History Of The Names Of The Months
A history of where the names of the months came from, including Julius and Augustus Caesar, and the word origins used.
Back before the time of modern civilization, before the times of the Romans, the calendar was a very confused thing. The Romans, being the mathematical and civilized people that they were, felt a need to reorganize the previously held system, based on the correct number of days in a year, and the division of these same days.
The divisions of the year that we now know were, of course, created by the Romans. Originally, they used only ten months, as many people know, but most people are misinformed as to where the two extra months came from. I intend to explain where they all came from, and how they got their place in the year.
The original ten months started with Martius (March). The first four months were named for gods and goddesses, and the last six were number based. Why the Romans didn’t just use six more gods isn’t clear. It looks as if they just ran out of ideas.
The first four months were Martius, Aprilis, Maius, and Junius. Martius was for Mars, the god of war, and Aprilis is a variation of the Greek name Aphrodite, sometimes called Aphrilis, who was the goddess of love. Maius is named after the titaness Maia, and Junius after the queen of the gods, Juno.
The next six months were very mathematical, very organized, and not very original. In order, they were Quintilis, Sextilis, Septembris, Octobris, Novembris, and Decembris. Translated, they came out to five, six, seven, eight, nine, and ten. Then things got interesting.
The Roman mathematicians decided that twelve months would more evenly divide the days of the year, so they added two months, and put them at the beginning of the year, so as not to interfere with the placement of the holidays located at the end.
The first month they created was called Januarius, and was named after Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and endings. He was pictured as having two faces, an old and a young, and he was the perfect symbol for showing the end of an old year and the beginning of a new one. This is, of course, the month we call January.
The second month created was Februarius, and is unique because it wasn’t named after a god, a ruler, or even the number two. Februarius came from the Latin verb “februare”, which meant “to purify”. This month was a time for purification, for cleansing, for renewing the home and the person by making everything pure again.
Now, many people believe that the two extra months were added in honor of Julius and Augustus Caesar, which isn’t quite true. Julius Caesar was responsible for January and February being added to the calendar, but those were the names he gave them, and the names they had when he died. After his death, the Roman senate wanted to honor him, and so they decided to take the month he was born, Quintilis, and rename it Julius, in his honor.
Naturally, Augustus Caesar, his nephew, was also a great leader, and during his reign, the Roman senate once again decided to honor their leader with a month in his honor. They originally suggested Septembris, since he was born then, but Augustus decided to take the month after Julius as his own, to show that he himself followed Julius Caesar. And so, Sextilis became Augustus.
Naturally, over the years, the month names became more simplified, and they lost the “s” endings that all Latin verbs have. Still, the names have remained remarkably unchanged over the thousands of years that we’ve been using them. Of course, the calendar has changed a little, but the months have been constant. Until some new empire comes along and decides to honor some of their own heros.