Probably you have never asked yourselves how greatly the Hellenistic period of time and then Ancient Romans have influenced our daily lives. Ancient Hellenic gods and goddesses that were later adopted by the Romans have been with us for centuries. Their presence is quite tangible, especially when you travel in Hellas and Italy, and other countries, and visit ancient tourists sites full of history and myths. But even if you don’t take a trip and stay at home, Gods and Goddesses as well as Roman Emperors are around you every day, every month and every day. And do you know why?
We all know why the seasons change. It’s related to Persephone’s destiny to spend half of the year with her mother Demeter and the other Gods on the Mount Olympus. At that time of the year people enjoy spring and summer when everything blossomed and was green and fresh. Then she spent the rest of the year with Hades in the Underworld and her mother wandered lonely not allowing the crops to grow, it was autumn and winter.
Having spoken about the seasons, now let’s take a look at the months. They are also related to some Gods or Goddesses, and some of them either bear the names of Roman emperors or are of Latin origin and are connected to the early Julian (Roman) calendar.
The winter month of December obtained its name from the Latin word “decem” which means “ten” and was the year’s 10th month according to the Roman calendar. The second winter month, i.e. January, was named after the Roman God Janus who protected doors and gateways. He was also the symbol of new beginnings as well as of sunsets and sunrises. He was often depicted with two faces, one looking into the past, the second one – into the future. My month – February, was given its name because of the Roman feast of purification called “Februalia” (or “Februatio”), celebrated in the mid of the month. Thus we get februa (it means “to cleanse” when translated from Latin) during this month nowadays.
Spring period for Ancient Romans started with the resuming of military campaigns that had been terminated in winter. This was somehow a new beginning for people and that’s why Ancient Romans named this month after the God of Wars (Mars). The world continued opening and budding after March and because of that the name of the next month (i.e. April) originated from the Latin word “aperio”. It was the period of time when plants began to grow and later they were overseen and taken care of by the Roman Goddess Maia who gave the name to the third spring month – May.
Slowly we are moving to my favourite season. Who doesn’t love and enjoy warm and sunny weather as well as parties on the beach and joyful moments with the family? That’s why we can call June the month of young people (from the Latin word “juvenis”). Here I can only add that the patroness of the young, marriage and the well-being of representatives of the fair sex is the Roman Goddess Juno whose name has still been used for the month of June. Next month is July, isn’t it? Yes, and it was named in honour of Julius Caesar (100BC – 44BC). His contributions to the European and world history are too many but for sure, his greatest achievement was the creation of the Julian calendar (helped by Sosigenes in 46 BC) that preceded the Gregorian one. The month of August was dedicated to another great person – the founder of the Roman Empire and the first Roman Emperor. Do you know who he was? Of course, Augustus Caesar (63BC – 14AD) who was also Julius Caesar’s grandnephew.
Autumn months are not so interesting as the previous ones because they were simply related to the Julian calendar and were respectively the seventh month (September coming from the Latin “septem” meaning “seven”), the eighth one ( October coming from the Latin “octo” meaning “eight”) and the eleventh one (November coming from the Latin “novem” meaning “eleven”)
I will end up this post with the names of the days of the week. The Italians and Italian-speaking people as a whole know that some of them have been named after the planets and the planets themselves have been named after the Roman Gods. The most awful day of the week for me is the Day of the Moon (lunedì comes from the Italian word for Moon, i.e. ”luna”). The second day for me is again a day for fights and battles at work and it’s the Day of Mars (martedì comes from the Italian for Mars, i.e. Marte – the God of Wars). There is no doubt that the third day is the most loved by women-shopping maniacs because it’s their “market day” (mercoledì is dedicated to the Roman deity Mercurio or Mercury in English). Hey, men, watch out on Wednesday and keep your credit cards away from the ladies of your heart 😉 The king of the Roman Gods – Jupiter or Jove, helps us survive on the second day before the weekend. That’s why the Italian giovedì (Thursday) is dedicated to him. Ah, amore, amore. I am so close to you, especially on Friday evening. 😀 Did you get it? Of course, you did. 🙂 The last day of the working week has been dedicated namely to the Roman Goddess Venus who was the deity of love and beauty, passion and desire and of course of fertility. That’s why the Day of Venus (i.e. venerdì in Italian and Friday in English) puts the end of our tortures and pain at work and prepares us for Saturday or sabato (the “no-work” day or Saturn’s Day) and of course for Sunday or domenica (the Day of the Lord).