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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 Republic, it became ...
for "Work Month").) before beginning to be treated as nouns in their own right. ' seems to derive from ', meaning "wages"., also known as Mercedinus, Interkalaris or Intercalaris ( la, mensis intercalaris), was the
intercalary month Intercalation or embolism in timekeeping is the insertion of a leap day, week, or month into some calendar years to make the calendar follow the seasons or moon phases. Lunisolar calendar A lunisolar calendar is a calendar in many culture Cul ...
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 ...
. The resulting
leap year A leap year (also known as an intercalary year or wikt:bissextile, bissextile year) is a calendar year that contains an additional day (or, in the case of a lunisolar calendar, a month) added to keep the calendar year synchronized with the astron ...

leap year
was either 377 or 378 days long. It theoretically occurred every two (or occasionally three) years, but was sometimes avoided or employed by the Roman pontiffs for political reasons regardless of the state of the solar year. Mercedonius was eliminated by Julius Caesar when he introduced the
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 ...
in 46 BC.


History

This month, instituted according to Roman tradition 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
, was supposed to be inserted every two or three years to align the conventional 355-day Roman year with the
solar year A tropical year (also known as a solar year or tropical period) is the time Time is the continued sequence of existence and event (philosophy), events that occurs in an apparently irreversible process, irreversible succession from the past ...
. The decision of whether to insert the intercalary month was made by the
pontifex maximus 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'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation w ...
, supposedly based on observations to ensure the best possible correspondence with the
season A season is a division of the year based on changes in weather Weather is the state of the atmosphere An atmosphere (from the greek words ἀτμός ''(atmos)'', meaning 'vapour', and σφαῖρα ''(sphaira)'', meaning 'ball' or ...

season
s. Unfortunately the pontifex maximus, who would normally be an active politician, often manipulated the decision to allow friends to stay in office longer or force enemies out early. Such unpredictable intercalation meant that dates following the month of Februarius could not be known in advance, and further to this, Roman citizens living outside Rome would often not know the current date. The exact mechanism is not clearly specified in ancient sources. Some scholars, such as
Ludwig Ideler
Ludwig Ideler
, Henry G Liddell, the staff writers of ''Encyclopædia Britannica'' and Elias Bickerman hold that in intercalary years February's length was fixed at 23 days and it was followed by a variable length ''mensis intercalaris'' with 27 or 28 days. This view is followed in generalist surveys of calendrical history such as those of D E Duncan, G R Richards or A Aveni. However, following a discussion of intercalation in A. K. Michels, ''The Calendar of the Roman Republic'' (Princeton, 1967) 145–172, the standard reference on the pre-Julian calendar, some specialist studies of the pre-Julian calendar published since 1967 claim that in intercalary years Februarius was set at either 23 or 24 days, and followed by an intercalary month of 27 days.Some of these writers assume that the various extracts from the Roman jurist Celsus (''Digest'' volume 39) quoted in the Significations efinitionsof Justinian's Law Code (''The Enactments of Justinian, The Digest or Pandects'', tr. S P Scott, Cincinnati 1932 available a

develop an argument. This is not the case in Book 50, which is a series of unrelated dictionary definitions.
Whichever interpretation is correct, the days ''a.d. VI Kal. Mart.'' to ''Prid. Kal. Mart.'', normally referring to the end of February, were in intercalary years the concluding days of the ''mensis intercalaris''. The month was eliminated by Julius Caesar when he introduced the
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 ...
in 46 BC.


See also

* Julian calendar#Motivation, Julian calendar § Motivation *
Adar Adar ( he, אֲדָר ; from Akkadian language, Akkadian ''adaru'') is the sixth month of the civil year and the twelfth month of the ecclesiastical year on the Hebrew calendar, roughly corresponding to the month of March in the Gregorian calend ...
* Undecimber


Notes


References

{{reflist, 30em


External links


Roman Dates
Months Roman calendar