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lothia

Nighttime Hours

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Ave Civitas,

 

I am doing the final editing of a novel set during the later Roman Empire.

 

I am stuck.

 

I down loaded a file on calendars and time in Rome.

The daytime hours are pretty straight forward. 1st Hour, 2nd Hour, etc.

In that file are listed the nighttime hours. However, their names seem to be a bit contradictory.

 

What I have is:

Hours before midnight

Vespera, Evening

Prima Fax, first torch

Concubia, First Sleep

Nocte Intempesta, Dead of the night

between Midnight and dawn

Inclinatio, Leaning

Gallicinium, Northern Gaul

Conticinium, Still of the night

Duluculum. At daybreak (Dawn)

 

However, when I look up the meaning of each of these, they do not seem to mean what the file said they meant, and, in some cases, seem to be misplaced in their proper chronological sequence.

 

What I found their meanings to be are:

before midnight

Vespera, Evening - Yes, Evening

Prima Fax, first torch - Yes, First Torch

Concubia, First Sleep - Maybe, Early Night, Bedtime

Nocte Intempesta, Dead of the night - Yes, the dead of the night

between Midnight and dawn

Inclinatio, Leaning - Yes, leaning (but why?)

Gallicinium, Northern Gaul - No, this means Cockscrow, first light, last watch.

Conticinium, Still of the night - Maybe, but misplaced. It means immediately after nightfall.

Duluculum. At daybreak (Dawn) - Yes, Daylight.

 

So, does anyone know what the nighttime hours were called?

 

Thanks.

 

Tom

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I seem to remmeber this being described at the start of the novel 'Pompeii' by Robert Harris (which is a truly excellent book!)

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I seem to remmeber this being described at the start of the novel 'Pompeii' by Robert Harris (which is a truly excellent book!)

 

Thanks. I have read that book and recall the chapter headings using the hours. I will check it out at the library today.

 

Tom

Edited by lothia

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If your novel's setting is the late empire, it's possible that the traditional names for the hours were no longer used. Didn't the Christianized empire institute the 7-day week with one named for the Sabbath and another for The Lord?

Edited by Ludovicus

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If your novel's setting is the late empire, it's possible that the traditional names for the hours were no longer used. Didn't the Christinizef empire institute the 7-day week with tone named for the Sabbath and another for The Lord?

 

The novel "Pompei" by Robert Harris is of course set in the year 79 AD around the time of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Therefore the time is 1st century AD, early Empire.

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You will find a lot of relevant material in a book I've just reviewed that will be appearing on this site soon - Robert Hannah's 'Time in Antiquity'. A quick look at the topic in his book shows that though the night was formally divided into twelve hours, as was the day, the night hours were less precise. (No sundials and candle clocks were not used.) Therefore night time tended to be measured by the rising and setting of particular constellations rather than on the hour.

 

So rather than use the names of the hours - which were unofficial anyway - you might do better using names such as 'Sagittarius rising'.

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This may be off-beam in the context of the above but IF the novel is set in the late empire presumably that means that Christianity is now the official religion.

 

I suppose it is too much to hope for that the various times set for evening and night-time prayers had also come into effect for religious orders or was that a much later medieval institution?

 

I am not sure they quite got up to a decent size and started to be hung in towers until later in the Early Middle ages but if it was after the fifth century someone ringing a bell on a fairly regular basis would make life a whole lot easier.

 

Then again I suppose given the uncertainty of night-time time keeping and the disagreements of the early churches on how to carry out worship you would have to say 'when St Stephen's bell rings thrice' or 'St Anthony's twice'.

 

Before that if there was a Greek style monastery about you would have to say when the semantron was rung. ;)

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