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Dear Friends,

Today is September 23rd. A birthday of no little significance for it can be equated with the “beginning of all things.” Note the following, well known, inscription:

Paulus Fabius Maximus came up with the notion of changing the local lunar calendar with the solar reckoning of the Julian calendar, as it was used in Rome. This idea was proposed to the Provincial Assembly, responsible for emperor worship at the provincial level. He writes:

(It is hard to tell) whether the birthday of our most divine Caesar Augustus (ἡ τοῦ θειοτάτου Καίσαρος γενέυλιος ἡμέρα) spells more of joy or benefit, this being a date that we could probably without fear of contradiction equate with the beginning of all things (τῇ τῶν πάντων ἀρχῆι) …he restored stability, when everything was collapsing and falling into disarray, and gave a new look to the entire world that would have been most happy to accept its own ruin had not the good and common fortune of all been born, Caesar Augustus. (Lines 4–9)[1]

This letter prefaced the actual reply of the Assembly which is commonly referred to as the Priene calendar inscription (ca. 9 BCE):

[30] Decree of the Greek Assembly in the province of Asia, on motion of the High Priest Apolionios, son of Menophilos, of Aizanoi- WHEREAS Providence that orders all our lives has in her display of concern and generosity in our behalf adorned our lives with the highest good: Augustus, whom she has filled with arete [virtue] for the benefit of humanity, [35] and has in her beneficence granted us and those who will come after us [a Savior (σωτῆρα)] who has made war to cease and who shall put everything [in peaceful] order; and whereas Caesar, [when he was manifest], transcended the expectations of [all who had anticipated the good news], not only by surpassing the benefits conferred by his predecessors but by leaving no expectation of surpassing him to those who would come after him, [40] with the result that the birthday of our God (τοῦ θεοῦ) signaled (ἦρξεν δὲ τῶι κὀσμωι τῶι δι᾽ αὐτὸν εὐαγγελίων ἡ γενέυλιος ἡμέρα τοῦ θεοῦ) the beginning of Good News for the world because of him; . . . [47] . . . (proconsul Paul Fabius Maximus) has discovered a way to honor Augustus that was hitherto unknown among the Greeks, namely to reckon time from the date of his nativity; therefore, with the blessings of Good Fortune and for their own welfare, [50] the Greeks in Asia Decreed that the New Year begin for all the cities on September 23, which is the birthday of Augustus; and, to ensure that the dates coincide in every city, all documents are to carry both the Roman and the Greek date, and the first month shall, in accordance with the decree, be observed as the Month of Caesar, [55] beginning with 23 September, the birthday of Caesar.[1]

Furthermore, with regard to such a significant birthday, I would also like to remind you of Augustus’ divine birth, it is said, the god Apollo in the form of a snake, came upon Atia, his mother, and divinely bore him. Therefore, Augustus was thought to be both man and god while living, this notes a significant development in Roman imperial theology (cf. Suetonius, Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Life of Augustus 94.1-11; Cassius Dio also records this).


[1] Here the Enlish of the inscription has been taken from Danker whereas the Greek was supplemented from Dittenberger (OGIS): IPriene 105.30-56=OGIS 458.30-56; Frederick W. Danker, Benefactor: Epigraphic Study of a Graeco-Roman and New Testament Semantic Field (St. Louis, MO.: Clayton Pub. House, 1982), 217; W. Dittenberger (ed.), Orientis Graecae Inscriptiones Selectae (2 vols., Leipzig: S. Hirzel, 1903-5; repr. Hildesheim: Olms, 1960) 2.48-60. In his commentary on this inscription Danker notes the many semantic parallels between these notions with regard to Caesar and the same terms with reference to Jesus in the New Testament (i.e. “savior, gospel,” and the notion of beneficence to the whole world) (220).


[1] Graham Stanton, Jesus and Gospel (Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 31

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