Roman calendar

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Fragment of the Fasti calendar

The Roman calendar consisted of several local calendars that were initially related to the lunar orbit . In the Roman Empire they were modified again and again and adapted to the lunisolar calendar principle . The origin of the numerous calendar forms has not been clarified with certainty, but the shape, style and length of the leap months clearly show Etruscan - Latin features, although the Etruscan influence in the early perioddominated. Other external influences on the calendar design cannot be ruled out either. The Roman tradition - undoubtedly unhistorical for the Roman calendar - attributed its introduction to Rome's legendary city founder Romulus .

There are no contemporary calendar texts from the time Rome was founded . The oldest evidence of a calendar is the Fasti Antiates maiores only from the year 173 BC. Occupied. The evaluation of the traditions , which were only fixed in writing relatively late, makes the assumption likely that the Etruscans first introduced regional lunar calendars with a 354-day year, which the Romans later expanded to 355 days. The year began after Roman calendar originally on March 1 and ended with the February, in which also the leap month is inserted. Not until 153 BC The beginning of the year was postponed to January 1st.

Early calendar reforms

Already around the year 713 BC According to tradition, the Roman calendar is said to have been reformed by Numa Pompilius , the legendary second of the seven kings of Rome . Since there are no contemporary sources and the later tradition is heavily embellished, it cannot be determined whether this king even existed. The representations, which are based on literary accounts such as those of Titus Livius or Plutarch , are largely legendary and not historical. Many details were intended to explain later aetiological conditions. It is also considered more likely that the fifth king, Lucius Tarquinius Priscus , was responsible for this reform.

Censorinus reports that the twelve-month Roman calendar, which was initially based on a 354-day lunar year, showed a difference of about eleven days compared to the solar year . The collection of the Twelve Tables Laws - twelve wooden panels on the Roman Forum - that was created in Rome was said to have been modified by a committee responsible for changing the calendar .

Structure of the Roman calendar

Solar eclipse of March 14, 190 BC Chr.

The earliest contemporary mention is under Consul Marcus Fulvius Nobilior around 189 BC. Occupied. Nobilior stated that the Roman calendar with the Romulean year initially only included ten months. Marcus Terentius Varro (around 116 BC) relied on the "ten-month tradition", whereby he traced the month name Ianuarius back to the god Ianus . On the other hand there is the statement of the tribune Gaius Licinius Macer (around 73 BC), who reports that the Roman calendar has always included twelve months. In his works in the first century AD, Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus again referred to other traditional sources that report "ten months in the first Roman calendar". In his writings, Censorinus opted for the “ten-month tradition”, although he himself originally assumed a twelve-month Numanic lunar calendar. It is therefore uncertain whether the "ten months" in the oldest form of the Roman calendar existed and what period they comprised.

The exact length of a solar year for the early days of the Roman Empire is still unproven today. Titus Livius noted a solar eclipse for the 11th Quintilis in 190 BC shortly after the Second Punic War . BC, which according to the system of the later Julian calendar took place on March 14th . The spring equinox fell on the 21st Quintilis that year. In this epoch, the difference between the Roman calendar information and the actual event was about four months.

Lunar eclipse of June 21, 168 BC Chr.

In 168 BC A lunar eclipse previously announced by Sulpicius Galus fell on September 3rd of the Roman calendar, which corresponds to June 21st in the Julian calendar system; the spring equinox this year was on the 3rd Junius . The distance between the information in the Roman calendar and the date of the actual event had changed compared to 190 BC. Chr. Reduced to now about two and a half months. Against this background, the "ten months" can also refer to ten periods of a natural year, which was divided into the respective ten annual periods by the recurrence of certain abnormalities. In this context, there is a possibility that later authors translated the ten time periods as "ten months". It therefore remains unclear whether a calendar extended to twelve months was introduced or the twelve months already used were distributed differently. The Julian calendar named after Julius Caesar solved 45 BC. From the Roman calendar.

The religious festivals Kalenden , Nonen , Iden and Terminalien are derived from the Roman calendar . In many other cultures, the vernal equinox is also the beginning of the year, for example the Passover festival of the Jewish calendar , which is not the beginning of the year, only the beginning of the month numbering. The Easter date also relates to the equinox or the position of the moon.

