“Why isn’t the new year on winter solstice?”

The answer, honestly, is that the Romans had no fucking idea how to run a calendar.

Like, seriously, people notice "OCTOber" and "DECEMber" and say, "hey, those mean 'eight' and 'ten', but they're the 10th and 12th months, what's up with that?".

If you've got a little more history, you'll know that July and August are named after Julius and Augustus Caesar, and think, "oh, they added those two months and bumped the rest of the months back."

Nope. The Romans were way, way worse at calendars than that.

Show thread

July and August were actually originally Quintilis and Sextilis - the fifth month and the sixth month. They were called this because the year traditionally started in March. So they had Martius, Aprilis, Maius, Junius, Quintilis, Sextilis, September, October, November, December.

Martius was named for Mars; Junius was named for Juno. We have no idea what Aprilis and Maius were named after. (No, really.) Then they got lazy and just numbered the months.

Show thread

"But wait," you ask, "what about January and February?" Hold onto your butts, because calling the months by their numbers? Not even close to the laziest the Roman calendar got.

Between the end of December and the beginning of Martius were 50-odd intercalary days. They didn't HAVE months associated with them. They were just sort of there.

I swear I am not making this up.

Show thread

In addition, each month had either 30 or 31 days. I was going to say "alternated between" but I looked it up and nope, the Romans decided that was too easy, so it actually went:

Martius 31
Aprilis 30
Maius 31
Junius 30
Quintilis 31
Sextilis 30
September 30
October 31
November 30
December 30
intercalary 51

Okay. This is where we are at the beginning of the Roman Republic.

Look at that. Remember it. You will look back on this and say "actually, that makes sense" after what comes next.

Show thread

At the beginning of the Roman Republic, the Senate decided to fix the calendar. This was for two reasons:

1) The Romans thought the Greeks kicked ass, and wanted to emulate their calendar.

2) Count those days. You will notice that they add up to 355, which means that each year is actually ten (and change) days /shorter/ than an actual solar year - which meant that by the time of the Republic, March was somewhere in the autumn.

Show thread

So the Senate decided to do some reforming. They added two brand-new months to the calendar, Januarius and Februarius. Januarius was named after Janus, because his holiday fell about a week into the new month. (Janus was the god of doorways. We'll come back to him.) February was named after the Februa, a feast that fell in the middle of the new month and that had, in fact, long since been replaced by Lupercalia, an identical feast on the same date with a different name For Reasons.

Show thread

The Senate also added an intercalary month, Mercedonius, the Month of Wages.

Yes, an intercalary month. I want to make sure that's clear.

They also changed the lengths of the months to better fit the Greek system. The Greeks had largely lunar months, so they alternated between 29-day and 30-day months. Once again, the Romans said, "you know, we like this, but it's too easy".

Look, the next post is going to go into "what the hell was WRONG with them?" territory, just warning you.

Show thread

This is the calendar the Roman Senate ended up with:

Januarius 29
Februarius 23
Mercedonius 23
THE REST OF FEBRUARIUS NO I AM NOT KIDDING 5
Martius 31
Aprilis 29
Maius 31
Junius 29
Quintilis 31
Sextilis 29
September 29
October 31
November 29
December 29

See what I meant about Mercedonius being an intercalary month? It's literally in the middle of February. Like, they got 3/4 of the way through February, got bored, and decided to do something else for a month and come back later.

Show thread

@noelle
Well, February is a pretty boring month, at least when it's not Purim or Valentine's.

Sign in to participate in the conversation
Wandering Shop

The Wandering Shop is a Mastodon instance initially geared for the science fiction and fantasy community but open to anyone. We want our 'local' timeline to have the feel of a coffee shop at a good convention: tables full of friendly conversation on a wide variety of topics. We welcome everyone who wants to participate, so long as you're willing to abide by our code of conduct.