The Roman numerals chart helps us convert the Roman numerals into numbers (see the table of Roman numerals below. But beware (!!!) if Roman numerals were written as letters and if writing was only a later development of Roman society, how could early Romans count and record numbers?
The symbols we know of Roman numbers were not the earliest forms they used: Older forms were not related to the alphabet at all and gradually modified.
The forms L, D, M of the numbers 50, 500, 1000 are from around the 1st century BC only! ie >700 years later than the earliest founding of Rome by Romulus. The earliest D & M number forms date to an inscription in 89BC (CIL IV 590). The earliest “L” equivalent to the number “50” is found in an inscription (CIL I 594) from 44BC in a law written out under the authority of Marc Anthony (and Julius Caesar) on bronze plaques found in Spain. Not surprisingly it relates to Roman trade and maintaining financial accounts.
“Quot cuique negotii publice in colonia de decurionum sententia datum erit, is cui negotium datum erit eius rei rationem decurionibus reddito referto que in diebus CL proximis quibus it negotium confecerit quibusve it negotium gerere desierit, quot eius fieri poterit sine dolo malo.”
Loosely translates to:
“Should the decurions grant any person the right to public trade in the colony, such person will maintain and make trustworthy accounts available to the decurions within 150 days of the business’ completion”
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.
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.