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The Zoroastrians

Zoroastrianism is one of the oldest extant religions. There are two time concepts in Zoroastrianism: one involves a measurable time with a beginning and an end whilst the other is infinite time, without beginning or end.


The central figure in Mithraicism is Mithras, a being standing outside of space and time [Ulansey, 1991], that is, an exophysical being existing in the space beyond the Cosmos.

The Middle East

The Ancient Egyptians

Time figured in two distinct ways in Ancient Egypt. On the religious level, the pyramids were constructed to protect the pharaoh’s body after his death. In life the pharaoh represented the god Horus, who would raise the Sun every day. In death, he represented Osiris, who set the Sun each day. The pyramid protected the body of the previous pharaoh to ensure a cosmic balance. The pyramids had to be massive to ensure this process would continue.

On a more mundane level, the Ancient Egyptians developed the temporal structures we use today, dividing the day into hours and minutes and constructing elaborate calendars. These were fundamental to Egyptian civilization, as its agriculture depended critically on the annual flooding of the Nile.

The Egyptian calendar had three components. The lunar calendar was for religious purposes and based on 12 lunar months. A 13-month calender was used to intercalate with the rising of Sirius. The civil or administrative calendar had 12 months of 30 days, with an additional five so-called epagonal days added each year, to give the required 365. This third calendar was used to match the other two calendars.

To keep track of time, the Egyptians used sundials, but they are credited with the invention of clepsydra, or water clocks.

There were two ways ancient peoples defined hours. Temporal hours divided the period of sunlight into 12 equal hours, but the problem with this is that such hours change with the seasons, being shorter in winter than in summer. Around 127 BCE, Hipparchus of Niceae, who was based in Alexandria, proposed dividing the day into 24 equal periods known as equinoctial hours, and these would have been much more useful to Egyptian astronomers than temporal hours.

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