August is one of those months that reminds me of how tightly we hold onto traditional names of the past. The month was originally named Sextilis by Romulus on the original ten month Roman calendar around 753 B.C. In 8 B.C. it was renamed August in honor of the Emperor Augustus to commemorate his many victories and conquest of Egypt. By then they had adopted the 12 month Julian calendar.
Could you imagine if it was still called Sextilis? Hump day jokes would pale in comparison. So I’m a little glad it was changed to August, I don’t know if I could handle the embarrassment of Sextilis. (Although, I’ve been told that I have nothing to be embarrassed about).
It’s been 2,020 years of August and we’ve seen no reason to change it. I can’t imagine why we would need to either. It is something that connects us to the past and certainly the incredible world domination of the Romans. There’s very little in our culture that was not in some way influenced by the Roman tradition; for Westerners anyway.
From the way we address each other to handshakes, we’ve certainly been conditioned by Roman history. With the introduction of Christianity into the Roman world a lot of those social morays changed and adapted into what we would consider civil and polite society. Those purists would look at the Romans as Pagans and be appalled at their debauchery, but still we owe it all to them, and their forefathers, the Greeks.
The Romans had a society equal to our own, with all the major problems we often find ourselves embroiled. Foreign wars, taxes, legal wrangling, sports entertainment, religious conflicts, political intrigue, crime are all things very common to a super power like us. It’s important that we not forget the lessons learned. Of course under the Roman Emperor things operated a little differently, but the idea of the Republic still mattered.
I think August is a good month to reflect on history. It’s a chance to explore who we are and how we got here before fall arrives and winter sets in. There’s still enough bright summer sunshine to get to know this world we’ve inherited, molded, reshaped and plan to hand down again someday.
It’s a chance for new possibilities, new ideas, perhaps changing or challenging the concepts or ideas we’ve thought were so important to us and re-examining them in the bright backdrop of history.
Maybe I need another cup of coffee. Or another great kiss. I’m hoping there’s opportunity in August for plenty of both, maybe the latter more than the first. Only time will tell.
P.S. Rest in Peace Gore Vidal.