Roman numerals chart to convert Roman symbols into modern numbers. Numerals were simple symbols elaborated by several societies even before Rome, by counting on a hand or marking notches on a stick. As society developed, symbols were required to capture increasingly large numbers.
The Roman numerals chart helps us convert the Roman numerals into our modern numbers notation.
Roman numerals charts
Question: If Roman numerals were written as letters, and literacy was only a later development of Roman society, how could early Romans count and record numbers?
The truth of the matter is that numerals were initially just fingers on a hand or notches on a stick. This basic system was developed by multiple civilisations and Italic peoples in parallel, even before the Romans.
Most commonly the Roman numeral symbols include: I, V, X, L, C, D, M. These symbols denote the numbers 1,5, 10, 50, 100, 500, 1000. Subsequent symbols were developed to allow larger numbers to be expressed more succinctly. The simplification of the symbols was similar to letters, but not in all cases.
Like 1 finger. Note that there is no number “0”! 0 was an Arabic invention which came much later.
Sometimes shown as IIII but “incorrect”. Note how the 1 finger before the 1 hand denotes “-1”. ie “one finger short of a hand”. You don’t get IIV though!
Like an open hand
1 hand + 1 finger
1 finger short of two full hands: 10-1=9
Two V’s back to back make an “X”. Two hands’ worth of fingers.
“C” stands for “one hundred”. Just like a Century is a hundred years. The C can be used just like the “I”, the “X” or the “M”: II=2; XX=20; CC=200; MM=2000
Simple when you understand why: Round brackets which look like a capital “C” around a I mean “multiply by 1000” which makes it look similar to an “M”. A bracket on one side only only multiplies the I by half of 1000″, ie 500. Notice how the “I” and half bracket looks like a D!
Simple when you understand why: Brackets around a I mean “multiply by 1000” which makes it look like an “M”. Notice how the brackets in question were very curved, more like a letter “C”.
There are various means of denoting larger numbers. These include a bar over the number to multiply by 1000, brackets to imply multiplication by 10, or simply digits in front of the larger symbols to denote simple multiplication of the small vs the large VM=5000
Roman numerals chart
It is worth having a few examples to understand how these symbols might have been used.
1) The number 99 would be written as IC: 1 short of 100 is 99!
2) The year 1999 would have been written as MDCCCCIC. ie 1000 + 500 + 100 + 100 + 100 + 100 + 99 (see eg 1)
A keen-eyed reader kindly pointed out a more concise version of 1999: MCMXCIX. Thanks Greg!
3) 2005 would have been written as MMV. ie 1000 + 1000 + 5
4) 498 would be CCCCLXXXXVIII (four 100s + 50 + four 10s + 5 and three I’s)
5) 499 would be ID
6) 6000 would be MMMMMM or VIM or VI or (D)M and various other variants.
Roman numerals chart: Fractions
Roman numerals dealt with fractions in a similar way – codifying the symbols for particular fractions of importance. The most important fractions also identified on the Roman abacus were the uncia (ounce) equivalent to 1/12 of the Roman libra (pound).
A chart of Roman numeral fractions
Hence 99.5=”ICS”, or 11.25= “XI=-“
There is much more to the ancient Roman numerals chart and the conversion of Roman numerals into numbers than just a modern conversion table: It gives a sense of how roman written symbols evolved over time, in line with the needs of society. A chart of Roman numerals provides a view of Roman mentality and together with the abacus was an essential pillar for the roman roman economy and trade.