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PostPosted: Mon Jun 18, 2012 8:16 pm    Post subject: Time in Japan: Western Solar Calendars Reply with quote
Welcome to the seventh thread of the Time in Japan series. An introduction to the series and a list of previous threads can be found here. With this thread I intend to move from discussing how years were specified, to discussing how days within a year were specified, the calendar proper.

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Read ye, read ye! (達): 5th year, 11th month, 9th day. No. 337
This is to inform you that it has been decreed there shall presently be a calendar change, explained in the accompanying Imperial rescript.

By order of the Imperial Cabinet 太政官 Daijôkan:
一、 The lunar calendar will be abolished and the solar calendar will be promulgated. Therefore, the coming 3rd day of the 12 month shall be Meiji 6, 1st month, 1st day (明治六年一月一日)….
一、 One year shall consist of 365 days divided into twelve months, and one leap day shall be inserted every four years.
一、Hitherto, the hours of nights and days have been of different lengths, but from now on, one full day, that is day and night, shall be divided into twenty-four equal hours. From the Hour of the Rat to the Hour of the Horse shall be twelve hours, called am (午前), and from the Hour of the Horse to the Hour of the Rat shall be called pm (午後).
一、 The time gongs shall observe the above starting with the coming 1st day of the 1st month…..
Note that for time, from henceforth "何字" shall be  ”何時”.
Observances held on a certain month and day in the old calendar shall be held on that month and day in the new calendar.
…………..
The 1st month, a long month 大 of 31 days, shall start on the old mizunoe-saru 壬申year, 12th month, 3rd day.
The 2nd month, a short month 小 of 28 days, shall start on the old mizunoto-tori 1st month, 4th day.
In leap years it shall be 29 days.
The 3rd month, a long month of 31 days, shall start on the old 2nd month, 3rd day....

The 7th month, a long month of 31 days, shall start on the old 6th month, 7th day.
The 8th month, a long month of 31 days, shall start on the old intercalary 6th month, 9th day.
The 9th month, a short month of 30 days, shall start on the old 7th month, 10th day....
The 12th month, a long month of 31 days, shall start on the 10th month, the 12th day


…….
[Unlike the lunar calendar,] whether a month is long or short will not change from year to year.

Time:  0 am (that is 12 pm ) 午前零時 即午後十二字(sic) (shall be at) the Hour of the Rat 子刻
1 o'clock, half way through the Hour of the Rat 一時 子半刻
2 o'clock, the Hour of the Rat 二時 丑刻…

12:00, the Hour of the Horse 十二時 午刻
1 o'clock pm, half-way through the Hour of the Horse 午後一時 午半刻
2 o'clock, the hour of the sheep...

[with a roll of drums and clappers] The above is decreed! 右之通定メラレ候 (Hirose Hideo, Koyomi, p. 96-97, also in the Meiji 5 lawbook)
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Japan was hardly the first country to make the change from a lunar to a solar calendar. Most cultures that we know about originally used a lunar calendar, but now most countries use the solar Gregorian calendar as at least one of their official calendars. But the earliest country by far to adopt a solar calendar was Egypt.

Q1 What countries do you know that now have official calendars other than or besides the Gregorian?

Q2 What are some advantages of the Gregorian calendar?

Q3 What are some advantages of any particular non-Gregorian calendar(s)?
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 19, 2012 3:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
The Hebrew calendar is, along with the Gregorian calendar, an official calendar in Israel. Even national holidays that are modern inventions (rather than part of historical religious tradition), such as Israel Independence Day and Holocaust Remembrance Day, are pinned to a date on the Hebrew calendar, and shift around each year on the Gregorian calendar.

I wouldn't be surprised if something similar goes for most Muslim countries.

The key advantage to the Gregorian calendar that comes to mind immediately off-hand is the ability to coordinated with the rest of the world. Lunar calendars can be regular enough to allow the length of months, when certain events will fall, etc. to be calculated out for any year in the past or future; for example, I could tell you when Passover or Hannukah, always the same dates on the Hebrew calendar, will land on the Gregorian calendar 50 years from now, or 500 years from now. But internal consistency in that doesn't help when trying to communicate and coordinate with other countries as to when something happened or will happen. Shared calendar systems (and an agreed upon official time across the country and around the world) is essential to conducting business.

The Gregorian calendar also means that certain months or dates will line up with the seasons, the solstices & equinoxes, the lengthening & shortening of days, better than under a lunar calendar. Even with allowances for climate/weather variations, as it certainly does get colder or get warmer sooner or later every day, by just purely natural variation, events pinned to Gregorian dates tend to more regularly occur within the same season, as compared to those which are pinned to lunar dates. By which I mean to say, it may be warmer one Christmas, or snowier another Christmas, but every year Christmas still occurs roughly 4-5 days after the winter solstice, and early in the winter season. By contrast, Hannukah, pinned to begin on the 25th of Kislev, sometimes occurs in November (solidly in autumn), and sometimes as late as after the winter solstice (possibly cold, possibly snowy, depending of course also on where you live).

