Jan 01

January 1st, the Day Roman Consuls Took Office

Have you ever wondered how January 1st become established as the beginning of a New Year? Among his many other achievements, Julius Caesar is responsible for reforming the Roman calendar to force it to align with the solar year. There have been minor changes since that time, but our modern calendar is very similar to that one established by Julius Caesar, over 2000 years ago.

Like most ancient peoples, the Romans originally followed a lunar calendar and inserted a “correction” whenever the months became too far out of line with the seasons. Roman magistrates held their terms of office from January 1st to year end, but corrupt priests and politicians frequently manipulated these “corrections” to their personal advantage.

Ancient astronomers had long known the solar year was very close to 365.25 days, but until Caesars’ time no reformers existed with enough political clout to modify existing customs. In order to put a stop to the ongoing abuses, Julius Caesar forced the Romans to adopt a fixed calendar consisting of 365 days, with a 1 day “correction” added every four years.

Because of Caesar’s Calendar reforms, most dates in history from 45 B.C. to modern times are known with reasonable accuracy. Dates recorded before this time, however, have to be considered approximate.

To read more about Julius Caesar and his dramatic influence on Roman civilization, you can explore Ada Russell’s biography for intermediate students. Or check out Jacob Abbot’s biography of Julius Caesar, intended for older students.

These are only two out of dozens of books about the Romans contained in the Ancient Rome Classical Curriculum. The Romans were a fascinating people who affected every aspect of Western Civilization, and January’s FREE e-book will feature Stories from Roman History.

About the author

T. A. Roth

Content Editor at Heritage History, Homeschooling Mom of Five, Armchair historian

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