Birthdays are something we take for granted – but these days each year accumulate to create chronological age. The ages recorded in inscriptions of women and men said to have been even 161 years of age, when they died, can be seen as something of anomaly. However, of a sample of c. 26,000 epitaphs mentioning age more than 2% commemorate ages over 100 years. Of course, this is a demographic impossibility.  However, it is a phenomenon worthy of analysis and the paper will explore the cultural meaning of statements of considerable longevity, the use of counting systems, and mistakes in counting ages.  In doing so, the paper will have a focus on key texts, such as Pliny, Natural History 7.151 ff. or Valerius Maximus 8.13, and broaden the scope of vision beyond epigraphy to include the very old amongst the elite of the first century CE, including some of their drinking habits (‘he spent a night and two whole days feasting and drinking’).  An explanation of the centenarian phenomenon will be suggested as a means to relate time in the present to events of the past, as well as looking forward into the future. 


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