History of July: Where Do We Get That Name?


Gaius Julius Caesar


The month of July was renamed for Julius Caesar, who was born in that month. Before that, it was called Quintilis in Latin, meaning the fifth month in the ancient Roman calendar, but was changed to July by Marc Anthony after Caesar’s assassination. This was before January became the first month of the calendar year about the year 450 BC. We currently use the more contemporary Gregorian calendar — recent as in AD 1582 — which makes use of Anno Domini, meaning “in the year of our Lord” counting from the birth of Jesus. As we’ve previously discussed, in this calendar, Jesus was born curiously 4 to 6 years BC or “Before Christ.”


Calendar and Julius


Julian calendar in stone

The Gregorian calendar was a reform of the Julian calendar, which was itself a reform of the previous Roman calendar. The Julian calendar was introduced by Julius Caesar himself in 46 BC, where he added — probably after returning from an African military campaign in late Quntilis (July) — an additional 67 days by putting two intercalary months between November and December, as Cicero tells us at the time. This took care of some of the leap year problems. The Romans, after his death, renamed Quintilis to Iulius (July) in honor of his birth month.


Julius Caesar

Though Julius Caesar is often called the first Emperor of Rome, that honor actually goes to Octavian or Augustus Caesar to whom Julius was a great uncle. Julius did, nevertheless, play an essential part in Rome’s transformation from a Republic to an Empire. He rose to the position of “perpetual dictator, ” and his conquest of Gaul and his invasion of Britain extended the Roman world to the North Sea.

His family Julia was the beginning, at the very height of Roman government, of the Julio-Claudian dynasty that lasted until the demise of Nero in AD 68. His family claimed ancient roots from Iulus, who was the son of the Trojan prince Aeneas of legend, the son of Venus, as described by the epic Latin poem The Aeneid, which tells of the origin of Rome, and is named earlier in Homer’s Iliad.


C-Section for Caesar?

The idea that Julius Caesar was born by Caesarian section is colorful but inaccurate. The story dates back at least to the 10th century, but Julius wasn’t the first to take the cognomen Caesar, and it was unlikely that he was born by this method. During his day, the procedure was only performed on mothers who died during childbirth. We know that Aurelia, Caesar’s mother, lived long after he was born. The etymology of caesarian may well have come from cadere, “to cut.”

I was born by Caesarean section, but you really can’t tell… except that when I leave my house, I always go out the window. – Steven Wright


Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian

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About billpetro

Bill Petro has been a technology sales enablement executive with extensive experience in Cloud Computing, Automation, Data Center, Information Storage, Big Data/Analytics, Mobile, and Social technologies.

1 Comment

  1. I’ve been coming here for a roughly a week now and have decided to make my first post to say thank you.

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