Calendar, Septembris

(September, now the ninth month)


September, Formerly the Seventh Month of the Roman Calendar

Although September is now the ninth month of the Gregorian (or New Style) calendar, it was once the seventh month of the early Roman calendar.

  • September has 30 days and is derived from the Latin word septem, meaning “seven”. it was the seventh month in the ancient Roman calendar that began in March.
  • During the time of the Roman Empire, there were several attempts to rename September in honor of one emperor or another.
  • It was the custom to vote to each new emperor the honors and prerogatives that his predecessors had held, including the “divine honor” of having a month named after him.
  • September was especially vulnerable to name changes since it immediately followed July and August.
  • Shortly after Emperor Augustus died in A.D. 14 and early in the reign of his successor, Tiberius (A.D. 14-37), the senate proposed to change the name of September to Tiberius.
  • The emperor’s refusal seems to have slowed down but not stopped the schemes of his flatterers in the senate.
  • They tried to change the name of his birth month, November, with his name; however, this time Tiberius is said to have stopped all such adulation with the cutting remark: “And what will you do if there be thirteen Caesars?”
  • According to the second century Roman biographer Suetonius, in A.D. 37, the start of his reign, Emperor Caligula (A.D. 37-41) had the Roman senate change the name of September to Germanicus “in memory of his father,” Germanicus Caesar (15 B.C.-A.D. 19), a famous Roman general. This name change apparently lasted for a very short time.
  • The early fifth century writer Macrobius made the following comment:

    The month September retains its own original name; this month Domitian had usurped with the appellation Germanicus and October with his own name Domitianus. But when it was decreed that the unpropitious word [Domitianus] be erased from every bronze or stone, the months too were freed from the usurpation of a tyrannical apellation.

  • There were several additional attempts to change the name of September to Roman Emperors; however, they all failed to last.
  • The primary Roman events in September were the games in honor of Juno, Minerva, and Jupiter, that were known as ludi magni or ludi Romani, and which began on September 4.
Nothing walks so quietly as the feet of time.
—Robert Johnson

Silence words. Sources of information for this page are located at this Calendars Bibliography Unit.

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