Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 46.djvu/351

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named from the ides, which, were always eight—i. e., from the seventh to the fourteenth or from the fifth to the twelfth, while the number of days named from the calends and from the nones varied.

Now, this scheme as a mode of measuring time is so clumsy that we can not suppose it to have come into existence in this shape; it is more probable that it was an old plan which had been adapted to new conditions—viz., the invention of civil months. In 452 b. c. the year consisted of twelve civil months of twentynine and thirty days alternately, so as to correspond with the synodic revolution of the moon; and from this it is certain that at some earlier period time was reckoned by lunar months, and civil months had not been thought of. The Roman day, as with all other peoples who reckon by moons, commenced at sunset, for we find that religious festivals always commenced at that hour; the festival of Venus,[1] for instance, was celebrated on the first three days of April, and began at sunset on the last day of March. When the Romans reckoned by lunar months, the calends would be the day of the new moon, the ides would always correspond with the full moon, and the nones would mark the second quarter. This is simple and intelligible, and the ides would always "divide" the month, for from the day following the moon would begin to wane.[2] We think, then, that the system of calends, nones, and ides dated from a period when time was reckoned by lunar months, and was really a system of half-moons and quartermoons, the nones falling on the night of the seventh-eighth, and the ides on that of the fourteenth-fifteenth, which brings us very near to the system of the Tshi and Gã tribes. The introduction of civil months destroyed the connection between the calends, nones, and ides and the phases of the moon; and the lunar week became a civil week of seven days, and finally the names for the days of the week were adopted from Egypt.

From all the foregoing it will now be seen that there is nothing mysterious about the origin of the week, and no need to have recourse to the supernatural to explain it. It is simply a subdivision of a lunar month, and is of four days' duration with some tribes, and five, seven, or ten days' duration among others.

We now come to the question of the origin of sabbaths. We may define a sabbath to be a day sacred to a god, on which it is

  1. Ashtoreth, or Astarte, whence the Anglo-Saxon Eostre and Easter.
  2. The verb iduare is probably from the Sanskrit root indh, idh, to kindle, lighten; whence indu, moon; properly, the days of light of the moon (Lewis and Short: art. Idus). If so, the word ides would properly be applied to the night of fullest light, that of the full moon; and the meaning "to divide" would be secondary, and would be formed because the ides divided the lunar month.