1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Chronology
CHRONOLOGY (Gr. χρονολογία, computation of time, χρόνος), the science which treats of time, its object being to arrange and exhibit the various events which have occurred in the history of the world in the order of their succession, and to ascertain the intervals of time between them. The term “chronology” is also used of the order in time itself, as adopted, and of the system by which the order is fixed.
The preservation of any record, however rude, of the lapse of time implies some knowledge of the celestial motions, by which alone time can be accurately measured, and some advancement in the arts of civilized life, which could be attained only by the accumulated experience of many generations (see Time). Before the invention of letters the memory of past transactions could not be preserved beyond a few years with any tolerable degree of accuracy. Events which greatly affected the physical condition of the human race, or were of a nature to make a deep impression on the minds of the rude inhabitants of the earth, might be vaguely transmitted through several ages by traditional narrative; but intervals of time, expressed by abstract numbers, and these constantly varying besides, would soon escape the memory. The invention of the art of writing afforded the means of substituting precise and permanent records for vague and evanescent tradition; but in the infancy of the world, mankind had learned neither to estimate accurately the duration of time, nor to refer passing events to any fixed epoch.
For these reasons the attempt at an accurate chronology of the early ages of the world is only of recent origin. After political relations began to be established, the necessity of preserving a register of passing seasons and years would soon be felt, and the practice of recording important transactions must have grown up as a necessary consequence of social life. But of these deliberate early records a very small portion only has escaped the ravages of time and barbarism.
The earliest written annals of the Greeks, Etruscans and Romans are irretrievably lost. The traditions of the Druids perished with them. A Chinese emperor has the credit of burning “the books” extant in his day (about 220 B.C.), and of burying alive the scholars who were acquainted with them. And a Spanish adventurer destroyed the picture records which were found in the pueblo of Montezuma.
Of the more formal historical writings in which the first ineffectual attempts were made in the direction of systematic chronology we have no knowledge at first-hand. Of Hellanicus, the Greek logographer, who appears to have lived through the greater part of the 5th century B.C., and who drew up a chronological list of the priestesses of Here at Argos; of Ephorus, who lived in the 4th century B.C., and is distinguished as the first Greek who attempted the composition of a universal history; and of Timaeus, who in the following century wrote an elaborate history of Sicily, in which he set the example of using the Olympiads as the basis of chronology, the works have perished and our meagre knowledge of their contents is derived only from fragmentary citations in later writers. The same fate has befallen the works of Berossus and Manetho, Eratosthenes and Apollodorus. Berossus, a priest of Belus living at Babylon in the 3rd century B.C., added to his historical account of Babylonia a chronological list of its kings, which he claimed to have compiled from genuine archives preserved in the temple. Manetho, likewise a priest, living at Sebennytus in Lower Egypt in the 3rd century B.C., wrote in Greek a history of Egypt, with an account of its thirty dynasties of sovereigns, which he professed to have drawn from genuine archives in the keeping of the priests. Of these works fragments only, more or less copious and accurate, have been preserved. Eratosthenes, who in the latter half of the 2nd century B.C. was keeper of the famous Alexandrian library, not only made himself a great name by his important work on geography, but by his treatise entitled Chronographia, one of the first attempts to establish an exact scheme of general chronology, earned for himself the title of “father of chronology.” His method of procedure, however, was usually conjectural; and guess-work, however careful, acute and plausible, is still guess-work and not testimony. Apollodorus, an Athenian who flourished in the middle of the 2nd century B.C., wrote a metrical chronicle of events, ranging from the supposed period of the fall of Troy to his own day. These writers were followed by other investigators and systematizers in the same field, but their works are lost. Of the principal later writers whose works are extant, and to whom we owe what little knowledge we possess of the labours of their predecessors, mention will be made hereafter.
The absence or incompleteness of authentic records, however, is not the only source of obscurity and confusion in the chronology of remote ages. There can be no exact computation of time or placing of events without a fixed point or epoch from which the reckoning takes its start. It was long before this was apprehended. When it began to be seen, various epochs were selected by various writers; and at first each small separate community had its own epoch and method of time-reckoning. Thus in one city the reckoning was by succession of kings, in another by archons or annual magistrates, in a third by succession of priests. It seems now surprising that vague counting by generations should so long have prevailed and satisfied the wants of inquiring men, and that so simple, precise and seemingly obvious a plan as counting by years, the largest natural division of time, did not occur to any investigator before Eratosthenes.
Precision, which was at first unattainable for want of an epoch, was afterwards no less unattainable from the multiplicity, and sometimes the variation, of epochs. But by a natural process the mischief was gradually and partially remedied. The extension of intercourse between the various small groups or societies of men, and still more their union in larger groups, made a common epoch necessary, and led to the adoption of such a starting point by each larger group. These leading epochs continued in use for many centuries. The task of the chronologer was thus simplified and reduced to a study and comparison of dates in a few leading systems.
The most important of these systems in what we call ancient times were the Babylonian, the Greek and the Roman. The Jews had no general era, properly so called. In the history of Babylonia, the fixed point from which time was reckoned was the era of Nabonassar, 747 B.C. Among the Greeks the reckoning was by Olympiads, the point of departure being the year in which Coroebus was victor in the Olympic Games, 776 B.C. The Roman chronology started from the foundation of the city, the year of which, however, was variously given by different authors. The most generally adopted was that assigned by Varro, 753 B.C. It is noteworthy how nearly these three great epochs approach each other,—all lying near the middle of the 8th century B.C. But it is to be remembered that the beginning of an era and its adoption and use as such are not the same thing, nor are they necessarily synchronous. Of the three ancient eras above spoken of, the earliest is that of the Olympiads, next that of the foundation of Rome, and the latest the era of Nabonassar. But in order of adoption and actual usage the last is first. It is believed to have been in use from the year of its origin. It is not known when the Romans began to use their era. The Olympiads were not in current use till about the middle of the 3rd century B.C., when Timaeus, as already mentioned, set the example of reckoning by them.
Even after the adoption in Europe of the Christian era, a great variety of methods of dating—national, provincial and ecclesiastical—grew up and prevailed for a long time in different countries, thus renewing in modern times the difficulties experienced in ancient times from diversities of reckoning. An acquaintance with these various methods is indispensable to the student of the charters, chronicles and legal instruments of the middle ages.In reckoning years from any fixed epoch in constant succession, the number denoting the years is necessarily always on the increase. But rude nations and illiterate people seldom attach any definite idea to large numbers. Hence it has been a practice, very extensively followed, to employ cycles or periods, consisting of a moderate number of years, and to distinguish and reckon the years by their number in the cycle. The Chinese and other nations of Asia reckon, not only the years, but also the months and days, by cycles of sixty. The Saros of the Chaldaeans, the Olympiad of the Greeks, and the Roman Indiction are instances of this mode of reckoning time. Several cycles were formerly known in Europe; but most of them were invented for the purpose of adjusting the solar and lunar divisions of time, and were rather employed in the regulation of the calendar than as chronological eras. They are frequently, however, of very great use in fixing dates that have been otherwise imperfectly expressed, and consequently form important elements of chronology. (W. L. R. C.)
Modern Results of Archaeological Research.
When Queen Victoria came to the English throne, 4004 B.C. was still accepted, in all sobriety, as the date of the creation of the world. Perhaps no single statement could more vividly emphasize the change in the point of view from which scholars regard the chronology of ancient history than the citation of this indisputable fact. To-day, though Bibles are still printed with the year 4004 B.C. in the margin of the first chapter of Genesis, no scholar would pretend to regard this reference seriously. On the contrary, the scholarship of to-day regards the fifth millennium B.C. as well within the historical period for such nations as the Egyptians and the Babylonians. It has come to be fully accepted that when we use such a phrase as “the age of the world” we are dealing with a period that must be measured not in thousands but in millions of years; and that to the age of man must be allotted a period some hundreds of times as great as the five thousand and odd years allowed by the old chronologists. This changed point of view, needless to say, has not been reached without ardent and even bitter controversy. Yet the transformation is unequivocal; and the revised conception no longer seems to connote the theological implications that were at first ascribed to it. It has now become obvious that the data afforded by the Hebrew writings should never have been regarded as sufficiently accurate for the purpose of exact historical computations: that, in short, no historian working along modern scientific lines could well have made the mistake of supposing that the genealogical lists of the Pentateuch afforded an adequate chronology of world-history. But it should not be forgotten that to many generations of close scholarship these genealogical lists seemed to convey such knowledge in the most precise terms, and that at so recent a date as, for example, the year in which Queen Victoria came to the throne, it was nothing less than a rank heresy to question the historical accuracy and finality of chronologies which had no other source or foundation.
This changed point of view regarding the chronology of history may without hesitation be ascribed to the influence of evidence obtained in a single field of inquiry, the field, namely, of archaeology. No doubt the evidence as to the age of the earth and as to the antiquity of man was gathered by a class of workers not formally included in the ranks of the archaeologist: workers commonly spoken of as palaeontologists, anthropologists, ethnologists and the like. But the distinction scarcely covers a real difference. The scope of the archaeologist’s studies must include every department of the ancient history of man as preserved in antiquities of whatever character, be they tumuli along the Baltic, fossil skulls and graven bones from the caves of France, the flint implements, pottery, and mummies of Egypt, tablets and bas-reliefs from Mesopotamia, coins and sculptures of Greece and Rome, or inscriptions, waxen tablets, parchment rolls, and papyri of a relatively late period of classical antiquity. If at one time the monuments of Greece and Rome claimed the almost undisputed attention of the archaeologist, that time has long since passed. For the most important historical records that have come to us in recent decades we have to thank the Orientalist, though the classical explorer has been by no means idle. It will be sufficient here to point out in general terms the import of the message of archaeological discovery in the Victorian Era in its bearings upon the great problems of world-history.
