Thursday, March 29, 2012

46 BC, the Year of Confusion and Calendars

Every year seems confusing sometimes, but actually “the year of confusion” refers to 46 BC

Until 46 BC the Romans had been using a lunar calendar containing 354 days. Then apparently one day after Julius Caesar began his rule he looked outside and noticed it was the middle of winter even though the calendar showed it was spring.

As all intelligent leaders do, Caesar called on an expert for help. The mathematician Sosigenes determined the solar year to be 365 1/4 days long, and Caesar set up the calendar we use today, the number and length of months, leap year and so on.

In order to get the seasons to mesh with the calendar dates before the new calendar took effect Julius made some changes in 46 BC. He created a year that was 445 days long and contained three extra months, one after February and two between November and December.

And I always thought leap year babies got a bad deal on birthday celebrations. Understandably, this became the year of confusion.

Eventually it was discovered that Sosigenes was off by 11 minutes and 14 seconds. The solar year is just that much shorter than 365 1/4 days. Big deal, right? Although none of us would notice such a minuscule difference in our own life time, that small error did eventually make a noticeable difference. By 1582 the spring equinox fell on March 11 instead of March 21.

This time it was Pope Gregory XIII under the advice of astronomer Christopher Clavius who matched up the seasons with the calendar. To do this the Pope dropped ten days in October. The day after October 4 became October 15.

No one needed to throw a clock out the window to see time fly that year!

So that the error would not repeat itself Pope Gregory XIII decreed the century years should not contain a leap year unless they were divisible by 400. (Yes, the year 2000 did have 29 days on its February calendar, but the year 3000 will not.)

Countries considered to be Catholic adopted the Gregorian calendar right away and others eventually followed. England, for example, started the Gregorian calendar in 1752 by dropping the 11 days it was off. The Chinese adopted it in 1912, the Russians in 1918 and the Rumanians in 1924. Thus, the same event in history may have occurred on different dates.

And I've always found daylight savings time to be a hassle -- :-)

Happiness and Peace...


Fran Shaff, Award-Winning Author

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