Home > Uncategorized > Plutarch: Lover of peace changed the first month of the year

Plutarch: Lover of peace changed the first month of the year


Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Plutarch: Selections on war and peace


From The Roman Questions
Translated by Frank Cole Babbitt

15 Why is it that they were wont to sacrifice no living creature to Terminus, in whose honour they held the Terminalia, although they regard him as a god?

Is it that Romulus placed no boundary-stones for his country, so that Romans might go forth, seize land, and regard all as theirs, as the Spartan said, which their spears could reach; whereas Numa Pompilius, a just man and a statesman, who had become versed in philosophy, marked out the boundaries between Rome and her neighbours, and, when on the boundary-stones he had formally installed Terminus as overseer and guardian of friendship and peace, he thought that Terminus should be kept pure and undefiled from blood and gore?


19 The fact is that, in ancient days, March was counted before January, as is clear from many different proofs, and particularly from the fact that the fifth month from March is called Quintilis, the sixth Sextilis, and on to the last, which they call December, since it is the tenth in order from March. Wherefore it has also naturally occurred to some to believe and to maintain that the ancient Romans completed their year, not in twelve months, but in ten, by adding more days than thirty to some of the months. Others state that December is the tenth from March, January the eleventh, and February the twelfth; and in this month they perform rites of purification and make offerings to the dead, since it is the end of the year. But the order of these months was altered, so they say, and January was put first because in this month on the day of the new moon, which they call the Kalends of January, the first consuls entered office after the kings had been expelled.

But more worthy of credence are they who maintain that it was because Romulus was a warrior and a lover of battle, and was thought to be a son of Mars, that he placed first the month which bore Mars’ name. But Numa, in turn, who was a lover of peace, and whose ambition it was to turn the city towards husbandry and to divert it from war, gave the precedence to January and advanced the god Janus to great honours, since Janus was a statesman and a husbandman rather than a warrior…

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