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Roman calendar

At the time of the foundation of Rome, in 753 BC, a year consisted of 10 months.These months were initially referred to numerically as the first, second, and so forth, until it was decided to dedicate some to the gods. The first was therefore dedicated to MARS, the god of war,the second to APERTA, the name by which Apollo was known,the third to MAIUS, the common name of Jupiter optimus maximus,the fourth to JUNON, Jupiter's wife. The other months were still named according to their numerical order for a while. These months made up a year of 304 days to which were added, after the last month, as many days as were needed to align the dates with the solar year, without however naming these days; two additional months were then created and placed after December. The first of these months, placed before Martius, was called JANUARIUS, in honour of Janus, the first king of Latium and god of peace. The second additional month, FEBRUARIUS, remained for a while after December.According to Roman superstition, uneven numbers brought good luck so the days were divided in such a way that each month contained an uneven number of days.As these months added up to 354 days (i.e. an even number and hence deemed fateful) it was decided that the year should have 355 days, adding one day to the last month (Februarius), which increased from 27 to 28 days (i.e. an even number) and was therefore regarded as a cursed month; it was dedicated to Februus, god of the dead in the underworld, hence its name Februarius; it was a month of mourning, during which the "februalia" festival of purification took place in honour of the dead; it also gained a reputation as a month of sickness ("febris", fever). Around 400 A.U.C. (354 BC), Februarius was moved between Januarius and Martius, thereby becoming the second month. The year, which had previously begun around the spring equinox, then started at, or just before, the winter solstice. This 355-day year coincided, to within one day, with the length of the lunar year which consisted of 354 days. As it was shorter than the solar year, around which farmers based their activities, an attempt was made to bring the seasons into line by adding intercalations. To do so, it was decided to establish a cycle of four years, during which a 13th month, sometimes 23 days long, placed between 24 and 25 February, and sometimes only 22 days long, intercalated between 23 and 24 February, would be added every two years. This additional month was called "Mercedonius" on account of the fact that mercenaries were paid at this time of year. In this cycle of four years, the first year consisted of 355 days,the second of 355 + 22 = 377 days,the third of 355 days, andthe fourth of 355 + 23 = 378 days. This new arrangement gave a total of 1,465 days for the four years of the cycle, whereas four actual years total only 1,461 days; a surplus of 4 days was thus created. The year went from being too short to too long! In an effort to remedy this situation, the Decemviri adopted, in the year 450 A.U.C. (304 BC), "the Octaeteris of Cleostratus of Tenedos", a period of eight years in which five instead of six months of 22 days should be intercalated during a period of three octaeterides. The excess of four days over four years grew during three octaeterides - in other words 24 years - to 24 days. Removing a 22-day month during this period still left 2 days too many. To deal with these two superfluous days, the Pontiffs were tasked with allocating the requisite number of days to the month of Mercedonius in order to bring the calendar year into step with the actual year. Unfortunately, everything was arbitrarily handled to further the interests of politicians whose sights were fixed on elections and public office; the result was that, instead of being cleared up, the mess grew to such proportions that by 708 A.U.C. (46 BC) the calendar equinox and the astronomical equinox diverged by approximately 3 months. The grape harvest took place in January!It was at this point that dictator and pontifex maximus Julius Caesar intervened.