# Your inquiry — did ancient Greeks have numbers?

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Yes, the ancient Greeks had numbers and a numerical system that used letters from their alphabet to represent numerical values.

## Further information is provided below

The ancient Greeks had a numerical system that used letters from their alphabet to represent numerical values. This system is known as the Attic numerals. According to Hellanicus of Lesbos, a Greek historian, poet and antiquarian of the 5th century BC, “The Greeks first suggested the idea of writing numbers by individual signs”.

Here are some interesting facts about the ancient Greek numerical system:

• The Attic numerals consisted of 27 characters, which included the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet, as well as three obsolete letters (digamma, koppa, and sampi) that were used only for this purpose.
• Each letter of the alphabet had a corresponding numerical value, ranging from 1 to 900.
• The Greeks did not have a symbol for zero, but they understood the concept of zero as a placeholder, which was used in their calculations.
• The Attic numerals were commonly used in Greece from the 5th century BC until the 4th century AD.
• The Greek mathematician and philosopher Pythagoras (c. 570 – c. 495 BC) believed that “all things are numbers”, and his philosophy of mathematics influenced the development of the ancient Greek numerical system.
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Here is a table showing the Attic numerals and their corresponding numerical values:

Character Value
A 1
B 2
Γ 3
Δ 4
E 5
Ϛ 6
Z 7
H 8
Θ 9
I 10
K 20
Λ 30
M 40
N 50
Ξ 60
O 70
Π 80
Ϟ 90
P 100
Q 200
Ρ 300
Σ 400
T 500
Y 600
Φ 700
X 800
Ψ 900

The ancient Greek number system used the first nine letters of the Greek alphabet to signify numbers one through nine, while the next nine letters represented the tens. For hundreds, Greeks added a line to the letter rho for 100 and phi for 500, and pi represented 80. The system went up to 999 by combining these letters, but there is no information on how Greeks represented 1000.

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Lesson Summary. The ancient Greeks had two numeral systems. The acrophonic system was used until around 100 BCE and inspired the Roman numeral system. The alphabetic numerals use 27 different symbols in different combinations.

But the ancient Greeks certainly had numbers. In fact, they had what was in some ways a much more elegant system than the clunky Roman numerals—like I, II, III—that we still occasionally adopt today.

The Greeks had two important systems of numerals, besides the primitive plan of repeating single strokes, as in ||| ||| for six, and one of these was again a simple grouping system.

The earliest numerical notation used by the Greeks was the Atticsystem. It employed the vertical stroke for a one, and symbols for “5", “10", “100", “1000", and “10,000".

We should say immediately that the ancient Greeks had different systems for cardinal numbers and ordinal numbers so we must look carefully at what we mean by Greek number systems. Also we shall look briefly at some systems proposed by various Greek mathematicians but not widely adopted.

Greek numerals, also known as Ionic, Ionian, Milesian, or Alexandrian numerals, are a system of writing numbers using the letters of the Greek alphabet. In modern Greece, they are still used for ordinal numbers and in contexts similar to those in which Roman numerals are still used in the Western world.

### What were the numbers in ancient Greece?

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, Γ = 5, Δ = 10, ΓΔ = 50, Η = 100, ΓΗ = 500, Χ = 1000, ΓΧ = 5000, Μ = 10000 and ΓΜ = 50000.
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### How did Greeks do math without zero?

The Greeks knew of zero as a concept but did not think of it as a number with the same usefulness in mathematics as the numbers 1–9. According to Aristotle, it was not possible to divide by 0 and get a meaningful result, so the Greek system was based on 9 numbers—no zero.

### How did ancient Greeks use math?

Answer to this: Ancient Greek mathematics was not limited to theoretical works but was also used in other activities, such as business transactions and in land mensuration, as evidenced by extant texts where computational procedures and practical considerations took more of a central role.

### When was Greek numbers created?

first millennium BC
The first Greek number system we examine is their acrophonic system which was use in the first millennium BC. ‘Acrophonic’ means that the symbols for the numerals come from the first letter of the number name, so the symbol has come from an abreviation of the word which is used for the number.

### How did ancient Greeks use numbers?

We know that the ancient Greeks had a somewhat different idea because the numbers were used in slightly different forms depending to what the number referred. The most frequent use of this particular number system was for sums of money. The basic unit of money was the drachma with a larger unit being the talent worth 6000 drachmas.

### How do you write a number in Greek?

Answer to this: Some Greek cities used a system based on writing the first letter of the word for that number. Like in Greek you say Ten “DDeka”, so they would draw a D to mean 10. (A delta, is actually in the Greek alphabet).In this system though,1 was just written with a vertical line, like our 1 today.

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### How many letters did the Greek alphabet use?

As an answer to this: In the 6th century BCE, the Greek alphabet used 24 letters. To make numbers, the Greeks added three more symbols ( accounts differ as to whether these were resurrected older letters or newly designed characters), then doled them out nine at a time to account for the ones, tens, and hundreds columns. Hence:

### Where did numbers come from?

Answer will be: The earliest known unambiguous notations for numbers emerged in Mesopotamia about 5000 or 6000 years ago. Counting initially involves the fingers, given that digit-tallying is common in number systems that are emerging today, as is the use of the hands to express the numbers five and ten.

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