Roman calendar

HomePage | Recent changes | View source | Discuss this page | Page history | Log in |

Printable version | Disclaimers | Privacy policy

The word "calendar" is derived from the Latin name for the first day of each month, the Kalends.. The first day of each month was called the kalends of that month.

The Romans had names for 3 days in each month. The first named day was the Kalends (above). The second two named days were the Nones and the Ides. Those two named days floated - in most months they fell on the 13th and 5th of the month, but in a few months they fell on the 7th and 15th days.

Months with Ides and Nones occurring on the 13th/5th day: January, February, April, June, August, September, November, December
Months with Ides and Nones occurring on the 15th/7th day: March, May, July, October --
a mnemonic:
In March, July, October, May
The IDES fall on the 15th day
The NONES the 7th.
The rest besides take 2 days less
For Nones and Ides.

Matters were further different from the modern Western calendar. The Romans did NOT count the days of the month retrospectively, looking back to the first of the month (that is: 1st, 2nd day since the start of the month, 3rd day since the start of the month). They counted forward to their named days. Anyone familiar with waiting for a paycheck should understand. Also, to the distress of modern trying to work out dates in Roman calendar documents, counted inclusively, so that September 2 is considered 4 days before September 5, rather than 3 days before.

September

Kalends of September = September 1
4 days before the Nones of Sept. = September 2
3 days before the Nones of Sept. = September 3
the day before the Nones of Sept. = September 4
Nones of September = September 5
8 days before the Ides of Sept. = September 6
7 days before the Ides of Sept. = September 7
6 days before the Ides of Sept. = September 8
5 days before the Ides of Sept. = September 9
4 days before the Ides of Sept. = September 10
3 days before the Ides of Sept. = September 11
the day before the Ides of Sept. = September 12
Ides of September = September 13
18 days before the Kalends of Oct. = September 14
17 days before the Kalends of Oct. = September 15
16 days before the Kalends of Oct. = September 16
15 days before the Kalends of Oct. = September 17
14 days before the Kalends of Oct. = September 18
13 days before the Kalends of Oct. = September 19
12 days before the Kalends of Oct. = September 20
11 days before the Kalends of Oct. = September 21
10 days before the Kalends of Oct. = September 22
9 days before the Kalends of Oct. = September 23
8 days before the Kalends of Oct. = September 24
7 days before the Kalends of Oct. = September 25
6 days before the Kalends of Oct. = September 26
5 days before the Kalends of Oct. = September 27
4 days before the Kalends of Oct. = September 28
3 days before the Kalends of Oct. = September 29
the day before the Kalends of Oct. = September 30
Kalends of October = October 1

Notice that by counting inclusively and by having a special name for the day before a named day the Roman calendar loses the possibility of saying: 2 days before a named day.


Before the Julian Calendar, the months (March, May, July and October) that had Ides on the 15th had 31 days and the other months had 29 days, except February with 28 days. Occasionally an extra month of Mercedonius was added with 22 or 23 days. This was supposed to happen on alternate years, but in practice happened less often, so causing the need for reform.


see: Calendar


Question: I remember reading somewhere that the Romans had once didn't have a january and february, and only added them later; instead they had a period 'outside the calendar'. Is this true? also, why did Romans once count months starting in March (september=7,october=8,november=9,december=10)? -- SJK