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Roman numerals

The numeric system represented by Roman numerals originated in ancient Rome and remained the usual way of writing numbers throughout Europe well into the Late Middle Ages. Numbers in this system are represented by combinations of letters from the Latin alphabet. Roman numerals, as used today, are based on seven symbols:

The use of Roman numerals continued long after the decline of the Roman Empire. From the 14th century on, Roman numerals began to be replaced in most contexts by the more convenient Hindu-Arabic numerals; however, this process was gradual, and the use of Roman numerals persists in some minor applications to this day.

The numbers 1 to 10 are usually expressed in Roman numerals as follows:

Numbers are formed by combining symbols and adding the values, so II is two (two ones) and XIII is thirteen (a ten and three ones). Because each numeral has a fixed value rather than representing multiples of ten, one hundred and so on, according to position, there is no need for "place keeping" zeros, as in numbers like 207 or 1066; those numbers are written as CCVII (two hundreds, a five and two ones) and MLXVI (a thousand, a fifty, a ten, a five and a one).

Symbols are placed from left to right in order of value, starting with the largest. However, in a few specific cases, to avoid four characters being repeated in succession (such as IIII or XXXX), subtractive notation is used: as in this table:

For example, MCMIV is one thousand nine hundred and four, 1904 (M is a thousand, CM is nine hundred and IV is four).

Some examples of the modern use of Roman numerals include:

The "standard" forms described above reflect typical modern usage rather than a universally accepted convention. Usage in ancient Rome varied greatly and remained inconsistent in medieval and modern times.


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