What’s a Parapegma?

Dah, dah, da dah, Dah, dah, da dah. Like in The Twilight Zone, a distinctive voice alerts you that you entering an arena of life that is true and real, but very confusing to the average mind.

What you are viewing is a mysterious artifact from antiquity. Look closely and you’ll notice the signs of the zodiac and the faces of the Roman gods. What does all this mean? The value of this reconstructed artifact depends greatly upon its place in time. A resident of ancient Rome might instantly recognize it as timekeeping device. An archaeologist would assign it’s worth by how well it fits into collections of similar items. And a Dayologist finds the design elements fascinating because they suggest the eight-four personalities types in Dayology Typology System.

This artifact was discovered in the ruins of the Trajan’s Baths, an elaborate bathing complex located on the Oppian Hill in Rome. This public facility was  constructed in 79-81 A.D. and operated into the early 5th century. This impressive building was designed by Apollodorus of Damascus and included seven massive cisterns, a fountain room, two libraries, a series of gardens and an art museum complete with decorative frescoes and mosaics. Another source, Robert Leo Odem the author of Sunday in Roman Paganism (page 95) states that the  artifact was found in the baths built by emperor Titus.  He presents the detailed descriptions of G.A. Guattani, an Italian archaeologist who fortunately had the opportunity to examine the actual item. The history of this particular style of Parapegma is also discussed by Daryn Lehoux in Astronomy, Weather, and Calendars in the Ancient World. (page 168-70). Here it is said that the artifact was discovered in the early nineteenth century and is called called the Thermae Traiani Parapegma or the Astrological Parapegma.

What remains of the magnificent bathing complex once attended by the citizens of Rome.

The carved tablet was mounted in the wall and is identified as a parapegma or a stick calendar. It features pegs which are moved from day to day and month to month. The holes of the month are located on the left and right margins. The holes for the twelve sun signs are found around the zodiac circle. And from Mount Olympus the seven gods are looking down. From left to right, they are: Saturn, the Sun, the Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter and Venus. And beneath each god is its very own hole for a movable peg tracing the days of the week. The presence of the holes near the twelve signs of the Zodiac and the thirty days of the month mean that the holes beneath of the seven gods probably appear to be the twelve months and their individual quota of days.

A replica of the Actual Artifact

And if Saturn, which appears in the first position and left-hand side is moved to right side and the end of the list, then the rulers appear in the same order of that most of the world calendars use today. That would be, SUN-Sunday, MOON-Monday, MARS-Tuesday, MERCURY-Wednesday, JUPITER-Thursday, VENUS-Friday, and SATURN-Saturday. We use Sunday or Monday as our first day of the week, but the ancients had their own reasons for giving Saturday that honor. We will save that equally interesting astrological story for when we deal with another mystifying use of time, The Planetary Hours.

A schematic diagram portraying
the 12 signs of the zodiac and
the 7 lights in the sky.

The Planetary Hours