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I wonder if you could help me with the text below. I get the gist of the message, but am struggling with decena.

Nam decēna mīlia Americānōrum cōnāta sunt ad centiēs centēna mīlia dollāriōrum raedāriīs mittere Canadēnsibus.

My translation:

For ten thousand Americans tried to send 10 million dollars to the truck drivers.

Am I right in thinking that Latin doesn't have numbers for "million, billion" so uses an adverb e.g. 10 million = one hundred times (centies - adv) one hundred (centena - adj) thousand.

Where I struggle is the decena. Is this an adverb (surely it should be deciens?) or an adjective (surely it should be decima) or something else?

I have taken this from Nuntii Latini so this is very much nova latina, but I presume entirely correct.

Thanks for any help!

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    What does "ad" mean in "ad centiēs..."? Feb 22, 2022 at 17:21
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    @Vegawatcher Probably "approximately".
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Feb 22, 2022 at 19:11

1 Answer 1

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Latin has four kinds of numerals: For quantity (quattuor, four), for order (quartus, fourth), for number of times (quater, four times), and lot size (quaterni, four at a time).

Thus ter quaterni equi would mean three lots of four horses each. Or, if you ignore the internal structure, simply twelve horses. You can think of quaterni as an adjective modifying equi and of ter as an adverb modifying quaterni.

This is the idea behind centies centena milia, or a hundred lots of a hundred thousand each, or ten million. Classical Latin does indeed seem to lack an established word for a million, so they used this method of expressing multiples of a hundred thousand instead.

When you don't use an adverbial number like centies to tell how many lots of thousands you have, you should not use the distributive version dena (for which I assume decena is a error by analogy to vicena etc.) but simply decem. The sentence should have had decem milia instead of dena milia, unless the message is somehow that ten thousand Americans at a time sent some money. You are right to struggle with decena as it is both ill-formed and ill-chosen!

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  • I upvoted your answer for completeness and clarity. However, after recently discovering en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latin_numerals, I think it would be better to say that the question mentions four types of Latin numerals, rather than stating only four types exist in Latin. Feb 22, 2022 at 16:21
  • @Vegawatcher As far as I can tell, the tradition is to say that Latin has four kinds of numerals and treat the other things as derived adjectives. Such classifications are a matter of taste, of course.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Feb 22, 2022 at 16:42
  • I confirmed the tradition of four kinds of numerals in materials I had handy and will post the question. Feb 22, 2022 at 19:02

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