A start was made through the efforts of the palaeontologists and geologists, with only indirect or incidental aid from the archaeologists. The new movement began actively with James Hutton in the later years of the 18th Chronology of ancient history.century, and was forwarded by the studies of William Smith in England and of Cuvier in France; but the really efficient champion of the conception that the earth is very old was Sir Charles Lyell, who published the first edition of his epoch-making Principles of Geology only a few years before Queen Victoria came to the throne. Lyell demonstrated to the satisfaction, or—perhaps it should rather be said—to the dissatisfaction, of his contemporaries that the story of the geological ages as recorded in the strata of the earth becomes intelligible only when vast stretches of time are presupposed. Of course the demonstration was not accepted at once. On the contrary, the champions of the tradition that the earth was less than six thousand years old held their ground most tenaciously, and the earlier years of the Victorian era were years of bitter controversy. The result of the contest was never in doubt, however, for the geological evidence, once it had been gathered, was unequivocal; and by about the middle of the century it was pretty generally admitted that the age of the earth must be measured by an utterly different standard from that hitherto in vogue. This concession, however, by no means implied a like change of view regarding the age of man. A fresh volume of evidence required to be gathered, and a new controversy to be waged, before the old data for the creation of man could be abandoned. Lyell again was in the forefront of the progressive movement, and his work on The Antiquity of Man, published in 1863, gave currency for the first time to the new opinions. The evidence upon which these opinions were based had been gathered by such anthropologists as Schmerling, Boucher de Perthes and others, and it had to do chiefly with the finding of implements of human construction associated with the remains of extinct animals in the beds of caves, and with the recovery of similar antiquities from alluvial deposits the great age of which was demonstrated by their depth. Every item of the evidence was naturally subjected to the closest scrutiny, but at last the conservatives were forced reluctantly to confess themselves beaten. Their traditional arguments were powerless before the array of data marshalled by the new science of prehistoric archaeology. Looking back even at the short remove of a single generation, it is difficult to appreciate how revolutionary was the conception of the antiquity of man thus inculcated. It rudely shocked the traditional attitude of scholarship towards the history of our race. It disturbed the most cherished traditions and the most sacred themes. It seemed to threaten the very foundations of religion itself. Yet the present generation accepts the antiquity of man as a mere matter of fact. Here, as so often elsewhere, the heresy of an elder day has come to seem almost an axiomatic truth.
If we go back in imagination to the beginning of the Victorian era and ask what was then known of the history of Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia and Asia Minor, we find ourselves confronted with a startling paucity of knowledge. The key to the mysteries of Egyptian history had indeed been found, thanks to the recent efforts of Thomas Young and Champollion, but the deciphering of inscriptions had not yet progressed far enough to give more than a vague inkling of what was to follow. It remained, then, virtually true, as it had been for two thousand years, that for all that we could learn of the history of the Old Orient in pre-classical days, we must go solely to the pages of the Bible and to a few classical authors, notably Herodotus and Diodorus. A comparatively few pages summed up, in language often vague and mystical, all that the modern world had been permitted to remember of the history of the greatest nations of antiquity. To these nations the classical writers had ascribed a traditional importance, the glamour of which still lighted their names, albeit revealing them in the vague twilight of tradition rather than in the clear light of history. It would have been a bold, not to say a reckless, dreamer who dared predict that any future researches could restore to us the lost knowledge that had been forgotten for more than two millenniums. Yet the Victorian era was scarcely ushered in before the work of rehabilitation began, which was to lead to the most astounding discoveries and to an altogether unprecedented extension of historical knowledge. Early in the ’forties the Frenchman Botta, quickly followed by Sir Henry Layard, began making excavations on the site of ancient Nineveh, the name and fame of which were a tradition having scarcely more than mythical status. The spade of the discoverer soon showed that all the fabled glories of the ancient Assyrian capital were founded on realities, and evidence was afforded of a state of civilization and culture such as few men supposed to have existed on the earth before the Golden Age of Greece. Not merely were artistic sculptures and bas-reliefs found that demonstrated a high development of artistic genius, but great libraries were soon revealed,—books consisting of bricks of various sizes, or of cylinders of the same material, inscribed while in the state of clay with curious characters which became indelible when baking transformed the clay into brick. No one was able to guess, even in the vaguest way, the exact interpretation of these odd characters; but, on the other hand, no one could doubt that they constituted a system of writing, and that the piles of inscribed tablets were veritable books. There were numerous sceptics, however, who did not hesitate to assert that the import of the message so obviously locked in these curious inscriptions must for ever remain an absolute mystery. Here, it was said, were inscriptions written in an unknown character and in a language that for at least two thousand years had been absolutely forgotten. In such circumstances nothing less than a miracle could enable human ingenuity to fathom the secret. Yet the feat pronounced impossible by mid-century scepticism was accomplished by contemporary scholarship, amidst the clamour of opposition and incredulity. Its success contains at once a warning to those doubters who are always crying out that we have reached the limitations of knowledge, and an encouragement and stimulus to would-be explorers of new intellectual realms.
In a few words the manner of the discovery was this. It appears at a glance that the Assyrian written character consists of groups of horizontal, vertical or oblique strokes. The characters thus composed, though so simple as to their basal unit, are appallingly complex in their elaboration. The Assyrians with all their culture, never attained the stage of analysis which demonstrates that only a few fundamental sounds are involved in human speech, and hence that it is possible to express all the niceties of utterance with an alphabet of little more than a score of letters. Halting just short of this analysis, the Assyrian ascribed syllabic values to the characters of his script, and hence, instead of finding twenty odd characters sufficient, he required about five hundred. There was a further complication in that each one of these characters had at least two different phonetic values; and there were other intricacies of usage which, had they been foreknown by inquirers in the middle of the 19th century, might well have made the problem of decipherment seem an utterly hopeless one. Fortunately it chanced that another people, the Persians, had adopted the Assyrian wedge-shaped stroke as the foundation of a written character, but making that analysis of which the Assyrians had fallen short, had borrowed only so many characters as were necessary to represent the alphabetical sounds. This made the problem of deciphering Persian inscriptions a relatively easy one. In point of fact this problem had been partially solved in the early days of the 19th century, thanks to the sagacious guesses of the German philologist Grotefend. Working with some inscriptions from Persepolis which were found to contain references to Darius and Xerxes, Grotefend had established the phonetic values of certain of the Persian characters, and his successors were perfecting the discovery just about the time when the new Assyrian finds were made. It chanced that there existed on the polished surface of a cliff at Behistun in western Persia a tri-lingual inscription which, according to Diodorus, had been made by Queen Semiramis of Nineveh, but which, as is now known, was really the work of King Darius. One of the languages of this inscription was Persian; another, as it now appeared, was Assyrian, the language of the newly discovered books from the libraries of Nineveh. There was reason to suppose that the inscriptions were identical in meaning; and fortunately it proved, when the inscriptions were made accessible to investigation through the efforts of Sir Henry Rawlinson, that the Persian inscription contained a large number of proper names. It was well known that proper names are usually transcribed from one language into another with a tolerably close retention of their original sounds. For example, the Greek names Ptolemaios and Kleopatra became a part of the Egyptian language and appeared regularly in Egyptian inscriptions after Alexander’s general became king of Egypt. Similarly, the Greek names Kyros, Dareios and Xerxes were as close an imitation as practicable of the native names of these Persian monarchs. Assuming, then, that the proper names found in the Persian portion of the Behistun inscription occurred also in the Assyrian portion, retaining virtually the same sound in each, a clue to the phonetic values of a large number of the Assyrian characters was obviously at hand. Phonetic values known, Assyrian was found to be a Semitic language cognate to Hebrew.
These clues were followed up by a considerable number of investigators, with Sir Henry Rawlinson in the van. Thanks to their efforts, the new science of Assyriology came into being, and before long the message of the Assyrian books had ceased to be an enigma. Of course this work was not accomplished in a day or in a year, but, considering the difficulties to be overcome, it was carried forward with marvellous expedition. In 1857 the new scholarship was put to a famous test, in which the challenge thrown down by Sir George Cornewall Lewis and Ernest Renan was met by Rawlinson, Hincks, Oppert and Fox Talbot in a conclusive manner. The sceptics had declared that the new science of Assyriology was itself a myth: that the investigators, self-deceived, had in reality only invented a language and read into the Assyrian inscriptions something utterly alien to the minds of the Assyrians themselves. But when a committee of the Royal Asiatic Society, with George Grote at its head, decided that the translations of an Assyrian text made independently by the scholars just named were at once perfectly intelligible and closely in accord with one another, scepticism was silenced, and the new science was admitted to have made good its claims.
Naturally the early investigators did not fathom all the niceties of the language, and the work of grammatical investigation has gone on continuously under the auspices of a constantly growing band of workers. Doubtless much still remains to be done; but the essential thing, from the present standpoint, is that a sufficient knowledge of the Assyrian language has been acquired to ensure trustworthy translations of the cuneiform texts. Meanwhile, the material found by Botta and Layard, and other successors, in the ruins of Nineveh, has been constantly augmented through the efforts of companies of other investigators, and not merely Assyrian, but much earlier Babylonian and Chaldaean texts in the greatest profusion have been brought to the various museums of Europe and America. The study of these different inscriptions has utterly revolutionized our knowledge of Oriental history. Many of the documents are strictly historical in their character, giving full and accurate contemporary accounts of events that occurred some thousands of years ago. Exact dates are fixed for long series of events that previously were quite unknown. Monarchs whose very names had been forgotten are restored to history, and the records of their deeds inscribed under their very eyes are before us,—contemporary documents such as neither Greece nor Rome could boast, nor any other nation, with the single exception of Egypt, until strictly modern times. There are, no doubt, gaps in the record; there are long periods for which the chronology is still uncertain. Naturally there is an increasing vagueness as one recedes farther into the past, and for the earlier history of Chaldaea there is great uncertainty. Nevertheless, the Assyriologist speaks with a good deal of confidence of dates as remote as 3800 B.C., the time ascribed to King Sargon, who was once regarded as a mythical person, but is now known to have been an actual monarch. Indeed, there are tablets in the British Museum labelled 4500 B.C.; and later researches, particularly those of the expedition of the University of Pennsylvania at Nippur, have brought us evidence which, interpreted with the aid of estimates as to the average rate of accumulation of dust deposits, leads to the inference that a high state of civilization had been attained in Mesopotamia at least 9000 years ago.
