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p220 Calathus

Unsigned article on p220 of

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

CA′LATHUS, dim. CALATHISCUS (κάλαθος, καλαθίσκος), also called τάλαρος usually signified the basket in which women placed their work, and especially the materials for spinning. Thus, Pollux (X.125) speaks of both τάλαρος and κάλαθος as τῆς γυναικωνίτιδος σκεύη: and in another passage (VII.29), he names them in connection with spinning, and says that the τάλαρος and καλαθίσκος were the same. These baskets were made of osiers or reeds; whence we read in Pollux (VII.173) πλέκειν ταλάρους καὶ καλαθίσκους, and in Catullus (lxiv.319)

"Ante pedes autem candentis mollia lanae

Vellera virgati custodiebant calathisci.

They appear, however, to have been made in earlier times of more valuable materials, since we read in Homer (Od. IV.125) of a silver τάλαρος. They frequently occur in paintings on vases, and often indicate, as Böttiger (Vasengem. III.44) has remarked, that the scene represented takes place in the gynaeconitis, or women's apartments. In the following woodcut, taken from a painting on a vase (Millin, Peintures de Vases Antiques, vol. I pl. 4), a slave, belonging to the class called quasillariae, is presenting her mistress with the calathus, in which the wool was kept for embroidery, &c.


[image ALT: A woodcut of a woman seated on a broken planter pot, while another woman presents her with a large conical basket with a tapering bottom. It is an illustration of the calathus, a type of ancient Graeco-Roman basket.]

Baskets of this kind were also used for other purposes (Böttiger, Sabina, vol. II pp252, 258), such as for carrying fruits, flowers, &c. (Ovid. Art. Am. II.264). The name of calathi was also given to cups for holding wine (Virg. Ecl. V.71).

Calathus was properly a Greek word, though used by the Latin writers. The Latin word corresponding to it was qualus (Hor. Carm. III.12.4), or quasillus (Festus, s. Calathus; Cic. Philipp. III.4; Prop. IV.7.37). From quasillus came quasillaria, the name of the slave who spun, and who was considered the meanest of the female slaves (Petron. 132; Tibull. IV.10.3). [Fusus; Tela.]


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Page updated: 1 Jul 13