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p513 Exostra

Article by Leonhard Schmitz, Ph.D., F.R.S.E., Rector of the High School of Edinburgh
on p513 of

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

EXOSTRA (ἐξώστρα, from ἐξωθέν), was one of the many kinds of machines used in the theatres of the ancients. Cicero (De Prov. Cons. 6), in speaking of a man who formerly concealed his vices, expresses this sentiment by post siparium heluabatur; and then stating that he now shamelessly indulged in his vicious practices in public, says, jam in exostra heluatur. From an attentive consideration of this passage, it is evident that the exostra was a machine by means of which things which had been concealed behind the siparium, were pushed or rolled forward from behind it, and thus became visible to the spectators. This machine was therefore very much like the ἐκκύκλημα, with this distinction, that the latter was moved on wheels, while the exostra was pushed forward upon rollers (Pollux, IV.128; Schol. ad Aristoph. Acharn. 375). But both seem to have been used for the same purpose; namely, to exhibit to the eyes of the spectators the results or consequences of such things — e.g., murder or suicide — as could not consistently take place in the proscenium, and were therefore described as having occurred behind the siparium or in the scene.

The name exostra was also applied to a peculiar kind of bridge, which was thrown from a tower of the besiegers upon the walls of the besieged town, and across which the assailants marched to attack those of the besieged who were stationed on the ramparts to defend the town (Veget. De Re Milit. IV.21).

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Page updated: 30 Jun 13