Today is the first day of June, and a PBP day for the letter “K”, so this post is about the Kalends.
Kalends is one of those words that you can stare at for a while and your mind will begin to wonder “Why is this a word? It’s so funny looking!”
TheKalends (or Calends in English) always fall upon the first day of each month. They are an entirely Roman feature, not appearing in any other calendar system, and this is the reason for the expression of postponing something “ad Kalendas Graecas”, or “to the Greek Kalends”: if you do this, then you will never get whatever it is that you are postponing done. Because the Greek Kalends don’t exist.
In ancient Rome, the pontifices would announce the days on which business could and could not be conducted for the upcoming month, and debtors had to pay off their debts. These priests would also announce the date on which the Nones would take place.
The first day of each month was sacred to Iuno and Ianus. As the god of beginnings, Ianus was seen to help Iuno “give birth to” the new month. Apparently, some scholars think that these two deities were originally paired, and so the whole Kalends thing certainly could lend credence to their idea.
The Nones (in Latin, the Nonae) are the next important day of the calendar, but the day on which they fall is different for different months. They almost always fall on the 5th of the month, with the exception of the months of March, May, July, and October, in which they fall on the 7th. This day was sacred to the Lares, and, as was done on the Kalends, the date of the Ides was announced by the pontifices.
The Ides (in Latin, the Idus) occur 8 days after the Nones (9 if you were an ancient Roman – they counted days inclusively, so if something was happening two days from now, it would be happening tomorrow). So, they typically fall on the 13th of the month, except for, again, March, May, July, and October. (those rascals!)
These days were sacred to Iuppiter, and one such day – the Ides of March – has become especially infamous. “Beware the Ides of March!”
The days preceding each of these three major days were known as Pridie: literally the “day before.” For example, if you were to see Prid. Id. Mart. (the Romans were gung-ho about their abbreviations), that would be March 14th. All other days were marked in a peculiar fashion: they were counted backwards from the Kalends, the Ides, or the Nones (or, in some cases, major festival days) and marked with an a.d. for ante diem. As an example of this, a.d. III Kal. Nov. was three days before the Kalends of November, or October 30th. Another example shows why the Romans were so good at math: a.d. XVII Kal. Nov. (17 days before the Kalends of November!) is October 16th.
In the Roman Republic, before the Julian Reform (keep an eye out for a post on this!) to the calendar system, the Romans had something called nundinae. These were market days, and they occurred every eighth day – making the original Roman week have 8 days instead of our 7. The days of the week on the calendar were marked with the letters A through H, the A being the nundina.
The months of the Romans were as follows: Ianuarius, Februarius, Martius, Aprilis, Maius, Iunius, Quintilis (later renamed Iulius for Caesar), Sextilis (later named Augustus for, well, Augustus), September, October, November, and December. Before the Julian Reform, there was an additional month of 27 days squashed in between Februarius and Martius called either Mercedonius or Intercalaris, but this was done away with as of 45 BCE. Before the Julian Reform, months alternated between having 29 days and 30 days. After the Reform, they alternated between 30 and 31 days.