Roman calendar

Article

January 21, 2022

The Roman calendar includes all the calendars used by the Romans until the creation of the Julian calendar in 45 BC. Years are expressed in AUC (ab Urbe condita) years, counted from the founding of Rome in 753 BCE. The Romans successively used three calendars: the so-called Romulean calendar, attributed to Romulus, co-founder and first of the kings of Rome; the so-called Pompilian calendar, attributed to Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome; the Julian calendar, resulting from the reforms introduced by Julius Caesar. According to tradition, among others reported by Ovid in Fasti, the invention of Romulus, founder of Rome. However, it seems to have been based on the Greek, lunar, or Etruscan calendar.

Description

Years

The Romans took the foundation of Rome as the origin of the dating of the years, Ab Urbe condita, dated April 21 of the year 753 BC (according to the story of Livy) [ref. necessary]. They then use other dates-origin: expulsion of the kings, foundation of the Roman Republic, name of the two consuls in office according to consular splendor [ref. necessary].

Months

The Romulean calendar had ten months with 30 days (incomplete month) or 31 (full month), which gave a year of 304 days beginning in March and ending in December [ref. necessary]. The Pompilian calendar is the result of a reform of the previous calendar to which 50 days were added. The 354 (or 355) days of the year were then distributed over twelve months, with the creation of those of January and February placed after December. With the exception of February, the months then had only odd numbers of days because even numbers were considered bad. On an eight-year cycle, was also added every two years, a 13th month called "intercalary", baptized mercedonius counting 22 or 23 days. This was then intercalated alternately after February 23 or 24, which brought the year to 377 or 378 days. The Julian reform will put good order there to give the Julian calendar, comprising twelve months of 30 or 31 days (with the exception always of February which had 28 or 29 days).

Calends, ides and nuns

The Romans divide the month into three periods of unequal length. These periods are separated by reference days: calends, ides and nuns.

The Roman week

See Nundines. The seven-day week does not appear until the 1st century.

Days

The days are counted down. The interval of days between two events is carried out according to an inclusive calculation [ref. necessary].

Auspicious and inauspicious days

The “auspicious days” (dies fasti, derived from the Latin fas, “what is permitted by the gods”) corresponded to the days when it was authorized to attend to public and private affairs. “Bad days” (dies nefasti) corresponded to days without activity (day of the dead, birthdays, etc.). They marked the Fasti (in): festivals in honor of the gods, significant dates in the history of Rome, such as: the commemoration of victories of Julius Caesar from Augustus) [ref. necessary]. The pontiffs distinguished the “stative ferias” (feasts returning each year on the same day) from the “indictive (or mobile) ferias” (usual (conceptivae) or exceptional (imperativae) feasts).

Evolution of calendars

Romulus' calendar

According to tradition, this calendar originally consisted of ten months (a usage inherited, it seems, from the Etruscan calendar) beginning at the vernal equinox, for a total of 304 days. The remaining days would have been added at the end of the year (between December and March). The calendar started around March 1st. The months of September

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