Alexandre Cherman

Romulan Calendar

The one thing I like the most about the title of this entry is the way it planningly misleads my readers (assuming you are out there, of course) into Star Trek territory, a fan-favorite for the average Planetary Society member.

No. I’m not talking about Romulans, the fictitious alien race created by Paul Schneider (thank you, Wikipedia!) for Roddenberry’s TV show back in the 1960s. Sure, they probably had a calendar running in their galactic empire, but not only I am not a specialist on that, I also prefer to dwell on the reality of our own calendar, and occasionally visit other real calendars, than to talk fiction.

(At least on our Saturday weekly date…)

So Romulan here refers to Romulus, brother to Remo, mythical founders of Rome. We all heard the stroy, one way or the other, about the twin fatherless Brothers abandoned to die as a baby, adopted by a she-wolf, raised by a shepherd to become great leaders and reclaim the kingdom of Alba Longa from their greatuncle Amulius, who had killed their grandfather Numitor and forced their mother, Rhea Silvia, into becoming a Vestal Virgin…

Romulus and Remo eventually become too big for Alba Longa and decide to found a city of their own. They disagree on the exact location of this new city and, in the end, they fight and Romulus kills Remo. (Over Geography?!? Come on!)

The new city is established on the base of Palatine Hill: Rome. And Romulus makes a point in creating the city from scratch. He does create a new currency and he does dedicate the city to the Olympian God Asylaeus, projecting everywhere and to everybody that all would be welcome in Rome. Asylaeus’ name gives us “asylum” in modern English; he is “the God that welcomes you”. That was a smart move and made Rome grow fast.

Another thing Romulus created was a calendar. And in that he proved to be most creative (although he was not particularly clever).

Romulus completely broke with the tradition of twelve. Be it lunar, lunissolar or solar, calendars by that time tended to have a cycle of twelve parts (our modern months), respecting the rough math of twelve full moons in a random solar cycle. Romulus didn’t want any of that. He created a cycle divided in ten parts.

The first part he named after his alleged father, the Olympian God of War Mars (Ares, in Greece). That was Martius (ou March, for us today). The next three months were dedicated to Nature (Aprilis, Maius and Iunius). And then, apparently, he lost his imagination, numbering the subsequent months: Quintilis, Sextilis, Septembre, Octobre, Novembre and Decembre. Ten months and ten months only.

After the last month of the year, the Romulan calendar had a period that was unaccounted for, the Winter. It lasted roughly 60 days, and then, and only then, a new year would start, in a new Martius! Very unusual to us… one year ended and Roman citizens had to wait two months until the new year begun!

But as we can see by the naming of the months, this is the true origin of our own calendar. ■