The ancients distinguished
), the time in which the sun apparently
completed a course around the earth, including thus both night and day; and
or the time between the rising and the setting of the
sun. The civil day began with the Athenians at the setting of the sun; with the Romans (as
with the Egyptians and Hipparchus) at midnight; with the Babylonians at the rising of the
sun, and with the Umbrians at mid-day (Macrob. Saturn.
i. 3; Gell. iii. 2
At the time of the Homeric poems, the natural day was divided into three parts (
Il. xxi. 111
). The first, called ἠώς
, began with sunrise and comprehended the whole space of time during which
light seemed to be increasing—i. e. till mid-day (
Il. viii. 66 Il., ix. 84
Od. ix. 56
). The second part was called μέσον
or mid-day, during which the sun was thought to stand still (Hermias, ad
p. 342). The third part bore the name of δείλη
or δείελον ἦμαρ
Od. xvii. 606
; cf. Buttman's Lexilog.
ii. n. 95), which
derived its name from the increased warmth of the atmosphere. The last part of the δείλη
was sometimes designated by the words ποτὶ ἕσπερα
Od. xvii. 191
Il. xvi. 779
The first and last of the divisions made at the time of Homer were afterwards subdivided
into two parts. The earlier part of the morning was termed πρωΐ
or πρῲ τῆς ἡμέρας
later—i. e. from 9 or 10 till noon—πληθούσης τῆς
or περὶ πλήθουσαν ἀγορὰν
of Homer was afterwards expressed by μεσημβρία, μέσον ἡμέρας
, or μέση
, and comprehended, as before, the middle of the day, when the sun seemed
neither to rise nor to decline. The two parts of the afternoon were called δείλη πρωΐη
This division continued to be observed down to the latest period of Grecian history, though
another more accurate division, and one more adapted to the purposes of common life, was
introduced at an early period; for Anaximander, or according to others, Anaximenes, is said
to have made the Greeks acquainted with the use of the Babylonian chronometer or sundial
, sometimes with the epithet σκιοθηρικόν
), by means of which
the natural day was divided into twelve equal spaces of time. These spaces were, of course,
longer or shorter according to the various seasons of the year. The name hours (ὧραι
), however, did not come into general use till a very late
period, and the difference between natural and equinoctial hours was first observed by the
Alexandrian astronomers. See Pollux,
Onom. i. 68.
During the early ages of the history of Rome, the natural phenomena of increasing light and
darkness formed with the Romans, as with the Greeks, the standard of division, as we see from
the vague expressions in Censorinus (De Die Nat.
24). In the Twelve Tables
only the rising and the setting of the sun and mid-day (meridies
mentioned as the parts into which the day was then divided. Varro (L. L.
4, 5) and Isidorus (
Orig. v. 30
and 31) likewise distinguished three parts of the
day—viz. mane, meridies
, and suprema
, after which no assembly could be held in the Forum.
But the division of the day most generally observed by the Romans was that into tempus antemeridianum
, the meridies
itself being considered only as a point at which the one ended and the other commenced. As it was of importance that this moment
should be known, an officer (see Accensi
) of the
consuls was directed to proclaim the time of mid-day, when from the Curia he saw the sun
standing between the Rostra and the Graecostasis. The division of the day into twelve equal
spaces, which, here as in Greece, were shorter in winter than in summer, was adopted at the
time when artificial means of measuring time were introduced among the Romans from Greece.
This was about the year B.C. 293, when L. Papirius Cursor, before the war with Pyrrhus,
brought to Rome an instrument called solarium horologium
, or simply solarium
(Plaut. ap. Gellium
, iii. 3.5; Plin. H. N. vii. 212
). In B.C. 263, M. Valerius
Messala brought one which he had taken at the capture of Catina; and although this was
incorrect, having been constructed for a place 4¡ farther south than Rome, it was
in use for 99 years before the error was discovered. In B.C. 164, the censor Q. Marcius
Philippus had a more exact sundial constructed; but the time was still unknown in cloudy
weather. Scipio Nasica, therefore, erected in B.C. 159 a public clepsydra, which indicated
the hours of the night as well as of the day (Censor. c. 23). Before the erection of a
clepsydra it was customary for one of the subordinate officers of the praetor to proclaim the
third, sixth, and ninth hours; which shows that the day was, like the night, divided into
four parts, each consisting of three hours. In daily life numerous terms were in use to
denote the different parts of the day, mostly of a general and somewhat vague character. (Cf.
