continued to be generally followed from that time till the reformation of the calendar in 1752. The historical year has always been reckoned by English authors to begin with the 1st of January. The liturgic year of the Church of England commences with the first Sunday of Advent.
A knowledge of the different epochs which have been chosen for the commencement of the year in different countries is indispensably necessary to the right interpretation of ancient chronicles, charters and other documents in which the dates often appear contradictory. We may cite an example or two. It is well known that Charles the Great was crowned emperor at Rome on Christmas day in the year 800, and that he died in the year 814, according to our present manner of reckoning. But in the annals of Metz and Moissac, the coronation is stated to have taken place in the year 801, and his death in 813. In the first case the annalist supposes the year to begin with Christmas, and accordingly reckons the 25th of December and all the following days of that month to belong to 801, whereas in the common reckoning they would be referred to the year 800. In the second case the year has been supposed to begin with the 25th of March, or perhaps with Easter; consequently the first three months of the year 814, reckoning from the 1st of January, would be referred to the end of the year 813. The English Revolution is popularly called the Revolution of 1688. Had the year then begun, as it now does, with the 1st of January, it would have been the revolution of 1689, William and Mary being received as king and queen in February in the year 1689; but at that time the year was considered in England as beginning on the 25th of March. Another circumstance to which it is often necessary to pay attention in the comparison of dates, is the alteration of style which took place on the adoption of the Gregorian Calendar (see Calendar).
Era of the Creation of the World.—As the Greek and Roman methods of computing time were connected with certain pagan rites and observances which the Christians held in abhorrence, the latter began at an early period to imitate the Jews in reckoning their years from the supposed period of the creation of the world. Various computations were made at different times, from Biblical sources, as to the age of the world; and Des Vignoles, in the preface to his Chronology of Sacred History, asserts that he collected upwards of two hundred different calculations, the shortest of which reckons only 3483 years between the creation of the world and the commencement of the vulgar era and the longest 6984. The so-called era of the creation of the world is therefore a purely conventional and arbitrary epoch; practically, it means the year 4004 B.C.,—this being the date which, under the sanction of Archbishop Usher’s opinion, won its way, among its hundreds of competitors, into general acceptance.
Jewish Year and Eras.—Before the departure of the Israelites from Egypt their year commenced at the autumnal equinox; but in order to solemnize the memory of their deliverance, the month of Nisan or Abib, in which that event took place, and which falls about the time of the vernal equinox, was afterwards regarded as the beginning of the ecclesiastical or legal year. In civil affairs, and in the regulation of the jubilees and sabbatical years, the Jews still adhere to the ancient year, which begins with the month Tisri, about the time of the autumnal equinox.
After their dispersion the Jews were constrained to have recourse to the astronomical rules and cycles of the more enlightened heathen, in order that their religious festivals might be observed on the same days in all the countries through which they were scattered. For this purpose they adopted a cycle of eighty-four years, which is mentioned by several of the ancient fathers of the church, and which the early Christians borrowed from them for the regulation of Easter. This cycle seems to be neither more nor less than the Calippic period of seventy-six years, with the addition of a Greek octaëteris, or period of eight years, in order to disguise its true source, and give it an appearance of originality. In fact, the period of Calippus containing 27,759 days, and the octaëteris 2922 days, the sum, which is 30,681, is exactly the number of days in eighty-four Julian years. But the addition was very far from being an improvement on the work of Calippus; for instead of a difference of only five hours and fifty-three minutes between the places of the sun and moon, which was the whole error of the Calippic period, this difference, in the period of eighty-four years, amounted to one day, six hours and forty-one minutes. Buccherius places the beginning of this cycle in the year 162 B.C.; Prideaux in the year 291 B.C. According to the account of Prideaux, the fifth cycle must have begun in the year 46 of our era; and it was in this year, according to St Prosperus, that the Christians began to employ the Jewish cycle of eighty-four years, which they followed, though not uniformly, for the regulation of Easter, till the time of the Council of Nice.
Soon after the Nicene council, the Jews, in imitation of the Christians, abandoned the cycle of eighty-four years, and adopted that of Meton, by which their lunisolar year is regulated at the present day. This improvement was first proposed by Rabbi Samuel, rector of the Jewish school of Sora in Mesopotamia, and was finally accomplished in the year 360 of our era by Rabbi Hillel, who introduced that form of the year which the Jews at present follow, and which, they say, is to endure till the coming of the Messiah.
Till the 15th century the Jews usually followed the era of the Seleucidae or of Contracts. Since that time they have generally employed a mundane era, and dated from the creation of the world, which, according to their computation, took place 3760 years and about three months before the beginning of our era. No rule can be given for determining with certainty the day on which any given Jewish year begins without entering into the minutiae of their irregular and complicated calendar.
Era of Constantinople.—This era, which is still used in the Greek Church, and was followed by the Russians till the time of Peter the Great, dates from the creation of the world. The Incarnation falls in the year 5509, and corresponds, as in our era, with the fourth year of the 194th Olympiad. The civil year commences with the 1st of September; the ecclesiastical year sometimes with the 21st of March, sometimes with the 1st of April. It is not certain whether the year was considered at Constantinople as beginning with September before the separation of the Eastern and Western empires.
At the commencement of our era there had elapsed 5508 years and four months of the era of Constantinople. Hence the first eight months of the Christian year 1 coincide with the Constantinopolitan year 5509, while the last four months belong to the year 5510. In order, therefore, to find the year of Christ corresponding to any given year in the era of Constantinople, we have the following rule: If the event took place between the 1st of January and the end of August subtract 5508 from the given year; but if it happened between the 1st of September and the end of the year, subtract 5509.
Era of Alexandria.—The chronological computation of Julius Africanus was adopted by the Christians of Alexandria, who accordingly reckoned 5500 years from the creation of Adam to the birth of Christ. But in reducing Alexandrian dates to the common era it must be observed that Julius Africanus placed the epoch of the Incarnation three years earlier than it is placed in the usual reckoning, so that the initial day of the Christian era fell in the year 5503 of the Alexandrian era. This correspondence, however, continued only from the introduction of the era till the accession of Diocletian, when an alteration was made by dropping ten years in the Alexandrian account. Diocletian ascended the imperial throne in the year of Christ 284. According to the Alexandrian computation, this was the year 5787 of the world, and 287 of the Incarnation; but on this occasion ten years were omitted, and that year was thenceforth called the year 5777 of the world, and 277 of the Incarnation. There are, consequently, two distinct eras of Alexandria, the one being used before and the other after the accession of Diocletian. It is not known for what reason the alteration was made; but it is conjectured that it was for the purpose of causing a new revolution of the cycle of nineteen years (which was introduced into the ecclesiastical computation about this time by Anatolius, bishop of Hierapolis) to begin with the first year of the reign of Diocletian. In fact, 5777 being divided by 19 leaves 1 for the year of the cycle. The Alexandrian