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''Februarius'', fully ''Mensis Februarius'' ("month of
Februa Lupercalia was a pastoral festival of Ancient Rome observed annually on February 15 to purify the city, promoting health and fertility. Lupercalia was also known as ''dies Februatus'', after the purification instruments called ''februa'', the ba ...
"), was the shortest month of the
Roman calendar The Roman calendar was the calendar A calendar is a system of organizing days. This is done by giving names to periods of time, typically days, weeks, months and years. A calendar date, date is the designation of a single, specific ...
from which the Julian and Gregorian month of
February February is the second month of the year in the Julian calendar, Julian and Gregorian calendars. The month has 28 days in common years or 29 in leap years, with the 29th day being called the ''leap day''. It is the first of five months not to ...
derived. It was eventually placed second in order, preceded by ''
Ianuarius ''Ianuarius'', fully ''Mensis Ianuarius'' ("month of Janus In ancient Roman religion Religion in ancient Rome includes the ethnic religion of Ancient Rome that the ancient Romans, Romans used to define themselves as a people, as well a ...
'' ("month of
Janus In ancient Roman religion Religion in ancient Rome includes the ethnic religion of Ancient Rome that the ancient Romans, Romans used to define themselves as a people, as well as the religious practices of peoples brought under Roman rule ...

Janus
",
January January is the first month of the year in the Julian calendar, Julian and Gregorian calendars and the first of seven months to have a length of 31 days. The first day of the month is known as New Year's Day. It is, on average, the coldest mon ...
) and followed by '' Martius'' ("month of
Mars Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun and the second-smallest planet in the Solar System, being larger than only Mercury (planet), Mercury. In English, Mars carries the name of the Mars (mythology), Roman god of war and is often referred to ...
",
March March is the third month of the year in both the Julian and Gregorian calendar The Gregorian calendar is the calendar A calendar is a system of organizing days. This is done by giving names to periods of time, typically days ...
). In the oldest Roman calendar, which the Romans believed to have been instituted by their legendary founder
Romulus Romulus () was the legendary founder Founder or Founders may refer to: Places *Founders Park, a stadium in South Carolina, formerly known as Carolina Stadium * Founders Park, a waterside park in Islamorada, Florida#In popular culture, Islamora ...
, March was the first month, and the calendar year had only ten months in all. ''Ianuarius'' and ''Februarius'' were supposed to have been added by
Numa Pompilius Numa Pompilius (; 753–673 BC; reigned 715–673 BC) was the legendary second king of Rome The king of Rome ( la, rex Romae) was the chief magistrate Chief magistrate is a public official, executive or judicial, whose office is the highest ...

Numa Pompilius
, the second
king of Rome The king of Rome ( la, rex Romae) was the chief magistrate Chief magistrate is a public official, executive or judicial, whose office is the highest in its class. Historically, the two different meanings of magistrate The term magistrate is ...
, originally at the end of the year. It is unclear when the Romans reset the course of the year so that January and February came first. ''Februarius'' was the only month in the pre-
Julian calendar The Julian calendar, proposed by Julius Caesar Gaius Julius Caesar (; 12 July 100 BC – 15 March 44 BC) was a Roman Roman or Romans usually refers to: *Rome, the capital city of Italy *Ancient Rome, Roman civilization from 8th century B ...
to have an even number of days, numbering 28. This was mathematically necessary to permit the year itself to have an odd number of days. Ancient sources derived ''Februarius'' from ''februum'', a thing used for ritual purification. Most of the observances in this month concerned the dead or closure, reflecting the month's original position at the end of the year. The
Parentalia In ancient Rome In historiography Historiography is the study of the methods of historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest historians whose work survives. A historian is a ...
was a nine-day festival honoring the ancestors and propitiating the dead, while the Terminalia was a set of rituals pertaining to boundary stones that was probably also felt to reinforce the boundary of the year.


In the agricultural year

Many
Roman festivals Festivals in ancient Rome were a very important part of Roman religious life during both the Republican Republican can refer to: Political ideology * An advocate of a republic, a type of government that is not a monarchy or dictatorship, ...
and religious observances reflect the Romans' agrarian way of life in their early history. In his treatise on farming,
Varro Marcus Terentius Varro (; 116–27 BC) was a Roman polymath A polymath ( el, πολυμαθής, , "having learned much"; la, homo universalis, "universal human") is an individual whose knowledge spans a substantial number of subjects, known ...
divides the agricultural year into eight phases, with Spring beginning officially on February 7, when Favonius the west wind was thought to start blowing favorably and it was time to ready the fields. The grain fields were to be weeded, vineyards tended, and old reeds burned. Some kinds of trees were pruned, and attention was given to olive and fruit trees. The agricultural writer
Columella Lucius Junius Moderatus Columella (; Arabic Arabic (, ' or , ' or ) is a Semitic language The Semitic languages are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family originating in the Middle East The Middle East is a list of ...
says that meadows and grain fields are "purged" ''(purguntur)'', probably both in the practical sense of clearing away old debris and by means of ritual. The duties of February thus suggest the close bond between agriculture and religion in Roman culture. According to the farmers' almanacs, the tutelary deity of the month was
Neptune Neptune is the eighth and farthest-known Solar planet from the Sun. In the Solar System, it is the fourth-largest planet by diameter, the third-most-massive planet, and the densest giant planet. It is 17 times the mass of Earth, slightly mo ...
.


