While declining the throne of Rome Julius Ceasar was quite content to accept some of the other trappings of regal status, and even deificatiton, by allowing the Senate and People of Rome to name a calendar month after him. Further proof of his exalted self-image, he proclaimed that the month so honored should contain 31 days rather than the stock 30 that months named for location in the calendaar year were required to get by with. Thus, the 7th month of the Julian Calendar is July and has 31, normally blisteringly hot, days.
When nephew Octavian exercised sufficient wit and will that Romans of lesser intellect but greater ability to stomach the site of blood lined up to destroy each other in battles, young Octavian allowed Rome to designate him Emperor, and a deity on the side. This elevation in stature and in ego called for another calendar change. Therefore the 8th month avoided a common name and became a memorial to Octavian’s alter ego, Ceasar Augustus. Along the way it stripped a day from February and shares 31 day status with the 7the month. Since the Romans had recently reworked their civil calendar to more closely reflect the Solar year, and since there were no other people with other working calendars as well as the commercial and military power to oppose the Roman changes, we find ourselves 2000 years later with a calendar that honors the deities and rulers of the Roman Empire.
August is typically a blazing hot month in that portion of the United States that lies between the Rocky Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean. The usual formation of the Bermuda High pins large low-pressure air masses over the eastern ⅔ s of the nation. The spring storms are largely finished for the year and the only relief from heat and drought arrive in the form of squall lines, random thunderstorms, and the occasional tropical storm or hurricane that is able to force its way past the blocking action of the Bermuda High. In such events, major flooding may occur.
Failing the encroachment of such major storms, the month of August is marked by the continual inflow and trapping of hot, humid, low pressure maritime subtropical air masses that originate over the Gulf of Mexico and pile up in the Mississippi and Ohio river basins. these air masses are intolerable to many people, my self included, and are prime examples of the results of climate change and effects. With increasing temperature and decreasing rain, we are once again facing dangerously hot temperatures causing many urban deaths, and widespread crop failures in the Mississippi and Ohio basins.
In my younger years the months of June and July were often marked by falling waters from spring flooding along the rivers. The month of August was often subject to outbreaks of poliomyelitis. I often heard the parched, broken slabs of post-flood mud referred to as “Polio mud.” people were, wisely, terrified of Polio. That terror led cities to close public swimming pools at the time of year they were most needed.
The baking, constant heat along with the lack of air-conditioning in public schools resulted in public schools closing in June and re-opening in September so that the school buildings were not quite as uninhabitable. Those activities that required student participation in an out door venue were assigned early morning, relatively cooler times during the last two weeks of August.
Today, an increasing misunderstanding of the importance of high schools participating in the nationwide use of public funds to provide training programs for NFL franchise owners, has schools closing in May and re-opening in the deadly heat of August.
In what could be residual praise to the Augustus of old, We time the return to school at such an intolerable time that learning is hampered and that classes must be ended early to avoid heat injuries to students and teachers trying to avoid being baked for the sake of the national gladiatorial games.
Augustus was cremated long ago. Every year the month that bears his name sees young men and women carried off the playing fields as result of their efforts to defeat some other group of students in a contest that has no merit, no value, and no point.