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p546 Fornax

Article by James Yates, M.A., F.R.S.,
on p546 of

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

An engraving of a round stone structure with an arched passageway leading to it. It is a Roman pottery kiln at Castor, Northamptonshire (England).

FORNAX, dim. FORNACULA (κάμινος, dim. καμίνιον), a kiln; a furnace. The construction of the kilns used for baking earthenware [Fictile] may be seen in the annexed woodcut, which represents part of a Roman pottery discovered at Castor, in Northamptonshire (Artis's Durobrivae, Lond. 1828). The dome-shaped roof has been destroyed; but the flat circular floor on which the earthenware was set to be baked is preserved entire. The middle of this floor is supported by a thick column of brick-work, which is encircled by the oven (furnus, κλίβανος). The entrance to the oven (praefurnium) is seen in front. The lower part of a smelting-furnace, shaped like an inverted bell, and sunk into the earth, with an opening and a channel at the bottom for the discharge of the melted metal, has been discovered near Arles (Florencourt, über die Bergwerke der Alten, p30). In Spain these furnaces were raised to a great height, in order that the noxious fumes might be carried off (Strabo, III.2 p391, ed. Sieb.). They were also provided with long flues (longinquae fornacis cuniculo, Plin. H. N. IX.62) and with chambers (camerae) for the purpose of collecting more plentifully the oxides and other matters by sublimation (Ibid. XXXIV.22, 33‑41). Homer describes a blast-furnace with twenty crucibles (χοανοὶ, Il. XVIII.470). Melting-pots or crucibles have been found at Castor (Artis, pl. 38), and at different places in Egypt, in form and material very like those which we now employ (Wilkinson, Man. and Cust. vol. III p224). A glass-house, or furnace for making glass, was called ὑελουργεῖον (Dioscor. V.182).

Furnaces of an appropriate construction were erected for casting large statues of bronze (Claud. De Laud. Stil. II.176), and for making lamp-black (Vitruv. VII.10). [Atramentum.] The lime-kiln (fornax calcaria) is described by Cato (De Re Rust. 38; see also Plin. H. N. XVII.6; Vitruv. VII.3). On the mode of heating baths, see p193.

The early Romans recognized, under the name of Fornax, a divinity who presided over ovens and furnaces [Fornacalia].


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Page updated: 6 Jul 07