[This page was taken from Don Allen's site at: http://www.math.tamu.edu/~dallen/history/gr_count/gr_count.html and is being used for academic purposes.]

 

Greek Numbers and Arithmetic

The earliest numerical notation used by the Greeks was the Attic system. It employed the vertical stroke for a one, and symbols for ``5", ``10", ``100", ``1000", and ``10,000". Though there was some steamlining of its use, these symbols were used in a similar way to the Egyptian system, being that symbols were used repeatedly as needed and the system was non positional. By the Alexandrian Age, the Greek Attic system of enumeration was being replaced by the Ionian or alphabetic numerals. This is the system we discuss.

The (Ionian) Greek system of enumeration was a little more sophisticated than the Egyptian though it was non-positional. Like the Attic and Egyptian systems it was also decimal. Its distinguishing feature is that it was alphabetical and required the use of more than 27 different symbols for numbers plus a couple of other symbols for meaning. This made the system somewhat cumbersome to use. However, calculation lends itself to a great deal of skill within almost any system, the Greek system being no exception.

Greek Enumeration and Basic Number Formation

First, we note that the number symbols were the same as the letters of the Greek alphabet.

tabular43