Calendars of Ancient Civilizations I

While most of the countries and cultures around the world rely on the Gregorian calendar, there are many civilizations that once embraced more ancient systems. Over time, their methods of keeping time evolved as they tried to figure out ways to make their calendars more accurate. In this article, you are introduced to a brief history and how the ancient Egyptians kept days.

The History of Calendars in Brief

In 3761 BC, the Jewish calendar begins. The original Chinese calendar started in 2637 BC. The Roman Empire adopts the Julian calendar in 45 BC. The Christian calendar begins in 1 AD. The first appearance of the Hindu calendar is seen in 79 AD. Great Britain embraces the Julian calendar as their own in 597.

In 622, the Islamic calendar starts. In other Catholic countries, the Gregorian calendar is introduced in 1582. The Julian calendar is no longer used , an act that takes place in 1752. Britain and its colonies (including America) accepts the Gregorian calendar during this time. The Gregorian calendar is adopted by the Japanese in 1873, but takes the Chinese until 1949 to embrace the Gregorian calendar.

Coptic Calendar

Also known as the Alexandrian calendar, the Coptic calendar is still used in Egypt by members of the Coptic Orthodox Church. The calendar is based on the ancient Egyptian calendar with a modification to avoid the calendar creep that plagues other time keeping systems. During the time of Ptolemy III, the reform of the calendar was introduced. It was called the Decree of Canopus in 238 BC and called for an intercalation of a sixth day that took place every fourth year.

Not everyone agreed with the reform, such as the Egyptian priests, and they prevented the adoption of the idea until 25 BC when the Roman Emperor Augustus made a formal attempt to reform the Egyptian calendar. He kept it synchronized with the Julian calendar that had just emerged at the time. They named it the Coptic calendar to differentiate it from the ancient Egyptian calendar , which was still used by some astronomers. It wasn’t until medieval times that the ancient calendar was abandoned altogether.

Coptic months were called Thout (named after the ancient Egyptian god of wisdom), Paopi (a time when the Nile river flooded the land), Hathor (named after the ancient goddess of beauty and love), Koiak, Tobi (a name linked to the god Amun Ra), Meshir (named after the god of wind), Paremhat (connected to the time of the year when the Nile waters receded and crops started to grow in Egypt), Paremoude (associated with the season of growth and emergence), Pashons (named after the god of the moon), Paoni (linked to the time when crops were harvested), Epip (associated with the season of harvest), and Mesori (linked to an ancient word that means ‘birth of the sun’).