Why Are We Counting Backwards?

I've been reading a lot of Roman history lately, and you run across things like, "The consul Tiberius Gracchus was murdered in 133 BCE. A decade later his brother, Gaius Gracchus, was himself murdered while serving as consul, in 123 BCE."

Man, I would think it would have driven them crazy, wondering, "Why are we counting the years backwards? And, hey, just what are counting backwards to? Just what's so special about 123 years from now, anyway?"

(Oh, and I always love the name of the period from the mid130s to the late 120s: the time of "the Gracchi brothers." It sounds like a shady Brooklyn trash-hauling company was in charge of Rome during those years.)


  1. Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.

  2. Yeah, John, now we know what was 123 years after the first consulship of Gaius Gracchus, but my joke was that... oh, never mind.

  3. Well hold on now. The Bible doesn't say when the wise men learned of that the Christ child was born. For all we know it was the model for all secret orders to come, passing down knowledge of this ancient prophecy from generation to generation of magi. So the point is...I'm not sure what the point is.

    So there.

  4. Anonymous5:51 PM

    I totally agree with both of you about this, exactly, preciceley, by the way, whatdo you mean about cheese burgers!

  5. I don't agree with any of you--when do I ever? The reason we count backwards is that our Roman theologians have never been able to agree on exactly when Uranus and his children (not to mention the Titans) flourished, which would allow us to place the year zero.

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