Last we met, we talked about Romulus, first King of Rome, and his new calendar. Romulus as a real legendary character, born from a virgin, raised by a she-wolf. It is only natural that his demise was legendary as well: he as called by Jupiter to reside on Olympus, with his father Mars (historians say he was struck by lightning,which sort of corroborates the Jupiter legend!).
After Romulus’ death, there was an interregnum in Rome, and during a whole year there was no king. Rome was ruled by members of its senate, a rotaton that gave the city a new ruler every five days! But the two main factions, the supporters of Romulus (the Romans) and the supporters of Tatius (the Sabines) eventually came to an agreement, and the senate voted on Numa Pompilius, a Sabine born on the day Rome was founded, to become the second king of Rome.
Numa was a wise man, and just too! And while Romulus worshiped Mars (his father, the God of War) and Asylaeus (the God of Welcomes), Numa turned his Faith (and his efforts) towards Janos (the two-faced god, Guardian of the Gate of Olympus) and Terminus (God of Boundaries). The message was clear: all are welcome in Rome, but boundaries (and private property) must be respected!
Numa addressed the calendar, and ended the Winter nonsense created by Romulus. He did that by creating two extra months: Februarius ad Januarius.
The first was to be the eleventh month of the year, right after Decembre. Its name comes from Februa, the holy festival of purification, held during the Winter. February was to be the harshest month the cold period, and so people should be devoted to the Gods, for protection.
Januarius, named after Janos, was to be the last month of the year. Its patron god, the two-faced gatekeeper, looked to the past while looking into the future. When Januarius ended, so ended the year, a New Year began, in Martius, with the Spring.
On a curious note, Romans deemed even numbers to be unlucky, so the months, trying to keep with the lunar cycle, had either 29 or 31 days. But 12 months, each with an uneven number of days, would add up to a year with an even number of days. And that was bad! So Numa create Februarius with 30 days, an even number, to make the year 365 days long, an uneven number. It was the month for purification, after all, so people should be safe from any bad luck. And that is how our own February got branded as a “different” month from the very beginning! ■