Wednesday, August 3, 2011

An August Month

My mom has always said that as you get older, the months of the year fly by faster and faster. When I was young, I rolled my eyes at this but now that I have a little age on me, I have come to realize that she is right (Mama, if you read this, yes, I said you were right about something- relish it, it might not happen again!)

Since the months do seem to fly by, it's easy not to take the time and wonder why July and August don't quite fit in with all the other months. January is named after Janus, the two-faced Roman god of choices, since January's weather can be notoriously two-faced. February comes from Februa, an annual purification ritual held during the month. March through June are named after other Roman gods and goddesses. September through December come from the Latin words for seven, eight, nine and ten respectively because back in the day, the original Roman calendar had ten months.

But July and August are different. They are named after real people- the great Julius Caesar and his nephew Octavian (who is in the pic above). Octavian might not ring a bell to you if you aren't really interested in ancient history but following the assassination of Uncle Julius, young Octavian took the bull by the horns and set out to move himself up from one of three leaders of the Roman Republic to the first leader of the Roman Empire. It wasn't easy- years of fighting big names like Marc Antony and Cleopatra- but ultimately he achieved it. Emperor Octavian just didn't have the right ring to it, so he adopted the new moniker, Augustus, which means "the revered one." Under Augustus, the Roman Empire became the strongest, most dominant entity in history (IMHP).

To honor Uncle Julius, who despite modern popular belief was well-beloved by the people of Rome, Augustus decreed that Quintilis, the month of Julius' birth would forever be renamed July in his honor.

Many years later, the Roman Senate decided that since Augustus was so revered by the people that he was seen as a god amongst men, he also needed a month named in his honor. Popular belief says that Augustus himself chose the month of Sextilis because it fell after July and that he ordered days removed from February to make Sextilis have the same number of days as July (Unc can't have more days than Augie!). However, this is not true. The month of Sextilis has always had 31 days just like July. Sextilis was chosen simply because many of Augustus' greatest victories, especially the fall of Alexandria, Egypt, came in that month. To honor the man and all his accomplishments, Sextilis became August.

So as you spend the next few days battling 100+ degree weather, stay cool by finding an air conditioned spot in your local bookstore and learn a little more about why Julius and Augustus Caesar are such interesting men in history. They are definitely 2 of my faves!

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