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> the Romans greatly preferred the simpler IIII to IV, XXXX to XL, and so on. (The IIII-for-4 notation survives today on the faces of clocks.)

looks at watch

Well, damn, it's IIII. However my watch does use IX over VIIII, what's up with that?




There's a theory[0][1] that it's mostly down to aesthetics. It looks visually more pleasing that way when split into three groups of four numbers:

   I, II, III, IIII (consisting of I only)
   V, VI, VII, VIII (consisting of I and V)
  IX,  X,  XI,  XII (consisting of I and X)
[0] http://mathtourist.blogspot.co.uk/2010/08/iiii-versus-iv-on-...

[1] https://www.hautehorlogerie.org/en/encyclopaedia/glossary-of...


Personally, I find distinguishing III and IIII quite hard in several fonts. However, the difference between [II and III] and [III and IV] is easier to read.


There are a few theories detailed here:

http://mentalfloss.com/article/24578/why-do-some-clocks-use-...

The reason I always heard is about ease of casting: it requires a more complex mold if 4 is written as IV instead of IIII.




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