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Bill Thayer

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T. III, Vol. 2

Article by Henry Thédenat in

Daremberg & Saglio,
Dictionnaire des Antiquités Grecques et Romaines,
Librairie Hachette et Cie., Paris, 1877‑1919.

translation and © William P. Thayer

[image ALT: A woodcut of two long thin metal files; the one on the left has a short tang for insertion into a handle. They are examples of ancient Roman files, discussed in the text of this webpage.]

Fig. 4488

LIMA (Ῥίνη). — Like today, the file was, in Antiquity, a tool common to engravers and artists  p1255 [caelatura, p792], as well as to artisans. It was used to work gold,1 silver,2 bronze,3 iron,4 lead,5 and some precious stones.6 The file was used to detach pearls that clung too fast to the shell.7

According to Pliny, Italy supplied a whetstone which served the same purposes as the file.8 That author also says that for polishing metals the rust produced by ram's blood was even better than the file.9

The rasp specially used by woodworkers was called lima lignaria,10 although the tool is more often called a scobina.11

The filings were called ῥίνημα in Greek,12 and scobis or scobs in Latin.13

Working with a file was called lima avellere,14 polire,15 proterere,16 adradere.17

The file was also used by doctors to prepare certain medications.18

The shape of ancient files was the same as that of modern files. Round, triangular and four-sided files are known, either wide and flat or thin and tapering.19 Several kinds, as with us, end in a tang by which they were attached to a wooden handle, like one of those we reproduce here (fig. 4488), which are from Noceraa and once belonged to the Castellani collection.20

The Author's Notes:

1 Herodian I.7.9;º Anth. Pal. VI.92.2; Lamprid. Elag. XXXI.

2 Sext. Emp. I.14.129; Pliny, H. N. XXXIII.49.1.

3 Vitruv. VII.11.1; Ovid, Met. IV.178; Pliny, H. N. XXXIV.19.33 and 26.1.

4 Pliny, N. H. XXVIII.41.1; Phaedr. IV.8.7; Xen. Cyr. VI.2.33.

5 Pliny, N. H. XXXIV.50.1.

6 Pliny, N. H. XXXVII.32.2.

7 Pliny, N. H. IX.54.4.

8 Pliny, N. H. XVIII.67.9.º

9 Id., N. H. XXVIII.41.1.

10 Scrib. Larg. de Comp. med. CXLI.

11 Varro, L. L. VII.68; Tert. Apol. XII; Isid. Orig. XIX.19.15; Pliny, N. H. XI.68.

12 Herodian, Xen. ll. cc.

13 Lamprid., l.c.; Pliny, N. H. XXXIV.26.1.

14 Id., N. H. IX.54.4.

15 Id., N. H. XXVIII.41.1.

16 Plaut. Menaech. I.1.9.

17 Plaut. ap. Varr. L. L. VII.68.

18 Marcell. Emp. XXVIII; Scrib. Larg. l.c.

19 Grivaud de la Vincelle, Arts et métiers des anciens, pl. LVIII, nos. 3, 4, 5 and pl. LIX, nos. 2, 2′, 2, 2.º

20 Exposition de 1867, Histoire du travail, Italie, no. 101.

Thayer's Note:

a Presumably the Campanian Nocera (q.v.) — I haven't seen the reference cited — but there were several other towns by the name: see my note to that article.

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Page updated: 5 Mar 18