Sunday, September 04, 2005

Caesars and Saxons

September, the ninth month, is named the seventh. But it might have been called August, were it not for July.

In ancient Rome, when the year began in March, September was the seventh month and had 31 days. The emperor Augustus decided he was important enough to warrant a month to honor him, just as Julius Caesar had July named for him. Julius’s honor came posthumously, but Augustus was not about to let death rob him of enjoying his tribute.

Augustus should have picked September, his birth month, just as July was Julius’s. But Sextilis, the sixth month, was next to the month of his famous predecessor. Besides, Sextilis had been a lucky month for him, so he renamed it instead. But Augustus didn’t want only 30 days when Julius had 31, so he added a day to August – and took one from September.

In naming their months, the practical and thirsty Saxons were not interested in self-aggrandizement. September was Gerst monat, the barley month, named for the crop harvested then and the chief ingredient in their favorite beverage: Beer.

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