Counting months, years, &c.

By Nikolaos, in 'Latin Grammar Questions', May 1, 2012.

  1. Nikolaos schmikolaos

    We all know how inclusive counting affects the reckoning of days. "Two days ago" is nudius tertius, and so on.

    Is this method also used in reckoning months and years? Is "two years ago" translated as tribus annis abhinc? If so, then does it follow that "one year ago" must use some other adjective like anno proximo?
    Cursor Nictans likes this.
  2. Quasus Civis Illustris

    Coimbra, Portugal
    (BTW Desessard accustomed me to regard annō proximō as next year.)
  3. Imber Ranae Ranunculus Iracundus

    I would say abhinc biennium for "two years ago". The adverb abhinc can take either an ablative of degree of difference or an accusative of extent of time, but I believe the latter is more common. I'm really not sure how to say "one year ago". Analogically one might expect abhinc unum annum, but that expression doesn't appear in the literature. Anno proximo/priore isn't exactly equivalent.

    Anyway, I believe inclusive reckoning only applies to ordinal numerals, and even then not always. For example, nudius tertius literally means something like "now it being the third day [from then]", where "then" counts as the first day. The same applies to the official reckoning of dates with ante diem. On the other hand, tertio quoque anno can apparently either be equivalent to altero quoque anno "every other year" or really mean "every third year", so there's obviously some confusion on this point even among the Romans.

    At the beginning of his 2nd Philippic Cicero says that there was no enemy of the republic within the last 20 years (his annis viginti) that had not declared war against him, no doubt referring to the Catilinarian conspiracy in 63 BC as the limit. It was supposed to be delivered in October of 44 BC, which means he's counting the present year inclusively, but I suspect it's a vague expression that applies the years as counted according to the Roman new year rather than precisely indicating how many years from the day it was given.

    At the end he says Etenim, si abhinc annos prope viginti hoc ipso in templo negavi posse mortem immaturam esse consulari, quanto verius nunc negabo seni! He's referring here to the delivery of one of the Catilinarian orations given in 63, but he more precisely designates the interval as "almost 20 years ago". I don't know which oration he means, so there could be a mere difference in months that accounts for the prope, but I suspect he isn't counting inclusively here.

    Depending on context it could refer to either the last year or the next year.
    Nikolaos likes this.
  4. Matthaeus Vemortuicida strenuus

    The Romans were, simply put, impractical in matters of arithmetic, anyway. Their counting system is so laborious, the reckoning of denarii and sesterces also cumbersome (what with the HS and so on), and the reckoning of correct dates leaves also much to be desired ... thanks be to the Arabs in this matter for creating our current numbers!
    Avarus likes this.
  5. Manus Correctrix QVAE CORRIGIT

    I think there is likely to be plenty of precedent for inconsistency in this. In French, counting is exclusive... unless you are talking about a week or a fortnight, in which case it is suddenly normal to speak of 8 or 15 days!
    Nikolaos likes this.
  6. Matthaeus Vemortuicida strenuus

    Pro di immortales, quam odi inconstantiam molestissimam!
  7. Nikolaos schmikolaos

    The Romans have nothing on the Japanese.

    1, 2, 3: ichi, ni, san

    1, 2, 3 cylindrical objects: ippon, nihon, sanbon

    1, 2, 3 people: hitori, futari, sannin

    1, 2, 3 days: ichinichi, futsuka, mikka

    ... and so on ad nauseam, with counters for everything from mechanical objects to small animals to typhoons.

    Back on topic: thanks for the contributions. It's interesting that "last year" is unclear...
  8. Cambrinus Civis Illustris

    If you find the expression anno proximo or proximo anno, then it means 'last year', as long as the verb tense is past. Pretty clear to me.
  9. Manus Correctrix QVAE CORRIGIT

    That’s already been said.
  10. Cambrinus Civis Illustris

    Si verum, equidem non legi. scripsi igitur.

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