I imagine something similar happened with the Japanese lunar calendar. Today, with some allowance for year-to-year natural variation, the cherry blossoms always bloom right around the same time of year - end of March, beginning of April. But where would that fall on a lunar calendar that sometimes begins in late December and sometimes in early or mid-February, shifting by as much as six or eight weeks relative to the seasons?

This shifting must have wreaked havoc on attempts to know how long each of the 12 hours of the day should be... Any given day on the solar calendar is always pretty much the same length as it was the previous year, based on its distance from the solstices and equinoxes. December 20th or 21st will always be the shortest day of the year, and January 7th will always have that much more daylight. But how much daylight does one get on the 20th day of the 12th month, or the 7th day of the 1st month, on a lunar calendar? It would shift from year to year.
Though they obviously did have a system for it.

The Muslim calendar has no leap days or leap months, so it drifts across the seasonal year; Ramadan, and indeed any/every Muslim holiday I guess, can therefore occur any time of year. In some senses, I suppose this matter of which season your holidays occur in makes little impact upon serious matters such as the coordinating of dates for business purposes, but, even so, in terms of culture & lifestyle, it's a big deal.

...

As for advantages to a non-Gregorian calendar, hmm. The key thing that comes to mind is simply the idea of consistency across time, in terms of not switching calendars. If Japan still observed things on the lunar calendar, older dates would feel a lot less strange, and would more understandable / understood. Also, holidays that are now pinned to the Gregorian dates (e.g. 4/4, 5/5, 7/7) would perhaps make more sense as to the natural phenomena they're connected to. Do Altair and Vega actually meet across the Milky Way on July 7? Or are they more visibly doing so on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month?

I guess the key advantage to a lunar calendar is that one can look up at the moon and more easily know what time (day) of the month it is.

I'm sure there are important things I'm overlooking. I look forward to seeing what other advantages & disadvantages others suggest.
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 19, 2012 4:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
lordameth wrote:
By which I mean to say, it may be warmer one Christmas, or snowier another Christmas, but every year Christmas still occurs roughly 4-5 days after the winter solstice, and early in the winter season. By contrast, Hannukah, pinned to begin on the 25th of Kislev, sometimes occurs in November (solidly in autumn), and sometimes as late as after the winter solstice (possibly cold, possibly snowy, depending of course also on where you live).


At least north of the equator. South of the equator, the winter solstice is happening in...hmmm, two days or so.
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 19, 2012 4:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Oh, right. Duh. Sorry.
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 19, 2012 7:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Well, just looking around the net, I see that the Hijiri (Islamic), Hindu, Julian, Chinese, and Hebrew calendars are still used-most of these for religious purposes. In practical usage, the Persian calendar is still used in Iran and Ethiopia still uses its own calendar.

Then of course, there's the concept of a fiscal calendar, which those of you who work with the US Government will be familiar with. Our 'fiscal year' stops at September 30th and the next one starts October 1st (although it used to be July to June). My feeling is that this was done to keep those all important blowhards in Congress and the Senate from having to do any real work during the Christmas holidays when trying to finalize a budget.

There are also 'reform' calendars out there making the rounds-like the "World Calendar", which uses a 31-30-30 three month cycle (with two intercalary days, one being 'Worldsday' at the end of the year and a leapyear day at the end of June every four years).

Meth's points about the advantages of disadvantages are good. I'd add that one perceived disadvantage of the Gregorian calendar is that it disrupts religious celebrations of some religions.
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 20, 2012 9:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Tatsunoshi wrote:
Then of course, there's the concept of a fiscal calendar, which those of you who work with the US Government will be familiar with. Our 'fiscal year' stops at September 30th and the next one starts October 1st (although it used to be July to June). My feeling is that this was done to keep those all important blowhards in Congress and the Senate from having to do any real work during the Christmas holidays when trying to finalize a budget.


Veering off the topic, but since you brought up fiscal calendars, I'll remind everyone that Japan's fiscal year ends March 31 and begins April 1st. This isn't just a fiscal calendar like in the US for business and government budgeting, but affects all sorts of things: it's generally when the school year "ends" and a new one "begins", the new fiscal year is when companies hire new employees, leading to sightings of Shinnyuushain all over the metropolitan area every April, and when the military does most of it's post transfers. I'm complaining about moving and I've known for almost a year; the JSDF personnel frequently find out the last week of March that they'll be reporting to some new place across the country in the first week of April!
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 20, 2012 3:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Happy June Solstice Day!
(I wouldn't want Heron to think I consider her a second-class citizen!)

Thank you for your answers. Yes, various calendars are still in use.