Kalends the Roman calendar months in the " Julian calendar "
Ian. February Wed Mart. Apr Maius Junius Quint. Sext. Sept Oct. Nov Dec.
" Solar eclipse year 354 a. u. c. (401/400 BC) "
Dec. 29,
401 BC Chr.
Jan. 27,
400 BC Chr.
Feb. 19,
400 BC Chr.
March 18,
400 BC Chr.
April 18,
400 BC Chr.
May 17,
400 BC Chr.
June 17,
400 BC Chr.
July 16,
400 BC Chr.
16 Aug
400 BC Chr.
Sep 14
400 BC Chr.
Oct. 13,
400 BC Chr.
Nov. 13,
400 BC Chr.
Dec. 12,
400 BC Chr.
"Solar eclipse year 564 a. u. c. (191/190 BC) "
Aug. 18,
191 BC Chr.
16 Sep
191 BC Chr.
Oct 10,
191 BC Chr.
Nov. 6,
191 BC Chr.
Dec. 5,
191 BC Chr.
Jan. 3,
190 BC Chr.
Feb 3,
190 BC Chr.
March 4,
190 BC Chr.
April 4,
190 BC Chr.
May 3,
190 BC Chr.
June 1,
190 BC Chr.
July 2,
190 BC Chr.
July 31,
190 BC Chr.
"Lunar eclipse year 586 a. u. c. (169/168 BC) "
Oct. 3,
169 BC Chr.
Nov. 1,
169 BC Chr.
Nov. 24,
169 BC Chr.
Dec. 21,
169 BC Chr.
Jan. 21,
168 BC Chr.
Feb. 19,
168 BC Chr.
March 22,
168 BC Chr.
April 20,
168 BC Chr.
May 21,
168 BC Chr.
June 19,
168 BC Chr.
July 18,
168 BC Chr.
Aug 18,
168 BC Chr.
16 Sep
168 BC Chr.
Confused year 708 a. u. c. (47–45 BC) "
Oct. 14,
47 BC Chr.
Nov. 12,
47 BC Chr.
6 Dec.
47 BC Chr.
Jan. 2,
46 BC Chr.
Feb. 2,
46 BC Chr.
March 3,
46 BC Chr.
April 3,
46 BC Chr.
May 2,
46 BC Chr.
June 2,
46 BC Chr.
July 1,
46 BC Chr.
July 30,
46 BC Chr.
30 Aug
46 BC Chr.
Dec. 4,
46 BC Chr.

Year counting

In the early days of the Roman Republic , the years were not counted, but named after the ruling consuls . Since the 4th century BC, a count was made from the inauguration of the Temple of Jupiter in 507 BC. Common. Only later were the years "from the founding of the city of Rome" (Latin ab urbe condita , a. U. C.) In the year 753 BC. Counted. In the Roman Empire the years were also counted per Anno Diocletiani (AD), i.e. H. from the takeover of government by Emperor Diocletian in 284; this abbreviation is not identical with the Anno Domini (also AD), which has been in use since 525 AD, and must not be confused.

Leap years

First lunisolar tetraeteris

The exact period of the introduction of the first lunisolar switching rule is not documented in any contemporary source. In their traditions, Censorinus, Varro and Macrobius mention the four-year switching cycle ( Greek tetraeteris ) of 1465 days, when it was already firmly anchored when the Twelve Tables were introduced. The newly established lunisolar tetraeteris stipulated that in the second year of the four-year period 22 days and in the fourth year 23 days should be installed as a leap month . This resulted in the respective year lengths of 355, 377, 355 and 378 days.

The additional leap months were connected with February and placed between the festivals of Terminalia (February 23) and the Regifugium (February 24). In practice this meant that the normal month of February was broken off after the Terminalia festival and that the respective leap months of 22 or 23 days began immediately afterwards. The leap months were immediately followed by the festivities of the Regifugium and the remaining days of February, which is why the leap months actually lasted 27 or 28 days. Compared to four solar years, however, the four-year cycle was about four days too long. Due to its excessive length, the Roman calendar was initially shifted by about four days every four years and slowly moved through the seasons if another switching was not taken into account as a changing year .

