Saturday, March 19, 2011

Roman numerals

Are still with us today

Their origin is not known to most of us

Like many other things they arose because of a need

The Romans were active in trade and commerce

From the time of learning to write they needed a way to indicate numbers.

The system they developed has lasted for many centuries

And they still see some specialized use today.

Roman numerals traditionally indicate the order of rulers

Or ships who share the same name (i.e. Queen Elizabeth II).

They are also sometimes still used in the publishing industry for copyright dates

They are used on cornerstones and gravestones when the owner of a building or the family of the deceased wishes to create an impression of classical dignity.

The Roman numbering system also lives on in our languages

These often still use Latin word roots to express numerical ideas.

A few examples: unilateral, duo, quadricep, septuagenarian, decade, milliliter.

The big differences between Roman and Arabic numerals (the ones we use today) are that Romans didn't have a symbol for zero

And that numeral placement within a number can sometimes indicate subtraction rather than addition.

Of course there is much more that the Romans left us, and the above is just a reminder that we don't think about many things left to us

But I bet you think Roman whenever you see their numerals!

No comments: