How Were Dates Written in Ancient Greece?

In ancient Greece, the way dates were written varied depending on the time period and region. However, there were some general conventions that were followed.

The Basic Structure of Dates
Dates in ancient Greece typically consisted of three parts: the day, the month, and the year. The day was usually represented by a number from 1 to 30, while the month was represented by a name. The year was often indicated by counting the number of years since a significant event, such as the founding of a city or the beginning of a king’s reign.

Writing Dates Using Months
The names of months varied between regions and time periods. For example, in Athens during the Classical period (5th-4th centuries BCE), months were named after festivals or religious events.

The first month of the year was Hekatombaion, named after a festival honoring Apollo. Other months included Metageitnion (named after a festival for Demeter) and Pyanepsion (named after a festival for Athena).

To write a date using months in ancient Greece, one would typically write the name of the month followed by the day and then the year. For example: Pyanepsion 5th, 432 BCE.

  • Pyanepsion – Month Name
  • 5th – Day
  • 432 BCE – Year

Writing Dates Using Olympiads
Another way that ancient Greeks marked time was by counting Olympiads. The Olympic Games were held every four years in Olympia, and each set of games was considered an Olympiad. Dating events by Olympiads began in 776 BCE with the first recorded Olympic Games.

To write a date using Olympiads in ancient Greece, one would typically write the number of the Olympiad followed by its duration (four years) and then the year within that Olympiad. For example: 93rd Olympiad, 2nd year, 406 BCE.

  • 93rd Olympiad – Counting the Number of Olympiads
  • 2nd Year – Duration of each Olympiad (four years)
  • 406 BCE – Year within that Olympiad

The Importance of Accurate Dating in Ancient Greece

Accurate dating was crucial in ancient Greece for a variety of reasons. For one, it allowed people to keep track of important events such as battles, births, and deaths. This information was often recorded on public monuments or private inscriptions.

Furthermore, accurate dating allowed historians to piece together a timeline of events and understand their chronological relationship to one another. This was particularly important for understanding the development of ancient Greek art and architecture, which evolved over time and was heavily influenced by historical events.


In ancient Greece, dates were typically written using a combination of month names and numerical notation or by counting Olympiads. Accurate dating was essential for keeping track of important events and understanding their chronological relationship to one another. Today, this system has been replaced by the more standardized Gregorian calendar which is now used around the world.