Time in Antiquity explores the different perceptions of time from Classical antiquity, principally through the technology designed to measure, mark or tell time. The material discussed ranges from the sixth century BC in archaic Greece to the 3rd century AD in the Roman Empire, and offers fascinating insights into ordinary people’s perceptions of time and time-keeping instruments.
Cosmic time is defined, as expressed through the movements of the sun, moon and stars in themselves or against the backdrop of the natural landscape. Robert Hannah subsequently discusses calendars, artificial schedules designed to mark time through the year, with particular attention being given to an analysis of the Antikythera Mechanism – the most complex, geared, astronomical instrument surviving from antiquity, and the object of exciting recent scientific studies.
At the core of the book is an analysis of the development of sundial technology, from elementary human shadow-casting to the well-known spherical, conical and plane sundials of antiquity. The science behind these sundials, as well as other means of measuring time, such as water clocks, is explained in simple and clear terms. The use of the built environment as a means of marking time is also examined through a case study of the Pantheon in Rome. The impact of these various instruments on ordinary human life is highlighted throughout, as are ordinary perceptions of time in everyday life.