Israel uses both the Gregorian and the Jewish calendars. I think Saudia Arabia officially uses only the Islamic calendar. Of course, the Islamic calendar is used both officially and non-officially along with Gregorian in many countries. China still uses the lunar calendar for many holidays.
There is also a type of solar calendar based on Indian traditions. The starts of the months are determined like the solar terms of the Chinese solar year, which I will discuss in a later thread. Variations are used in Iran, Afghanistan, India, and Nepal, which apparently has the most conservative variation. Besides there are various Indian lunar religious calendars.
Orthodox churches usually use the Julian calendar for their liturgical year. The Ethiopian calendar is a variation on the Coptic calendar, which was derived from the Egyptian calendar, which I shall discuss next.

lordameth wrote:
I could tell you when Passover or Hannukah, always the same dates on the Hebrew calendar, will land on the Gregorian calendar 50 years from now, or 500 years from now.
Maybe you could, but it wouldn't be easy unless you had a computer program for it. Furthermore, that is assuming it has not made changes to correct the seasonal drift. I will discuss the seasonal drift in the western calendars below, and the seasonal drift in the Hebrew calendar when I discuss the Metonic Cycle (章), which is important also in the Chinese calendar. But in about 500 years the drift of the Hebrew calendar will be about another 4 days.

Cherry blossoms in Tokyo are almost always at some stage of opening on April 8, the first day of school, but as you say, the dates would have changed much from year to year under the lunar calendar. Published Chinese and pre-Meiji Japanese calendars, even extremely abbreviated ones, usually include the dates of the 24 solar terms (equinoxes, etc.). At least in the Edo period, full calendars included the lengths of the hours at the different seasons.

lordameth wrote:
Do Altair and Vega actually meet across the Milky Way on July 7? Or are they more visibly doing so on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month?
As they are fixed stars, I doubt anyone has seen them meet on 7/7 by either calendar. But at least the couple has a better chance weather-wise by the lunar calendar.

ltdomer98 wrote:
I'll remind everyone that Japan's fiscal year ends March 31 and begins April 1st. This isn't just a fiscal calendar like in the US for business and government budgeting, but affects all sorts of things: it's generally when the school year "ends" and a new one "begins", the new fiscal year is when companies hire new employees, leading to sightings of Shinnyuushain all over the metropolitan area every April, and when the military does most of it's post transfers. I'm complaining about moving and I've known for almost a year; the JSDF personnel frequently find out the last week of March that they'll be reporting to some new place across the country in the first week of April!
That is absolutely right. Almost all organizations start the business year on April 1, even the neighborhood groups 町内会. This means, for instance, that Jan.-March of 2012 年 is in 2011年度. Likewise, the class of 2012 won't graduate till March 2013. Sometimes I have trouble remembering whether a certain event was/will be in March X年 or March X 年度. Sudden moves are bad, but isn't is better to have a move the beginning of April than the beginning of January?

Advantages of a lunar calendar? You have better tidal information. The 19-20th a typhoon went through Japan. They were especially worried about Tohoku coastal areas, which had been weakened by the earthquake. Furthermore, it was expected around the time of a high and furthermore a spring tide. Looking at a calendar that marks the old calendar, I saw that the 20th was 5/1, so the new moon, which together with the full moon is a time of the highest tides of the month. And one of the high tides is early in the morning then. But, a western calendar with the lunar quarters will give you the same information. (They didn't report much damage in the Tohoku area, fortunately.)

Tatsunoshi wrote:
I'd add that one perceived disadvantage of the Gregorian calendar is that it disrupts religious celebrations of some religions.
Of course, any change in any calendar will cause some trouble. When the calendar in Japan started taking care of the seasonal drift, they had trouble with one of the court rituals for centuries. I will discuss that later.

None of you mentioned a major advantage of the Gregorian calendar, presumably because it is so obvious. With only a few seconds of thought I know that the Gregorian calendar exactly 500 years from now will have the same number of days in each month that it has this year. How long does it take you to figure out the number of days in the second and third months of the Jewish calendar 500 or or even 5 years from now? Also, thinking backwards as historians, we don't have to do long computations or comb back into diaries of European nobility like we have to comb back into the diaries of Japanese nobility to be sure of the length of months in their calendar. Very Happy
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2012 4:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Egyptian Calendar

The simplest calendar in general use, as well as the one longest used without change, must be the ancient Egyptian civil calendar. It had 12 months, all of 30 days, divided into three seasons, followed by five extra epagomenal days, for a total of a year of 365 days. This was followed century after century with no change.

As we can tell from the hieroglyph for "month," Egypt originally had a lunar calendar which continued to be used for some ritual purposes. The New Year's Day of this calendar, though, occurred on the "Rising of (the star) Sirius," the day when that bright star, after a period of being hidden behind the sun, first rose shortly before the sun and was visible in the dawn (called the heliacal rising of Sirius). This is near July 19-20, Julian calendar. It is usually assumed it was chosen as New Year's Day because this happened around the time of year of the rising of the Nile, an event on which Egyptian life depended.

