My last blog entry (on the Greek festival of Lenaia and Plato’s Symposium was actually the first of a long series of blogs). Now that you had a taste, here’s the official announcement of this series.
In collaboration with James Kostecka (from the Fremont Stoics, the Intergalactic Stoic School, and The Stoic Fellowship), we have settled on a list of dates that modern Stoics could observe as if they were holidays. Personally, I think this would give our local communities a little more cohesion and more opportunities to gather and enjoy each other’s company. If by the end of this you’re excited about the project, you can even order a physical wall calendar with all these dates on it that also includes beautiful photographs by photographer John Trudeau. You can also join the Intergalactic Meetup site or subscribe to the L.A. Stoics Google calendar to keep track.
Where did these dates come from? Well, rather than make them up from scratch (which would not only seem too presumptuous of us, but would leave the holidays feeling hollow and insignificant), we drew inspiration from two sources. First, we drew from the festival calendars of Ancient Athens and Rome. Second, we collected the years of as many Stoic and Stoic-adjacent historical figures that we could (primarily dates of death since those are more certain); settled on specific years if the scholarship only provided approximate ones; and finally used certain festivals to settle on the specific calendar dates if they were unknown.
Here’s an example of a somewhat complex date to reconstruct: the date of Epictetus’ death. The specific date of this event is uncertain; it’s said that Epictetus retired quietly from public life with his adoptive child sometime late during the reign of Hadrian. All the biographies of Epictetus set his year of death to around 135 (I haven’t looked into why, but I’m content at the moment in believing the experts). Certainly, we will never know the exact day that Epictetus passed away, but there is a Roman festival—whose exact day we know—that seems to resonate strongly with the figure of Epictetus: the festival of Herculia (more details on this in due time). This festival was observed on Augustus (or, Sextilis) XII. in the early Julian calendar and so that became the date of Epictetus’ death for our intents and purposes: August 12th, 135 CE. Thus, August 12th is the day when we commemorate him on our Stoic calendar. See, simple! … Yes, the date is somewhat arbitrary, but by doing it this way, the day comes already imbued with significance by the time we adopt it for our own purposes. And this pre-packaged significance makes it conducive for serious reflection on the relevant themes.
Rather than cite them in every blog entry, I wanted to list the sources I used for general information and dates. For information on the ancient festivals, I drew and continue to draw primarily from two books:
- Parke, H.W. (1986). Festivals of the Athenians. Cornell University Press.
- Scullard, H.H. (1981). Festivals and Ceremonies of the Roman Republic. Cornell University Press.
To assign Julian calendar dates to the [pre-Julian] Athenian/Attic calendar, I used one book for information and two websites that provided me with data on ancient solstices and lunar phases (both sites seem to have have drawn from the work of astronomers Jean Meeus, F. Richard Stephenson, and Leslie V. Morrison):
- Espenak, F. (2021, Dec. 15). Six Millennium Catalog of Phases of the Moon. Astropixels. http://www.astropixels.com/ephemeris/phasescat/phasescat.html
- Hannah, R. (2005). Greek and Roman Calendars: Constructions of time in the classical world. Bristol Classical Press. [see also the Wikipedia page on Attic calendar which drew from Hannah’s book: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attic_calendar]
- Jozif, J (n.d.). Equinox and Solstice 1000 BC to AD 2999. Beda. https://www.beda.cz/~jirkaj/seasons/
List of Stoic Holidays for 2022
Below is the list of dates that James and I came up with. I will be writing a blog article on each date and posting it before or on the actual date. I hope to provide historical and cultural context, an explanation on how it’s relevant to Stoicism, and advice on how to observe the holiday as a modern Stoic. Stay tuned!
- 5th (Lenaia) – Commemoration of Love, Friendship, and Women [and dramatic date of Plato’s Symposium]
- 12th (Birthday of Epicurus) – Commemoration of Zeno [and Epicurus]
- 13th (Paternalia) – Commemoration of Family and Ancestors Past
- 1st (Stipendium) – Beginning of the ‘Campaign Season’ [and the start of the Intergalactic Stoic School term]
- 17th (Deathday of Marcus Aurelius) – Commemoration of Death and Mortality
- 12th (Deathday of Cato) – Commemoration of Cato
- 19th (Deathday of Seneca) – Commemoration of Seneca
- 26th (Birthday of Marcus Aurelius) – Commemoration of Marcus Aurelius
- 12th (Bendideia) – Commemoration of Justice and Socratic Midwifery [and dramatic date of Plato’s Republic]
- 16th (Thargelia) – The Trial of Socrates [and dramatic date of Plato’s Apology]
- 14th-15th (Skirophoria) – The Plea of Crito & The Death of Socrates [and dramatic dates of Plato’s Crito and Phaedo respectively] (Consider this a two-day commemoration with the ‘Plea of Crito’ observed as a kind of vigil before dawn on the 14th and the ‘Death of Socrates’ observed around sunset on the 15th)
- 30th (Hecatombaia) – The Attic New Year (a floating holiday falling on the first new moon of the solar year)
- 11th (Kronia) – Commemoration of Freedom and Community [the Greek correlate of Saturnalia] (a floating holiday falling 12 days [inclusive] after the New Years)
- 27th (Panathenaia) – Commemoration of Cosmopolitanism [and dramatic dates of Plato’s Parmenides and his Timaeus-Critias] (a floating holiday falling 28 days [inclusive] after the New Years)
- 12th (Herculia) – Commemoration of Epictetus
- 5th (Ludi Romani) – Commemoration of Musonius Rufus
- 6th (Agyrmos) – Commemoration of Cleanthes
- 22nd (Pyanopsia) – Commemoration of Chryippus
- 24th (Thanksgiving) – Commemoration of Gratitude (a floating holiday falling on the fourth Thursday of November)
- 7th (Deathday of Cicero) – Commemoration of Cicero
- 17th (Saturnalia) – Commemoration of Moderation and Community [the Roman correlate of Kronia]