The Roman Calendar

The founding of Rome is generally typically placed in the year 753 BCE and this is the point from which all other years are counted on the Roman calendar.[2, p.13]

The Roman calendar originally had 10 months. The year began on the spring equinox with the month of March (Martius). The months were ordered:
1 – March (Martius)
2 – April (Aprilis)
3 – May (Mauis)
4 – June (Iunius)
5 – Quintilis
6 – Sextilis
7 – September
8 – October
9 – November
10 – December
Some time later two more months were inserted into the beginning of the calendar:
1 – Ianuarius
2 – Februarius
These two are the reason that the months September through December no longer correlate with their original positions on the calendar.[1, p.23]

All of the months in the Roman calendar had an odd number of days aside from February. This is due to the belief that even numbers were bad luck.[1, p.24]

The kalends, ides, and nones are words used to refer to different parts of the Roman month. The first day of the month was known as the kalends. The day that was 16 days away from the next kalends was known as the ides. The day that was 9 days away from the next kalends was known as the nones.[1, p.25]

The fasti, nefasti, and feria are words used to refer to different types of Roman days. Public business was allowed on fasti but not on nefasti. Public holidays were known as feria.[1, p.25]

“The problem with the Roman calendar was that it only had 355 days, which was solved by putting an intercalary month of 22 are 23 days after the first 23 days of February.”
Ken Mondschein (2020)[1, p.27]

At one point the Roman calendar was 67 days off from the solar year.[1, p.28]

History

c.509 BCE: The Romans began driving a nail into one of the Temple of Minerva’s walls on the 13th of September every year to mark the year. It was around 509 BCE that their calendar placed 354 days in a year with an extra 22 days added every 2 years to make 1,460 days every 4 years.[2, p.14]

“The Roman Pontiffs, in exchange for private bribes, began to corrupt and falsify the Calendar Rolls.”
James Cecil Macdonald (1897)[2, p.14]

Late Republic: ab urbe condita (AUC) was introduced.[1, p.26]

C1st BCE: Julius Caesar revised the Roman calendar twice. The first time, two intercalary months were added between November and December. He then decided to abolish intercalary months and instead added 10 days to the 355 day year. He added 2 days to January, August, and December and 1 day to April, June, September, and November. He also added an intercalary day every 4 years (aka as a leap year).[1, p.28]

“The old calendar’s influence is seen in one interesting way: the Julian leap year was actually done by doubling February 24, and this is still maintained in the liturgical calendar of the Roman Catholic Church.”
Ken Mondschein (2020)[1, p.29]

Julius Caesar’s reformed calendar became known as the Julian calendar and this is the calendars that the Christian used.

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References:

[1] – Mondschein, Ken, and Neal Stephenson. On Time: a History of Western Timekeeping. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2020.

[2] – James Cecil Macdonald. “Chronologies and Calendars” (London, 1897).

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