While the Assyriologists have been making these astonishing revelations, the Egyptologists have not been behindhand. Such scholars as Lepsius, Brugsch, de Rougé, Lenormant, Birch, Mariette, Maspero and Erman have perfected the studies of Young and Champollion; while at the same time these and a considerable company of other explorers, most notable of whom are Gardner Wilkinson and Professor Flinders Petrie, have brought to light a vast accumulation of new material, much of which has the highest importance from the standpoint of the historian. Lists of kings found on the temple wall at Abydos, in the fragments of the Turin papyrus and elsewhere, have cleared up many doubtful points in the lists of Manetho, and at the same time, as Professor Petrie has pointed out, have proved to us how true a historian that much-discussed writer was. Manetho, it will be recalled, was the Egyptian who wrote the history of Egypt in Greek in the time of the Ptolemies. His work in the original unfortunately perished, and all that we know of it we learn through excerpts made by a few later classical writers. These fragments have until recently, however, given us our only clue to the earlier periods of Egyptian history. Until corroboration was found in the Egyptian inscriptions themselves, not only were Manetho’s lists in doubt, but scepticism had been carried to the point of denying that Manetho himself had ever existed. This is only one of many cases where the investigations of the archaeologist have proved not iconoclastic but reconstructive, tending to restore confidence in classical traditions which the scientific historians of the age of Niebuhr and George Cornewall Lewis regarded with scepticism.
As to the exact dates of early Egyptian history there is rather more of vagueness than for the corresponding periods of Mesopotamia. Indeed, approximate accuracy is not attained until we are within sixteen hundred years of our own era; but the sequence of events of a period preceding this by two thousand years is well established, and the recent discoveries of Professor Petrie carry back the record to a period which cannot well be less than five thousand, perhaps not less than six thousand years B.C. Both from Egypt and Mesopotamia, then, the records of the archaeologist have brought us evidence of the existence of a highly developed civilization for a period exceeding by hundreds, perhaps by thousands, of years the term which had hitherto been considered the full period of man’s existence.
We may note at once how these new figures disturb the historical balance. If our forerunners of eight or nine thousand years ago were in a noonday glare of civilization, where shall we look for the much-talked-of “dawnings of history”? By this new standard the Romans seem our contemporaries in latter-day civilization; the “Golden Age” of Greece is but of yesterday; the pyramid-builders are only relatively remote. The men who built the temple of Bel at Nippur, in the year (say) 5000 B.C., must have felt themselves at a pinnacle of civilization and culture. As Professor Mahaffy has suggested, the era of the Pyramids may have been the veritable autumn of civilization. Where, then, must we look for its springtime? The answer to that question must come, if it come at all, from what we now speak of as prehistoric archaeology; the monuments from Memphis and Nippur and Nineveh, covering a mere ten thousand years or so, are the records of recent history.
The efforts of the students of Oriental archaeology have been constantly stimulated by the fact that their studies brought them more or less within the field of Bible history. A fair proportion of the workers who have delved so Archaeology and Bible history.enthusiastically in the fields of Egyptian and Assyrian exploration would never have taken up the work at all but for the hope that their investigations might substantiate the Hebrew records. For a long time this hope proved illusory, and in the case of Egyptian archaeology the results have proved disappointing even up to the very present. Considering the important part played by the Egyptian sojourn of the Hebrews, as narrated in the Scriptures, it was certainly not an over-enthusiastic prediction that the Egyptian monuments when fully investigated would divulge important references to Joseph, to Moses, and to the all-important incidents of the Exodus; but half a century of expectant attention in this direction has led only to disappointment. It would be rash, considering the buried treasures that may yet await the future explorer, to assert that such records as those in question can never come to light. But, considering the fulness of the contemporary Egyptian records of the XIXth dynasty that are already known, it becomes increasingly doubtful whether the Hebrews in Egypt played so important a part in history, when viewed from the Egyptian standpoint, as their own records had seemed to imply. As the forgotten history of Oriental antiquity has been restored to us, it has come to be understood that, politically speaking, the Hebrews were a relatively insignificant people, whose chief importance from the standpoint of material history was derived from the geographical accident that made them a sort of buffer between the greater nations about them. Only once, and for a brief period, in the reigns of David and Solomon did the Hebrews rise to anything like an equal plane of political importance with their immediate neighbours. What gave them a seeming importance in the eyes of posterity was the fact that the true history of the Egyptians, Mesopotamians, Arabians and Hittites had been well-nigh forgotten. The various literatures of these nations were locked from view for more than two thousand years, while the literature of Israel had not merely been preserved, but had come to be regarded as inspired and sacred among all the cultured nations of the Western world. Now that the lost literatures have been restored to us, the status of the Hebrew writings could not fail to be disturbed. Their very isolation had in some measure accounted for their seeming importance.
All true historical perspective is based upon comparison, and where only a single account has been preserved of any event or of any period of history, it is extremely difficult to judge that account with historical accuracy. An illustration of this truth is furnished in profane history by the account which Thucydides has given us of the Peloponnesian War. For most of the period in question Thucydides is the only source; and despite the inherent merits of a great writer, it can hardly be doubted that the tribute of almost unqualified praise that successive generations of scholars have paid to Thucydides must have been in some measure qualified if, for example, a Spartan account of the Peloponnesian War had been preserved to us. Professor Mahaffy has pointed out that many other events in Greek history are viewed by us in somewhat perverted perspective because the great writers of Greece were Athenians rather than Spartans or Thebans. Even in so important a matter as the great conflict between Persia and Greece it has been suggested more than once that we should be able to gain a much truer view were Persian as well as Greek accounts accessible.
Not many years ago it would have been accounted a heresy to suggest that the historical books of the Old Testament had conveyed to our minds estimates of Oriental history that suffered from this same defect; but to-day no one who is competent to speak with authority pretends to doubt that such is really the fact. Even conservative students of the Bible urge that its historical passages must be viewed precisely in the light of any other historical writings of antiquity; and the fact that the oldest Hebrew manuscript dates only from the 8th century A.D., and therefore of necessity brings to us the message of antiquity through the fallible medium of many generations of copyists, is far more clearly kept in mind than it formerly was. Every belief of mankind is in the last analysis amenable to reason, and finds its origin in evidence that can appeal to the arbitrament of common sense. This evidence may in certain cases consist chiefly of the fact that generations of our predecessors have taken a certain view regarding a certain question; indeed most of our cherished beliefs have this foundation. But when such is the case, mankind has never failed in the long run to vindicate its claim to rationality by showing a readiness to give up the old belief whenever tangible evidence of its fallaciousness was forthcoming. The case of the historical books of the Old Testament furnishes no exception. These had been sacred to almost a hundred generations of men, and it was difficult for the eye of faith to see them as other than absolutely infallible documents. Yet the very eagerness with which the champions of the Hebrew records searched for archaeological proofs of their validity was a tacit confession that even the most unwavering faith was not beyond the reach of external evidence. True, the believer sought corroboration with full faith that he would find it; but the very fact that he could think such external corroboration valuable implied, however little he may have realized it, the subconscious concession that he must accept external evidence at its full value, even should it prove contradictory. If, then, an Egyptian inscription of the XIXth dynasty had come to hand in which the names of Joseph and Moses, and the deeds of the Israelites as a subject people who finally escaped from bondage by crossing the Red Sea, were recorded in hieroglyphic characters, such a monument would have been hailed with enthusiastic delight by every champion of the Pentateuch, and a wave of supreme satisfaction would have passed over all Christendom. It is not too much, then, to say that failure to find such a monument has caused deep disappointment to Bible scholars everywhere. It does not follow that faith in the Bible record is shaken, although in some quarters there has been a pronounced tendency to regard the history of the Egyptian sojourn as mythical; yet it cannot be denied that Egyptian records, corroborating at least some phases of the Bible story, would have been a most welcome addition to our knowledge. Some recent finds have, indeed, seemed to make inferential reference to the Hebrews, and the marvellous collection of letters of the XVIIIth dynasty found at Tel el-Amarna—letters to which we shall refer later—have the utmost importance as proving a possible early date for the Mosaic accounts. But such inferences as these are but a vague return for the labour expended, and an almost cruelly inadequate response to seemingly well-founded expectations.
When we turn to the field of Babylonian and Assyrian archaeology, however, the case is very different. Here we have documents in abundance that deal specifically with events more or less referred to in the Bible. The records of kings whose names hitherto were known to us only through Bible references have been found in the ruins of Nineveh and Babylon, and personages hitherto but shadowy now step forth as clearly into the light of history as an Alexander or a Caesar. Moreover, the newly discovered treasures deal with the beliefs of the people as well as with their history proper. The story of the books now spoken of as the “Creation” and “Deluge” tablets of the Assyrians, in the British Museum, which were discovered in the ruins of Nineveh by Layard and by George Smith, has been familiar to every one for a good many years. The acute interest which they excited when George Smith deciphered their contents in 1872 has to some extent abated, but this is only because scholars are now pretty generally agreed as to their bearing on the corresponding parts of Genesis. The particular tablets in question date only from about the 7th century B.C., but it is agreed among Assyriologists that they are copies of older texts current in Babylonia for many centuries before, and it is obvious that the compilers of Genesis had access to the Babylonian stories. In a word, the Hebrew Genesis shows unequivocal evidence of Babylonian origin, but, in the words of Professor Sayce, it is but “a paraphrase and not a translation.” However disconcerting such a revelation as this would have been to the theologians of an elder day, the Bible scholars of our own generation are able to regard it with entire composure.
