The “Dog Days” of Summer

by Dave on July 28, 2008

It’s a phrase we’ve all heard – the dog days of summer. Well those days are here, so I thought I’d try to find out where the term came from.

The phrase “dog days” dates back to ancient Greece & Rome, where they referred to “caniculares dies” (days of the dogs), in reference to the period of time when Sirius, the dog star, rose at about the same time as the sun. Sirius is the second-brightest star in the sky after the sun.

According to Wikipedia, quoting Brady’s Clavis Calendarium from1813, the ‘dog days’ were “popularly believed to be an evil time “when the seas boiled, wine turned sour, dogs grew mad, and all creatures became languid, causing to man burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies.”

According to Cornell University:

The name “dog star” came from the ancient Egyptians who called Sirius the dog star after their god Osirus, whose head in pictograms resembled that of a dog. In Egypt, and in ancient Rome, Sirius was in conjunction with the Sun in the summer (ie. it was up in the sky at the same time as the Sun) and ancient Egyptians and Romans argued that it was responsible for the summer heat by adding its heat to the heat from the Sun.

The called the period of time from 20 days before to 20 days after the conjunction “the dog days of summer” because it coincidentally fell at the time of year when it was very hot.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac has set the dates for the ‘dog days’ from July 3 to August 11, so we’re smack in the middle of it right now.

Don’t let the dog days get to you!

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