year. So thought Valerius Antias and other historians and also Varro, who, in his first 17 book, de Scenicis Originibus, thus expresses himself: “As numerous wonders were manifested and the wall and tower which are between the Colline and the Equiline Gates were struck by the fire of heaven, the decemvirs, after having interrogated the Sibylline books, declared that the Ludi Terentini must be celebrated in the Camp of Mars in honour of Pluto and Proserpine, and that black victims should be immolated to these gods, adding that the games should be renewed every one hundred years.”10 We read also in Titus Livius, book CXXXVI:11 “In the same year Divus Augustus revived with great pomp those Ludi Sæculares which it is customary to celebrate every hundred years, in other words, at the end of each cycle.” On the contrary, if we refer either to the Commentaries of the Quindecemvirs, or to the edicts of the god Augustus (Divus Augustus) they should recur every one hundred years.12 Horace Flaccus, also, in the hymn which was sung at the Ludi Sæculares of his time, designated the epoch in the following terms: “A revolution of ten times eleven years brings back these games and hymns at which the people assemble during three days of splendour and as many nights of gladness.”

It we unroll the annals of the ancient times we find still more uncertainty. According to Valerius Antias it was, in effect, after the expulsion of the kings and the year 245 of the Foundation of Rome, that Valerius Publicola celebrated the first Ludi Sæculares, whilst according to the Commentaries of the Quindecemvirs they were observed in the year 298, under the consulate of M. Valerius and Sp. Verginius. According to Valerius Antias the second games were celebrated in the year 305 of the Foundation of Rome, while according to the Commentaries of the Quindecemvirs it was the year 408, under the second consulate of M. Valerius Corvinus, who had as colleague, C. Pœtilius. The third games, according to Valerius and Titus Livius, took place under the consulate of P. Claudius Pulcher and C. Junius Pullus; or, as it is written in the Book of the Quindecemvirs, 18 in the year 518, under the consulate of P. Cornelius Lentulus and of C. Licinius Varus. As to the year of the fourth Ludi, there are three contradictory opinions. Valerius, Varro and Titus Livius say they took place under the consulate of L. Marcus Censorinus and of M. Manilius, year 605 of the Foundation of Rome; but Piso, Censorinus, Cn. Gellius and Cassius Hemina, who lived at this epoch, affirm that they were celebrated three years later, under the consulate of Cn. Cornelius Lentulus and of L. Mummius Achaicus, that is to say, in A. U. 608; while in the Commentaries of the Quindecemvirs they are brought to the year 628, under the consulate of M. Emilius Lepidus and of L. Aurelius Orestes. The fifth games were celebrated by Cæsar Augustus and Agrippa in the year 737 under the consulate of C. Furnius and of C. Junius Silanus.13 The sixth games were celebrated by T. Claudius Cæsar, then consul for the fourth time with L. Vitellius, who was consul for the third time, in the year of Rome 800. The seventh games were celebrated by Septimus Domitian under his fourteenth consulate and under that of L. Minucius Rufus in the year 841. The eighth were celebrated by the emperors Septimius and M. Aurelius Antoninus under the consulate of Cilo and of Libo, year of Rome 957.14 It is to be remarked, that it is neither exactly every hundred nor every hundred and ten years, that these games were celebrated. And even when one has observed one or the other of these periods, it is not enough to affirm that the Ludi always marked the end of a cycle any more than that in the interval of 244 years between the Foundation of Rome and the expulsion of the kings (an interval unquestionably longer than an age) we are not informed that they were celebrated at all.15 If anybody, by the etymology of words, supposes that the cycles were marked by the Sæcular Games, he must remember that these games may have been thus named because generally man sees them but once during his life. In ordinary language we say of many things which we but rarely see, that they come but once in an age. But if our ancestors had no fixed rule for the number of years 19 of which an age was composed, they certainly had one for the duration of a civil cycle, to which they gave 100 years.16 Piso17 gives the following in his Annals of the Seventh Cycle (Annali Septimo):18 “Rome, in the 596th year of its Foundation saw a New Cycle open, under the consulate which preceded immediately19 that of M. Emilius and M. F. Lepidus (C. Popilius consul for the second time being absent).”

