(Astrology Explored) Julius Cesar confused everybody. And of course it was all Cleopatra’s fault. At least that is the saw that runs around academic circles.
While Julius lived before the Christian celebration, his decision on what calendar to use affected when Easter shows up on our calendar. Easter bops around our calendar, appearing in March sometimes, April at others and on different Sundays too! How did this happen?
Prior to the institution of the Julian Calendar, Rome operated on a 355 day lunar calendar. It was kind of a strange calendar to begin with making an average of 29.53 days for each lunar month. But the Romans had their reasons, and mostly this involved the timing of religious events, the polytheistic Romans having many ceremonies to honor the gods. These religious events were very important to the Romans, when businesses and the courts shut down, much like our bank holidays. This 355 day year was at odds with the solar year. The regular 10 day difference was strangely ignored some years, then in a game of catch-up lumped two years of mismatching days adding a 20 day intercalary month to religious calendar. While this seems odd to us, with our atomic clocks, for the Roman priests this was their one ticket to secular power. It was the responsibility of the Roman priests to decide when an intercalary month was needed and where in the year this month could be inserted. Quite often the intercalary month was inserted when the priests wished to influence the timing of an election or another important event. There are reports they even accepted bribes to do so.
When Julius Cesar got involved with the very educated Cleopatra, he was immersed in a court well versed in the scientific knowledge of the world. Remember that the Romans imported their gods, the literature and the culture of Greece, making them in some ways their own, but forever Rome was beholden to the scientific and philosophic stores of knowledge from Greece. The Greek Ptolemy dynasty of Egypt sponsored research into a solar calendar and Egypt adopted a solar based calendar for their year. Caesar himself was an intelligent and learned man, waging war very successfully as an exercise in logic and logistics. Caesar saw the political advantages of having a fixed year calendar that essentially progressed as the sun moved approximately one degree against the backdrop of the heavens and instituted the Julian Calendar.
However, in doing so he totally threw the Roman world out of sync with surrounding cultures that used a lunar based calendar. And this is why we scratch our heads at the ever changing date of Easter. Since this holiday is the one religious holiday that is associated with the Jewish holiday, Passover, it’s calculation is based on the moon. This calculation is quite specifically the “The first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox”. The vernal equinox is, of course, the first day of the zodiac sign of Aries.