But sometime around 2800 BC, during the Old Kingdom,the "civil calendar" of 365 days developed. This was probably based on the observation that there were usually 365 days between Risings of Sirius. Perhaps they thought that the Rising would thus always be on the same calendar day. However, the average period between two Risings of Sirius (a Sothic year) is not 365 days long, but almost exactly 365 1/4 (*). In a decade or so the Egyptians must have realized that the rising of Sirius was moving with respect to the civil calendar New Years Day (if they had not known even before they started), but they liked their calendar so much that it was not changed, even despite an official edict, until Caesar Augustus forced them to almost 3 millennia later. However, though they had a 365-day civil calendar, they continued to celebrate the Rising of Sirius on the day Sirius became visible. So, the Rising would be the same civil day for 4 years, and then it would move by one day.
Of course, the solar year was not exactly 365 days long either, so together with the slipping of the Rising of Sirius with respect to the civil calendar, there was an almost identical slipping of the seasons. (Of course, we moderns normally say on the other hand that the Egyptian civil calendar slipped with respect to the seasons.) In the long course of Egyptian history there are some references in the records to suffering from the heat during the "winter" months, or the problems of shipping with the low water of the "inundation" season. Also references to the Sirius festival throughout the centuries are in different civil months.

However, in a normal lifetime there would be less than two week's slippage between the calendar and the seasons, so there was no trouble adjusting to it. The seasons slipped through the centuries, and eventually they came back to where they started and there was a year when the the Rising of Sirius was on the civil New Year's Day again for four years. This "Sothic cycle" was well-known by classical writers. Ptolemy, whose work ruled western astronomy until the time of Newton, used the simple Egyptian calendar as the basis for his calculations.

Q4 Was the Rising of Sirius moving earlier or later with respect to the civil calendar?

Q5
Assuming that every four years the Rising moved exactly one day, how many civil years would it take for the civil new year to go the round of the seasons and match up with the Rising again? How many Sothic years would that be? This is called the Sothic Cycle.

Q6 What is the relationship between the Sothic years and the years of the Julian calendar (a leap year every four years)?

Edit addition:
* A solar (tropical) year is about 365.2422 days long; the sidereal year, that is the round of the stars, is about 365.2563 days long. But Sirius is close enough to earth that it has a proper motion of its own against the stars, and its year is 365.2513 days long, so almost exactly the average length of a Julian year. (These figures were slightly different 5 millennia ago.) But of course the difference between these three was not known until much later.


Last edited by Bethetsu on Wed Jun 27, 2012 2:41 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2012 1:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Bethetsu wrote:
Q4 Was the Rising of Sirius moving earlier or later with respect to the civil calendar?

Q5
Assuming that every four years the Rising moved exactly one day, how many civil years would it take for the civil new year to go the round of the seasons and match up with the Rising again? How many Sothic years would that be? This is called the Sothic Cycle.

Q6 What is the relationship between the Sothic years and the years of the Julian calendar (a leap year every four years)?


4-The Rising of Sirius would be getting later in respect to the civil calendar.

5-Based on the info you supplied, 1461 civil years

365.25 (days of the 'Sothic Calendar')/.25 (the difference between it and the civil calendar)=1461

6-the Julian years and 'Sothic' years match up, at least at the end of each four years-they both averaged 365.25 days in a year (Julian calendar, like the Egyptian civil calendar, would use 365 days for three years but then add a leap day every fourth year)
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 27, 2012 3:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Yes, you are right.

Now, the Sothic cycle is not of interest only to calendar nerds. It it of extreme importance to all historians of the ancient world.

In order to connect ancient Egypt with Japan, for the next few questions, I will use the "fill in the blank" method used in the mathematics section of Japanese entrance exams (which means if you miss the first answer, you miss all of them). Please copy the whole paragraph and put your answers within the "bold" brackets. For example:
The Rising of Sirius stayed on the same day of the civil calendar for Q51 years.
becomes
The Rising of Sirius stayed on the same day of the civil calendar for 4 years.



According to the Roman Censorinus, the Rising of Sirius fell on the first day of the Egyptian civil year in 139 AD (Julian), and some coins imply that it stayed on that day till 142, so 139 AD was the beginning of the Sothic cycle. Therefore the previous cycle began over a millennium earlier in the Julian year Q7 BC, and the cycle before it would have been in Q8 BC. It is usually assumed that the use of the civil calendar began around the time of this date, early in the dynastic period.That is when the season names would have matched reality, and it is around the time when writing and the 365-day calendar are first attested.