Our fathers had several motives for adopting this number of 100 years. Firstly, they had seen a certain number of their fellow citizens live until that age. They also wished on this point, as on many others, to imitate the Etruscans, whose first cycles were of 100 years.20 It could also have come from Alexandria, as we are reminded by Varro, and the astronomer Dioscorides, where an opinion is accepted among those who embalm the dead, that man cannot live longer than one hundred years, an opinion which is derived from the examination of the hearts of those who perished with a healthy body, and exempt from all alteration by disease.21 As in weighing the heart at different epochs, they have observed the increase and the loss at each age, they pretend that this organ weighs, at the age of one year two drachmas, at two years four drachmas, and that it increases at the rate of two drachmas each year until the fiftieth year; that from the fiftieth year each year takes from this weight of one hundred drachmas, two drachmas; the result is that at one hundred years of age, the heart has fallen to the weight of the first year and life can be no longer prolonged. As (if) the “age” of the Romans is one hundred years, 20 it follows that it is in the tenth “age” (counting backward) that its Natal Day is to be found, the anniversary of which is still observed. As for the number of cycles presaged for the City of Rome, it is not for me to express my own opinion, but I may state what I have read in Varro, who tell us, in the 18th book of his “Antiquities,” that there was at Rome, a certain Vettius, learned in augury and gifted with a superior mind, whom he had heard say that: “If things have passed, as reported by the historians, touching the augurs and the twelve vultures who signalized the Foundation of Rome, then the Roman community having passed the term of 120 years full of life, were assured of attaining 1200 years.”22



Having said enough in regard to the centennial interval I shall now speak of the Great Year, of which the length is greatly varied, whether in the usages of the people or in the traditions of authors; some making it consist in the revolution of two ordinary years, others in the union of many thousands. I will try to explain these differences. The ancient people of Greece having remarked that during the time of the annual revolution of the sun, there are about thirteen risings of the moon, and as these occur with more exactness when two years are taken together, thought that the natural year corresponded to twelve and a half lunar months. They thus established their civil years in such a manner that with the aid of an intercalation, some are composed of twelve months and others of thirteen, called each isolated year a solar year, and the union of the two, a Great Year. They called this space of time trieteries (a cycle of three years) because the intercalation took place every third year; although the revolution was accomplished in two years and was in reality but a dieteries (a cycle of two years). This is why the mysteries celebrated in honour of Liber Pater are named trieteries by the poets.23 This error was subsequently acknowledged;24 they doubled the space 21 of time and established tetræteries (a cycle of four years) which returning every fifth year was called pentæteries.25 The great year, thus formed of four years, was more convenient, in that the solar year was composed of about 365¼ days and this fraction enabled a full day to be added every fourth year.26 This is why that on the return of every fifth year the games were celebrated in Elis27 in honour of Jupiter Olympius and at Rome in honour of Jupiter Capitolinus. But this space of time, which only coincides with the course of the sun and not with that of the moon, was again doubled; and it was called octæteries (a cycle of eight years) then called euneæteries (a cycle of nine years) because this new year returned on the ninth year. This period of time was considered throughout nearly all of Greece, as the real Great Year, because it is composed of years without any fraction, as all Great Years should be. In effect, this was composed of eight full years and 99 full days.28 The institution of this octæteries is generally attributed to Eudoxus of Cnidus,29 but it is said that Cleostrates of Tenedos was the first to invent it, and after him came 22 others who, with the aid of different intercalations of months, have each composed an octæteries. Thus Harpalus Nauteles, Mnesistratus and others calculated such periods; amongst them Dositheus, whose work is called the Octæteries of Eudoxus. It is from this cycle that in Greece many religious festivals were celebrated with great ceremony. At Delphos, the games called Pythian were anciently celebrated every eight years. The most exact Great Year is the dodicæteries, a cycle composed of twelve natural (solar) years. It is called the Chaldean cycle. The astrologers did not regulate it by the course of the sun or the moon, but after other observations, because they said that only this space of time could embrace the different seasons, the epochs of abundance, of sterility and of plagues.30 There are still other Great Years, as the Metonic year invented by the Athenian Meton,31 which was composed of 19 solar years, also called the enneadicacæteries (a cycle of 19 years). Seven months are intercalated and 6940 days are counted. The year of the Pythagorean, Philolaus, is composed of 59 years and of 21 intercalated months; the year of Callippus, of Cyzicus, is composed of 76 years with the intercalation of 28 months; the year of Democritus is formed of 82 years and 28 intercalary months;32 while that of Hipparchus is composed of 304 years, with the intercalation of 112 months.

