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Bill Thayer

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T. I, Vol. 2

Article by Ch. Morel in

Daremberg & Saglio,
Dictionnaire des Antiquités Grecques et Romaines,
Librairie Hachette et Cie., Paris, 1877‑1919.

translation and © William P. Thayer

Ciconia. — The stork, an instrument used by farmers to measure the hoeing of a field. It was formed of two bars, one horizontal, the other perpendicular to it; the former ensured that the ditch was of an even width, the latter of an even depth. The instrument is easy to see in one's mind: it was like an upside-down  (fig. 1463).

[image ALT: A woodcut of zzz. It is an ancient Roman spur, discussed in the text of this webpage.]

Fig. 1463. — Ciconia

Its use still allowing too much leeway for error, it was perfected by Columella, to whom we owe these details.​1 He added two transverse bars crossing X‑wise above the original instrument, with a plumb line hanging from the point where they crossed. The plumb line indicated whether  p1172 the base of the instrument was truly horizontal at the bottom of the furrow; once that was ensured, it could be seen by observing the ends of the transverse arms whether the width was the same at the top and at the bottom. Schneider in his edition of the Scriptores rei rusticae2 included a reconstruction of Columella's ciconia: his is the drawing we reproduce (fig. 1464).​a

[image ALT: A woodcut of zzz. It is an ancient Roman spur, discussed in the text of this webpage.]

Fig. 1464. — Ciconia

The Author's Notes:

1 III.13, 11 and 12.

2 Script. rei rust. Lips. 1794, t. III, pl. III and t. IV, p167.

Thayer's Note:

a This article leaves the impression that the form of the ciconia is definitely known, which is not the case. See for example the Loeb editor's notes to the passage of Columella linked to above. What bothers me is that the instrument seems to be called "stork" because it stands on one leg; so, hard to imagine or not, I would want it to stand on that vertical bar, our article, cogent though it is, having it upside-down.

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Page updated: 10 Apr 16