Greek numerals

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Greek numerals are a system of representing numbers using letters of the Greek alphabet. They are also known by the names Milesian numerals, Alexandrian numerals, or alphabetic numerals. In modern Greece, they are still in use for ordinal numbers, and in much of the same way that Roman numerals are in the West; for ordinary (cardinal) numbers, Arabic numerals are used.

At first, before it was used more, the Greek alphabet, Linear A and Linear B had used a different system with symbols for 1, 10, 100, 1000 and 10000 operating with the following formula: | = 1, – = 10, ◦ = 100, ¤ = 1000, ☼ = 10000.[1]

The earliest alphabet-related system of numerals used with the Greek letters was a set of the acrophonic Attic numerals, operating much like Roman numerals (which derived from this scheme), with the following formula: Ι = 1, Π = 5, Δ = 10, ΠΔ = 50, Η = 100, ΠΗ = 500, Χ = 1000, ΠΧ = 5000, Μ = 10000 and ΠΜ = 50000.

The acrophonic system was replaced by a new alphabetic system, sometimes called the Ionic numeral system, from the 4th century BC. Each unit (1, 2, …, 9) was assigned a separate letter, each tens (10, 20, …, 90) a separate letter, and each hundreds (100, 200, …, 900) a separate letter. This requires 27 letters, so the 24-letter Greek alphabet was extended by using three obsolete letters: fau ϝ, (also used are stigma ϛ or, in modern Greek, ΣΤ) for 6, koppa ϟ for 90, and sampi ϡ for 900.[2] To distinguish numerals from letters they are followed by the "keraia" (Greek κεραίαinsect antenna), a symbol similar to an acute sign (Unicode U+0374).

This alphabetic system operates on the additive principle in which the numeric values of the letters are added together to form the total. For example, 241 is represented as ΣΜΑʹ (200 + 40 + 1).

To represent numbers from 1,000 to 999,999 the same letters are reused to serve as thousands, tens of thousands, and hundreds of thousands. A "left keraia" (Unicode U+0375, ‘Greek Lower Numeral Sign’) is put in front of thousands to distinguish them from the standard use. For example, 2008 is represented as ͵ΒΗʹ (2000 + 8).

Ancient Byzantine Modern Value Ancient Byzantine Modern Value Ancient Byzantine Modern Value Ancient Byzantine Modern Value
Greek Alpha classical.svg α Αʹ 1 Greek Iota classical.svg ι Ιʹ 10 Greek Rho classical.svg ρ Ρʹ 100 Greek Sampi 1000.svg & Greek Sampi 1000 (2).svg ͵α ͵Α 1000
Greek Beta classical.svg β Βʹ 2 Greek Kappa classical.svg κ Κʹ 20 Greek Sigma classical.svg σ Σʹ 200 Greek Beta classical.svgGreek Sampi palaeographic 02.svg ͵β ͵Β 2000
Greek Gamma classical.svg γ Γʹ 3 Greek Lambda classical.svg λ Λʹ 30 Greek Tau classical.svg τ Τʹ 300 Greek Gamma classical.svgGreek Sampi palaeographic 02.svg ͵Greek Gamma 02.svg ͵Γ 3000
Greek Delta classical.svg δ Δʹ 4 Greek Mu classical.svg μ Μʹ 40 Greek Upsilon classical.svg υ Υʹ 400 Greek Delta classical.svgGreek Sampi palaeographic 02.svg ͵Greek Delta classical.svg ͵Δ 4000
Greek Epsilon classical.svg ε Εʹ 5 Greek Nu classical.svg ν Νʹ 50 Greek Phi classical.svg φ Φʹ 500 Greek Epsilon classical.svgGreek Sampi palaeographic 02.svg ͵ε ͵Ε 5000
Greek Digamma oblique.svg
Greek Digamma angular.svg
Greek Digamma cursive 02.svg & Greek Digamma cursive 04.svg
Greek Digamma cursive 06.svg & Greek Digamma cursive 07.svg
Ϛʹ
ΣΤʹ
6 Greek Xi classical.svg ξ Ξʹ 60 Greek Chi classical.svg χ Χʹ 600 Greek Digamma angular.svgGreek Sampi palaeographic 02.svg ͵Greek Digamma cursive 02.svg & ͵Greek Digamma cursive 04.svg
͵Greek Digamma cursive 06.svg & ͵Greek Digamma cursive 07.svg
͵Ϛ
͵ΣΤ
6000
Greek Zeta classical.svg ζ Ζʹ 7 Greek Omicron classical.svg ο Οʹ 70 Greek Psi classical.svg ψ Ψʹ 700 Greek Zeta classical.svgGreek Sampi palaeographic 02.svg ͵ζ ͵Z 7000
Greek Eta classical.svg η Ηʹ 8 Greek Pi classical.svg π Πʹ 80 Greek Omega classical.svg ω Ωʹ 800 Greek Eta classical.svgGreek Sampi palaeographic 02.svg ͵η ͵H 8000
Greek Theta classical.svg θ Θʹ 9 Greek Koppa normal.svg
Greek Koppa cursive 01.svg
Greek Koppa cursive 02.svg & Greek Koppa cursive 04.svg
Greek Koppa cursive 03.svg & Greek Koppa cursive 05.svg
Ϟʹ 90 Greek Sampi Ionian.svg
Greek Sampi palaeographic 05.svg & Greek Sampi palaeographic 15.svg
Greek Sampi palaeographic 06.svg & Greek Sampi palaeographic 09.svg
Greek Sampi palaeographic 03.svg & Greek Sampi palaeographic 07.svg
Greek Sampi palaeographic 08.svg
Greek Sampi palaeographic 10.svg & Greek Sampi palaeographic 11.svg
Greek Sampi palaeographic 14.svg & Greek Sampi palaeographic 13.svg
Sampi.svg
Ϡʹ 900 Greek Sampi 9000.svg ͵θ ͵Θ 9000

Higher numbers[change | change source]

The Greeks also used the myriad to denote 10,000 (Μʹ) and the myriad myriad for one hundred million (ΜΜʹ).

Decimal Symbol Greek numeral
1 Ι ena
5 Π πέντε (bende)
10 Δ δέκα (theka)
100 Η ἧκατόν (ekadon)
1000 Χ χίλιοι (chilio)
10000 Μ μύριοι (myrio)

Other websites[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. Systèmes numéraux en Grèce ancienne: description et mise en perspective historique
  2. Numerals: Stigma, Koppa, Sampi