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“Will you look at that!” Bion made a sound, equal parts gasp and squeal. “No wonder he slept with a cudgel.” As he lifted the sack out of the chest, he said, “For the love of Isis, this must weigh several librae.”

How much was a libra, the Roman unit of weight? It was almost three-quarters of a pound, but the truth is there’s no way to know the exact correspondence. Units of measure then were not so standardized the way they are today. Besides, the Romans were notoriously careless about keeping to those standards, especially in the provincial towns.

Our unit of weight, the modern pound, is derived from the Roman libra, hence we use “lb.” as the abbreviation for a pound. Likewise, a fraction of the libra, the Roman uncia, is the ancestor of our ounce.

Did you ever wonder why we use the term “ounce” for both weight and liquid volume? Well, it could be because the name libra was also given to a measuring unit for oil, and sure enough, it was divided into unciae.

But don’t worry. Regardless of its exact weight, you’ll be dazzled along with Bion as he pulled out that sack of stunning gems from the seaman’s chest. Miriam explains: “It was under the false bottom where we found what we were looking for, a sack filled with gems that even in the lantern’s meager light spewed out spikes of brilliance.”

But we still don’t know who the deadliest thief was. So, don’t miss the ending. It packs quite a punch! Just click here.

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