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Dionysius Exiguus

d. BETWEEN 525-544. Writer and chronologer. Called “Exiguus” (the less) because of his humility, he is best known for his early-sixth-century edition of the first influential decretal* collection. It comprised forty-one decretals from Siricius (384-98) to Anastatius II (496-98), and certain conciliar and synodal canons which he translated from the Greek because previous translations were not readily available to the clergy. Only his Apostolic Canons were apocryphal, and he had reservations about them. He also translated into Latin the works of early Greek Fathers, especially those concerning the Nestorian heresy. Dionysius helped to establish the accepted Roman method of dating Easter. Christians dated Easter according to the Jewish Passover (calculated on a lunar calendar, which was shorter than the Julian calendar, which did not always fall on a Sunday). The Council of Nicea* established how the date was to be calculated, and Cyril of Alexandria produced a series of tables which Dionysius continued up to 626-with two differences. He worked on a nineteen-year cycle, unlike the existing eighty-four-year cycle, and he took as his base year not 284 when Diocletian became emperor, but the year of Christ's incarnation-in his estimate 755 years after Rome's foundation. Though a few years off, it was the basis of the present Anno Domini system.

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