Saturday, March 11, 2017

Calendars, years, BC, AD, etc...

So I guess we can call this my first official "High Thoughts" post. I often wonder obscure pondering when I am not exactly in a clear state of mind. One of the times I was en altitude I was curious about the very first year that was tracked (ie. 2017 CE or AD). This is not about the oldest calendar used to keep track of seasons, months, etc. I was curious about the first use of years to keep track of history.

The calendar we use today is the Gregorian calendar. The Gregorian calendar is named after Pope Gregory XIII, who introduced it in October 1582. Before the Gregorian calendar we used the Julian calendar. The Julian calendar was proposed by Julius Caesar in 46 BC. As with the Gregorian and Julian calendar, the Julian calendar replaced the Roman calendar. The most notable change in the calendars was the refinement for accuracy in tracking days in the year. For example, the original Roman calendar was attributed to Romulus (the mythical founder of Rome by the way) and called the Calendar of Romulus. Very original, I know.

From what I have been able to identify, the first tracking system for years was the Regnal year system. Basically the years were tracked by the years of the reign of the monarch at the time. The easiest explanation for the Regnal year system I have found is from and reads: "The only unit of time that was larger than a year was the reign of a king. The usual custom of dating by reign was: "year 1, 2, 3 . . . , etc., of King So-and-So," and with each new king the counting reverted back to year One. King lists recorded consecutive rulers and the total years of their respective reigns." I realize the website is questionable but the explanation is very good.

As far as B.C. and A.D. year systems we know today, they were proposed by a monk named Dionysius Exiguus. Dionysius used the current AD system to do away with the memory of an emperor who persecuted many Christians. I would write more on the B.C. and A.D. system but I would not be doing appropriate justice considering how well explained it is by Live Science.

Many cultures kept track of the year by tracking months and seasons on a solar calendar. We know cultures kept track of the progression of the year to know seasons, harvests, festivals (which often revolved around seasons and harvests), etc. I will not get into the purposes of calendars but more information can be found here and here.

Well, with everything I have mentioned and covered I think it can be accepted that there was no set point that we said something along the lines of "we shall call this year, 1". Instead it seems we measured years by significant events. Most notable events were, monarchies and Jesus birth. Eventually we seem to have settled upon Jesus being the central figure to identify years based on the year of his birth. I still have been unable to find the earliest date claimed to be a specified year so the search continues... As far as the earliest "writing" we know of occurred in 4th millennium BC. But I would imagine not many people were concerned with recording history in a chronological order so they likely were unconcerned with tracking years.

As car as earliest recorded chronologies we can go back to Sumerians of Mesopotamia and the Early Dynastic Period of Egypt. Again, this is not indicating years. Try as I might I cannot find the earliest record of years being identified outside of a specific geographic location. The only other account of years I can find, along with Regnal years is Ab urbe condita ("from the foundation of the city"). Also seen on Wikipedia here.

This has been a learning experience for me and an enjoyable one. This does not satisfy my inquisitive mind but few things are able to give me complete satisfaction. I hope everyone else enjoyed this journey as the first official "High Thought". More will be coming and hopefully with better research on my part. Until then, roll'em and smoke'm if you can and remember to question everything.

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