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Gold ring with an engraved gem, Plovdiv Archaeological museumGold ring with an engraved gem, Plovdiv Archaeological museum

There was a queue in front of one of the shops at the forum, but the other shopkeepers didn't envy. They knew that the queue was not provoked by increased customer interest. It was because of the elderly merchant who was too slow to measure how many sextarii and modii of grain his clients wanted. Grain and liquids were measured in the same units, based on the sextarius equalling little more than half a modern liter. The modius was the largest, equalling 16 sextarii, or about 8.7 liters.

Inside the shop, the elderly shopkeeper was anxious. He was aware of his slowness and was fearful that it might spell unwanted retirement. But still, he preferred to do his job slowly, rather than have an unhappy customer. He carefully measured sextarius after sextarius, pouring grain into the round holes with standardized volumes on the mensa mensuraria, or measure table, trying not to pay attention to the distracting chatter of clients.

Trade was essential for Philippopolis. The ancient city still provides archaeologists material evidence for this. A bronze and a marble weights have been discovered there, as well a bronze scales with measures scraped out by years of use and centuries of disuse. A stone mensa mensuraria was also found, a quiet witness to the desire of people to measure goods correctly.


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