Your RDA of Irony

How Many Latin Americans in a Latin Grammarian?

Upon  occasion, I am required to be an accountant.  In a discussion of the first century Roman writer Quintilian, someone asked me how many descendants he might have today.  Quintilian lived in Iberia, where the patrician class was not decimated by either whimsical emperors or tempermental barbarians.  They could actually die of old age at 40.

Here is my calculation of the number of Quintilian’s descendants. 

Given a patrician’s use of lead drinking vessels and fondness for hot baths, there is not much likelihood of any descendants.  But somehow the aristocracy always managed to eke out a few scions. Let’s estimate that by the sixth century, Quintilian had two descendants.  Now, in the sixth century, there could have been a population boom because the aristocracy stopped bathing.  (The bright side of the Dark Ages was not necessarily the most fragrant.) 

Unfortunately, at the same time, half of the aristocratic offspring would be going into the Church.  In Medieval France and Italy, this would not have been a damper on the demographics, but Iberia took its clerical celibacy rather seriously. (The laity was literal.)

Now, let’s do a running total.  A typical unbathed aristocrat has 8 children–4 live to be adults (age 14 or so), but half go into the clergy–and mean it.  That’s leaves two to reproduce, multiply by 10 generations and then deduct anyone stupid enough to stand against the invading Moors.  So by the end of the 8th century, there might be four descendants left.

Restarting the calculation: multiply 40 generations but deduct for six centuries of civil war, the Black Death, and expelling most of the doctors in 1492.  So by the end of the 15th century, there might be two descendants left. 

However, the younger one goes to the New World where he rapes any female native who survived smallpox.  So, Quintilian now should have 73 million descendants in Latin America and maybe 64 in Iberia.

  1. Bob Kincaid says:


    You should know by now to leave the numbers out of things. I’ve been lost ever since they introduced that “NewMath” back in second grade.

    Meanwhile, the real question is this: how did one of Quintillian’s descendants get to Africa, where he most assuredly became an ancestor of Barack Obama? And why hasn’t Lou Dobbs yet discovered his tomb, wherein lie buried the secret plan to overthrow the world and enslave all the white people? I have a theory: one of those descendants DIDN’T “resist” the Moors.

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