Web Theoi
MENAI
 
Greek Name Transliteration Latin Spelling Translation
Μηνη
Μηναι
Mênê
Mênai
Mena
Menae
Lunar Months,
Moons (mênê)

THE FIFTY MENAI were the goddesses of the lunar months, daughters of Selene (the Moon) and Endymion king of Elis and Olympia, the home of the Olympic Games. The Menai represented the fifty lunar months of the four-year Olympiad - a basic unit in the Ancient Greek measurement of time. The eight year Octaeteris (which was used in place of our modern day counting by decades) consisted of two Olympiads of fifty and forty-nine months respectively. This 99 lunar month cycle equates to 8 solar years, and marks the convergence of these two primal heavenly cycles.

PARENTS
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, they say, fell in love with this Endymion and bore him fifty daughters [the Menai]."

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."


Sources:

  • Pausanias, Guide to Greece - Greek Geography C2nd AD
  • Valerie Vaughan, The Origin of the Olympics - Website Article 2002