Another arbitrary increment on the chronometer. History begins at the point where we begin counting the time. That is the system that made us and to that psychology tells us to be in touch with the full of that history. Repression has to pay the price of repeating history. Not repressing means that we are confronted with the truth of why and what we didn't respect but actually have to.
The originally roman mooncalendar that presently rules the world began 753 years B.C.. The christian year count we have now serves the purpose of human sanity despite of...Well, anyway, Happy 2758!
The Roman calendar was originally based upon lunar, not solar calculations, and an "intercalary month", amongst other fine tunings, was needed to remedy the difference, and keep the calendar consistent with the seasons. For reasons which are not entirely clear, this was not always done, and consequently, by the time of Julius Caesar in the 1st Cen. BCE, the calendar was, bluntly, a mess.
Caesar employed the skills of the apparently quite brilliant astronomer and mathematician Sosigenes, of whom, unfortunately, little is known. His astronomical writings, including Revolving Spheres, are lost. Only a few isolated fragments remain, including one which asserts Sosigenes' belief that the planet Mercury revolves around the Sun.
Sosigenes convinced Caesar to adopt his reforms, and, on Jan. 1, 45 BCE, the "Julian" calendar came into effect, which posits a 365.25 day year, with an extra day every fourth year as a leap year. Hence the calendar was now truly solar rather than lunar, and January 1st replaced March 1st as New Year's Day, which of course it remains.
At 365.25 days, the Roman Calendar was very accurate for an ancient calendar, however it was in error, as it included an extra 11 minutes 14 seconds per year. Over a century this error amounted to almost 3/4 of a day, and in 1,000 years amounted to approximately one week.
Pope Gregory XIII, upon his election in 1572, received proposals for correcting the calendar, as the vernal equinox, which was used in determining the date of Easter, had moved 10 days from its proper date by this time. Gregory came to accept the proposals based upon the work of Jesuit astronomer Christopher Clavius and Aloysius Lilius. In order to correct the date of the vernal equinox to March 21, the day after October 5 was designated as October 15, eliminating 10 days. Also, the year was determined to be 365.2422 days, as opposed to 365.25 days, in length. This difference of 3.12 days every 400 years led to the rule that three out of every four centennial years not be leap years (as they would have been in the Julian calendar). Thus, no centennial year is a leap year unless divisible by 400. The year 2000 will be will be a leap year by this formula.
The origins of the calendar which we use today are often credited to the Scythian monk Dionysius Exiguus, who most likely lived in the middle of the 6th century. Exiguus was concerned, as were other theological scholars of his day, with the correct date of Easter.
Also, in his day, years were often cited as A.D., meaning after the emperor Diocletian. Dionysius desired to change this fact, as Diocletian was a notorious persecutor of Christians during his rule from 284 to 305 CE. In his calculations, he also explored a determination of the date for the birth of Christ. He placed this date, probably wrongly, as the eighth day before the Calends of January in the year 753, that is, 753 years after the founding of Rome.
Hence the Calends of January in 754 became the first day of A.D. 1. He called the years following Christ's birth years "of the Lord", which became Anno Domini or A.D., and the years preceding Ante Christum or A.C. The term B.C. is usually credited to Saint Bede, an English monk, who in 731, used it in The Ecclesiastical History of the English People. So Exiguus had little or nothing to do with reforming the mechanics of the calendar per se, rather, he is partly responsible for the system of how we number our years.
Page last updated Saturday, January 1st 2005