indiction

A cycle of 15 years used in Europe in the Middle Ages to specify dates. A year might, for example, be described as the second year of the indiction, or the tenth year of the indiction. The year after the 15th year of the indiction became the first year of the indiction; there was no zero year of the indiction. The indictions themselves were not numbered, that is, writers did not refer to “the Third Indiction” or the “Tenth Indiction.” In other words, simply knowing an event occurred “in the seventh year of the indiction” is not enough to fix the actual date; it might be 15, 30, 45, etc. years earlier or later.

The indiction originated in the reign of Constantine as a sort of “financial year” of the later Roman Empire, and was used for levying taxes. The Council of Nicaea, to honor Constantine's conversion to Christianity in 312, decided that years should no longer be named by Olympiads, but by indictions. Over time, four distinct types of indiction came into use:

John J[ames] Bond.
Handy-Book of Rules and Tables for Verifying Dates with the Christian Era.
London: Bell and Daldy, 1866.

Reprinted in facsimile by Russell & Russell, New York, in 1966.

Sources

Secundus ordo circuli decennoualis complectitur Indictiones xv annorum circuitu in sua semper vestiga reduces, quas antiqua Romanorum industria comperimus ad cauendum errorem, qui de temporibus forte oboriri poterat institutas: Dum enim, verbi gratia, quilibet Imperator medio anni tempore vita vel regno decederet, poterat euenire vt eundem annum vnus historicus eiusdem regis adscriberet temporibus, eo quod eius partem regnaret: alter vero historicus eundem successori illius potius attitulandum putaret, eo quod et hic partem aeque eius haberet in regno.  Verum ne per huiuscemodi dissonantiam error temporibus inolesceret, statuerunt Indictiones, quibus vterque scriptor, imo etiam vulgus omne, temporum cursum facillime seruaret, quas pro facilitate quoque calculandi quindecem esse voluerunt, ut planissimo numero, et ad multiplicandum promptissimo, compendiosius transacti temporis status in memoriam possit reduci. Quidam autem putant, quia quondam in republica post censum quinto anno peractum, Vrbs Roma lustrabatur, as indicium ternae lustrationis et census Indictiones esse condictas.  Incipiunt autem Indictiones ab viii Calendas Octobris, ibidemque terminantur.

Bede, De Natura Rerum, chapter 48.

 

Hoc autem argumento quota sit anno quocumque computare volueris Indictio reperies: sume annos ab incarnatione Domini quotquot fuerint in praesenti, verbi gratia dccxxv, adde semper tria, quia quarta Indictione secundum Dionysium natus est Dominus, fiunt dccxxviii. haec partire per xv. quindecies quadrageni, sexcenti, quindecies octoni, centies, remanent octo: octaua est Indictio. Si vero nihil remanserit, decimaquinta est.

Bede, De Natura Rerum, chapter 49.

 

Si vis scire quota sit Indictio, sume annos Domini, et adjice tria, partire per xv. et quod remanserit ipsa et Indictio anni praesentis.

Bede, De Ratione Temporum.

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