This difference in the length of the Great Year comes from the fact that the astrologers did not agree either on what should be added to the 365 days of the solar year, or what should be taken from the thirty days of the lunar month. On the other hand, the Egyptians, in the formation of their Great Year, had no regard to the moon. In Greece the Egyptian year is called cynical (dog-like) and in Latin canicular,33 because it commences with the rising of the Canicular or Dog star, to which is fixed the first day of the month which the Egyptians called Thoth.34 Their civil (equable) year had but 365 days without any 23 intercalation.35 Thus with the Egyptians the space of four years is shorter by one day than the space four natural (Julian) years, and a complete synchronism is only established at the end of 1461 years. The 1461st year by some is called the Heliacal and by others the Year of God.36 There is also a year which Aristotle calls Perfect,37 rather than Great, which is formed by the revolution of the sun, of the moon and of the five planets, when they all come at the same time to the celestial point from which they started together. This year has a great winter called by the Greeks the Inundation and by the Latins The Deluge; it has also a summer which the Greeks call the Conflagration of the world. The world is supposed to have been by turns deluged or on fire at each of these epochs.38 According to the opinion of Aristarchus this year was composed of 2484 solar years; according to Arestes of Dyrrachium, it was 5552 years; according to Heraclitus and Linus it was 10,800;39 according to Dion40 it was 10,884; according to Orpheus it was 10,020 years; and according to Cassandrus it was 3,600,000 years. Others have thought it infinite; and that it would never recur.

But of all these periods, that most commonly adopted by the Greeks is the pentæteries, or revolution of four years,41 which they called olympiads, the present year being the second year of the 254th olympiad.


The Great Year of the Romans is the same thing as the interval of time which they have called lustrum.42 This institution dates back to Servius Tullius, who ordered that at the end of every fifth year, we should solemnly proceed, after having made the census of citizens, to the closure of the lustrum. But this was also changed, because from the first lustrum closed by King Servius, to that which was made by the Emperor Vespasian,43 consul for the fifth time, and by Titus Cæsar, under his third consulate, nearly 650 years had passed44 while only 75 lustra were closed in the interval. Since this epoch the ceremony has been altogether neglected. Nevertheless, the institution of this Great year is still perpetuated, and it is through the Capitoline games that it has commenced to be observed with more care. These games were celebrated for the first time by Domitian, under his twelfth consulate and that of Cornelius Dolabella. Thus the games which have been seen this year are the 29th. So much for the Great Year; it is time to speak of the natural years.




