XXIV[24arg] That the most elegant speakers used the expressions die pristini, die crastini, die quarti, and die quinti, not those which are current now.
I HEAR die quarto and die quinto, which the Greeks express by εἰς τετάρτην καὶ εἰς πέμπτην, used nowadays even by learned men, and one who speaks otherwise is looked down upon as crude and illiterate. But in the time of Marcus Tullius, and earlier, they did not, I think, speak in that way; for they used diequinte and diequinti as a compound adverb, with the second syllable of the word shortened. The deified Augustus, too, who was well versed in the Latin tongue and an imitator of his father's 1 elegance in discourse, has often in his letters 2 used that means of designating the days. But it will be sufficient to show the undeviating usage of the men of old, if I quote the regular formula of the praetor, in which, according to the usage of our forefathers, he is accustomed to proclaim the festival known as the Compitalia. 3 His words are as follows: “On the ninth day the Roman people, the Quirites, will celebrate the Compitalia; when they shall have begun, legal business ceases.” The praetor says dienoni, not die nono. And not the praetor alone, but almost all antiquity, spoke in that way. Look you, this passage of the well-known poet Pomponius comes to my mind, from the Atellan farce entitled Mevia: 4
For six days now I've done no stroke of work;[p. 283] There is also the following passage from Coelius in the second book of his Histories: 5 “If you are willing to give me the cavalry and follow me yourself with the rest of the army, on the fifth day (diequinti) I will have your dinner ready for you in the Capitol at Rome.” 6 But Coelius took both the story itself and the word from the fourth book of Marcus Cato's Origines, where we find the following: 7 “Then the master of the horse thus advised the Carthaginian dictator: 'Send me to Rome with the cavalry; on the fifth day (diequinti) your dinner shall be ready for you in the Capitol.'” The final syllable of that word I find written sometimes with e and sometimes with i; for it was usual with those men of olden times very often to use those letters without distinction, saying praefiscine and praefiscini, proclivi and proclive, and using many other words of that kind with either ending; in the same way too they said die pristini, that is, “the day before,” which is commonly expressed by pridie, changing the order of the words in the compound, as if it were pristino die. Also by a similar usage they said die crastini, meaning crastino die or “to-morrow.” The priests of the Roman people, too, when they make a proclamation for the third day, say diem perendini. But just as very many people said die pristini, so Marcus Cato in his oration Against Furius 8 said die proximi or “the next day”; and Gnaeus Matius, an exceedingly learned man, in his Mimiambi, instead of our nudius tertius, or “four days ago,” has die quarto, in these lines: 9
The fourth day (diequarte) I, poor wretch, shall starve to death.
Of late, four days ago (die quarto), as I recall,[p. 285] Therefore the distinction will be found to be, that we use die quarto of the past, but diequarte of the future.
The only pitcher in the house he broke.