Romulan Culture

From IRW Aylhr

To better understand the Rihannsu culture of today one must look at the Vulcan culture of the past. The Vulcans of the past were extremely warlike and emotional. It was only the teachings of Surak that brought about the logical Vulcan culture of today. It was a student of Surak's, S'Task, who determined after the deception of the people by a "barbarous and cruel universe" that logic and peace were not the answer. Thus, he led a group of people out into the stars to create a new way of life. Based on the fundamentals of ancient Vulcan society, Rihannsu culture is a liberal admixture of old Vulcan traits and ideas that evolved during their travels, called 'The Journey of Sundering' in the ancient texts of both the Vulcan and Rihannsu people.

There is an old Rihannsu proverb that sums up the culture rather well: "Certain it is and sure: love burns, ale burns, fire burns, and politics burns. But cold was life without them." Rihannsu people enjoy all aspects of life to the fullest, reveling in their experiences. Even seemingly unpleasant experiences like death, and war, are cherished for their intensity. One of the most surprising things to outsiders is the discovery that the Rihannsu are a very poetic and artistic society as well, balancing their fierce warrior ethic with the sensitivity of true artistry.

All Rihannha usually practice some form of creative endeavor in their spare time like painting, sculpting, music, or creating literary works. Museums abound throughout the Rihannsu territories, and many mediums are expressed in their artwork and creative endeavors. Epic poetry is considered one of the most favored styles of literature. Other art forms that the Rihannsu hold in high regard, is Martial Arts, and swordplay.

Often, Rihannsu by the thousands flock to the Arena's to enjoy the demonstrations of their finest athletes. It is not unusual to see the spectators challenge the athletes themselves, more to learn a new technique that had been demonstrated, than out of any great desire to defeat the champions.

The Rihannsu also enjoy a lot of games. The most well-known are: D'elo the game of stones and sticks that traces back to ancient Vulcan, Lhi the game of wits and riddles, and even three-dimensional chess has become popular within Rihannsu space. The Rihannsu also enjoy Khariat, a game made up of pieces that are removed one at a time from the structure. The one to draw the piece that causes the structure to fall is the loser. Trayatik is a dice game, similar to 'craps'. Villrillu is the Rihannsu version of playing cards, and there are numerous games to be enjoyed with them. Another popular game, Tyr'llryanniha, is a full-contact, often a brutal and bloody, sport. It is similar to Earth's football, but with the added danger of razor-sharp, bladed weapons. It is not unusual to see at least half of the players carried off the playing field before the first half of the game is finished. The Rihannsu also relish nature and enjoy the outdoors a great deal. Most Rihannsu are avid hikers and campers and participate in a wide variety of other outdoor activities as well.

Mnhei'Sahe, The Ruling Passion

Mnhei'Sahe, roughly translated is a term that relates to the sense of Romulan honor. Though the simple definition of honor does not cover the depths of the meaning of the term. There is not an adequate word in Federation standard that Mnhei'Sahe translates to.

"Traduttori, tradittori," goes the old Terran Italian maxim -- "The translator is a traitor." And if it is so even with languages of the same race, how much more difficult must it be to translate the words of different species, whose very thoughts and emotions may be incompatible? Thus it is that mistranslations, although made with the best of intentions, have created wide gaps of understanding between cultures. With the Vulcans, the replacement of cthia with "logic" and arie'mnu with "elimination of emotion" gave others a picture of a cold, sterile race of robots. And among our people, interpretation of mnhei'sahe as simply "honor" has caused nearly as great a misunderstanding.

One might argue that the distinction is a trifling one, a picayune detail of concern solely to scholars. After all, the Terran concept of honor is indeed a part of mnhei'sahe; the most important part, some say. Both honor and mnhei'sahe are unwritten codes of conduct by which we strive to live our lives. Mnhei'sahe requires us to always be attentive to honor -- to our own honor, to the honor of others, to the honor of the Rihannsu people, and most of all to the honor of the Elements. Mnhei'sahe, like honor, resides within the individual; as no one but you can take away your honor, so no other can force you to violate mnhei'sahe. Mnhei'sahe compels us to do honor to all we meet, even our enemies.

But mnhei'sahe is so much more than honor. It is the "Ruling Passion" (another inaccurate translation, I fear), encompassing all other passions within it. It concerns the Fires of love and of hate, the freedom and fear of Air, the joy and tears brought by Water, and the unshakable loyalty and stubbornness of Earth. If you tell another, "Mnhei'sahe to you," you may be wishing her an honorable mission, but you may also be wishing her luck, success, or happiness, affirming your loyalty or love for her, or giving her the blessing of the Elements.

The actions required by mnhei'sahe often seem strange, even shameful, to those unacquainted with its intricacies. It may require a mother to kill her son or a crewmember to disobey a commander. It may even require one to behave dishonorably, sacrificing one's personal honor for a necessity of mnhei'sahe. But if this occurs -- if because of mnhei'sahe, a Rihanha must break her oath or commit treachery -- she is still responsible for her actions. Mnhei'sahe is never an excuse or an apology. The legendary Ael t'Rllaillieu had to break her oath to the Empire because of mnhei'sahe, knowing full well the consequences of her betrayal. "There was no justifying the spilling of all her crew's lives, despite their treachery to her. Ael would bear the weight of murder, and sooner or later pay their blood price in the most intimate coinage possible; her own pain. . . . All that remained was the question of whether she would accept the blame for their deaths willingly, or reject it, blind herself to her responsibility, and prolong the Elements' retaliation." *

Though it may be the closest Terran equivalent, it is nevertheless a mistake to attempt to describe this complex idea solely in terms of honor. Such a translation is much easier, it is true, but few things of value are attained easily. Rihannsu philosophers have written hundreds of books attempting to define mnhei'sahe. How shall we presume to reduce it to the single word honor?