Dog Days of Summer

The Dog Days of Summer and How We Manage to Beat the Heat

As the heat of summer sets in, we often hear the phrase “Dog Days of Summer.” It’s a phrase that evokes images of dogs panting in the heat, but have you ever wondered where the term originates from? Keep reading to discover the exciting history of the “Dog Days of Summer.” 

“Dog Days of Summer” described the hottest summer days even in ancient Egyptian and Roman times. The phrase comes from the old belief that Sirius, also known as the Dog Star, is responsible for summer’s hot, hazy days. 

But why “dogs”?

In ancient times, Sirius was located in the constellation Canis Major, Latin for “Greater Dog.” The star was often portrayed as a dog in artwork and mythology, so the term “Dog Days of Summer” existed. The Dog Star, or Sirius, was seen as a harbinger of bad luck and misfortune by many ancient civilizations. The word “Sirius” itself also has an interesting origin. It comes from the Greek word “seirios,” which means “glowing” or “scorching.” It’s an appropriate name for the brightest star in the sky, shining 20 times brighter than our sun. 

What did the Dog Star mean to the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans? To the Egyptians, Sirius was closely affiliated with the goddess Isis, who was worshiped as the ruler of the star. For the Greeks and Romans, Sirius was often seen as a symbol of their gods, such as Apollo and Mercury. 

The Greeks believed the star caused droughts, storms, and even madness, while the Romans thought it represented the heat of the Trojan War. Despite negative connotations, Sirius was also considered a symbol of rebirth and renewal. According to ancient Egyptian beliefs, the Nile River would flood when Sirius rose with the sun, which brought new life and fertility to the land.

Don’t you wonder how ancient civilizations made it through the “Dog Days” without our modern conveniences? Let’s take a look at how they managed the heat!

Summer is a time for tanning, ice cream, and swimming, but it is also a season that can be somewhat discomforting due to the heat. We now have our air-conditioned rooms and ice-cold drinks to help us cope with the severe weather, but how did our ancestors deal with summer heat in the ancient world? In the scorching sun, did they take longer afternoon naps, wear certain kinds of clothing, or go on vacations?  

The ancient world was populated with various civilizations that had ways of combating the heat. One such civilization was the Romans, who had a unique approach to summer. Instead of being cooped up in their houses all day, the Romans spent time outdoors – they used shaded areas, such as parks, trees, and courtyards, or places near the water, like fountains or the seaside. The wealthiest Romans would migrate to the countryside to enjoy cooler breezes. The Roman dressing was also appropriate; they wore light-colored clothing that was loose-fitted, made of linen or cotton, and allowed sweat to evaporate. 

On the other side of the world, the ancient Egyptians had their methods of handling the harsh summer weather. Since their civilization was heavily reliant on agriculture, the people of ancient Egypt worked in the mornings and evenings. When the sun was at its peak, society took a break and seized a chance to rest and relax. They also conducted festivals and ceremonies during this time, such as the Opet Festival, held at the hottest time of the year, to honor the gods. 

The ancient Greeks also had an interesting way of eluding the summer heat. Like the Egyptians, they also held festivals, but their approach differed. The Greeks had many outdoor events involving music, dance, and theater, such as the Athens Festival. Like the Romans, the Greeks also wore light-colored, breathable linen, cotton, or wool clothing. 

Moreover, the ancients used several techniques to cool themselves daily. The Chinese soaked their clothes in water and then wore them, while others used fans made of leaf, feathers, and other materials, to keep themselves cool. Ancient civilizations also applied natural products like aloe vera and sandalwood to keep their skin, feet, and hair excellent, clean, and fragrant.

Our ancestors did not have the luxury of modern-day air conditioners, but they had their techniques for coping with the unforgiving heat. From robe colors to outdoor activities, their methods have offered us great insights into how we can still beat the heat without spending all day indoors. By dressing appropriately in light fabric, spending time in cool spaces, and taking breaks, we can stay calm and healthy just like our ancestors did! Of course, we are fortunate to have air conditioning, cars for traveling to pools and beaches, and plenty of ice-cold refreshments to help us beat the summer’s heat.

The phrase “Dog Days of Summer” has become a common colloquialism in modern times, but it still carries a sense of the heat and lethargy that comes with the year’s hottest days. It’s a phrase that evokes a sleepy, hazy feeling as if the dog days have taken over and we’re just trying to make it through the summer in one piece. Next time you hear someone say “Dog Days of Summer,” you can impress them with your knowledge of the fascinating history behind the phrase. From ancient Egyptian mythology to modern colloquialisms, the term has a rich and intricate history that stretches back thousands of years. So the next time you’re feeling hot and lazy, remember that you’re experiencing a tradition that goes back to the very beginnings of civilization.

One Minute Smile

Fast Facts