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Calendar Reformed

Calendars of Romulus and Numa

The calendar of Romulus was the first one developed by the Romans. It was later “improved” by the Roman king Numa Pompilius.  A reformation of the Calendar was then started around 79 BC according to the Bible Timeline Poster with World History. The first one, the calendar of Romulus, only had 304 days divided into ten months and the year started on the first day of March. It was the Roman king Numa who introduced February and January (in that order) between December and March so instead of 304 days, the calendar now had 354 or 355 days. They later decided to move February to its current position.

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But this calendar stilled lacked some days, so an Intercalary month called Mercedonius, was added to make up for it. They tried but this new calendar was messy and the total number of days in a year varied; they sometimes had a couple of years with days that went up to 378 within an eight-year period so the Romans dropped the seven days to yield the more accurate 365.375 days.

The Romans faced issues with this calendar. Its complicated format involved much guesswork and the pontiffs who were in charge of it were sometimes bribed to manipulate the months to shorten or lengthen the term of some government officials. Leap years were also eliminated because they were considered unlucky.


The Julian Calendar

To remedy this dilemma, Julius Caesar, decided to reform the earlier lunar calendars and based it entirely on the time it takes for the earth to revolve around the sun. He was assisted by Greek astronomer Sosigenes who, at that time, lived in the Egyptian city of Alexandria. This improvement was initiated by Caesar in 45 BC which he aptly called the “last year of confusion” because it had a total of 445 days. 1 January 46 heralded the start of a new and reformed calendar year. Julius Caesar also changed the name of the seventh month after him, hence the month of July.

The new year had a total of 365 1/4 or 365.25 days with one leap year every four years to keep it from falling behind. Not to be outdone, Augustus named the eighth month after himself and added one day in August (subtracting from February) because he did not want Julius Caesar’s month of July to have more days than his own. To adjust the number of days, he decided to reduce September and November to 30 days and added another day to October and December to turn them into a total of 31 days.


An error of one day still occurred every 128 years even after all the reforms; the Julian calendar also became confusing as the years passed and as new holidays were added (especially Easter). The Julian calendar would remain to be in use for thousands of years until the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in 1582 AD.

Forsythe, Gary. Time in Roman Religion: One Thousand Years of Religious History. New York: Routledge, 2012
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