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History of the Calendar

Statue of Julius Caesar

Statue of Julius Caesar

Janis Lacis | Dreamstime.com

Prior to the Julian calendar, calendars appeared in many different versions. An Egyptian calendar from approximately the year 3000 B.C. contained 365 days. The ancient Greek civilization used a Metonic calendar "based on the observations of Meton of Athens (ca. 440 BC), which showed that 235 lunar months made up almost exactly 19 solar years."1

The earliest ancient Roman calendar has been linked to Romulus who founded Rome around the year of 753 B.C.2In this ancient calendar, the New Year occurred in March as it was the first month of the original ten month calendar. The ancient Roman calendar was based on lunar and harvest cycles instead of the solar cycle our current calendar is based on. The ten month calendar is where the seemingly awkward names of the last four months of the year comes from (Septem meaning seven, Octem meaning eight, Novem nine and Decem ten).

In the year of 46 B.C., the Julian twelve month calendar began. Julius Caesar "abolished the use of the lunar year and the intercalary month, and regulated the civil year entirely by the Sun."3 Caesar created a calendar of 365 days for three sequential years and the following or fourth year would have 366 days. Caesar's calendar was called the Julian calendar.

Unfortunately, there was a discrepancy in the Julian calendar, one of which, over the years, became more prominent. Astronomers "began to discover the discrepancy between the solar and the civil year; that the vernal equinox did not occupy the place it occupied in the time of Caesar, namely, the 24th of March, but was gradually retrograding toward the beginning of the year, so that at the meeting of the Council of Nice in 325 it fell on the 21st."4 The calendar was losing days.

By the time Gregory became Pope Gregory XIII in 1572, the discrepancy spanned many days. During his years as Pope, he chose to undertake the task of creating a solution to amend the calendar. In March of 1582, Pope Gregory XIII abolished the Julian calendar and replaced it with the Gregorian calendar, named after him. "The edict of the Pope took effect in October [1582] of that year, causing the 5th to be called the 15th of that month, thus suppressing ten days and making the year 1582 to consist of only 355 days."5

As Pope Gregory XIII was the leader of those specifically in the Catholic religion and not leader of civil governments, most countries of the Catholic faith made the calendar change in 1582. Other Catholic countries, such as Germany, made the change in the following year. Non-Catholic countries refused the change to the new Gregorian calendar. "[M]ost of the Protestant countries adhered to the Old Style until after the year 1700. Among the last was Great Britain; she, after having suffered a great deal of inconvenience for nearly two hundred years by using a different date from the most of Europe.."6 Today, there are still many countries who have not adopted the Gregorian calendar. These include "Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Nepal, Iran and Afghanistan. Some countries use other calendars alongside the Gregorian calendar: India, Bangladesh, Israel, and Myanmar; other countries use a modified version of the Gregorian calendar: Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Thailand, Japan, North Korea and Taiwan."7

References

1. Weisstein, Eric W. "Calendar," < http://scienceworld.wolfram.com/astronomy/Calendar.html>, accessed on December 7, 2012.

2. "Roman calendar," Wikipedia, last modified on December 7, 2012, , accessed on December 7, 2012.

3. Packer, Rev. George Nichols, "Our Calendar. The Julian Calendar and Its Errors. How corrected by the Gregorian.", Fred R. Miller Blank Book Co., Williamsport, PA., 1893, [NOOK version], retrieved from Barnes and Noble Nook for PC on December 7, 2012, pg. 18.

4. Ibid, pg. 20.

5. Ibid, pg. 20.

6. Ibid, pg 20.

7. "Gregorian calendar," Wikipedia, last modified on December 12, 2012, , accessed on December 13, 2012.

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