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(contracted from semis tertius—i. e. 2 1/2, expressed by the Roman symbol usually printed HS—i. e. II+S(emis), two units and a half). A coin, during the Republic, of silver; under the Empire, of copper, or more usually brass=1/4 denarius, originally 2 1/2 asses (whence the name); later, i. e. after B.C. 217, six asses. It was then worth $0.04. Under the early Empire it was worth about $0.05. After B.C. 209, when the Romans instituted a silver coinage, the copper as was suddenly reduced to 4 oz., and the sestertius (2 1/2X4 oz.) became equivalent to one old as of 10 oz., instead of the original pound of 12 oz. It long continued to be used as the ordinary monetary unit. During the Republic and the first 300 years of the Empire amounts were reckoned in sesterces. Owing to the common use of milia sestertiûm (for milia sestertiorum), it became customary to treat sestertium as a neuter singular, and to omit milia. Sestertium thus denotes a sum of 1000 sesterces=(at $0.05 per sesterce) $50. A million sesterces ($50,000) was called originally decies centena (lit. “ten times one hundred thousand”) sestertium, which was shortened to decies sestertium. 100,000 sesterces had thus

Sestertius of Nero in Brass.

become a customary unit for reckoning large sums of money. See Numismatics, p. 1112.

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