How did they count time before Christ?

Counting the time before Christ was a complicated issue. Generally, communities “reset” the time count each time a leader began his or her term. A widespread custom in both the West and the East. They counted the years from when a pharaoh came to the throne, in the case of the Egyptians. The Romans with the consuls or Caesars, the Spartans with kings, the Athenians with magistrates, and emperors in the case of the Chinese and Japanese.

How they counted the time before Christ

People rarely touched on a subject that went beyond the memories present in the longest-lived generations. Historians had a hard time drawing up chronologies of events. To determine the time elapsed between a historical event and its present, they consulted long tables of kings and added up the years.

Counting time from historical events.

These solutions were exclusive to historians, as they were ignored by the general public. The Greeks used the first Olympiad (776 B.C.) as a reference, dating the years between each sporting event as if it were a reign. For example, thanks to Dionysius of Halicarnassus, we know that the founding of Rome took place “one year before the seventh Olympiad.”

Among the Romans, the custom of writing dates in anno urbis conditae (year from the foundation of Rome in 753 B.C.) became popular. The problem is that not all historians agreed on the date of that foundation.

The Christians themselves got involved in tremendous temporal troubles until it rained down on them in 284. In November of that year, Emperor Diocletian ascended the throne and persecuted them as never before. Eventually, someone proposed counting down the years from this traumatic event. It was a way of forgetting the Caesars, who did so much harm to Christians. The clergy thought it was a good idea, and so the Age of Martyrs came about.

The time since the birth of Christ.

But that’s not all, and centuries later they would mess with the way to count time again. Dionysius Exiguus, a monk living in present-day Romania, expressed his dissatisfaction with counting time from someone as nefarious as Diocletian. This religious proposed to inaugurate a new era from the birth of Jesus. According to the monk’s accounts, 525 years had elapsed until then. No one knows how he counted the years, but he was terribly wrong.

To date, the date of Jesus’ birth is not known for sure, but historical evidence suggests that it happened on December 25, 1 A.D. But, no one noticed the tremendous mistake at the time. Remember how difficult it was to count time from the endless tables of kings.

However, when the year 1000 arrived, a terrible panic broke out in the Middle Ages. In the year 2000, many celebrated the “two millennia of Jesus.” But, the prophet’s birthday had already passed.

The proposal of Dionysius Exiguus took some time to be taken into account. It was not until the year 731, thanks to the preaching of St. Bede the Venerable, that England was the first country to adopt dating. Portugal would be the last of the Christian countries to join the proposal. At that time, the Hispanic Era, which began in 38 B.C., was used. Incredibly, this date is related to the Roman conquest of Hispania.