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Bill Thayer

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 p548  Fritillus​a

Article by James Yates, M.A., F.R.S.,
on p548 of

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

FRITILLUS (φιμός), a dice-box of a cylindrical form,​b and therefore called also turricula (Mart. XIV.16), or pyrgus (Sidon. Epist. VIII.12),​c and formed with parallel indentations (gradus) on the inside, so as to make a rattling noise when the dice were shaken in it (Mart. IV.14; XIV.1; Hor. Sat. II.7.17, who uses the Greek form phimus.) (Becker, Gallus, vol. II p222.)

Thayer's Notes:

a Fritillus has given us the word fritillary, with two different meanings, for two different reasons:

b "Cylindrical" should be taken very loosely. The famous dicebox I link to in the preceding note is rectangular, and here are two typical shapes from Roman Britain, which you should visualize as about 5 to 10 cm tall:

[image ALT: A pair of small and very simple line drawings of ceramic pots, flaring out at the belly.]

From John Ward, The Roman Era in Britain, chapter 9, Pottery.

c This letter doesn't seem to be online yet anywhere, but by a very odd coincidence, each of the two sole letters of Sidonius Apollinaris currently online mentions dice, and the first one mentions dice boxes. Both can be found on the same small page in English translation.

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Page updated: 1 Oct 19