The natural year is the time which the sun takes to pass through the twelve celestial Signs, and to return to the point from which it started.45 As to the number of days of which this period is composed, it is a point which astrologers have not yet been able to fix with precision. Philolaus gives to the natural year 364½ days; Aphrodisius, 365⅛ days; Calippus, 365 days;46 while Aristarchus of Samos adds the 1623rd part of a day. It has, according to Meton, 365 days and the 19th part of 5 days; according to Œnopides it has 365 days, plus the 59th part of 22 days;47 Harpalus has made it 365 days and 13 equinoxial hours;48 while our Ennius has given it 366 days. Most philosophers have considered it as something incommensurable and unseizable; and taking for the truth that which approaches it the nearest, they have adopted the round number of 365 days. If there is a discord among the wisest men, can it astonish us that the civil years, which were established by less accomplished persons, differed one from the other and corresponded but badly with the natural years? Thus, it is reported that in Egypt, in the most ancient times, the year was composed of two months,49 then King Isone50 made if four months,51 and then Arminon52 composed it of 13 (lunar) months and 5 days. The same thing in Achaia; the Arcadians commenced by having years of 26 three months53 which gave to these people the name of Ante-Moonites,54 not as some have thought, that they existed before the moon was in the heavens, but because they counted by (solar) years (of three months) before the lunar year was established in Greece. Some traditions attribute the institution of this trimenstrual year to Horus;55 it is said that it is from this that the spring, summer, autumn and winter are called Horai, seasons, the year Horos, the Greek year Horoi and those who wrote on them Horographoi,56 the revolution of these four years57 which was as a pentæteries, they called the Great Year. On the other hand, the people of Caria and of Acarnania had years of six months,58 which differed one from the other, in that the days increased in the first and diminished in the following months and the union of two such years, a sort of trieteries, was to them the Great Year.59


 1  Aulius Gellius says rather the pulsations of the arteries (I, iii, c. 10.) He has devoted a chapter of his work (I, xviii, c. 10) to demonstrate the difference between the veins and the arteries and the different sorts of blood which circulates in them.

 2  Two hundred and fifty-two thousand stadia equal 31,500 miles.

[Bill Thayer tells me, “The note is misleading. Assuming 8 stadia to a mile (which makes two separate assumptions, although common ones), it’s still 8 stadia to a Roman mile (1.48 km); the average English-speaking reader will naturally think of our own mile (1.609 km). Since the purpose of the note is to give the modern reader an idea of the distance, and no one's been talking about Roman miles, that should read (keeping the assumptions about the stadia) 28,968 miles.” — Elf.Ed.]

 3  The Chaldeans gave this name to the years in question. Aulus Gellius (III, c. 10).

 4  See Aulus Gellius, I, ix, c. 7.

 5  The Romans divided the day into twelve parts or hours in winter, as in summer. By this plan their hours in winter were necessarily shorter than those of summer and sometimes serve, as in this phrase, to designate an uncommonly short space of time. See Varro, De ling. lat. VI, 8 and Vitruvius IX, c. 6.

 6  Ancient writers are but little in accord with regard to the space of time of which a generation consists. Censorinus is far from giving a complete view of their contradictions. The ancients variously limited a generation or an age to twenty, twenty-five, twenty-seven, thirty and thirty-three years. There are some who have prolonged it to 100 years and even to 108. See Lindenbrog on Censorinus, 1642, p. 118, and Scaliger, De emendat. tempor. Some of these were the average terms of life; some, the extreme; while others were astrological cycles. Cf. Del Mar’s “The Worship of Augustus Cæsar.”

 7  Herodotus, I, 163; Cicero, in Catone; Valerius Maximus, VIII, c. 13; Pliny, VII, 48. Ephorus, qui tradit Arcadas dicere, apud se reges antiquos aliquot ad trecentos vixisse annos. See Pliny, VII, 48, and Servius, ad Lib. VIII. Æneid.

Cicero in Catone, is an inexplicably odd way to cite anything. It refers to Cicero’s philosophical treatise on Old Age, linked above, which he writes in the form of an imaginary conversation between the elderly Cato, (who lived to be 85,) with Laelius and Scipio.

 8  Vitruvius, I, i; Aulus Gellius, XIV, i; Columella, De re rust., I.

 9  Annorum fuisse centum et quinque. Lindenbrog has here added the quinque, thus following the edition of Aldus Manucius.

