Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 80.djvu/287

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TIME AND SPACE

was left out of account. The more intelligent people have become, the less attention they have paid to it. The defective year was brought a little nearer to the actual year by adding an intercalary month every three. The Babylonian year is supposed to have been introduced in Athens about 600 B.C. Half a century later the calendar was further improved by Cleostratus, but in all the Greek states the method of reckoning by days and months always remained a good deal wide of the mark. That the Roman year originally contained ten months is evident from the names of the last four called by them seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth (September, October, etc.), although they are in fact the ninth, tenth, and so on. July was named Quintilis, the fifth, August, Sextilis, the sixth; they were afterwards renamed in honor of Julius and Augustus Cæsar. The Roman calendar had, by the year 67 B.C. gone astray to the number of sixty-seven days, that is the civil and the solar year differed from each other to this extent. Julius Cæsar, with the aid of Sosigenes and M. Flavins, brought about the reform in the calendar which has remained substantially unchanged to the present.

The current arrangement of our calendar is a very stupid one. The seasons are not of the same length and the red-letter days fall on all the days of the week in different years. There are 186 days in the spring and summer seasons and 179 in the other two. It would be more rational to divide the year into four seasons each with 91 days and leave out of the count New Year's day and once in four years the extra day, calling it by some appropriate name, leap-year day, for example. The year should not begin where it now does, but either at one of the equinoxes or at one of the solstices. As the date, in the nature of the case, must be arbitrarily chosen it would thus at least have a scientific foundation. The calendar adopted by the French revolutionary junta was based on a scientific principle. The year began with the autumnal equinox of 1792 and consisted of twelve months of thirty days each with five complementary days, to which was added every six years an intercalary day. The months of the year with their names succeeded each other in the following order: Vendemiaire, Brumaire, Frimaire, Nivôse, Pluviôse, Ventôse, Germinal, Floréal, Prairial, Messidor, Thermidor, Fructidor. The month was divided into three decades. The days were named numerically, Primidi, Duodi, and so on. The fifth (Quintidi) and the tenth (Decadi) were designated as days of rest. The five or six complementary days were named Fête de la vertu. Fête du genie. Fête du travail. Fête de l'opinion, Fête des recompenses and Fête de la revolution. This calendar remained in force until January first, 1806, when that of Pope Gregory was restored by decree of Napoleon. Three Roman emperors after Augustus tried to substitute their own names for months instead of those in current use, but they were not permanently successful. Charlemagne also proposed to displace the heathen names