---------------------
"How to date a Pharaoh"
Because of lack of data we cannot get fixed dates for most Egyptian dynasties by just working backwards from the present. Much of Egyptian chronology was built up by looking at references within dynastic records, for example, by finding the highest reign year of each ruler. But of course when we try going back over 2000 years before the known dates of the Hellenistic period, there will be a huge margin of error, especially as there were over 20 dynasties and often the temporal relationship between the dynasties is not clear.
In 1904 Eduard Meyer proposed that the movement of the Rising of Sirius with respect to the civil calendar could be used to get some fixed dates in Egyptian history, and though there have been changes, this method is accepted in principle by most Egyptologists. Since I cannot find a good recent discussion, and even more since this is the Ancient Japan, not the Ancient Egypt forum, I will just go through the principle, and afterwards briefly mention some if, and, and buts.

Now, there are a few records that give the date of the Rising of Sirius by the Egyptian calendar, so given that the Rising moves one day every four years, we can calculate their dates.

The most important is a record (Illahun Papyrus) from the 12 dynasty, early in the 2nd millennium, addressed to the staff of the mortuary temple of Sesostris II, saying the feast would be be on the 16th day of the 4th month of the "winter" season, i.e. the 8th month. (Note that the feast was always near July 20 by the Julian calendar, hardly winter.) Now, since there are always 30 days in a month, this date was Q9 days after the civil new year. Since the Rising moved 1 day every four years, this record must be Q10 years after the start of the 3rd millennium cycle in Q11 BC, so the first try would be Q12 BC or one of the following three years. However, as those Q10 years are Egyptian years and in 1981 BC two Egyptian years started, one on the first and one on the last day of the year, by the Julian calendar it would actually be Q13 BC to Q14 BC, so the record should be dated one of those years in theory.
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 27, 2012 3:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Bethetsu wrote:
However, as those Q10 years are Egyptian years and in 1981 BC two Egyptian years started, one on the first and one on the last day of the year, by the Julian calendar it would actually be Q13 BC to Q14 BC, so the record should be dated one of those years in theory.


Before I try this, I just want to clarify this section. What you're saying is that in 1981 BC by the Julian calendar, two Egyptian civil years started (one on the first day of the Julian and another on the last day)...NOT Sothic years. This would make sense because there would of necessity be one year in the Julian calendar during a Sothic cycle that would see the start of two Egyptian civil years (since the Julian was 1460 years and the Civil 1461).
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 27, 2012 8:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Tatsunoshi wrote:
What you're saying is that in 1981 BC by the Julian calendar, two Egyptian civil years started (one on the first day of the Julian and another on the last day)...NOT Sothic years.

Yes. One Egyptian civil year started on Jan. 1, 1981 BC, and the next started just 365 days later. Since 1981 BC (= -1980 astronomical) was a leap year, 365 days later would be Dec. 31, 1981 BC.

(Of course, the Julian date is the proleptic, or historians' calendar as neither the Julian calendar nor BC system existed then. But the Egyptian calendar did exist.)
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 28, 2012 8:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Part One:


"According to the Roman Censorinus, the Rising of Sirius fell on the first day of the Egyptian civil year in 139 AD (Julian), and some coins imply that it stayed on that day till 142, so 139 AD was the beginning of the Sothic cycle. Therefore the previous cycle began over a millennium earlier in the Julian year 1322 BC, and the cycle before it would have been in 2782 BC. It is usually assumed that the use of the civil calendar began around the time of this date, early in the dynastic period.That is when the season names would have matched reality, and it is around the time when writing and the 365-day calendar are first attested."

I'm basing this on a strict 1460 year cycle and since it's the Julian calendar adjusting for no year zero.
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 29, 2012 5:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Yes, good so far.
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 29, 2012 12:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
And part 2. I'm including how I arrived at the number so others can see how they were derived (and also so you can point out where I might have gotten something wrong).


"The most important is a record (Illahun Papyrus) from the 12 dynasty, early in the 2nd millennium, addressed to the staff of the mortuary temple of Sesostris II, saying the feast would be be on the 16th day of the 4th month of the "winter" season, i.e. the 8th month. (Note that the feast was always near July 20 by the Julian calendar, hardly winter.) Now, since there are always 30 days in a month, this date was 225 days after the civil new year. Since the Rising moved 1 day every four years, this record must be 900 years after the start of the 3rd millennium cycle in 2782 BC, so the first try would be 1882 BC or one of the following three years. However, as those 900 years are Egyptian years and in 1981 BC two Egyptian years started, one on the first and one on the last day of the year, by the Julian calendar it would actually be 1883 BC to 1880 BC, so the record should be dated one of those years in theory."