10  Ludi Terenteni. These games were called Terenteni, from the word Terentum, which, according to Festus, was the name of a certain part of the Campus Martius, where they were originally celebrated. But this is only half an explanation, the remainder of which is that the cycle, the games and the ceremony of the black victims, all sprang from Ies Chrisna and were imported from Tarentum, into which place they were imported from the Orient. On the subject of “Hostiæ furvæ,” see Valerius Maximus, II, 4.

11  Livy’s books XLVI to CXLII inclusive, have since been lost or destroyed. They cease with the annals of A.U.C. 585.

12  Ludis Sæcularibus. Cf. Festus; Valerius Maximus, II, 4; Herodian, III; Zosimus, II: the dissertation of Onuphrius Panvinus; Smith’s Class. Dic. and “The Worship of Augustus Cæsar.”

13  Cæsar Augustus et Agrippa fecerunt. Pliny, VII, 48; Suetonius, Aug., 31; Ovid, Trist., II, El. I; Dion Cassius, LIV. “The Worship of Augustus Cæsar.”

14  For Tib. Claud. Cæsar, see Suetonius, Claud., 21; Tacitus, Ann., XI; Pliny, VII, 48: VIII, 42; for Septimos Domitianus, see Suetonius, Domit., 4; Zosimus, II, and for Octavos imperatores Septimus et M. Aurelius Antoninus, see Aelius Spartianus, in Severus.

15  Ab Urbis primordio ad reges exactos, annos CCXLIV. This number is also that which is given by Dionysius of Halicarnassus and Titus Livius; but Festus Rufus (in breviar.) and Augustine, (De civit. Dei., III, 18,) only count 243 years from the foundation of Rome to the expulsion of the kings.

16  Civile Sæclum ad certum annorum modulum centum statuerunt. Varro, De ling. lat. VI, No. 11, says in speaking of this cycle, Sæclum spatium annorum centum vocarunt, dictum a sene; quod longissimum spatium senescendorum homunum id putarunt.

17  Lucius (or Q.) Calpurnius Piso, tribune in B.C. 149, consul in B.C. 135, whose works were destroyed by Augustus.

18  This title goes to prove that Piso’s work, which related to what we consider the sixth century of Rome, was to him the seventh.

19  The consulate immediately before this one was that of C. Cornelius Dolabella and M. Fulvius Nobilior, A.U. 595, by the present calendar. But why indicate it by the consulate which preceded?

20  He has just shown that the Etruscan cycles were not 100, but 105, 119 years, etc. In short, this Sæcular cycle formed one-sixth of the Divine Year, or annualized Eclyptical cycle; and as the latter was determined with more and more precision, the Etruscans altered this Sæcular cycle to correspond with the greater one which marked the recurrence of the eclipses.

21  Qui mortuos solent conservare. See Herodotus, II; Sextus Empyricus, III; Diodorus, I; Silius Italicus, XIII; Pompon. Mela, I, 9; Aulus Gellius, X, 10; Diogenes Laertes, IX, in Pyrrhone. Hominum plus centum annis vivere non posse. See Pliny, XI, 37.

22  Ad mille et ducentos (annos) perventurum. See Claudian, De Bell. Get., V, 265; Sidonius Apollinaris, Paneg., V, 357; and Cœlius Rhodiginus, XXVII, 8. This superstition, like most other superstitions, had a long life.

23  This explanation can hardly be deemed satisfactory.

24  Cognito errore. The common explanation is that the equable year was composed of 365 days; the lunar year of 354. Two solar years together made 730 days; while two lunar years made 708 days. Hence two solar years exceeded two lunar years by 22 days. Out of these 22 days of excess, the ancient Greeks composed an intercalary month; but this assumes that whilst the Greeks knew of the equable solar year they persisted in using a lunar one, which may have been true when the religion of Liber Pater was overthrown, but never so long and wherever it survived. The 22 (really 25) day month (Cronia) was made up of the difference between the 360 and 365 day solar years.

