Weights and Measures

Square-sided bottle
Ht., 16.4 cm
Capacity: 0.56 sextarius [0.55 U.S. pints]
Early 2nd century A.D.

Next, you will have to carry in your head (or be ready to return often to this page) a general sense of the Roman weights-and-measures system, and some feeling for the costs of everyday goods and services. You may often get by, though, just knowing that:

  • the domestic liquid measure was the sextarius– about 1.14 U.S. pints [or 0.54 liters];
  • the domestic weight unit was the libra– about 0.71 U.S. pounds [or 323 grams];
  • the usual measure for land area was the iugerum– about 0.62 acres [or 2,500 square meters].
  • a rank-and-file soldier might earn about 900 sestertii a year, while a senator needed about 8 million sestertii to maintain an appropriate lifestyle in Rome.