Another Month Named for a Roman Caesar
Quintilis was formerly the sixth month in the ancient Roman year, when March was the first month of the calendar.
- August is the eighth month of the Gregorian, or New Style, calendar now in use consisting of 31 days.
- In the ancient Roman calendar, that started with March as the first month, was called Sextilis a Latin word for six, sex.
- Even after the old calendar was revised by adding January and February to the beginning of the year, Sextilis (August) continued with its former name.
- Sextilis was renamed Augustus in 27 B.C. as a tribute to the "first Roman emperor", Augustus.
- Augustus was born in 63 B.C. and named Gaius Octavius (Octavian) and was the grandson of Julius Caesar's sister.
- After Julius Caesar's assassination in 44 B.C., Octavian was soon accepted as one of the emerging leaders during an unsettled political situation.
- Although he had to overcome a great deal of opposition, he secured the consulship in 43 B.C., and then allied himself with his chief contender for power, Mark Antony.
- Together with Lepidus, the two leaders formed a triumvirate; then Octavian and Antony fulfilled a vow of vengeance against Julius Caesar's assassins; defeating the forces of the conspirators, Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus, at Philippi in Macedonia in 42 B.C.
- Eleven years later Octavian's military defeated Mark Antony in a naval battle at Actium on the coast of Epirus.
- Without further opposition, he carried through a final seizure of power and was made emperor in 29 B.C.
- On January 17, 27 B.C., the Roman senate granted him the title of Augustus, meaning "venerable" or "revered". This designation was adopted by all succeeding Roman emperors.
- Some say that the Romans wanted to rename September (Ausustus' birth month) Augustus, but he chose the month following Iulius (July) and decreed that it should be called after himself.
- The early fifth century Roman writer Macrobius explained Augustus' reasons for this choice:
[After July] "Augustus comes next, which formerly was called Sextilis, until it was devoted to the honor of Augustus by a senatus consultum, whose text I have given below: "Since the imperator Caesar Augustus in the month Sextilis entered upon his first consulship [in 43 B.C.] and led three triumphs into the city [the triple triumph for Illyria, Actium, and Egypt on August 13, 14, and 15 in 29 B.C.] and the legions were led down from the Janiculum [one of the seven hills of Rome] and followed his auspices and trust, and since in this month also Egypt was brought under the sway of the Roman people [in 30 B.C.] and since in this month an end was made of the civil wars, and since for these reasons this month is and has been most fortunate for this empire, it pleases the senate that this month be called Augustus."
- In addition to changing Sextilis to Augustus, speculation states that he took one day from February and one from September to add to his month, making it 31 days; because he apparently did not wish to have August with fewer days than Julius (July).
In time take time while time doth last,
Is no time when time is past.
Sources of information for this page are located at this Calendars Bibliography Unit.