It's hard to believe it's September, the ninth month of the year, already. But when the names of our calendar months were first established, September was the seventh month. Here are some details about the origin of the names of our months.
The very earliest known division of the year was made by observing the moon's revolutions. These lunar periods lasted for 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes, and 3 seconds. There were 12e such periods in a lunar year.
The ancient Saxon Kings called them "Monaths". Under the reign of Rome's first King, Romulus, there were 10 monaths - or months - of the calendar year, which started in Martius (March).
The second Roman king, Numa Pompilius, added two more months to expand the calendar from 304 days to 355 days. The calendar year now started in January.
The months new names were now Januarius, 31 days; Februarius, 30; Martius, 31; Aprilis, 30; Maius, 31; Junius, 30; Quinctilis, 31; Sextilis, 30; September, 31; October, 30; November, 31; and December, 30.
Januarius was named in honor of Janus, the God who presided over the doors to Heaven. Ancient Saxon Kings called the first period of the year "Wolf-monath," as people were much more in danger to be devoured by wolves at this time than at any other.
Februarius' name came from Februalia, the act of religious purification. The Saxon kings referred to this time as "Sol-monath", when offerings of 'pan-cakes' were made to give thanks for the return of the sun.
Martius, the first month of the earliest Roman calendar, was named in honor of the God of War Mars. The Saxon tribes gave this period the name "Raed-monath," for it was when their Council of War (or Raed) was held.
Aprilis was considered by the Romans as the Goddess Venus' month. The word Apeire in Latin means 'to open'. The Saxons, however, referred to this period as "Eoster" or "Oestre-monath", during which time they held the Feast of the Goddess Easter.
Maius' name has two possible sources: the "Maiores", or Roman Senate; or the Goddess Maia, the mother by Jupiter. The Saxon Kings referred to this month as "Trimilki-monath," as cows could now be milked three times a day.
Junius' name also has two possible sources: the "Junioribus", or Roman Legislature; or the God Juno. The Saxons named this time "Weyd" or "Maed-monath," as it was the time the meadows were in full bloom.
Julius, originally called Quinctilis, was at first the fifth month of the Roman year. The Saxons referred to this period as either "Hey-Monath" as this was when they mowed their fields.
Augustus, originally known as Sextilis, was at first the sixth month of the Roman calendar. The Saxons called this period "Arn-monath", or barn-month, when they filled their barns with hay.
September was at first the seventh month, hence the name (Sept is Latin for seven). The Saxons referred to this time as "Gerst-monath", or barley month. Barley (or 'Beerlegh') was the main ingredient in 'Beere."
October was originally the eighth month in the Roman calendar. (Octo is Latin for eight). The Saxon's called it "Wyn-monath". or wine-month.
November was originally the ninth month. (Novem is Latin for nine). The Saxon's called it either "Wint-monat," or wind-month, in reference to the gales of wind so prevalent at this time of the year; or "Blot-monath," or bloody-month, when they slaughtered their herds of cattle.
December got its name from its number on the Roman calendar (Decem is Latin for 10). The Saxons named it "Winter-monath," or winter month. Those who had converted to Christianity called the period "Heligh-monath," or Holy Month.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look at Bulloch County's historical past. E-mail Roger at roger firstname.lastname@example.org