Saturday, July 8, 2017

The Longest Year?

Ancient Roman sundial, 
one of the 2 remaining ionic columns in front of the Temple of Apollo. 
Erected in 5th century BCE. Pompeii, Italy

What was the longest year on record since the Bronze Age?

Newgrange, Ireland 
Winter Solstice

Timekeeping has been something people are fairly good at.

The pagans calculated the days until equinox and solstice, and the Mayan calendar was responsible for spawning some 2012 angst and a blockbuster flop.

Originally, the Roman calendar was 10 months and 304 days long with 61 winter days that were not officially counted . . .

Until Julius Caesar stepped in.

Egyptian Star Map

After experiencing Cleopatra and the less volatile Egyptian calendar, Julius decided stability would be beneficial. 

Pre Julian calendar
46 BC was called The Year of Confusion

To align the current calendar, Julius extended 46 BC by 67 days making it 445 days long.

To make the new Roman calendar 365 days, in 45 BC two days were added to: 

January - named after Janus, god of beginnings

August - at the time called sextilis, sixth month and later named after Caesar Agustus

December - named for the tenth month from the early Roman calendar where ten months were thought adequate. 

One extra day was added to:

April - named for Aphrodite, god of getting it on

June - named for Juno, queen of the gods

September - named for the seventh month 

November - named for the ninth month

The other months were not changed.

February - named for Februa, the feast of purification was left at the traditional 28 days

March - named for Mars, god of war

May - named for Maius, goddess of spring (mother of Hermes and daughter of Atlas) 

October - named for the tenth month

Julius Caesar - by Clara Grosch, 1892 

July - called quintilis, or the fifth month, wasn't lengthened but was renamed for Julius by Julius and Julius decided to rename the entire calendar for himself too . . . 

I came; I saw; I conquered. - Julius Caesar

like you do . . . 

Beware the Ides of March, the time of Caesar's assassination. 
The Death of Caesar - by Vincenzo Camuccini, 1798

if you are Caesar. 

Norwegian calendar on vellum, 
featuring golden numbers, feast days, and table with good and evil days, 
Norway, 1636

1,600 years later, the Julian calendar had meandered causing one annual dated abomination. Easter was out of sync with the equinox and the Catholics were not having it. 

Sundial at St. Mary’s Basilica in Krakow

In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII had enough of the situation and mandated that Catholic nations switch to a calendar using leap years to keep Easter where it belonged . . . 

Rusconi's Tomb of Pope Gregory XIII in St Peter's Basilica

which he then decided to name for himself . . . 

like you do . . . 

if you are Pope. 

Eastern Orthodox and Islamic countries resisted adopting the Gregorian calendar.

However, coordinating with the rest of the global became difficult and finances pushed adoption of the Catholic structure.

Egypt converted in 1874, China in 1912 and Greece finally made the adjustment in 1923.

Soviet calendar 
"Twenty-first year of the socialist revolution" 
12 December 1937 "Election day for the Supreme Soviet of the USSR"

Russia also made the change later than other countries, causing some embarrassment.


French Republican Calendar of 1794, 
drawn by Philibert-Louis Debucourt

Another calendar change was attempted by the French. 

During the French Revolution, removing religious and imperial influences from society became a priority. The French Republican Calendar, followed from 1793 to 1805, assigned 12 months, each with three weeks of 10 days. 

The year began on the autumnal equinox.


Vendémiaire "grape harvest"
Brumaire "mist"
Frimaire "frost"


Nivôse "snowy"
Pluviôse "rainy"
Ventôse "windy"


Germinal "germination"
Floréal "flower"
Prairial "meadow"


Messidor "harvest"
Thermidor "summer heat"
Fructidor "fruit"

In Britain, the new Republican months were called: 

Wheezy, Sneezy and Freezy
Slippy, Drippy and Nippy
Showery, Flowery and Bowery
Hoppy, Croppy and Poppy

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