Year 2000 Myth

Why the Year 2000 is still the 20th Century and not the start of the Third Millennium!

The following has been compiled from various sources to explain why we are still in the twentieth century and not as our Politicians and media would have us believe the 21st Century. Although this page was originally compiled prior to the start of the New Millennium I have left it place for historical interest.

Just over 2750 years ago legend decrees a city was founded by a child called Romulus, suckled by a wolf , its inhabitants destined to become rulers of a large section of the known world, this city was Rome and it is upon this date that the original Roman calendar was based.

The year was divided into just 355 days and so there were a few problems compounded by the fact that the college of priests inserted days and months as suited them so that eventually the harvest and vintage festivals no longer fell at the appropriate seasons. The year consisted of twelve full months of approximately 28 days each plus a short month inserted after February. Nothing was done about this situation until the first of the Caesars; Julius (49 – 44BC) came into power.

He re-calculated the entire calendar in 708AUC (46BC) linking it to the course of the sun having 365 days plus an additional day every 4th year and abolished the extra short month. To make the next 1st of January 709 (45 BC) fall at the right season, he lengthened the present year 708AUC (46BC) by two extra months inserted between November and December, so that it consisted of 15 months including the short extra one inserted after February in the old style. This year consisted of a total of 445 days.

Rome 1277AUC (523AD) – John 1st (Pope 523 – 526) charged a Scythian monk Abbot Dionysius Exigius* to recalculate the calendar to tie in with the birth of Jesus.

Dionysius placed the birth of Jesus in the Roman year 753 on the 25th December but started his calendar from the beginning of the Roman New Year January 1st 754 renaming it 1AD (Anno Domini). The previous year was called 1BC (Before Christ) and therefore there was no year zero. This is not a mistake on the part of Dionysius as being a subject of Rome he would have been unable to use zero, since he calculated using the Roman numerals I, V, X, L, C etc. (quite logical as if you count the fingers on your hand you start at one). Our numbering which includes a zero is based on Arabic not Roman numerals.

If you look at the days in a month there is no zero - day 1 is not complete until the start of day 2 exactly the same as the years.

When calculating a person’s age the year of birth is taken as zero so that on reaching one’s first birthday the age of 1 achieved, but with the Roman system the start is at year 1 making the 100th year 101, the 1000th year 1001 and the 2000th year 2001.

According to the Gospel of Luke (Ch2v1) Jesus was born in the reign of Caesar Augustus 31BC – 14AD but no precise details are available as to exact year of birth so quite how Dionysius arrived at the placing of 1AD is unknown. Perhaps he had access to codex/manuscripts that sadly no longer exist.

There are various reasons to suppose that Jesus was born a few years earlier between 7 and 5BC and scholars seem divided on this point. 5BC is favorite the reasoning being that according to the Gospels, Jesus was born some time before the death of Herod the Great. Josephus, the Jewish historian who was born A.D. 37, tells us that Herod died shortly after an eclipse of the moon, which is astronomically fixed at March 12-13, 4 B.C. His death occurred shortly before Passover, which that year fell on April 4. Jesus was born at least some months before Herod's death. Christ's presentation in the temple after he was 40 days old (Lev 12:1-8; Luke 2:22-24) means that the wise men came at least six weeks after his birth. The time spent in Egypt is uncertain, perhaps several months. Thus, the birth of Jesus would seem to be placed in the latter part of the year 5 B.C. There was also a "Super Nova" (Star of Bethlehem?) that year as recorded by the ancient Chinese so we may in theory at least already be several years into the new millennium.

In re-aligning the calendar Dionysius obviously did not notice a small error made by Julius Caesar in the calculations involving leap years and towards the end of the sixteenth century this had amounted to year starting a total of 10 days after the solar start.

The following simple rule had been used to calculate them – if the year was exactly divisible by four (i.e. no remainder) then that year is a leap year and an extra day would be added. This however is not quite accurate and there is a further correction to make regarding centenary years whereby they must be divisible by 400.

Pope Gregory 8th (1572 – 1585 AD) with the astronomer Christopher Clavius solved the problem in 1582 by shortening the month of October 10 days. One unfortunate consequence of this was that the common man thought that his life span had also been shortened by 10 days causing rioting in protest – the assumption being that ones life span was already mapped out. In the then protestant Britain we did not adopt this "Catholic revision" leaving it until 1752 when eleven days had to be lost to fall in line with the continent. Russia was worse still waiting until the 1917 revolution.

Our present calendar is sometimes classified as the Gregorian but is in reality Julian (that devised by the first of the Caesars with adjustments by Dionysius and Gregory 8th)

At the turn of the 19th Century the celebrations were all correctly carried out at the start of 1901 so quite how the mathematics work I do not know (when I was at school there were 100 years in a century not the 99 out present government thinks) still as our present Chancellor and his "tax cuts" cannot do basic arithmetic, this may explain it!

The millennium commission in this country has recognised the fact that that the 21st Century does indeed really start on the 1st January 2001. However as popular opinion felt that the change from 1999 to 2000 was the change form one millennium to the next, and to stay in line with millennium celebrations around the world (why they can't count either, I don't know), they went along with it.

Further reading

"Encyclopedia of the Roman Empire" M.Bunson

"Jesus, the Evidence" Ian Wilson

"Lives of the Popes" Ed. M.J.Walsh

"New Oxford English Dictionary"

"Time in history" G.J.Whitrow

"Twelve Caesars" Suetonius (translation R. Graves)

It is a pity about those people who have been taken in and believe they are the first to have done something in the Twenty First Century - I wonder who were the first couple to be married in the New Millennium.