Most of us are familiar with Roman numerals and with the standard way of describing numbers in the form of these numerals. What many people do not realize is that the actual ancient Romans often deviated from these rules. For example, instead of always writing the number 8 as VIII, i.e., 5 + 3, they sometimes wrote it as IIX, i.e., as 10 − 2. Some of such differences can be explained: e.g., the unusual way of writing 98 as IIC, i.e., as 100 − 2, can be explained by the fact that the Latin word for 98 literally means "two from hundred". However, other differences are not easy to explain -- e.g., why Romans sometimes wrote 8 as VIII and sometimes as IIX. In this paper, we provide a possible explanation for this variation.