Down to the Hour: Short Time in the Ancient Mediterranean and Near East


Volume Editors: and
"Clock time", with all its benefits and anxieties, is often viewed as a "modern" phenomenon, but ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern cultures also had tools for marking and measuring time within the day and wrestled with challenges of daily time management. This book brings together for the first time perspectives on the interplay between short-term timekeeping technologies and their social contexts in ancient Egypt, Babylon, Greece, and Rome. Its contributions denaturalize modern-day concepts of clocks, hours, and temporal frameworks; describe some of the timekeeping solutions used in antiquity; and illuminate the diverse factors that affected how individuals and communities structured their time.

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Kassandra J. Miller, Ph.D. (2017), University of Chicago, is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Classics at Bard College. She has published articles and book chapters on ancient Greek and Roman timekeeping, medicine, and magic.
Sarah L. Symons, Ph.D. (1999), University of Leicester, is an Associate Professor in the School of Interdisciplinary Science, McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. She has published book chapters, papers, and popular articles on ancient Egyptian astronomy and timekeeping.

Contributors are: Alexander Jones, Anja Wolkenhauer, Alexandra von Lieven, Stephan Heilen, James Ker, Barbara Sattler, John Steele, Anette Schomberg.
"The issues treated and questions posed are important, diverse and comprehensive. The contributors comprise ten experts in such different fields as literature, history, history of science, papyrology, and material culture of ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, and Rome. (…) It presents new insights and interesting research into the perspectives on the interplay between timekeeping technologies for short time intervals and their social contexts in the old high cultures of the Babylon, Egypt, Greece and Rome. It is warmly recommended to everyone interested in ancient history and ancient astronomy or time keeping." - Lis Brack-Bernsen, University of Regensburg, in: Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2020.11.44
"Down to the hour is a valuable addition to the history of astronomy, introducing and discussing evidence for time keeping in the Ancient Near East and Mediterranean. It will be useful for readers interested in an individual era and period, but even more so for those who would like to get a comparative overview of time-keeping in various parts of antiquity." - Annette Imhausen, in: Journal for the History of Astronomy 2022
"The crowning achievement of this volume is that it brings together disparate examples of contexts in which short times were used in the ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern worlds. Several themes recur across contributions: the precision of time units vs. the accuracy with which they can be measured, the utility of measuring short time, the development of technologies for measuring short time, and the accessibility of such time keeping technologies to ancient peoples." Simeon Ehrlich, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem in: Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2023.07.02
List of Illustrations
Notes on Editors and Contributors


1 Sun and Stars: Astronomical Timekeeping in Ancient Egypt
Sarah L. Symons

2 The Ancient Egyptian Water Clock between Religious Significance and Scientific Functionality
Alexandra von Lieven and Anette Schomberg

3 Short Time in Mesopotamia
John Steele

4 Greco-Roman Sundials: Precision and Displacement
Alexander Jones

5 Cosmology and Ideal Society: the Division of the Day into Hours in Plato’s Laws
Barbara M. Sattler

6 Diurnal Selves in Ancient Rome
James Ker

7 Time, Punctuality, and Chronotopes: Concepts and Attitudes Concerning Short Time in Ancient Rome
Anja Wolkenhauer

8 Short Time in Greco-Roman Astrology
Stephan Heilen

9 Hourly Timekeeping and the Problem of Irregular Fevers
Kassandra Jackson Miller
All interested in Classics, Egyptology, Assyriology, Near Eastern Studies, History of Science, Anthropology, and Archaeology, especially those researching timekeeping, calendrics, astronomy, astrology, technology, medicine, or social history.
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