Armenian Numerals in Alternate Form

Source: National Mathematics Magazine, Vol. 13, No. 8 (May, 1939), pp. 368-372

While the last post showed the Armenian numeral system that is known as the commonly used one by the ancient and present Armenians,  a careful examination of the works of Ananiah Shiragatsi indicates that there were variant forms of numbers very frequently used, involving multiplicative as well as additive principles which reduce the thirty-six symbols to twelve and thus place the Armenian notation on decimal basis without use of zero.

The corresponding variant forms do not exist in the Semitic and Greek systems. Now consider the following examples, taken from Shiragatsi’s works, which reveal multiplicative and additive principles and show the frequent use of variant forms.

Millions and larger numbers were usually written in words; e. g., for one million the ancient Armenians used hundred myriads (in Armenian: haryure pure =100 x 10000), or sometimes in symbols: ռռ= 1000 X 1000. We also find բռռ for 200,000 = 200 myriads. The last two examples are not from Shiragatsi’s works, but from those of the early fathers of St. Lazaar, Venice, Italy, who must have seen them used, no doubt, by the ancient Armenians.

The only missing symbol in the system is zero, which was discovered and used later in the 8th century. The source of the research presented holds that the origin of our common numeral system is Armenian, or Graeco-Armenian, worked out at the court of the Baghdad Califs, possibly under the patronage of Harun-al-Rashid (c. 786 A. D.). The Armenian alphabet is indeed rather perfect.


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