Would Ancient Romans Use Percentage Signs In Text


The use of percentage signs in text by the ancient Romans is a hotly debated topic among experts. On the one hand, some believe that the ancient Romans used the symbol for certain fractions of a whole, such as one-quarter or one-third. Others, however, argue that such uses did not exist until after the Middle Ages. This article will explore both sides of the debate, providing relevant data and perspectives from experts, as well as the author’s own insights and analysis.

Symbol origins

The percentage sign dates back to the sixteenth century, when it was used to denote lent or borrowed money as a fraction of one’s total property. The Latin word per centum, meaning “by the hundred”, was particularly influential in its rise to prominence. Later, during the eighteenth century, the symbol was adapted to represent “out of a hundred” and placed after any number to denote a proportion. While the symbol was widely used in mathematics and finance at this time, there is no evidence of the ancient Romans employing it in their writing.

Potential uses

The lack of evidence of the ancient Romans’ use of the percentage sign does not preclude the possibility that it may have existed among them. It is entirely possible that the symbol was employed for certain fractions of a whole, such as one-quarter or one-third. This interpretation is given further credence by the fact that the ancient Roman numeral for “thousand”, M, shares many of the same characteristics with the modern percentage sign.

Written accounts

Unfortunately, there is a relative scarcity of written records from the ancient Roman period. As a result, it is particularly difficult to gain a clear understanding of the use of the percentage sign. Historians who study the ancient Roman period did note, however, that fractions of a whole were often denoted by words and letters in the texts they studied. This could imply that the ancient Romans had a system for expressing fractions of a whole, and may explain why the percentage sign had not yet been employed.

Other symbols

In addition to the percentage sign, the ancient Romans used various other symbols to denote certain fractions in text. For instance, they were known to use the “over” symbol (÷) to denote division and fractions. Other symbols including the dagger (†) and asterisk (⋆) were also found in ancient Roman writing, though in the absence of explicit evidence it is difficult to ascertain their exact meanings.

Keyword analysis

An analysis of the ancient Roman language and of the contexts in which certain symbols were used also yields interesting results. For example, the term “per cent”, which is used to denote percentages in English, is derived from the Latin phrase “per centum”. As this phrase literally translates to “by the hundred”, it could have been used to denote fractions such as one-quarter or one-third. As a result, it is possible that the ancient Romans may have used the percentage sign in text.

Uncertainty surrounding usage

Ultimately, the use of the percentage sign in text by the ancient Romans remains uncertain. To date, historians and academics have yet to uncover any evidence of its use among them. It is possible, however, that the symbol was employed for certain fractions of a whole, such as one-quarter or one-third. Further research into the topic may eventually shed light on the symbol’s function among the ancient Romans.

Modern applications

In modern times, the percentage sign has been a ubiquitous symbol in the world of mathematics, finance and everyday life. Its utility in expressing fractions of a whole makes it a powerful tool, and its widespread use by people around the world has made it an indispensable resource. Whether the ancient Romans employed the percentage sign in text or not, its utility in today’s world cannot be denied.


The evolution of the percentage symbol over time has been fascinating to observe. The origins of the symbol go back centuries, and its use has been adapted over time to reflect changing contexts and understandings of the world. While the exact role the percentage sign played in the ancient Roman period remains unknown, its importance in our day-to-day lives today is undeniable.


When researching the use of the percentage sign among the ancient Romans, it is essential to compare it to similar symbols employed at the time. As mentioned earlier, the ancient Romans used various other symbols to denote fractions, such as the “over” symbol (÷) and dagger (†). As a result, it is important to ask how the function of the percentage sign might be related to that of these other symbols, and how the roles of both may reflect changes in culture and language over time.


It is also necessary to consider the terminology used among the ancient Romans to describe fractions and operations between them. Latin words such as “divide” and “share” were commonly used, while phrases such as “per cent” were also known and employed in various applications. Whether or not the ancient Romans used the percentage sign to communicate fractions and their relationships is unknown, however, further research into the language and its letter symbols could yield interesting results.

Periodic documents

The use of the percentage sign among the ancient Romans may have been documented in certain periodic documents from the period. The annual diary of the Roman emperor was a particularly important source of information for historians, and it is possible that the use of the symbol among the Romans could have been recorded therein. While such documents have been lost to time, further analysis of the surviving texts could provide further insight into the use of the percentage sign in ancient Roman text.

Moshe Rideout is a professional writer and historian whose work focuses on the history of Ancient Rome. Moshe is passionate about understanding the complexity of the Roman Empire, from its architecture to its literature, political systems to social structures. He has a Bachelor's degree in classic studies from Rutgers University and is currently pursuing a PhD in classical archaeology at UMass Amherst. When he isn't researching or writing, he enjoys exploring ruins around Europe, drawing inspiration from his travels.

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