edited by Meagan Ayer et al.

# Measures

**Measures of Value**

**632.** The money of the Romans was in early times wholly of copper. The unit was the **as**, which was nominally a pound in weight, but actually somewhat less. It was divided into twelve **unciae** (ounces).

In the third century B.C. the **as** was gradually reduced to one-half of its original value. In the same century silver coins were introduced—the **dēnārius** and the **sēstertius**. The denarius = 10 asses; the sestertius = 2 1/2 asses.

**633.** The Sestertius was probably introduced at a time when the as had been so far reduced that the value of the new coin (2 1/2 asses) was equivalent to the original value of the as. Hence, the Sestertius (usually abbreviated to HS or HS) came to be used as the unit of value, and **nummus** (coin) often means simply sēstertius. As the reduction of the standard went on, the sestertius became equivalent to 4 asses. Gold was introduced later, the **aureus **being equal to 100 sesterces. The approximate value of these coins is seen in the following table.

2 1/2 asses = 1 sēstertius or nummus.

10 asses or 4 sēstertiī = 1 denarius

1000 sēstertiī = 1 sēstertium

Note— The word **sēstertius** is a shortened form of **sēmis-tertius**, (the third one, a half). The abbreviation HS or HS = **duo et sēmis** (two and a half).

**634.** The **sēstertium** (probably originally the Genitive plural of **sēstertius **depending on **mīlle**) was a sum of money, not a coin; the word is inflected regularly as a neuter noun: thus, **tria sēstertia** = $150.00.

When **sēstertium** is combined with a numeral adverb, **centēna mīlia** (hundreds of thousands) is to be understood: thus **deciēns sēstertium** (**deciēns** HS) = **deciēns centēna mīlia sēstertium** = $50,000. **Sēstertium** in this combination may also be inflected: **deciēns sēstertiī**, **sēstertiō**, etc.

In the statement of large sums **sēstertium** is often omitted as well as **centēna mīlia**.

**sexāgiēns** (Rosc. Am. 2) = **sexāgiēns** [**centēna mīlia sēstertium**] = 6,000,000 sesterces = $300,000 (nearly).

**635. **In the statement of sums of money in Roman numerals, a line above the number indicates thousands; lines above and at the sides also, hundred-thousands.

HS DC = 600 **sēstertiī**

HS DC = 600,000 **sēstertiī**, or 600 **sēstertia**

HS | DC | = 60,000,000 **sēstertiī**, or 60,000 **sēstertia**

**Measures of Length**

**636.** The Roman Measures of Length are the following.

12 inches (**unciae**) = 1 Roman Foot (**pēs**: 11.65 English inches).

1 1/2 Feet = 1 Cubit (**cubitum**)

2 1/2 Feet = 1 Step (**gradus**)

5 Feet = 1 Pace (**passus**)

1000 Paces (**mīlle passuum**) = 1 Mile

The Roman mile was equal to 4850 English feet. The **iūgerum**, or unit of measure of land, was an area of 240 (Roman) feet long and 120 broad; a little less than 2/3 of an English acre.

**Measures of Weight**

**637.**The Measures of Weight are:

12 **unciae** (ounces) = one pound (**libra**, about 3/4 lb. avoirdupois.)

Fractional parts (weight or coin) are:

1/12 uncia |
5/12 quīncunx |
3/4 dōdrāns |

1/6 sextāns |
1/2 sēmis |
5/6 dextāns |

1/4 quadrāns |
7/12 septunx |
11/12 deunx |

1/3 triēns. |
2/3 bēs or bēssis |
12/12 as |

The Talent (**talentum**) was a Greek weight (τάλαντον) = 60 **librae.**

**Measures of Capacity**

**638.** The Measures of Capacity are:

12 **cyathī** = 1 **sextārius** (nearly a pint)

16 **sextāriī** = 1 **modius** (peck)

6 **sextāriī** = 1 **congius** (3 quarts, liquid measure)

8 **congiī** = 1 **amphora** (6 gallons)

## Suggested Citation

*Allen and Greenough’s New Latin Grammar for Schools and Colleges*. Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Dickinson College Commentaries, 2014. ISBN: 978-1-947822-04-7. http://dcc.dickinson.edu/grammar/latin/measures