The True Millennium — and Other “Timely” Questions (Part 2)

The True Millennium — and Other “Timely” Questions (Part 2)

Posted in Teaching Tips

(Researched from the internet)


When the papal bull of February 1582 decreed that 10 days should be dropped from October 1582, so that 15 October should follow immediately after 4 October, and from then on the new Gregorian calendar should be used, Italy, Poland, Portugal and Spain all fell in line with other Catholic countries following shortly after. Protestant countries, however, were reluctant to change, and the Greek orthodox countries didn’t change until the start of this century.

In Bulgaria 31 March 1916 was followed by 14 April. In Russia 31 January 1918 was followed by 14 February. And in Greece the changes didn’t take place until only 73 years ago when 9 March 1924 was followed by 23 March. This whole business is so confusing that sources disagree, some saying it took place in 1916, others in 1920.

Further, the Gregorian calendar was introduced into Turkey on 1 January 1927, replacing the Islamic calendar. It replaced the Chinese calendar in either 1912 or 1929, depending on which authorities you believe.

The Roman calendar?

Remember from Part 1 of this article in the last issue of Keystone, that the Roman calendar was replaced by the Julian calendar in 45 BC, and this was replaced by the Gregorian calendar we use now. That old Roman calendar was such a mess, that much of our so-called “knowledge” about it seems to be little more than guesswork.

Originally, the year started on 1 March and consisted of only 304 days of 10 months (Martius, Aprilis, Maius, Junius, Quintilis, Sextilis, September, October, November, and December). These 304 days were followed by an unnamed and unnumbered winter period. The Roman king Numa Pompilius (c. 715-673 BC, although his historicity is disputed) allegedly introduced February and January (in that order) between December and March, increasing the length of the year to 354 or 355 days. In 450 BC, February was moved to its current position between January and March.

The Romans didn’t number the days sequentially from 1. Instead they had three fixed points in each month:

“Kalendae” (or “Calendae”), which was the first day of the month.

“Idus”, which was the 13th day of January, February, April, June, August, September, November, and December, or the 15th day of March, May, July, or October. (You have heard of the need to “beware the Ides of March”? This was the 15th of March, when Ceasar was assassinated by his “mate” Brutus and friends.)

“Nonae”, which was the 9th day before Idus (counting Idus itself as the first day).

The days between Kalendae and Nonae were called “the 4th day before Nonae”, “the 3rd day before Nonae”, and “the 2nd day before Nonae”. (The first day before Nonae would be Nonae itself.)

Similarly, the days between Nonae and Idus were called “the Xth day before Idus”, and the days after Idus were called “the Xth day before Kalendae (of the next month)”.

Julius Caesar decreed that in leap years the “6th day before Kalendae of March” should be doubled. So in contrast to our present system, in which we introduce an extra date (29 February), the Romans had the same date twice in leap years.

January 1st Not Always New Year Day

When Julius Caesar introduced his calendar in 45 BC, he made 1 January the start of the year. However, the church didn’t like the wild parties that took place at the start of the new year, and in AD 567 the council of Tours declared that having the year start on 1 January was an ancient mistake that should be abolished.

Through the middle ages various New Year dates were used. If an ancient document refers to year X, it may mean any of 7 different periods in our present system:

– 1 March X to 28/29 February X+1

– 1 January X to 31 December X

– 1 January X-1 to 31 December X-1

– 25 March X-1 to 24 March X

– 25 March X to 24 March X+1

– Saturday before Easter X to Friday before Easter X+1

– 25 December X-1 to 24 December X

Choosing the right interpretation of a year number is difficult, so much more as one country might use different systems for religious and civil needs.

The Byzantine Empire used a year starting on 1 September, but they didn’t count years since the birth of Christ. Instead they counted years since the creation of the world, which they dated to 1 September 5509 BC.

Since about 1600 most countries have used 1 January as the first day of the year. Italy and England, however, did not make 1 January official until around 1750.

In England (but not Scotland) three different years were used:

– The historical year, which started on 1 January.

– The liturgical year, which started on the first Sunday in advent.

– The civil year, which from the 7th to the 12th century started on 25 December, from the 12th century until1751 started on 25 March, from 1752 started on 1January.

The Names of the Months

A lot of languages, including English, use month names based on Latin. Their Latin names and meaning are listed below. However, some languages (Czech and Polish, for example) use quite different names.

January: Januarius. Named after the god Janus.

February: Februarius. Named after Februa, the purification festival.

March: Martius. Named after the god Mars.

April: Aprilis. Named either after the goddess Aphrodite or the Latin word “aperire”, to open.

May: Maius. Probably named after the goddess Maia.

June: Junius. Probably named after the goddess Juno.

July: Julius. Named after Julius Caesar in 44 BC. Prior to that time its name was Quintilis from the word “quintus”, fifth, because it was the 5th month in the old Roman calendar.

