Italian Media Enraged as French Museum Scraps Roman Numerals

Paris, France - March 6, 2013: building of Carnavalet Musee - museum of history of Paris. It was opened to the public in 1880 in Paris, France
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Italian media erupted with anger after it was revealed that a French museum would be scrapping Roman numerals at exhibits after claims that fewer people can understand them.

The Musée Carnavalet, the oldest City of Paris museum, announced earlier this week that it would be scrapping Roman numerals from exhibits, after stating that it would be easier for visitors to understand Arabic numerals, instead.

Italian media reacted angrily to the move, with Massimo Gramellini, writer and vice-director of the newspaper Corriere Della Sera, writing: “This story of Roman numerals represents a perfect synthesis of the ongoing cultural catastrophe: first, things are not taught, then, we eliminate them so that those who don’t know them won’t feel uncomfortable.”

Le Figaro reports that Luciano Canfora, a professor of classics at the University of Bari, blamed “political correctness” for the move, which he called a “general scourge”.

“It would be desirable to have a law imposing compulsory illiteracy and the return to only oral communication,” Professor Canfora sarcastically wrote in the Corriere della Sera.

“The controversy: Louis XIV will become Louis 14,” wrote Rome’s Il Messaggero.

Noémie Giard, head of visitor services at the museum, explained the move to Le Figaro, saying: “We are not against Roman numerals, but they can be an obstacle to understanding.”

Ms Giard added: “We have all noted that few visitors read the texts in the galleries, especially if they are too long. They tend to jump from one to another and pick at them. How often have we seen parents reading explanations intended for children.”

The use of Roman numerals has also sturred debate in the United States in the past in regard to the National Football League’s (NFL) championship game, the Super Bowl.

In 2011, the Washington Post published an opinion article calling for an end to the practice of using Roman numerals, stating the system was too difficult — but did advocate for the continued use of Roman numerals for “movies and Popes”.

The Musée Carnavalet is not the only Parisian museum to make headlines in recent days. Last week, France’s National Museum of the History of Immigration head Pap Ndiaye called on the country to confront its colonial past following last year’s Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)


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