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p211 Cardo

Article by James Yates, M.A., F.R.S.,
on p211 of

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

CARDO (θαιρός, στροφεύς, στρόφιγξ, γίγγλυμος), a hinge, a pivot. The first figure in the annexed woodcut is designed to show the general form of a door, as we find it with a pivot at the top and bottom (a, b) in ancient remains of stone, marble, wood, and bronze. The second figure represents a bronze hinge in the Egyptian collection of the British Museum: its pivot (b) is exactly cylindrical. Under these is drawn the threshold of a temple, or other large edifice, with the plan of the folding doors. The pivots move in holes fitted to receive them (b, b), each of which is in an angle behind the antepagmentum (marmoreo aeratus stridens in limine cardo, Virg. Ciris, 222; Eurip. Phoen. 114‑116, Schol. ad loc.).


[image ALT: Drawings of two types of ancient door hinges, with a plan of a door threshold and a folding door across it, with its hinges.]

The Greeks and Romans also used hinges exactly like those now in common use. Four Roman hinges of bronze, preserved in the British Museum, are here shown.


[image ALT: Drawings of 4 ancient Roman door hinges.]

The form of the door above delineated makes it manifest why the principal line laid down in surveying land was called "cardo" (Festus, s.v. Decumanus; Isid. Orig. XV.14); and it further explains the application of the same term to the North Pole, the supposed pivot on which the heavens revolved (Varr. De Re Rust. I.2; Ovid, Ex Ponto, II.10.45). The lower extremity of the universe was conceived to turn upon another pivot, corresponding to that at the bottom of the door (Cic. De Nat. Deor. II.41; Vitruv. VI.1, IX.1); and the conception of these two principal points in geography and astronomy led to the application of the same term to the East and West also (Lucan, V.71). Hence our "four points of the compass" are called by ancient writers quatuor cardines orbis terrarum, and the four principal winds, N. S. E. and W., are the cardinales venti (Serv. ad Aen. I.85).


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Page updated: 18 Oct 08