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p1008 Sarracum

Article by Leonhard Schmitz, Ph.D., F.R.S.E., Rector of the High School of Edinburgh
on p1008 of

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

SARRACUM, a kind of common cart or waggon, which was used by the country-people of Italy for conveying the produce of their fields, trees, and the like from one place to another (Vitruv. X.1; Juv. III.254). Its name as well as the fact that it was used by several barbarous nations, shows that it was introduced from them into Italy (Sidon. Epist. IV.18; Amm. Marc. XXXI.2). That persons also sometimes rode in a sarracum, is clear from a passage of Cicero quoted by Quinctilian (VIII.3 § 21), who even regards the word sarracum as low and vulgar. Capitolinus (Anton. Philos. 13) states that, during a plague the mortality at Rome was so great, that it was found necessary to carry the dead bodies out of the city upon the common sarraca. Several of the barbarous nations with which the Romans came into contact used these waggons also in war, and placed them around their camps as a fortification (Sisenna, ap. Non. III.35), and the Scythians used them in their wanderings, and spent almost their whole lives upon them with their wives and children, whence Ammianusa compares such a caravan of sarraca , with all that was conveyed upon them , to a wandering city. The Romans appear to have used the word sarracum as synonymous with plaustrum, and Juvenal (V.22) goes even so far as to apply it to the constellation of stars which was generally called plaustrum (Scheffer, de Re Vehicul. II.31).


Thayer's Note:

a Ammianus: XXXI.2.18.


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