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Claudia Pieris: portrait bust on her marble tombstone, dedicated by her husband Annius Telesphorus; inscription (CIL VI.15543). 117-138 CE. Copenhagen, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek.

Claudia Pieris’ tombstone (CIL VI.15543) She lived 117-138 AD. Now in Copenhagen, at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek.

The Romans used several different systems for writing numbers. Sometimes they wrote numbers like this: I II III IV V and other times they used the Greek numbers. Roman people didn’t always write numbers the same way, either – people knew what you meant even if you did it a little differently.

On this Roman woman’s tombstone from the time of the emperor Hadrian, the last line shows how long she lived. It starts with QVA-VIX-AN – that’s short for “Who lived in years…” and then it shows how many years, how many months, and how many days. Can you work it out?

Here’s a table showing all of the Roman numerals.


I 1 L 50
II 2 C 100
III 3 D 500
IV (or IIII) 4 M 1000
V 5
VI 6
IX (or VIIII) 9
X 10

So MMIII is 2003, and XXIV is 24, and CLVII is 157. (Putting a bigger number like V after a smaller number like I means “1 less than 5” or 4).

Want some more practice? Try writing these numbers in Roman numbers (see the second page for the answers):





More about Roman numerals

Bibliography and further reading about Roman numbers:


Indian numbers
More about Roman Numbers
Roman Science
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