The Roman numeral system has largely been abandoned
because arithmetic is less cumbersome with a place-value system.
Here is a link to a site that exhibits procedures for Roman numeral arithmetic.
The Roman Numerals by Ron Padgett
It must have been hard
for the Romans to multiply
—I don’t mean reproduce,
but to do that computation.
Step inside a roman numeral
for a moment, a long one
such as MDCCLIX. Look
at the columns and pediments
and architraves: you cannot move them,
but how beautiful they are
and august! However, try to multiply
MDCCCLXIV times MCCLVIII.
How did they do it?
I asked this question some years ago
and never found an answer
because I never looked for one,
but it is pleasant,
living with this question.
Perhaps the Romans weren’t good at math,
unlike the Arabs, who arrived
with baskets of numerals, plenty
for everyone. We still have
more than we need today.
I have a 6 and a 7 that,
when put side by side, form my age.
Come to think of it,
I’d rather be LXVII.
“The Roman Numerals” is used by permission from Alone and Not Alone (Coffee House Press, 2015). Copyright © 2015 by Ron Padgett.