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The early Roman civil year consisted of 304 days (ten months beginning with March and ending with December, decem = ten) consisting of 38 nundinis of 8 days each (Frank 1956:60). The lunar month used by the early Romans alternated between 30 and 29 days accounting for a year of 295 days. About 700 BCE two additional months became part of the calendar—January and February. Later the lunar month became obsolete as months of 30 and 31 days, except for February, became adopted.

Frank writes:

Later Numa, adding January and February, introduced luna years of 355 days with leap months. Since the priests did not minister the intercalculaion correctly, they caused a lot of confusion, which Julius Caesar corrected by giving the year 708 about 445 days. The anus confusionis which ran from October 13th, 47 to December 31st, 46 BCE, finally brought order out of confusion. (Frank 1956:60.)

Julius Caesar in 46 BCE modified the 365-day calendar by requiring every fourth year to have 366 days. The Roman method of numbering days appears somewhat unusual. Each day became reckoned from the period to follow—calends, nomes, and ides.

The First Month in the Roman Julian Calendar -- March

Day of
the Month

Name of the Day

Day of
the Month

Name of the Day

1 calends 17 16th day before the calends
2 4th day before the nomes 18 15th day before the calends
3 3rd day before the nomes 19 14th day before the calends
4 eve of the nomes 20 13th day before the calends
5 nomes 21 12th day before calends
6 8th day before the ides 22 11th day before calends
7 7th day before the ides 23 10th day before calends
8 6th day before the ides 24 9th day before calends
9 5th day before the ides 25 8th day before calends
10 4th day before the ides 26 7th day before calends
11 3rd day before the ides 27 6th day before calends
12 eve of the ides 28 5th day before calends
13 ides 29 4th day before calends
14 19th day before calends 30 3rd day before calends
15 18th day before calends 31 eve of the calends
16 17th day before calends    

A solar year may be defined as the time it takes the earth to make one orbit about the sun. A normal Gregorian year contains 365 days, but one orbit of the earth takes an extra 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds to complete every year (Zinberg 1963:29). If nothing were done to compensate for this extra 1/4 day every year, every 120 years the seasons would have shifted by one month.

To adjust for this extra time accumulation the Julian calendar, adopted by Julius Caesar, added a 29th day to February every fourth year because a partial day could not be added every year. This extended the year to 366 days every four years, commonly known as a leap year. The Julian calendar also divided the year into 12 months that varied between 28 and 31 days.

The Roman Julian Calendar

Number of
 the Month

Name of
the Month

Number of days
in the month

First March 31
Second April 30
Third May 31
Fourth June 30
Fifth July 31
Sixth August 31
Seventh September 30
Eighth October 31
Ninth November 30
Tenth December 31
Eleventh January 31
Twelfth February 28 (29 every fourth year)

The addition of 24 hours every four years exceeds the accumulated four-year difference by 44 minutes and 56 seconds. Multiplying 4 years by 5 hours 48 minutes 46 seconds yields 23 hours 15 minutes 4 seconds. This correction of 24 hours 0 minutes 0 seconds every four years is therefore excessive by 44 minutes 56 seconds. See Zinberg 1963:29). This extra time accumulated until Pope Gregory XIII, in 1582 CE, reformed the Julian calendar (see The Gregorian Calendar).

Page last edited: 02/12/06 02:42 PM

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