Parian Chronicle

Parian Marble redirects here. The Parian Chronicle or Parian Marble is a Greek chronology, covering the years from 1582 BC to 299 BC, inscribed on a stele. Found on the island of Paros in two sections, sold in Smyrna in the early 17th century to an agent for Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel, this inscription was deciphered by John Selden and published among the Arundel Marbles, Marmora Arundelliana nos. 1–14, 59–119. The first of the sections published by Selden has subsequently disappeared. A further third fragment of this inscription, comprising the base of the stele and containing the end of the text, was found on Paros in 1897, it has entries from 336/35 to 299/98 BC. The two known upper fragments, brought to London in 1627 and presented to Oxford University in 1667, include entries for the years 1582/81–355/54 BC; the surviving upper chronicle fragment resides in the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford. It combines dates for events which modern readers would consider mythic, such as the Flood of Deucalion with dates we would categorize as historic.

For the Greeks, the events of their distant past, such as the Trojan War and the Voyage of the Argonauts were historic: their myths were understood as legends to the Greeks. In fact the Parian inscriptions spend more detail on the Heroic Age than on certifiably historic events closer to the date the stele was inscribed and erected during 264/263 BC. "The Parian Marble uses chronological specificity as a guarantee of truth," Peter Green observed in the introduction to his annotated translation of the Argonautica of Apollonios Rhodios: "the mythic past was rooted in historical time, its legends treated as fact, its heroic protagonists seen as links between the'age of origins' and the mortal, everyday world that succeeded it."The shorter fragment base of the stele, found in 1897, is in the Archaeological Museum of Paros. It contains chronicle entries for the years 336/35–299/98 BC; the major analysis of the Parian Chronicle is that of Felix Jacoby, written in the early 20th century. This appeared in two works: his book Das Marmor Parium published in 1904, as a part of the Fragmente der griechischen Historiker, first published in 1929.

There has been no major study devoted to the entire stele since that time, although a few authors have dealt with specific time periods covered in the tablet. Furthermore, there have been no critical studies of the original text on the stele itself since the work of Jacoby, as evidenced by the fact that the display of the Greek text on the Ashmolean Web site is a photocopy of the text that Jacoby published in his Fragmente. In attempting to discern the source or sources of the Chronicle, Jacoby followed the rather subjective method, popular in the late 19th and early 20th century, whereby a change in the subject matter or style of writing was taken to imply a different source; the style of the Chronicle, however, is quite uniform. Events are listed with little embellishment, the primary purpose seems to be to give for each event the name of the king or archon ruling in Athens at the time, along with the number of years prior to the base date of the tablet; the only exceptions are that in nine out of the 107 extant entries, the name of the archon or king is no longer readable, in 14 entries the number of elapsed years is effaced.

The lack of embellishment is shown, for example, in the entry for Cecrops, which attributes nothing remarkable to him or to his reign though in Greek mythology he was a semi-human creature. The Chronicle’s entries for Deucalion, who became the center of many flood-myths, are more consistent with the earliest Greek legends that state that he fled from a flooding river in his native Lycoreia near the Gulf of Corinth, arriving at Athens where his son became king. In contrast to Jacoby's ideas, a 2012 study maintains that the style of the Chronicle’s entries suggests that the ultimate source of the information in the Parian Chronicle was the archives of the city of Athens. Authors Rodger Young and Andrew Steinmann base their views on three key inferences from the available evidence. 1) The naming of the reigning king or archon in Athens for each entry is consistent with an Athenian provenance of the material. 2) The source behind each entry must have provided a year-number from which the author of the Parian Chronicle was able to calculate the years to his own time, thus suggesting that the archives from which the information was taken were keeping track of the years since the founding of the kingship in Athens under Cecrops.

Such framing chronicles are known to have been kept in Rome: the Anno Urbis Conditae, from which events were reckoned. 3) The annalistic style of the Chronicle is in keeping with the genre of annalistic records such as the Assyrian Eponym Canon, in which the purpose was not so much to describe events as to give an accurate record of when the events occurred, as related to the years since the founding of the kingship and tying the event to the king or archon, reigning. Young and Steinmann acknowledge several factors that make it less plausible the source behind the Parian Chronicle was the state archives of Athens; the first is that there are no known examples of writing from Athens that date as early as 1582/81 BC, the date of the Chronicle’s first entry. The earliest extant writing in Greek from any area is found in the syllabic Linear B script, for which the earliest instances date to about a century and a half after the reputed beginning of the kingship under Cecrops. Another argument against the Athenian provenance of the information in the Parian Chronicle is the reconstru


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