The History Of Roman Numerals

Roman Numerals
Luke Ward
|2 mins read

I read Roman numerals most days without realizing it, I have a clock which has Roman Numerals on it in my living room… so yeah, I know what one to twelve looks like, but not thirteen onwards.

Well, here’s the history and a list of what the Roman Numerals mean.

Roman numerals follows the history of ancient Rome itself from its early stages at the Latin Palatine Hill in 8th and 9th Century BC to its fall in the 2nd Century AD from civil war, plague, civil apathy and the rise of Christianity and Northern European powers.

The Roman Empire had inspirational, industrious and intellectual beginnings

Emperor Domitianus, Aristotle, Aristarchus, Eratosthenes, Euclid and Archamedes helped to build Rome into an ancient power, developing sophisticated intellectual and mathematical skills to build the Colosseum, Constantine’s Arch, Pantheon, Roman Baths and Civil society.

However, their number system was flawed, it had no zero (0), and no single method for counting above several thousand units, (lines were often placed over numerals to indicate multiples of their value).

Roman numerals were used to record numbers in stone, art and coins.

However that was a long time ago, these days they are used for list items, chapter headings, copyright dates and to mark film sequels such as the Star Wars films.

Roman numerals are also used on clock and watch faces.

If you have seen a clock with Roman numbers, you may have realized that the number four is written as IIII instead of IV, this is because it adds symmetry to the clock face – although I don’t really think it adds symmetry at all.

Numerals are often used to show the time on sundials too.

You can see a long list of Roman Numerals.

And finally, if you’re wondering what the year is in Roman numerals, here’s your answer:

2010 = MMX
2011 = MMXI
2012 = MMXII
2013 = MMXIII
2014 = MMXIV
2015 = MMXV
2016 = MMXVI
2017 = MMXVII
2018 = MMXVIII
2019 = MMXIX
2020 = MMXX

Did you know that Roman Numerals date back as far as 8th Century BC?