A few days ago, while sitting at a pub at Antwerp’s Grote Markt, I noticed dates on the buildings’s facades. They’ve always been there, and although I knew they were there, something made me notice them that day.
Could’ve been the heat, could’ve been the pints, but either way, they made me think.
One of the buildings showed 1395. That’s over 600 years old. And the building’s still there. Simply amazing.
Starting from that date, another thought occurred to me. Since people 600 years ago used a date, that means that someway down the line 1395 wasn’t half a millennium ago, but that year was just as much today like 2013 is for me.
So, the question that’s been troubling me for these last few days: Since our dates start counting from the year 0, or the birth of christianity and a whole lot-a-misery, and that date is both fixed, as in zero, and arbitrary as ‚somewhere around that time there was a guy names Jesus, it’s not really believable some guy back then would have said: 'right, let’s start counting from zero again'.
The only scenario where such a scene is possible is a Monty Python sketch.
But if we exclude that option: who and when decided to start counting within our current date system, from what date did he start, and is that date based on the true time since the year zero, or did he pick a random date and did we derive the year zero from that date.
So, since that afternoon I’ve been Googling the web for the answer for these two questions:
- What’s the earliest date from where people started counting in our date system
- And is that date based on anything truthful.
Apparently part the answer can be found on Wikipedia:
The Anno Domini era was introduced in 525 by Dionysius Exiguus (c.470–c.544), who used it to identify the years on his Easter table. He introduced the new era to avoid using the Diocletian era, based on the accession of Emperor Diocletian, as he did not wish to continue the memory of a persecutor of Christians. In the preface to his Easter table, Dionysius stated that the "present year" was "the consulship of Probus Junior (Flavius Anicius Probus Iunior)" which was also 525 years "since the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ". How he arrived at that number is unknown. - Wikipedia
But it’s not really satisfying. I know who started our current calendar, and why he decided to start counting anew, but aside from x years since Jesus, I still don't know why and how he decided upon Anno 525.
If anyone knows the answer: do tell me