The ERA, a medieval chronological reckoning
Uwe Topper
Berlin · 2006

The Julian or province-era, generally called ERA, was widely documented throughout Europe during the Middle Ages from the 5th to the 15th centuries at a time long before our modern AD-reckoning came into usage. The word ERA probably is Vandal in origin and means the same as the German word "Jahr" (year), meaning "turning round in a circle" like the beasts do on a threshing ground which is called "era" in Spain until today. As this way of reckoning the years was called "provincial era" in some documents, it was supposed that it started when Spain became a province of the Roman Empire. This opinion has been discarded long since, already Pauly-Wissowa (1893, I, 606) had strong objections.

This stone of Granada (Alhambra) mentions the consecrations of three different churches, but offers a blank space for the date (above left) and a date later engraved with smaller letters (below right)

In order to compare the era-years to modern counting one has to subtract 38 years, and that is why the start of the ERA was placed at 38 BC. Yet nobody ever found a reason why this particular year should have been chosen as starting point.
There exist several hundred inscriptions in stone and more on parchment documents showing dates in ERA, especially in the geographic realm of the "Visigoths". The ethnic term "Visigoths" is mostly translated as Western Goths, erroneously, because it rather means "the wise godes", the Judges (just like the corresponding ethnic term "Ostrogoths" doesn't mean Eastern Goths but "the shining Godes" even when in this case the root is nearer in meaning).
Emil Hübner (Berlin 1871) wrote a Latin work about all Spanish inscriptions known then with ERA dates, and this book is still respected as basically valid (even in Spain), although further discoveries added more knowledge and new books appeared regarding this theme. In Hübner's book you find e.g. three inscriptions of church consecrations in the province of Cádiz giving dates in the 7th century AD naming a bishop Pimenius who is known as well through accounts of the councils of Toledo. Those inscriptions were accepted as genuine by all scientists, and so I undertook a journey to visit them. The dates engraved give 668 Era (corresponding to 630 AD), 682 Era and 700 Era. The oldest of them is engraved on a marble column in the church of the Martyrs in Medina Sidonia (Càdiz) and the text is easy to read:
This basilica was consecrated on the 17 Kalends of January in the second year of Pimenius ERA 668.
The first and last letters of every line are missing because the edge of the column had been cut off by a mason. This did not make the text unintelligible, but it gives rise to suspicion because the date "dC" (600) ends at one edge and thus a "C" (100 years) could be missing.
This inscription is the oldest Christian church date in Southern Spain, the town of Sidonia is proudly announcing this to all visitors. But is it genuine?
The question is justified for several reasons. The isncription is on one of the four roof supporting marble columns, but it seems to me that its situation does not correspond to its importance as it is close to the ground (less than 1 meter in hight) so that it will easily be hidden by the congregation, whereas I would expect such an inscription above the doorway or at the altar. The other three columns of the edifice look homogenous, only this one looks singular as if it had been introduced later. The names of the martyrs which were still to be seen during the 19th century have since been carefully removed, but why?
The easiest explanation would be that names of saints change a lot in the course of time, they are subject to the prevailing dogma. Names like Cosimus and Damian are betraying the 16th century, they are easily detected as anachronisms. Therefore this list of martyrs had to be destroyed because in relationship to the given date they would not make sense. On another stone with ERA-date and the name of Pimenius the procedure was just the opposite: They removed the date and left the names of the martyrs.

So the anachronism was erradicated anyway, but the two stones taken together bluntly tell the technique: They are forgeries in order to create the history of the church. By long research into the matter and visiting a great number of the known inscriptions with ERA dates I found that all of them must have been faked (see Topper 1998, chapter 5).
So let us now take a look into the ERA-scheme in general, which will show us that we would not get any proof of history even if we had genuine inscriptions of this type.

This stone found in Cordoba not only shows the name of the Gothic king Swintila and the date ERA 665, but also a typical cross of the 12th century 'Reconquista'

When did the ERA come into use ?

It is not clearly known when the Julian ERA started to be used. Hübner (1871, Nr. 113) reproduces the "oldest unsuspectable inscription" of Spain, a tombstone of a woman who died "504 ERA". Another similar tombstone testifies to a "female servant of God, who had lived more or less 70 years and died ERA 552". I could see this stone in the Museum of Cádiz in 1997, yet after publishing my book criticising the inscription the stone was removed and replaced by a photograph of something else.

Now let us consider the origin of the ERA the way it is generally accepted nowadays and was aptly explained by Krusch (1880) and his colleagues: If the earliest inscriptions showing ERA dates go back to around 500 ERA we can agree that ERA was started 493 by king Geiserich. In this year Geiserich supposedly sacked Rome, corresponding to the year 455 AD. After he had imposed the ERA for his empire, the council of Tarragona (516 AD) accepted this regulation for the Western Church as well. That means that from this date on the Vatican and all its dependencies used the ERA in their documents. Even the Arabs in Andalusia used the same procedure calling it "Tarikh es-Safar", which means "History of the Spaniards". Documents issued in Germany by the Castilian king Alfons X, the Wise, in his authority as king of Germany, used ERA dates as well.

The most commonly known medieval writer Isidore of Seville (7th c.) uses in one of his books, the "History of the Goths", dates according to ERA throughout as a red ribbon. But many historians regard this book as a fake. In other writings of Isidore the ERA dates are only handwritten on the margins and can thus easily be detected as later additions. In his famous "De Natura Rerum" (chapter VI, 7) Isidore explains that ERA began when the Roman emperor Augustus censured the people of his empire in 7 BC (or to others in 4 BC). This does not agree with the information that ERA starts in 38 BC, but it is a strong hint that the counting of the years from the birth of Christ on (AD) has its starting point at 7 BC (which is widely accepted nowadays).
I supposed (1999) that the Julian ERA was retrocalculated to the inauguration of the calendar reform of Julius Cesar in 45 BC. Accordingly later chronologists reckoning in AD would have to comply with the year 7 BC by subtracting only 38 years as is usual nowadays. We can conclude that Geiserich introduced his ERA not in 493 but 7 years later, that is exactly at 500 ERA. Why he should have started with 500 is open to suggestions. A possible explanation was put forward that Christian millennarists preferred a cycle of 500 (or later mostly of 1000) years (see Landes).

