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Bill Thayer

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[image ALT: An engraving of the obverse and reverse of a coin. The obverse shows the head of a man between a pitcher and a curved wand or lituus, with the legend 'MAGNVS IMPITER' (sic). The reverse shows a mysterious scene: a laurel-crowned man with his foot on a stump, a second man carrying away a woman by force, and the legend 'CLAS ETORAE . . . RITEX S.C.'. It was meant by Smith's <I>Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities</I> as an illustration of the pitcher or urceus.]

 p1217  Urceus

Unsigned article on p1217 of

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

Woodcuts are from Smith's Dictionary; any color photos are mine © William P. Thayer

U′RCEUS, a pitcher, or water-pot, generally made of earthenware (Dig. 33 tit. 7 s18; Hor. Ar. Poët. 22). It was used by the priests at Rome in the sacrifices, and thus appears with other sacrificial emblems on the coins of some of the Roman gentes.​a The annexed coin of the Pompeia gens has on the obverse a lituus before the head of Pompeius, the triumvir, and an urceus behind it.

[image ALT: A bronze pitcher with a thin snaky handle.]

This Etruscan bronze pitcher, probably a funerary object, is in the Museo Emilio Greco at Orvieto. The inscription on the handle can be made out on this enlarged image.

Thayer's Note:

a The urceus very often appears also on one side of altars, honorary inscriptions and the like, in which case the other side usually bears a patera; see this example at Vicus ad Martis in Umbria, where the stone has been incorporated into the main altar of a Christian church, as not infrequently happens.

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Page updated: 6 Mar 11