Roman calendar

The Roman calendar was the calendar used by the Roman kingdom and republic. The term often includes the Julian calendar established by the reforms of the dictator Julius Caesar and emperor Augustus in the late 1st century BC and sometimes includes any system dated by inclusive counting towards months' kalends, nones, and ides in the Roman manner. The term usually excludes the Alexandrian calendar of Roman Egypt, which continued the unique months of that land's former calendar; the Byzantine calendar of the later Roman Empire, which usually dated the Roman months in the simple count of the ancient Greek calendars; and the Gregorian calendar, which refined the Julian system to bring it into still closer alignment with the tropical year.

A reproduction of the Fasti Antiates Maiores
Another reproduction of the fragmentary Fasti Antiates Maiores (c. 60 BC), with the seventh and eighth months still named Quintilis ("QVI") and Sextilis ("SEX") and an intercalary month ("INTER") in the far right-hand column

Roman dates were counted inclusively forward to the next of three principal days: the first of the month (the kalends), a day shortly before the middle of the month (the ides), and eight days—nine, counting inclusively—before this (the nones). The original calendar consisted of ten months beginning in spring with March; winter was left as an unassigned span of days. These months ran for 38 nundinal cycles, each forming an eight-day week (nine days counted inclusively, hence the name) ended by religious rituals and a public market. The winter period was later divided into two months, January and February. The legendary early kings Romulus and Numa Pompilius were traditionally credited with establishing this early fixed calendar, which bears traces of its origin as an observational lunar one. In particular, the kalends, nones, and ides seem to have derived from the first sighting of the crescent moon, the first-quarter moon, and the full moon respectively. The system ran well short of the solar year, and it needed constant intercalation to keep religious festivals and other activities in their proper seasons. This is a typical element of lunisolar calendars. For superstitious reasons, such intercalation occurred within the month of February even after it was no longer considered the last month.

After the establishment of the Roman Republic, years began to be dated by consulships and control over intercalation was granted to the pontifices, who eventually abused their power by lengthening years controlled by their political allies and shortening the years in their rivals' terms of office.[citation needed] Having won his war with Pompey, Caesar used his position as Rome's chief pontiff to enact a calendar reform in 46 BC, coincidentally making the year of his third consulship last for 446 days. In order to avoid interfering with Rome's religious ceremonies, the reform added all its days towards the ends of months and did not adjust any nones or ides, even in months which came to have 31 days. The Julian calendar was supposed to have a single leap day on 24 February (a doubled VI Kal. Mart. or ante diem bis sextum Kalendas Martias) every fourth year, but following Caesar's assassination the priests figured this using inclusive counting and mistakenly added this bissextile (bis sextum) day every three years. In order to bring the calendar back to its proper place, Augustus was obliged to suspend intercalation for one or two decades. The revised calendar remained slightly longer than the solar year; by the 16th century the date of Easter had shifted so far away from the vernal equinox that Pope Gregory XIII ordered the calendar's adjustment, resulting in the Gregorian calendar.