Roman Republican and Imperial authors claim that Rome once had a 10-month lunar calendar. This calendar supposedly had 30-31 days in each month and about 50 unorganized winter days before the calendar restarted in the spring. But…that doesn’t really mesh with how calendars work!
In fact, a lunar month can’t be more than 30 days or it will fall out of sync with the moon. So, what was going on with their calendar? Was it a lunar calendar at all? Did it ever exist or is it just a myth? What support does it have and from who?
By the time of the Roman Republic, the Romans had a 12-month calendar that was similar to what we have now. However, it wasn’t standardized, which led to all sorts of problems. Heat waves in January! Snow in July! Instead, the date was controlled by the Pontifex Maximus, a high priest.
Of course, that high priest didn’t necessarily care about the calendar. He had other things to do (and other people to please)! Which is where Julius Caesar stepped in with the Julian Calendar Reform. Unfortunately, before he got it working too well, he was stabbed… 23 times. Beware the Ides of March! And, while we’re on that topic, what are Ides? We will talk about all this and more in our discussion of the Roman calendar!