Varr. L. L.
vi. 4-7; Servius on
Aen. ii. 268
; iii. 587;
Orig. v. 31, 32.
) See, also, the
All the days of the year were, according to different points of view, divided by the Romans
into different classes. For the purpose of the administration of justice and of holding
assemblies of the people all the days were divided into dies fasti, dies
, and dies
, partly nefasti.
1. Dies fasti
, in the wider sense, were days on which legal and political
business could be lawfully transacted. They were divided into:
(a) Dies fasti
, in the narrower sense, marked with F in the calendars. On
these legal business could be conducted (Ovid,
Fast. i. 48
, fastus erit per quem lege licebit
Varr. L. L.
vi 29, dies fasti per quos praetoribus
omnia verba sine piaculo licet fari
). The word is derived by the ancients from fari;
but, although the root is undoubtedly the same, the more immediate
connection is with fas.
(b) Dies comitiales
, days on which meetings of the people could legally be
held, and on which, if there was no meeting convened, courts could be opened (Macrob.
These days are marked C in the calendar.
2. Dies nefasti
were days on which no legal or political business could be
done (Varr. L. L.
vi. 30). These are again divided into two quite distinct
(a) Dies nefasti
, on which no business could
be done because the day was sacred to some festival. These are marked NP in the calendars.
This sign was commonly interpreted nefastus parte
or nefastus principio
, and was explained to mean that the day was one during the earlier
part of which no business could be done. But Mommsen (Chronol.
C. I. L.
i. 366) showed that this view was quite untenable, and explains the
sign to be, like M' when used as an abbreviation for Manius, a modification of the
archaic M with five strokes (MV).
(b) Dies religiosi
, sometimes called atri
, marked in the calendars by R. These were unlucky days, which had been
declared to be such by a decree of the Senate in consequence of some disaster which had taken
place upon them. All the dies postriduani
were included under this head
—i. e. the days after the Kalends, the Nones, and the Ides—because these
were believed to have been especially unfortunate (Ovid,
Fast. i. 59, 60
). On these days it was not only unlawful to transact
any legal or political business, but it was also unlucky to begin any affair of importance.
Cf. Gell. iv.9.5.
3. Days partly fasti
and partly not, including:
(a) Dies intercisi
, marked in the calendars by EN, for endotercisi
being an archaic form of in
, as in endoperator
). On these days a victim was sacrificed
in the morning and the exta
offered in the evening. Between the
sacrifice and the offering the day was fastus;
before the former and
after the latter it was nefastus
(Varr. L. L.
Fast. i. 49
(b) Dies fissi
, three in number. To two of these, March 24 and May 24, are
prefixed the letters Q. R. C. F.—i. e. quando rex (sacrorum)
These days were, even in ancient times, confused with the
—i. e. February 24— and the letters were
wrongly interpreted quando rex comitio fugit.
To the third, June 15, is
prefixed Q. ST. D. F.—i. e. quando stercus delatum fas;
this day the temple of Vesta was solemnly cleansed by the Vestals, and the filth carried away
or thrown into the Tiber (Ovid,
Fast. vi. 707
), no other business being permitted on this day.
Mommsen (C. I. L.
i. p. 373) calculates that the year contained 45 dies fasti
, 194 dies comitiales
, 48 dies
, 57 dies religiosi
, and 3 dies fissi.
Another division of the days of the year was of a purely religious character, with which
naturally the former division to a certain extent coincided in a city so dominated by
religious scruples as Rome:
1. Dies festi
, on which the gods were honoured by (a) sacrificia
, (b) epulae
, (c) ludi
, (d) feriae.
2. Dies profesti
, ordinary working-days.
3. Dies intercisi
, of a mixed character.
For the Nundinae
, see the article with that