The History of Mathematics

Greek and Roman Mathematics

What are the basic Roman numerals and how are they used?

There are only seven basic Roman numerals, as seen in the following chart:

Number Roman Numeral
1 I
5 V
10 X
Number Roman Numeral
50 L
100 C
500 D
1000 M

There are many rules, of course, to this method of writing numerals. For example, although the way to write large numbers like 8,000 would be “MMMMMMMM,” it is very cumbersome. In order to work with such large numbers, one rule was to write a bar over a numeral, meaning to multiply by 1,000. Thus, 8,000 would be VIII—equal to our Hindu-Arabic number 8—with a bar over the entire Roman numeral.


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