Greek Mythology >> Greek Gods >> Sky Gods >> Menae (Menai)


Greek Name

Μηνη Μηναι


Mênê, Mênai

Latin Spelling

Mena, Menae


Month, Moon (mênê)

THE MENAI (Menae) were fifty goddesses of the lunar months, daughters of Selene (the Moon) and Endymion king of Elis and Olympia, home of the Olympic Games.

The Menai represented the fifty months of the four-year Olympiad cycle--a basic unit in the ancient Greek measurement of time. The eight year Octaeteris--which was used in place of our modern counting of decades--consisted of two Olympiads consisting of fifty and forty-nine lunar months. This 99 lunar month cycle equates to 8 solar years and marks the convergence of the two heavenly cycles.


ENDYMION & SELENE (Pausanias 5.1.5)


Pausanias, Description of Greece 5. 1. 4 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"[In the history of the kings of Elis] Selene (the Moon), they say, fell in love with this Endymion and bore him fifty daughters." [N.B. The fifty daughters are the Menai or Months.]

Valerie Vaughan, The Origin of the Olympics : Ancient Calendars and the Race Against Time (Internet article 2002) :
"Endymion, who represented the sinking sun who married Selene the Moon. This pair had 50 daughters, which most scholars agree represented the 50 lunar months of the 4-year Olympiad. They [the ancient Greeks] noticed that eight solar years was close to 99 lunar months. So they started a new calendar called the octaeteris, which was eight solar years or 99 lunar months. They arranged the eight years so there were five years containing twelve months each, and three years with 13 months. They inserted each of the three extra months in the 3rd, 5th and 8th years. According to legend and Greek historians, the Greeks started keeping this 8-year calendar when they started the Olympic Games in 776 BC. Later, they measured the octaeteris as two four-year periods, one of 49 months and one of 50 months, and they called these 4-year periods Olympiads."





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