What did the Romans do for us?

 In Norris Museum

The start of September is one of those times when you realise how much we owe to the Romans.

We have just come through the month of Julius and the month of Augustus. From now until the end of the year the months are named after Latin numbers. September is the 7th month from the Latin ‘Septem’, followed by the 8th, ‘Octo’, 9th ‘Novem’ and 10th, ‘Decem’.

The Ancient Romans started their year in March and ended it 304 days later at the end of December. There were 61 days that were too horrible to be given months, they were just winter!

Julius Caesar changed all that. He divided the winter up into months like the rest of the year although the autumn months still kept their old numbers. It was also Caesar who had the idea of adding an extra day to the calendar every 4 years to allow for the fact that the earth’s orbit around the sun takes a little bit more than 365 days.

In 1582 Pope Gregory tweaked Caesar’s calendar to make it more accurate. He decreed that the 100 year in each century would only be a leap year if it could be divided by 400. Being that England didn’t think much of the Catholic church at this point, She refused to adopt the new system. This meant that it was a different date on each side of the English Channel!

Caesar’s calendar remained in use in England until 1752. When it was finally changed, the date went from September 3rd to September 14th, to make up for the 11 days difference between our calendar and Pope Gregory’s calendar.

And what has all this got to do with Huntingdonshire?! Today’s tenuous link is to a Julius Caesar who resided at Great Gransden (1557-1636). The family continued to use name Julius, with even a daughter being christened Julia Caesar in 1695!!

The photograph shows Great Gransden Hall, home to the Caesar family in the 1700s.

Norris Museum, St Ives

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