The Ides of April

David M. Raley

One of the top ten tongue in cheek essays on the calendar crisis that the change of the century was to bring bore the name of Dr. Sharon H. Stickley of Trinity College, Hartford, CT.

In it Dr. Stickley has two fictional Romans discussing what to do when things change from B.C. to A.D. . It seems that they are used to counting the date backwards and are fearful of the havoc that will be caused by counting the date forward.

Actually, the Romans did count part of their date backwards. No joke. Not the year of course. They counted the days of the month backwards. The essay refers to a scroll dated December 15th. The Romans would never say: "today is December 15th." They would say: "This is the 17th of the Calends of January." The word "of" meaning: "before" as one of us might say the time as being "ten minutes of four" rather than "ten minutes til four" or "three fifty. Only three days of the month were called by name. The Calends which was the first day. The Nones which was either the fifth or the seventh day. The Ides which was either the 13th or the 15th day. We have all heard of the Ides of March and every April someone will say something like: "You beware the Ides of March, I fear the Ides of April." The Ides of April is the 13th. Only in March, May, July and October do the Ides fall on the 15th.

It seems like a cumbersome way to keep track of the date. I suppose that using Latin for day to day communication is bound to have some effect on your noodleware though. An added complication is that both the days are counted. Example: Suppose this to be the 2nd of December. The Romans would call it the fourth of the Nones of December although there are only three days between. They would call the Nones the Nones and the day after the Nones the ninth of the Ides. In like manner the Ides the Ides and the day after the Ides the 17th of the the Calends of January.

Next question: Our present dating of ancient times is retrospective and we all know that there was no "year zero", but are one A.D. and one B.C. two seperate years or is there just the "year one"? You really think so eh?

This is the part where I'm supposed to tie it all together and bring out the point of this mindless screed and I have no idea how to do it.


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Last Update: 12/14/10
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