Roman Numerals---Three Different Answers

Dominik Wujastyk ucgadkw at UCL.AC.UK
Wed Oct 27 15:42:54 UTC 1999

On Wed, 27 Oct 1999, george9252 wrote:

> Well, doesn't it show that the Hindu ("Arabic") numeral system is, at least
> in this respect, much more efficient (and more clear) than the Roman and the
> Egyptian systems?

Aargh.  That is a real old chestnut.  It all depends on what you are used
to, and what you are doing.

        I + II = III
        CXI + IX = CXX

are certainly simpler than

        1 + 2 = 3
        111 + 9 = 120

There are other operations which make me blench in Roman, which I am very
used to doing in Hindu-Arabic.  But the main point is that all these
systems are and were embedded in educational systems which interpreted
them and made them usable.  Their "ease" "efficiency" etc. can only be
judged (if at all) by examining the ... [drum roll] social context of
their use.


Dominik Wujastyk
Founder, INDOLOGY list

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