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p288 Cista

Unsigned article on p288 of

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

[image ALT: A small cylindrical object with a lattice or diaper pattern and very little detail to go by. It is an ancient Roman wicker basket.]
CISTA, (κίστη), a small box or basket, commonly made of wicker-work, in which any thing might be placed (Cic. Verr. III.85; Hor. Ep. I.17.54). In the Roman comitia the cista was the ballot-box into which the voters cast their tabellae (Plin. H. N. XXXIII.2 s7; Auctor, ad Herenn. I.12; Pseudo-Ascon. ad Cic. Divin. 7 p108, ed. Orelli). The form of the cista is preserved on a coin of the Cassia gens, which is represented in the annexed cut, and which is evidently made of wicker or similar work. The material of which it was made is alluded to by Tibullus in the line (I.7.48) "et levis occultis conscia cista sacris." The cista has been frequently confounded with the sitella, but the latter was the urn from which the names of the tribes or centuries were drawn out by lot. [Sitella.]

The name of cistae was also given to the small boxes which were carried in procession in the Greek festivals of Demeter and Dionysus. These boxes, which were always kept closed in the public processions, contained sacred things connected with the worship of these deities (Ovid, De Art. Amat. II.609; Catull. lxiv.260; Tibull. I.7.48). In the representation of the Dionysian processions, which frequently form the subject of paintings on ancient vases, women carrying cistae are constantly introduced; they are usually of an oblong form, and thus differ completely from the cistae used in the Roman comitia. From one of these paintings, given by Millin in his Peintures de Vases Antiques, the following woodcut is taken.

[image ALT: A woodcut of a woman in ancient Greek dress, carrying a torch in her right hand and a sorto long rectangular box or basket in her left. That box is in fact a wicker basket, which the woodcut is meant to illustrate.]

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Page updated: 30 May 08