August: Augustus. Named after emperor Augustus in 8 BC. Prior to that time the name was Sextilis from the word “sextus”, sixth, because it was the 6th month in the old Roman calendar.

September: September. From the word “septem”, seven, because it was the 7th month in the old Roman calendar.

October: October. From the word “octo”, eight, because it was the 8th month in the old Roman calendar.

November: November. From the word “novem”, nine, because it was the 9th month in the old Roman calendar.

December: December. From the word “decem”, ten, because it was the 10th month in the old Roman calendar.

The Correct Way to Write Dates

Different countries have different customs. Most countries use a day-month-year format, such as: 25.12.1998 25/12/1998 25/12-1998 25.XII.1998

In the U.S.A. a month-day-year format is common: 12/25/1998 12-25-1998

International standard IS-8601 mandates a year-month-day format, namely either 1998-12-25 or 19981225.

In all of these systems, the first two digits of the year are frequently omitted: 25.12.98 12/25/98 98-12-25

This confusion leads to misunderstandings. What is 02- 03-04? To most people it is 2 Mar 2004; to an American it is 3 Feb 2004; and to a person using the international standard it would be 4 Mar 2002.

If you want to be sure that people understand you, I recommend that you:

* write the month with letters instead of numbers, and

* write the years as 4-digit numbers.

The Origin of the 7-Day Week

The Christian, the Hebrew, and the Islamic calendars all have a 7-day week.

Digging into the history of the 7-day week is a very complicated matter. Authorities have very different opinions about the history of the week, and they frequently present their speculations as if they were indisputable facts. The only thing some academics seem to know for certain about the origin of the 7-day week is that they know nothing for certain.

The first pages of the Bible explain how God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. This seventh day became the Jewish day of rest, the sabbath, Saturday.

Extra-biblical locations sometimes mentioned as the birthplace of the 7-day week include: Egypt, Babylon, Persia, and several others. The week was known in Rome before the advent of Christianity.

Names of the Days of the Week

These are closely linked to the language in question. Whereas most languages use the same names for the months (with a few Slavonic languages as notable exceptions), there is great variety in names that various languages use for the days of the week. A few examples will be given here.

Except for the sabbath, Jews simply number their week days.

A related method is partially used in Portuguese and Russian:

The order of the following is: English / Portuguese / Russian / Meaning of Russian name

Mon. / segunda-feira / ponedelnik / After do-nothing day

Tue. / terca-feira / vtornik / Second day

Wed. / quarta-feira / sreda / Center

Thur. / quinta-feira / chetverg / Four

Fri. / sexta-feira / pyatnitsa / Five

Sat. / sabado / subbota / Sabbath

Sun. / domingo / voskresenye / Resurrection

Most Latin-based languages connect each day of the week with one of the seven “planets” of the ancient times: Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. French, for example, uses:

(the order is: English / French / “Planet“)

Monday / lundi / Moon

Tuesday / mardi / Mars

Wednesday / mercredi / Mercury

Thursday / jeudi / Jupiter

Friday / vendredi / Venus

Saturday / samedi / Saturn

Sunday / dimanche / (Sun)

The link with the sun has been broken in French, but Sunday was called “dies solis” (day of the sun) in Latin.

It is interesting to note that also some Asiatic languages (for example, Hindi, Japanese, and Korean) have a similar relationship between the week days and the planets.

English has retained the original planets in the names for Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. For the four other days, however, the names of Anglo-Saxon or Nordic gods have replaced the Roman gods that gave name to the planets. Thus, Tuesday is named after Tiw, Wednesday is named after Woden, Thursday is named after Thor, and Friday is named after Freya.

The planets have given the week days their names following this order:

Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn, Sun

Why this particular order?

One theory goes as follows: If you order the “planets” according to either their presumed distance from Earth (assuming the Earth to be the center of the universe) or their period of revolution around the Earth, you arrive at this order:

Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn

Now, assign (in reverse order) these planets to the 24 hours of the day:

1=Saturn, 2=Jupiter, 3=Mars, 4=Sun, 5=Venus, 6=Mercury, 7=Moon, 8=Saturn, 9=Jupiter, etc., 23=Jupiter, 24=Mars

Then next day will then continue where the old day left off:

1=Sun, 2=Venus, etc., 23=Venus, 24=Mercury

And the next day will go:

1=Moon, 2=Saturn, etc.

If you look at the planet assigned to the first hour of each day, you will note that the planets come in this order:

Saturn, Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus

This is exactly the order of the associated week days. Coincidence? Maybe.

It is hard to say if the 7-day week cycle has ever been broken. Calendar changes and reform have never interrupted the 7-day cycles. It is possible that the week cycles have run uninterrupted since the days of Moses (c. 1400 BC).

