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Why in ancient Rome the new year began in March and how the modern calendar originated

There is nothing left until the New Year, and howusually during this period, everyone around is summing up the results of the past year and preparing for the celebration. But have you ever wondered how and when it even appeared? For the first time, people began to mark time in calendars at least 10,000 years ago, however, different methods of counting were used. For example, in the Mesolithic era, the phases of the moon were tracked in Britain. The ancient Egyptians looked at the sun. The Chinese combined both methods into a lunisolar calendar, which they still use today. However, most countries in the world use a calendar that dates back to the time of the Roman Empire. Its creation is credited to Romulus, the founder of the state and the first ruler. But it is likely that the calendar was created on the basis of other dating systems developed earlier by the Babylonians, Etruscans and ancient Greeks. At the dawn of the modern calendar, the new year began not in January, as it is now, but in March.

The modern calendar, in which the new year is January 1, originates in ancient Rome.

History of the Roman calendar

The Romans changed their officialcalendar from the founding of the empire in 509 BC. Its first version was rather meager, it contained only 10 months. The year lasted 304 days, and began, as I said above, in March. To be more precise, the month was called "Martyus" in honor of the Roman god Mars. The year ended in December, that is, the month when crops were harvested in a region with a temperate climate.

New Year in ancient Rome was celebrated in March

The Romans associated timekeeping with the datefoundation of the city. Thus, the modern year 753 BC was considered the first year in Ancient Rome. The calendar included six 30-day months and four 31-day months. The first four months were named after gods like Juno (June). The last six months were sequentially numbered in Latin, giving rise to month names such as September (the seventh month named after the Latin word for "seven," septem).

When the harvest was over, thenthe calendar year was also ending. What did the Romans do with the winter months? These months remained unnamed. The beginning of the year was associated with the beginning of agricultural work.

Ancient Roman god two-faced Janus, after whom the month of January is named

Lunar Roman calendar

The ten-month calendar did not last long.In the seventh century BC, during the reign of Numa Pompilius, a new lunar calendar was adopted. The revision involved adding 50 days and borrowing a day from each of the 10 existing months to create two new 28-day winter months: Januarius (in honor of the god Janus) and Februarius (in honor of Fevrois, the Roman festival of purification). By the way, the age of the most ancient lunar calendar found by archaeologists is 10 thousand years.

January is named after Janus, the god of time, transitions and beginnings, who was revered in ancient Rome.

The new calendar was far from perfect.Since the Romans believed that odd numbers were auspicious, they tried to divide the year into odd months. The only exception was February, which was the end of the year and was considered unlucky. The lunar calendar had one major problem. Since the lunar cycle is 29.5 days long, it needed synchronization with the seasons from time to time.

For synchronization, the Romans sometimes introduced an extra month called Mercedonium. But, different rulers added this month at different intervals, which caused confusion.

“The situation got worse because the calendar was notpublicly available document. It was guarded by priests who had to determine the dates of religious holidays, festivals and days when you can work and when you cannot, ”says historian Robert A. Hatch.

How the Julian calendar came about

In 1945 BC Julius Caesar demandedreforming the calendar, resulting in the Julian calendar. It was developed by Sosigenes of Alexandria, an astronomer and mathematician, who proposed a 365-day calendar with a leap year occurring every four years. Although the scientist of the time overestimated the length of the year by about 11 minutes, the calendar was now quite closely synchronized with the Sun.

Pope Gregory XIII, according to whose calendar we live to this day

There was another innovation in Caesar's new calendar- the new year began on January 1, the day his consuls (a pair of men who made up the executive branch of the empire) took office. Despite the fact that the Julian calendar has been used for centuries, the date of the new year has sometimes been postponed. In particular, Christians celebrated the New Year on different days.

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The Julian calendar remained almost unchanged until1582 when Pope Gregory XIII revised it to improve accuracy. The old calendar had 365.25 days. The new calendar included 365.2425 days. As a result of this adjustment, the dates were shifted by about two weeks.

Only after this reform did the date of January 1 become formany people start the new year. But, as you know, the Orthodox Church remained committed to the old style, so Christmas is celebrated later than, for example, the Catholic Church. Thanks to this, we have a unique opportunity to celebrate the New Year twice a year - on January 1 and January 14.