The Italians woke up this Wednesday morning with the highlighting of a controversy on the front page of several national newspapers: a Parisian museum will remove the Roman numerals from certain works of art so that the visitor can “better understand them”.
A decision with which many do not agree, and some do not hesitate to cry out loud and scandalous. The media first.
In its One of the day, the Roman daily Il Messaggero quite simply titled “The controversy: Louis XIV will become Louis 14”. Corriere della Sera, one of the largest dailies in the country, has meanwhile published on the front cover a comment that is at the very least virulent from its deputy director, Massimo Gramellini. To make his dissatisfaction understood, the latter does not go hand in hand as evidenced by this sentence, for example: “This story of Roman numerals represents a perfect synthesis of the ongoing cultural disaster: first we do not teach things, and then we eliminate them so that those who ignore them don’t feel uncomfortable. ” In his paper, Massimo Gramellini emphasizes a certain distance from learning classical culture. “As always in these cases, good intentions raise doubts and controversies. Are we sure that the solution vis-à-vis If the difficulties consist in erasing them? The passage from ‘IV’ to ‘4’ becomes the symbol of the progressive renunciation of the teaching of classical culture. “
Luciano Canfora, a classical philologist who is also one of the great Italian specialists of Antiquity, denounces a “stupidity” participating in “a more general scourge, that of political correctness”.
“An obstacle to understanding”, estimates the Carnavalet Museum
For its part, the Carnavalet Museum, which is devoted to the history of Paris, considers that it is making itself more accessible by replacing Roman numerals with Arabic numerals. Acting in this way is not really a first, however, since a few years ago, the Louvre erased Roman numbering from its shelves to designate the centuries, judging that its millions of visitors, often foreigners, were unaware of its meaning. The use of Roman numerals for kings and queens is still very much present.
“We are not against Roman numerals, but they can be an obstacle to understanding”, explained Noémie Giard, head of the Carnavalet Museum, quoted by Le Figaro, implying that the works of the museum are not understood by all. because of the Roman numerals.
The controversy is therefore swelling in Italy while in France, the subject has gone unnoticed.