ante diem

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Lucus Eques
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ante diem

Post by Lucus Eques » Sun Aug 28, 2005 6:40 pm

Lucus sodalibus Fori salutem dicit.

No doubt many of you are familiar with the Roman calendar, which measures its months by counting "backwards" to certain important parts of each month; to be precise, the Romans prior to Julius Caesar used a Lunar calendar, each month of which was divided into three parts based on the phases of the moon: The first phase of the moon, the new moon, is called the kalendae, marking the first of the month. The idus, or the ides, come when the moon is full, and therefore at the middle of the month. Nine days before the ides are the nonae, which mark the half moon.

So the Romans liked to count backwards; that is, rather than count the quantity of days in a month in our modern fashion, the Romans would mark the number of days before the next event (being the kalends, the nones, or the ides of a month). September 1st, for instance, which is hard upon us, would be the kalendae Septembres, the September kalends. By Roman reckoning, today is ante diem quintum kalendas Septembres.

This is where my question lies. By our modern reckoning, we would say that today is the fourth day before the first of September. How does the Latin date (a. d. V kal. Sept.) translate into English? Perhaps: "before the fifth day through the September kalends"? Kalendas Septembres is obviously in the accusative, which has a few potential translations. My bet is that the key to understanding the Roman date is in the correct translation.

My other thought was that the a. d. V, yet being the fourth day before, had something to do with the moon — the moon is seen at night, after all. Also, our modern sense of time defines a day as one full rotation of the Earth, whereas the Romans were more inclined to consider day from sunrise to sunset. Perhaps, since today is the fifth day before the kalends, according to the ancient Romans, the literal meaning is that today is one of five consecutive cycles of the sun in the sky, after which comes the night of September 1st, and with it, in the ancient times, the new moon.

But if that is the case, I am confused about pridie. The last day of the month is called the pridie, and the pridie kal. Sept. is the 31st of August (being Wednesday this year). Does pridie mean "the day before"? If it does, then it doesn't follow the reasoning that today is ante diem V kal. Sept., for sunrise to sunset on September 1st should be the "day before the September kalends," no?

The other question I have relates to the naming of the last half of the month, as a whole, the "kalends," the first part of the month before the day (or night) of the nones the "nones" just as generically, and the time between the nones and the ides the "ides." I don't understand this.

Gratias uobis omnibus.
Valetote.
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benissimus
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Post by benissimus » Mon Aug 29, 2005 12:39 am

This is where my question lies. By our modern reckoning, we would say that today is the fourth day before the first of September. How does the Latin date (a. d. V kal. Sept.) translate into English? Perhaps: "before the fifth day through the September kalends"? Kalendas Septembres is obviously in the accusative, which has a few potential translations. My bet is that the key to understanding the Roman date is in the correct translation.
I know little to nothing about the dates, but I do know that September is not third declension. :P

From the little that I do understand, the a.d. construction was used similarly to a preposition... a very weird preposition since itself it can be modified by other prepositions. I should think that the accusative following a.d.v. for example would be in origin in apposition with diem.
flebile nescio quid queritur lyra, flebile lingua murmurat exanimis, respondent flebile ripae

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Post by PhilipF » Mon Aug 29, 2005 12:27 pm

You are not alone in finding this puzzling .According to ' a Companion to Latin Studies 'p97;
"The latin phrases which are used such as 'ante diem quartum Idus '(usually shortened to a.d.IV Id.) etc are not easy to explain from the point of view of grammar. The whole composite name of a day is often treated as if it is a single word. So Cicero writes " certo die , qui dies futurus esset a.d.XII Kal.Nou."

It seems the system of dating was originally developed for religious practice and not for everyday secular use . So perhaps like the dating of certain days before important dates in the Christian calender the idea was that they were days of preparation and purification before a sacred rite and hence were reckoned back from the more significant occasion .

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Post by yadfothgildloc » Mon Aug 29, 2005 1:30 pm

The Romans counted their days inclusively- we tend not to. For example, it's now August 29th. For us, this is two days (the 30th and the 31st) before the 1st of September. For the Romans, it's three (the 29th, 30th and 31st). Why. exactly, they do this and we don't, I can't explain. It could just be a trick of the math systems used.

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Post by Lucus Eques » Mon Aug 29, 2005 1:59 pm

benissimus wrote: I know little to nothing about the dates, but I do know that September is not third declension. :P
What? Yes it is. September Septembris, October -bris, November -bris, December -bris. And all the months act alternately as adjectives and substantives.
The Romans counted their days inclusively- we tend not to. For example, it's now August 29th. For us, this is two days (the 30th and the 31st) before the 1st of September. For the Romans, it's three (the 29th, 30th and 31st). Why. exactly, they do this and we don't, I can't explain. It could just be a trick of the math systems used.
Actually, I'm pretty sure most people would say that today (Aug 29th) is the third day before September. But the Romans call today a. d. IV! That's what I can't understand, especially considering that the next few days will be labeled thus:

