Attic numerals


Attic numerals

Attic numerals were used by the ancient Greeks, possibly from the 7th century BC. They were also known as Herodianic numerals because they were first described in a 2nd century manuscript by Herodian. They are also known as acrophonic numerals because the symbols derive from the first letters of the words that the symbols represent: "one", "five", "ten", "hundred", "thousand" and "ten thousand". See Greek numerals and acrophony.

The use of Ι for 1 has been hypothesisedFact|date=February 2008 to be motivated by the word form polytonic|ἴος, attested as an archaic variant of polytonic|εἵς 'one' in Homer. [G. Autenrieth, "A Homeric Dictionary'. ] The use of Η for 100 reflects the early date of this numbering system: Η (Eta) in the early Attic alphabet represented the sound /h/. In later, "classical" Greek, with the adoption of the Ionic alphabet throughout the majority of Greece, the letter eta had come to represent the long e sound while the rough aspiration was no longer marked. [See A.G. Woodhead "The Study of Greek Inscriptions, Second Edition" p.18: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-23188-X.] [See Herbert Weir Smyth "Greek Grammar, Revised Edition" p.10 (§14): Harvard University Press. ISBN 0674362500.] It wasn't until Aristophanes of Byzantium introduced the various accent markings during the Hellenistic period that the spiritus asper began to represent /h/. Thus the word for a hundred would originally have been written ΗEΚΑΤΟΝ, as compared to the now more familiar spelling polytonic|ἑκατόν. In modern Greek, the /h/ phoneme has disappeared altogether, but this has had no effect on the basic spelling.

Unlike the more familiar Modern Roman numeral system, the Attic system contains only additive forms. Thus, the number 4 is written "ΙΙΙΙ", not "ΙΠ".

The numerals representing 50, 500, and 5,000 were composites of pi (often in an old form, with a short right leg) and a tiny version of the applicable power of ten. Thus, delta under pi combined into one symbol represented 50, eta under pi represented 500 and khi under pi represented 5000.

: "Note:" For practical reasons, Π is represented in this table graphically by | | .

:: Example: 1982 = X | Η | HHHH . | Δ | ΔΔΔII = MCM . LXXXII.

See also

* Attic numerals in Unicode
* Etruscan numerals

External links

* [http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0007&loc=348 Herbert Weir Smyth, "Greek Grammar", section 348a, on Greek acrophonic numerals]

Notes and references


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