Unlike much else in the Pentecontaetia, the chronology of the Samian War, its antecedents included, has apparently evoked such little critical interest that an almost casual treatment of the subject is observable in modern works. Nesselhauf, for example, annotated his brief discussion of the Samian War with a reference to Busolt and Beloch ‘for the details’. Each scholar provides a radically different chronology from the other. Indeed, the range of dates postulated by modern writers is remarkable considering the relatively small span of time, two years, in which the events appear to have unfolded. Beloch and the authors of ATL date the war between Samos and Miletus, which ultimately caused the revolt, in summer 441 B.C.; Busolt set the war in March-April 440 B.C., E. Meyer a shade earlier. Some scholars fail to specify the date (Nesselhauf, Meiggs). The beginning of the revolt itself has been placed in spring 440 B.C. by Sealey, among others; Gomme and Meiggs date it in early summer, Busolt, strangely, in early July. The direct cause of the revolt, the installation of the democracy at Samos (Thuc. i 115.3), is little discussed, much less fixed in date. The democracy was not established in a day: it therefore requires consideration in any chronological reconstruction. Finally, the end of the war has been variously set in late winter, early spring and early summer 439 B.C.
Such uncertainty is surprising since our evidence is abundant and also specific enough to allow us to make reasonably firm chronological estimates. Indeed, our fortunate possession of mutually independent data—the historical tradition and the monumental evidence—provides us with the opportunity to attempt precision in a degree usually beyond our expectations. However we may separately interpret Thucydides' relative chronology or the random evidence of the stones, these data, when taken in combination, yield knowledge greater than the sum of its parts.