G e m a t r i a

R o m a n N u m e r a l s

By Andrew Harris viii September MCMXCIX

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The numbers we use today (0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9) are called Arabic Numerals. They were first used by the Hindu people of India as long ago as 3000BC. Over time they were refined and the all important 'zero' was developed. The Arabs were the bridge that brought this numbering system over to Europe from the 600's onwards. The earliest record we have of their use in Europe is in 976. Because the Europeans learn't of this system from the Arabs they became known as Arabic numerals.

How did the European and middle eastern nations write their numbers before this?

Rome was a great civilisation and needed to write down numbers for record keeping, taxes, and commerce. We are probably all familiar with their method of writing numbers, Roman numerals.

The Romans used some of the letters in their alphabet to represent numbers.

I =
V =
X =
L =
C =
D =
M =
1
5
10
50
100
500
1000

This has a rather interesting side effect. Anything written in the Roman language (Latin) will probably have some of these letters in it. We can then add up the Roman numeral values of these letters for what is written and get a 'numeric value' for the words.

For example the 'Seal of the United States of America' has the following Latin motto inscribed on it.

Novus Ordo Seclorum

Which means 'an old order born anew'. Comparing it with the above list of Roman numerals we obtain:

Nov us Ord o Sec l orum
V D CL M
5 5
0
0
1
0
0
5
0
1
0
0
0
Total = 1655

It turns out that the Hebrews invented a similar system to Roman Numerals to represent their numbers. However in their system all of their letters are used to represent different numbers. In the same simple way that we have just calculated a numeric value for a Latin inscription, we can calculate numeric values for anything written in Hebrew. Almost the entire Old Testament is written in Hebrew, except for some small sections which are written in Aramaic, which uses the same characters as the hebrew and so we can still obtain numeric values.

The Greeks also used a numbering system that involved their whole alphabet. So anything written in Greek can be easily converted to numeric values. The entire New Testament is written in Greek and so numerics can be easily calculated for it as well.

Where to go from here

More examples of Latin Numerics

Introduction to numerics in the Hebrew.

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