Friday, December 02, 2005

Greek Numerals - Easy as AIR

I'm still trying to get the hang of posting images with Google's Hello, but after seven attempts here's a little jpeg I made to demonstrate Greek numerals. (I came up with this while covering a study hall as a sub.)

Greek Numerals Posted by Picasa

The system incorporates 27 characters from the archaic alphabet, which means the inclusion of digamma (or sometimes stigma), koppa, and sampi. You'll notice that digamma (based on semitic wau) looks similar to and occupies the same position as Latin f. Likewise, koppa with Latin q.

Using this chart is fairly simple. The mnemonic AIR (alpha, iota, rho : αιρ) will help you to remember that these three character represent one, ten, and one hundred. Since there are 27 charαcters, or 9 each for ones, tens, and hundreds, the system allows for numbers as high as 999 (sampi koppa theta).

Numerals are normally marked by a stroke to the upper right (α' = 1), but multiples of 1000 are marked by a stroke to the lower left (,α = 1000).

Remember that these are all multiples: iota is 1 times 10 (10), kappa is 2 times 10 (20). 11 would be iota alpha (ια'), and 12 would be iota beta (ιβ').

Who knew it was that easy?


Ed said...

There is one complication I've seen on coins of 2nd and 3rd C. CE: sometimes they were reluctant to use Φ, apparently since it's the initial letter of Φανατου, (death) so they'd a non-standard notation: ΗΑ (8+1) or ΕΔ (5+4) or spell out Ενατου.

eric said...

thanks for this! it's really helpful!