Q9-225 days-(7 months x 30 days) + 16 days -1 day (because you're counting day advancement, not total days)

Q10-900 Years-225 x 4 (each year advances by .25 of a day)

Q11-2782 BC-from my previous answer

Q12-1882 BC-2782 (Q11) - 900 (Q10)

Q13-1883 BC-moving back 1882 (Q12) one year since the 900 civil years saw only 899 Julian years pass

Q14-1880 BC-end of four year 'window' that started in 1883 (Q13)
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 30, 2012 2:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Yes, that is how it works! Very Happy
Now there are a number of questions about this method in practice. One is what latitude the Rising was viewed at to determine the festival at different periods and how close to the sun they could see it. Once a movement of one day/4 years was recognized, did they stick to that or could they change it based on the observation of the previous year? As the astronomical Sothic year was not precisely 365.250 days, what happened when once every 208 years or so the actual rising of the star occurred on the same civil date for five years in a row? Did the leap years mandated by an edict of 242 BC go into effect even a for short time? So it is not completely simple. However, even with such questions, we still do not get very far off the theoretical answer of 1883-1880 BC., and it is a question of years or decades rather than centuries. One major Egyptologist taking into account lunar data in relevant records and astronomical calculations gives 1872 BC for the Illahun Papyrus. (Richard Parker, "The Sothic Dating of the Twelfth and Eighteenth Dynasties," 1977 http://caeno.org/_Nabonassar/pdf/Parker_Sothic%20dating_si.pdf)

Once this date is approximately settled, since the relative chronology of the 12th dynasty is pretty certain, we get dates for the whole dynasty. Similarly, from a Sothic date of the 18th dynasty we get the approximate dates of events of the 18th and the succeeding 19th dynasties. These are particularly important because of Egypt's international relations. We can date the treasure trove of Egyptian diplomatic correspondence written in the few decades when the capital was in Amarna (the Amarna Tablets) to the decades around 1350 BC. One letter is from an Assyrian king whose approximate dates are known from Assyrian king lists, and this matches the period. There are also letters from Babylonian kings who have connections with Assyrian kings, Hittite kings, those from Ugarit and Canaanite cities as Jerusalem and Megiddo, etc., so it gives pegs for many places in the Ancient Near East. We can also date a treaty from the 19th dynasty Ramses II to around 1250 BC, which helps date Hittite documents and the many people they had connections with. (Interestingly, this treaty is known from both Egyptian and Hittite records.) Relative certainty in Egyptian dating thus affects knowledge of history as a whole.
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 19, 2012 4:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
It has been a while since I wrote on this thread. In the meantime we talked about the Japanese daisho calendars 大小暦, which will do to demonstrate a fundamental aspect of lunar calendars--their unpredictability. However, despite the advantage of the solar calendar, no one else in the Ancient Near East used the Egyptian calendar or indeed any solar calendar.
(Of course, perhaps the irregularity did not both most people. For computing rations, work output, etc., accountants used a 30-day month from the earliest writing we have till the end of the Babylonian scribal tradition.)

The next solar calendar I know about is the early Roman calendar, which is not Near East. I am not a classical scholar, and this is not a classical forum, so I will just mention some things about it that I have picked up, though even the classical sources do not always agree among themselves. It is not like the the Egyptian and especially the Mesopotamian situation where we have literally heaps of original documents.

The early Greek calendars generally consisted of 10 lunar months plus a winter period of indeterminate length (i.e. 2 or 3 months long), and apparently the Roman calendar was originally similar. The first month, in the spring, was March, so September through December were the 7th through 10 month, as their name implies.
At some point the number of days in each month became fixed at 31 (the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 8th months) or 30 days (the other months), thus divorcing it from a lunar calendar. During the time of King Numa (about 710 BC) two short winter months (January and February) were added at the end of the year and the 30-day months were changed to 29-day ones. To make up the difference from the solar year, every other year February was made 22 or 23 days longer (or, strictly speaking, an intercalary month was inserted in the middle of February).This insertion was not automatic, but determined by the pontifex maximus.   From Livy's dates for some solar eclipses we know that the calendar could get several months off the theoretical date. It is often said that the pontifices played politics with announcing the intercalary period. (At some time, January was made into the first month, but September, etc. did not change their names, and the intercalary period was still added before March.)

In any case, establishing an exact chronology for early Roman history is difficult, but it is aided by the existence of an eight-day "nundinal cycle," for market days. Like the days of the week or the days of the sexagenary cycle, the dates of the market days change every year and also vary with whether or not there was a previous intercalary period.

Q 15 What is the Ides (L. Idus) of a month? (Try a good dictionary.)

Q 16 What was presumably the original calendrical meaning of Ides?

Q 17 What is the most famous Ides date in history?
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 19, 2012 5:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Bethetsu wrote:
Q 15 What is the Ides (L. Idus) of a month? (Try a good dictionary.)

Q 16 What was presumably the original calendrical meaning of Ides?

Q 17 What is the most famous Ides date in history?


The Ides of a Roman month was usually the 13th of the month, although it was the 15 for March, May, July and October. It was a fixed day, and seems to have been pretty standard throughout-while changes were made to the Roman calendar at times, they seemed to have only affected days after the Ides. Originally the Ides was thought to be the day of the full moon-this would make sense for lunar calendars (which the original Roman calendar was thought to be) since the new moon would fall on the 1st (although there were a few lunar calendars in history that started the month with a full moon).

