But even the bulls of such a pontiff as Innocent III are not unfrequently at fault, and as Léopold Delisle has shown, an erroneous calculation of the indiction may be perpetuated through a whole series of authentic documents (Bib. The point of main interest in this connection is to determine the source and period of the introduction of our present system of dating by the Christian Era.
Although, as explained in the article GENERAL CHRONOLOGY, the monk known as Dionysius Exiguus, when resident in Rome, c.
that they must bear upon them the indication of the day and year when they were delivered, may be traced back to the time of Constantine.
In the course of the Middle Ages this principle was generally admitted, and we find, for example, that at Cologne in the twelfth century the validity of a certain instrument was contested because it lacked a date. now the Roman decrees lay down that letters which lack the day and the indiction have no binding force." (Westdeutsche Zeitschrift für Geschichte, I, 377.) But although this principle was recognized in theory it was not always carried out in practice.
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The same is true with regard to the correctness of the dates which do appear in official documents, especially those of the early Middle Ages.
As a rule the charters emanating from the chancery of the Western Emperors are much more liable to this form of error than those of the Holy See (Bresslau, ib., 844). In any case it remains certain and is admitted by all serious writers upon diplomatics that the mere fact that an erroneous date occurs in a document, especially when we are dealing with the earlier Middle Ages, cannot by itself be accepted as a proof, or even a presumption, of the spuriousness of the document.