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TL;DR: Is 1995 correctly written as MVM, or as something more like MCMLVL? MCMVC? MCMLXLV? MCMLXXXXV?

From what I recall from my Latin classes (European highschool...), you are not supposed to write more than 3 identical subsequent symbols. However, this rule hasn't been consistently followed in modern times from what I can tell by a little web research.

Perhaps it'd help if I knew how the Romans themselves wrote larger numerals... Would they write CLXL or CXC for 190? Something else still?

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1 Answer 1

up vote 7 down vote accepted

1995 = MCMXCV.

The rules are:

first triad: I, V, and X:

Then all is repeated with:
second triad: X, L, and C
third triad: C, D, and M

You can't use letters outside of their "triad": So, IM for 999 is wrong. CXC for 190 is correct, and 195 is CXCV (not CVC).

You should write numbers in decreasing order: thousands first, then hundreds, then tens, and finally the ones.

There exists even more ancient (wiki) "Longer scheme" (Even now it is sometimes used for clocks):
I, II, III, IIII, V, VI, VII, VIII, VIIII, X... If you use it, you must use it for all three triads, of course.

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was it really widespread in ancient times, or is it a modern mistake? –  Lohoris Feb 6 '12 at 15:17
It is the older form. Previously Romans used it and only it. Later changed to the other one. I don't remember when. But I have met this longer form sometimes in real life. I don't remember exactly, Maybe on cemetry. But now I think, there it could be an error... –  Gangnus Feb 6 '12 at 15:22
Looks very strange to me, I'd ask for a authoritative source here... –  Lohoris Feb 6 '12 at 15:24
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_numerals - look clocks there. –  Gangnus Feb 6 '12 at 15:29
Oh! I was right - these VIII and even IIII forms ARE more ancient! The answer edited again. –  Gangnus Jun 20 '13 at 15:00

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