Second switching cycle in the third octennium

After 24 years (triple octennium ; Latin: tertio quoque octennio ), according to Macrobius' remarks, there was the possibility of another switching. In addition, during the sixth lunisolar tetraeteris, the first leap month of 22 days was reduced by one day; the 23-day leap month in the fourth year was omitted without replacement.

In the overall bill, the scheduled leap months could be reduced by 24 days. The four respective year lengths in this switching cycle were 355, 376, 355 and 355 days, making a total of 1441 days. The 24-year period thus comprised 8766 calendar days, which on average corresponded to the later Julian year length of 365.25 days.


Month names

The Roman calendar knew the following thirteen months:

Monthly sizes

A lunisolar calendar was constructed which included a full lunar year with a leap month :

  • The six months of 30 days each were shortened to 29 days, and at the end of the year the Januarius (after the god Janus ) was added with 29 days and the Febarius (after the February purification festival at the end of the year) with 28 days. This resulted in a year of 355 days.
  • The missing 10 days were made up by a leap month, Mercedonius ( Intercalaris ): In the second year of a period of four years, 22 days were inserted after February 23 (see also Terminalia ), in the fourth year 23 days after February 24 .

The beginning of the year , originally on March 1st, has been around since 153 BC. Chr. Postponed to January 1st. This also lost the counting months (Quintilis Latin "the fifth", Sextilis Latin "the sixth", September, Latin "the seventh", October, "the eighth", November, "the ninth", December, "the tenth" “) Their eponymous positions.

Weeks: the Nundinal cycle

Bricks marked III NON (as) IVNIAS, Museum Lauriacum (Enns / Upper Austria)

The Roman Republic (like the Etruscans ) did not use the seven-day week, but an eight-day week, the "market week". The Latin term Nundĭnae (nine days ) denoted both the type of this weekly rhythm and the market day itself embedded in it. The confusing term nine days with a length of actually only eight days results from the usual counting in ancient Rome, in which both instead of just one adjacent market days were included in the count. So there were only seven days between the individual market days (Nundinales dies). This market rhythm is also called the nundinal cycle . The days of a market week were marked consecutively in the calendar, beginning with January 1st, with the letters “A” to “H” (nouns) . Since the length of the year is not a multiple of 8 days, the letter for the market day changed every year. For example, if the letter for the market days in one year was “A” and the year was 355 days long, then the letter changed to “F” in the next year, so that the rhythm did not change at the turn of the year.

The Nundinal cycle formed a fundamental rhythm of Roman daily life. Market day was the day the rural people came to the city and the day the city dwellers did their grocery stores for the next 8 days. Therefore, in the year 287 BC Passed a law (the Lex Hortensia ) that prohibited the holding of comitia (people's assemblies) on market days, but allowed court meetings. In the late Republic, the superstition arose that it was bad luck to start the year with a market day (i.e. if the market day fell on January 1st with the noun "A"), and the pontifices , which determined the noun letters each year, took steps to avoid this.

Because the Nundinal cycle with its length of 8 days was absolutely fixed in the Roman Republic, information about the dates of the market days is one of the most important tools to determine the Julian date corresponding to the pre-Julian Roman date. In the early empire, the Roman market day was changed occasionally. The details of this are unclear, a likely explanation is that if it fell on the same day as the Regifugium festival on February 24 in a leap year, it was postponed for a day . In Julian leap years, a second February 24th was inserted as a leap day before the actual February 24th, and the market day could be postponed to the day after the festival.

The nundinal cycle was eventually replaced by the older seven-day week . It prevailed during the early imperial period after the Julian calendar came into force. The system of the nouns was adapted to the new week length, so that the Sunday letters were created. For a while the seven-day week and the nundinal cycle co-existed. However, when Constantine the Great officially introduced the Christian week with Sunday as the official day of rest in the year 321 , the use of the Nundinal cycle ceased to exist.

Days in the month

The Roman calendar did not have a “continuous” week , as is common today. Likewise, the days in the month were not counted continuously. However, in the time of the Roman Republic there was a continuous counting from A to H, then starting again with A, which began on January 1st and was followed through the whole year in order to have a certain consistency. In addition, each day had a specific character that regulated the official activities of the magistrates in particular . The full name of January 1st is " A Kal.Ian.F ".

