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sestertĭus , a, um, num. adj. contr. from semis-tertius,
I.two and a half; only in the phrases sestertius nummus and milia sestertia; v. I. A. and I. B. 1. infra.— Mostly as subst.
I. sestertĭus (written also with the characters HS.; v. B. 4. infra), ii, m. (sc. nummus); also in full: sestertius nummus; gen. plur. sestertiūm; rarely sestertiorum or sestertiūm nummūm, a sesterce, a small silver coin, originally equal to two and a half asses, or one fourth of a denarius. When the as was reduced in weight, during the Punic wars, the denarius was made equal to sixteen asses, and the sestertius continued to be one fourth of the denarius. Its value, up to the time of Augustus, was twopence and half a farthing sterling, or four and one tenth cents; afterwards about one eighth less. The sestertius was the ordinary coin of the Romans, by which the largest sums were reckoned. The sestertium (1000 sestertii) was equal (up to the time of Augustus, afterwards about one eighth less) to !*?8 17s. 1d. sterling, or $42.94 in United States coin (v. Zumpt, Gram. § 842; Dict. of Ant. s. v. as, sestertius).
A. In gen.: “sestertius, quod duobus semis additur (dupondius enim et semis antiquus sestertius est) et veteris consuetudinis, ut retro aere dicerent, ita ut semis tertius, quartus semis pronunciarent, ab semis tertius sestertius dicitur,Varr. L. L. 5, § 173 Müll.: nostri quartam denarii partem, quod efficie batur ex duobus assibus et tertio semisse, sestertium nominaverunt, Vitr. 3, 1 med.; Cic. Div. in Caecil. 10, 30: “taxatio in libras sestertii singuli et in penuriā bini,Plin. 18, 13, 34, § 130.—Freq. joined with nummus: “mille nongentos quinquaginta sestertios nummos,Col. 3, 3, 9.—Gen. plur. sestertiūm: quid verum sit, intellego; “sed alias ita loquor, ut concessum est, ut hoc vel pro deum dico vel pro deorum, alias, ut necesse est, cum triumvirum non virorum, cum sestertiūm nummūm non nummorum, quod in his consuetudo varia non est,Cic. Or. 46, 56: “sestertiūm sexagena milia nummūm,Varr. R. R. 3, 6, 1; cited ap. Plin. 10, 20, 23, § 45.—Rarely, sestertiorum: “duo milia sestertiorum,Col. 3, 3, 13.—
B. In partic.
1. As adj. in neutr. plur., with milia (in Varr. and Col.): “ut asinus venierit sestertiis milibus LX. (= sexaginta milibus sestertium),Varr. R. R. 2, 1, 14: “grex centenarius facile quadragena milia sestertia ut reddat,id. ib. 3, 6, 6: “hos numquam minus dena milia sestertia ex melle recipere,id. ib. 3, 6, 11: “Hirrius ex aedificiis duodena milia sestertia capiebat,id. ib. 3, 17, 3: “sestertiis octo milibus,Col. 3, 3, 8; 3, 3, 9; 3, 3, 10.—
2. To express more than two complete thousands sestertia is used as plurale tantum, with distrib. numerals (rare before the Aug. per.): “si qui vilicus ex eo fundo, qui sestertia dena meritasset ... domino XX. milia nummūm pro X. miserit (= decem milia sestertiūm),Cic. Verr. 2, 3, 50, § 119: “candidati apud eum HS. quingena deposuerunt (= quindecim milia sestertiūm),id. Att. 4, 15, 7: “capit ille ex suis praediis sexcena sestertia, ego centena ex meis,id. Par. 6, 3, 49: “bis dena super sestertia nummum,Hor. Ep. 2, 2, 33: “Tiberius Hortalo se respondisse ait, daturum liberis ejus ducena sestertia singulis,Tac. A. 2, 38: “princeps capiendis pecuniis posuit modum usque ad dena sestertia,id. ib. 11, 7.—Rarely with card. numerals: “sestertia centum,Sall. C. 30, 6: “septem donat sestertia,Hor. Ep. 1, 7, 80: “centum sestertia,Mart. 6, 20, 1: “sex sestertia,id. 6, 30, 1; cf.: “ne cui jus esset nisi qui ... HS. CCCC. census fuisset,Plin. 33, 2, 8, § 32.—
