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VENI VIDI VICI (I came, I saw, I conquered) are the famous words with which Julius Caesar announced to the Senate the rapid victory that he had just achieved near to Zela (47 BC) over Pharnace, King of the Bosphorus.

Jules César

Julius Caesar also leaves us other famous words:
" Alea jacta is" (the die is cast), was said as he prepared to cross, with his army, the Rubicon (an Italian river to the north of Rimini) in the night of 11 to 12 January, 49 BC.

A law ordered any General entering Italy to lay off his army before passing this river. Crossing it with the army was the beginning of civil war.

Julius Caesar (Rome 100 or 101 to 44 BC) left us left more than quotations. Statesman and military writer, Julius Caesar was a man with an exceptional destiny.

He conquered Gaul and is one of the rare conquerors to have put foot on British soil. The Romans stayed there 5 centuries and, inter alia, founded London. The Square Mile (the name still given to the City) represented the limit of the ramparts. 10 centuries went by before this exploit was repeated by William the Conqueror.

He was the lover of Cleopatra, according to legend, one of the most beautiful women.

Julius Caesar reformed the calendar, taking as a starting point the Egyptian calendar which was a solar calendar rather than a lunar calendar too vague for forecasts and the organisation of harvests.

Julius Caesar was assassinated on March 15, 44 BC. His last words are also famous "tu quoque, fili !" (You too, my son!).

Julius Caesar and the reform of the calendar

In the early days of Rome, the measurement of time was based on the cycles of the moon. The year began in March. It comprised 355 days and ten unequal months of 30 or 31 days.

It was usual for the Romans to interest on their debts in the first days of each month, these days being called calends (or calendae). From which the word "calendar" which indicates the register where accounts were registered, then the measurement of time itself.

Two months (January and February) were added to the calendar to put the year in agreement with the cycle of the sun and to respect the rhythm of the seasons. The last month, February, has a bad reputation. It was devoted to purification.

The Pontiffs, who regulated religious business in Rome were to refine the calendar by adding a few additional days every two years. They used this privilege according to their interests, to lengthen or shorten the mandate of the consuls.

In 46 BC, the Master of Rome decided to put a stop to this tomfoolery. He introduced a judicious calendar developed by the Alexandrian astronomer, Sosigène.

Julius Caesar imposed one 365 day year divided into 12 months of unequal length. The year begins on January 1, with one leap year of 366 days every four years.

The 366th day was introduced after February 24. Superstitious, the Romans avoided using the word "February" and described February 24 by the expression: sexto handle calendas martii (sixth day before the calends of March).

Consequently, the 366e day is called bis sexto ante ... From where the name of bissextile which is still given to the corresponding years.

Installation of the new calendar led to a "year of confusion" of 445 days! It was necessary to realign, once and for ever, the beginning of the year on the Spring equinox.

Auguste is not worth less than Julius.

Following a proposal of the Senate of Rome, the fifth month of the year was named julius (the name was transformed into July in our language) to thank Julius Caesar for having reformed the calendar.

Later, his successor, Auguste, put the reform back on the rails. He removed the leap years over one 12 year period to overcome a slight difference between the calendar of his predecessor and the solar cycle.

Flattering, the Senate decided consequently to give his name to the sixth month of the year (augustus, which became August in English).

But in the initial calendar, this month had 30 days, compared to 31 for julius!

In order to put Caesar and Auguste on an equal footing, one day was removed from February and given to August, and 30 days, instead of 31, allotted to September (the seventh month in the old Roman calendar).

This calendar was sufficiently precise that it was difficult to put at fault over one generation. In one year, the error was 11 minutes and 14 seconds. However after 15 centuries of good use, the accumulation of the error became obvious.

The Romans, the Portuguese and the Spaniards who went to bed on the evening of Thursday October 4, 1582 had the privilege of waking up on Friday... October 15, 1582.

This “night” of October 4 to 15, 1582 was chosen by Pope Gregoire XIII for his reform of the Julien calendar, named after Julius Caesar.

 

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