From the standpoint of the historian even greater interest attaches to the records of the Assyrian and Babylonian kings when compared with the historical books of the Old Testament. For some centuries the inhabitants of Palestine were subject to periodical attacks from the warlike inhabitants of Mesopotamia, as even the most casual reader of the Bible is aware. When it became known that the accounts of these invasions formed a part of the records preserved in the Assyrian libraries, historian and theologian alike waited with breathless interest for the exact revelations in store; and this time expectation was not disappointed. As, one after another, the various tablets and cylinders and annalistic tablets have been translated, it has become increasingly clear that here are almost inexhaustible fountains of knowledge, and that sooner or later it may be possible to check the Hebrew accounts of the most important periods of their history with contemporaneous accounts written from another point of view. It is true that the cases are not very numerous where precisely the same event is described from opposite points of view, but, speaking in general terms rather than of specific incidents, we are already able to subject considerable portions of history to this test. The records of Shalmaneser II., Tiglath-Pileser III. and Sennacherib, kings of Assyria, of Nebuchadrezzar, king of Babylon, and of Cyrus, king of Persia, all contain direct references to Hebrew history. An obelisk of Shalmaneser II. contains explicit reference to the tribute of Jehu of Samaria, and graphically depicts the Hebrew captives. Tiglath-Pileser III., a usurper who came to the throne of Assyria in 745 B.C., and whose earlier name of Pul proved a source of confusion to the later Hebrew writers, left records that have served to clear up the puzzling chronology of a considerable period of the history of Samaria. Most interesting of all, perhaps, are the annals of Sennacherib, the destruction of whose hosts by the angel of God is so strikingly depicted in the Book of Kings. The court historian of Sennacherib naturally does not dwell upon this event, but he does tell of an invasion and conquest of Palestine. The Hebrew account of the death of Sennacherib is corroborated by a Babylonian inscription. Here, however, there is an interesting qualification. The account in the Book of Kings is so phrased that one might naturally infer from it that Sennacherib was assassinated by his sons immediately after his return from the disastrous campaign in Palestine; but in point of fact, as it now appears, the Assyrian king survived that campaign by twenty years. One cannot avoid the suspicion that in this instance the Hebrew chronicler purposely phrased his account to convey the impression that Sennacherib’s tragic end was but the slightly delayed culmination of the punishment inflicted for his attack upon the “chosen people.” On the other hand, the ambiguity may be quite unintentional, for the Hebrew writers were notoriously lacking in the true historical sense, which shows itself in a full appreciation of the value of chronology.
One of the most striking instances of the way in which mistakes of chronology may lead to the perversion of historical records is shown in the Book of Daniel in connexion with the familiar account of the capture of Babylon by Cyrus. Within the past generation records of Cyrus have been brought to light, as well as records of the conquered Babylonian king himself, which show that the Hebrew writers of the later day had a peculiarly befogged impression of a great historical event—their misconception being shared, it may be added, by the Greek historian Herodotus. When the annalistic tablet of Cyrus was translated, it was made to appear, to the consternation of Bible scholars, that the city of Babylon had capitulated to the Persian—or more properly to the Elamite—conqueror without a struggle. It appeared, further, that the king ruling in Babylon at the time of the capitulation was named not Belshazzar, but Nabonidos. This king, as appears from his own records, had a son named Belshazzar, who commanded Babylonian armies in outlying provinces, but who never came to the throne. Nothing could well be more disconcerting than such a revelation as this. It is held, however, that the startling discrepancies are not so difficult to explain as may appear at first sight. The explanation is found, so the Assyriologist assures us, in the fact that both Hebrew and Greek historians, writing at a considerable interval after the events, and apparently lacking authentic sources, confused the peaceful occupation of Babylon by Cyrus with its siege and capture by a successor to that monarch, Darius Hystaspes. As to the confusion of Babylonian names—in which, by the way, the Hebrew and Greek authors do not agree—it is explained that the general, Belshazzar, was perhaps more directly known in Palestine than his father the king. But the vagueness of the Hebrew knowledge is further shown by the fact that Belshazzar, alleged king, is announced as the son of Nebuchadrezzar (misspelled Nebuchadnezzar in the Hebrew writings), while the three kings that reigned after Nebuchadrezzar, and before Nabonidos usurped the throne, are quite overlooked.
Our present concern with the archaeological evidence thus briefly outlined, and with much more of the kind, may be summed up in the question: What in general terms is the inference to be drawn by the world-historian from the Assyrian records in their bearings upon the Hebrew writings? At first sight this might seem an extremely difficult question to answer. Indeed, to answer it to the satisfaction of all concerned might well be pronounced impossible. Yet it would seem as if a candid and impartial historian could not well be greatly in doubt in the matter. On the one hand, the general agreement everywhere between the Hebrew accounts and contemporaneous records from Mesopotamia proves beyond cavil that, broadly speaking, the Bible accounts are historically true, and were written by persons who in the main had access to contemporaneous documents. On the other hand, the discrepancies as to details, the confusion as to exact chronology, the manifest prejudice and partizanship, and the obvious limitations of knowledge make it clear that the writers partook in full measure of the shortcomings of other historians, and that their work must be adjudged by ordinary historical standards. As much as this is perhaps conceded by most, if not all, schools of Bible criticism of to-day. Professor Sayce, one of the most distinguished of modern Assyriologists, writing as an opponent of the purely destructive “Higher Criticism,” demands no more than that the Book of Genesis “shall take rank by the side of the other monuments of the past as the record of events which have actually happened and been handed on by credible men”; that it shall, in short, be admitted to be “a collection of ancient documents which have all the value of contemporaneous testimony,” but which being in themselves “wrecks of vast literatures which extended over the Oriental world from a remote epoch,” cannot be understood aright “except in the light of the contemporaneous literature of which they form a portion.” From the point of view implied by such words as these, it is only necessary to recall the mental attitude of our grandfathers to appreciate in some measure the revolution in thought that has been wrought in this field within the last half-century, largely through the instrumentality of Oriental archaeology.
We have seen that the general trend of Oriental archaeology has been reconstructive rather than iconoclastic. Equally true is this of recent classical archaeology. Here no such revolution has been effected as that which virtually Archaeology and classical history.created anew the history of Oriental antiquity; yet the bearings of the new knowledge are similar in kind if different in degree. The world had never quite forgotten the history of the primitive Greeks as it had forgotten the Mesopotamians, the Himyaritic nations and the Hittites; but it remembered their deeds only in the form of poetical myths and traditions. These traditions, finding their clearest delineation in the lines of Homer, had been subjected to the analysis of the critical historians of the early decades of the 19th century, and their authenticity had come to be more than doubted. The philological analysis of Wolf and his successors had raised doubts as to the very existence of Homer, and at one time the main current of scholarly opinion had set strongly in the direction of the belief that the Iliad and the Odyssey were in reality but latter-day collections of divers recitals that had been handed down by word of mouth from one generation to another of bards through ages of illiteracy. It was strenuously contended that the case could not well be otherwise, inasmuch as the art of writing must have been quite unknown in Greece until after the alleged age of the traditional Homer, whose date had been variously estimated at from 1000 to 800 B.C. by less sceptical generations. It had come to be a current belief that the Iliad was first committed to writing in the age of Peisistratus. A prominent controversialist, F. A. Paley, even went so far as to doubt whether a single written copy of the Iliad existed in Greece at the time of the Peloponnesian War. The doubts thus cast upon the age when the Homeric poems first assumed the fixed form of writing were closely associated with the universal scepticism as to the historical accuracy of any traditions whatever regarding the early history of Greece. Cautious historians had come to regard the so-called “Heroic Age” as a prehistoric period regarding which nothing definite was known, or in all probability could be known. It was ably argued by Sir George Cornewall Lewis, in connexion with his inquiries into early Roman history, that a verbal tradition is not transmitted from one generation to another in anything like an authentic form for a longer period than about a century. If, then, the art of writing was unknown in Greece before, let us say, the 6th century B.C., it would be useless to expect that any events of Grecian history prior to about the 7th century B.C. could have been transmitted to posterity with any degree of historical accuracy.
Notwithstanding the allurements of the subject, such conservative historians as Grote were disposed to regard the problems of early Grecian history as inscrutable, and to content themselves with the recital of traditions without attempting to establish their relationship with actual facts. It remained for the more robust faith of a Schliemann to show that such scepticism was all too faint-hearted, by proving that at such sites as Tiryns, Mycenae and Hissarlik evidences of a very early period of Greek civilization awaited the spade of the excavator. Thanks to the enthusiasm of Schliemann and his successors, we can now substitute for the mythical “Age of Heroes” a historical “Mycenaean Age” of Greece, and give tangible proof of its relatively high state of civilization. Schliemann may or may not have been correct in identifying one of the seven cities that he unearthed at Hissarlik as the fabled Troy itself, but at least his efforts sufficed to give verisimilitude to the Homeric story. With the lessons of recent Oriental archaeology in mind, few will be sceptical enough to doubt that some such contest as that described in the Iliad actually occurred. And now, thanks to the efforts of a large company of workers, notably Dr Arthur Evans and his associates in Cretan exploration, we are coming to speak with some confidence not merely of a Mycenaean but of a pre-Mycenaean Age.
As yet we see these periods somewhat darkly. The illuminative witness of written records is in the main denied us here. Some most archaic inscriptions have been indeed found by the explorers in Crete, but these for the present serve scarcely any other purpose than to prove the antiquity of the art of writing among a people who were closely in touch with the inhabitants of Hellas proper. Most unfortunately for posterity, the Greeks wrote mainly on perishable materials, and hence the chief records even of their later civilization have vanished. The only fragments of Greek manuscripts antedating the Christian era that have been preserved to us have been found in Egypt, where a hospitable climate granted them a term of existence not to be hoped for elsewhere. No fragment of these papyri, indeed, carries us further back than the age of the Ptolemies; but the Greek inscriptions on the statues of Rameses II at Abu-Simbel, in Nubia, give conclusive proof that the art of writing was widely disseminated among the Greeks at least three centuries before the age of Alexander. This carries us back towards the traditional age of Homer.
The Cretan inscriptions belong to a far older epoch, and are written in two non-Grecian scripts of undetermined affinities. Here, then, is direct evidence that the Aegean peoples of the Mycenaean Age knew how to write, and it is no longer necessary to assume that the verses of the Iliad were dependent on mere verbal transmission for any such period as has been supposed.
