Sunday, February 2, 2014


We Moderns take mathematics for granted . . . consider, for a moment, the math it takes to construct something as simple - and at the same time as complex - as a Roman aquaduct . . . S.L.

Roman Numerals, as used today, are based on seven symbols:

Numbers are formed by combining symbols together and adding the values. So II is two ones, i.e. 2, and XIII is a ten and three ones, i.e. 13. There is no zero in this system, so 207, for example, is CCVII, using the symbols for two hundreds, a five and two ones. 1066 is MLXVI, one thousand, fifty and ten, a five and a one.

Using the accepted convention of never repeating a symbol more than three times in succession, 3999 is as high as you can go. That is, MMMCMXCIX.

The crazy thing is trying to do even simple arithmetic using Roman numerals.

As far as I can determine, they must have done the calculations for all their architecture and construction using abacus. To prove my point, I present:

The Beauty Of Mathematics !!!

Just Let It Scroll Automatically . . . Sit Back And Watch The Numbers . . .

As great and mighty as the Romans were, you can't do that with their number system. Think about it.



  1. The Romans tended to be empirical (no pun) and did not bother with maths most of the time.

    Arches, etc were built using various types of stone until the limits were found (they started collapsing) and that was set as the upper limit.

    As many details as possible were standardised so that they could issue design instructions to unskilled workers/ soldiers anywhere and be confident that they would work.

    Army roads, barracks & camps were all built the same way so anyone could construct them or find their way around.

    Not sophisticated but very effective, probably because they had masses of slaves to work for them and it didn't matter too much if some died during the experimentation.

  2. On the other hand have archaeologists decided if they had invented the "," ?

    If they had perhaps MMMCMXCIX,I = 4,000 ?


  3. Actually this numeric system was unlikely to have been used for day to day calculations. In the same way that hieratic symbols were used in Egypt instead of hieroglyphic symbols (c.f. Ahmose (Rhind) Papyrus). In fact quite advanced mathematical techniques were available at the time although written evidence is rather scarce The Ahmose Papyrus for example being the only extant evidence for Egyptian maths. However, the cross fertilisation of ideas in the Ancient World is evident in other writings and there is no reason to suppose that mathematics would be an exception. It is true that a decimal notation was not overtly used (no zero) but unitary fractions etc allowed considerable precision in many areas and a working knowledge of gradients etc allowed the construction of aqueducts and roads on a truly epic scale that, with modern plant equipment, would not be out of place even today.

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