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 p364  Cortina

Article by Anthony Rich, Jun. B.A. of Caius College, Cambridge
on p364 of

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


  1. In its primary sense, a large circular vessel for containing liquids, and used in dyeing wool (Plin. H. N. IX.62), and receiving oil when it first flows from the press (Cat. De Re Rust. 66).

  2. A vase in which water was carried round the circus during the games (Plaut. Poen. V.5, 12), for the use of the horses, drivers, or attendants. See the cut on p284, in which two of the children thrown down by the horses are furnished with a vessel of this kind.

  3. The table or hollow slab, supported by a tripod, upon which the priestess at Delphi sat to deliver her responses; and hence the word is used for the oracle itself (Virg. Aen. VI.347). The Romans made tables of marble or bronze after the pattern of the Delphian tripod, which they used as we do our sideboards, for the purpose of displaying their plate at an entertainment, or the valuables contained in their temples, as is still done in Catholic countries upon the altars. These were termed cortinae Delphicae, or Delphicae simply (Plin. H. N. XXXIV.8; Schol. ad Hor. Sat. I.6.116; Mart. XII.66.7; Suet. Aug. 52).

  4. From the conical form of the vessel which contains the first notion of the word, it came also to signify the vaulted part of a theatre over the stage (magni cortina theatri, Sever. in Aetn. 294), such as is in the Odeium of Pericles, the shape of which we are expressly told was made to imitate the tent of Xerxes (Paus. I.20 §3; Plut. Pericl. 13); and thence metaphorically for anything which bore the appearance of a dome, as the vault of heaven (Ennius, ap. Var. De Ling. Lat. VIII.48, ed. Müller); or of a circle, as a group of listeners surrounding any object of attraction (Tacit. De Orat. 19).

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Page updated: 13 Nov 17