Ancient Numbers

Welcome to the Ancient Numbers Page. It is a work in progress, and many features will be added in the coming weeks and months.

Aim: To help my students and the general public better understand ancient Greek and Roman numbers, and how they were represented. Different subpages will provide explanations, calculators, and graded quizzes. Some in each category are already done, and can be reached through the links in the User Menu on the left.

Name: Nvmeri Innvmeri alludes to two works of not entirely dissimilar cultural levels, one ancient, one modern:

1. The name is taken from Plautus’ epitaph, where numeri innumeri (“numberless numbers”) is an oxymoron referring to the infinitely varied meters of his plays.

2. When I picked it, I was also thinking of “Held Back” (episode 94, season 5 number 1), in which Beavis and Butt-Head are sent back to kindergarten, with this bit of dialogue:

Butt-head: Numbers suck.
Kindergarten Teacher: Are you angry, Butt-head?
Butt-head: I’m, like, angry at numbers.
Beavis: Yeah, there’s like, too many of them and stuff.

Many a student of classical languages has felt that way about Greek and Latin numbers and Roman numerals, not to mention Plautine meters. This page will help with the numbers, but not the meters.

Comments: Questions and suggestions may be sent to me by e-mail. Just put this address together: curculio + at-sign + curculio + dot + org. If there is sufficient interest in the general topic, I will set up a Nvmeri Innvmeri blog or mailing list.

June 27, 2012