Dionysius Exiguus

St. Dionysius Exiguus
(Dionysius the Humble)
Bornc. 470
Scythia Minor, Eastern Roman Empire
Diedc. 544 (aged 73 or 74)
Rome, Eastern Roman Empire
Venerated inEastern Orthodox Church
Canonized8 July 2008, Bucharest by the Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church[1]
Feast1 September[2] (first day of the Byzantine liturgical year)

Dionysius Exiguus (Latin for "Dionysius the Humble"[a]; c.AD 470 – c. AD 544) was a 6th-century monk born in Scythia Minor (probably modern Dobruja, in Romania and Bulgaria). He was a member of a community of Scythian monks concentrated in Tomis, the major city of Scythia Minor. Dionysius is best known as the inventor of the Anno Domini (AD) era, which is used to number the years of both the Gregorian calendar and the (Christianised) Julian calendar. Some churches adopted his computus (calculation) for the dates of Easter.

From about 500, he lived in Rome, where, as a learned member of the Roman Curia, he translated from Greek into Latin 401 ecclesiastical canons, including the apostolical canons; the decrees of the councils of Nicaea, Constantinople, Chalcedon and Sardis; and a collection of the decretals of the popes from Siricius to Anastasius II. These Collectiones canonum Dionysianae had great authority in the West, and continues to guide church administrations. Dionysius also wrote a treatise on elementary mathematics.

The author of a continuation of Dionysius's Computus, writing in 616, described Dionysius as a "most learned abbot of the city of Rome", and the Venerable Bede accorded him the honorific abbas, which could be applied to any monk, especially a senior and respected monk, and does not necessarily imply that Dionysius ever headed a monastery; indeed, Dionysius's friend Cassiodorus stated in Institutiones that he was still a monk late in life.


According to his friend and fellow-student, Cassiodorus, Dionysius although by birth a "Scythian", was in character a true Roman, most learned in both tongues (by which he meant Greek and Latin).[3] He was also a thorough Catholic Christian and an accomplished Scripturist.[4] The use of such an ambiguous, dated term as "Scythian" raises the suspicion that his contemporaries had difficulties classifying him, either from lack of knowledge about him personally or about his native land, Scythia Minor.[5]:127 By the 6th century, the term "Scythian" could mean an inhabitant of Scythia Minor, or simply someone from the north-east of the Greco-Roman world, centred on the Mediterranean. The term had a wide-encompassing meaning, devoid of clear ethnic attributes.[5]:127 Even for the "Scythian monk" Joannes Maxentius, friend and companion of Dionysius, the two monks are "Scythian" by virtue of their geographical origin relative to Rome, just like Faustus of Riez is a "Gaul".[5]:127

The dubious assertion, based on a single Syriac source, that the Eastern-Roman rebel general Vitalian, to whom Dionysius seems to have been related, was of Gothic extraction was the basis for labelling, without any further evidence, all of the Scythian monks, Dionysius included, as "Goths".[5]:128 In Greek and Latin sources, Vitalian is sometimes labelled with the same ambiguous term "Scytha"; he is presented as commanding "Hunnic", "Gothic", "Scythian", "Bessian" soldiers, but this information says more about the general's military endeavours, and bears little relevance to clarifying his origins. Furthermore, since none of the Scythian monks expressed any kinship, by blood or spiritual, with the Arian Goths who at that time ruled Italy, a Gothic origin for Dionysius is questionable.[5]:130 Vitalian seems to have been of local Latinised Dacian-Getic (Thracian) stock, born in Scythia Minor or in Moesia; his father bore a Latin name, Patriciolus, while two of his sons had Thracian names and one a Gothic name.[5]:129 By the time of the flourishing of the Scythian monks, the provinces from the Lower Danube, long since Latinised, were already a centre for the production of Latin-speaking theologians. Most likely Dionysius was also of local Thraco-Roman origin, like Vitalian's family to whom he was related, and the rest of the Scythian monks and other Thraco-Roman personalities of the era (Justin I, Justinian, Flavius Aetius, etc.).[5]:130–131

Other Languages
беларуская: Дыянісій Малы
български: Дионисий Малки
français: Denys le Petit
Bahasa Indonesia: Dionysius Exiguus
interlingua: Dionysio Exiguo
Nederlands: Dionysius Exiguus
Simple English: Dionysius Exiguus
slovenščina: Dionizij Mali
српски / srpski: Дионисије Мали
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Dionizije Mali
українська: Діонісій Малий
Tiếng Việt: Dionysius Exiguus