The Babylonian calendar was a lunisolar calendar with years consisting of 12 lunar months, each beginning when a new crescent moon was first sighted low on the western horizon at sunset, plus an intercalary month inserted as needed by decree.

The year begins in spring, and is divided into reš šatti “beginning”, mišil šatti “middle”, and qīt šatti “end of the year”. The word for “month” was arḫu. The chief deity of the Assyrians is assigned the surplus intercalary month, showing that the calendar originates in Babylonian, and not later Assyrian times.

During the 6th century BC Babylonian captivity of the Hebrews, the Babylonian month names were adopted into the Hebrew calendar. In Iraq and the Levant, the Gregorian solar calendar is used with Arabic names of the Roman months replacing the Latin names.

The Days of the Month

Counting from the new moon, the Babylonians celebrated every seventh day as a “holy-day”, also called an “evil-day” (meaning “unsuitable” for prohibited activities). On these days officials were prohibited from various activities and common men were forbidden to “make a wish”, and the 28th was known as a “rest-day”.

On these days, offerings were made to a different god and goddess at nightfall to avoid the prohibitions:

  • 7th – Marduk and Ishtar
  • 14th – Ninlil and Nergal
  • 21st – Sin and Shamash
  • 28th – Enki and Mah

Tablets from the sixth-century BC reigns of Cyrus the Great and Cambyses II indicate these dates were sometimes approximate. The lunation of 29 or 30 days basically contained three seven-day weeks, and a final week of eight or nine days inclusive, breaking the continuous seven-day cycle.

The Monthly Calendar

Until the 5th century BC, the calendar was fully observational, but beginning about 499 BC the months began to be regulated by a lunisolar cycle of 19 years equaling 235 months. After no more than three isolated exceptions, by 380 BC the months of the calendar were regulated by the cycle without exception. In the cycle of 19 years, the month Adaru 2 was intercalated, except in the year that was number 17 in the cycle, when the month Ulūlu 2 was inserted.

Season – Reš Šatti – Spring – The Beginning – 𒊕𒈬

During this period, the first day of each month (beginning at sunset) is the day when a new crescent moon was first sighted—the calendar never used a specified number of days in any month.

1st Month Araḫ Nisānu 

  • Known as: Month of beginning
  • Symbol: 𒌚𒁈
  • Presiding Deity: Bel
  • Zodiac Sign: Agru (Aries)
  • Current Equivalent: March/April

2nd Month – Araḫ Āru

  • Known as: Month of the Blossoming
  • Symbol: 𒌚𒄞
  • Presiding Deity: Ea
  • Zodiac Sign: Gu (Taurus)
  • Current Equivalent: April/May

3rd Month – Araḫ Simanu

  • Symbol: 𒌚𒋞
  • Presiding Deity: Sin
  • Zodiac Sign: Maštaba (Gemini)
  • Current Equivalent: May/June

4th MonthAraḫ Dumuzu

  • Known as: Month of Tammuz
  • Symbol: 𒌚𒋗
  • Presiding Deity: Tammuz
  • Zodiac Sign: Alluttu (Cancer)
  • Current Equivalent: June/July
Season – Mišil Šatti – Summer/Fall – The Middle – 𒁇𒈬

During this period, the first day of each month (beginning at sunset) is the day when a new crescent moon was first sighted—the calendar never used a specified number of days in any month.

5th Month Araḫ Abu 

  • Symbol: 𒌚𒉈
  • Presiding Deity: Gilgamesh
  • Zodiac Sign: Nēšu (Leo)
  • Current Equivalent: July/August

6th Month Araḫ Ulūlu

  • Symbol: 𒌚𒆥
  • Presiding Deity: Ishtar
  • Zodiac Sign: Sisinnu (Virgo)
  • Current Equivalent: August/September

7th Month – Araḫ Tišritum

  • Known as: Month of Beginning (start of the second half-year)
  • Symbol: 𒌚𒇯
  • Presiding Deity: Shamash
  • Zodiac Sign: Zibānītu (Libra)
  • Current Equivalent: September/October

8th Month – Araḫ Samnu

  • Known as: The Eighth (month)
  • Symbol: 𒌚𒀳
  • Presiding Deity: Marduk
  • Zodiac Sign: Zuqaqīpu (Scorpio)
  • Current Equivalent: October/November
Season – Winter – Qīt Šatti – The End –  𒌀𒈬

During this period, the first day of each month (beginning at sunset) is the day when a new crescent moon was first sighted—the calendar never used a specified number of days in any month.

9th MonthAraḫ Kislimu

  • Symbol: 𒌚𒃶
  • Presiding Deity: Nergal
  • Zodiac Sign: Pabilsag (Sagittarius)
  • Current Equivalent: November/December

10th MonthAraḫ Ṭebētum

  • Known as: Muddy Month
  • Symbol: 𒌚𒀊
  • Presiding Deity: Papsukkal
  • Zodiac Sign: Suḫurmāšu (Capricorn)
  • Current Equivalent: December/January

11th Month –  Araḫ Šabaṭu

  • Symbol: 𒌚𒊭𒉺𒌅
  • Presiding Deity: Adad
  • Zodiac Sign: Gula (Aquarius)
  • Current Equivalent: January/February

12th MonthAraḫ Addaru / Adār

  • Known as: Month of Adar
  • Symbol: 𒌚𒊺
  • Presiding Deity: Erra
  • Zodiac Sign: Zibbātu (Pisces)
  • Current Equivalent: February/March
Intercalary or 13th Month

In year 17 of the 19-year cycle, the intercalary month was named Araḫ Ulūlu – 𒌚𒆥 – Adar II

  • Name:  Araḫ Addaru Arku or Araḫ Makaruša Addari
  • Symbol:  𒌚𒊺𒂕
  • Presiding Deity: Assur
Note:

My source for this calendar is Wikipedia. It is based on a Sumerian (Third Dynasty of Ur) predecessor preserved in the Umma calendar of Shulgi (c. 21st century BC).

One Response to The Babylonian Calendar

  • The Babylonians used Astronomical Sidereal system for calculations of Astrology, not the Tropical fixed system. Please consider re-adjusting this to the closest replica we have to their system being the Fagen-Allen system when discussing the Zodiac in reference to the Months

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