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Although Anno Domini was in widespread use by the 9th century, the term "Before Christ" (or its equivalent) did not become common until much later.

Bede the Venerable used the expression "anno igitur ante incarnationem Dominicam" (so in the year before the Incarnation of the Lord) twice.

"Anno an xpi nativitate" (in the year before the birth of Christ) is found in 1474 in a work by a German monk.

In 1627, the French Jesuit theologian Denis Pétau (Dionysius Petavius in Latin), with his work De doctrina temporum, popularized the usage ante Christum (Latin for "Before Christ") to mark years prior to AD.

In this same history, he also used another Latin term, ante vero incarnationis dominicae tempus anno sexagesimo ("in fact in the 60th year before the time of the Lord's incarnation"), equivalent to the English "before Christ", to identify years before the first year of this era.

Both Dionysius and Bede regarded Anno Domini as beginning at the incarnation of Jesus, but "the distinction between Incarnation and Nativity was not drawn until the late 9th century, when in some places the Incarnation epoch was identified with Christ's conception, i.e., the Annunciation on March 25" (Annunciation style).

His system was to replace the Diocletian era that had been used in an old Easter table because he did not wish to continue the memory of a tyrant who persecuted Christians.

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