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p100 Antlia

Article by Anthony Rich, Jun. B.A. of Caius College, Cambridge
on pp100‑101 of

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


[image ALT: A woodcut of a water-wheel in a stream (in Greek and Latin: an antlia).]
	ANTLIA (ἀντλία), any machine for raising water; a pump. The annexed figure shows a machine which is still used on the river Eissach in the Tyrol, the ancient Atagis. As the current puts the wheel in motion, the jars on its margin are successively immersed and filled with water. When they reach the top, the water is sent into a trough, from which it is conveyed to a distance, and chiefly used for irrigation.

Lucretius (V.517) mentions a machine constructed on this principle:— "Ut fluvios versare rotas atque haustra videmus."

In situations where the water was at rest, as in a pond or a well, or where the current was too slow and feeble to put the machine in motion, it was constructed so as to be wrought by animal force, and slaves or criminals were commonly employed for this purpose (εἰς ἀντλίαν καταδικασθῆναι, Artemid. Oneiroc. I.50; in antliam condemnare, Suet. Tib. 51). Five such machines are described by Vitruvius, in addition to that which has been already explained, and which, as he observes, was turned sine operarum calcatura, ipsius fluminis impulsu. These five were, 1. the tympanum; a tread-wheel, wrought hominibus calcantibus; 2. a wheel resembling that in the preceding figure; but having, instead of pots, wooden boxes or buckets (modioli quadrati), so arranged as to form steps for those who trod the wheel; 3. the chain-pump; 4. the cochlea, or Archimedes' screw; and 5. the ctesibica machina, or forcing-pumpa (Vitruv. X.4‑7; Drieberg, Pneum. Erfindungen der Griechen, p44‑50).

On the other hand, the antlia with which Martial (IX.18)º watered his garden, was probably the pole and bucket universally employed in Italy, Greece, and Egypt.b The pole is curved, as shown in the annexed figure; because it is the stem of a p101fir, or some other tapering tree. The bucket, being attached to the top of the tree, bends it by its weight; and the thickness of the other extremity serves as a counterpoise. The great antiquity of this method of raising water is proved by representations of it in Egyptian paintings. (Wilkinson, Manners and Cust. of Anc. Egypt, II.1‑4; see also Pitt. d'Ercolano, vol. 1 p257).


[image ALT: A woodcut of a long pole, supported by a pair of stakes, and with a bucket suspended on a rope from the end of it, dipping into a well. It is a shadoof (in Greek and Latin: an antlia).]

Thayer's Notes:

a This last of Vitruvius' five types of pumps is the important one, the piston or suction pump invented by Ctesibius and improved by Heron of Alexandria: what we moderns usually think of when we talk about a pump — see this basic diagram of how it worked, which leaves aside, however, the question of the source of power, always the great constraint on the technical advancement of ancient civilization. In addition to the use implied by Vitruvius for raising water in "fountains" (Vitruvius never mentions fountains in fact, and refers more generically to water supply systems), the piston pump was extensively used for firefighting, in the city of Rome at least, as well as a bilge pump on ships: see this photograph, hard to decipher though it be, of remains of one from Caligula's ships at Lake Nemi. Other ancient pumps have been found by archaeologists scattered thruout the Roman empire; all the more astonishing then that this useful machine seems to have been lost for a few centuries, reëntering Western civilization only in the Middle Ages via the Arabs.

It is the air suction pump, in its then brand-new Industrial Revolution incarnation, that made it to the astronomical heavens as the constellation Antlia.

b The second of the illustrated devices is usually known today by its Egyptian Arabic name of shadoof, and is still widely used in the less advanced rural areas of the Mediterranean Basin and the Middle East.


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Page updated: 8 Sep 07