So what were the years "AD 1" and "1 BC" called?

I was under the impression that (Roman dominated) Europe reckoned years from the founding of the city–thus these years would be something in the 770-780 range.

But I’ve also read that that convention (from the founding of Rome) wasn’t commonly used.

If that’s the case, how did they commonly denote years?

(Or maybe nobody cared back then.)

As many don’t now.

Luke 3:1
“Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene”

The whole invention by Dionysus wotsit of the AD/BC system was an attempt to get away from marking time by the lives and reigns of nasty pagan temporal rulers, which had been the tradition and remained so for a long, long time - British historical documents up to the eighteenth century talk of “5 H VIII” (Fifth year of King Henry VIII, or 1514); “4 W&M” (Fourth year of William & Mary, or 1693) and that sort of thing.

Fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar was AD 29:

Luke 3:23
And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age


I believe years were based on the reign of emperors. 1 AD would translate to something like “The 28th year of the reign of Augustus Caesar”.

Elmer J. Fudd,
I own a mansion and a yacht.

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as usual, cecil will tell you all you need to know

Throughout most of the world, they were probably called something like “Five springs after Murray died” or “The Year of the Horrible Coughing Disease”.

I’m afraid Unca Cecil isn’t quite correct on this one. The A.U.C. dating was used by the Romans, but not commonly – about as much as the “in the nth Year of the Independence of the United States” dating you sometimes see on government documents today. The usual way of specifying the year was, “the year so-and-so and so-and-so were consuls”.

John W. Kennedy
“Compact is becoming contract; man only earns and pays.”
– Charles Williams

Note that in Article VII of the Constitution, this designation is given:
“In the Year of our Lord [the English translation of “Anno Domini”] one thousand seven hundred eighty seven and of the Independence of the United States the twelfth…”
Interestingly, coins didn’t carry dates in the current reckoning until 1484: There was a “Joachimsthaler,” featuring “Sigismund on horseback,” minted in Austria that year. For all I know–Dopers, correct me if it’s necessary–the Western world was still calculatting years ab urbe conditi, from 753 B.C., the year of Rome’s founding, until 1484.

“AUC” was apparently used mostly for historical purposes by latter historians in the Roman world, who cared about the long run.

As pointed out, for “regular” everyday timekeeping by the man-on-the-street (leaving aside astronomical reckonings for the purposes of fixing the dates of ceremony, which would be done by the priesthood), the standard for centuries upon centuries all over the world was counting civil years by the time in office of rulers, 'cause that’s what cut close to home. To this day, in Japan, though the Gregorian Calendar is standard, the AD(CE) year count coexists with the dynastic year count (currently it’s 10 or 11 of Heisei, I forget which)

I s’pose that in Judaea, the locals used a version of the Jewish religious calendar, counting “civil” years by the terms of the High Priest (and ritually it would’ve been in the 3700’s). In the hellenized world of the Eastern Mediterranean there was also a reckoning by a calendar based on Alexander’s lifetime and all these probably coexisted with Egyptian, Babylonian and Persian calendars, but that was essentially a scholarly pursuit.

This puzzler was posed in the “Luann” comic strip.
Bernice said that the next millennium would begin with 2001, since there was no year “zero.”
Delta replied, “The zero’s implied! Jesus began life at zero, not age one!”
Delta is obviously wrong; but how would I answer a question like that? (I have reckoned that Jesus was born about early October, 2 B.C., Josephus and William Whiston notwithstanding.)

Can you imagine their millennium celebration then?

Shucks they were actually counting down the days rather than up.