3. Millions of sesterces were expressed in three ways:
a. By the words centena (or centum) milia sestertiūm, preceded by a numeral adverb (rare): miliens centena milia sestertium, a hundred millions, etc., Plin. 12, 18, 41, § 84.—
b. With ellips. of the words centena milia, the gen. plur. sestertiūm being preceded by the numeral adv. (rare; “once in Cic.): HS. (i. e. sestertium) quater decies P. Tadio numerata Athenis ... planum faciam (i.e. sestertiūm quater decies centena milia, = 1,400,000 sesterces),Cic. Verr. 2, 1, 39, § 100 (where B. and K. after Orell. read. ex conj., sestertium; v. Kühner, Gram. § 229, 5 b.).—
c. With sestertium, declined as subst. neutr., and the numeral adverbs from decies upward (also with ellips. of centena or centum milia; sestertium here = centum milia sestertiūm. The origin of this usage, which became general, has been much disputed, and it is usual to explain it, after Non. p. 495 (cf. Quint. 1, 6, 18), as a grammatical blunder, by which the gen. plur. sestertium has been mistaken for a neutr. sing., Zumpt, Gram. § 873; but it more probably grew out of the adj. use of sestertium with mille, supra; v. Fischer, Gram. 2, p. 269; cf. Neue, Formenl. 1, p. 116; Kühner, Gram. § 209).
(β). Gen.: “syngrapha sestertii centies per legatos facta,Cic. Phil. 2, 37, 95: “argenti ad summam sestertii decies in aerarium rettulit,Liv. 45, 4, 1: “sestertii milies servus,Sen. Q. N. 1, 16, 1: “liberalitas decies sestertii,Tac. A. 2, 37; 2, 86: “centies sestertii largitio,id. ib. 12, 58; 12, 53; Plin. Ep. 10, 3 (5), 2.—
(γ). Abl.: “quadragies sestertio villam venisse,Varr. R. R. 3, 17, 3: “sexagies sestertio, tricies sestertio,Val. Max. 9, 1, 4: “centies sestertio cenavit uno die,Sen. Cons. ad Helv. 9, 11: “pantomimae decies sestertio nubunt,id. ib. 12, 5; id. Ben. 4, 36, 1; Plin. 8, 48, 74, § 196: “accepto quinquagies sestertio,Tac. A. 3, 17; 6, 17; 16, 13; id. H. 4, 42; Plin. Ep. 3, 19, 7; Suet. Caes. 50; id. Tib. 48; id. Calig. 38, 4.—The sign HS., i.e. II. and semis, stands for sestertius, sestertia, and sestertium, in all the uses described above; when it is necessary, to avoid ambiguity, its meanings are distinguished thus: HS. XX. stands for sestertii viginti; HS. X[dibreve]X., with a line over the numeral, = sestertia vicena, or 20,000 sesterces; H[dibreve]S. X[dibreve]X., with lines over both signs, = sestertium vicies, or 2,000,000 sesterces (Kühner, Gram. § 229 Anm. 1). But in recent edd. the numerals are usu. written in full, when the meaning would otherwise be doubtful.—
C. Transf., in gen.
b. Money, a sum of money: “sestertio amplo comparare,for a large sum, Sol. 27 (40) fin.
D. In the times of the emperors, also, a copper coin, worth four asses, Plin. 34, 2, 2, § 4; cf. Eckhel. Doctr. Num. 6, p. 283.—*
II. ses-tertĭum , ii, n., in econom. lang., as a measure of dimension, two and a half feet deep: “ipsum agrum sat erit bipalio vertere: quod vocant rustici sestertium,Col. Arb. 1, 5 (for which: “siccus ager bipalio subigi debet, quae est altitudo pastinationis, cum in duos pedes et semissem convertitur humus,id. ib. 3, 5, 3).
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