Thursday, July 5, 2012

Roman Months

Did you know that the month of July is named for the Roman general Julius Caesar? In fact, the names of the months of the year are all of Roman origin. There is an oddity. September comes from the Latin word for 7. October from the Latin word for 8. November from the Latin word for 9. December, the 12th month, comes from the Latin word for 10. How did the months get moved by 2 places? Julius Caesar and his nephew each stuck in a month named for themselves. July for Julius and August for the title awarded to Octavian so that he was called Augustus Caesar. The August means of an origin relating to the gods. Their family claimed descent from Venus.

January is named after Janus, a two faced god of beginnings and endings. February takes its name from a Roman ceremony of atonement and purification held at that time of year. March is the month of Mars. In the warm southern climate of Italy, March is the beginning of spring and of the time of year for military campaigns. It is thought that April refers to the blooming of flowers. May probably comes from the Greek fertility goddess Maia, who symbolized the growth of crops in the field and maturation of livestock, but might also come from the Roman word for adult--majores. June is probably named for the Roman goddess Juno.

Saying the names of the months is a bit like running across a Roman mile marker in a modern city of ancient origins, like Rome or London. Our language holds many relics from its long history.

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