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[image ALT: An engraving of the obverse and reverse of a coin. The obverse shows the head of a man between a pitcher and a curved wand or lituus, with the legend 'MAGNVS IMPITER' (sic). The reverse shows a mysterious scene: a laurel-crowned man with his foot on a stump, a second man carrying away a woman by force, and the legend 'CLAS ETORAE . . . RITEX S.C.'. It was meant by Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities as an illustration of the pitcher or urceus.]

p1217 Urceus

Unsigned article on p1217 of

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

Woodcuts are from Smith's Dictionary; any color photos are mine © William P. Thayer

U′RCEUS, a pitcher, or water-pot, generally made of earthenware (Dig. 33 tit. 7 s18; Hor. Ar. Poët. 22). It was used by the priests at Rome in the sacrifices, and thus appears with other sacrificial emblems on the coins of some of the Roman gentes.a The annexed coin of the Pompeia gens has on the obverse a lituus before the head of Pompeius, the triumvir, and an urceus behind it.


[image ALT: A bronze pitcher with a thin snaky handle.]

This Etruscan bronze pitcher, probably a funerary object, is in the Museo Emilio Greco at Orvieto. The inscription on the handle can be made out on this enlarged image.


Thayer's Note:

a The urceus very often appears also on one side of altars, honorary inscriptions and the like, in which case the other side usually bears a patera; see this example at Vicus ad Martis in Umbria, where the stone has been incorporated into the main altar of a Christian church, as not infrequently happens.


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Page updated: 6 Mar 11