Dates

The Romans did not number days of a month sequentially from the 1st through the last day. Instead, they counted back from the three fixed points of the month: the Nones (5th or 7th, depending on the length of the month), the Ides (13th or 15th), and the
Kalends The calends or kalends ( la, kalendae) is the first day of every month in the Roman calendar The Roman calendar was the calendar used by the Roman kingdom and Roman Republic, republic. The term often includes the Julian calendar established b ...
(1st) of the following month. The Nones of February was the 5th, and the Ides the 13th. The last day of February was the ''pridie Kalendas Martias,'' "day before the Kalends of March". Roman counting was inclusive; February 9 was ''ante diem V Idūs Februarias,'' "the 5th day before the Ides (13th) of February," usually abbreviated ''a.d. V Id. Feb.'' (or with the ''a.d.'' omitted altogether); February 23 was ''VI Kal. Mart.'', "the 6th day before the Kalends of March." February had one and possibly two
moveable feast A moveable feast or movable feast is an observance in a Christian liturgical calendar, borrowed from the Hebrew Lunisolar calendar, which therefore occurs on a different date (relative to the Roman Civil calendar, civil or solar calendar) in diffe ...
s ''(
feriae conceptivae Festivals in ancient Rome were a very important part of religion in ancient Rome, Roman religious life during both the Roman Republic, Republican and Roman Empire, Imperial eras, and one of the primary features of the Roman calendar. ''Feriae ...
)''. The
Amburbium The Amburbium ("City Circuit", from ''ambire'', "to go around" + ''urb-'', "city"; plural ''amburbia'') was an Roman festivals, ancient Roman festival for purifying the city; that is, a lustrum, lustration ''(lustratio urbis)''. It took the form of ...
("City Circuit") was a purification of the whole city with no fixed date, but seems to have been held in February. The Fornacalia ("Oven Festival") was celebrated by the thirty ancient divisions of the Roman people known as ''
curiae Curia ( plural curiae) in referred to one of the original groupings of the citizenry, eventually numbering 30, and later every Roman citizen was presumed to belong to one. While they originally likely had wider powers, they came to meet for only ...
''. Each ''curia'' celebrated a festival separately under its own leader ''(curio)'' on various days following the Nones. These dates were established and publicized by the ''
curio maximus The ''curio maximus'' was an obscure College of Pontiffs, priesthood in ancient Rome that had oversight of the ''curia, curiae'', groups of citizens loosely affiliated within what was originally a Roman tribe#The curiae, tribe. Each curia was led by ...
'', the chief ''curio''. Anyone who missed the Fornacalia celebrated by his own ''curia,'' or who didn't know his ''curia,'' could attend a public festival which was always held as the concluding ceremony on February 17. The Fornacalia overlapped with the festival of the ancestral dead that dominated the month, and on its last day coincided with the
Quirinalia In Roman mythology and Roman religion, religion, Quirinus ( , ) is an early god of the Ancient Rome, Roman state. In Augustus, Augustan Rome, ''Quirinus'' was also an epithet of Janus, as ''Janus Quirinus''. Name Attestations The name of god Q ...
, a day also known as the
Feast of Fools The Feast of Fools ( la, festum fatuorum, festum stultorum) was a feast day The calendar of saints is the traditional method of organizing a by associating each day with one or more s and referring to the day as the feast day or feast of sa ...
''(feriae stultorum)''. ''Februarius'' was thus such a religiously complex month that during the Julian reform of the calendar, when days were added to some months, it was left as it had been, even though it was the shortest month. Each day was marked with a letter to denote its status under religious law. In the month of February: * F for '' dies fasti'', days when it was legal to initiate action in the courts of
civil law Civil law may refer to: * Civil law (common law) Civil law is a major branch of the law.Glanville Williams. ''Learning the Law''. Eleventh Edition. Stevens. 1982. p. 2. In common law legal systems such as England and Wales and the law of the United ...
; * C for ''dies comitalis,'' a day on which the Roman people could hold assemblies ''(
comitia #REDIRECT Legislative assemblies of the Roman Republic The legislative assemblies of the Roman Republic were political institutions in the ancient Roman Republic. According to the contemporary historian Polybius, it was the people (and thus the a ...
)'', elections, and certain kinds of judicial proceedings; * N for '' dies nefasti'', when these political activities and the administration of justice were prohibited; * NP, the meaning of which remains elusive, but which marked ''
feriae
feriae
'', public holidays; * EN for ''endotercissus'', an archaic form of ''intercissus'', "cut in half," meaning days that were ''nefasti'' in the morning, when
sacrifices Sacrifice is the offering of food, objects or the lives of animals or humans to a higher purpose, in particular divine beings, as an act of propitiation or worship. Evidence of ritual animal sacrifice has been seen at least ancient Hebrew and ...
were being prepared, and in the evening, while sacrifices were being offered, but were ''fasti'' in the middle of the day. By the late 2nd century AD, extant calendars no longer show days marked with these letters, probably in part as a result of calendar reforms undertaken by
Marcus Aurelius Marcus Aurelius Antoninus ( ; 26 April 121 – 17 March 180) was a Roman emperor The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman Empire during the History of the Roman Empire, imperial period (starting in 27 BC). The emperors used a vari ...

