Re: [LEAPSECS] building consensus

From: David Malone <dwmalone_at_MATHS.TCD.IE>
Date: Thu, 08 Jun 2006 22:00:35 +0100

> Quintilis was renamed after Julius Caesar. Later Sextilis was renamed
> after Augustus Caesar. It is often said that the month lengths were
> changed at the same time, but at least one version of that story is
> fabricated and there's a distinct lack of evidence for it. Other emperors
> had months renamed after themselves too, but those names didn't stick.
> There's no evidence that any of them was accompanied by changes in the
> lengths of months either.

The Oxford Companion to the Year is pretty explicit about this in its
chapter on the Roman Calendar. It says that before Julius Caesar:

        Ianuarius 29 Quinctilis 31
        Februarius 28 Sextis 29
        Martius 31 September 29
        Aprilis 29 October 31
        Maius 31 November 29
        Iunius 29 December 29

The reason was most of the months had odd lengths because odd numbers
were lucky, but to get the year to have an odd number of days you
need one month to have an even number of days. There was a leap
month system where Februarius was cut short and an extra month was

After the reform:

        Ianuarius 31 Quinctilis 31
        Februarius 28 Sextis 31
        Martius 31 September 30
        Aprilis 30 October 31
        Maius 31 November 30
        Iunius 30 December 31

They also explain where the extra days were inserted. They say
Quinctilis was renamed Julius after he'd been murdered. Their
entry for "30 February" notes:

        There is no truth in the assertion by some modern (but no
        ancient) writers that Julius Caesar gave all the odd months
        31 days, February 29 days and 30 in a leap year, and all
        the even months (including Oct) 30, but that Augustus upsets
        the logical arangement in order to make his month of August
        as long as Caesar's July. Nevertheless, 30 February has
        existed three times in the calendars of particular countries:
        once in Sweden, twice in the Soviet Union.

Received on Thu Jun 08 2006 - 14:02:57 PDT

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