25  “They established a tetræteris which was called pentæteris.” Here we observe the fine Italian hand. Censorinus could scarcely have written this, nor the deduction from it which follows below in reference to the Olympic festival. The Greeks had no tetræteris, but a pentæteris, or interval of five years. The tetræteris was established by Julius Cæsar and enforced by Augustus. For a full explanation of this jugglery see “The Worship of Augustus Cæsar,” ch. VIII.

26  Quæ unum in quadriennio diem conficeret. The manuscript of Cologne says: “Quæ primum in quadriennio diem conficeret.”

27  Agon et in Elide . . . celebratur. See Pindar (in Olymp. Ode, II, VIII, and IX,) and Pomponius Mela (I, ii, 3). Censorinus (or rather his revisor) is here endeavouring to account for the ancient 5-year Olympiads of the Elians by confusing them with the later 4-year Olympiads employed in Rome. In a similar manner Max Ideler argued the ancient 9-day week down to 8 days, while Rev. Dr. Greswell shaved it down to 7 days, to make it fit his theory of a primeval Hebrew year and week. This may be passable theology, but it is very bad arithmetic.

28  Nam dies sunt solidi, uno minus centum. This passage is certainly altered. Lindenbrog, taking a psasage from Solinus (ch. 2,) and from Geminus (De apparentiis caelest., c. 6, p. 129), has reëstablished it in the following manner: Nam dies sunt solidi CICIDCCCCXXII. Menses uno minus centum annique vertentes solidi octo. Censorinus probably wrote eight full (Julian) years or 99 full months.” This is approximately 2922 days.

29  Hanc. . . . ab Eudoxo Cnidio institutam. See Diogenes Laertes, VIII, in Eudoxe: also Suidas.

30  Quod in eo dicunt tempestates, etc. The manuscript of Cologne says: Quod in eo dicunt tempestates frugumque proventus, ac sterilitates, item morbos salubritatesque circumire. Similar effects of the Jovian cycle are attributed by illiterate persons at the present day. See note in “Politics of Money,” chap. III. It was calculated from the orbital period of the planet Jupiter.

31  Meton Atheniensis. Elien [Aelian] (Variar. Histor., X, 7), makes Meton a Lacedæmonian. His cycle was not of 19 years, but of 235 lunations.

32  Democritus. See Diogenes Laertes, IX, in Democritus.

33  Caniculæ sidus exoritur. See Pliny (II, ch. 47; XVIII, c. 68), and Varro (De re rust., I, i, c. 28).

34  Thoth is sometimes written Thot, Athot, Tot, Taat, etc. It was the name of an Egyptian divinity who had the Dog for his symbol and was worshipped as the Son of God. Cicero, de Divinat., I, 3; Lecaut, Instit., I, i, c. 6.

35  Solos habet dies, CCCLXV. Perhaps it should read solidos instead of Solos.

36  The Year of God means the Year of the Sun. Pollux, I, T, c. 7; Carrion, Emend., I, ii, c. 1. In many of the ancient languages one word stood for both the Luminary and the Creator.

37  Est præterea annus, quem Aristoteles maximum. . . adpellat. In Aristotle (Meteor., I, 14) and Plato, in Timæus. On the Great Year of the ancients, see Apulæus [Apuleius] (dogm. Platon); Plutarch (De placit. philos., II, 32); Achilles Tatius (Proleg. in Arat.); Josephus (Antiqu., I, 4); Tacitus, (Dialog. De Orator.); Solinus (c. 36); Photius (Biblioth., p. 714); Stobæus (Eclog. phys., I, ii); Cicero (De natura Deor., II); Servius (ad Æneid, III, v. interea magnum sol circumvolvitur annum); Jul. Firmicus (Mathes., in præfat. I): Festus XI. Macrobius calls this year “Mundanus” (in somn. Scip. II, ii). Cf. “The Worship of Augustus Cæsar.”

