How Numa Ruined the Calendar

The Roman year used to begin in March, which is named after Mars, their God of war. On March 1st gifts of fruit and honey were exchanged. But Numa Pompilius, Rome’s second king, wanted to start the year on a more peaceful note. Here is Plutarch’s account: “March, which was reckoned the first, he put into the third place; and January, which was the eleventh, he made the first; and February, which was the twelfth and last, the second. … January was so called from Janus, and precedence given to it by Numa before March, which was dedicated to the god Mars; because, as I conceive, he wished to take every opportunity of intimating that the arts and studies of peace are to be preferred before those of war.”

—Plutarch’s Lives


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