Appeared in Volume 9/3, August 1996
Ancient Roman mathematical works were utilitarian. Here is a Roman inheritance problem:
A dying Roman, knowing his wife was pregnant, left a will saying that if she had a son, he would inherit two thirds of the estate and the widow one third, but if she had a daughter, the daughter would get one third and the widow two thirds.
Soon after his death his widow had twins - a boy and a girl. This is a possibility the will maker had not foreseen, What division of the estate keeps as close as possible to the terms of the will?
There are (at least) three plausible solutions.
Boris A. Kordemsky
The Moscow Puzzles
Pelican Books. 1975