Wot 'ave the Romans dun for us?


Well, one thing that they have done is to give us a lot of our numbers!! Plus the names of our months!! Anyway, here goes .....


Roman Numbers


Remember that only the cardinal numbers unus, duo, and tres decline. All the other cardinals do not (that is if you discount the difference between mille and milia!). However, ALL the ordinals do!

Note the principal of subtraction applies for both numerals, e.g. XIX, and ordinals, e.g. undeviginti.


Latin Numerals, Numbers, and Ordinals


NumeralNumber (Cardinal)OrdinalNumeralNumber (Cardinal)Ordinal
I unus, -a, -um primus, -a, -um XXI unus et viginti unus et vicensimus
II duo, duae, duo secundus, -a, -um XXII duo et viginti duo et vicensimus
III tres, tres, tria tertius, -a, -um XXVIII duodetriginta duodetricensimus
IV quattuor quartus, -a, -um XXIX undetriginta undetricensimus
V quinque quintus, -a, -um XXX triginta tricensimus
VI sex sextus, -a, -um XL quadraginta quadragensimus
VII septem septimus, -a, -um L quinquaginta quinquagensimus
VIII octo octavus, -a, -um LX sexaginta sexagensimus
IX novem nonus, -a, -um LXX septuaginta septuagensimus
X decem decimus, -a, -um LXXX octoginta octogensimus
XI undecim undecimus XC nonaginta nonagensimus
XII duodecim duodecimus, -a, -um C centum centensimus
XIII tredecim tertius decimus, -a, -um CC ducenti ducentesimus
XIV quattuordecim quattuor decimus, -a, -um CCC trecenti trecentensimus
XV quindecim quintus decimus, -a, -um CCCC quadringenti quadringentensimus
XVI sedecim sextus decimus, -a, -um D [500] quingenti quingentesimus
XVII septendecim septimus decimus, -a, -um M [1000] mille millensimus
XVIII duodeviginti duodevicensimus, -a, -um MM duo milia bis millensimus
XIX undeviginti undevicensimus, -a, -um


[500 000]
centum milia centiens millensimus
XX viginti vicensimus, -a, -um


[1,000 000]
deciens centena milia deciens centena milia



Roman Dates


What should we say about Roman dates? What, you mean you have not heard of the Ides of March, the day that Julius Caesar was murdered? Or perhaps the 18th July? A day that lived on in Roman history because of a disastrous military defeat by marauding Gallic tribes at the River Allia? Or perhaps the celebration of the Brumalia? Or a hundred or so other festivals? Dates were VERY important to the Romans. Here is a brief guide .....

Once upon a time, the Romans only had TEN (10) months:

Januarius; Februarius; Martius; Aprilis; Maius; Iunius; Quintilis; Sextilis; September; October; November; December


Then along came quite a smart guy, and one who was a little bit mean and wanted loads of power, ... anyway Julius Caesar reformed the calendar. He renamed Quintilis, Iulius ... in honour of himself! Later, in 8 B.C., Sextilis (I think you can work out what that means) was renamed Augustus in honour of the man in power, the very first Roman emperor and Julius Caesar's adopted son, errr .... Augustus.

Now all these months are ours!

But ...

The dating of Roman months is a bit more complex. Every month had THREE key days.

  • The KALENDS, which always fell on the first of the month.
  • The NONES which fell on the 5th or th 7th.
  • The IDES which fell on the 13th or the 15th.

Here's a little ditty to help you remember ....:

'March, May, July, October,
These are they,
Make Nones the seventh,
Ides the fifteenth day.'

Well, perhaps the little ditty could be better but it will help you remember.

Here are some abbreviations to help (and don't forget that pridie means 'the day before'):

  • a. d. = ante diem
  • Kal. = Kalendae
  • Non. = Nonae
  • Id. = Idus

But just in case you thought it was getting difficult: the Romans always counted FORWARDS to the nearest Kalends, Nones, or Ides which would count as one day. Hmmmm ....

Here is an example. Take the 27th September. In Latin this would be expressed as ante diem V Kal. Oct.. But why, you cry, why? It's only three days before.

  • 27th Sept. = a.d. V Kal. Oct.
  • 28th Sept. = a.d. IV Kal. Oct.
  • 29th Sept. = a.d. III Kal. Oct.
  • 30th Sept. = pridie Kal. Oct.
  • .... and finally Kal. Oct..

Test yourself:

  • For which Roman god was the month Ianuarius named?
  • Why was this month named after him/her?
  • What happened in the month Februarius?
  • Why was the god Mars associated with Martius?
  • What about ....
    • Aprilis
    • or Maius
    • or Iunius?
  • I'm guessing you can probably get to the bottom of the rest .... especially as you just read about numbers!
  • Give the following dates in Latin notation:
    • 10th January
    • 20th March
    • 2nd May
    • 15th December

The Roman Calendar


Roman Calendar

  • This is what an ancient Roman calendar looked like.
  • If you look closely you can see the K. for Kalends, Non. for Nones and Eid. for Ides.
  • Other fragmentary words represent abbreviations for the different festivals, e.g. LVPER for Lupercalia (in February) or SATVR for Saturnalia (in December).
  • Then you will also see that it has black and red letters. An F to the right means a dies fasti, a good day when festivals could take place; an N indicates dies nefasti, a bad day; and finally C indicates a dies comitialis, a day when public assemblies could take place. On days marked EP there could be business for half the day and NP indicated a public holiday.
  • In all the Romans had about 150 days of public holiday per year - although, obviously, some people still had to work on these days! I mean, how else do you put on days and days of gladiatorial games or circus enterainment?!

Fun and Games with Roman Numbers


Interested in doing a bit more with numbers and finding out about Greek numbers too ..... then go here!!!

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