But even were direct evidence of the knowledge of the art of writing in Greece of the early day altogether lacking, none but the hardiest sceptic could doubt, in the light of recent archaeological discoveries elsewhere, that the inhabitants of ancient Hellas of the “Homeric Age” must have shared with their contemporaries the capacity to record their thought in written words. We have seen that Oriental archaeology has in recent generations revolutionized our conceptions of the antiquity of civilization. We have seen that written documents have been preserved in Mesopotamia to which such a date as 4500 B.C. may be ascribed with a good deal of confidence; and that from the third millennium B.C. a flood of contemporary literary records comes to us both from Egypt and Mesopotamia. But until recently it had been supposed that Hellas was shut out entirely from this Oriental culture. Historians have found it hard to dispel the idea that civilization in Greece was a very late development, and that the culture of the age of Solon sprang, in fact, suddenly into existence, as it seems to do in the records of the historian. But the excavations that have given us a knowledge of the Mycenaean Age have proved conclusively, not alone that civilization existed in Greece in an early day, but that this civilization was closely linked with the civilization of Egypt. Not only have antiquities been found in Crete that point to Egyptian inspiration, but quite recently Professor Petrie has found at Tel el-Amarna Mycenaean pottery. The latter find has a peculiar significance, since the date of the Tel el-Amarna collection is definitely fixed between the years 1400 and 1370 B.C.
It is demonstrated, then, that as early as the beginning of the 14th century B.C. the Mycenaean civilization was in touch with the ancient civilization of Egypt. One must not infer from this, however, that the two civilizations met on anything like an equality. Indeed, in the wonderful Tel-el-Amarna collection there is a suggestive absence of literary documents from the Aegean that demands a word of notice. The Tel el-Amarna collection, it will be recalled, consists of the royal archives of King Amenophis IV. of the XVIIIth Egyptian dynasty, who in the latter years of his reign chose to be known as Akhenaton, “the glory of the solar disk.” This monarch had retired from Thebes and established his court on the site now known as Tel el-Amarna, where he founded the city which existed only during the brief period of thirty years ending with the death of the monarch about 1370 B.C. The date of the documents found in the royal library is, therefore, fixed within very narrow limits. The documents in question consist chiefly of letters, and constitute one of the most important of archaeological finds. These letters came to the king from almost every part of western Asia, including Palestine and Phoenicia, Babylonia and Asia Minor. Strangely enough, all the letters are written in the Babylonian character, and most of them are in the Babylonian language. They afford, therefore, most striking evidence of a widespread diffusion of Babylonian culture. Incidentally they prove, to the utter confusion of a certain school of Bible critics, that the art of writing was familiarly known in Canaan, and that Egypt and western Asia were in full literary connexion with one another, long before the time of the Exodus. Hence all the elaborate arguments based on the supposition that Moses probably could not write fall to the ground. On the other hand, the absence of letters from Mycenae among the tablets of Tel el-Amarna must be regarded as at least suggestive. Seemingly the widespread Babylonian culture had not reached the Aegean peoples; yet these peoples cannot have been wholly ignorant of things with which commercial intercourse brought them in contact. The point is of no very great significance, however, since no one has pretended that the Western civilization compared with the Eastern in point of antiquity; and in any event, no amount of negative evidence weighs a grain in the balance against the positive evidence of the Cretan inscriptions.
The researches of the archaeologist are, in short, tending to reconstruct the primitive classical history; and here, as in the Orient, it is evident that historians of the earlier day were constantly blinded by a misconception as to the antiquity of civilization. Such a fruitage as that of Greek culture of the age of Pericles does not come to maturity without a long period of preparation. Here, as elsewhere, the laws of evolution hold, permitting no sudden stupendous leaps. But it required the arduous labours of the archaeologist to prove a proposition that, once proven, seems self-evident. (H. S. Wi.)
Eras and Periods.
In the article Calendar (q.v.), that part of chronology is treated which relates to the measurement of time, and the principal methods are explained that have been employed, or are still in use, for adjusting the lunar months of the solar year, as well as the intercalations necessary for regulating the civil year according to the celestial motions. But it is necessary to notice here the different Eras and Periods that have been employed by historians, and by the different nations of the world, in recording the succession of time and events, to fix the epochs at which the eras respectively commenced, to ascertain the form and the initial day of the year made use of, and to establish their correspondence with the years of the Christian era. These elements will enable us to convert, by a simple arithmetical operation, any historical date, of which the chronological characters are given according to any era whatever, into the corresponding date in the Christian era.
Julian Period.—Although the Julian period (the invention of Joseph Scaliger, in 1582) is not, properly speaking, a chronological era, yet, on account of its affording considerable facilities in the comparison of different eras with one another, and in marking without ambiguity the years before Christ, it is very generally employed by chronologers. It consists of 7980 Julian years; and the first year of the Christian era corresponded with the year 4714 of the Julian period.
Olympiads.—The Olympic games, so famous in Greek history, were celebrated once every four years, between the new and full moon first following the summer solstice, on the small plain named Olympia in Elis, which was bounded on one side by the river Alpheus, on another by the small tributary stream the Cladeus, and on the other two sides by mountains. The games lasted five days. Their origin, lost in the dimness of remote antiquity, was invested by priestly legends with a sacred character. They were said to have been instituted by the Idaean Heracles, to commemorate his victory over his four brothers in a foot-race. According to a tradition, possibly more authentic, they were re-established by Iphitus, king of Elis, in concert with the Spartan Lycurgus and Cleosthenes of Pisa. The practice was long afterwards adopted of designating the Olympiad, or period of four years, by the name of the victor in the contests of the stadium, and of inscribing his name in the gymnasium of Olympia. The first who received this honour was Coroebus. The games in which Coroebus was victor, and which form the principal epoch of Greek history, were celebrated about the time of the summer solstice 776 years before the common era of the Incarnation, in the 3938th year of the Julian period, and twenty-three years, according to the account of Varro, before the foundation of Rome.
Before the introduction of the Metonic cycle, the Olympic year began sometimes with the full moon which followed, at other times with that which preceded the summer solstice, because the year sometimes contained 384 days instead of 354. But subsequently to its adoption, the year always commenced with the eleventh day of the moon which followed the solstice. In order to avoid troublesome computations, which it would be necessary to recommence for every year, and of which the results differ only by a few days, chronologers generally regard the 1st of July as the commencement of the Olympic year. Some authors, however, among whom are Eusebius, Jerome and the historian Socrates, place its commencement at the 1st of September; these, however, appear to have confounded the Olympic year with the civil year of the Greeks, or the era of the Seleucidae.
It is material to observe, that as the Olympic years and periods begin with the 1st of July, the first six months of a year of our era correspond to one Olympic year, and the last six months to another. Thus, when it is said that the first year of the Incarnation corresponds to the first of the 195th Olympiad, we are to understand that it is only with respect to the last six months of that year that the correspondence takes place. The first six months belonged to the fourth year of the 194th Olympiad. In referring dates expressed by Olympiads to our era, or the contrary, we must therefore distinguish two cases.
1st. When the event in question happened between the 1st of January and the 1st of the following July, the sum of the Olympic year and of the year before Christ is always equal to 776. The year of the era, therefore, will be found by subtracting the number of the Olympic year from 776. For example, Varro refers the foundation of Rome to the 21st of April of the third year of the sixth Olympiad, and it is required to find the year before our era. Since five Olympic periods have elapsed, the third year of the sixth Olympiad is 5 × 4 + 3 = 23; therefore, subtracting 23 from 776, we have 753, which is the year before Christ to which the foundation of Rome is referred by Varro.
2nd. When the event took place between the summer solstice and the 1st of January following, the sum of the Olympic year and of the year before Christ is equal to 777. The difference, therefore, between 777 and the year in one of the dates will give the year in the other date. Thus, the moon was eclipsed on the 27th of August, a little before midnight, in the year 413 before our era; and it is required to find the corresponding year in the Olympic era. Subtract 413 from 777, the remainder is 364; and 364 divided by four gives 91 without a remainder; consequently the eclipse happened in the fourth year of the ninety-first Olympiad, which is the date to which it is referred by Thucydides.
If the year is after Christ, and the event took place in one of the first six months of the Olympic year, that is to say, between July and January, we must subtract 776 from the number of the Olympic year to find the corresponding year of our era; but if it took place in one of the last six months of the Olympic year, or between January and July, we must deduct 777. The computation by Olympiads seldom occurs in historical records after the middle of the 5th century of our era.
The names of the months were different in the different Grecian states. The Attic months, of which we possess the most certain knowledge, were named as follows:—
Era of the Foundation of Rome.—After the Olympiads, the era most frequently met with in ancient history is that of the foundation of Rome, which is the chronological epoch adopted by all the Roman historians. There are various opinions respecting the year of the foundation of Rome. (1) Fabius Pictor places it in the latter half of the first year of the eighth Olympiad, which corresponds with the 3967th of the Julian period, and with the year 747 B.C. (2) Polybius places it in the second year of the seventh Olympiad, corresponding with 3964 of the Julian period, and 750 B.C. (3) M. Porcius Cato places it in the first year of the seventh Olympiad, that is, in 3963 of the Julian period, and 751 B.C. (4) Verrius Flaccus places it in the fourth year of the sixth Olympiad, that is, in the year 3962 of the Julian period, and 752 B.C. (5) Terentius Varro places it in the third year of the sixth Olympiad, that is, in the year 3961 of the Julian period, and 753 B.C. A knowledge of these different computations is necessary, in order to reconcile the Roman historians with one another, and even any one writer with himself. Livy in general adheres to the epoch of Cato, though he sometimes follows that of Fabius Pictor. Cicero follows the account of Varro, which is also in general adopted by Pliny. Dionysius of Halicarnassus follows Cato. Modern chronologers for the most part adopt the account of Varro, which is supported by a passage in Censorinus, where it is stated that the 991st year of Rome commenced with the festival of the Palilia, in the consulship of Ulpius and Pontianus. Now this consulship corresponded with the 238th year of our era; therefore, deducting 238 from 991, we have 753 to denote the year before Christ. The Palilia commenced on the 21st of April; and all the accounts agree in regarding that day as the epoch of the foundation of Rome.
