More Gentile Suffixes

In my last post, I introduced what Allen and Greenough refer to as ‘gentile’ adjectival suffixes—these relate the idea of ‘relating to’ or ‘pertaining to’ or ‘belonging to’. -ānus performs this function, but so do a host of similar suffixes:

-ēnus, -īnus, -ās, ēnsis, -cus, -acus, -ācus, -icus, -eus, -ëius, -icius

Let’s look at a few examples of these adjectives in action—

  • Nox serēna mentem quiēvit: a calm night calms the mind. (sērus, -a, -um, late)
  • Officium cīvicum fācite: do your civic duty! (cīvis, -is, citizen)
  • Navis Siciliēnsis in portū visa est: A Sicilian  ship was seen in the port.

Like the suffix -anus, the rest of these can also pan out into nouns as well as adjectives.

  • laniēna, -ae, a butcher’s stall (lanius, -ī, butcher)
  • inquilīnus, -ī, a lodger (incola, -ae, an inhabitant)
  • ruīna, -ae, a collapse (ruō, fall)
  • doctrīna, -ae, learning (doctor, -ōris, teacher)

The Essential AG: 249.1, 249.2, 249.2a


Fractions in Latin

This was totally new to me, but apparently they are the same as in English.

cardinal / numeral = 3 / 4 = three / fourths.
All fractions use the feminine gender nouns (as though partēs).

  • 2/7 = duae septimae
  • 3/11 = trēs ūndecimae
  • 19/13 = ūndēvīgintī tertiae decimae
  • 5/104 = quīnque centēnsimae quartae

Here’s one exception: fraction with 1 in the numerator

  • 1/2 = dīmidia pars or dīmdium
  • 1/3 = tertia pars
  • 1/4 = quarta pars
  • 1/6 = sexta pars
  • 1/8 = octava pars

1/2 is altogether exceptional, but the rest of 1/x fractions all read neuter plural + pars

Ok, now here’s another exception:

When the fraction is x / x + 1, the fraction reads ordinal (agreeing with partēs) + partēs

  • 2/3 = duae partēs
  • 12/13 = duodecimae partēs
  • 56/57 = quīnquāgēnsimae sextae partēs

But weight, there’s more! There are also a host of special nouns used to describe fractions of weight, coin value or land distribution. (A&G aren’t explicit if they can be used to measure other fractions—does anyone know?)

There are a lot of them. Sorry.

  • 1/12 uncia, -ae
  • 1/6 sextāns, -antis
  • 1/4 quadrāns, -antis
  • 1/3 triēns, -entis
  • 5/12 quīncunx, -unctis
  • 1/2 sēmis, -missis
  • 7/12 septunx, -unctis
  • 2/3 bēs or bēssis, bēssis
  • 2/3 dōdrāns, -antis
  • 5/6 dextāns, -antis
  • 11/12 deunx, -unctis
  • 12/12 as, assis

The Essential AG: 135e, 637

Roman Currency

Units of Currency

The Rise of the As

The Roman as was, at first, a specific weight: one pound of bronze

This pound was divided into twelve unicae (ounces)

Please note, the noun (3rd / m.) declines as follows:

  • as, assis, assī, assem, asse
  • assēs, assium, assibus, assēs, assibus

Introduction of Silver Coinage

During the Republic (late third century BCE), two new coins were introduced: the dēnārius and the sēstertius, these made of silver

One sēstertius was valued at 2.5 assēs, and one dēnārius at 10 assēs

“The sēstertius was probably introduced at a time when the as had been so far reduced that the value of the new coin was equivalent to the original value of the as.” (AG, 633)

  • Debasement was a persistent threat to Roman coinage

During the early Empire, a gold coin, the aureus, was introduced, at the value of 100 sēstertiī

Height of the Sēstertius

The sēstertius became the common coin of the Roman Republic and Empire

  • Where Roman authors say nummus, coin, they typically mean sēstertius

The word, sēstertius, is an elision of sēmis-tertius, ‘the third a half’

  • Picture the Romans counting three assēs, the third of which is at half value, for a total value of two and a half

Sēstertius vs. Sēstertium

The sēstertium was a unit of value, not a coin, equivalent to 1,000 sestertiī

  • It likely derived from the genitive plural in the phrase mīlle sēstertium 


The sēstertius could be cataloged as HS or HS, a confusing symbol until one considers its evolution

  • The symbol began as IIS (viz. 2S), or duo et sēmis, two and a half, and the H became standard somewhere along the way

Where a line appears above an abbreviated sum, it indicated thousands

  • The sum HS CC = 200 sēstertiī, but the sum HS ̅c̅c̅  = 200,000 sēstertiī, or 200 sēstertia 

Roman Wages

Sampled from the end of the Republic, consider and compare these wages

  • A typical legionary was paid 900 sēstertiī per annum
  • A day-laborer might make 3 sēstertiī per dīem 
Review of Values

aureus = 25 dēnāriī = 100 sēstertiī = 250 assēs

dēnariī = 4 sēstertiī = 10 assēs 

sēstertius = 2.5 assēs

as = an ever-decreasing weight of bronze (or, later, of copper)

sēstertium = 1 mīlle sēstertium = 1,000 sēstertiī 


The Essential AG: 632


Famous Phrase: crescit amor nummī quantum ipsa pecūnia crēvit

(love of money grows as much as money itself is known)

-Juvenal, Satires, 14.139