Roman calendar

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The calendar used by Romans. Years are counted ab urbe condita (AUC), that is "from the founding of the city".

The Ancient Calendar

The ancient Roman calendar was what is now considered a lunisolar calendar. It was intended to align with both the lunar calendar and the solar calendar, through the means of intercalation.

The Roman calendar operated through the use of three main days (the Kalends, the Nones, and the Ides), in reference to which all dates were given.

The Kalends, the Nones, and the Ides

See Also: Roman dates

The Kalends (Kalendae), which was always the first day of the month, was sacred to Iuno. The first of the month, following the lunar part of the calendar's operation, was the day following the appearance of the New Moon. On this day, the Rex Sacrorum, together with a pontifex minor, offered a sacrifice to Iuno, and announced, by edict, the date of the coming Nones, which fell on the day after the First Quarter.

The Nones (Nonae), falling on either the fifth or seventh day of the month, came the day after the First Quarter of the lunar cycle. On this day, the Regina Sacrorum offered to Iuno at the Regia, after which the feriae for the entire month were announced. Before the Nones of any given month (with the exception of the Poplifugium), no feriae publicae were held.

Lastly, the Ides (Idus) came, either on the thirteenth or fifteenth day of the month, on the day after the full moon. On this day, a sacrifice was given to Iuppiter, for which reason it is commonly noted as Feriae Iovi in the ancient Fasti. From here, the Pontifices determined the number of days remaining until the next New Moon, which would restart the cycle.

The Ides, also, were always dies Nefasti Publici, given their permanent status as Feriae Iovi, without exception.

Special days in the calendar

These are the rules which are pronounced by the pontifices, and breaking them is nefas (though it can sometimes be expiated).

Dies fasti [F]

File:Roman-calendar-sample.gif
Section of a Roman-style calendar. Market Days are indicated with red lettering.
  • ordinary citizens may do anything;
  • magistrates may not hold a meeting of the comitia tributa, concilium plebis, or comitia centuriata.
  • curule magistrates may exercise their judicial functions.

Dies comitiales [C]

  • ordinary citizens may do anything;
  • magistrates may hold a meeting of the comitia tributa, concilium plebis, or comitia centuriata.
  • curule magistrates may exercise their judicial functions.

Dies nefasti [N]

  • ordinary citizens may do anything;
  • magistrates may do anything except hold a meeting of the comitia tributa, concilium plebis, or comitia centuriata, or exercise their judicial functions.

Dies nefasti publici [NP]

  • ordinary citizens may not commit acts of physical violence, or begin lawsuits, and should try to avoid quarrels (but robust and lively debate was acceptable);
  • slaves are allowed the day off work;
  • magistrates may do anything except hold a meeting of the comitia tributa, concilium plebis, or comitia centuriata, or exercise their judicial functions;
  • ordinary citizens may not do any physical labour except what is urgently necessary and can't be postponed;
  • the flamines and the rex sacrorum may not see anyone doing any physical labour, and may fine anyone they see doing physical labour.

Dies endotercisi [EN]

(also called dies intercisi)

  • same as dies nefasti in the morning;
  • same as dies fasti in the afternoon;
  • same as dies nefasti in the evening.

Dies fasti publici or principio [FP]

There are two interpretations of this designation presented by scholars. They are:

  • as dies fasti principio:
    • same as dies fasti in the morning;
    • same as dies nefasti in the afternoon and evening.
  • as dies fasti publici:
    • same as dies nefasti publici.

Quando Rex Comitiavit fas [QRCF]

  • same as dies nefasti until the rex sacrorum appears in the comitia;
  • same as dies fasti after that.

Quando Stercus Delatum fas [QSDF]

  • same as dies nefasti until the Temple of Vesta has been cleaned;
  • same as dies fasti after that.

Dies atri and dies religiosi (or vitiosi)

Dies atri and dies religiosi are less formal but widely observed.

Dies atri: unlucky days;

  • try to avoid making journeys, starting new projects, or doing anything risky;
  • certain gods, including Iuppiter and Ianus, may not be named.
  • these days are ill-omened to begin any new project, and any new project would necessarily begin by performing a rite calling for the assistance of the gods. Such religious rites, beginning something new, are not to be performed.
  • Normal work would still be performed on dies atri, and as part of performing any work one performs rites for the patron deities, geni locii, and other appropriate deities. Naturally enough, the daily routine is also performed before the lararium.

Dies religiosi (vitiosi): like dies atri, but less bad:

  • no private religious rites may be performed, but public rites may, subject to the same exclusions as for dies atri;
  • try to avoid making journeys, starting new projects, or doing anything risky.

Nundinae and nundinal letters

Nundinae were originally market-days, held every eighth day, on which Romans came into the city to trade and do business. On Roman calendars the days were given nundinal letters (A to H) to help people see when the next market-day would be. The markets were held on a different day each year.

Vide

Roman dates

Feriae

References

Dictionary of Roman Religion 
(Lesley Adkins, Roy A. Adkins / Hardcover / Published 1995 / ISBN 0816030057).
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