When I hear somebody say, “the dog days of summer are coming”, for some reason I picture a dog sitting under a sprinkler in his yard, panting hard with his tongue wagging. I get a similar image for people: lounging around in the heat consumed by sweat and lethargy. I never considered how that term came to be, and who made it up. So, I did some digging (pun intended) and got to the bottom of the age-old term.
The Dog Days occur during the hottest and most debilitating part of the summer, from July 3rd to August 11th. During that time, the blasting daytime sun aligns with the brightest star in the sky, Sirius, which is part of the constellation Canis Major. Sirius has been given another name due to that fact: The Dog Star. Don’t try to find it tonight though; during the summer, Sirius rises and sets with the sun (although it’s bright enough to be seen during the day under the right conditions). Because of the fact that the brightest sun in the sky is rising and setting with the sun during the hottest days of the year, the ancient Romans and Greeks came to the conclusion that the heat from Sirius was adding to the heat of the sun, making it hotter than usual. So, they began to refer to that time period as diēs caniculārēs, or “dog days”.
The ancient Romans and Greeks considered the dog days a time of evil, because this time of year typically brings discomfort, draught, and disease. In fact, Sirius has a secondary meaning in Greek: “scorching”. Not all civilizations felt the same way though. Ancient Egyptians actually revered Sirius, although they had a different name for it: Sothis. They loved Sothis because its appearance began an event called the “Inundation”, which is the flooding of the Nile River. Usually a flood is a bad thing, but for them it meant that nutrient rich soil was washed onto their farms, so they could grow crops in what would otherwise be desert sands. The appearance of Sothis was so important to their wellbeing that they began their new year with the first new moon that followed its arrival in the eastern sky.
Believe it or not, the ancient Greeks and Romans were mistaken. The oppressive heat from the Dog Days aren’t related to the heat generated by Sirius. In fact, it doesn’t have anything to do with Sirius at all; the star’s alignment with the sun during this time of year is pure coincidence. The real reason for the heat is the tilt in the earth’s axis. During the Dog Days, the Northern Hemisphere is closer to the sun than at any other time of the year (the Southern Hemisphere has their own Dog Days when we are in the middle of winter). The tilt of the earth puts us slightly closer to the sun for slightly longer, resulting in a month of longer, hotter days.
While the Dog Days are still pretty uncomfortable, they are a lot more tolerable than they use to be due to technology. The ancient Greeks and Romans may seem a bit dramatic for believing evil invaded their lands during this time, but back then disease and death rates both increased. It’s still dangerous for us, but at least we aren’t dropping like flies. In fact, if you’re feeling a little beat up by the heat, you can make a fun day out of it by hopping in a car and driving to the local pool, beach or lake. And if you want to get there legally for less, Good2Go Auto Insurance can help with that! Visit www.Good2Go.com for a free quote on low rate, minimum limits car insurance today!
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