The most famous Ides is something so famous even I didn't have to look it up-the Ides of March, the day Julius Caesar was assasinated (in 44 BC).
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 20, 2012 4:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Tatsunoshi wrote:

The Ides of a Roman month was usually the 13th of the month, although it was the 15 for March, May, July and October. It was a fixed day, and seems to have been pretty standard throughout-while changes were made to the Roman calendar at times, they seemed to have only affected days after the Ides. Originally the Ides was thought to be the day of the full moon-this would make sense for lunar calendars (which the original Roman calendar was thought to be) since the new moon would fall on the 1st (although there were a few lunar calendars in history that started the month with a full moon).

The most famous Ides is something so famous even I didn't have to look it up-the Ides of March, the day Julius Caesar was assasinated (in 44 BC).
Yes, you are right. But for Q16 can you go further and explain why the Ides alternates between 13th and 15th?


Now, as is well known, Julius Caesar instituted the Julian calendar, which most of us are very familiar with, and has been discussed in previous threads in this class, especially the When? or, What's in a Date? thread. It is generally agreed that he was influenced by acquaintance with the Egyptian calendar during his expedition to that country. He had the advise of astronomers and mathematicians. But instead of just following the Egyptian calendar, with its 5 extra days, he modified the Roman calendar so many months were of their traditional length. The reform took effect in 45 BC, but the leap years at first were not implemented correctly. The great 16th century chronologist Joseph Scaliger established that the Roman calendar matched what we know as the Julian calendar from 4 AD on.

Q18 For the record, give a brief description of the Julian calendar.

The average length of the year in the Julian calendar is 365.25 days. This length is the same found in the Egyptian Canopus decree of 238 BC, which ordered a leap day every four years, apparently without success. But this length does not appear in the Babylonian texts, which correctly give slightly smaller values for the ordinary, or tropical year, in texts after 560 BC. But the 365.25 value may have been largely due to the fact that these were proposals for actual-use calendars.

The Julian calendar is of course of great importance as that used in Europe until 1582 and beyond, but furthermore, it is now the accepted standard for dating for recorded history until that time.

Q19 Years do have to be put into a common system if they are going to be at all comprehensible to others than specialists. But in the thread Reading and Writing Japanese Dates I argued that calendar dates should normally be stated in the Japanese calendar. However, there are clear needs for a standard calendar in history in general. What are some cases where one really needs a standard calendar?
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 21, 2012 1:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Bethetsu wrote:
But for Q16 can you go further and explain why the Ides alternates between 13th and 15th?


Well, I really don't know, but a look at the calendar shows that the months where it was the 15th were all of the months that had 31 days rather than 29 (or 28 ). Since Roman months supposedly worked 'backwards' from the next new moon to determine dates, that would effectively add two days to the Ides in the 'long' months. Somewhat awkward and inaccurate, which likely was a big reason for the introduction of the Julian calendar.

I'll hold off on the other questions since they seem perfect for feedback from other quarters.
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 23, 2012 10:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Bethetsu wrote:
Q18 For the record, give a brief description of the Julian calendar.?


OK, the Julian calendar was a solar based calendar that replaced the standard Roman calendar in 45 BC at the order of Julius Caesar. It was 365 days (as opposed to the 355 days of the old one), added a leap day every four years, and dispensed with the old calendar's intercalary month (which had become a problem, since it was subject to political whims and was actually skipped at times). It was used in much of Europe and North Africa until 1582, when countries began to adopt the Gregorian calendar. The Gregorian calendar adressed the fact that the Julian calendar's average of 365.25 days a year was a few minutes over the actual solar year, but it never compensated for that and gained several days over the centuries.

Bethetsu wrote:
[Q19 Years do have to be put into a common system if they are going to be at all comprehensible to others than specialists. But in the thread Reading and Writing Japanese Dates I argued that calendar dates should normally be stated in the Japanese calendar. However, there are clear needs for a standard calendar in history in general. What are some cases where one really needs a standard calendar?


I can think of several-when comparing the dates of cross-cultural events, when building a timeline for a culture that measured time differently during certain eras, any combination of the two, and for plotting/predicting astonomical events being some.
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 28, 2012 2:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Tatsunoshi wrote:
Bethetsu: can you go further and explain why the Ides alternates between 13th and 15th?
The months where it was the 15th were all of the months that had 31 days rather than 29 (or 28 ). Since Roman months supposedly worked 'backwards' from the next new moon to determine dates, that would effectively add two days to the Ides in the 'long' months. Somewhat awkward and inaccurate, which likely was a big reason for the introduction of the Julian calendar.
Yes, I think that is the key to the alteration. I haven't read up on this, but here is my reconstruction.
First, ides was the full moon, taken to be 16 days before the next new moon.
When the 31/30-day month solar calendar developed, it was presumably reinterpreted as the 16th day before the first of the next month, or the 15th or 14th of the month.
Under King Numa's calendar of 31/29-day months, the classical Roman calendar, it was still the 16th day before the next month, so you get it on the 15th or 13th.
However, I don't think the Julian calendar helped any, because the Ides was still on either the 15th or the 13th. But, while before it was always 16 days before the start of the next month, now it could be anywhere from 15 to 18 days before.

