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Bill Thayer

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T. III, Vol. 2

Article by Henry Thédenat in

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

translation and © William P. Thayer

[image ALT: A woodcut of two long thin metal files; the one on the left has a short tang for insertion into a handle. They are examples of ancient Roman files, discussed in the text of this webpage.]

Fig. 4488

LIMA (Ῥίνη). — Like today, the file was, in Antiquity, a tool common to engravers and artists  p1255 [caelatura, p792], as well as to artisans. It was used to work gold,​1 silver,​2 bronze,​3 iron,​4 lead,​5 and some precious stones.​6 The file was used to detach pearls that clung too fast to the shell.7

According to Pliny, Italy supplied a whetstone which served the same purposes as the file.​8 That author also says that for polishing metals the rust produced by ram's blood was even better than the file.9

The rasp specially used by woodworkers was called lima lignaria,​10 although the tool is more often called a scobina.11

The filings were called ῥίνημα in Greek,​12 and scobis or scobs in Latin.13

Working with a file was called lima avellere,​14 polire,​15 proterere,​16 adradere.17

The file was also used by doctors to prepare certain medications.18

The shape of ancient files was the same as that of modern files. Round, triangular and four-sided files are known, either wide and flat or thin and tapering.​19 Several kinds, as with us, end in a tang by which they were attached to a wooden handle, like one of those we reproduce here (fig. 4488), which are from Nocera​a and once belonged to the Castellani collection.20

The Author's Notes:

1 Herodian I.7.9;º Anth. Pal. VI.92.2; Lamprid. Elag. XXXI.

2 Sext. Emp. I.14.129; Pliny, H. N. XXXIII.49.1.

3 Vitruv. VII.11.1; Ovid, Met. IV.178; Pliny, H. N. XXXIV.19.33 and 26.1.

4 Pliny, N. H. XXVIII.41.1; Phaedr. IV.8.7; Xen. Cyr. VI.2.33.

5 Pliny, N. H. XXXIV.50.1.

6 Pliny, N. H. XXXVII.32.2.

7 Pliny, N. H. IX.54.4.

8 Pliny, N. H. XVIII.67.9.º

9 Id., N. H. XXVIII.41.1.

10 Scrib. Larg. de Comp. med. CXLI.

11 Varro, L. L. VII.68; Tert. Apol. XII; Isid. Orig. XIX.19.15; Pliny, N. H. XI.68.

12 Herodian, Xen. ll. cc.

13 Lamprid., l.c.; Pliny, N. H. XXXIV.26.1.

14 Id., N. H. IX.54.4.

15 Id., N. H. XXVIII.41.1.

16 Plaut. Menaech. I.1.9.

17 Plaut. ap. Varr. L. L. VII.68.

18 Marcell. Emp. XXVIII; Scrib. Larg. l.c.

19 Grivaud de la Vincelle, Arts et métiers des anciens, pl. LVIII, nos. 3, 4, 5 and pl. LIX, nos. 2, 2′, 2, 2.º

20 Exposition de 1867, Histoire du travail, Italie, no. 101.

Thayer's Note:

a Presumably the Campanian Nocera (q.v.) — I haven't seen the reference cited — but there were several other towns by the name: see my note to that article.

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Page updated: 5 Mar 18