How Long Was a Year in Ancient Greece?

Have you ever wondered how long a year was in ancient Greece? Unlike today, where we have standardized calendars and clocks, ancient Greeks had a different way of measuring time. Let’s dive deeper into this topic and explore the fascinating concept of timekeeping in ancient Greece.

What is a Year?

Before we delve into the specifics of ancient Greek timekeeping, let’s first define what a year is. A year is the time it takes for the Earth to complete one orbit around the Sun. This period of time, also known as a solar year, is approximately 365.24 days long.

Ancient Greek Timekeeping

In ancient Greece, time was measured in different ways depending on the region and era. However, most Greeks used lunar calendars that were based on the phases of the Moon. These calendars were divided into 12 lunar months, each lasting approximately 29.5 days.

The Greeks also had a solar calendar known as the Attic calendar that was used in Athens from around 500 BCE to 100 BCE. This calendar consisted of 12 months and was based on observations of the Sun’s movements throughout the year.

The Attic Calendar

The Attic calendar was divided into three seasons:

  • Spring (Hippodromos)
  • Summer (Therinos)
  • Winter (Hekatombaion)

Each season had four months that corresponded with different agricultural activities or festivals.

The Months

The names of each month in the Attic calendar are as follows:

  • Hekatombaion
  • Metageitnion
  • Boedromion
  • Pyanepsion
  • Maimakterion
  • Poseideon
  • Gamelion
  • Anthest─ôrion
  • Elaphebolion
  • Mounichion
  • Thargelion
  • Skirophorion

The Length of a Year in the Attic Calendar

The Attic calendar had 354 days, which is approximately 11 days shorter than a solar year. To account for this difference, the Greeks added an extra month every few years to synchronize their calendar with the solar year. This month was called the embolismic month and was inserted after the sixth month (Poseideon) or the eighth month (Anthesterion) of the year.


In conclusion, a year in ancient Greece was measured differently depending on the region and era. Most Greeks used lunar calendars that were based on the phases of the Moon, while some used solar calendars like the Attic calendar.

The Attic calendar had 12 months and 354 days, with an extra month added every few years to synchronize it with the solar year. Knowing how time was measured in ancient Greece gives us insight into their culture and way of life.