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Roman Numerals in St Peter's Basilica

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1232604.  Fri Mar 31, 2017 12:49 pm Reply with quote

Hello Everyone,

I wonder if someone could answer a question for me. I was in Rome recently and did the long plod right up to the top of the dome in the Vatican- brilliant but exhausting!

When we were walking round the inside of the dome I noticed that the mosaics of the cherubs were numbered below in roman numerals, but I was confused as to why the 8th and 9th mosaic numbers went VIII and then VIIII. Why wasn't it IX? I know it was a long way up and I may have been dizzy, but I'm sure I didn't dream it- I checked twice!

Sadly there was no-one to ask and the guidebook and google haven't given me an answer. Does anyone know the reason? Or can you confirm that I did in fact have vertigo induced blindness??

Thank you

B x


1232607.  Fri Mar 31, 2017 12:54 pm Reply with quote

No I don´t think you had blindness - I have actually seen it written both ways in different places so you´re not alone.

1232612.  Fri Mar 31, 2017 1:19 pm Reply with quote

Roman inscriptions, especially in official contexts, seem to show a preference for additive forms such as IIII and VIIII instead of (or even as well as) subtractive forms such as IV and IX. Both methods appear in documents from the Roman era, even within the same document. "Double subtractives" also occur, such as XIIX or even IIXX instead of XVIII. Sometimes V and L are not used, with instances such as IIIIII and XXXXXX rather than VI or LX.

1232780.  Sun Apr 02, 2017 4:07 am Reply with quote

Traditionally, clock faces have IIII instead of IV.

1233327.  Fri Apr 07, 2017 1:26 pm Reply with quote

I was just looking at a paper (Keiser 1992) regarding Roman numerals, and specifically on the origin of the symbols.
The symbol I for 1 is [...] a single tally-mark. The symbol X for 10 is Etruscan, conceived of as a "second-rank" symbol, and formed from two lines crossing. The Etruscan symbol for 100 (*) was conceived of as a "third-rank" symbol and was formed from three lines. The Etruscan symbols for 5 and 50 are (logically) the lower half of their succeeding decade symbols: thus A is (the lower) half of the X and 4\ is (the lower) half of *. The Latins inverted these half-decade symbols to obtain V and \/ (only later did \/ become [...] L). We do not know why the Latins inverted the symbols [...]
What of Etruscan * = 100 and Latin C = 100? [...] There is evidence that * came to be written ( [...]. I suggest that I became C by a process of abbreviation.

I realise that the quote doesn't contain the right symbols, but essentially 1, 10 and 100 were just 1, 2 and 3 tallies, while 5 and 50 were half of the nearest symbol. Also, elsewhere in the paper it says M was 4 tallies.

I hope you find that interesting. I just joined this forum so do let me know if it was off-topic or meant to be posted elsewhere.



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