The system of Roman numerals uses letters to represent numbers, an idea that was developed by the Phoenicians two thousand years before the founding of the city of Rome in the mid-8th century BCE. Roman numerals as commonly used today are represented by combinations of seven symbols from the Latin alphabet.


The mathematician Georges Ifrah has described the Roman system as a “prehistoric fossil”,[1] but it nevertheless continued in use throughout Europe, with some modifications, well into the Late Middle Ages. Roman numerals are still used today in certain niche areas such as the regnal numbers of kings and queens, as in Queen Elizabeth II.



Ifrah, Georges. The Universal History of Numbers: From Prehistory to the Invention of the Computer. Translated by David Bellos et al., The Harvill Press, 1998.