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tessĕra, ae, f., = τέσσερες, α (lon. for τε̂σσαρες, α, four), a square, square piece of stone, wood, etc., for various purposes.

I. Most freq., a die for playing, numbered on all the six sides (while the tali, prop. pastern-bones, were marked only on four sides; v. talus; syn. alea): ludere tesseris, Ter. Ad. 4, 7, 21: ut homines ad pilam se aut ad talos aut ad tesseras conferunt, Cic. de Or. 3, 15, 58: tesseras jacere, id. Div. 2, 41, 85; id. Sen. 16, 58: in tesserarum prospero jactu, Liv. 4, 17, 3; Mart. 14, 15, 1; 4, 66, 15; 14, 17, 1: mittere, Ov. A. A. 3, 354; id. Tr. 2, 475; Plin. 37, 2, 6, 13 al.; cf. Becker, Gallus, 3, p. 257 sq. (2d ed.).—

II. In milit. lang., a square tablet on which the watchword was written, a watchword, parole, countersign: tessera per castra a Livio consule data erat, ut, etc., Liv. 26, 46, 1; 7, 35, 1; 7, 36, 7; 9, 32, 4; Auct. B. Hisp. 36, 5; Suet. Galb. 6: it bello tessera signum, Verg. A. 7, 637; Sil. 15, 475: Stat. Th. 10, 17: missam ad se tesseram finxit redeundi, a private token, Amm. 30, 10, 3. — Hence,

B. Transf., the watchword, signal: militem levi tesserā colligi posse, Amm. 25, 7, 2 al.

III. Tessera hospitalis, a tally, token, which was divided between two friends, in order that, by means of it, they or their descendants might always recognize each other (the Greek σύμβολα): Ag. Ego sum ipsus, quem tu quaeris ... Ha. Si ita est, tesseram conferre si vis hospitalem, Plaut. Poen. 5, 2, 87; 5, 1, 25; 5, 2, 92: TESSERAM HOSPITALEM CVM EQ FECERVNT, have entered into a bond of friendship, Inscr. Orell. 1079; cf. Becker, Gallus, 2, p. 133 (2d ed.); hence: hic apud nos jam confregisti tesseram, i.e. have broken our friendship, Plaut. Cist. 2, 1, 27.—

IV. A square tablet or block, a checker for the construction of pavements, ornamenting garments, etc., Plin. 36, 25, 62, 187 (al. tessella); Pall. 1, 9, 5; Mart. 10, 33; Plin. 35, 9, 36, 62.—

V. A token, ticket, billet for the distribution of corn or money: frumentariae, Suet. Ner. 11; cf. frumenti, Juv. 7, 174; Mart. 8, 78, 10; and absol., Suet. Aug. 40: nummariae, id. ib. 41.