The magical year 1001

Waiting for the Thousand-year Paradise was the reason that produced our time-reckoning. It also provided us with the key to discover its manner of manipulation.

If the ERA started at 500 with stone inscriptions and manuscripts and was uninterruptedly used until the introduction of the AD reckoning, we should easily find out its limits: Either the difference was 38 years as proposed in modern times or it was 259 years (297 minus 38). Taken the latter case we have to conclude that the Renaissance writers erred or lied intentionally. By many researches I came to the conviction that they lied.

Some first indication was delivered by Hübner in his diligent work (p. 117): He reproduces an inscription Nr. 489 with the date Era 621 (corresponding to 583 AD) and says that this date must be false because style and art belong to the 9th century. Hübner easily skips the given date and prefers to trust the characteristics of art thus jumping over three hundred years. This is an example valid for many I have scrutinized. I regard all ERA dates as fakes produced in an age posterior to the dates suggested, in order to create history with theological interest. Hübner tells us involuntarily but surely that two types of chronology were fighting each other, with a difference of 297 years, of which the longer one is prevailing.

On the -supposed- tombstone of the Byzantine general Belisarius, we find blank spaces for the age and the exact year of the death

So we don't have to ponder any longer why ERA-dates end in the 11th century - the latest ones have 1065 AD - and AD reckoning officially starts in Spain in the 14th century (or a century later). Did those cultured and documenting people in Spain not date anything for 300 years? This can only be explained as a jump over figures in a fictitious time-reckoning.

A remarkable hint indicating the jump over 297 years I found in the "Eternal Gospel" of Joaquim of Fiore. According to ecclesiastical opinion he lived between 1130 and 1202 AD and wrote a wellknown commentary on the Revelation of St. John. This work was reedited by a monk Gerard de Borgo Donino in 1254 AD but banned by the church, and the monk was imprisoned for 18 years!

Of course we don't know the real content of this book as it was rewritten by the church after the Tridentinum; the modern text contains details belonging to the theological discussion following the council of Trento.
The "Gospel" of Joaquim centres around the prophecy that in the year 1260 the second stage of the world would come to an end and the third one would start. This year would mark the end of the era of the Antichrist and the beginning of the era of the Spirit. The figure 1260 is pronounced in the Old Testament and in the Apocalypse as well, in the latter five times, twice of them verbally. History was accordingly concocted the way that the great movements of processionists and flagellants took place at 1260 AD.
Now what has 1260 to do with the Millennium, with 1000 years?

The expectation of the year 1001, loaded with fear by the church had been bound to the calculation of the ERA computists: 1260 minus 297 makes 963 plus 38 (difference between Era and AD) makes 1001.
So the year 1260 is as well the year 1001 of the New Paradise according to the reckoning of the ERA. "When thousand years shall be finished, Satan shall be set loose from his prison." (Apoc. 20, 7).
We now can conclude from this way of computing that the pagan ERA was constructed before AD-reckoning had been installed because the latter jumped over 297 years. After the shift the mathematical difference between the two timetables resulted in 38 years which indicates the error of seven years (38 plus 7 gives 45 BC, the year of the supposed Julian reform). This 'mistake' was still known when Kepler calculated the "star of Bethlehem" to be the date of the birth of Jesus at 7 BC.

It seems obvious from this procedure - as confirmed by many other incidents - that there was a long quarrel between two sections of the church: There were the Spanish popes (Borgia) who defended the original conversion of Iberia to Christ by the mission of Santiago, whereas the other fraction, the later popes in Rome, in order to defend their primacy, invented the mission of Peter and Paul. They had to present a longer chronology then the ERA and thus made it jump over three centuries.


Hübner, Emil (1871 und 1900): Inscriptiones Hispaniae Christianae, mit Supplementum (G. Reimer, Berlin; reprint Hildesheim 1975)
Ideler, Ludwig (1826): Handbuch zur mathematischen und technischen Chronologie (2. Vol., Berlin)
Isidoro de Sevilla: Historia de regibus Gothorum, Wandalorum et Suevorum (ed. Faustinus Arevalo, Vol. 7, Paris 1862)
(1862): Etymologiarum, De Natura Rerum etc. (ed. F. Arevalo, Bd.I; Paris)
Krusch, Bruno (1880): Studien zur christlich-mittelalterlichen Chronologie. Die Entstehung unserer heutigen Zeitrechnung. (I and II, Berlin; 1938)
Landes, Richard (1988): "A study of apocalyptic expectations and the pattern of Western chronography 100-800 CE" in: The Use and Abuse of Eschatology in the Middle Ages. Hrg. W.D.F. Verbeke et al. (Löwen)
Pauly-Wissowa (1893): Lexikon der Altertumskunde (edition Stuttgart 1958)
Topper, Ilya U. (1998): "Apuntes sobre la era árabe en el contexto mediterráneo" in: "Al-Andalus - Maghreb" III, Homenaje a Braulio Justel Calabozo (Univ. Cádiz)
Topper, Uwe (1998): Die "Große Aktion" (Tübingen)
(1999): Erfundene Geschichte (Herbig, München)
(2003): ZeitFälschung. Es begann mit der Renaissance (Herbig, München)

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