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Roman Questions by Plutarch [46 AD - 120 AD] published in Vol. IV of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1936.

84 Why do they reckon the beginning of the day from midnight?

Is it because the Roman State was based originally on a military organization and most of the matters that are of use on campaigns are taken up beforehand at night? Or did they make sunrise the beginning of activity, and night the beginning of preparation? For men should be prepared when they act, and not be making their preparations during the action, as Myson,191 who was fashioning a grain-fork in winter-time, is reported to have remarked to Chilon the Wise.

Or, just as noon is for most people the end of their transaction of public or serious business, even so did it seem good to make midnight the beginning? A weighty testimony to this is the fact that a Roman official does not make treaties or agreements after midday.

Or is it impossible to reckon the beginning and end of the day by sunset and sunrise? For if we follow the method by which most people formulate their definitions, by their perceptions, reckoning the first peep of the sun above the horizon as the beginning of day, and the cutting off of its last rays as the beginning of night, we shall have no equinox; ebut that night which we think is most nearly equal to the day will plainly be less than that day by the diameter of p131the sun.192 But then again the remedy which the mathematicians apply to this anomaly, decreeing that the instant when the centre of the sun touches the horizon is boundary between day and night, is a negation of plain fact; for the result will be that when there is still much light over the earth and the sun is shining upon us, we cannot admit that it is day, but must say that it is already night. Since, therefore, the beginning of day and night is difficult to determine at the time of the risings and settings of the sun because of the irrationalities which I have mentioned, there is left the zenith or the nadir of the sun to reckon as the beginning. The second is better; for from noon on the sun's course is away from us to its setting, but from midnight on its course is towards us to its rising.


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