(Aug. 29) a. d. IV kal. Sept. - (Aug. 30) a. d. III kal. Sept. - (Aug. 31) pridie kal. Sept. - (Sept. 1) kalendae Septembres.
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Post by benissimus » Mon Aug 29, 2005 3:35 pm

Lucus Eques wrote:
benissimus wrote: I know little to nothing about the dates, but I do know that September is not third declension. :P
What? Yes it is. September Septembris, October -bris, November -bris, December -bris. And all the months act alternately as adjectives and substantives.
September, October, November, and December decline like ager, not like pater.
flebile nescio quid queritur lyra, flebile lingua murmurat exanimis, respondent flebile ripae

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Post by Lucus Eques » Mon Aug 29, 2005 4:48 pm

benissimus wrote: September, October, November, and December decline like ager, not like pater.
Um, no they don't, Ben. Look in your dictionary. Third declension, all of them.
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Post by ingrid70 » Mon Aug 29, 2005 9:19 pm

According to my grammar, the Romans substracted inclusively not only with dates, but also with ordinal numbers: Tertiō quōque verbō peccat: every other word he makes an error. Although they don't seem to use it with cardinals, e.g. duodevicesimus and the like.

As to the strange a.d. construction: it was a fixed phrase, that originally went something like "die tertio ante kalendas" but the ante moved to the beginning of the phrase, after which the words die and tertio became acc. with ante. Don't ask me why, my grammar doesn't tell me that :).

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Post by benissimus » Mon Aug 29, 2005 11:43 pm

Lucus Eques wrote:
benissimus wrote: September, October, November, and December decline like ager, not like pater.
Um, no they don't, Ben. Look in your dictionary. Third declension, all of them.
You win this time, Eques. I will never trust WORDS again.
flebile nescio quid queritur lyra, flebile lingua murmurat exanimis, respondent flebile ripae

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Post by Lucus Eques » Mon Aug 29, 2005 11:55 pm

benissimus wrote:You win this time, Eques. I will never trust WORDS again.
Happens to the best of us, amice. :-P

That's cool, Ingrid; that helps. Gratias.
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Post by Democritus » Tue Aug 30, 2005 4:31 am

This reminds me of off-by-one errors (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Off-by-one_error).

Sometimes we start counting from one, but other times it makes more sense to start from zero. It all depends on exactly what you are counting -- the Nth item, or the Nth item away from the starting point.

We call Washington the "first president" (and not the "zeroth"). We also count centuries like this, since right now this is the twenty-first century.

But we also start from zero sometimes, even without using the number zero. In a baby's second year of life, we say it is "one year old." That first year is effectively a zero year.

The Romans seem consistent about counting from one, even in scenarios where we would be inclined to count from zero. It would be quite clear to the Romans that five calends precedes calends by four days (since 5-1=4, after all), nevertheless, they preferred to think of that day as the "fifth day before calends" rather than as the "fourth day before calends." The ordinal does not signify the date delta, it signifies a count of days, starting from calends as "first." It may not make much sense to us, but apparently that's how they liked to think about things.

I wonder how the Romans counted birthdays, and ages.

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Post by edonnelly » Tue Aug 30, 2005 12:46 pm

Democritus wrote: Sometimes we start counting from one, but other times it makes more sense to start from zero. It all depends on exactly what you are counting -- the Nth item, or the Nth item away from the starting point.
And if you do any computer programming you run into this problem a lot, too, since some languages always count arrays (multiple variables) starting at zero, while others start at 1. It can be a nightmare translating code from one language to another.

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Post by Ioannes » Tue Aug 30, 2005 4:37 pm

benissimus wrote:
Lucus Eques wrote:
benissimus wrote: September, October, November, and December decline like ager, not like pater.
Um, no they don't, Ben. Look in your dictionary. Third declension, all of them.
You win this time, Eques. I will never trust WORDS again.
But surely WORDS doesn't cheat you? At least my version doesn't.

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Post by Lucus Eques » Tue Aug 30, 2005 5:35 pm

What is "WORDS"?
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Post by Episcopus » Tue Aug 30, 2005 6:03 pm

http://users.erols.com/whitaker/words.htm

benissimus in your face! He seems to be filling in for cweb255 who has once again left us to study latin language and prosody for 12 years! I hazard to rate an insecure little femella in the aftermath of rejection to have more dignity!!

However, unlike most amid similar of dignity lacks, benissimus refrained from calling Lucus' mother his sex slave despite being completely humiliated. You will have to improve to beat cweb though, benissime - minimor! minimor!
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Post by sisyphus » Tue Aug 30, 2005 11:14 pm

i've held off posting this because there are others here who should know much better than i. But now i'm ready to make an arse of myself.

Did the Romans even recognise zero as a number? The potted history at Wikipedia seems to confirm my suspicion that they didn't. If not they would hardly have used zero based counting.

But then, that just seems far too obvious to be true.

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Post by edonnelly » Wed Aug 31, 2005 12:08 am

sisyphus wrote: Did the Romans even recognise zero as a number?
Not too long ago I read Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea by Charles Seife. It's an interesting and fairly light read. According to the book neither the Egyptians, Greeks nor Romans had zero.

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