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 p1213  Uncia

Article by Philip Smith, B.A., of the University of London
on pp1213‑1214 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

UNCIA (ὀγκία, οὐγκία, οὐγγία), the twelfth part of the As or Libra, is derived by Varro from unus, as being the unit of the divisions of the as (L. L. V.171, Müller). It was subdivided into 2 semunciae, 3 duellae, 4 sicilici, 6 sextulae, 24 scrupula, and 144 siliquae. The values of the Uncia and its subdivisions, in terms of our own weights, will be found in the Tables.

In connecting the Roman system of weights and money with the Greek, another division of the uncia was used. When the drachmae was introduced into the Roman system as equivalent to the denarius of 96 to the pound [Denarius; Drachma] the uncia contained 8 drachmae, the drachmascrupula, the scrupulumoboli (since 6 oboli made up the drachma), and the obolossiliquae (κερατία). Therefore the uncia was divided into 8 drachmae, 24 scrupula, 48 oboli, 144 siliquae. In this division we have the origin of the modern Italian system, in which the pound is divided into 12 ounces, the ounce into 8 drams, the dram into 3 scruples, and the scruple into 6 carats. In each of these systems 1728 κερατία, siliquae, or carats make up the pound.

The uncial system was adopted by the Greeks of Sicily, who called their obol λίτρα (the Roman libra), and divided it into twelve parts, each of which they called ὀγκία or οὐγκία (the Roman uncia). In this system the ὀγκία was reckoned equal to the χαλκοῦς [Litra; Nummus, pp813, 814].

Müller considers that the Greeks of Sicily, and also the Romans themselves, obtained the uncial system from the Etruscans (Etrusker, I p309).

The Romans applied the uncial division to all kinds of magnitude [As]. In length the uncia was the twelfth of a foot, whence the word inch, in area the twelfth of a jugerum, in content the twelfth of a sextarius, in time the twelfth of an  p1214 hour [As, sub fin.]. Respecting the uncia as a coin see As, p141A.

(Böckh, Metrolog. Untersuch. pp155, 160, 165293; Wurm, de Pond., &c. pp8, 9, 63, 67, 118, 138.

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Page updated: 17 Feb 21