How long has our calendar been around?
We are writing this on 12/26/12 or Wednesday, December 26, 2012. Traditionally understood as two-thousand and twelve years (give or take a few) after Jesus Christ is believed to have been born. But if Jesus used a calendar, it would not have been the one we use.
Our calendar is called the Gregorian calendar and was instituted by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. There are many other calendars. Quite a few societies have used calendars linked to the years their kings ruled. And there are numerous calendars, beyond the Gregorian calendar, that are still in use today. For example, 2012 equates to 1434/35 in the Islamic calendar and 5772-73 in the Jewish calendar (both are lunar, based on the cycles of the moon).
B.C. or B.C.E.?
Many people use the abbreviations B.C. and A.D. with a year (for example, A.D. 2012). B.C. refers to "Before Christ," and the initials, A.D., stand for Anno Domini, which is Latin for "In the year of our Lord." This system was devised by a monk in the year 525.
A more recent system uses B.C.E. which stands for "Before the Common Era" and C.E. for "Common Era." This newer system is now widely used as a way of expressing the same periods as B.C. and A.D., but without the Christian reference. According to this system, we count time backwards Before the Common Era (B.C.E.) and forwards in the Common Era (C.E.).
Often dates will be preceded with a "c." or a "ca." These are abbreviations of the Latin word "circa" which means around, or approximately. We use this before a date to indicate that we do not know exactly when something happened, so c. 400 B.C.E. means approximately 400 years Before the Common Era.
Why 2012 is in the 21st Century
We live in the 21st Century, that is, the 2000s. Similarly when we say "20th Century," we are referring to the 1900s. All this because, according to the calendar we use, the 1st Century included the years 1-100 (there was no year zero), and the 2nd Century, the years 101-200. Similarly, when we say 2nd Century B.C.E. we are referring to the years 200-101 B.C.E.
Within our calendar, we also have a tendency to find portentous meaning in the millennial years, that is, in the years 1000 and more recently, 2000.
Essay by Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker
Want to join the conversation?
- So do we still use AD and BC or is it all BCE and CE now?(10 votes)
- I love art its very cool vote if you agree(16 votes)
- I'm often moved by art, by it's beauty and ability to transport me out of my mundane life into worlds of beauty. That goes for music, dance, speech, poetry, literature and the stuff seen in paintings and statues.(5 votes)
- Which century are we the 20th or the 21st century?(2 votes)
- We're in the twenty-first century. The century will always be one more than the written year (2000 is not the 20th century but the 21st; 1900 is the 20th century) because you have to count the years 0-99 that didn't have a hundreds or a thousands place but was still a century(5 votes)
- which of these calenders was made first ? was it the Gregorian calender or some other can anyone please tell me(3 votes)
- Why do we say ‘eighties’ to express the period 80–89 when it seems to be more logical to express the period 70–79? (By analogy with how we express centuries).(2 votes)
- Actually, we do express centuries in the same way as decades. That's when we say things like "the 1900s", which means the period 1900-1999. If you wanted to refer to a decade in the same manner as "20th century", then you would say "the 9th decade" for 1980-1989.(14 votes)
- If Pope Gregory XIII instituted the Gregorian calendar we use today in 1582, what calendar was the Pope and other parts of Europe using at the time?(3 votes)
- Is there any way to successfully memorize dates for AP Art History?(2 votes)
- How do you define what art is?(2 votes)
- From the author:This has been an ongoing and hotly debated issue for as long as the word "art" developed its current meaning. Art historians and especially philosophers have really tried to nail it down, but every time they get close, an artist comes along who produces work that pushes the meaning of the word in a new and often unexpected direction. Art, being a reflection of our humanity, will continue to change as long as we continue to explore our world and ourselves.(3 votes)
- I am still confused why isn't 2000 called the 20 century and the 1900 19th(1 vote)
- nobody counted 0-100ce as the first century. what we call the first century is really the second century. It's confusing. just add one humdred to the year to get the century term. 2000 is the 21st century. 1800+100 is the 19th century. do you understand?(5 votes)
- For Christians - BC - Before Christ, AD - Anna Domini(the year of our Lord)
For Christians - BCE- Before Christ's Era, CE - Christ's Era
Yes, yes, I know what BCE and CE stand for within the context of the article, but if one MUST attach meaning and be reconciled with it, it can be viewed within the meaning above.(0 votes)
- The "C" in "BCE" and "CE" stands for "common". So it's "Before Common Era" and "Common Era".(6 votes)