With the name of Meton we join those of PHAEINUS (Φαεινός
) and EUCTEMON (Εὐκτήμων
), all of Athens, contemporaries, and, as to the little which is known of them, inseparable.
As to Phaeinus, he appears nowhere except in a passage of Theophrastus, who says (de Signis Tempest. sub init.
) that he observed the solar tropics at Athens on Lycabettus; from which Meton learnt the mode of constructing the cycle of nineteen years. Salmasius has a conjecture which we only mention here because it suggested a reverse conjecture.
There is in Aratus the following line (at the beginning of the Diosemeia
“Ἐννεακαίδεκα κύκλα φαεινοῦ ἡελίοιο
This, says Salmasius, should be Φαεινοῦ Ἠλείοιο
, or the shining sun here mentioned is Phaeinus of Elea.
The conjecture has been rejected with scorn by Petavius, Weidler, &c. May we not go further, and ask whether it ought not to be the other way? Did any Phaeinus give information upon tropics to Meton (a known observer of them) other than Φαεινὸς Ἡέλιος
, Apollo himself?
It is worth noting that Phaeinus is a strange adjective, and a strange form of it, for a proper name; and that a slight mistake of Theophrastus (no astronomer, as far as is known), or of some one whom he copied, might easily have converted the old epithet of the Sun into an astronomer. And there is another astronomer, Philip, contemporary with Meton, to whom (with Euctemon) Geminus attributes the cycle of nineteen years, to the exclusion of Meton. Here is one confusion in which Philip bears a part, and there might easily have been another.
Much emendation has often been found necessary when an ancient writer enumerates those who have written on subjects which he had not studied himself: witness the passage in Vitruvius (9.7
), in which the older texts and versions join Hipparchus and Aratus with Eudaemon, Callistus, and Melo, for which we must read Euctemon, Callippus, and Meton.
As to Meton, the son of Pausanias, and (on either supposition) the follower of Phaeinus, Suidas calls him Λυκονιεύς
(some read Λευκονιεύς
). Ptolemy (de Apparent.
) says he observed at Athens, in the Cyclades, in Macedonia, and in Thrace ; unless indeed he meant one or two of these places to be stated of Euctemon.
A verse of Phrynichus (preserved by Suidas) describes him as κρήνας ἄγων
, whence his skill in hydraulics has been inferred.
The discovery of the cycle of nineteen years (CALLIPPUS, and Dict. of Antiq., s. v.
" Calendar, Greek") is referred to by Aelian ( Ael. VH 10.7
), Censorinus (100.18), Diodorus (12.36
), Ptolemy (Synt.
3.2), all of whom note or refer to a column or table erected by Meton at Athens, setting forth this cycle and the observations of the solstices which were made shortly before the epoch of commencement of the cycle.
From Ptolomy's words it appears that the date of these observations of the solstices made by Meton and Euctemon is thus to be determined (Halma, 1.163):-" It is said that this observation was made at Athens when Apseudes was archon, on the 21st of the month Phamenoth, in the morning. Now, from this solstice to that which was observed by Aristarchus in the fiftieth year of the first period of Calippus, there have elapsed, as Hipparchus says, 152 years. And since this fiftieth year, which was the forty-fourth after the death of Alexander
, to the four hundred and sixty-third, which is that of Imy observation, there have elapsed 419 years." Such are the data from which, and from the presumed meaning of a passage in Diodorus, Meton's solstice, the acknowledged epoch of commencement of the period, has been placed B. C. 432.
But we are far from seeing how it has been made out. Delambre gives no opinion, but quotes Cassini's, which he would not have done on any point in which care or research could have given him one of his own.
But though the particular date of this epoch is not fixed to a year or two, the general era of Meton is well fixed, as well by the data above mentioned as by Aelian ( Ael. VH 13.12
), who states that he feigned insanity to avoid sailing for Sicily in the ill-fated expedition of which he is stated to have had an evil presentiment.
The length of the year, according to Meton, is stated by Ptolemy as 3651/4 days and 1/76 of a day.
This is more than half an hour too long.
But then it should be remembered that this length of the year is that deduced from assuming that Meton held his own period to be exact. Now it by no means follows that in stating the cycle he meant to assert that it was mathematically true. Whether he was himself the inventor of this remarkable period, or whether he found it elsewhere, cannot now be known.
The number of different persons to whom this astronomical period has been attributed (Fabric. Bibl. Graec.
vol. iii. p. 9), may furnish some presumption that Meton only brought forward and made popular a piece of knowledge which he and others had derived from an oriental source: a thing by no means unlikely in itself.
Of Euctemon, independently of his astronomical partnership with Meton, nothing is known. Geminus and Ptolemy both frequently refer to him on the rising and setting of stars, on which is to be inferred he had left some work. (Ptolemy, Geminus, Weidler, Hist. Astron. ;
Delambre, Astron. Anc;
&c.) [A. De M.