In Roman times, the year only had 10 months and was based on the lunar cycle, which only had 29 and a half days. That calendar began at the spring equinox in March and ended with December. Because of the lunar calendar, the total number of days in the Roman calendar only summed up to 304 days, which is vastly different from the solar year that reaches a quarter and 365 days.

King Numa’s Calendar

According to legend, King Numa Pompilius added January and February to make the number of months to twelve to solve the inconsistency of days. The new months each had 28 days. However, in those times even numbers were considered bad luck. So, King Numa added a day to January, which totaled to seven months with 29 days, and four months with 31 days. This addition gave the year an odd-numbered 355 days.

Mercedinius

However, this addition still fell short of the solar year by a quarter and 10 days. So Numa invented an extra month called Mercedinus that would be added to February every other year. This extra month has 27 days and was inserted after February 23 every couple of years or so.

Although King Numa’s calendar was getting closer to a system that would work, its dependence on the lunar cycle still makes it unfit for the 365 and ¼ days that a solar year requires. Aside from that, the pontiffs who were in charge of calendar upkeep didn’t always add the extra month on schedule. This led to government officials taking advantage of the imperfections of the system to lengthen their time in office.

February Calender Why does February have 28 days?

The Julian Calendar

In 45 BC, when Julius Caesar came to the throne, he decided to ignore the lunar cycle and get rid of Mercedinus by arranging the number of days in the twelve months to add up to exactly 365 1/4. This is when the calendar began following the Egyptian solar calendar. February then wound up with only 29 days, plus an extra every fourth year that passes. The calendar with this configuration is called the Julian Calendar, which is essentially what we are using today.

Stories have it

There were many tales associated with how the present calendar came to be. One story is that Augustus, the next to rule in Rome after Julius, was envious of the honor that was given to Julius Caesar. The month of July was named after him and the month was specially summed up to 31 days. To appease Augustus’ desire, his admirers took one day from poor February and added it to August, the month named after the envious emperor.

One possible reason why Februray was always the victim of stolen days is because it is the month when Romans honored the dead and performed rites of purification. February was named after the word “februare,” which means “to purify” in the dialect of the ancient Sabine tribe.

Some have speculated that Caesar added a day to February when he reformed the calendar, making it 29 days long. But this theory is now believed to be untrue. It is likely that Julius never even added a day to February.

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