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Created 5929± 09 20 2025 [2008-12-19]

Last edited 5923[((*??*)] 04 02 2027 [2011-08-06]







Almagest and Ptolemy’s Canon of the Kings

To what extent may it be relied upon at all?

Where in time are we in relation to the ancients?



New!: Cf. also my PowerPoint presentation entitled Phlegon’s Solar Eclipse! (Alternative Swedish version: Phlegons solförmörkelse)



As I understand it, Ptolemy did some outstanding work re astronomy, especially where it touches upon the exact timing of lunar and solar eclipses. Because of such works Ptolemy has been, and still is, greatly credited by many or even most scientists in that area. Unfortunately, such trust in a man frequently spills over into areas where one and the same man is not as knowledgeable or as reliable. Such also, I believe, is the case re Ptolemy’s Canon of the Kings.

Much or even most of conventional chronology and history is [apparently] relying upon dates derived from Ptolemy’s Canon of the Kings (Arabic: Almagest,) even where this is not directly recognized or so stated or claimed. This is so because whereas it is recognized and commonly claimed that the presumed date of death of Caesar Augustus, August 19, 14 A.D., is used as a basis for such dating of history, it appears as though that date for Augustus’ death is itself ultimately based upon Ptolemy’s Canon:

Given a [false] assumption that Ptolemy’s Canon is reliable for purposes of dating historical events, it would follow that Augustus died in the Egyptian year designated as year 761 of the Nabonassar Era [N.E.,] which year ended on August 19, 14 A.D. (cf. SDA Bible Commentary, Vol. 2, p. 154.) Based upon such an assumption and e.g. Josephus’ references to the Olympic calendar one may see how that some may have concluded that the total solar eclipse referenced by Phlegon (as having occurred in the 4th year of the 202nd Olympiad) was the March 19, 33 CE total solar eclipse. That is, it appears as though the mistaken belief, that the total solar eclipse referenced by Phlegon (which per Phlegon occurred in the 4th year of the 202nd Olympiad) was the March 19, 33 CE total solar eclipse, may have been, and probably was, based upon Ptolemy’s Canon.

But how reliable is Ptolemy’s Canon of the Kings for purposes of dating historical events outside of astronomy?:




Re Caesar Augustus’ death

Per Ptolemy’s Canon of Kings, Caesar Augustus’ last year of reign is listed as the 337th year in the sequence of “Years of the Macedonian Kings After the Death of Alexander the King” (SDA Bible Commentary, Vol. 2, p.154.) From Suetonius we know that Caesar Augustus died on August 19. It may be noticed that August 19 within the above said 337th year was the very last day of the 761st year of the Nabonassar Era (“N.E..”) The next day, which is the first day of the Egyptian calendar year [the Egyptian calendar is used both by Ptolemy and for the N.E.,] is attributed to Caesar Tiberius, Augustus’ successor and is listed as “N.E. 762; Aug. 20, 14 A.D.” (ibid..) However, it is easily shown, based upon Phlegon, Josephus, Suetonius, and NASA’s tables of solar eclipses, that Augustus did not die in 14 CE, but in 10 CE [i.e. 10 A.D..]


Re Alexander the Great’s death

Based upon the corrected placement of Phlegon’s total solar eclipse (Nov 24, 29 CE,) and of the Olympic calendar[1] it is also easily shown that Alexander the Great (or “Alexander of Macedonia” [ibid.]) did not die in the year indicated by Ptolemy’s Canon, “N.E. 424,” which year ended with the day prior to “Nov 12, 324 BCE,” (ibid.) [Julian Day 1603398,] but in the 114th Olympiad (Flavius Josephus, Against Apion, Book 1:22,) which year ended at the beginning of July 1, 326 BCE [Julian Day 1602533,] i.e. 1603398 - 1602533 = 865 days, or more than two years, before the year apparently indicated by Ptolemy’s Canon of Kings:

Given 1) that “the fourth year of the 202nd Olympiad” referenced by Phlegon began with July 1, 29 CE and 2) that Alexander the Great died in the 114th Olympiad (cf. above,) it is easy to see that Alexander the Great died in the Olympic year beginning July 1, 327 BCE and not in the Egyptian year beginning November 12, 325 BCE:

29 - (((202-114) * 4) + 3) = -326 (The astronomic year -326 = 327 BCE;) or

29 – (((202*4) + 3) – (114*4)) = -326; or

29 – ((202*4) + 3) + (114*4) = -326

Lastly, given that Alexander the Great died in June of the year beginning with July, 327 BCE, and ending with June, 326 BE, it is easy to see that he died in June, 326 BCE. That is, Daesius 28 or 30, 326 BCE [beginning at sunset Sat June 13 or Mon June 15, 326 BCE.][2]





Using Ptolemy’s Canon of Kings for dating the deaths of Alexander the Great and Caesar Augustus leads to errors of two years and four years respectively. Thus…

On at least two most important points much closer to Ptolemy in time than are for instance the Babylonian king Nabonidus and the Persian king Cyrus (cf. the fall of Babylon,) Ptolemy’s Canon of Kings is clearly incomplete or in error. That being the case, how can one keep relying upon an assumption that Ptolemy was in fact using no longer extant references regarding the kings he is listing and the years of their reign? Ptolemy himself never claimed he did, or did he?

