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p1137 Torculum

Article by James Yates, M.A., F.R.S.,
on pp1137‑1138 of

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

TORCULUM or TORCULAR (ληνός), a press for making wine and oil. When the grapes were ripe (σταφυλή), the bunches were gathered, any which remained unripe (ὄμφαξ) or had become p1138dry or rotten were carefully removed (Geopon. VI.11) [Forfex], and the rest carried from the vineyard in deep baskets (quali, Virg. Georg. II.241; ταλάροι, Hes. Scut. 296; ἀῤῥίχοι, Longus, II.1; κοφίνοι, Geopon. l.c.) to be poured into a shallow vat. In this they were immediately trodden by men, who had the lower part of their bodies naked (Virg. Georg. II.7), except that they wore drawers [Subligaculum]. At least two persons usually trod the grapes together. To "tread the winepress alone" indicated desolation and distress (Is. lxiii.3). The Egyptian paintings (Wilkinson, Man. and Cust. vol. II pp152‑157) exhibit as many as seven treading in the same vat, and supporting themselves by taking hold of ropes or poles placed above their heads. For the size of the Greek and Roman vats there can be no doubt that the company of treaders was often more numerous. To prevent confusion and to animate them in their labour they moved in time or danced, as is seen in the ancient mosaics of the church of St. Constantia at Rome, sometimes also leaning upon one another. The preceding circumstances are illustrated in the following woodcut, taken from a bas-relief (Mon. Matth. II. tab. 45). An antefixa in the British Museum (Combe, Anc. Terra‑cottas, No. 59) shows a person by the side of the vat performing during this act on the scabellum and tibiae pares, for the purpose of aiding and regulating the movements of those in it. Besides this instrumental music they were cheered with a song, called μέλος ἐπιλήνιον (Athen. V p199A) or ὒμνος ἐπιλήνιος, specimens of which may be seen in Anacreon (Od. XVII.1 and LII; and Brunck, Anal. II.239). See Jacobs, ad loc.; compare Theocrit. VII.25). After the grapes had been trodden sufficiently, they were subjected to the more powerful pressure of a thick and heavy beam [Prelum] for the purpose of obtaining all the juice yet remaining in them (Vitruv. X.1; Virg. Georg. II.242; Servius in loc.; Hor. Carm. I.20.9). Instead of a beam acted on by wedges, a press with a screw [Cochlea] was sometimes used for the same purpose (Vitruv. VI.6; Plin. H. N. XVIII.31 s.74). A strainer or colander [Colum] was employed to clear the must from solid particles, as it flowed from the vat.


[image ALT: zzz. It serves as an illustration of the Greco-Roman winepress in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities.]

The preceding woodcut shows the apertures at the bottom of the vat, by which the must (mustum, γλεῦκος) was discharged, and the method of receiving it, when the vat was small, in wide-mouthed jars, which when full were carried away to be emptied into casks (dolia, πιθοὶ, Longus, II.1, 2). [Dolium.] When the vineyard was extensive and the vat large in proportion, the must flowed into another vat of corresponding size, which was sunk below the level of the ground, and therefore called ὑπολήνιον (Mark, xii.1; Geopon. VI.1.11), in Latin lacus (Ovid, Fast. IV.888;º Plin. Epist. IX.20; Colum. de Re Rust. XII.18).

From ληνός Bacchus was called Lenaeus (Ληναιος). The festival of the Lenaea was celebrated on the spot where the first Attic wine-press was said to have been constructed. [Dionysia.]

Olives as well as grapes were subjected to the prelum for the sake of their oil [Olea, p826].

The building erected to contain all the vessels and other implements (torcula vasa, Varro, de Re Rust. III.2) for obtaining both wine and oil was called torcularium (Cato, de Re Rust. 12, 13, 18; Col. de Re Rust. XII.18) and ληνεῶν (Geopon. VI.1). It was situated near the kitchen and the wine-cellar (Vitruv. VI.6).


See also the article on wine, of course: Vinum.


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