Copyright © MCMXCVII by Paul
is it not, that Roman numerals have so many uses in the sciences
a functional obsolescence in the face of the 'positional
by Arabic numerals (see Prolix).
prevails in Roman numerals an undeniable cumbersomeness, and yet
these ancient cyphers continue century after century to be
printed on pages
and chiseled on stones.
Some benighted souls will dismiss the matter as
romance. Now really, does the word 'mere' ever belong in front
The sophisticated solver of this
will recall that there are seven Roman symbols -- I, V, X, L, C,
standing, respectively, for 1, 5, 10, 50, 100, 500, 1,000 in the
numeral system. As fifth-graders used to be taught, you cannot
a string of Roman numerals from left to right and translate them
There are rules to learn:
Only certain combinations are permitted. Not all 49
pairs of Roman numerals get applied: VV, LL, DD, for example, give
to X, C, M.
A symbol placed after another of equal or
greater value adds
A symbol placed before one of greater value
The expression 'greater value' in the subtraction
is also limited -- you will not find VL or IL for 45 and 49, VC
or IC for
95 and 99, VD or ID for 495 and 499, VM or IM for 995 and 999.
For their advocates, Roman numerals may provide a
holiday' -- a time of enjoyment derived from the suffering of
bars in the chart on the right represent the length in number of
required to represent the corresponding Arabic number in Roman
In the range of one to a hundred, all but one of those numbers can
in Arabic with only two symbols. Observations...
The longest Roman numeral represents Arabic 88
symbols -- LXXXVIII.
Four require seven symbols -- 38, 78, 83, 87.
The most popular symbol is -- surprise -- X not
I, with 150
versus 140 incidents.
The least popular, of course, is C, with 11
one and a hundred.
Both V and L appeared 50 times each in the
A total of 401 symbols are required to enumerate
items -- twice the number that you would need using Arabic
50% efficient, one might say. But hey, that's nothing. Try
population of the world to Roman numerals:
5,123,456,789 would require 5,123,456 Ms
followed by DCCLXXXIX.
What year in
history required the largest number of Roman numerals to
For a puzzle that creates a new classification of numbers, see Reaman