Roman calendar Posted by on Jan 29, 2012 in Latin Language, Roman culture, Uncategorized

The calendar we use nowadays corresponds with very light variations, to the one that Julius Caesar used. However, in the history of the Roman calendar we can distinguish three stages: initial, Numa Pompilius’ reform, and the reform of Julius Caesar.

In the initial phase, which was a lunar calendar, the year was made ​​up of ten months, each of which consisted of 29 days and a half. With the reform of Numa Pompilius the year started to be 355 days. The months of March, May, July and October had 31 days, February 28, and the remaining 29. In the year 153 BC. January became the first month of the year.

In 46 BC. Julius Caesar asked to an Egyptian astronomer, Sosigenes, the calendar reform. The months of January, March, May, July, August, October and December had 31 days. April, June, September and November, 30 days and February 28 days. To accommodate the current year to the sun, Caesar ordered that every four years an extra day should be added: they are leap years, this day was added between 24 and 25 February.

On the death of Julius Caesar, it was given in his honor the name of July to the month before called Quintilis, later Augustus gave his name to Sextilis.



Of all the days of the month, only three had their own name: Kalendae, Nonae and Idus.

Kalendae corresponded to the 1st day of each month.
The Nonaecould correspond, depending on the month, to day 5 or 7:

  •  Day 5: Ianuarius, Februarius, Aprilis, Iunius, Augustus, September, November, December.
  •  Day 7: Martius, Maius, Iulius, October.

The Idus corresponded to day 13 or day 15, following the same distribution as Nonae.

The term used to express the date depended on the relationship the day had with one of these special-dates.
The Kalendae, Nonae and Idus days were expressed by that word in ablative followed by the adjective of the corresponding month: Kalendis Aprilibus (April 1), Nonis Iuliis (7th of July), Idibus Martiis (15th of March) . The days immediately before or after of any of these key-dates was expressed with the adverbs pridie (previous day) or postridie (subsequent day)  followed by the corresponding name in accusative: pridie Idus Octobres (14th of October), postridie Kalendas Februarias (2nd of February) . For the rest of the dates they used the phrase ante diem followed by the ordinal number of days left to get to the immediate subsequent key-date, considering that the Romans used inclusive counting, adding the starting day (which is not made nowadays) and the final day: ante diem XVII Kalendas Februarias (16th of January).
Dates were usually expressed by abbreviations.


The most common way to indicate the years was to appoint the consuls of the year they talked about:
M. Messala (et) M. Pisone consulibus…
Another way to indicate the year was to take as reference the year of the founding of Rome (753 BC), counting the years since then. The acronyms A.U.C. (Ab urbe condita) were generally added:
CCXLI A.U.C. = year 512 BC.
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      @Chloe What do you mean by “key?”


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