The Armenian Calendar
is a short summary of a rather lengthy (560 pg.) and very descriptive work
of the Armenian Calendar (Oratsouyts Hayots) by Grigor Broutian. We hope
that it will give you a base of knowledge in helping you to learn more
about the Armenian Traditional Calendar and the continuum of the Great
Count which started out from the pagan tradition and the mythical birth
of Sun god Vahagn (according to tradition of the cyclical calendar in the
year 7581 BC) one of the foremost gods in the Armenian pantheon of pagan
The Armenian Calendar
By Grigor Broutian
present work addresses issues concerning the Armenian calendars. Most of
the issues presented are still subject of discussion and some have never
been addressed in previous research. In particular, an attempt has been
made to show when and by whom was the Major Armenian calendar founded,
what was the nature of this calendar, what was the essence of calendaric
reform of Anania Shirakouni (Shirakatzi), where and how did his "fixed"
calendar disappear and why Jovhannes Sarkavag (Imastasser) admitted the
New Year day on the 11th of August. Other issues discussed include the
correction of leap years in Sarkavagadir calendar; the origins of the Native
Armenian calendar, the historical events connected to the foundation of
this calendar, the fixed place of Navasard festivity in the tropic year,
the nature of the festivity and the concept of the Haykian calendar.
The oldest medieval Armenian calendar
that is the Major Armenian calendar was developed by Athanas Taronatzi
in 551 A.D. under the order of the catholicos of Armenia Movsess Eghivardetzi.
In this calendar, the New Year's day was the first of the month Navasardi.
The year consisted of only 365 days and as such the Armenian New Year (the
1st of Navasardi) varied from the Julian (Roman) days by one day every
4 years making the calendar completely "mobil". The first year of this
calendar began on the 11th of July 552 A.D. (the first of Navasardi), and
the first Easter fell on the 20th of April 553 A.D. In 560 A.D., the 532-year
circle period, discovered by Eass the Alexandrian and ratified by the assembly
of 36 calendarists in Alexandria, was adopted in Armenia. However, the
fixed calendar that was especially instituted in this assembly for Armenia
was refused by Armenians. The individual calendar and chronology founded
by Athanas Taronatzi continued in Armenia. The present text examines the
chronology of Armenian catholicoses in 6-7th century and corrects it in
accordance with the foundation of Major Armenian calendar. Jovhann Bagarantzi
(with the 26 years of his reign) whose name was removed from the chronology
is appropriately restored.
The correct list of the catholicoses
of that period is as follows:
Movsess Eghivardetzi 551
- 581 (30 years)
In the 7th century, by the order of
the catholicos Anastass Akorretzi, Anania Shirakouni (Shirakatzi) created
the first fixed Armenian calendar. He fixed the Armenian New Year's day
at the beginning of January (on the 6th or 1st), but did not fix the Armenian
day of month corresponding to New Year's day. This process results in a
calendar where the Armenian day of month of the New Year's day changes
once every four years. Thus, Anania Shirakouni's calendar is only partially
Vrthaness Kherthogh (substitute)
581 - 584 (3 years)
Jovhann Bagarantzi 584 - 610 (26
years; after 607 as a contrary only in Karin)
Abraham Aghbathanetzi 607 - 610
Komitas Aghdzetzi 610 - 618 (8 years).
In order to ease the application
of this rather difficult calendar, Anania Shirakouni created the 532-year
tables, where the months and days of the most important holidays were given
for all 532 years both in terms of Armenian and Roman months. These tables
included the years 580 to 1112 A.D. This calendar reform was not ratified
by the church assembly. However, many authors have used the Major Armenian
calendar based on the 532-year tables of Anania Shirakouni.
In 1004, before the completion of
these tables, a major calendar confusion arose among scholars. The main
reason for this confusion was the coincidence of the 1st of Navasardi and
the vernal equinox (20th of March). After this date, each Armenian year
was marked by two different numbers, depending on how the Armenian calendar
was interpreted: according to the Athanas' definition or the calendar reform
of Anania Shirakouni.
To clear up this confusion, the second
532-year tables for the Armenian calendar were developed by Jovhannes Sarkavag
(Imastasser). These tables begin not just from the end of Shirakouni's
tables, but 28 years before it in 1085.
These tables were denoted only with
Roman months and the 1st of January was adopted as the New Year's day and
the first year was 1085 A.D. During this revision Sarkavag removed from
the chronology the "income" year.
He continued his work on calendar
reform and in 1116 (or 1117) A.D. created the first completely fixed Armenian
calendar named after him and known as Sarkavagadir. In this calendar the
additional day ("the day of the leap year") was introduced into the system
of Armenian months (once in each four years). Based on parallels of the
days (of months) between Armenian and other (fixed) calendars (found in
some translations of 5th century, primarily the Bible), he fixed the 1st
of Navasardi on the 11th of August. He also placed the additional day between
the months of Mehekan and Areg, in front of the 8th of March, in order
to minimize disagreements between the Armenian and the Roman calendars.
present text discusses the existence of a solar calendar in the Armenian
Upland, the origin of which is not known with certainty. However, we know
that the year of this solar calendar consisted of only 10 months with 30
days each. According to the beliefs of the time, this calendar was created
by Father God. The guide and regulator of this god-given calendar was the
constellation of Hayk (Orion), considered as the Heavenly Father. Only
the period of time during which the main star of this constellation (the
right arm of Hayk-Orion) was visible in the sky was considered as the year.
This period lasted 10 months and started a week before the summer solstice.
The period of invisibility of this star (from Armenia) was 70 days and
this period was omitted from the year. It was assumed that during this
period Hayk (Father God) was absent, gone to the Dark (Underground) world
(the star was below the horizon.) A festivity lasting a week was celebrated
to the heliacal rising of this star.
This calendar was changed in 2341
B.C. The calendar was simplified and the year consisted of 12 months. The
70-day period of time previously left out, was divided into two months
and added to the year. The main holiday remained in its former place, and
as before, it was determined by observing the helical rising of the main
star of constellation Hayk (Orion).
Regarding patriarch Hayk as a historical
person, his activities were very likely to have taken place during the
time of Lugalzagessi, the last king of the early-dynastic period of Sumer.
He came to Armenia from Sumer (probably from Kish).
The calendar reformed by Hayk was
used without substantial changes until the conversion of Armenia to Christianity
at the end of 3rd century A.D. After the conversion, this calendar was
naturally rejected. Despite this rejection, many primary ideas, concepts
and principles contained in this calendar have survived up to the present
through Armenian folk beliefs, traditions and festivities.
Note: This Page is both
in English and Armenian. To find out how to be able to see the Armenian
letters and download a free Armenian font, please click "Here".
Months (Old Calendar)
8/11 - 9/9
9/10 - 10/9
12/9 - 1/7
1/8 - 2/6
3/9 - 4/7
4/8 - 5/7
5/8 - 6/6
6/7 - 7/6
7/7 - 8/5
8/6 - 8/10
Months (Modern day Calendar)
of the Month
|# - Name
of the Day
of the Planets
of the Zodiac
Mar. 21 - April 20
April 21 - May 20
May 21 - June 21
June 22 - July 22
July 23 - Aug. 22
Aug. 23 - Sept. 22
Sept. 23 - Oct. 22
Oct. 23 - Nov. 22
Nov. 23 - Dec. 21
Dec. 22 - Jan. 19
Jan. 20 - Feb. 18
Feb. 19 - Mar. 20