Until the Dominion War of the 2370’s, the Earth-Romulan War (CE 2156-2160) was the bloodiest and fiercest interstellar conflict in recent galactic history. Yet for many years, this “War Before the Peace” was largely ignored by historians. The Earth-Romulan War was forgotten mainly because of Federation policy and attitudes in the early 23rd century. Most historians simply preferred to overlook this unpleasant episode in Federation history. With the Federation’s focus on colonization efforts along the western galactic frontier, events near the Romulan border tended to be neglected. Most importantly, the Romulans themselves were safely isolated behind the Neutral Zone, where they were conveniently forgotten.
However, in the past century the Romulans have played a more active role in galactic affairs. When the Romulans suddenly emerged from their isolation after the Neutral Zone incident of 2266, interest revived in the the disastrous initial contact and resulting war of a century before. Because very little contemporary information about the Romulan Empire was available, diplomats, Starfleet officers, historians, and sociologists dug into records untouched for almost a century to learn more about this mysterious adversary.
The Earth-Romulan War was unique in many ways. At the start of the war, interstellar travel and communication were still in their infancy. Starships rarely exceeded warp 4 (64 c) and had to rely on automated torpedoes for communication. Subspace radio was inefficient: transmitters were extremely large and would not be carried by even the largest starships until late in the war. Weaponry was limited to short-range lasers and warp-capable fusion missiles.
Before the war, Humans and Romulans had had no contact with each other; the first direct communications were by subspace radio when the truce that ended the war was negotiated in 2160. In addition, there was no personal contact of any kind. Ship-to-ship combat took place over distances of thousands or millions of kilometers, and colonies were either evacuated before attack or completely destroyed from orbit. UE Intelligence had little success deciphering Romulan communications; in fact, what the enemy called themselves could not even be determined. They were given the name “Romulans” after the designation for the planet from which they were believed to have come. That the Romulans were an offshoot of the Vulcan race was not discovered until more than a century later.
Most concrete information about Romulan aims, strategies, and internal affairs were only obtained a century or more after the war’s end. For example, in 2268 a Romulan Commander defected to the Federation and provided much valuable information about Romulan politics and the military. A Starfleet covert agent named Terise LoBrutto spent nearly three decades living among the Romulans, sending the Federation valuable information on Romulan society and culture. Perhaps most importantly, Vice-Proconsul M’ret, an important government official, defected to the Federation in 2368, bringing with him a treasure trove of information on the Romulan government and military.
This work deals primarily with the military and political aspects of the war, in order to provide the reader with a clear and concise account of the events which took place in this crucial era. It is written for the student or researcher who is not interested primarily in the cultural influences of the war or the exploits of the UES Saratoga and the 47th Fighter Attack Wing, but rather the reasons for their actions and events in the first place. Although a large number of works which cover the Earth-Romulan War focus more on the cultural aspects of the conflict, I chose instead to focus on the actions, as the course of the war was affected primarily by the events in deep space, not on the respective homeworlds.
At present, the Romulan Neutral Zone remains one of the most heavily fortified borders in the known galaxy. Despite a certain degree of cooperation in the face of conquest by the Dominion, the Romulan Empire and the Federation remain hardened adversaries. Perhaps when a final peace is established, we will at long last gain a fuller understanding of why these two great cultures once went to war.