Maryam Patton

Maryam Patton

Graduate Fellow
‘By the Declining Day’: Time and Temporal Cultures of the Early Modern Mediterranean


Maryam Patton is a PhD candidate in the dual History and Middle Eastern Studies program at Harvard University. Her dissertation focuses on time and temporality in the fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Eastern Mediterranean. She received her MPhil in European History in 2016 from the University of Oxford, where she was an Ertegun Scholar. Maryam’s broader interests lie in cross-cultural transmission in the Early Modern Mediterranean. She has written and presented on the first Ottoman encounters with Copernican heliocentrism, English Oriental historiography in the seventeenth century, and the history of Arabic printing in Italy.

Project Summary

What time is it? Nowadays a quick glance at our phones or watches reveals a seemingly precise, objective, and accepted figure that ticks away ineluctably. The sun’s position in the sky seems irrelevant. But our experience of time was not always so divorced from the movements of the heavens. As more scholars work to historicize temporality, the older dichotomy between the pre-modern, subjective time of celestial rhythms and the modern, objective time of well-regulated instruments appears too simple. Maryam’s dissertation is part of this emerging literature on the cultural history of time and temporality. She focuses on the multi-cultural zones of the Eastern Mediterranean from the period after the conquest of Constantinople in 1453, to the turn of the Islamic millennium in 1591. In Mediterranean cities, Christians, Jews, and Muslims alike followed various religious calendars and divisions of the day. To walk through such a city would be like traversing several time zones. The increased trade and travel of the early modern period amplified this cross-cultural contact and made varying temporal rhythms especially apparent but also more entangled. By studying both textual and material evidence in a variety of sources such as horoscopes, almanacs, calendars and literature on auspicious time, she aims to clarify how time was organized, how different social groups experienced and wrote about time, and how early modern life was imbued with overlapping temporal regimes.