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 p881  Pecten

Unsigned article on p881 of

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

PECTEN (κτείς), a comb. The Greeks and Romans used combs made of box-wood (Brunck, Anal. I.221; Ovid, Fast. VI.230;º Mart. XIV.25), which they obtained, as we do, from the shores of the Euxine sea. The mountain ridge of Cytorus in Galatia was particularly celebrated for this product (Ovid. Met. IV.311). The Egyptians had ivory combs (Apul. Met. XI p121, ed. Aldi), which also came into use by degrees among the Romans (Claudian, de Nupt. Honor. 102). The golden comb, ascribed to the goddesses, is of course imaginary (Callim. in Lav. Pall. 31). The wooden combs, found in Egyptian tombs, are toothed on one side only but the Greeks used them with teeth on both sides, as appears from the remains of combs found at Pompeii (Donaldson's Pompeii, vol. II pl. 78), and from the representation of three combs, exactly like our small-tooth combs, on the Amyclaean marbles (Memoirs relating to Turkey, edited by Walpole, p452).

The principal use of the comb was for dressing the hair (Ovid. Amor. I.14.15, Met. XII.409) in doing which the Greeks of both sexes were remarkably careful and diligent (Herod. VII.208). To go with uncombed hair was a sign of affliction (Soph. Oed. Col. 1257).

A comb with iron teeth was used in cornº-fields to separate the grain from the straw, whilst it was yet standing (Col. de Re Rust. II.21). This method of reaping was called pectinare segetem. A painting in the sepulchral grotto of El Kab in Egypt represents a man combing flax for the purpose of separating the linseed from the stem. The rake used in making hay is called rarus pecten (Ovid. Rem. Amor. 192), because its teeth are far apart; but this may be only a poetical use of the term.

Two portions of the Greek lyre were called the combs (Eratosth. Cataster. 24); they may have been two rows of pegs, to which the strings were tied. The use of the comb in weaving, and the transference of its name to the plectrum, are explained under Tela.

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Page updated: 18 Oct 08