[Milton-L] Battle of the Calendars

Coates, John jcoates at collegiate-va.org
Fri Mar 9 22:14:47 EST 2012

Dr. Barton,

What a nice note.  My eighth graders will begin _Romeo and Juliet_ Monday,
and this may be just the kind of curiosity that I'll enliven things for
them.  Many thanks!

John Coates
Eighth Grade English
Collegiate School
Richmond, VA 23229

On Friday, March 9, 2012, Carol Barton, Ph.D. <cbartonphd1 at verizon.net>
> This is from today's installment of _Delancey Place_. I thought it might
be useful to some of you in presenting the new date/old date enigma to your
students (and the Shakespeare/Cervantes example will help to make it
> ________________________________
> In today's excerpt - there are different calendars in use throughout the
world today which result in different dates and years being ascribed to the
same day. In 1616, the situation was significantly more diverse:
> "On April 23, 1616, two literary giants, William Shakespeare and Miguel
de Cervantes, accomplished the feat of dying on the same date but different
days. Mainly for the reason of their shared date of death, the United
Na­tions named April 23 the International Day of the Book.
> "Shakespeare, seven years the younger, went first, on Tuesday. Miguel de
Cervantes, despite a life of hardship, held on another week and a half,
until Saturday. This was possible because Spain had adopted the Gregorian
calendar proposed in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII. Britain, however,
recoil­ing at any whiff of papism, did not adopt the new calendar until
1752, and it lagged, in 1616, ten days behind. Although Shakespeare's death
date is traditionally given as April 23, according to the new calendar he
would have died on May 3.
> "At that time there was as little agreement about when the year began as
about what day it was. In many parts of Europe it had been traditional to
consider a date such as Annunciation Day-the day nine months before
Christmas when it was revealed to Mary that she would bear a child-as the
beginning of the year; standardizing on January 1 was a newfangled notion
based on an ancient tradition, the Roman consular year. The Euro­pean
states adopted the new date for the new year each in its time: Venice in
1512, Spain in 1556, France in 1564, Scotland in 1600, Russia in 1700, and
so on. ...
> "Matters become even more confounding when considering non-Western
cultures. Some, like the Persians, who thought of the period we call 1616
as made up of parts of the years 994 and 995, celebrated the new year
around the spring equinox. Others related the new year not just to the
solar cycle but also to the phases of the moon: lunar new years were
celebrated in East Asia, the Himalayas, and many parts of Southeast Asia.
Some calendars reflected ancient histories: in China the year was
4252-4153; in the Maya long count it was probably 4730; in the Hebrew
reckoning-in which the new year began in the fall-it was 5376-5377.
> "All of which makes the study of a single calendar year an arbitrary and
confused construct. It is not always certain which system a recorded date
belongs to - historical documents give the impression that William III of
England set sail from the Netherlands on November 11 and arrived in England
on November 5. In some cases, more than one system was used at any given
time: for many years both 'old style' (stilo vetere) and 'new style' (stilo
novo) dates were in use in England. In East Asia, a year might be
designated by a reign date or identified only by its associated zodiac
animal, so that a reference to an event in the year of the dragon might
point to 1616, or 1628, or some other year."
> Author: Thomas Christensen
> Title: 1616: The World in Motion
> Publisher: Counterpoint
> Date: Copyright 2012 by Thomas Christensen
> Pages: 9-10
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