Thomas Russell Wingate
Our inherited calendar can be expected to continue.
Proposals to improve it or discard it will always be with us.
If a reorganization of our ancient alphabetical order were to be commanded, does anyone think it would happen? In a lifetime? Ever?
Our Celsius and Fahrenheit thermometers use negative numbers. (The Kelvin system is designed to avoid them.)
So does our counting of years.
Look at the way we number them. It implies that some moved ◄ although ours move ►.
May of 765 B.C. came before August of 765 B.C. That is ►.
But: 765 B.C. came after 766 B.C. That is ◄.
If this be not confusion, what would confusion have to look like?
Zero has numerical properties and relationships we need not go into here.
From earliest to latest, our numbering of years goes: ◄║ ►.
By convention, ║ is the birth of Christ.
It matters not that ║ was miscalculated in the sixth century.
My point is that for computational purposes, ║ is not a year. It is a moment, like snapping your fingers. The reckoning ►starts then. It makes sense to write: “It rained in New Zealand six hours after ║.” It also makes sense to write: “Shortly before ║, accommodations were scarce in Bethlehem.”
The distance in years from 802◄ through 1948►is the sum of those numbers: 2,750 years.
To repeat once more: There is not, and cannot be, any year numbered zero.
You have seen it written: “the tenth century A.D.” Yet you know perfectly well that Anno Domini means “in the Year of Our Lord,” and how—do feel free to ask this—can a century fit into a year?
The abbreviation C.E. has been coined (in English) to mean “Christian Era” or “Common Era.” By “Common Era” is meant “according to the desacralized global calendar we agree upon if we wish to be understood.” In fine: ►.
This leads to B.C.E. (“Before the Common Era”). In fine: ◄.
I offer a verbal simplification.¹
The Latin prefix retro means backward.
I advance these words: retroyear, retrocentury, retromillennium.
It is still being debated in which retromillennium the Neanderthals died out.
China was unified in retroyear 221. China was unified in retro 221. China was unified in R221.
The third retrocentury (300–201) was followed by the second retrocentury (200–101), which was followed by the end retrocentury(100...–1), which was followed by the first century(+1–100), the second century (101–200), and the third century (201–300). We now live in the twenty-first century (2001–2100) and the third millennium (2001–3000).
Calendars have always been political and cultural markers and bludgeons.
The current attempt to replace A.D. (Latin) and B.C. (English) with almost anything else has an instructive and colorful precedent.
In 1793 the French Republic² did away with the calendar Pope Gregory XIII had decreed in 1582. The new system had twelve months with beautiful names and clear relationships to their seasons. The week had ten days, not seven. The scheme began with the autumnal equinox of 1792. The years were given Roman numerals.
By 1805 the republican calendar was as dead as Herod and Louis XVI.
The Venerable Bede (died 735, canonized 1899) invented ◄║ ►.
Ante Christum natus. Before the birth of Christ. (A.C.N. / a.C.n.)
Post Christum natus. After the birth of Christ. (P.C.N. / p.C.n.)
Years³ may be counted ► from any event.
Anno Hegirae (Hejirae). (A.H.) From Muhammad’s flight. (622 C.E.)
Anno Urbis Conditae. (A.U.C.) In the Year of the Founding of the City (Rome). (753 B.C.E.)
Anno Mundi. (A.M.) In the Year of the World. (5493 B.C.E.)
Anno Lucis. (A.L.) In the Year of Light. (4001 B.C.E.)
A.M. and A.L. are designed to eliminate ◄ from historical dating.
Geologists and paleontologists need larger numbers. They use B.P. (Before the Present = Before 1950).
1 This website is more about language than it is about
anything else. But science seeps into it.
2 See Bits of Measurement on website.
3 Wikipedia reports on lunar years (e.g., Islamic), lunisolar
years (e.g., Hebrew), and solar years (Christian, Roman).