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p726 Malleus

Unsigned article on p726 of

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

MALLEUS, dim. MALLEOLUS (ῥαιστήρ: σφύρα, dim. σφυρίον), a hammer, a mallet, was used much for the same purposes in ancient as in modern times. When several men were striking with their hammers on the same anvil, it was a matter of necessity that they should strike in time, and Virgil accordingly says of the Cyclopes, "Inter se brachia tollunt in numerum" (Georg. IV.174; Aen. VIII.452). The scene which he describes is represented on the annexed woodcut, taken from an ancient bas-relief, in which Vulcan, Brontes, and Steropes, are seen forging the metal, while the third Cyclops, Pyracmon, blows the bellows (Aen. VIII.425). Beside the anvil-stand [Incus] is seen the vessel of water, in which the hot iron or bronze was immersed (Ib. V.450, 451).


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But besides the employment of the hammer upon the anvil for making all ordinary utensils, the smith (χαλκεύς) wrought with this instrument figures called ἔργα σφυρήλατα (or ὁλοσφύρητα, Brunck, Anal. II.222), which were either small and fine, some of their parts being beaten as thin as paper and being in very high relief, as in the bronzes of Siris [Lorica], or of colossal proportions, being composed of separate plates, rivetted together: of this the most remarkable example was the statue of the sun of wrought bronze (σφυρήλατος κολοσσός, Theocrit. XXII.47; ῥαιστηροκοπία, Philo, de 7 Spectac. 4, p14, ed. Orell.), seventy cubits high, which was erected in Rhodes. Another remarkable production of the same kind was the golden statue of Jupiter (Strabo, VIII.6.20; Plat. Phaedr. p232, Heindorf), which was erected at Olympia by the sons of Cypselus.

By other artificers the hammer was used in conjunction with the chisel [Dolabra], as by the carpenter (pulsans malleus, Coripp. de Laud. Justini, IV.47; woodcut, p98) and the sculptor.

The term malleolus denoted a hammer, the transverse head of which was formed for holding pitch and tow; which, having been set on fire, was projected slowly, so that it might not be extinguished during its flight, upon houses and other buildings in order to set them on fire; and which was therefore commonly used in sieges together with torches and falaricae (Liv. XXXVIII.6; Non. Marcellus, p556, ed. Lips.; Festus, s.v.; Cic. pro Mil. 24; Veget. de Re Mil. IV.18; Vitruv. X.16.9 ed. Schneider).


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Page updated: 19 Dec 07