Considering the topic of time in antiquity, juxtaposing cultures and societies, yields remarkable intersections, continuities, and discontinuities in the ways people have engaged with temporality.
One of the most persistent dichotomies we find across many premodern societies is that between cyclical and teleological time—time marching inexorably forward, toward a goal, and the markers of nature that seem repetitive, cyclical, and fundamentally stable. Over the millennia much ingenuity has been directed at these models. Specific examinations range from the construction of time and space in prehistory, Roman Britain, quantifications of time in Assyria and Babylonia, through aspects of time in classical India, the Hebrew Bible, China, Greece, and the Roman Empire.
With contributions by John C. Barrett (University of Sheffield), Marc Brettler (Brandeis University), Chris Gosden (Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford), Astrid Möller (University of Freiburg), David Pankenier (Lehigh University), Alex Purves (University of California, Los Angeles), Eleanor Robson (University of Cambridge), Ludo Rocher (University of Pennsylvania), and Michele Renee Salzman (University of California, Riverside).
Preface. Ancient time across time
1. Temporality and the study of prehistory
2. Shaping life in the late prehistoric and Romano-British periods
3. Scholarly conceptions and quantifications of time in Assyria and Babylonia, c. 750-250 BCE
4. Concepts of time in classical India
5. Cyclical and teleological time in the Hebrew bible
6. Temporality and the fabric of space-time in early Chinese thought
7. Topographies of time in Hesiod
8. Greek chronographic traditions about the first Olympic Games
9. Pagan and Christian notions of the week in the 4th century CE western Roman Empire