Posted by: Madhavi CN | January 4, 2011

Happy New Year: The History Of The Calendar

The Roman year originally had just 10 months starting with Martius (March) and ending with December. But Numa Pompilius, Rome’s second king (circa 700 BC) wanted to give his ‘value-add’ to the calendar and added Januarius “January” and Februarius “February” before March. An extra month – Intercalaris “intercalendar” after February took care of the leap year issues.


The first C-section baby named after the way he was born – Julius Caesar, turned into a powerful emperor of the Romans and converted the Roman calendar into the Julian calendar with some few changes.

January : Month of Janus

Middle English Januarie and Latin Januarius (meaning: of Janus)
Janus, the Roman God of gates and doorways, is depicted with two faces looking in opposite directions. He is considered the God of beginnings and endings. January had 29 days until Caesar added 2 more days to it.

February: Month of Februa

Middle English Februarius and Latin Februarius (meaning: of Februa)
Februa is the Roman festival of purification, celebrated on February 15th by the Romans.
Februarius had 23 or 24 days, until Caesar fixed it as 28 with 29 days on every fourth year.

Intercalaris: The inter-calendar month

Latin Intercalaris (meaning: inter-calendar)
Intercalaris which had 27 days was abolished by Caesar.

March: Month of Mars

Middle English March(e) and Latin Martius (meaning: of Mars)
Mars, the Roman god of war is identified with
Ares, the Greek god. Surprisingly none dared changing the number of days in the month; so it always remained contended at 31.

April: Aphrodite’s month

Old English April(is), Latin Aprilis and Greek Aphro

The month represents Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty who is identified with the Roman goddess Venus. Aprilis came from aperire meaning “to open.” Pompilius brought down Aprilis to 29 days from 30. But Caesar made it again 30 days long.

 May: Month of Maia

Old English Maius and Latin Maius (meaning: of Maia)
Maius has always had 31 days.

Maia, means “the great one” and always had 31 days. It stands for the Italian goddess of spring.

June: Month of Juno

Old English junius and Latin Junius (meaning: of Juno)
Pompilius reduced Junius to 29 from 30 days. But Caesar brought it back to 30 again.
Juno, the principle goddess of the Roman pantheon is the goddess of marriage. She is the wife and sister of Jupiter and is identified with Hera, the Greek goddess. The name might also have come from iuniores (young) similar to May which might have its roots in maiores (majors). The essence is that the two months are dedicated to young and old men.

July: Month of Julius Caesar

Middle English Julie and Latin Julius (meaning: of Julius)
Julius which was initially called Quintilis always had 31 days. While Caesar reformed the Roman calendar to the Julian calendar, he renamed this month after himself.
Julius Ceasar was born in this month.

 August: Month of Augustus Caesar

Latin Augustus (meaning: of Augustus) was initially called sextilis mensis or “sixth month”
Pompilius reduced it to 29 days, while Caesar made it 31 days long.
Augustus Caesar, the first Roman emperor, added his 2p worth to his uncle’s work and in the process renamed the month after himself. Augustus choose this month because he felt there were various auspicious events that took place in this month for him.

 September: The seventh month

Middle English septembre and Latin septem (meaning “seven”) + -ber (adj. suffix)
September too was reduced by Pompilius to 29 days but Caesar restored it to 30.

October: The eighth month

Middle English octobre and Latin octo “eight” + -ber (adj. suffix)
None dared to alter October which always had 31 days.

November: The ninth month

Middle English Novembre and Latin Novembris mensis “nineth month”

Pompilius made the 30 day month into a 29 day one. But Caesar promptly corrected it to the original 30 days.

 December: The tenth month

Middle English decembre and Latin december “tenth month”
This month too was brought to 29 days but Caesar made it 31 days

Some names were derived from Roman deities and most were merely the numbers that they represented in the calendar. Just a couple of them were in honor of Roman emperors.


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