News From Terre Haute, Indiana

February 9, 2013

RONN MOTT: Roman Numerals

Ronn Mott
Special to the Tribune-Star

---- — I want to thank the National Football League and the Super Bowl Committee for reminding us about Roman numerals. The numbers for ancient Rome were letters and, I suppose every year at the Super Bowl, it reminds us how important they were. For that matter, I suppose it reminds us how important Rome was.

This year, the 47th Super Bowl, it was XLVII. The X is 10 (that’s the reason the South was called Dixie Land, but that’s a story for another time, the L is 50, the V is five, and the two capital I’s are two. I think the important thing here is 2,000 years after their beginnings we’re still using Roman numerals. They are on many of our buildings just as they were in ancient Rome.

The numbers remind us about the many things Rome gave us. In spite of what the movies would have you believe, the Romans were not living in one, large orgy. It was an empire and before that a republic made up of laws. And it served Rome and its empire very well. The Romans were great engineers and built many things that are still standing. And much of it was because of the best cement that was ever made (yes, even better than ours).

A Roman doctor, by the name of Galen, did cataract surgery a thousand years before it was ever thought of. He also had hospitals, sterilized equipment, and the beginnings of inspections of body parts. Rome also had the best roads and, again, many of them are still there. Some have been paved over by modern road workers and some are there just as they were in the days of the Roman Empire.

These Roman numerals also remind us that Rome tried to snuff out the Christian religion in its infancy but, instead, it became the center of early Christian faith and, of course, it still is today.

Now, these Roman numerals may just be an obstacle to you to understand the numbers, but for me and others like me, they are reminders of the many things we have today because of Rome … its laws, its cement, and its intelligence. (We would not have the same literacy level that Rome enjoyed until the late 19th Century.)

Thank you, Rome, and thank you, NFL. I’m looking forward to Super Bowl XLVIII.

Ronn Mott, a longtime radio personality in Terre Haute, writes commentaries for the Tribune-Star. His pieces are published online Tuesday and Thursday on, and in the print and online editions on Saturday.