History of July: Where Do We Get That Name?



July was renamed for Julius Caesar, who was born that month. Before that, it was called Quintilis in Latin, meaning the fifth month in the ancient Roman calendar. But Marc Anthony changed the name to July after Caesar’s assassination. This was before January became the first month of the calendar year, under ancient rulers Numa or the Decemvirs about 450 B.C. (Roman historians differ). We currently use the more modern Gregorian calendar — recent, as in AD 1582. It uses Anno Domini, meaning “in the year of our Lord,” counting from the birth of Jesus. As we’ve previously discussed, in this calendar curiously, Jesus was born 4 to 6 years B.C. or “Before Christ.”


Calendar and Julius


The Gregorian calendar was a reform of the Julian calendar, which was itself a reform of the previous Roman calendar.

Julius Caesar himself introduced the Julian Calendar in 46 B.C., adding 67 additional days by putting two intercalary months between November and December. According to Cicero, he probably did this after returning from an African military campaign in late Quntilis (July). This took care of some of the leap-year problems.

Nevertheless, the Julian Calendar is still in use in some of the Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches in Ukraine, Russia, Georgia, Serbia and Montenegro, Poland, North Macedonia, and the autonomous province of Mount Athos in Greece.

It’s used today in the Middle East in the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem and parts of North Africa among the Berber and Maghreb people, as well as Ethiopia. It is often referred to by the notation “Old Style” (O.S.) as opposed to the “New Style” (N.S.) of the Gregorian Calendar.


Julius and the name Caesar

Though Julius Caesar is often called the first “Emperor of Rome,” that honor properly goes to Octavian or Augustus Caesar, the heir, and great-nephew of Julius. Part of the confusion about who was the first Emperor is that his cognomen of Caesar later became essentially a synonym for emperor or general.” The title “Caesar” was subsequently used throughout the Roman Empire, giving us the more modern cognates of Kaiser and Tsar.

His “family name,” or gens, was Julia. They held they descended from Julus, son of the legendary Trojan prince Aeneas from Greco-Roman mythology, who was himself reputedly the son of the goddess Venus. The Greek version of this story is in Homer‘s Illiad. The Roman version, Virgil‘s Aeneid, tells how Aeneas was the ancestor of Romulus and Remus, the heroic founders of Rome.




Julius Caesar played an essential part at the beginning of 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. He was a general, statesman, governor of Gaul, member of the First Triumvirate (with Crassus and Pompey), and “dictator for life,” dictator perpetuo.

His family Julia was the beginning of the Julio-Claudian dynasty – at the very height of Roman government – that lasted until the demise of Nero in A.D. 68.

Historical Trivia to impress your friends and family:

The “Julio-Claudian dynasty” comprised the first five Roman emperors: Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero. This name comes from the two families who composed this Imperial dynasty: the Julii Caesares and Claudii Nerones. The subsequent “Flavian dynasty,” from AD 69 and 96, succeeded them, involving the reigns of Vespasian and his two sons Titus and Domitian.


Caesarian-Section for Caesar?

That Julius Caesar was born by Caesarian section is colorful but inaccurate. Pliny the Elder, in the 2nd-century A.D., theorized that one of his ancestors may have been born this way. The story suggesting Caesar was born this way dates back at least to the 10th century – and is continued today in the 1989 edition of the Oxford English Dictionary – 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 Cotta, Caesar’s mother, lived over forty years after his birth. 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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