In comments below this question: Did people in ancient times, who survived childhood and were not killed in wars, have roughly the same chance to reach old age as contemporary people?

an example list of ancient Greek philosophers' lifespans, with data taken from Wikipedia, was provided:

According to relevant WPedia articles: Hippocrates: 90yo; Thales 78yo; Archimedes 75yo (violent death); Euclid unknown; Pythagoras ca 75yo; Aristotle ca 62yo; Socrates 71yo (was executed); Plato 80yo; Epicurus ca70yo; Zeno of Citium ca 70 yo; Zeno of Elea ca 60 yo. So yeah, while there were not that many 80s and 90s, they WERE happening, with the average, seemingly, still above 70 yo

In a comment below @Konrad Rudolph questioned this list's validity:

Thanks, that’s a nice list (I should have checked myself). It’s also, very obviously, complete fiction. But that isn’t your fault of course. It’s just a reminder that records from that era aren’t always reliable.

If I understand Konrad Rudolph's point correctly, he wanted to say that, while the list correctly compiles available data from ancient times, the original birth and date records from that period were wrong.

I came pretty harsh on Konrad Rudolph ("Saying that XYZ is complete fiction without backing it up, really?"), since I perceived his comments as repeating the same dogma over and over, without citing any sources nor facts to back it up; I said it before checking his profile and finding out he was a scienist. Thus, since he's a scientist, who specializes in genetics, he should be competent enough on this field; so, probably, his claims shouldn't be rejected a priori only on the basis of the lack of citations.

Therefore let me ask: Are there any sources confirming the claim that dates of birth and death of people from ancient times are wrong to the point of being a "complete fiction"?

  • This question comes across like you're asking people to prove a negative -- are there sources that confirm the claim that ancient longevity claims are unreliable -- and in this case the claim you're challenging is just by Konrad Rudolph and not necessarily a notable claim. "How reliable are ancient records of birth and death dates?" might be a better question for history.stackexchange.com, since it's in their bailiwick. Commented Apr 17, 2018 at 20:24
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    +1, this is an excellent question by the way, and kudos on following up. I hope to see some good answers. I also suspect that Jeff may be right, though: maybe history.SE is a better fit. Commented Apr 17, 2018 at 21:04
  • @jeffronicus in general, we're treating ancient records of birth and death dates as notable. This is a question questioning that. The issue with it is that two different sources of birth/death dates could have wildly differing degrees of accuracy, so you can't just handwave at the lot of them in the way the question tries to.
    – Ben Barden
    Commented Apr 17, 2018 at 21:40
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    So... if you can bring a specific source of birth/death records and challenge that, then we might be able to get somewhere. If what you're looking for is an overview of how accurate this stuff is, then History stack is probably a better bet.
    – Ben Barden
    Commented Apr 17, 2018 at 21:42
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    As much as @KonradRudolph is a friend of the site, his claims aren't notable in themselves.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Apr 17, 2018 at 23:26


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