Sorry for yet another millennium question, but does any know how people celebrated the last millennium at 1000 (or 1001 if you like)?

One answer I read (can’t remember where): they didn’t. Most people weren’t really aware of the actual year, much less that is was going to do an “odometer rollover”.

Similarly, they didn’t have any millennial scares, either.

One other point: I think at that time, the new year was celebrated on March 25[sup]th[/sup], not January 1[sup]st[/sup].

Not necessarily an answer to the OP, but I’ve heard the theory that the Dark Ages were caused in large part by the widespread belief that the second coming of Christ would occur at the turn of the millennium. Many people took it for granted that this return would occur, hence the apathetic attitude towards the arts and sciences.

I seem to have read that there were certain groups who thought the end of the first millenium would be the end of the world and acted accordingly. But the other posters here have probably got it right. Not too many people would even be aware of what year it was. I’m skeptical about the dark ages claim, though. There were plenty of other reasons for the decline of civilization without invoking universal apathy.

“If ignorance were corn flakes, you’d be General Mills.”
Cecil Adams
The Straight Dope

Millennial fever did not contribute much to the origin of what are called the “dark ages,” as they are usually dated to the final fall of Rome as a world power in 455 (last time city was important enough that it’s sacking is noted) or 476 (deposition of the “Roman” emperor with the alleged title transferring to the Germanic tribes).


As to the OP, I have seen both scenarios mentioned by various authors, in passing: People going Mad assuming the End Was Near; Illiterate peasants and barely informed nobility drearily getting up to slog through another day/year, unaware of any particular significance to the date.

Unfortunately, both comments tend to be tossed out as deductions by people who had not actually researched the subject. I thought that someone had published a book on the subject in the last two years, but I did not find it by subject at Amazon.


If you can stand one more person posting from memory rather than going to a book and checking it out (hey, I’m on the road this weekend…)

One Medieval chronicler, possibly Blessed Bede, wrote that Europe put on a necklace of gleaming white cathedrals as the millennium approached – or similar flowery prose to indicate there was an upswing in church-building in the late 900s. Archaeologists and modern historians have found no evidence of this, however.