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A chronological term used to denote a measure of time, and, in the byzantine church, a liturgical feast.


The indiction (Lat. indictio: Gr. νδικτιων, πινέμησις) was a 15-year cycle or period used as a point of referral in determining the dates of acts, inscriptions, and chronicles. The word can refer either to the period itself or to the individual years of which it is composed, each one then designated by a number ranking it in the series. Each period forms an independent whole, not requiring a series number referring it to past series, except rarely, in several medieval charters.

The indiction was originally used to determine the land tax. The word came to denote a fiscal year when the annual tax was periodically fixed for a predetermined number of years. Its use in this context dates back to the time of diocletian, who established an indiction of five years, beginning in 297298, which was apparently concerned only with Egypt. Licinius later increased the indiction to 15 years, beginning in 312313. First set up for Licinius's own eastern part of the empire, the indiction was later extended to the West. Indicating the year within a particular series quickly became a useful means of determining dates, even during the time when the five-year indiction was used. However, the 15-year series was regarded as much more convenient. St. athanasius used it in his festal letter, the first of which dates from 329 (indiction 2).

Several kinds of indictions were in use, distinguished from each other by the month of the year marking the beginning of the indictional year.

1. The Egyptian indiction was characterized by the dependence of its opening on the time of harvest, varying, from one year to another, between May and August.

2. The Byzantine indiction, known also as the Constantinopolitan or Constantinian indiction, was the only indiction used throughout the roman empire, with the exception of Egypt. When this indiction was first instituted, the beginning of the indiction year fell on the day already designated the first day of the official year for the major part of the Orient since the time of augus tus, viz, September 23, the Natalis Augusti. It was later moved to September 1 during the latter half of the 5th centurymost probably September 1, 462463 (first year of the series). justinian i made dating by indiction mandatory for all legal documents (Corp Iur CivNov 47.2). The Byzantine indiction was used in the papal chancellery from the 5th century until 1087; it was used also in southern Italy in the states or principalities under Byzantine influence or control.

3. The Indiction of bede, called the Caesarean or Western indiction, was introduced by Bede, and began September 24.

4. The Papal indiction, appearing in the 11th century, began on December 25 and was in vogue up to the time of gregory xiii, when New Year's Day became January 1.

5. Local indictions were used at Genoa, Florence, Pisa, Siena, and Cologne.

To compute the Byzantine indiction for any year of the Christian era, the following rules apply: (1) for any date from January 1 to August 31, add 3 to the year date and divide by 15; the remainder is the year of the indiction; if there is no remainder, the indiction is 15; (2) for any date from September 1 to December 31, add 4 instead of 3. Dates in the non-Byzantine indictions, which have different beginnings, can be computed in a similar manner.


September 23, the beginning of the indiction and the first day of the civil year, became also the first day of the ecclesiastical year. It was also the feast of the Conception of john the baptist, chronologically the first of the evangelical mysteries. This feast was retained even after the indiction had been moved back to September 1. This new date, primarily the opening of the civil year, was given also a religious character by the celebration of a feast commemorating the first preaching of Christ, recalled in Lk 4.1622. When this feast was instituted is not known, but it already existed in the 8th century (found in the so-called Evangelary of Theodosius and in the Calendar of Morcelli) and had by that time supplanted September 23 as the beginning of the ecclesiastical year. The latter date was still called νέον τος (novoe leto among the Slavs) up to the 12th century in several MSS, even though by that time the year began on September 1. A sermon by Philip Kerameus (12th century) on the indiction is extant (Patrologia Graeca 132:136161), and a miniature representing the Gospel scene is found in the menology of Basil II.

In Constantinople, the feast was celebrated at hagia sophia and included a procession to the Form of Constantine where prayers and hymns were offered (ps. Codinus, 13th century, Patrologia Graeca 157:96). The actual form, established by Joachim III, was as follows: following the celebration of the liturgy in the patriarchal church, the patriarch and his metropolitans, members of the Holy Synod, were led into a great meeting hall. There, after appropriate prayers and liturgical hymns, the patriarch, having announced the year of the indiction and the world year according to the Byzantine era, gave general absolution to all the faithful of his patriarchate. He then signed the praxis, to which all the metropolitans added their signatures.

Bibliography: Chronology. l. ideler, Handbuch der mathematischen und technischen Chronologie, 2 v. (Berlin 182526) 2:347364. v. gardthausen, Griechische Palaeographie, 2 v. (2d ed. Leipzig 191113) 2:454467. f. k. ginzel, Handbuch der mathematischen und technischen Chronologie, 3 v. (Leipzig 190614; repr. 1958) 3:148155. Paulys Realenzyklopädie der Klassischen Altertumswissenschaft (Stuttgart 1893) 9.2 (1916) 132732. h. leclercq, Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie (Paris 190753) 7.1:530535. g. may, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, j. hofer and k. rahner, eds. (Freiburg 195765) 5:652653. Various editions of Μναιον (Menaion ) under Sept. 1. Τνπικόν, Typikon, (Athens 1862; Constantinople 1888). v. grumel, La Chronologie (Paris 1958) 192306.

[v. grumel]