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Trutina

p1170 Article by James Yates, M.A., F.R.S.,
on p1170 of

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

TRUTINA (τρυτάνη), a general term including both Libra, a balance, and statera, a steelyard (Non. Marc. p180). Payments were originally made by weighing, not counting. Hence a balance (trutina) was preserved in the temple of Saturn at Rome (Varro, L. L. V.183, ed. Müller). The balance was much more ancient than the steelyard, which according to Isidore of Seville (Orig. XVI.25)º was invented in Campania, and therefore called by way of distinction Trutina Campana. Consistent with this remark, steelyards have been found in great numbers among the ruins of Herculaneum and Pompeii. The construction of some of them is more elaborate and complicated than that of modern steelyards, and they are in some cases much ornamented. The annexed woodcut represents a remarkably beautiful statera which is preserved in the Museum of the Capitol at Rome. Its support is the trunk of a tree, round which a serpent is entwined. The equipoise is a head of Minerva. Three other weights lie on the base of the stand, designed to be hung upon the hook when occasion required (Mus. Capit. vol. II p213).


[image ALT: An engraving of an elaborate steelyard-type balance, carved in the shape of a naturalistic scene consisting of a dead tree trunk to the right, around which is coiled a snake, from which hangs the measurement part of the device: a plate hanging from four chains, and a graduated beam to the left, from which hangs a weight in the shape of a bust of a helmeted goddess. It is a trutina, or Roman steelyard, apparently found in Pompeii or Herculaneum.]

Vitruvius (X.3 s8 §4) explains the principle of the steelyard, and mentions the following constituent parts of it: the scale (lancula) depending from the head (caput), near which is the point of revolution (centrum) and the handle (ansa). On the other side of the centre from the scale is the beam (scapus) with the weight or equipoise (aequipondium), which is made to move along the points (per puncta) expressing the weights of the different objects that are put into the scale.


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Page updated: 22 Jan 03