Roman Numerals

Here you have roman numerals list and their equivalence to the numbers that we use. Later I will try to develop a converter for Roman numerals and vice versa so that you know how to write a number in Roman numerals.

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Roman Numerals Meaning

In order to understand the Roman numeral, it must be differentiated from the one we use today, the Arabic numeral (Indo-Arabic numerals), which we will explain in another article. The difference between the two is that Arabic numerals are based on a positional number system while Roman numerals use a combination system of some capital letters as symbols.

This numbering system was developed in Ancient Rome and was used during the time of the Roman Empire and today it is used in some circumstances such as the numbering of volumes in encyclopaedias, to indicate the name of a monarch or a Pope, to number a century (XX century, XXI century), they are also used in clocks. Know the value of the symbols of Roman numerals. [/ caption]

This numbering is based on an additive system, originally used in the Etruscan enumeration, and its main characteristic is that each symbol used (capital letters) has a numerical value and that it is added to the previous one. Over time it evolved into a subtractive system, where some symbols appeared that were used to subtract. A clear example of this symbology is the following:

The representation of the number 4 in the Etruscan system is as follows: IIII (the sum of four ones: 1 + 1 + 1 + 1)

The representation of four in the modern Roman system is represented as follows: IV (five minus one: 5-1)

Roman Numeral Symbols

Being able to understand the symbols used when forming the numbers will help you understand the true meaning of the Roman numerals:

Origin of Roman Numerals

As I have already mentioned, the origin of the Roman numerals has its origins in the Etruscan system. While the Etruscans used the following symbols to represent numbers; I, Λ, X, Ψ, 8 and ⊕, the Romans used letters from their alphabet to represent said numbering and their equivalence is; I, V, X, L, C, and M.

The system works as follows: the symbols with the highest value are written before the ones with the lowest value in order to add their values ​​to obtain the desired digit. So that it could be subtracted, the system evolved towards a subtractive system, where the sign with the lowest value is placed before the one with the highest numerical value and this indicates that they are subtracted instead of being added. To understand it better I give an example to represent the Roman number 9:

  • The number nine in Roman numerals is as follows: IX (I = 1 is subtracted from X = 10, 10-1 = 9).

Modern Regulations of The Roman Numeral System

In this section I want to expose you to the most significant and basic rules to be able to construct any Roman numeral without errors. As it is not a positional system, there is no symbol for 0 (zero) but it is necessary to know some regulations for the construction of Roman numerals:

  • The reading of the numerical symbols is done from left to right, from highest to lowest value.
  • A symbol followed by another of equal or lesser value are added (XI = 10 + 1 = 11). On the other hand, if the symbol with the lowest value is in front of the one with the highest value, they are subtracted (IX = 10-1 = 9).
  • The symbols I, X, C, M can be repeated up to 3 times consecutively to be added.
  • The symbols V, L, D cannot be repeated in a row.
  • Base 5 symbols (V, L and D) can be used for subtraction (to represent the number 45, XLV is scrutinized and not VL).
  • For the representation of numbers greater than 4,000, a horizontal line is used above the symbol to indicate that the base of the multiplication is by 1,000:

Fractions In Roman Numerals

While the Romans used the decimal system to calculate any whole number, to perform calculations with fractions they used the duodecimal system, a system based on twelfths that allowed them to handle fractions much easier than the decimal. The symbols used to calculate fractions in Roman numerals are the following: “.” , «S» and «I».

  • He “.” or point, represents a twelfth (uncia).
  • The “S” stands for one half or six twelfths (semis).
  • The “I” represents a unit (s).

Curiosity of The Number 4 on Watches

As a curiosity, I want to explain what happens in analogue clocks that you have surely already seen in typical wall clocks where the number 4 is not written with the modern Roman numeration, which would be this way: IV in your case what we see is that the number 4 is written as it was in the Etruscan system, like this: IIII.

Although many watches correctly use the Roman number 4 (IV), many others still use the Etruscan version (IIII) and for this there are several supposed reasons that I explain here:

  • One of the assumptions is that the number IV is difficult to read at the position of the watch face and that is why IIII was used.
  • Another assumption is that the King of France, Charles V, commissioned a watch from a Swiss watchmaker and he used the symbol IV but the king did not like it and ordered IIII to be used.
  • Others say that IIII is used as it creates visual symmetry in the watch face that the IV symbol does not offer.
  • Finally it is said that IIII is used out of superstition.

Roman Symbols and Their Meaning

Apart from numerical symbolism, the Romans used other types of symbols to represent daily life, the army, or the highest powers of the state. Among the most well-known and recognizable symbols for all we highlight the following:

  • SPQR

Acronym for the phrase “Senātus Populusque Rōmānus”, which means “the senate and the Roman people”, it is the symbol used by the government of the ancient Roman republic and that today is used as the official emblem of the capital of Italy, Rome. This symbol could be found in many public buildings, on coins, in public documents as well as on the coat of arms of the Roman armies.

  • The Roman Eagle

Perhaps one of the best known symbols since we have surely seen it in a large number of films as well as if you have had the opportunity to visit the city of Rome. Symbol par excellence of the Roman legions. The eagle used to perch on top of a spear and was one of the emblems most feared by its adversaries.

  • Labrys

Standard used by the Roman emperors and consisting of a spear whose shaft was gold pierced by a shovel. Above it stood a brilliant crown and in the middle was the monogram of Christ formed by the Greek letters X (Ji) and P (Ro).

  • Triumphal Crown

It is, without a doubt, one of the most recognizable symbols of the Roman era and used as a distinction to the generals who arrived victorious from their battles. The triumphal Crown was made by a fence of laurel branches but it happened to be made of gold some time later.

Other articles that you may like you:  roman numerals 1-100 or roman numerals 1-1000

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