You are here:

Latin/Latin months

Advertisement


Question
Dear Dear Maria,

I got one question about the latin months. Why do they have three cases? Why is this necessary? For example, if martius were placed after the word mensis, then of course the two would both be masculine. But based on the fact that Martius itself means month, and month will forever goes with the word mensis. Then why would they have three cases?

Um, I hope this question make sense? I mean, under what circumstances would there be need for three different cases for a word that only means month?

I can't thank you enough...
Sincerely
Lilian

Answer
Dear Lilian,

first of all I have to point out that the adjectives Ianuarius, Februarius, Martius, Aprilis, Maius, Iunius, Iulius (previously called Quintilis), Augustus (previously called Sextilis), September, October, November, December have three genders (masculine, feminine, neuter), two numbers (singular, plural) and six cases (nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, vocative, ablative) simply because they  can refer not only to a month (Latin "mensis", masculine noun) as in "Ianuarius mensis", "Februarius mensis","Martius mensis", "Aprilis mensis", "Maius mensis", "Iunius mensis", "Iulius mensis"(previously called Quintilis mensis), "Augustus mensis" (previously called Sextilis mensis), "September mensis", "October mensis", "November mensis", "December mensis", but also to other nouns such as for example the feminine plural noun "Kalendae" (1st declension),the feminine plural noun  "Nonae" (1st declension)  and the feminine plural noun "Idus" (4th declension).

See for example:

-"Idus Martiae"(the Ides of March, i.e. March 15, famous as the day on which Julius Csar was killed in 44 BC),where the adjective "Martius" is in the nominative feminine plural as it agrees with "Idus" which is a nominative feminine plural;

-"Kalendae Maiae"(the Calends of May, i.e.  May 1), where the adjective "Maius" is in the nominative feminine plural as it agrees with "Kalendae" which is a nominative feminine plural;

-"Nonae Iuniae" (the Nones of June, i.e. June 5) where the adjective "Iunius" is in the nominative feminine plural as it agrees with "Nonae" which is a nominative feminine plural;

-"Pridie Idus Martias" (before the Ides of March, i.e. March 14) where the adjective "Martius" is in the accusative feminine plural as it agrees with "Idus" which is an accusative feminine plural depending on the preposition "pridie" meaning "on the day before".


Please note that:

-Latin "Kalendae" (Calends) are the first day of every month in the ancient Roman calendar;

-Latin "Nonae" (Nones)are the 5th day in every month of the year, except March, May, July, and October, in which it was the 7th; the Nones are so called because it was the 9th day before the Ides.

-Latin "Idus (Ides) are the 13th day in every month of the year, except March, May, July, and October, in which it was the 15th.

So, the Romans used the preposition "pridie" and "postridie" with the accusative to indicate the day before or the day after a certain day as in "Postridie Nonas Ianuarias" meaning "the day after the Nones of January", i.e. January 6, or "Pridie Kalendas Maias" meaning " the day before the Calends of May", i.e. April 30.

As for the other days of a month, the Romans used three fixed dates in each month, i.e. the "Kalendae" (first day), the "Nonae" (5th or 7th day) and the "Idus" (13th or 15th day), from which the other days were reckoned, so that for example "March 3"  was  "Ante diem quintum Nonas Martias" (literally, "the fifth day before the Nones of March")because the Romans referred to the day immediately before one of the three fixed dates  and counted inclusively, so that for "March 3" they  count 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 to get five days before the Nones of March which fell upon the 7th day of March.

Finally, on the day itself they simply called it the Ides of March or the Calends of May,etc.
See for example "Kalendis Ianuariis"(in the ablative) meaning "January 1".


To conclude, the adjectives Ianuarius, Februarius, Martius, Aprilis, Maius, Iunius, Iulius, Augustus, September, October, November and December have three three genders, two number and six cases  simply because they do not always refer to the masculine noun "mensis" (month), as I've said, and therefore, though "Martius" itself means the month of March,when used as a noun without "mensis", we can have three genders, two number and six cases when these adjectives are used with other nouns.


Hope all is clear enough.Feel free however to ask me again.

Best regards,
Maria  

Latin

All Answers


Answers by Expert:


Ask Experts

Volunteer


Maria

Expertise

I am an expert in Latin Language and Literature and I'll be glad to answer any questions concerning this matter.

Experience

Over 25 years teaching experience.

Education/Credentials
I received my Ph.D. in Classics (summa cum laude) from Genova University (Italy).

This expert accepts donations:

©2016 About.com. All rights reserved.