The Romans employed two sorts of years, the civil year, which was used in the transaction of public and private affairs, and the consular year, according to which the annals of their history have been composed. The civil year commenced with the calends of January, but this did not hold a fixed place in the solar year till the time of Julius Caesar (see Calendar). The installation of the consuls regulated the commencement of the consular year. The initial day of the consulate was never fixed, at least before the 7th century of Rome, but varied with the different accidents which in times of political commotion so frequently occurred to accelerate or retard the elections. Hence it happens that a consular year, generally speaking, comprehends a part not only of two Julian years, but also of two civil years. The consulate is the date employed by the Latin historians generally, and by many of the Greeks, down to the 6th century of our era.
In the era of Rome the commencement of the year is placed at the 21st of April; an event therefore which happened in the months of January, February, March, or during the first twenty days of April, in the year (for example) 500 of Rome, belongs to the civil year 501. Before the time of the Decemvirs, however, February was the last month of the year. Many authors confound the year of Rome with the civil year, supposing them both to begin on the 1st of January. Others again confound both the year of Rome and the civil year with the Julian year, which in fact became the civil year after the regulation of the calendar by Julius Caesar. Through a like want of attention, many writers also, particularly among the moderns, have confounded the Julian and Olympic years, by making an entire Julian year correspond to an entire Olympic year, as if both had commenced at the same epoch. Much attention to these particulars is required in the comparison of ancient dates.
The Christian Era.—The Christian or vulgar era, called also the era of the Incarnation, is now almost universally employed in Christian countries, and is even used by some Eastern nations. Its epoch or beginning is the 1st of January in the fourth year of the 194th Olympiad, the 753rd from the foundation of Rome, and the 4714th of the Julian period. This epoch was introduced in Italy in the 6th century, by Dionysius the Little, a Roman abbot, and began to be used in Gaul in the 8th, though it was not generally followed in that country till a century later. From extant charters it is known to have been in use in England before the close of the 8th century. Before its adoption the usual practice in Latin countries was to distinguish the years by their number in the cycle of Indiction.
In the Christian era the years are simply distinguished by the cardinal numbers; those before Christ being marked B.C. (Before Christ), or A.C. (Ante Christum), and those after Christ A.D. (Anno Domini). This method of reckoning time is more convenient than those which employ cycles or periods of any length whatever; but it still fails to satisfy in the simplest manner possible all the conditions that are necessary for registering the succession of events. For, since the commencement of the era is placed at an intermediate period of history, we are compelled to resort to a double manner of reckoning, backward as well as forward. Some ambiguity is also occasioned by the want of uniformity in the method of numbering the preceding years. Astronomers denote the year which preceded the first of our era by 0, and the year previous to that by 1 B.C.; but chronologers, in conformity with common notions, call the year preceding the era 1 B.C., the previous year 2 B.C., and so on. By reckoning in this manner, there is an interruption in the regular succession of the numbers; and in the years preceding the era, the leap years, instead of falling on the fourth, eighth, twelfth, &c., fall, or ought to fall, on the first, fifth, ninth, &c.
In the chronicles of the middle ages much uncertainty frequently arises respecting dates on account of the different epochs assumed for the beginning of the Christian year. Dionysius, the author of the era, adopted the day of the Annunciation, or the 25th of March, which preceded the birth of Christ by nine months, as the commencement of the first year of the era. This epoch therefore precedes that of the vulgar era by nine months and seven days. This manner of dating was followed in some of the Italian states, and continued to be used at Pisa even down to the year 1745. It was also adopted in some of the Papal bulls; and there are proofs of its having been employed in France about the middle of the 11th century. Some chroniclers, who adhere to the day of the Annunciation as the commencement of the year, reckon from the 25th of March following our epoch, as the Florentines in the 10th century. Gregory of Tours, and some writers of the 6th and 7th centuries, make the year begin sometimes with the 1st of March, and sometimes with the 1st of January. In France, under the third race of kings, it was usual to begin the year with Easter; and this practice continued at least till the middle of the 16th century, for an edict was issued by Charles IX. in the month of January 1663, ordaining that the beginning of the year should thenceforth be considered as taking place on the 1st of January. An instance is given, in L’Art de vérifier les dates, of a date in which the year is reckoned from the 18th of March; but it is probable that this refers to the astronomical year, and that the 18th of March was taken for the day of the vernal equinox. In Germany, about the 11th century, it was usual to begin the year at Christmas; and this practice also prevailed at Milan, Rome and other Italian cities, in the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries.
In England, the practice of placing the beginning of the year at Christmas was introduced in the 7th century, and traces of it are found even in the 13th. Gervase of Canterbury, who lived in the 13th century, mentions that almost all writers of his country agreed in regarding Christmas day as the first of the year, because it forms, as it were, the term at which the sun finishes and recommences his annual course. In the 12th century, however, the custom of beginning the civil year with the day of the Annunciation, or the 25th of March, began to prevail, and 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 era continued to be followed by the Copts in the 15th century, and is said to be still used in Abyssinia.
Dates expressed according to this era are reduced to the common era by subtracting 5502, up to the Alexandrian year 5786 inclusive, and after that year by subtracting 5492; but if the date belongs to one of the four last months of the Christian year, we must subtract 5503 till the year 5786, and 5493 after that year.
Mundane Era of Antioch.—The chronological reckoning of Julius Africanus formed also the basis of the era of Antioch, which was adopted by the Christians of Syria, at the instance of Panodorus, an Egyptian monk, who flourished about the beginning of the 4th century. Panodorus struck off ten years from the account of Julius Africanus with regard to the years of the world, and he placed the Incarnation three years later, referring it to the fourth year of the 194th Olympiad, as in the common era. Hence the era of Antioch differed from the original era of Alexandria by ten years; but after the alteration of the latter at the accession of Diocletian, the two eras coincided. In reckoning from the Incarnation, however, there is a difference of seven years, that epoch being placed, in the reformed era of Alexandria, seven years later than in the mundane era of Antioch or in the Christian era.
As the Syrian year began in autumn, the year of Christ corresponding to any year in the mundane era of Antioch is found by subtracting 5492 or 5493 according as the event falls between January and September or from September to January.
Era of Nabonassar.—This era is famous in astronomy, having been generally followed by Hipparchus and Ptolemy. It is believed to have been in use from the very time of its origin; for the observations of eclipses which were collected in Chaldaea by Callisthenes, the general of Alexander, and transmitted by him to Aristotle, were for the greater part referred to the beginning of the reign of Nabonassar, founder of the kingdom of the Babylonians. It is the basis of the famous Canon of kings, also called Mathematical Canon, preserved to us in the works of Ptolemy, which, before the astonishing discoveries at Nineveh, was the sole authentic monument of Assyrian and Babylonian history known to us. The epoch from which it is reckoned is precisely determined by numerous celestial phenomena recorded by Ptolemy, and corresponds to Wednesday at mid-day, the 26th of February of the year 747 before Christ. The year was in all respects the same as the ancient Egyptian year. On account of the difference in the length of the Julian and Babylonian years, the conversion of dates according to the era of Nabonassar into years before Christ is attended with considerable trouble. The surest way is to follow a comparative table. Frequently the year cannot be fixed with certainty, unless we know also the month and the day.
The Greeks of Alexandria formerly employed the era of Nabonassar, with a year of 365 days; but soon after the reformation of the calendar of Julius Caesar, they adopted, like other Roman provincials, the Julian intercalation. At this time the first of Thoth had receded to the 29th of August. In the year 136 of our era, the first of Thoth in the ancient Egyptian year corresponded with the 20th of July, between which and the 29th of August there are forty days. The adoption of the Julian year must therefore have taken place about 160 years before the year 136 of our era (the difference between the Egyptian and Julian years being one day in four years), that is to say, about the year 25 B.C. In fact, the first of Thoth corresponded with the 29th of August in the Julian calendar, in the years 25, 24, 23 and 22 B.C.
Era of the Seleucidae, or Macedonian Era.—The era of the Seleucidae dates from the time of the occupation of Babylon by Seleucus Nicator, 311 years before Christ, in the year of Rome 442, and twelve years after the death of Alexander the Great. It was adopted not only in the monarchy of the Seleucidae but in general in all the Greek countries bordering on the Levant, was followed by the Jews till the 15th century, and is said to be used by some Arabians even at the present day. By the Jews it was called the Era of Contracts, because the Syrian governors compelled them to make use of it in civil contracts; the writers of the books of Maccabees call it the Era of Kings. But notwithstanding its general prevalence in the East for many centuries, authors using it differ much with regard to their manner of expressing dates, in consequence of the different epochs adopted for the beginning of the year. Among the Syrian Greeks the year began with the month Elul, which corresponds to our September. The Nestorians and Jacobites at the present day suppose it to begin with the following month, or October. The author of the first book of Maccabees makes the era commence with the month Nisan, or April; and the author of the second book with the first Tishrin, or October. Albategni, a celebrated Arabian astronomer, dates from the 1st of October. Some of the Arabian writers, as Alfergani, date from the 1st of September. At Tyre the year was counted from the 19th of our October, at Gaza from the 28th of the same month, and at Damascus from the vernal equinox. These discrepancies render it extremely difficult to determine the exact correspondence of Macedonian dates with those of other eras; and the difficulty is rendered still greater by the want of uniformity in respect of the length of the year. Some authors who follow the Macedonian era, use the Egyptian or vague year of 365 days; Albategni adopts the Julian year of 365¼ days.
According to the computation most generally followed, the year 312 of the era of the Seleucidae began on the 1st of September in the Julian year preceding the first of our era. Hence, to reduce a Macedonian date to the common era, subtract 311 years and four months.
The names of the Syrian and Macedonian months, and their correspondence with the Roman months, are as follows:—
Era of Alexander.—Some of the Greek historians have assumed as a chronological epoch the death of Alexander the Great, in the year 325 B.C. The form of the year is the same as in the preceding era. This era has not been much followed; but it requires to be noticed in order that it may not be confounded with the era of the Seleucidae.
Era of Tyre.—The era of Tyre is reckoned from the 19th of October, or the beginning of the Macedonian month Hyperberetaeus, in the year 126 B.C. In order, therefore, to reduce it to the common era, subtract 125; and when the date is B.C., subtract it from 126. Dates expressed according to this era occur only on a few medals, and in the acts of certain councils.