Four days within each month were initially specially marked:

The “ninth day after the Ides” was partly covered by other events after the calendar reform, but its significance remained valid. In March, May, July and October the Nonae were on the seventh day of the month and the Ides on the 15th day. All other months had the Nonae on the fifth day and the Ides on the 13th day. The original correspondence of these days with special moon phases ( calendae on the new moon , nonae on the waxing crescent, ides on the full moon , terminaliae on the waning crescent) was quickly lost. The Ides are known from the " Ides of March " on which Julius Caesar was murdered.

All other days were shown with reference to these fixed dates, always counting backwards from the next fixed date, including the starting day. For example, May 15th was the “Ides of May” and May 7th was the “Nonae of May”. May 5th was (including the day count) "three days before the Nonae of May", May 10th was "six days before the Ides of May", and May 20th was "13 days before the Calendar of June". The day immediately before the festival date was called " Pridie ":

The internal structure of the months of the Roman calendar is up to 46 BC. Chr. As follows:

Day Rom. Month to 29 days Rom. Month to 28 days Rom. Month to 31 days Example May
Jan., Apr., Jun., Sext., Sept., Nov., Dec. Feb Mar., May., Quint., Oct. short form Latin long form
1 kalendae Cal May. Kalendis Maiis
2 IV VI ad VI Non. May. ante diem VI (sextum) Nonas Maias
3 III V ad V Non. May. ante diem V (quintum) Nonas Maias
4th pridie IV ad IV Non. May. ante diem IV (quartum) Nonas Maias
5 nonae III ad III Non. May. ante diem III (tertium) Nonas Maias
6th VIII pridie prid. Non. May. pridie Nonas Maias
7th VII nonae Non. May. Nonis Maiis
8th VI VIII ad VIII Id. May. ante diem VIII (octavum) Idus Maias
9 V VII ad VII Id. May. ante diem VII (septimum) Idus Maias
10 IV VI ad VI Id. May. ante diem VI (sextum) Idus Maias
11 III V ad V Id. May. ante diem V (quintum) Idus Maias
12 pridie IV ad IV Id. May. ante diem IV (quartum) Idus Maias
13 idus III ad III Id. May. ante diem III (tertium) Idus Maias
14th XVII X pridie prid. Id. May. pridie Idus Maias
15th XVI IX idus Id. May. Idibus Maiis
16 XV VIII XVII ad XVII cal. Jun. ante diem XVII (septimum decimum) Kalendas Iunias
17th XIV VII XVI ad XVI cal. Jun. ante diem XVI (sextum decimum) calendar of Junias
18th XIII VI XV ad XV cal. Jun. ante diem XV (quintum decimum) calendar of Junias
19th XII V XIV ad XIV cal. Jun. ante diem XIV (quartum decimum) calendar of Junias
20th XI IV XIII ad XIII Cal. Jun. ante diem XIII (tertium decimum) calendar of Junias
21st X III XII ad XII cal. Jun. ante diem XII (duodecimum) Kalendas Iunias
22nd IX pridie XI ad XI cal. Jun. ante diem XI (undecimum) calendar of Junias
23 VIII terminalia X ad X cal. Jun. ante diem X (decimum) Kalendas Junias
24 VII VI IX ad IX cal. Jun. ante diem IX (nonum) Kalendas Junias
25th VI V VIII ad VIII Cal. Jun. ante diem VIII (octavum) calendar of Junias
26th V IV VII ad VII Cal. Jun. ante diem VII (septimum) Kalendas Junias
27 IV III VI ad VI Cal. Jun. ante diem VI (sextum) calendar of Junias
28 III pridie V ad V Kal. Jun. ante diem V (quintum) Kalendas Junias
29 pridie IV ad IV cal. Jun. ante diem IV (quartum) calendar of Junias
30th III ad III cal. Jun. ante diem III (tertium) calendar of Junias
31 pridie prid. Cal. Jun. pridie Kalendas Junias

In the Roman counting method, the months of 29 and 31 days differed only in the number of days from the calendars to the nuns; the rest of the count was - apart from that in February - the same and relatively simple. However, it was made more complicated by Caesar's calendar reform, since the nons and ids of the previous 29-day months and of February, counting forward, remained in their old positions instead of the new month length (30 or 31 days, February 29/30 days) to be postponed.

