# The Awesome History of Percentages: From Ancient Rome to Your Wallet!

Explore the exciting history of percentages, from ancient taxes to today’s shopping discounts! Discover how this symbol shaped our world.

Ever wondered where that little “%” symbol actually comes from? Or why we use percentages in everything from discounts at the store to figuring out how much of your allowance you’ve already spent? Buckle up, because we’re diving into the exciting history of percentages—a tale that spans empires, inventions, and, yes, even some surprising plot twists!

## Ancient Rome: Where Percentages Got Their Start

Let’s travel back to Ancient Rome, long before there were calculators or even the concept of decimals. Imagine Emperor Augustus deciding to tax goods sold at auction. He called this tax the *centesima rerum venalium*, which means “one in a hundred.” In other words, a 1/100 tax on sales. While Augustus probably didn’t realize it, he was setting up the basic idea behind percentages. The Romans may not have had the modern symbol, but they used the concept!

*Want to see how percentages work in today’s world? Read more about this in The Vital Role of Percentages in Daily Life.*

## The Middle Ages: Merchants & Moneylenders Use 100 as Their Magic Number

Fast-forward a few centuries to the Middle Ages. With trade booming and money becoming more important, people needed better ways to calculate profits, interest rates, and taxes. Using “one part in a hundred” became popular, as merchants huddled over their abacuses (a very old counting tool), calculating these “percent” numbers to make their transactions fair and profitable.

## The Renaissance: “Per Cento” and the Spread of Percentages

By the late 1400s, the term *per cento*, meaning “for every hundred” in Italian, started popping up in arithmetic books. European merchants and mathematicians loved it because it made math easier. Picture traders comparing profits across different countries, thanks to this new concept! The idea of using “for every hundred” was a game-changer for international trade.

## The Birth of the % Symbol

Ever wondered where the “%” symbol comes from? Well, here’s the story! The symbol began as the phrase *per cento*, which scribes (the people who wrote things down before printing was invented) started to abbreviate because, well, they got a bit lazy:

- They shortened “per” to just “p.”
- Then the “p” disappeared entirely.
- What remained was “cento,” which slowly transformed into two circles with a line between them.

And, voila—the “%” symbol was born! Think of it as an ancient version of shorthand writing that stuck around.

*Want to see how this symbol is used in everyday math? Check out How to Calculate Percentages Easily.*

## A Surprise from Ancient Greece: The Pythagorean Plot Twist

While Rome was busy with taxes, there was another interesting development in Ancient Greece. The Pythagoreans, followers of the famous mathematician Pythagoras, believed all numbers could be written as fractions (like percentages!). But one day, a mathematician named Hippasus found something that shocked everyone: irrational numbers, like the square root of 2. Legend has it, this discovery was so controversial that the Pythagoreans threw Hippasus into the sea! Wild, right?

## The Renaissance Again: Decimal Heroes

By the 1500s, mathematicians like Simon Stevin were pushing for new ways to make calculations easier. Stevin published *De Thiende* (which means “The Tenth”), a work that helped popularize the use of decimals. With decimals, comparing prices and profits in different currencies was much easier. This made trade between countries way simpler and faster—another big win for percentages!

*Want to know more about how percentages help companies and marketers get you to spend? Read The Persuasive Power of Percentages: How Marketers Influence Your Wallet.*

## Percentages in Modern Times

By the 1700s, percentages had become part of everyday math. Today, they’re in everything: grades, sports stats, banking, discounts—you name it! Each time you see a “%” sign, remember that you’re looking at a little piece of history that’s been around since Ancient Rome.

So, the next time you use a percentage, you’re actually connecting with centuries of history, trade, and discovery. Percentages might seem like just numbers, but they tell an incredible story!