12 months of the year and how they got their names

12 months of the year and how they got their names

Our lives run on Roman time – Birthdays, wedding anniversaries, and public holidays are regulated by Pope Gregory XIII’s Gregorian Calendar, which is itself a modification of Julius Caesar’s calendar introduced in 45 B.C.

The names of our months are therefore derived from the Roman gods, leaders, festivals, and numbers.

If you’ve ever wondered why our 12-month year ends with September, October, November, and December – names which mean the seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth months – you can blame the Romans.

12 months of the year and how they got their names

The twelve Roman months were:

1.      January

January takes its name from Janus, the Roman god of doorways and beginnings

2.      February

February was named after the Februa, a festival of purification. This particular festival includes a nudie run which was designed to purify the city and promote fertility.

3.      March

March was named after Mars, the god of war.

4.      April

April was named after the goddess Aphrodite.

5.      May

Named after Maia, the Greek goddess of nursing mothers

6.      June

Named after Juno, the goddess of marriage & motherhood

7.      July

July (formerly, Quintilis) was renamed Iulius, to celebrate the month in which the dictator Julius Caesar was born

8.      August

Caesar’s adoptive son and heir, the emperor Augustus “Octavian Caesar” had Sextilis renamed in his honour. This was not his birth month (which was September), but the month when he first became consul and subjugated Egypt.

9.      September

Literally meaning “the 7th month” because it was once the seventh month when the calendars started with March.

10.  October

Literally meaning “the 8th month”

11.  November

Literally meaning “the 9th month”

12.  December

Literally meaning “the 10th month”

The Roman year originally had ten months, a calendar which was ascribed to the legendary first king, Romulus. Tradition had it that Romulus named the first month, Martius, after his own father, Mars, the god of war.

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This month was followed by Aprilis, Maius, and Iunius, names derived from deities or aspects of Roman culture. Thereafter, however, the months were simply called the fifth month (Quintilis), sixth month (Sixtilis) and so on, all the way through to the tenth month, December.

Later, Numa Pompilius (the Roman king circa 700 BCE) added two months Ianuarius and Februarius, made them the beginning of the year, moving Martius to the third place (hence the names of Quintilis, Sextilis, September, October, November and December.)

There had been a month between Februarius and Martius called Intercalaris (“inter-calendar”), but the month was abolished by Julius Caesar later.

 

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