Marcus Aurelius
. Days were also marked with nundinal letters in cycles of ''A B C D E F G H'', to mark the "market week" (these are omitted on the table below). On a ''
dies religiosus The vocabulary of ancient Roman religion was highly specialized. Its study affords important information about the religion, traditions and beliefs of the ancient Romans. This legacy is conspicuous in European cultural history in its influence on ...
'', individuals were not to undertake any new activity, nor do anything other than tend to the most basic necessities. On the calendar under the Republic, a '' dies natalis'' was an anniversary such as a temple founding or rededication, sometimes thought of as the "birthday" of a deity. During the
Imperial period
Imperial period
, some of the traditional festivals localized at Rome became less important, and the birthdays and anniversaries of the
emperor An emperor (from la, imperator The Latin word "imperator" derives from the stem of the verb la, imperare, label=none, meaning 'to order, to command'. It was originally employed as a title roughly equivalent to ''commander'' under the Roma ...
and his family gained prominence as Roman holidays. On the calendar of military religious observances known as the ''
Feriale Duranum The ''Feriale Duranum'' is a calendar of Religion in ancient Rome, religious observances for a Roman military garrison at Dura-Europos on the Euphrates, Roman Syria, under the reign of Severus Alexander (224–235 AD). History and description T ...
'', sacrifices pertaining to
Imperial cult An imperial cult is a form of state religion A state religion (also called an established religion or official religion) is a religion Religion is a social Social organisms, including humans, live collectively in interacting populations ...
outnumber the older festivals. Festivals marked in large letters on extant ''fasti'', represented by festival names in all capital letters on the table, are thought to have been the most ancient holidays, becoming part of the calendar before 509 BC.Scullard, ''Festivals and Ceremonies of the Roman Republic'', p. 41. After the mid-1st century AD, a number of dates are added to calendars for spectacles and games ''( circenses)'' held in honor of various deities in the venue called a "
circus A circus is a company of performers who put on diverse entertainment shows that may include clown A clown is a person who wears a unique makeup-face and flamboyant costume, performing comedy Comedy (from the el, κωμῳδία, ...
". Unless otherwise noted, the dating and observances on the following table are from H.H. Scullard, ''Festivals and Ceremonies of the Roman Republic'' (Cornell University Press, 1981), pp. 69–84.


See also

* Month names: Martius,
Aprilis ''Aprilis'' or ''mensis Aprilis'' (April April is the fourth month of the year in the Gregorian calendar The Gregorian calendar is the calendar A calendar is a system of organizing days. This is done by giving names to peri ...
,
Maius ''Maius'' or ''mensis Maius'' (May May is the fifth month of the year in the Julian calendar, Julian and Gregorian calendars and the third of seven months to have a length of 31 days. May is a month of Spring (season), spring in the Northern ...
, Junius,
Quintilis In the ancient Roman calendar The Roman calendar was the calendar A calendar is a system of organizing days. This is done by giving names to periods of time, typically days, weeks, months and years. A calendar date, date is the d ...
,
Sextilis Sextilis ("sixth") or ''mensis Sextilis'' was the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', ...
,
September September is the ninth month of the year in the Julian and Gregorian calendar The Gregorian calendar is the calendar A calendar is a system of organizing days. This is done by giving names to periods of time, typically ...
,
October October is the tenth month of the year in the Julian and Gregorian calendars and the sixth of seven months to have a length of 31 day The word day has a number of meanings, depending on the context it is used such as of astronomy, physi ...
,
November November is the eleventh and penultimate month A month is a unit of time, used with calendars, that is approximately as long as a natural orbital period of the Moon; the words ''month'' and ''Moon'' are cognates. The traditional concept arose ...
,
December December is the twelfth and the final month of the year in the Julian and Gregorian calendar The Gregorian calendar is the calendar A calendar is a system of organizing days. This is done by giving names to periods of time, t ...
. * Leap month:
MercedoniusMercedonius (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Repub ...
or
Intercalaris Mercedonius (Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman R ...
.


References

{{italic title Roman calendar February Months