Caesarean Era of Antioch.—This era was established to commemorate the victory obtained by Julius Caesar on the plains of Pharsalia, on the 9th of August in the year 48 B.C., and the 706th of Rome. The Syrians computed it from their month Tishrin I.; but the Greeks threw it back to the month Gorpiaeus of the preceding year. Hence there is a difference of eleven months between the epochs assumed by the Syrians and the Greeks. According to the computation of the Greeks, the 49th year of the Caesarean era began in the autumn of the year preceding the commencement of the Christian era; and, according to the Syrians, the 49th year began in the autumn of the first year of the Incarnation. It is followed by Evagrius in his Ecclesiastical History.
Julian Era.—The Julian era begins with the 1st of January, forty-five years B.C. It was designed to commemorate the reformation of the Roman calendar by Julius Caesar.
Era of Spain, or of the Caesars.—The conquest of Spain by Augustus, which was completed in the thirty-ninth year B.C., gave rise to this era, which began with the first day of the following year, and was long used in Spain and Portugal, and generally in all the Roman provinces subdued by the Visigoths, both in Africa and the South of France. Several of the councils of Carthage, and also that of Arles, are dated according to this era. After the 9th century it became usual to join with it in public acts the year of the Incarnation. It was followed in Catalonia till the year 1180, in the kingdom of Aragon till 1350, in Valencia till 1358, and in Castile till 1382. In Portugal it is said to have been in use so late as the year 1415, or 1422, though it would seem that after the establishment of the Portuguese monarchy, no other era was used in the public acts of that country than that of the Incarnation. As the era of Spain began with the 1st of January, and the months and days of the year are those of the Julian calendar, any date is reduced to the common era by subtracting thirty-eight from the number of the year.
Era of Actium, and Era of Augustus.—This era was established to commemorate the battle of Actium, which was fought on the 3rd of September, in the year 31 B.C., and in the 15th of the Julian era. By the Romans the era of Actium was considered as beginning on the 1st of January of the 16th of the Julian era, which is the 30th B.C. The Egyptians, who used this era till the time of Diocletian, dated its commencement from the beginning of their month Thoth, or the 29th of August; and the Eastern Greeks from the 2nd of September. By the latter it was also called the era of Antioch, and it continued to be used till the 9th century. It must not be confounded with the Caesarean era of Antioch, which began seventeen years earlier. Many of the medals struck by the city of Antioch in honour of Augustus are dated according to this era.
Besides the era of Actium, there was also an Augustan era, which began four years later, or 27 B.C., the year in which Augustus prevailed on the senate and people of Rome to decree him the title of Augustus, and to confirm him in the supreme power of the empire.
Era of Diocletian, or Era of Martyrs.—It has been already stated that the Alexandrians, at the accession of the emperor Diocletian, made an alteration in their mundane era, by striking off ten years from their reckoning. At the same time they established a new era, which is still followed by the Abyssinians and Copts. It begins with the 29th of August (the first day of the Egyptian year) of the year 284 of our era, which was the first of the reign of Diocletian. The denomination of Era of Martyrs, subsequently given to it in commemoration of the persecution of the Christians, would seem to imply that its commencement ought to be referred to the year 303 of our era, for it was in that year that Diocletian issued his famous edict; but the practice of dating from the accession of Diocletian has prevailed. The ancient Egyptian year consisted of 365 days; but after the introduction of the Julian calendar, the astronomers of Alexandria adopted an intercalary year, and added six additional days instead of five to the end of the last month of every fourth year. The year thus became exactly similar to the Julian year. The Egyptian intercalary year, however, does not correspond to the Julian leap year, but is the year immediately preceding; and the intercalation takes place at the end of the year, or on the 29th of August. Hence the first three years of the Egyptian intercalary period begin on the 29th of our August, and the fourth begins on the 30th of that month. Before the end of that year the Julian intercalation takes place, and the beginning of the following Egyptian year is restored to the 29th of August. Hence to reduce a date according to this era to our own reckoning, it is necessary, for common years, to add 283 years and 240 days; but if the date belongs to the first three months of the year following the intercalation, or, which is the same thing, if in the third year of the Julian cycle it falls between the 30th of August and the end of the year, we must add 283 years and 241 days. The Ethiopians do not reckon the years from the beginning of the era in a consecutive series, but employ a period of 532 years, after the expiration of which they again begin with 1. This is the Dionysian or Great Paschal Period, and is formed by the multiplication of the numbers 28 and 19, that is, of the solar and lunar cycles, into each other.
|Mascaram||29th August.||Magabit||25th February.|
|Tikmith||28th September.||Miazia||27th March.|
|Hadar||28th October.||Gimbot||26th April.|
|Tacsam||27th November.||Sene||26th May.|
|Tir||27th December.||Hamle||25th June.|
|Yacatit||26th January.||Nahasse||25th July.|
The additional or epagomenal days begin on the 24th of August. In intercalary years the first seven months commence one day later. The Egyptian months, followed by the modern Copts, agree with the above in every respect excepting the names.
Indiction.—The cycle of Indiction was very generally followed in the Roman empire for some centuries before the adoption of the Christian era. Three Indictions may be distinguished; but they differ only in regard to the commencement of the year.
1. The Constantinopolitan Indiction, like the Greek year, commenced with the month of September. This was followed in the Eastern empire, and in some instances also in France.
2. The Imperial or Constantinian Indiction is so called because its establishment is attributed to Constantine. This was also called the Caesarean Indiction. It begins on the 24th of September. It is not infrequently met with in the ancient chronicles of France and England.
3. The Roman or Pontifical Indiction began on the 25th of December or 1st of January, according as the Christian year was held to begin on the one or other of these days. It is often employed in papal bulls, especially after the time of Gregory VII., and traces of its use are found in early French authors.
Era of the Armenians.—The epoch of the Armenian era is that of the council of Tiben, in which the Armenians consummated their schism from the Greek Church by condemning the acts of the council of Chalcedon; and it corresponds to Tuesday, the 9th of July of the year 552 of the Incarnation. In their civil affairs the Armenians follow the ancient vague year of the Egyptians; but their ecclesiastical year, which begins on the 11th of August, is regulated in the same manner as the Julian year, every fourth year consisting of 366 days, so that Easter and the other festivals are retained at the same place in the seasons as well as in the civil year. The Armenians also make use of the mundane era of Constantinople, and sometimes conjoin both methods of computation in the same documents. In their correspondence and transactions with Europeans, they generally follow the era of the Incarnation, and adopt the Julian year.
To reduce the civil dates of the Armenians to the Christian era, proceed as follows. Since the epoch is the 9th of July, there were 176 days from the beginning of the Armenian era to the end of the year 552 of our era; and since 552 was a leap year, the year 553 began a Julian intercalary period. Multiply, therefore, the number of Armenian years elapsed by 365; add the number of days from the commencement of the current year to the given date; subtract 176 from the sum, and the remainder will be the number of days from the 1st of January 553 to the given date. This number of days being reduced to Julian years, add the result to 552, and the sum gives the day in the Julian year, or old style.
In the ecclesiastical reckoning the year begins on the 11th of August. To reduce a date expressed in this reckoning to the Julian date, add 551 years, and the days elapsed from the 1st of January to the 10th of August, both inclusive, of the year 552—that is to say (since 552 is a leap year), 223 days. In leap years one day must be subtracted if the date falls between the 1st of March and 10th of August.
|1. Navazardi begins||11th August.|
|2. Hori||10th September.|
|3. Sahmi||10th October.|
|4. Dre Thari||9th November.|
|5. Kagoths||9th December.|
|6. Aracz||8th January.|
|7. Maleg||7th February.|
|8. Arcki||9th March.|
|9. Angi||8th April.|
|10. Mariri||8th May.|
|11. Marcacz||7th June.|
|12. Herodiez||7th July.|
To complete the year five complementary days are added in common years, and six in leap years.
The Mahommedan Era, or Era of the Hegira.—The era in use among the Turks, Arabs and other Mahommedan nations is that of the Hegira or Hejra, the flight of the prophet from Mecca to Medina, 622 A.D. Its commencement, however, does not, as is sometimes stated, coincide with the very day of the flight, but precedes it by sixty-eight days. The prophet, after leaving Mecca, to escape the pursuit of his enemies, the Koreishites, hid himself with his friend Abubekr in a cave near Mecca, and there lay for three days. The departure from the cave and setting out on the way to Medina is assigned to the ninth day of the third month, Rabia I.—corresponding to the 22nd of September of the year 622 A.D. The era begins from the first day of the month of Muharram preceding the flight, or first day of that Arabian year which coincides with Friday, July 16, 622 A.D. It is necessary to remember that by astronomers and by some historians the era is assigned to the preceding day, July 15. It is stated by D’Herbelot that the era of the Hegira was instituted by Omar, the second caliph, in imitation of the Christian era of the martyrs.
Era of Yazdegerd, or Persian or Jelalaean Era.—This era begins with the elevation of Yazdegerd III. to the throne of Persia, on the 16th of June in the year of our era 632. Till the year 1079 the Persian year resembled that of the ancient Egyptians, consisting of 365 days without intercalation; but at that time the Persian calendar was reformed by Jelāl ud-Dīn Malik Shah, sultan of Khorasan, and a method of intercalation adopted which, though less convenient, is considerably more accurate than the Julian. The intercalary period is 33 years,—one day being added to the common year seven times successively at the end of four years, and the eighth intercalation being deferred till the end of the fifth year. This era was at one period universally adopted in Persia, and it still continues to be followed by the Parsees of India. The months consist of thirty days each, and each day is distinguished by a different name. According to Alfergani, the names of the Persian months are as follows:—
The five additional days (in intercalary years six) are named Musteraca.
As it does not appear that the above-mentioned rule of intercalation was ever regularly followed, it is impossible to assign exactly the days on which the different years begin. In some provinces of India the Parsees begin the year with September, in others they begin it with October. We have stated that the era began with the 16th June 632. But the vague year, which was followed till 1079, anticipated the Julian year by one day every four years. In 447 years the anticipation would amount to about 112 days, and the beginning of the year would in consequence be thrown back to near the beginning of the Julian year 632. To the year of the Persian era, therefore, add 631, and the sum will be the year of our era in which the Persian year begins.
