StarDate: April 1, 2009

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After spending the first three months of the year in the evening sky, Venus is just climbing into view as the "morning star." Early tomorrow, if you have a clear eastern horizon, look for it about a half-hour before sunrise, quite low in the sky. It'll quickly climb into better view over the next few days.

That seems like a pretty good way for Venus to greet the month of April. According to many historians, the month is named for Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty. The Romans adopted the goddess, but changed her name -- to Venus.

In the original Roman calendar, the month was called Aprilis. Not everyone agrees that the name comes from Aphrodite, though. Some accounts say it's from a Latin word that means "to open," like flower buds. And those with a decidedly less romantic nature say the name relates to raising hogs.

The debate might have been moot if the emperor Nero had had his way. He renamed the month "Neronius" in his own honor. He was following the lead of two earlier emperors, Julius and Augustus Caesar, for whom the months of July and August are named.

Unlike his predecessors, though, Nero brought little glory to Rome. He was paranoid and bloodthirsty, and murdered his own mother, brother, and wife. He committed suicide during a rebellion in A.D. 68. After that, the month of Neronius quickly disappeared. Aprilis returned to commemorate the goddess of love and beauty -- or the joy of slopping hogs.

Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2009

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