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 Dying for a date.

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PostSubject: Dying for a date.   Sun Sep 28, 2008 6:01 pm

Not exactly a thread about my current desperation but rather one on a very interesting case in history.

When Caesar, in 45 BC in his capacity as Pontifex Maximus, had designed a new calendar for general use throughout the republic, he did of course make one fatal, yet understandable error. It had calculated the length of a year as being 365 days and 6 hours. Unfortunately, he had rather optimistically reduced the extended the length of the year by eleven minutes and 14 seconds. This lead to a general drift so that by the later middle ages it had become noticeable to catholics desperate to establish the exact date of the vernal equinox in order to discern a date for Easter, that the equinoxes were occuring on the wrong dates, the argument was so successful that it had convinced Caesar's successor as Great bridge-builder to institute a reform, and as such the Gregorian calendar was constituted, and proscribed by the Pope in his papal bull Inter gravissimas to be adopted in all civil and ecclesiastical institutions in Europe. The bull itself, in order to account for the drift of days which had occurred since the vernal equinox was established as the base date for Easter in Nicaea in 355, required ten days (given the constant drift, the discrepancy of course would later increase) to be deleted from the calendar. Thus the 5th October, the Julian-based date on which the calendar was proscribed to be adopted, had now become the 15th of October by Gregorian reckoning.

Nothing new of record there, you say to yourself, why is he posting this shite we have all heard before.

There was a problem with the calendar, a problem not based on mathematical inaccuracy or ineptitude at accurately measuring the length of the solar year. The problem of course, was that it came directly from Gregory XIII himself, and although most protestants, who had also noticed the drift in the vernal equinox, understood the reasons for the change and the sensibility behind it, they could not brook adopting the system at the behest of a Catholic anti-christ. This of course occurred during the lull in Europe as a result of the peace of Westphalia, which although prevented warfare between Catholic and Protestant powers, had produced a massive stalemate and almost 100 year long cold war, only to be minorly interrupted by local conflicts such as the Anglo-Spanish war, which were mercifully contained. Queen Elizabeth, for instance, was said to be broadly in favour of the change, but it was anathema to the Arch-Bishop of canterbury that they should cosy up to the Pope in Rome. Therefore, although the calendar reform was adopted throughout Catholic Europe, it would be nearly a hundred years or more before it started making headway in the Julian-dominated protestant areas.

However, there were complexities. What was to happen in areas like Ireland, and Bohemia, which all were run by princes of one religion, the majority held another. This of course was a result of the Treaty of Westphalia which stated that the religion of the prince of a nation, should determine the religion of the nation itself. Therefore, in Bohemia, the Holy Roman Emperor would decide to adopt the Gregorian calendar, against the will of its inhabitants, but in Ireland, Queen Elizabeth rejected it, despite her broadly Irish subjects being in favour.

However, another spanner was added to the works. In Ireland, the great rebellions of the latter part of the 16th century were fomenting, and catholicism had become an important tool in such a fight. Thus in 1584, a curious anomaly was observed by the Queen's officials in the pale. Toirdelbach Luineach Ó Néill and his rival Aodh Ó Néill were seen to celebrate Easter in concert on the 26th of March, old style. Hardly scandalous says you, but this was indeed three weeks before Easter was due to be celebrated according to the Julian calendar. (The reason why it was three weeks before, and not merely ten days, had to do with the availability of Sundays). It appears that in our own particular clash of civilisations, rivalry of two-nations, that dating systems would not be immune. The Irish rebels, as almost a badge of identity and defiance, had adopted the Gregorian calendar . From now on, in their reporting of dates and important events throughout the north, pale officials were at labour to note the discrepency between the dating system in use by the Irish, and the one in use in crown-controlled areas. Indeed, in general correspondence Ó Néill was to use the Irish dating system, i.e. the Gregorian calendar, at was even insolent enough to do so in correspondence with the Queen herself. Further to this, it has been noted that to the English, the Battle of Kinsale had occurred on 24th of December 1601, whereas the Irish had fought it on the 3rd of January 1602, which would be an interesting answer to a table quiz question, and perhaps would have done much to contribute to their morale.

However, with that battle, came the downfall of the gaelic order. The last of the independent Gaelic lordships had gone the way of Roman Republic, private armies were henceforth abolished, and not until the confederates would an independent Irish power be strong enough to rival English hegemony in Ireland. With the downfall of an independent Irish civil administration, one would have imagined the Gregorian system to dissipate to. However, it did not. The primary reason for this may have been that ordinary citizens were very much concerned about practising festivals and holy day on the correct date according to doctrine. One would have considered it heretical to practice Easter on the wrong date for instance. However, this became an indentifier. Anyone who did not adhere to the Julian Calendar, according to the Pale administration, was clearly not loyal to the crown. The calendar differences, which were more entrenched in the North than elsewhere, were exposing catholics as enemies. Persecution was thus made easier. In effect, individuals were being murdered because of the day on which they were holding festivals. They were 'dying for a date' as it were. This eventually led to a petition to the Propaganda Fide, the organisation charged with fostering the spread of Catholicism and with the regulation of Catholic ecclesiastical affairs in non-Catholic countries, by Ulster catholics for a dispensation in using the Calendar. This seems to have been granted by the time of the Ulster rebellion in 1641. It would be 1782 before the Gregorian calendar would be in widespread use in Ireland again.

Much of this was rehashed from the wikipedia article at
and ‘The Pope’s new invention’:
the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in Ireland,

Last edited by riadach on Sun Sep 28, 2008 10:37 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Dying for a date.   Sun Sep 28, 2008 9:55 pm

Fascinating stuff. Real history...

I'm reminded of things I read about the Maya calendar a couple of years ago. Whether Julian or Gregorian, there are flaws with our 7-day-week system, as pointed out by some Maya calendar proponents. I don't mean the flaws in timekeeping -- we have advanced in accuracy -- but our current calendar imposes certain practices, attitudes and interpretations that are, arguably, harmful.

I suppose I have to be prepared to back that up... and I don't really have time now. Maybe someone else can (?).
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