Thank you for your description of the Julian calendar. One fact you did not mention, though, presumably because you took it for granted, is that except for the leap day, months stay the same length every year. This is important. There are solar 365/66-day calendars, though not Western solar calendars, where the month lengths are not fixed and so there is no leap day. One is even an official national calendar. They will probably come up in the Chinese Solar Year thread.

Now, lets not forget about the Egyptian calendar. About 25 BC Augustus forced them to add a leap day at the end of the year every fourth year to keep it alined with the Julian calendar, and this Calendar (12 30-day months + 5/6 days) is generally known as the Alexandrian calendar, or, since it continued to be used by the Egyptian Coptic church, the Coptic calendar. A version with the same structure is the official calendar of Ethiopia.

However, the classical Egyptian calendar was hardly forgotten. Ptolemy used it in his astronomical work the Almagest that was the fundamental astronomical text till Newton, as it was easy to compute. Importantly, he gave the reigns of various rulers in the Egyptian calendar. Joseph Scaliger in 1583 suggested using the Julian calendar with its leap year instead of the Egyptian calendar. Since he was writing for historians, not astronomers, the slightly greater difficulty in computing the number of days was outweighed by the convenience of continuity with history where the Julian calendar was the one in use, and of course it is still used.

The use of BC dates is different. As mentioned in an earlier thread, the first actual use of continuous year dates was the Selcuid dynasty starting in 311. But Ptolemy used artificial eras--the Era of Nabonassar (which began with the start of the Egyptian year in 747 BC) and the Era of Phillip (324 BC), with the months of the Egyptian calendar. Scaliger replaced it with an epoch of Jan 1, 4713 BC, which was the start of several different cycles and well before any writing. Apparently BC (negative) dating came into real use in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Of course that meant that AD dates could keep their name.

However, when calculating using BC dates some cautions are necessary. One, of course, is that there is no 0 year, so, for instance, 1 BC, 5 BC, 9 BC, etc. are leap years in the proleptic Julian calendars. This also comes up in figuring out sexagenary years and the space between BC and AD years. This is why using "astronomical years", for example -11 for 10 BC can be helpful.
However, there is another matter one has to be careful of in all negative dates. Try answering this question quickly: If a siege starts in December 589 BC and ends in July 587 BC, how long did it last? Be careful. The book that I got this example from got it wrong.
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2012 6:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Bethetsu wrote:
Try answering this question quickly: If a siege starts in December 589 BC and ends in July 587 BC, how long did it last? Be careful. The book that I got this example from got it wrong.


19-20 months, right? Just out of curiousity, what book got it wrong and what number did it use?
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2012 8:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Tatsunoshi wrote:
Bethetsu wrote:
Try answering this question quickly: If a siege starts in December 589 BC and ends in July 587 BC, how long did it last? Be careful. The book that I got this example from got it wrong.


19-20 months, right? Just out of curiousity, what book got it wrong and what number did it use?
It said "over two years." Apparently he subtracted July 587 from December 589, which is why I brought it up. BC Years are negative, but the months are positive. Systems like Julian years do not have this problem.

It is only vaguely related, but I personally have a hard time with the use of centuries. If someone says "The Kamakura Period started in the 12th century," I would have to think about it. The 1100's are the 12th century. And of course, BC is worse. For example 710 BC is near the end of the 8th century (BC)!
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 02, 2012 3:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
A little OT here, but there's an interesting discussion over at the PMJS list about the nature of the Japanese lunar calendar and converting it into Western dates along with the history of certain chronological tables. One point they make (which we've obviously covered here in different topics) is that Japanese nengo usually overlap two Western years. However, they seem to believe that Western years should be known by both of the associated nengo (and vice versa)-such as

"Tenpyou 19 was actually 747/748, Tenpyou 20 was 748/749, Tenpyou 21 was only the first four and a half months of 749, Tenpyou Kampou was only about 4 months of 749, Tenpyou Shouho 1 straddled 749/750, Tenpyou Shouho 2 straddled 750/751, Tenpyou Shouhou 3 straddled 751/752..."

This is opposed to what seems to be the accepted convention-associating a nengo with the Western year in which they overlap more. We discussed the drawbacks of doing it the other way in a couple of our threads as well.

Here's the opening thread of the conversation, although I believe you'll need to be a member of PMJS to access it:

http://tinyurl.com/9xsst3o
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