38  Nam his alternis temporibus mundus tum exignescere tum exaquescere videtur. On the Deluge and the Destruction of the word by Fire, se Plato (in Tim.); Clement Alexandrinus (Strom. 5); Arnobe [Arnobius] (Advers. gent. I); Minutius Felix (Octavius); Diogenes Laertius in vita Zenonis); Seneca (Quaest. Nat. iii, 27, 28, 29); Jul. Firmicus (Mathes., III, i); Macrobius (in Somn. Scipion. II, 10); Ovid (Metam. I); Augustine (De civit. Dei, XII, 10).

39  Heraclitus et Linus decem millium octogintorum. According to Plutarch (De placit. philos. II, 32) and to Stobæus (Eclog. phys. I, ii), these authors made the great Precessional year to consist of 18,000 common years.

40  Dion. This Dion was probably the illustrious mathematician who is mentioned by Augustine (De civit. Dei, XXI, 8).

41  Quaternum annorum circuitus, quas vocant olympiadas. This measure of the olympiad also appears in Dionysius of Halicarnassus and in some other of the Augustan writers. But as this interval bore the name of pentæteries or quinquennium, the Augustan priests explained away the solecism, as Ideler and Greswell explained away the nine-day week: they counted four years between the five year intervals by leaving the last year out. As to the period when the 5-year Olympiads were changed to 4-year Olympiads consult “The Worship of Aug. Cæsar.” Ovid in his Pontic Epistles, IV, 6, written in A.D. 14, has the following lines:

In Scythia nobis quinquennis olympias acta est, jam tempus lustri transit in alterius.

An olympiad of five years has been spent by me in Scythia: time is now passing into a second lustrum.”

42  Lustrum. The lustrum was sometimes taken for a year (Manilius III), sometimes for four years (Ovid, Fasti. III), but commonly for fifty months, or five years. For the etymology of this word see Dionysius of Halicarnassus IV; Livy I; Varro (De ling. lat. VI, No. 11) and Ainsworth, voc. “Lustrum.”

[For more information, see Smith’s Dictionary: Lustrum. — Elf.Ed.]

43  Vespasiano, V, et Cæsare, III, coss. See Suetonius (in Vespas. 8; in Tit. 6); Pliny III, 9 and VII, 49; and Julius Capitolinus (in M. Antonin. philosoph., I).

44  Anni fuerint paullo minus sexcentis quinquaginta. This is the reading of all the editions. Nevertheless, the Fastes of Onuphrius and of Goltzius makes this interval of their time about 635 years. Pliny, III, 9, fixes the censorship of Vespasian in the year of Rome 828 (in some editions 826). See Scaliger, (De emend. temp. II, 174). It is evident upon the most cursory reading of the classics, that since the Augustan æra the calendar has been altered by addition to the extent of 15 years and that Censorinus, in common with all the ancient books that have undergone the scrutiny and revision of the Sacred College of Rome, has been changed throughout to conform to this alteration. The alterations believed to have been effected during the Pagan æra amounted to 78 years sunk. Deducting one from the other, leaves a net alteration since the Commonwealth, of 63 years, sunk. This difference appears on comparing the post-Augustan Roman and Oriental æras. Consult “The Worship of Augustus Cæsar,” ch. II., wherein all the alterations of the calendar are fully set forth.

45  Annus vertens est. Macrobius Saturn., I, c. 14, has given the same definition as Censorinus to the year called natural, or solar: (vertens): Solis annus hoc dierum numero colligendus est, quem peragit, dum ad id signum se denuo vertit, ex quo digressus est.

46  Callippus, autem CCCLXV. Lindenbrog has made a calculation on the year of Callippus, which induces him to think that to this number should be added et quadrantem.

47  Œnopides. It is cited by Elian [Aelian], Variar. Histor., X, 7, and by Plutarch, De placit. phil., I, ii, c. 10.

