Roman numeral 4

Roman numeral 4

Roman numeral 4

Roman numerals are a numeral system that originated in ancient Rome and remained the usual way of writing numbers throughout Europe well into the Late Middle Ages. Numbers in this system are represented by combinations of letters from the Latin alphabet. Modern usage employs seven symbols, each with a fixed integer value:Roman numerals are essentially a decimal or "base ten" number system, but instead of place value notation (in which place-keeping zeros enable a digit to represent different powers of ten) the system uses a set of symbols with fixed values, including "built in" powers of ten. Tally-like combinations of these fixed symbols correspond to the (placed) digits of Arabic numerals. This structure allows for significant flexibility in notation, and many variant forms are attested.

In fact, there has never been an officially binding, or universally accepted standard for Roman numerals. Usage in ancient Rome varied greatly and became thoroughly chaotic in medieval times. Even the post-renaissance restoration of a largely "classical" notation has failed to produce total consistency: variant forms are even defended by some modern writers as offering improved "flexibility".


"Place-keeping" zeros are alien to the system of Roman numerals - however the actual number zero (what remains after 1 is subtracted from 1) was also missing from the classical Roman numeral system. The word nulla (the Latin word meaning "none") was used to represent 0, although the earliest attested instances are medieval. For instance Dionysius Exiguus used nulla alongside Roman numerals in a manuscript from A.D.525.

The Roman numerals, in particular, are directly derived from the Etruscan number symbols: "𐌠", "𐌡", "𐌢", "𐌣", and "𐌟" for 1, 5, 10, 50, and 100 (They had more symbols for larger numbers, but it is unknown which symbol represents which number). As in the basic Roman system, the Etruscans wrote the symbols that added to the desired number, from higher to lower value. Thus the number 87, for example, would be written 50 + 10 + 10 + 10 + 5 + 1 + 1 = 𐌣𐌢𐌢𐌢𐌡𐌠𐌠 (this would appear as 𐌠𐌠𐌡𐌢𐌢𐌢𐌣 since Etruscan was written from right to left.)

Commonly, Roman numerals are written this way: I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, XII and so on. Roman numerals originated in ancient Rome, approximately 1000BC, and remained the usual way of writing numbers throughout Europe well into the Late Middle Ages, long after the decline of the Roman Empire. It’s only around the 14th century that Roman numerals began to be replaced by modern (and easier to use) Arabic numerals. Numbers in the Roman system are represented by combinations of letters from the Latin alphabet. The decline of Roman numerals coincides with the decline of Latin and the emergence of the Renaissance.

For example, the number 1732 would be denoted MDCCXXXII in Roman numerals. However, Roman numerals are not a purely additive number system. In particular, instead of using four symbols to represent a 4, 40, 9, 90, etc. (i.e., IIII, XXXX, VIIII, LXXXX, etc.), such numbers are instead denoted by preceding the symbol for 5, 50, 10, 100, etc., with a symbol indicating subtraction. For example, 4 is denoted IV, 9 as IX, 40 as XL, etc. However, this rule is generally not followed on the faces of clocks, where IIII is usually encountered instead of IV. Furthermore, the practice of placing smaller digits before large ones to indicate subtraction of value was hardly ever used by Romans and came into popularity in Europe after the invention of the printing press (Wells 1986, p. 60; Cajori 1993, p. 31).



Related Articles