Chinese Chronology.—From the time of the emperor Yao, upwards of 2000 years B.C., the Chinese had two different years,—a civil year, which was regulated by the moon, and an astronomical year, which was solar. The civil year consisted in general of twelve months or lunations, but occasionally a thirteenth was added in order to preserve its correspondence with the solar year. Even at that early period the solar or astronomical year consisted of 365¼ days, like our Julian year; and it was arranged in the same manner, a day being intercalated every fourth year.
According to the missionary Gaubil, the Chinese divided the day into 100 ke, each ke into 100 minutes, and each minute into 100 seconds. This practice continued to prevail till the 17th century, when, at the instance of the Jesuit Schall, president of the tribunal of mathematics, they adopted the European method of dividing the day into twenty-four hours, each hour into sixty minutes, and each minute into sixty seconds. The civil day begins at midnight and ends at the midnight following.
Since the accession of the emperors of the Han dynasty, 206 B.C., the civil year of the Chinese has begun with the first day of that moon in the course of which the sun enters into the sign of the zodiac which corresponds with our sign Pisces. From the same period also they have employed, in the adjustment of their solar and lunar years, a period of nineteen years, twelve of which are common, containing twelve lunations each, and the remaining seven intercalary, containing thirteen lunations. It is not, however, precisely known how they distributed their months of thirty and twenty-nine days, or, as they termed them, great and small moons. This, with other matters appertaining to the calendar, was probably left to be regulated from time to time by the mathematical tribunal.
The Chinese divide the time of a complete revolution of the sun with regard to the solstitial points into twelve equal portions, each corresponding to thirty days, ten hours, thirty minutes. Each of these periods, which is denominated a tsëĕ, is subdivided into two equal portions called chung-ki and tsie-ki, the chung-ki denoting the first half of the tsëĕ, and the tsie-ki the latter half. Though the tsëĕ, are thus strictly portions of solar time, yet what is remarkable, though not peculiar to China, they give their name to the lunar months, each month or lunation having the name of the chung-ki or sign at which the sun arrives during that month. As the tsëĕ is longer than a synodic revolution of the moon, the sun cannot arrive twice at a chung-ki during the same lunation; and as there are only twelve tsëĕ, the year can contain only twelve months having different names. It must happen sometimes that in the course of a lunation the sun enters into no new sign; in this case the month is intercalary, and is called by the same name as the preceding month.
For chronological purposes, the Chinese, in common with some other nations of the east of Asia, employ cycles of sixty, by means of which they reckon their days, moons and years. The days are distributed in the calendar into cycles of sixty, in the same manner as ours are distributed into weeks, or cycles of seven. Each day of the cycle has a particular name, and as it is a usual practice, in mentioning dates, to give the name of the day along with that of the moon and the year, this arrangement affords great facilities in verifying the epochs of Chinese chronology. The order of the days in the cycle is never interrupted by any intercalation that may be necessary for adjusting the months or years. The moons of the civil year are also distinguished by their place in the cycle of sixty; and as the intercalary moons are not reckoned, for the reason before stated, namely, that during one of these lunations the sun enters into no new sign, there are only twelve regular moons in a year, so that the cycle is renewed every five years. Thus the first moon of the year 1873 being the first of a new cycle, the first moon of every sixth year, reckoned backwards or forwards from that date, as 1868, 1863, &c., or 1877, 1882, &c., also begins a new lunar cycle of sixty moons. In regard to the years, the arrangement is exactly the same. Each has a distinct number or name which marks its place in the cycle, and as this is generally given in referring to dates, along with the other chronological characters of the year, the ambiguity which arises from following a fluctuating or uncertain epoch is entirely obviated.
The cycle of sixty is formed of two subordinate cycles or series of characters, one of ten and the other of twelve, which are joined together so as to afford sixty different combinations. The names of the characters in the cycle of ten, which are called celestial signs, are—
|1. Keă; 2. Yĭh; 3. Ping; 4. Ting; 5. Woo;|
6. Ke; 7. Kăng; 8. Sin; 9. Jin; 10. Kwei;
and in the series of 12, denominated terrestrial signs,
|1. Tsze; 2. Chow; 3. Yin; 4. Maou; 5. Shin; 6. Sze;|
7. Woo; 8. We; 9. Shin; 10. Yew; 11. Seŭh; 12. Hae.
The name of the first year, or of the first day, in the sexagenary cycle is formed by combining the first words in each of the above series; the second is formed by combining the second of each series, and so on to the tenth. For the next year the first word of the first series is combined with the eleventh of the second, then the second of the first series with the twelfth of the second, after this the third of the first series with the first of the second, and so on till the sixtieth combination, when the last of the first series concurs with the last of the second. Thus Keă-tsze is the name of the first year, Yĭh-Chow that of the second, Keă-seŭh that of the eleventh, Yĭh-hae that of the twelfth, Ping-tsze that of the thirteenth, and so on. The order of proceeding is obvious.
In the Chinese history translated into the Tatar dialect by order of the emperor K’ang-hi, who died in 1721, the characters of the cycle begin to appear at the year 2357 B.C. From this it has been inferred that the Chinese empire was established previous to that epoch; but it is obviously so easy to extend the cycles backwards indefinitely, that the inference can have very little weight. The characters given to that year 2357 B.C. are Keă-shin, which denote the 41st of the cycle. We must, therefore, suppose the cycle to have begun 2397 B.C., or forty years before the reign of Yao. This is the epoch assumed by the authors of L’Art de vérifier les dates. The mathematical tribunal has, however, from time immemorial counted the first year of the first cycle from the eighty-first of Yao, that is to say, from the year 2277 B.C.
Since the year 163 B.C. the Chinese writers have adopted the practice of dating the year from the accession of the reigning emperor. An emperor, on succeeding to the throne, gives a name to the years of his reign. He ordains, for example, that they shall be called Ta-te. In consequence of this edict, the following year is called the first of Ta-te, and the succeeding years the second, third, fourth, &c., of Ta-te, and so on, till it pleases the same emperor or his successor to ordain that the years shall be called by some other appellation. The periods thus formed are called by the Chinese Nien-hao. According to this method of dating the years a new era commences with every reign; and the year corresponding to a Chinese date can only be found when we have before us a catalogue of the Nien-hao, with their relation to the years of our era.
For Hindu Chronology, see the article under that heading.
Bibliography.—In addition to the early Greek writings already named, there are the forty books (some fifteen only extant in their entirety) of universal history compiled (about 8 B.C.) by Diodorus Siculus, and arranged in the form of annals; the Pentabiblos of Julius Africanus (about 220–230 A.D.); the treatise of Censorinus entitled De die natali, written 238 A.D.; the Chronicon, in two books, of Eusebius Pamphili, bishop of Caesarea (about 325 A.D.), distinguished as the first book of a purely chronological character which has come down to us; and three important works forming parts of the Corpus Scriptorum Historiae Byzantinae, namely, the Chronographia of Georgius Syncellus (800 A.D.), the Chronographia of Johannes Malalas (9th century), and the Chronicon Paschale.
Among works on Chronology, the following, which are arranged in the order of their publication, have an historical interest, as leading up to the epoch of modern research:—
1583. De Emendatione Temporum, by Joseph Scaliger, in which were laid the foundations of chronological science.
1603. Opus Chronologicum, by Sethus Calvisius.
1627. De Doctrina Temporum, by Petavius (Denis Petau), with its continuation published in 1630, and an abridgment entitled Rationarium Temporum, in 1633–1634.
1650. Annales Veteris et Novi Testamenti, by Archbishop Ussher, whose dates have by some means gained a place in the authorized version of the Bible.
1651. Regia Epitome Historiae Sacrae et Profanae, by Philippe Labbe, of which a French version was also published.
1669. Institutionum Chronologicarum libri duo, by Bishop Beveridge.
1672. Chronicus Canon Aegyptiacus, Ebraicus, et Graecus, by Sir John Marsham.
1687. L’Antiquité des temps rétablie et défendue, by Paul Pezron, with its Defense, 1691.
1701. De Veteribus Graecorum Romanorumque Cyclis, by Henry Dodwell.
1728. The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms amended, by Sir Isaac Newton, remarkable as an attempt to construct a system on new bases, independent of the Greek chronologers.
1738. Chronologie de l’histoire sainte, by Alphonse des Vignolles.
1744. Tablettes chronologiques de l’histoire universelle, by N. Lenglet-Dufresnoy.
1750. The first edition in one vol. 4to of L’Art de vérifier les dates, which in its third edition (1818–1831) appeared in 38 vols. 8vo, a colossal monument of the learning and labours of various members of the Benedictine Congregation of Saint-Maur.
1752. Chronological Antiquities, by John Jackson.
1754. Chronology and History of the World, by John Blair; new edition, much enlarged (1857).
1784. A System of Chronology, by Playfair.
1799. Handbuch der Geschichte der Staaten des Alterthums, by A. H. L. Heeren.
1803. Handbuch der alten Geschichte, Geographie, und Chronologie, by G. G. Bredow, with his Historische Tabellen.
1809–1814. New Analysis of Chronology, by William Hales.
1819. Annales Veterum Regnorum, by C. G. Zumpt.
1821. Tableaux historiques, chronologiques, et géographiques, by Buret de Longchamps.
1824–1834. Fasti Hellenici, and 1845–1850, Fasti Romani, by H. Fynes Clinton. Epitomes of these elaborate works were published, 1851–1853.
1825–1826. Handbuch der mathematischen und technischen Chronologie, by Christian Ludwig Ideler; and his Lehrbuch der Chronologie, (1831).
1833. The Chronology of History, by Sir Harris Nicolas.
1852. Fasti Temporis Catholici, by Edward Greswell; and by the same author (1854), Origines Kalendariae Italicae; and 1862, Origines Kalendariae Hellenicae.
More modern works are the Encyclopaedia of Chronology, by B. B. Woodward and W. L. R. Cates (1872); and J. C. Macdonald’s Chronologies and Calendars (1897). But see the separate historical articles in this work. (W. L. R. C.)