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p257 Catena

[image ALT: An engraving of several kinds of chain links, and of a length of a chain of jewelry. It is an illustration of ancient jewelry chains.]

Article by James Yates, M.A., F.R.S.,
on p257 of

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

CATE′NA, dim. CATE′LLA (ἄλυσις, dim. ἀλύσιον, ἀλυσίδιον), a chain. The chains which were of superior value, either on account of the material or the workmanship, are commonly called catellae (ἀλύσια), the diminutive expressing their fineness and delicacy as well as their minuteness. The specimens of ancient chains which we have in bronze lamps, in scales [Libra], and in ornaments for the person, especially necklaces [Monile], show a great valley of elegant and ingenious patterns. Besides a plain circle or oval, the separate link is often shaped like the figure 8, or is a bar with a circle at each end, or assumes other forms, some of platted wire or thread, like the gold chains now manufactured at Venice. This is represented in the lowest figure of the woodcut.

These valuable chains were sometimes given as rewards to the soldiers (Liv. XXXIV.31); but they were commonly worn by women (Hor. Ep. I.17.55), either on the neck (περὶ τὸν τράχηλον ἀλύσιον, Menander, p92, ed. Mein), or round the waist (Plin. H. N. XXXIII.12); and were used to suspend pearls, or jewels set in gold, keys, lockets, and other trinkets.

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Page updated: 11 Aug 04