The mistake went unnoticed until around 9BC when Julius's successor - his great-nephew usually known now as Augustus Caesar and the first Roman Emperor - called for further changes. The Pontifices's error had gone unchecked for 36 years meaning that 12 extra days had been added instead of 9. To correct this Augustus ordered a halt in the leap years until the Earth had caught up with the calendar. In the past it was believed that the month lengths were then changed to their present form.
Under this view, Sextilis had 30 days and the argument is that Augustus could not have fewer days than Julius so it was lengthened to That would have left three day months in succession as September was also believed to be 31 days long since Julius Caesar's reforms. So September and November were shortened to 30 days and October and December lengthened to That left one too many days in the year so February was returned to its traditional length of 28 days to compensate. But nowadays this theory has fallen out of favour and it is though that the month lengths had already been set in their modern form by Julius Caesar so August was a 31 day month already and no further change was needed when Augustus was honoured.
It was quite a small honour; after his death in AD14 the Senate pronounced him a God. But we can say with certainty that from 8BC there were the twelve familiar months with the same number of days they have now. To get the calendar back on track, Augustus decreed that the first leap year after his reforms would be the year we call AD8 and they would occur every four years thereafter. And so they did. The calendar was to remain unchanged for more than one and half millennia and apart from a minor adjustment which began to be introduced in , it remains substantially the same today.
Days While we count the days of the month forwards starting, for example, with the first of April and ending with the 30th, the Romans counted the days backwards.
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And not just from the end of the month, but from the first quarter and the middle of the month and then from the first day of the next month. So the day we would call the 20th day of January Romans would call the 13th day before the first of February. That arithmetic only works with inclusive counting - count every day from 20 January to 1 February inclusive.
This system harks back to the earlier Roman calendar based on the moon. The start of the month would be announced by the priest who saw the first faint sliver of light in the New Moon's black disc. He would call out - calare in Latin - and that is the origin of the Latin word for the first of the month the Kalendae or the Kalends.
The next phase of the moon, the first quarter when it is exactly half a disc, were called the Nonae usually Nones today and the full moon was known as the Ides. The waning half was not marked. But even by the seventh century BC these divisions were formalised. The Kalendae were always the first day of the month. The Ides were fixed as the fifteenth day of a day month or the thirteenth day of any other. The period leading up to the Ides was fixed as eight days and so the Nonae had to be on either the fifth day of a short month or the seventh day of a long month.
The rest had 28 or These fixed dates were continued by Julius Caesar when he converted the calendar, even though other months of 31 days were introduced. The new 'long' months of January, August and December still had the Nonae on the 5th day and the Ides on the 13th; that remained true after the changes introduced by Augustus. Days were referred to as so many days before the Kalendae, the Nonae, or the Ides. So the 13th day of March was called. The Romans counted inclusively so they count 13, 14, 15 to get three days.
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On the day itself they simply called it the ides of March or the kalends of May. And they referred to the day immediately before one of the three fixed dates as the pridie - the eve of.
So the 14th of March was. On inscriptions these words were all abbreviated which means that we can ignore all the complex Latin endings to words which change with its grammatical position in the sentence. So we can simply write.
Leap There is one more little complexity. What to do about February? It has a variable number of days. Today we cope with a leap year by adding an extra day at the end of the month - February 29th. The Romans did it differently. Julius added the extra day after the 23rd day of the month - the same place that the bi-annual extra month Mercedonius had been inserted. So the leap day was like a very short Merecedonius and familiar to Romans of the time.
But if you are naming days by counting backwards from the next event, adding an extra day affects the names of the previous days as well. In February the ides fell on 13th day of the month. The next day was 16 days before the 1st of March in a normal 28 day February. If an extra day was added, then the day after the ides of February would be 17 days before the 1st of March. But that did not happen. Because - like Mercedonius - the extra day was not part of February.
The counting missed a beat, like this. In other words the extra day did not alter the calendar until after the 24th day - a time when it was always hard to tell the date in Rome. Because the 24th was normally called the sexto kalendae the extra day was called the bis-sexto-kalendae meaning the double, twice or again sixth day before the start of March. Sometimes a Leap Year is referred to as a bissextile for that reason. This odd way of doing things has led some scholars into saying that the extra day was added after the 24th, when in fact logic - and history - determines that it was added after the 23rd.
This name and system also implies that February did indeed have 28 and 29 days after Julius Caesar's reforms. The week We do not need to know about weeks to deal with dates. Calendar reform of months or years has not normally affected the cycle of days of the week. Weeks are a purely human rhythm, whereas the calendar attempts to reflect and reconcile three separate natural rhythms of the Universe outside - the Earth's day, the Moon's month, and the Sun's year.
The Romans used an eight-day cycle for their civil organisation with a market or Nundinae every eight days.
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