Ancient Armenian Calendar

Ancient Armenian CalendarWho needs simple numbers to determine time spans? After a while, the repetition of the names of the days of the week might become rather boring. The ancient Armenian calendar had a name for every hour, day, and month of the year.

Along with the fact that the concept of “thirty days in a month” and “twelve months a year” used by ancient Armenians may seem familiar, a quick calculation will also show that their system included 360 days in total.

Besides, they had an additional period of five or six days called “Haveliats” – “additional”. With the exception of one or two numbered months, others were named after gods such as Agekan, the god of fire, or in honor of such real event as harvesting – “Kaghots”.

Meanwhile, the names of the days were tied to the ancient gods, heroes, or natural objects. For instance, names Areg and Astghik, which mean Sun and Star respectively, and Masis and Aragats, which are the names of the mountains in Armenian Highlands, were used as names of days. The names of hours were also derived from natural phenomena such as dawn (“Arshaluys”) or twilight (“Mtatsyal”, literally “darkened”).

Around 552, the introduction of the so-called Armenian era resulted in the implementation of a new calendar. It is still used in religion. For example, 2014 corresponds to 1461 of the Armenian era.

Actually, if you started to count from 552 in that calendar, you would reach 1462 in 2014. That’s partly due to the fact that the year doesn’t change on the 1st of January in every calendar system.

In due course, the Armenians accepted the names of the seven days of the week known today and the names of the twelve months. Before, days were named after planets or gods as in modern English (for example, “Sunday” or “Monday” were named after the celestial objects “Sun” and “Moon”).

Modern Armenian language uses numbers for most days of the week. For Armenians, Monday is the second day of the week (“Yerkushapti” (Armenian: Երկու, two), or “Yergushapti” in Western Armenian pronunciation), which might surprise some people.

Why does the first day of the work week actually begin on the second day of the week? The reason was the assumption that Sunday was the day for the beginning of everything. At least, that is a Christian tradition. The name of this day in Armenian means “Day of the Lord” – “Kiraki” or “Giragi” in Western Armenian pronunciation.

Other sources:

1. Raham Asha. “Armenian Calendar (Tōmar Hayocʿ)” 
2.Grigor Broutian. “The Armenian Calendar”, Hye Etch, November 16, 2001
3. “Ancient Armenian Calendar” 
4. Wikipedia: “Armenian calendar”


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