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p652 Jugum

Article by James Yates, M.A., F.R.S.,
on pp652‑653 of

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

JUGUM (ζυγὸς, ζυγὸν), signified in general that which joined two things together. It denoted more especially,

1. In architecture any cross beam (Vitruv. X.8.19).

2. The transverse beam which united the upright posts of a loom, and to which the warp was attached (Ovid. Met. VI.55). [Tela.]

3. The transverse rail of a trellis (Varro, de Re Rust. I.8; Col. de Re Rust. IV.17, 20, XII.15, Geopon. V.29), joining the upright poles (perticae, χάρακες) for the support of vines or other trees. [Capistrum.] Hence by an obvious resemblance the ridges uniting the tips of mountains were called juga montium (Virg. Ecl. V.76; Flor. II.3, 9, 17, III.3).

4. The cross-bar of a lyre (Hom. Il. IX.187).

5. A scale-beam, and hence a pair of scales [Libra.] The constellation Libra was consequently also called Jugum (Cic. Div. II.47).

6. The transverse seat of a boat (Aeschyl. Agam. 1608; Soph. Ajax, 247; Virg. Aen. VI.411). This gave origin to the term ζυγίτης, as applied to a rower. A vessel with many benches or banks for the rowers was called νηῦς πολυζύγος or ἑκατόζυγος (Hom. Il. III.293, XX.247).

7. The yoke by which ploughs and carriages were drawn. The yoke was in many cases a straight wooden plank or pole laid upon the horses' necks; but it was commonly bent towards each extremity, so as to be accommodated to the part of the animal which it touched (curva juga, Ovid. Fast. IV.216, Trist. IV.6.2). The following woodcut shows two examples of the yoke, the upper from a MS. of Hesiod's Works and Days, preserved at Florence, the lower from a MS. of Terence belonging to the Vatican library. These may be compared with the still ruder forms of the yoke as now used in Asia Minor, which are introduced in the article Aratrum. The practice of having the yoke tied to the horns and pressing upon the foreheads of the oxen (capite, non cervice junctis, Plin. H. N. VIII.70), which is now common on the continent of Europe, and especially in France, is strongly condemned by Columella on grounds of economy as well as of humanity (De Re Rust. II.2). He recommends that their heads should be left free, so that they may raise them aloft and thus make a much handsomer appearance (Cic. Nat. Deor. II.63; Ovid. Met. VII.211). All this was effected by the use either of the two collars (subjugia, Vitruv. X.3.8; μεσάβα, Hesiod. Op. et Dies, 469; Proclus, ad loc.; ζεύγλαι, Hom. Il. XIX.406; Schol. ad Apoll. Rhod. III.232) shown in the upper figure of the woodcut, or of the excavations (γλύφαι) cut in the yoke, with the bands of leather (lora; vincla, Tib. II.1.7; ταυροδέτιν βύρσαν ἐπαυχενίεν, Brunck, Anal. III.44, λεπάδνα), which are seen in the lower figure.


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This figure also shows the method of tying the yoke to the pole (temo, ῥυμός) by means of a leathern strap (ζυγόδεσμον, Hom. Il. V.730, XXIV.268‑274), which was lashed from the two opposite sides over the junction of the pole and yoke. These two parts were still more firmly connected by means of a pin (ἔμβολος, Schol. in Eurip. Hippol. 666; ἕστωρ, Hom. l.c.; Arrian. Exped. Alex. II. p85, ed. Blan.; ἔμβρυων, Hes. l.c.), which fitted a circular cavity in the middle of the yoke (ὀμφαλός, Hom. l.c.). Homer represents the leathern band as turned over the fastening thrice in each direction. But the fastening was sometimes much more complicated, especially in the case of the celebrated Gordian knot, which tied the yoke of a common cart, and consisted only of flexible twigs or bark, but in which the ends were so concealed by being inserted within the knot, that the only way of detaching the yoke was that which Alexander adopted (Arrian, l.c.; Q. Curt. III.2; Schol. in Eurip. l.c.).

Besides being variegated with precious materials and with carving, the yoke, especially among the Persians, was decorated with elevated plumes and figures. Of this an example is presented in a bas-relief from Persepolis, preserved in the British Museum. The chariot of Dareius was remarkable for the golden statues of Belus and Ninus, about eighteen inches high, which were fixed to the yoke over the necks of the horses, a spread eagle, also wrought in gold, being placed between them (Q. Curt. III.3). The passages above cited show that when the carriage was prepared for use, the yoke which had been laid aside, was first fastened to the pole, and the horses were then led under it. Either above them, or at the two ends of the yoke, rings were often fixed, through which the reins passed. These frequently appear in works of ancient art, representing chariots.

Morning and evening are often designated in poetry by the act of putting the yoke on the oxen (Hes. Op. et Dies, 581) and taking it off (Hor. Carm. III.6.42; Virg. Ecl. II.66; Ovid. Fast. V.497; βούλυσις, βουλυτὸς, Arrian, l.c.; Hom. Il. XVI.779; Cic. ad Att. XV.27; βουλύσιος ὥρη Arat. Dios. 387).

p653 By metonymy jugum meant the quantity of land which a yoke of oxen could plough in a day (Varro, de Re Rust. I.10).

It was used as equivalent to the Latin par and the Greek ζεῦγος, as in aquilarum jugum (Plin. H. N. X.4, 5).

By another figure the yoke meant slavery, or the condition in which men are compelled against their will, like oxen or horses, to labour for others (Aeschyl. Agam. 512; Florus, II.14; Tacit. Agric. 31; Hor. Sat. II.7.91). Hence, to express symbolically the subjugation of conquered nations, the Romans made their captives pass under a yoke (sub jugum mittere), which, however, in form and for the sake of convenience, was sometimes made, not like the yoke used in drawing carriages or ploughs, but rather like the jugum described under the two first of the preceding heads; for it consisted of a spear supported transversely by two others placed upright.a


Thayer's Note:

a Better citations than those listed in the article are: Dion. Hal. III.22.7 and Dio Cass. V.23 as excerpted by Zonaras; both describe the ritual. Dionysius also records it more summarily in Books X and XVI (three times in each).


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