UBI CARITAS ET AMOR. DEUS IBI EST.
UBI CARITAS ET AMOR. DEUS IBI EST.
Friday 28 February 2020
Romans Friends and Countrymen Listen Up
He was right. I have gone down in History, and Geography, and Maths and ...
This all happened many years ago. So it is now history. Which proves that we learn a lot from ancient history; so pay attention to today's lecture.
Not many people use Roman numerals these days. We write numbers as 1, 2 3 and so on as opposed to the old fashioned numerals on a grand-father clock.
They were invented by the Romans, you know. Hence Roman Numerals. In ancient times, even before when Romans ruled the world, people used to count in a very basic way. They would point at an item; say an apple, and say "an apple". They would write that as an I or just a vertical straight line. Pure and simple.
If they wanted to count more they would say "Another apple", and write II, (two vertical lines) and another apple, III ... and another apple, and another apple ... you get the idea.
This basic system of writing vertical lines every time you added something went on for years and years up to the Roman Empire. But it soon became too cumbersome when people started counting 10 apples as IIIIIIIIII. Can you imagine having more than 10 apples? Pretty soon people started confusing big numbers such as eleven: IIIIIIIIIII and twelve: IIIIIIIIIIII and so on.
A centurion in charge of a 100 men would stand them all in a long line and write down a lot of Is and on and on and on ... until he ran out of paper; or his pencil lead would wear out and he'd have to start all over again. Counting became intolerable throughout the Roman Empire.
Number plates for chariots became so wide to accommodate the big Registration Numbers that the number plate itself had to be wider than the chariot. The chariot got stuck in narrow streets or knocked pedestrians on the side-walks.
Road signs advising speed limits like 30 miles an hour were also so wide with IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII vertical lines that the road sign itself blocked the whole road.
This all changed when someone suggested that when we reach the number 4 it be written as IV, 5 as V, 6 as VI and so on until 7. Then he changed his mind and decided that IX would represent nine, X for ten, XI for eleven and so on. Then he added new letters for good measure. For example L for fifty, C for one hundred, D for five hundred and M for one thousand.
For a while all was well and the Romans were happy counting their apples and pears in this new way. Then one day, the Emperor Claudius, received a text saying – I LV CLAVDIVS – and he didn’t know whether it was an amorous message from his girlfriend or his wife’s new telephone number.
So Emperor Claudius banned the use of all cell-phones in the Roman Empire rather than just change the numerical system to the 1, 2, 3 ... which we now use.
There are of course a lot of Romans that have been remembered in History apart from the Emperor Claudius. There's Nero who was good at computer programming, Julius Caesar and a lot of other Caesars who invented Caesar salads and many many others. One in particular which has a connection with Britain is Hadrian.
Hadrian was a Roman Emperor (76 AD - 138 AD) at the time the Romans conquered most of Britain up to the Northern borders with Scotland. There he built a great wall dividing the country from coast to coast.
The wall was 117 kilometres long and several portions still exist and are a great tourist attraction. It is so big that you can see the moon from there.
A few years back some archaeologists digging near the wall found a few spent match sticks and cigarette ends, proving that the Romans did smoke the same brands as we do now. They also found a cell-phone which was sent to a lab in London to find out whether it contains photos of the Romans all those years ago. Sadly it did not work because the memory chip in the phone was damaged.