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The Lunar Year of the Coligny Calendar a.pdf


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TABLE 3: Day of the lunar month at the start of each Roman month, when lunar
March begins on March 1
Roman date
01-Mar
01-Apr

01-May
01-Jun
01-Jul

01-Aug
01-Sep
01-Oct

Roman months since March 1
0

1

2

3
4

5

6

7

Corresponding day of lunar month
1st day of lunar March
2nd day of lunar April
3rd day of lunar May
4th day of lunar June
5th day of lunar July

6th day of lunar August

7th day of lunar September

8th day of lunar October (etc.)

verse appears to preserve a method for coordinating the Roman solar calendar
with the Insular lunar calendar outlawed at Whitby in 664, despite there being no
known written source later than the tenth-century Padua latercus.
There would have been a practical reason for preserving the Insular calendar orally in this way. The decision at Whitby had been deeply unpopular amongst some
groups, especially in the far north; so it seems that without the sanction to use the
Insular calendar openly, its adherents preserved its basic principles in spoken
form instead. ‘This formula transmitted orally in the nineteenth century,’ notes
McCarthy, ‘is in accord with computistic technicalities written down a thousand
years earlier, eloquent testimony as to the conservative nature of Irish oral tradition’ (ibid., 213).

Origins of the Insular calendar
The question remains, however: where did this calendar originate? In a followup
study (McCarthy 1994), the origins of the Insular calendar are investigated, and
it is demonstrated that Aldhelm of Malmesbury’s late-seventh-century attribution
of this calendar to Sulpicius Severus of Aquitaine was in fact correct. Sulpicius
was a wealthy Gaulish lawyer, historian and chronologer who, converted to
Christianity in 395, published his 84-year lunar cycle in or shortly after 403, and
died in about 420. His calendar was in use in northern Ireland by 438, brought
there most likely by Gaulish Pelagian missionaries who favoured the calendar
because of Sulpicius’ early support of Pelagianism (ibid., 43).
The study then establishes that Sulpicius’ distinctive lunar year, with its months a
day shorter than their solar equivalents, was itself borrowed from Liber Anatolii
(ibid., 25-6), a calendrical work written by Anatolius of Laodicea – now Ladikia,
Syria – sometime before his death in 283. Anatolius was a highly-educated, welltravelled scholar who had served as head of the Aristotelian school at Alexandria,
and his calendrical writings had been praised by Eusebius for their erudition.
Sulpicius, in about 402, shortly before his calendar was published, wrote to
Paulinus of Nola requesting chronological information; Paulinus forwarded this
letter to Rufinus, whose Latin edition of Eusebius would be published in the fol-

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