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p976 Puteal

Unsigned article on p976 of

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

PUTEAL properly means the enclosure surrounding the opening of a well, to protect persons from falling into it. It was either round or square, and seems usually to have been of the height of three or four feet from the ground. There is a round one in the British Museum, made of marble, which was found among the ruins of one of Tiberius's villas in Capreae; it exhibits five groups of fauns and bacchanalian nymphs; and around the edge at the top may be seen the marks of the ropes used in drawing up water from the well. Such putealia seem to have been common in the Roman villas: the putealia signata, which Cicero (ad Att. 1.10)º wanted for his Tusculan villa, must have been of the same kind as the one in the British Museum; the signata refers to its being adorned with figures. It was the practice in some cases to surround a sacred place with an enclosure open at the top, and such enclosures from the great similarity they bore to Putealia were called by this name. There was a Puteal of this kind at Rome, called Puteal Scribonianum or Puteal Libonis, which is often exhibited on coins of the Scribonia gens, and of which a specimen is given below. The puteal is on the reverse of the coin adorned with garlands and two lyres. It is generally stated that there were two putealia in the Roman forum; but C. F. Hermann, who has carefully examined all the passages in the ancient writers relating to this matter (Ind. Lect. Marburg. 1840), comes to the conclusion that there was only one such puteal at Rome. It was in the forum, near the Arcus Fabianus, and was dedicated in very ancient times either on account of the whetstone of the Augur Navius (cf.  Liv. I.36), or because the spot had been struck by lightning. It was subsequently repaired and re-dedicated by Scribonius Libo, who had been commanded to examine the state of the sacred places (Festus, s.v. Scribonianum). Libo erected in its neighbourhood a tribunal for the praetor, in consequence of which the place was, of course, frequented by persons who had law-suits, such as money-lenders and the like (cf. Hor. Sat. II.6.35, Epist. I.19.8; Ov. Remed. Amor. 561; Cic. pro Sex. 8; C.F. Hermann, l.c.)

[image ALT: A woodcut of a Roman coin. The obverse shows a head facing right and the inscription LIBO BONEVENT. The reverse shows what appears to be a statue pedestal, but the legend PUTEAL SCRIBON identifies it as the Scribonian puteal: from which hang two unrecognizable objects and some laurel garlands.]

Obverse legend: LIBO BON(US) EVENT(US).

[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 3 Nov 06