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Roman numerals – often called Latin numerals – originated in Roman antiquity. The script, composed of individual numerals, is still used today for numbers, a specific date, on clock faces, and for other special purposes. In the form used today, the Latin letters I (1), V (5), X (10), L (50), C (100), D (500) and M (1000) are included as numerals.

Unlike the usual decimal system, the value of Roman numerals is based on the addition of the individual number signs or symbols. This is why it is also called an additive number system. The value of the individual Arabic numerals of a number in the decimal system, on the other hand, depends on the respective digit position, so that from right to left, ones, tens, hundreds, etc. are added up. It is therefore called the place value system.

Pupils learn about Roman numerals as early as primary school. In secondary schools, Roman numerals are then studied in greater depth in mathematics lessons.

### Display a date in Roman numerals

If you would like to convert any date into a Roman numeral, we recommend our subject area
Roman Date.
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Mr Marmor is a stonemason and wants to carve the year 2024 in Roman numerals. To convert the decimal number 2024 into the desired Roman numeral, he proceeds step by step as follows:

First, the highest digit of 2024, i.e., the two thousands, is converted into a Roman numeral. The addition rule described above states, "A smaller symbol after a larger symbol is added." This is similar to all leading M.

The second digit of 2024 to be converted is zero. Roman numerals, however, do not have and do not need a separate symbol for zero, which is why it is converted to an "empty character".

The third digit of 2024 to be converted is 2. This is calculated again according to the addition rule.

The fourth digit of 2024 to be converted is 4. 4 could be represented as a Roman numeral using IIII. But since, according to today's rules, four identical symbols in a row should be avoided, the 4 is now represented using the subtraction rule described above: "A smaller symbol in front of a larger symbol is subtracted." Instead of IIII, we write IV, i.e., 5 minus 1.

Finally, the individual results of the four previous steps only have to be strung together to obtain the desired Roman numeral:MM, XX and IV finally result in MMXXIV.

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In Petra's school lessons, Roman numerals are currently being discussed. Petra now has to convert the Roman numeral MCCXXXIV into a decimal number. She proceeds as follows: Petra goes through the Roman numeral from left to right to convert each symbol into its decimal number.

Since two Cs occur in succession in MCCXXXIV, one can convert the value of both Cs in succession as follows:

Since three Xs occur in a row in MCCXXXIV, one can convert the value of all three Xs in a row as follows:

For the last numeral IV in MCCXXXIV, the subtraction rule comes into play, because here the I is a smaller symbol in front of the larger V. The I is thus subtracted from the V:

The individual results of the four previous steps must finally only be added to obtain the desired decimal number, i.e., 1000 + 200 + 30 + 4 = 1234.

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In the following, we present some questions about the Roman numerals together with the corresponding answers.

No, the ancient Romans did not yet have a zero in their number system. An additive number notation, such as the Roman one, does not need a zero, so there is no sign for the zero in Roman numerals. Not only because of the missing zero, but also because performing complicated calculations with Roman numerals is only possible to a limited extent.

According to the rules taught in school, only three Roman numerals are allowed in a row, e.g., III, XXX or CCC. Thus, for example, to represent the number 4, one can avoid the four characters IIII by writing IV instead, i.e., 5 minus 1.

The Roman symbols of the bundle of five, i.e., V, L and D for 5, 50 and 500, on the other hand, may only be used once in succession, as, for example, VV is to be replaced by X or LL by C.

This is because, from 4,000 onwards, four Ms in a row would have to be used. This was avoided either by defining additional characters for 5,000 (ↁ), 10,000 (ↂ), etc., or by a multiplier for the number of Ms, for example, X-M for 10×M=10,000.

Roman numerals were and are used to represent numbers. While multiplying, dividing or subtracting Roman numerals in writing is hardly possible because of the missing zero, it is possible to add two Roman numerals by adding the individual characters step by step. For example: 26 + 15 = XXVI + XV = XXXVVI = XXXXI = XLI = 41.

However, this only works to a limited extent as soon as the numbers to be added contain, for example, a 4, for whose conversion into a Roman numeral the subtraction method ("A smaller symbol is subtracted from a larger symbol") is used. Then it becomes difficult to add, e.g., 26 and 14: 26 + 14 = XXVI + XIV = XXXVIIV = ?

As described above, there are seven Roman numerals: I (1), V (5), X (10), L (50), C (100), D (500) and M (1000). Occasionally, there are other signs for larger Roman numerals, such as ↁ for 5,000, ↂ for 10,000, etc.

The seven characters are often subdivided into characters with ten bundles (I, X, C and M) and characters with five bundles (V, L and D). The four characters with ten bundles form the basic digits, and the three characters with five bundles are the intermediate digits.