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p6 Acroterium

Article by Philip Smith, B.A., of the University of London
on pp6‑7 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

ACROTERIUM (ἀκρωτήριον) signifies an extremity of any thing. It is generally used in the plural.

  1. In Architecture it seems to have been used originally in the same sense as the Latin fastigium, p7namely, for the sloping roof of a building, and more particularly for the ornamental front or gable of such a roof, that is, the pediment (Plut. Caes. 63,º compared with Cic. Philipp. II.43, and Suet. Caes. 81). The usual meaning of acroteria, however, is the pedestals placed on the summit of a pediment to receive statues or other ornamental figures. There were three acroteria, one above each angle of the pediment. Vitruvius says that those over the outer angles (acrot. angularia) should be as high as the apex of the tympanum, and the one over the highest angle one-eighth part higher (Vitruv. III.3, or III.5 §12, ed. Schneider). Some writers include the statues themselves as well as the bases under the name; but the only authority for this seems to be an error of Salmasius (In Ael. Spart. Pescen. Nig. 12).

  2. The extremities of the prow of a vessel, which were usually taken from a conquered vessel as a mark of victory: the act of doing so was called ἀκρωτηριάζειν (Xen. Hell. II.3 §8, VI.2 §36; Herod. III.59, VIII.121).

  3. The extremities of a statue, wings, feet, hands, &c. (Dem. c. Timocr. p738; Athen. V p199C).

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