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What Are the Roman Numbers?

Roman Numbers System is a system in which numbers are denoted by the Latin letters e.g. 1 is represented by I, 5 by V, and 10 by X. It was the standard system of writing numbers in European countries in the Middle Ages. Since the 14th century, the Hindu-Arabic numeral system has been adopted gradually. However, Roman numbers still remain popular in some areas, especially mathematical and statistical calculations. For example, even in modern times, clock faces often use roman numerals.

Roman numbers are believed to be originated from the Roman Empire. However, the origins cannot be confirmed as there is very physical evidence that has survived from that era. Various hypothetical and contradictory theories have been published regarding the history of Roman numbers.

Standard Forms of Roman Numbers

A combination of symbols, and some of the values are used to denote Roman numbers. For example, ‘III’ is the Roman number equivalent of three, and ‘IX’ is the Roman number for nine. It shows that ‘III’ is made up of three ones, and the ‘IX’ is comprised of ‘I’ and a single ‘X,’ which means ‘one less than ten.’ Similarly, the number seven is denoted by ‘VII’ which involved the combination of V (five) and II (two). 

Hence, the combination of Roman numbers is grounded on the arrangement of values of the Latin symbols such that the last arrangement symbolizes the real value in the decimal system. 

It should be noted that each Roman number represents a specific value and not the multiples of another numeral. For example, the roman number V (five) is six (VI) less than one (I). Similarly, VII (seven) is five (V) plus two (II). 


Derived Forms

Since the Roman number system is old and has been used by all kinds of people around the world; its various types and forms have been derived. Most of these types were used in Ancient Rome; however, they are inconsistent with the rules and regulations of modern times. 


Ancient writings commonly make use of the additive forms of Roman numbers. For example, in additive forms, number four and nine is denoted by III and VIII, instead of the IV and IX in the standard form. 

In another type of the Roman numbers, V and L are not used at all. Instead, multiples of I are used to denote a number; for example, six is indicated by IIIIII. Different forms of Roman numbers have been used in clock faces. Big Ben in London makes use of the standard form of Roman numerals. 

The representation of 900 also varies in different forms of Roman numbers. According to the standard form, 900 is denoted by CM. However, in the 20th century, it was often represented by MDCD. For example, in Saint Louise Art Museum, 1903 is written as MDCDIII. These examples prove that the Roman number system has kept evolving with time.