Some sources claim that the ancient Jews used a calendar in which an extra Sabbath was occasionally introduced. There is strong Biblical evidence for this, but scholars do not agree.

The Bible clearly makes Saturday (the Sabbath) the last day of the week. Therefore it is common Jewish and Christian practice to regard Sunday as the first day of the week (as is also evident from the Portuguese names for the week days mentioned earlier). However, the fact that, for example, Russian uses the name “second day” for Tuesday, indicates that some nations regard Monday as the first day.

In international standard IS-8601 the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has decreed that Monday shall be the first day of the week.

Are There Weeks of Different Lengths?

If you define a “week” as a 7-day period, obviously the answer is no. But if you define a “week” as a named interval that is greater than a day and smaller than a month, the answer is yes.

The French Revolutionary calendar used a 10-day “week”. The Maya calendar uses a 13 and a 20-day “week”.

The Soviet Union has used both a 5-day and a 6-day week. In 1929-30 the USSR gradually introduced a 5-day week. Every worker had one day off every week, but there was no fixed day of rest. On 1 September 1931 this was replaced by a 6-day week with a fixed day of rest, falling on the 6th, 12th, 18th, 24th, and 30th day of each month (1 March was used instead of the 30th day of February, and the last day of months with 31 days was considered an extra working day outside the normal 6-day week cycle). A return to the normal 7-day week was decreed on 26 June 1940.

The French Revolutionary Calendar

The French Revolutionary Calendar (or Republican Calendar) was introduced in France on 24 November 1793 and abolished on 1 January 1806. It was used again briefly under the Paris Commune in 1871.

Their year consisted of 365 or 366 days, divided into 12 months of 30 days each, followed by 5 or 6 additional days. The months were:

1. Vendémiaire 7. Germinal

2. Brumaire 8. Floréal

3. Frimaire 9. Prairial

4. Nivôse 10. Messidor

5. Pluviôse 11. Thermidor

6. Ventôse 12. Fructidor

The year was not divided into weeks, instead each month was divided into three “decades” of 10 days, of which the final day was a day of rest. This was an attempt to de-Christianize the calendar, but it was an unpopular move, because now there were 9 work days between each day of rest, whereas the Gregorian Calendar had only 6 work days between each Sunday.

The ten days of each decade were called, respectively, Primidi, Duodi, Tridi, Quartidi, Quintidi, Sextidi, Septidi, Octidi, Nonidi, Decadi.

The 5 or 6 additional days followed the last day of Fructidor and were called:

1. Jour de la vertu (Virtue Day)

2. Jour du genie (Genius Day)

3. Jour du travail (Labour Day)

4. Jour de l’opinion (Reason Day)

5. Jour des recompenses (Rewards Day)

6. Jour de la revolution (Revolution Day) (the leap day)

The Chinese Calendar

Although the People’s Republic of China uses the Gregorian calendar for civil purposes, a special Chinese calendar is used for determining festivals. Various Chinese communities around the world also use this calendar.

The beginnings of the Chinese calendar can be traced back to the 14th century BC. Legend has it that the Emperor Huangdi invented the calendar in 2637 BC. Like the Hebrew calendar it is a combined solar/lunar calendar in that it strives to have its years coincide with the tropical year and its months coincide with the synodic months.

Unlike most other calendars, the Chinese calendar does not count years in an infinite sequence. Instead years have names that are repeated every 60 years.

(Historically, years used to be counted since the accession of an emperor, but this was abolished after the 1911 revolution.)

Within each 60-year cycle, each year is assigned a name consisting of two components. The first component is a “Celestial Stem” (these ten words have no English equivalent):

1. jia 6. ji

2. yi 7. geng

3. bing 8. xin

4. ding 9. ren

5. wu 10. gui

The second component is a “Terrestrial Branch”:

1. zi (rat) 7. wu (horse)

2. chou (ox) 8. wei (sheep)

3. yin (tiger) 9. shen (monkey)

4. mao (hare, rabbit) 10. you (rooster)

5. chen (dragon) 11. xu (dog)

6. si (snake) 12. hai (pig)

Each of the two components is used sequentially. Thus, the 1st year of the 60-year cycle becomes jiazi, the 2nd year is yi-chou, the 3rd year is bing-yin, etc. When we reach the end of a component, we start from the beginning: The 10th year is gui-you, the 11th year is jia-xu (restarting the Celestial Stem), the 12th year is yi-hai, and the 13th year is bing-zi (restarting the Terrestrial Branch). Finally, the 60th year becomes gui-hai.

The current 60-year cycle started on 2 Feb 1984. This means we are now in the year geng-chen, the 17th year in the 78th cycle (since the Chinese calendar began in 2637 B.C.): the year of the dragon.

From Keystone Magazine
March 2000 , Vol. VI No. 2
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