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p671 Lautumiae

Article by Leonhard Schmitz, Ph.D, F.R.S.E, Rector of the High School of Edinburgh,
on p671 of

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

LAUTU′MIAE, LAUTO′MIAE, LATO′MIAE, or LATU′MIAE (λιθοτομίαι or λατομίαι, Lat. Lapicidinae), are literally places where stones are cut, or quarries; and in this sense the word λατομίαι was used by the Sicilian Greeks (Pseudo-Ascon., ad Cic. c. Verr. II.1 p161, ed. Orelli; compare Diodor. Sic. XI.25; Plaut. Poenul. IV.2.5, Capt. III.5.65; Festus, s.v. Latumiae). In particular, however, the name lautumiae was given to the public prison of Syracuse. It lay in the steep and almost inaccessible part of the town which was called Epipolae, and had been built by Dionysius the tyrant (Aelian. V.H. XII.44; Cic. c. Verr. V.55). Cicero, who had undoubtedly seen it himself, describes it (c. Verr. V.27) as an immense and magnificent work, worthy of kings and tyrants. It was cut to an immense depth into the solid rock, so that nothing could be imagined to be a safer or stronger prison than this, though it had no roof, and thus left the prisoners exposed to the heat of the sun, the rain, and the coldness of the nights (compare Thucyd. VII.87). The whole was a stadium in length, and two plethra in width (Aelian, l.c.). It was not only used as a prison for Syracusan criminals, but other Sicilian towns also had their criminals often removed to it.a

The Tullianum at Rome was also sometimes called lautumiae [Carcer].


Thayer's Note:

a There were a number of these quarries in and around Syracuse, but, like our article says, the one almost invariably meant is the great Lautumiae, now called the Latomia dei Cappuccini. A detailed, graphic account of the imprisonment there of the remnants of the disastrous Athenian expedition against Syracuse, with a good photograph, is given by Crawford, Rulers of the South, pp146 ff. On the other hand, if Athenaeus is to be believed (Deipn. I.7) the punishment may have varied considerably, since the poet Philoxenus, while imprisoned in these Latomiae, was able to compose what sounds like a rather large work.

Oddly, a second Latomiae makes its appearance in the history of Sicily — although they were in Africa: Diodorus, XX.6.3.


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Page updated: 28 Jul 10