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Methods of counting time by Romans

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

A drawing showing the passage of time
A drawing showing the passage of time

Ancient Romans used two methods to count the past years.

Either (1) AUC (ab urbe condita – “from the founding of the City”, i.e. 753 BCE) or (2) by referring to the year when the office was held by consuls.

The first method was used with both the Roman and Julian calendars. This system was proposed by Marcus Terentius Varro.

Interestingly, in the 3rd century CE another method of counting time was introduced, proposed by the Church in Alexandria – Anno Diocletiani (CE – referred to as the “Age of Martyrs”, introduced for the accession to the throne of Emperor Diocletian in 284 CE). During the reign of Diocletian, one of the last great persecutions of Christians took place.

This, in turn, was gradually replaced in the 6th century by Anno Domini (CE – counting the time from the birth of Christ), which was proposed by Dionysius the Little.

  • David Ewing Duncan, Historia kalendarza, Warszawa 2002

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