A dating encyclopedia

06 Feb

The indiction was a cycle of fifteen years, the first of these cycles being conceived to have started at a point three years before the beginning of the present Christian Era.

It was usual to indicate only the position of the year in the current indiction, and no notice was taken of the number of cycles already completed.

Concurrently with the year of the indiction it was customary both in papal and imperial documents to mention the regnal year of the pope or emperor.

As a continuous system of year enumeration the oldest era in practical use appears to have been that known as the "Era of the Martyrs" or "of Diocletian" () was in familiar use in Spain from the fifth century down to late in the Middle Ages.

On the other hand, the last three agree in using the Christian Era and from this time the practice is continuous.

In the intervening year which breaks this series into two parts falls the death of Bede A. 735." Very noteworthy is the decree of an English synod held in 816, wherein it is prescribed that the bishop shall put the acts of the synod into writing and date them by the Era of the Incarnation.

As a rule the charters emanating from the chancery of the Western Emperors are much more liable to this form of error than those of the Holy See (Bresslau, ib., 844). In any case it remains certain and is admitted by all serious writers upon diplomatics that the mere fact that an erroneous date occurs in a document, especially when we are dealing with the earlier Middle Ages, cannot by itself be accepted as a proof, or even a presumption, of the spuriousness of the document.

But even the bulls of such a pontiff as Innocent III are not unfrequently at fault, and as LĂ©opold Delisle has shown, an erroneous calculation of the indiction may be perpetuated through a whole series of authentic documents (Bib. The point of main interest in this connection is to determine the source and period of the introduction of our present system of dating by the Christian Era.