The Ethiopian calendar (Amharic: የኢትዮጵያ ዘመን አቆጣጠር?; yä'Ityoṗṗya zämän aḳoṭaṭär) is the principal calendar used in Ethiopia and also serves as the liturgical calendar for Christians in Eritrea and Ethiopia belonging to the Orthodox Tewahedo churches, Eastern Catholic Church and Coptic Orthodox Church. It is a solar calendar (the older Alexandrian or Coptic calendar brought to Ethiopia by missionaries) which in turn derives from the Egyptian calendar, but like the Julian calendar, it adds a leap day every four years without exception, and begins the year on August 29 or August 30 in the Julian calendar. A seven- to eight-year gap between the Ethiopian and Gregorian calendars results from an alternate calculation in determining the date of the Annunciation of Jesus.
Like the Coptic calendar, the Ethiopic calendar has twelve months of 30 days plus five or six epagomenal days, which comprise a thirteenth month. The Ethiopian months begin on the same days as those of the Coptic calendar, but their names are in Ge'ez. The sixth epagomenal day is added every four years without exception on August 29 of the Julian calendar, six months before the Julian leap day. Thus the first day of the Ethiopian year, 1 Mäskäräm, for years between 1900 and 2099 (inclusive), is usually September 11 (Gregorian). It, however, falls on September 12 in years before the Gregorian leap year.
In the Gregorian year 2015 Anno Domini, the Ethiopian calendar year 2008 begins on September 12, rather than September 11, on account of this additional epagomenal day occurring September 11 every four years.
New Year's Day
Enkutatash is the word for the Ethiopian new year in Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia, while it is called Ri'se Awde Amet (Head Anniversary) in Ge'ez, the term preferred by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. It occurs on September 11 in the Gregorian calendar, except for the year following a leap year, when it occurs on September 12. The Ethiopian calendar year 1998 'Amätä Məhrät ("Year of Mercy") began on September 11, 2005. However, the Ethiopian years 1996 and 1992 AM began on September 12, 2003 and 1999, respectively.
This date correspondence applies for the Gregorian years 1900 to 2099. The Ethiopian leap year is every four without exception, while Gregorian centurial years are only leap years when exactly divisible by 400; thus a set of corresponding dates will most often apply for a single century. As the Gregorian year 2000 is a leap year, the current correspondence lasts two centuries instead.
To indicate the year, Ethiopians and followers of the Eritrean churches today use the Incarnation Era, which dates from the Annunciation or Incarnation of Jesus on March 25, AD 9 (Julian), as calculated by Annianus of Alexandria c. 400; thus its first civil year began seven months earlier on August 29, AD 8. Meanwhile, Europeans eventually adopted the calculations made by Dionysius Exiguus in AD 525 instead, which placed the Annunciation eight years earlier than had Annianus. This causes the Ethiopian year number to be eight years less than the Gregorian year number from January 1 until September 10 or 11, then seven years less for the remainder of the Gregorian year.
Era of Martyrs
The most important era—once widely used by the Eastern Churches, and still used by the Coptic Church—was the Era of Martyrs, also known as the Diocletian Era, or the era of Diocletian and the Martyrs, whose first year began on August 29, 284.
Respective to the Gregorian and Julian New Year's Days, 3 1/2 to four months later, the difference between the Era of Martyrs and the Anni Domini is 285 (= 15x19) years. This is because in AD 525, Dionysius Exiguus decided to add 15 Metonic cycles to the existing 13 Metonic cycles of the Diocletian Era (15x19 + 13x19 = 532) to obtain an entire 532-year medieval Easter cycle, whose first cycle ended with the year Era of Martyrs 247 (= 13x19) equal to year DXXXI. It is also because 532 is the product of the Metonic cycle of 19 years and the solar cycle of 28 years.
Anno Mundi according to Panodoros
Around AD 400, an Alexandrine monk called Panodoros fixed the Alexandrian Era (Anno Mundi = in the year of the world), the date of creation, on 29 August 5493 BC. After the 6th century AD, the era was used by Egyptian and Ethiopian chronologists. The twelfth 532-year-cycle of this era began on 29 August AD 360, and so 4x19 years after the Era of Martyrs.
Anno Mundi according to Anianos
Bishop Anianos preferred the Annunciation style as New Year's Day, 25 March (see above). Thus he shifted the Panodoros era by about six months, to begin on 25 March 5492 BC.
Leap year cycle
The four-year leap-year cycle is associated with the four Evangelists: the first year after an Ethiopian leap year is named in honour of John, followed by the Matthew-year and then the Mark-year. The year with the sixth epagomenal day is traditionally designated as the Luke-year.
|Ge'ez, Amharic, and Tigrinya
(with Amharic suffixes in parentheses)
[From March 1900 to February 2100]
|Gregorian Start Date
in Year after Ethiopian Leap Day
|Mäskäräm (መስከረም)||Tut (Thout)||August 29||September 11||September 12|
|Ṭəqəmt(i) (ጥቅምት)||Babah (Paopi)||September 28||October 11||October 12|
|Ḫədar (ኅዳር)||Hatur (Hathor)||October 28||November 10||November 11|
|Taḫśaś ( ታኅሣሥ)||Kiyahk (Koiak)||November 27||December 10||December 11|
|Ṭərr(i) (ጥር)||Tubah (Tobi)||December 27||January 9||January 10|
|Yäkatit (Tn. Läkatit) (የካቲት)||Amshir (Meshir)||January 26||February 8||February 9|
|Mägabit (መጋቢት)||Baramhat (Paremhat)||February 25||March 10||March 10|
|Miyazya (ሚያዝያ)||Baramundah (Paremoude)||March 27||April 9||April 9|
|Gənbot (ግንቦት)||Bashans (Pashons)||April 26||May 9||May 9|
|Säne (ሰኔ)||Ba'unah (Paoni)||May 26||June 8||June 8|
|Ḥamle (ሐምሌ)||Abib (Epip)||June 25||July 8||July 8|
|Nähase (ነሐሴ)||Misra (Mesori)||July 25||August 7||August 7|
|Ṗagʷəmen/Ṗagume (ጳጐሜን/ጳጉሜ)||Nasi (Pi Kogi Enavot)||August 24||September 6||September 6|
Note that these dates are valid only from March 1900 to February 2100. This is because 1900 and 2100 are not leap years in the Gregorian calendar, while they are still leap years in the Ethiopian calendar, meaning dates before 1900 and after 2100 will be offset.
- "The Ethiopian Calendar", Appendix IV, C.F. Beckingham and G.W.B. Huntingford, The Prester John of the Indies (Cambridge: Hakluyt Society, 1961).
- Ginzel, Friedrich Karl, "Handbuch der mathematischen und technischen Chronologie", Leipzig, 3 vol., 1906-1914
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