Our discussions about bruma and the solstice have led me to look again at the calendar of Polemius Silvius, the mid 5th century calendar. This was printed by Mommsen in 1893 in the ILA series. These massive volumes, all in Latin, are pretty much inaccessible to us all.
Years ago I paid heavily for photocopies of the calendars of Philocalus and Polemius Silvius. I wasn’t able to get more than the basic calendars, plus the material for December. I wish I’d got the section on bruma too! But what I have, I have now uploaded at archive.org here.
The laterculus of Polemius Silvius is preserved in a single manuscript, which was once in the library of St. Nicolas of Cusa. This library is still preserved in Bernkastel-Kues – Kues = Cusa -, and indeed I have been there! It’s quite possible to make a day-trip from Stansted airport in Essex to the misleadingly named “Frankfurt Hahn” airport. This airport is actually near to Bernkastel-Kues. So all you need do is to hire a car at the airport and drive, and I did do. The Moselle valley, in which Bernkastel sits, is very attractive. It was a nice day trip, and the keepers let me photograph a Tertullian manuscript there. If only the ms. of Polemius Silvius was still there!
But Mommsen says that in his day it was in Brussels public library, numbered 10615-10729 (although a single volume – something odd here). The laterculus is crammed onto two folios (f.93 and 95; f. 94 is a modern copy of 93), written in a tiny hand and inline, rather than in tabular format.
(Incidentally laterculus has the post-classical meaning of list, table.)
UPDATE: According to Traina/Cameron, “428 AD: An Ordinary Year at the End of the Roman Empire”, Polemius Silvius, a friend of important prelates in Gaul, was considered to be “mentally disturbed” (Gallic Chronicle of 452, year 438). Mommsen quotes the Latin: turbatae admodum mentis post militiae in palatio exactae munera aliqua de religione (=of very disturbed mind after some services were exacted in the palace concerning the religion of the army).
UPDATE: Mommsen also published an article on the laterculus: T. Mommsen, Polemii Silvii Laterculus, Abhandlungen der Sächsischen Akademie der Wissenschaften 8, 1861, pp. 547-696 (shortened in: Gesammelte Schriften, Vol. 7: Philologische Schriften, Berlin 1909, pp. 668-690). I’m looking for this online now. The Gesammelte Schriften are here, but not vol. 7.
10 thoughts on “The calendar of Polemius Silvius”
conveniently online now at
This seems to be a list of volumes, but I couldn’t see that any of the volumes were actually accessible?
Indeed, you are right. I was too fast. Sorry! I had already consulted your pdf that you most kindly uploaded to archive and only saw the toc without checking it. thx to you roger.
No hassle. I did read somewhere that someone IS going to do the CIL volumes, at long last.
The Mommsen article is linked to on this page: https://de.wikisource.org/wiki/Polemius_Silvius
Excellent – thank you so much!
Maybe I’m mistaken, but wasn’t it also published by Mommsen in the Monumenta Germaniae Historica, which is now online for free at dmgh.de? Here’s the volume “Chronica Minora saec. IV, V, VI, VII”, which contains the calendar. http://www.dmgh.de/de/fs1/object/display/bsb00000798_00003.html?sortIndex=010:010:0009:010:00:00
Ah excellent! Thank you!