When in Rome, Count Like a Roman

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated December 5, 2013)

Sheets includes a function that allows you to convert a number to Roman numerals. This function is called (appropriately enough) ROMAN. The simplest way to use the ROMAN function is as follows:

=ROMAN(456)

All you need to do, obviously, is replace 456 with the number you want converted. You can use any number between 1 and 3999. (Romans apparently never worked with numbers outside this range.)

You can also, if desired, use a second argument to indicate how the resulting Roman numerals should be put together. The different arguments you can use are 0 through 4, with 0 being the default. An argument of 0 returns Roman numerals in the classic form, and 4 returns an extremely simplified Roman numeral. Values between 0 and 4 return progressively more simplified versions.

The simplification of Roman numerals typically only comes into play when dealing with larger numbers. And, in my testing, it has the greatest impact on numbers that have "9"s in them. For instance, the following shows the various levels of simplification of the number 999:

Formula Result
=ROMAN(999,0) CMXCIX
=ROMAN(999,1) LMVLIV
=ROMAN(999,2) XMIX
=ROMAN(999,3) VMIV
=ROMAN(999,4) IM

You should note that the ROMAN function returns a text value, and you therefore cannot use the result in any sort of calculation. That, however, brings up a second function that converts a Roman numeral back into Arabic numbers that can be used in calculations. Can you guess what the name of this function is? If you guessed the obvious—ARABIC—you would be right. It is even easier to use than ROMAN. If, for instance, there was a string of Roman numerals in cell D5, you could use the following to convert them to regular numbers:

=ARABIC(D5)

Thus, if you wanted to do some math and add a value (in cell B7) to a Roman numeral (in cell B6), then you could use the following formula to express the result in Roman numerals:

=ROMAN(ARABIC(B6)+B7)

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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