Last Updated on: 17th October 2023, 02:11 pm

You don’t need to travel to Italy to find yourself exposed to Roman numerals. These stylish and fascinating symbols are present on monuments in different parts of the world, in books, and in history magazines.

Roman numerals have fascinated people for centuries with their unique symbolic number system. This ingenious method of writing numbers has a long history and remains relevant today. Let’s explore the numerals themselves, their principles, converting between systems, and their enduring usage over time.

obelisco vaticano inscription

Can you read the Latin text on Obelisco Vaticano? Are there any Roman numerals on this face of the obelisk?

Numeral Symbols and Values

The basic symbols in the Roman numeral system are:

I, V, X, L, C, D and M

These letters represent the values 1, 5, 10, 50, 100, 500 and 1000 respectively. By combining these elemental numerals in various ways, the Romans could write any number.

Lesser known additional symbols expanded the system to even higher values.

Key Numbering Principles

Roman numerals follow two key principles:

Additive: Numerals placed side by side are added together e.g. II = 2, III = 3

Subtractive: A smaller numeral placed before a larger one subtracts e.g. IV = 4, XL = 40, XC = 90 (which is 100 – 10, written as C – X, which translates as XC)

Roman Numerals Examples and Conversions

Applying these principles allows us to write numerals like:

Arabic Roman
19 XIX
56 LVI
54 LIV

Following these principles, we see that 22 becomes XXII after the conversion to Roman numerals.

Similarly, 24 becomes XXIV, 26 becomes XXVI, and 19 becomes XIX.

The Roman numeral for 50 is L. This makes 48 to convert to Roman numerals as XLVIII, 56 to convert as LVI, and 54 to become LIV.

Dates were commonly written using Roman numerals.

Examples of Dates Written Using Roman Numerals

Here are a few examples to help you understand the logic of writing in Roman numerals.

2020 in Roman Numerals

In Roman numerals, 2020 converts as MMXX. The two M stand for two thousands, and the two X stand for 20. Together they write 2020.

2021 in Roman Numerals

In Roman numerals, 2021 converts as MMXXI. The two M stand for two thousands, the two X stand for 20 and the I stands for one.

As you can see, the conversion follows the same principle as above. In these situations, the additive principle applies.

Converting a Date to Roman Numerals

Let’s take October 17, 2023. When converted to Roman numerals, this date looks like this: XVII X MMXXIII

The first part, XVII, corresponds to the day, namely 17. Next, October is the 10th month, therefore we convert it as a X. Last, the year, 2023, converts exactly as mentioned above, when we used Roman numerals to write 2021. The only difference is that we need to add two more I at the end, in order to obtain III (which equals 3 in Arabic figures)

Converting between Roman and Arabic numerals is straightforward using charts, online converters or apps. Nonetheless, with a little practice, you can learn how to read any of these fancy Roman numbers you see on monuments and clock faces.

Historical and Modern Usage of Roman Numerals

The Romans used their numeral system for dating, numbering pages, labeling sequels and more. We still see Roman numerals in many places today like:

– Clock faces
– Numbering centuries (XXI century)
– Super Bowl numbering (Super Bowl LIV)
– Outlining topics

Roman numerals have stood the test of time as a creative solution for writing numbers using only letters. Their longevity is a testament to the innovation of ancient Roman culture.You’ll find it in Rome, on Obelisco Vaticano, as well as in million other places.

Studying this numeric system provides insight into the society that devised it so many centuries ago. How easy is it for you to read Roman numerals? What about converting dates written in Roman numerals to Arabic numbers?

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Roman numerals

Violeta Matei