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 p545  Forfex

Article by James Yates, M.A., F.R.S.,
on p545 of

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

[image ALT: An engraving of a sheep with a pair of shears suspended above it. It is meant to illustrate shears (in Latin: 'forfex') in Antiquity.]

FORFEX, dim. FORFICULA (ψαλίς, dim. ψαλίδιον), shears (Serv. in Virg. Aen. VIII.453), used, 1. in shearing sheep, as represented in the annexed woodcut, which is taken from a carnelian in the Stosch collection of antique gems at Berlin; 2. in cutting hair (Eurip. Orest. 954; Schol. in loc.; Brunck, Anal. II.9; Virg. Catal. VII.9; ferro bidenti, Ciris, 213); 3. in clipping hedges, myrtles, and other shrubs (ψαλιστοὶ μυῤῥινῶνες, Hierocles, ap. Stob. Serm. 65).

In military manoeuvres the forfex was a tenaille, i.e. a body of troops arranged in the form of an acute angle, so as to receive and overcome the opposite body, called a Cuneus (Gell. X.9; Amm. Marc. XVI.11).

In architecture the term ψαλίς denoted a construction which was probably the origin of the arch (Macculloch's West. Islands, I. p142, III. p49), consisting of two stones leaning against each other so as to form an acute angle overhead, as is seen in the entrance to the pyramid of Cheops and in the ruins of Mycenae; and gradually brought nearer to the forms which we now employ (see woodcut, p125). (Plat. De Leg. XII p292, ed. Bekker; Diod. Sic. II.9.)

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Page updated: 7 Aug 12