48  Et horas cequinoctiales tredecim. Joseph Scaliger, De emend. temp. p. 161, has demonstrated that instead of tredecim it should read duodecim.

49  Et in Ægypto quidem antiquissimum ferunt annum bimestrem fuisse. The year of the Egyptians was at first of one month, as we learn from Diodorus of Sicily, I, i; Varro, cited by Lactantius, Instit. II, c. 13; Plutarch, in Numa; Pliny; VII, c. 48; and Augustine, De civit. Dei, XII, c. 10 and XV, c. 12.

50  Ison. This name is very diversely written. According to various editions we read, Pisone, Bisone, Bihone or Pherone. Manutius preferred the last, on account of a passage in Herodotus, lib. II.

51  Quadrimestrem factum. See Solinus, ch. 3; Plutarch, in Numa; and [Augustine] De civit. Dei, op. cit.

52  Arminon. This name is not known among the kings of Egypt. Lindenbrog thinks it might have been Armais, of whom Josephus speaks, Contra Appion.

53  Arcades trimestrem. Censorinus is here in accord with Pliny; VII, c. 48; Solinus, c. 3; Macrobius, Saturn. I, c. 12; Augustine, I, xv, c. 12. But Plutarch (in Numa) says that the year of the Arcadians was of four months. See Stobée [Stobaeus], Eclog. phys. p. 21.

54  See Lucien [Lucian]; the Scholiast on Apollonius of Rhodes, Argonaut. IV. v, 264; the Scholiast on Æschylus, in the Prometheus; Ovid Fas. lib. I; and Cicero Pro Fundanio.

55  Horum, Horus, or Orus, son of Osiris and Isis, called the Saviour. He made war on Typhon, the murderer of Osiris, and having vanquished and killed him with his own hand, he mounted the throne of his father. But he eventually succumbed to the power of the Titans who put him to death. Isis, his mother, who possessed the power of conferring immortality, having found his body in the Nile, brought him back to life. After his resurrection Horus filled the universe with his fame. The figure of Horus often accompanies that of Isis in the Egyptian monuments, and among others on the Isiac table. He is ordinarily represented as a beautiful youth, sometimes clothed in a tunic, sometimes in a habit checked in lozenges. (This was the imaginary habit of Bacchus and the actual one of the Byzantine emperors). Horus holds in his hands a crook, which terminates with the head of a bird. Many Egyptologists identify Horus with Harpocrates and regard both as symbols of the Sun. The Greeks admitted that their Apollo was no other than the Horus of the Egyptians, both typifying the Sun. He is sometimes named Horus-Apollo, or Horapollo. Noël, Dict. de la Fable. See Herodotus, lib. II; Diodorus Sic., lib. I; and Macrobius, lib. I, 21. The Greeks assigned the division of the day into hours, to Horus, whose name these divisions still bear; while Diogenes Lærtius in Thalia ascribes such division to Thales of Miletus.

56  Eoque ver æstatem. See Diodorus, I, i, and Plutarch Sympos., I, v, quaest, iv.

57  This should read five instead of four years.

[It does sound like it should be five years, but it is commonly considered to be four years, see Smith’s Dictionary: Quinquennalia and footnote. — Elf.Ed.]

58  Cares autem et Acarnanes semestres habuerunt annos. See Plutarch, in Numa; Macrobius Saturn., I, i, c. 12; Solin., c. 3; and Augustine, I, xv, c. 12.

59  The text of this short chapter appears to be very corrupt. In this place it will perhaps be as well to mention the places and dates when the Julian year was first determined: Egypt, B.C. 547; Chios, B.C. 542; Athens, B.C. 432; Samos, B.C. 280; Rhodes, B.C. 80; Rome, B.C. 48. Del Mar’s “The Worship of Aug. Cæsar,” p. 246. The Julian year was known in India long before any of these dates.

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