Per Ptolemy’s Canon, Cyrus’ 1st year of reign began in the Egyptian year designated “N.E. 210” (ibid.,) which year began Jan 5, 538 BCE. Based upon this it is easy to see how that some may come to the conclusion that Cyrus accession year began on the last prior Tishri 16, which Tishri 16 would then have been Tishri 16, 539 BCE [October 12 or 13, 539 BCE.] Thus it seems as though Ptolemy’s Canon of Kings is the prime basis for dating the fall of Babylon to October 13, 539 BCE. But is that a reliable date?

No, it is not! In fact, looking at the sources I find that the fall of Babylon did not occur on Tishri 16, but at the time of the Midsummer Festival, that is, on Tammuz 16, 534 BCE [June 21, 534 BCE.]

Here is a table of the reigns I have found after careful study of the best available contemporary sources currently available to me:




Time of reign


Years in consequence of Ptolemy’s Canon


Difference between dates derived from Ptolemy’s Canon and current findings

(yrs error – yrs error)

[Cf. columns #2 vs #4]


626/625 - Ab 8, 605


625-604 BCE

0 - 1

Nebuchadnezzar II

Ab 8, 605

betw. mo. 1&4, 560


604-561 BCE

1 - 1


Betw. mo. 1&4, 560

 mo. 1 or 2, 557

Nebuchadnezzar’s 7 years of eating grass? 560-552 including the accession year. Cf. Dan. 4:32-37

561-559 BCE

1 - 2


Mo. 1 or 2, 557 

 mo. 1, 552


559-555 BCE

2 - 3



Mo. 1, 552 

 mo. 3, 552




Nabonidus and son
Belshazzar (co-ruler)

Mo. 3, 552

Tammuz 16 (June 21; midsummer solstice at that time fell on June 29,) 534

Nabonidus = Nebuchadnezzar? 

Cf. Dan. 4:32-37

555-538 BCE

3 - 4

Darius the Mede / Cyaxares; Cyrus’ uncle


Adar 27±, 533 BCE

Cyaxares gave his daughter & all of Media as dowry to Cyrus shortly after the conquest of Babylon; effective Tammuz 27, 534 BCE. He died on the day before Adar 28, 533 BCE.



Cyrus, king of the Medo-Persian Empire upon the natural deaths of Cyaxares, king of the Medes and (later) of Cambyses, king of Persia; Cyrus’ father

Tammuz 27, 534 BCE

525(/524) BCE

Cyrus’ father was Cambyses, king of Persia. He died sometime within Cyrus’ 9 years of reign over the Medo-Persian Empire.

538-529 BCE

4 - 4


Betw. mo. 1&6, 530 

 Av 6, 523

Cambyses was only 3 years old when his reign began. He reigned jointly with his father Cyrus until Cyrus’ death.

529-521 BCE

1 - 2

False Smerdis

Av 6, 523 

 Nisanu 10, 522

The true Smerdis (aka  Tanaoxares) was Cambyses’ younger brother; at this time less than 10 y/o!

The False Smerdis was his look alike!



Darius Hystaspes

Nisanu 10, 522

between  Thoth 1, 486 BCE and Aviv 1, 485 BCE


521-486 BCE

1 - 0

Xerxes (Ahasuerus)

Between Thoth 1, 486 BCE and Aviv 1, 485 BCE

between   Tishri 22, 465 BCE and Thoth 1, 465 BCE


486-465 BCE

0 - 0


Between  Tishri 22, 465 BCE and Thoth 1, 465 BCE

between  Tishri 22, 424 BCE and Thoth 1, 424 BCE


465-424 BCE

0 - 0

Darius II Nothus

Betw .   Tishri 22, 424 BCE and Thoth 1, 424 BCE  

 betw.  Thoth 1, 405 BCE and the beginning of Tishri 22, 404 BCE


424-405 BCE

0 - 0

Artaxerxes II

Betw . Thoth 1, 405 BCE and the beginning of Tishri 22, 404 BCE 



405-359 BCE

0 - 1






Alexander the Great

339/338 - 327/326


332-324 BCE

6 - 2






Ceasar Augustus

Adar 27 or 28, 47 BCE [April 1 or 2, 47 BCE ± 1 lunar month (March 3 or May 1.)] 

 the fourteenth day before the Kalends of September at the ninth hour, just thirty-five days before his seventy-sixth birthday,” i.e. Av 19 or 20, 10 CE [August 19, 10 CE.]