There are some simple rules of thumb to convert the Roman calendar into our modern ones:

Dates that are in front of the nuns are subtracted from 5 + 1 in normal months, and from 7 + 1 in March, May, July and October (MOMJUL), since the nuns are on the 5th or 7th of a month can fall.

Dates that are before the ides are subtracted from 13 + 1, in the months of March, May, July and October (MOMJUL) from 15 + 1, because the ides can fall on the 13th or 15th.

Dates before the calendar (1st of each month) are subtracted from the number of days of our month, increased by 2.

Example: Our April 21st is according to Roman calculations: 30 days of April + 2 = 32 days - 21 = 11 days before the calendar of May.

See also


  • John Briscoe: A commentary on Livy. Books XXXIV-XXXVII. Clarendon Press, Oxford 1981, ISBN 0-19-814455-5 .
  • Fritz Graf : The course of the rolling year. Time and calendar in Rome (= Lectio Teubneriana. 6). Teubner, Stuttgart et al. 1997, ISBN 3-519-07555-5 .
  • Heinrich Pleticha , Otto Schönberger : The Romans. A manual on the early history of Europe (= Bastei-Lübbe-Taschenbuch. 64040). 3. Edition. Bastei-Lübbe, Bergisch Gladbach 1991, ISBN 978-3-404-64040-9 .
  • Jörg Rüpke : Calendar and Public. The history of the representation and religious qualification of time in Rome (= Religious- historical experiments and preparatory work. Vol. 40). de Gruyter, Berlin et al. 1995, ISBN 3-11-014514-6 (also habilitation thesis, University of Tübingen 1994).
  • Udo W. Scholz: The Roman calendar. Origin and development (= treatises of the humanities and social sciences class / Academy of Sciences and Literature, Mainz. Number 3/2011). Franz Steiner, Stuttgart 2011.
  • Friedrich Graf von Westphalen , Otto Sandrock (Ed.): Lebendiges Recht. From the Sumerians to the present day. Festschrift for Reinhold Trinkner on his 65th birthday. Verlag Recht und Wirtschaft, Heidelberg 1995, ISBN 3-8005-1147-9 .
  • Anja Wolkenhauer : Sun and moon, calendar and clock. Studies on the representation and poetic reflection of the order of time in Roman literature (= studies on ancient literature and history. Vol. 103). de Gruyter, Berlin et al. 2010, ISBN 978-3-11-024712-1 (also habilitation thesis, University of Hamburg 2008).

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b c Jörg Rüpke: Calendar and Public. Berlin et al. 1995, pp. 171-172.
  2. ^ For example, Marcus Tullius Cicero , De re publica 2, 23–30 and Titus Livius , Ab urbe condita 1, 18–21.
  3. ^ Claas Lindskog, Konrat Ziegler: Plutarchi vitae parallelae. Volume 3, Fasc. 2nd 2nd edition. Teubner, Stuttgart 1973, Numa XXXII.
  4. Censor sinus 20.4-20.5.
  5. Marcus Terentius Varro, De Lingua Latina 6:34.
  6. a b c d Friedrich-Karl Ginzel : Handbook of mathematical and technical chronology. Timekeeping of the Nations. Volume 2: Calculation of the time of the Jews, the primitive peoples, the Romans and Greeks as well as supplements to the 1st volume Hinrichs, Leipzig 1911, pp. 224–225 , (photomechanical reprint: Deutsche Buch-Export und -Import Gesellschaft, Leipzig 1958).
  7. ^ Solar eclipse of March 14, 190 BC Chr.
  8. ^ A b c Jean Meeus : Astronomical Algorithms. 2nd, revised edition. Barth, Leipzig et al. 1994, ISBN 3-335-00400-0 , calculations according to Ephemeris Tool 4.5 .
  9. ^ Franz Boll : Eclipses. In: Paulys Realencyclopadie der classischen Antiquity Science (RE). Volume VI, 2, Stuttgart 1909, Sp. 2358 .; Titus Livius, Ab urbe condita 37,4,4.
  10. ^ Theodor Mommsen: Roman history. Volume 2: From the Battle of Pydna to Sulla's death. German Book Association, Berlin 1902, pp. 932-933; Titus Livius, Ab urbe condita 44,37,8.