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p895 Phaselus

Unsigned article on p895 of

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

PHASE′LUS, (φάσηλος), was a vessel rather long and narrow, apparently so called from its resemblance to the shape of a phaselus or kidney-bean. It was chiefly used by the Egyptians, and was of various sizes, from a mere boat to a vessel adapted for long voyages (Virg. Georg. IV.289; Catull. 4; Martial, X.30.13; Cic. ad Att. I.13). Octavia sent ten triremes of this kind, which she had obtained from Antony, to assist her brother Octavianus; and Appian (Bell. Civ. V.95) describes them as a kind of medium between the ships of war and the common transport or merchant vessels. The phaselus was built for speed (Catull. l.c. phaselus ille — navium celerrimus), to which more attention seems to have been paid than to its strength; whence the epithet fragilis is given to it by Horace (Carm. III.2.27, 28). These vessels were sometimes made of clay (fictilibus phaselis, Juv. XV.127), to which the epithet of Horace may perhaps also refer.


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