30 BCE – 14 CE

17 - 4

Caesar Tiberius

June 26, 1 BCE 

 4 Adar I/Adar II, 23 CE [after sunset March 15, 23 CE.]


14 – 36 CE

13 - 13

Caesar Gaius

Caius’ accession period, per Josephus, began on the eve of the visible new moon crescent at sunset February 10, 23 CE [Tevet/Shevat 1, 23 CE;]  Caius’ de facto reign began after Tiberius died after sunset on March 15, 23 CE 

 Caius died in the afternoon on January 24, 27 CE


36 – 40 CE

13 - 13

Caesar Claudius

January 24, 27 CE 

 Claudius died, on either Zif 21 or Sivan 21, 40 CE [May 22 or else June 20 or 21, 40 CE;]   Claudius’ death was concealed for almost 4 or 5 month until October 13, 40 CE when his death was finally made public.


40 – 54 CE

13 - 14


Nero began his de facto reign after a period of co-regency with Claudius, which co-regency, based upon Josephus’ reckoning of Nero’s years of reign, began between Aviv 1, 39 CE [March 14 or 15 or April 14, 39 CE]  and  Tishri 1,  39 CE [September 9 or October 8 or 9, 39 CE;]  Nero’s 1st civil year of de jure reign began Tishri 1, 39 CE, [September 9, or October 8 (or 9,) 39 CE,] which year is largely concurrent with his 16th civil year of life. He was not yet 17 years old, by Roman reckoning when Claudius died  

 Nero died some time within a very few days prior to the time when Galba, sometime between June 1 and June 6, 53 CE [between Sivan 24 and 30, 53 CE,] received the “advice… from Rome that Nero was slain…”


54 – 68 CE

15 - 15


Galba began his reign as Caesar of Rome when, sometime between June 1 and June 6, 53 CE [between Sivan 24 and 30, 53 CE,] he received the “advice… from Rome that Nero was slain…” 

 Galba died after sunset on January 15, 54 CE [Day 15 in the 11th Moon, Shevat 15, 54 CE,] but Josephus counts Galba’s reign as ending on January 8, 54 CE [Shevat 8, 54 CE] when…





After sunset on January 15, 54 CE 

 Otho died on Adar III 22, the 22nd Day of the Fourteenth Moon, 54 CE [April 19, 54 CE.]





Aviv 9, 53 CE [March 19, 53 CE] on the anniversary of Nero’s matricide  

 Vitellius died on Kislev 6 [December (24 or) 25,] 54 CE.





April 19 / July 1 / 3 / 11, 54 CE 

 Vespasian died on June 24, 66 CE


68 – 78 CE

14 - 12


 Titus co-reigned from the beginning with his father Vespasian whom he succeeded together with his brother Domitian on June 24, 66 CE [Sivan or Tammuz 11 or 12, 66 CE,] (or possibly 67 or 68) CE after his father Vespasian died 

 Titus died on “the Ides of September,” September 13, 68 CE


78 – 81 CE

12 - 13


Domitian’s reign began as a co-reign with his father Vespasian and his brother Titus and is reckoned from the thirtieth year of his age as referenced by Suetonius, very possibly beginning with his 30th birthday October 24, 62 CE [Heshvan 2, 62 CE] (or 63 CE [Tishri or Heshvan (12 or) 13, 63 CE.])

Domitian died on “the fifth hour…” [between 11 AM and 12 AM (considering Suetonius’ use of ordinals)] on “the fourteenth day before the Kalends of October…” September 18, 77 CE, [Elul or Tishri 11, 77 CE] “in the forty-fifth year of his age and the fifteenth of his reign.”


81 – 96 CE

19 - 19


September 18, 77 CE 

 January 27, 78 or 79 CE


96 – 97 CE

19 - 18


Trajan’s reign began on January 27, 78 or 79 CE -


97 -    CE

18 -



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[1] Notice that this error re Olympiad calendar reckoning is still persisting today: Cf. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olympiad . You may easily verify this error by plugging in any Olympiad year of your choice into the formula shown in the main text following the reference to this footnote! Just replace “114” with the number of your chosen Olympiad. You’ll notice that current reckoning is three years off from the correct and original Olympiad reckoning, which obviously had its beginning in 779 BCE, not in 776 BCE as commonly believed!


Although not affecting the within article, I wish also to include a brief note re the recently popularized Antikythera Mechanism: The Antikythera Mechanism is a most interesting calendrical clock apparently designed and made in the 1st or 2nd centuries BCE for predicting solar and lunar eclipses.  One of the dials on the Antikythera Mechanism is showing the four year Olympic calendar cycle, but unfortunately “The only pointer that survives in the whole Mechanism is the one for the Metonic Dial. So we can't directly correlate the Olympiad Dial setting with the Saros Dial setting” (private communication from Tony Freeth Ph.D.) and thus it seems as though the Antikythera Mechanism cannot be used for confirming, or else refuting, a corrected Olympic calendar reckoning such as suggested by the within article (Re the Antikythera Mechanism, please cf. http://www.livescience.com/history/080730-ancient-computer.html; cf. also http://blog.wired.com/wiredscience/2008/07/worlds-first-co.html )


Notice also this cool video produced by Nature.


[2] Starry Night Backyard Jerusalem horizon May 17, 326 BCE sunset: 18:42:05; moonset: 19:46:15; lag: 64 min 10 sec; illumination: 1.62%. è Daesius 28 began at sunset June 13, 326 BCE.