Greek and Roman Calendars (Classical World)


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Other calendars used in the ancient Near East

Indeed, in BC the new year was moved from the Ides of March to the Kalends of January January 1 so that newly elected consuls could assume office. The pontifex maximus had to be in Rome during February to declare whether there would be an intercalation that year. But Julius Caesar, who had been elected chief priest in 63 BC, was preoccupied in Gaul and then with civil war, and there had been only one intercalation since he had become proconsul.

Measuring time in antiquity: Archaeoastronomy in the Greek and Roman worlds

In 50 BC, Cicero complains in a letter to Atticus on February 13 that he still did not know whether there would be an intercalation later that month V. When Caesar finally did return from Egypt in 46 BC and was declared dictator, a three-month discrepancy existed between the seasons and their calendar date. The harvest was being celebrated before the crops even had been taken in. As Suetonius complained, "Harvest festivals did not come in summer nor those of the vintage in the autumn" Life of Julius, XL.

That year, a reformed calendar based on the solar year was introduced by Caesar, who first had heard about it, relates Lucan Pharsalia , X. With the advice of the Alexandrian astronomer Sosigenes, the missing ninety days were intercalated, extending this ultimus annus confusionis "the last year of confusion," Macrobius, Saturnalia , I. To correct for the days that were lost in the old lunar calendar of the Republic, one or two additional days were added at the end of those months with twenty-nine days.

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Because the solar year is approximately a quarter day longer than the calendar year, a single intercalary day also was to be inserted every four years, when February 24 would be counted twice. This was a bissextile or leap year, since that date was the "twice sixth" day, bissextus, before the Kalends of March.

The notion of February 29 is a modern construct. When Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC, Quinctilis, the month in which he had been born, was renamed Julius July in his honor, although this change in the name of the month was ignored until made legal after the appearance of a comet four months later during games sponsored in July by Octavian, which, recounts Cassius Dio, was understood to be a sign of Caesar's apotheosis.

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Octavian is thought to have moved these games to late July to overshadow games sponsored by Brutus earlier that month. Hearing of their announcement, Cicero responded in a letter to Atticus, "Good heavens! Confound their impudence! Could anything be more unseemly than 'July' for Brutus? But the pontiffs mistakenly adjusted for leap year every three years having counted inclusively and inserted too many intercalary days.

Only then, after the superfluous days had been corrected and intercalation was resumed, did the Julian calendar function as intended, with February gaining an extra day every four years. In honor of his reform, Sextilis was renamed Augustus. In the city of Ashur , the years bore the name of the official elected for the year; his eponym was known as the limmu.

As late as about bce , his installation date was not fixed in the calendar. From about bce , however, Babylonian month names began to supplant Assyrian names, and, when Assyria became a world power, it used the Babylonian lunisolar calendar. The calendar of the Hittite empire is known even less well. As in Babylonia, the first Hittite month was that of first fruits, and, on its beginning, the gods determined the fates.

At about the time of the conquest of Babylonia in bce , Persian kings made the Babylonian cyclic calendar standard throughout the Persian empire, from the Indus to the Nile.


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Aramaic documents from Persian Egypt, for instance, bear Babylonian dates besides the Egyptian. Similarly, the royal years were reckoned in Babylonian style, from Nisanu 1. It is probable, however, that at the court itself the counting of regnal years began with the accession day.

The Seleucids and, afterward, the Parthian rulers of Iran maintained the Babylonian calendar. The origin and history of the Zoroastrian calendar year of 12 months of 30 days, plus five days that is, days , remain unknown. Article Media.


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    Attic calendar

    Thank you for your feedback. Load Previous Page. Ancient and religious calendar systems The Near East and the Middle East The lunisolar calendar , in which months are lunar but years are solar—that is, are brought into line with the course of the Sun—was used in the early civilizations of the whole Middle East , except Egypt , and in Greece.

    The Near East and the Middle East

    Read More on This Topic. The familiar subdivision of the day into 24 hours, the hour into 60 minutes, and the minute into 60 seconds dates to the ancient Egyptians. Feeney, Caesar's Calendar All Rights Reserved. Personal use only; commercial use is strictly prohibited for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice. Oxford Classical Dictionary. Publications Pages Publications Pages. Search within subject: Select Read More.

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