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Article by Philip Smith, B.A., of the University of London
on pp91‑92 of

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

 p91  AMUSSIS or AMUSSIUM, a carpenter's and mason's instrument, the use of which was to obtain a true plane surface; but its construction is difficult to make out from the statements of the ancient writers. It appears clearly from Vitruvius (I.6 § 6) that it was different from the regula (straight rule), and from the libella (plumbline or square), and that it was used for obtaining a truer surface, whether horizontal or perpendicular, than those two instruments together would give. It is defined by the grammarians as a regula or tabula, made perfectly plane and smooth, and used for making work level and for smoothing stones (Regula ad quam aliquid exaequatur, Festus, s.v.; amussis est aequamentum levigatum, et est apud fabros tabula quaedam, qua utuntur ad saxa leviganda, Varr. ap. Non. I.28); and another grammarian very clearly  p92 describes it as a plane surface, covered with red ochre, which was placed on work, in order to test its smoothness, which it of course did by leaving the mark of the red ochre on any projections (Amussis est tabula rubricata quae demittitur examinandi operis gratia, an rectum opus surgat, Sisenna, ap. Charis. II. p178, Putsch). There was also a difference of opinion among the grammarians, whether the amussis was only an instrument for trying a level, or a tool for actually making one (Festus, s.v. Examussim). The amussis was made sometimes of iron (Fest, ibid.), and sometimes of marble (Vitruv, l.c.). It gives rise to the adverbs amussim, adamussim, and examussim, meaning with perfect regularity and exactness (See Forcellini, Lexicon).

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Page updated: 14 Aug 04