Classics Major? Professor Expects You to be Able to Read Roman Numerals

KLARMAN HALL — Many have said we are witnessing the fall of Classics, that there is no reason to continue learning about Greek, Latin, or any other aspect of classical antiquity. However, it is clear that professors are still enforcing the most burdensome part of the ancient studies: deciphering Roman numerals. 

Sitting in my so-called “economics” class, working on a problem set, I soon realized that it was essentially a cross listed Classics course. The professor told us to “work on question fourteen”, yet the only numbers that were listed appeared to be some sort of prehistoric symbols, an indecipherable list of “i”s, “x”s, and “v”s. He said this so casually, as if any reasonable person would be capable of mastering such a primal writing system. 

Worst still came in Spanish, where I was asked to read a passage aloud. I panicked as I realized I had to discuss “Siglo XIX”, hoping from the context I could figure out what century we were talking about. Did I dare say “ex eye ex”? What was I supposed to do, decode the numerals, add them together, and translate it into English? What do I look like, the Rosetta Stone?

I have come to the conclusion that nowadays, professors are simply holding their students to the highest of standards. They expect their students to have a substantial knowledge of Classics, and I acquiesce to their demands: I will study the foundation of the ancient arts, and learn to read Roman numerals.

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