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Cista, Cistella

κίστη, κιστίς).


Originally a wicker basket used for holding vegetables and

Cista, votingbasket.

other produce (Plin. H. N. xv. 60), and of either square or cylindrical shape.


A ballot-box, into which the voters cast their tabellae, and of which the form and general appearance are shown in the annexed illustration taken from a coin of the gens Cassia. It is to be carefully distinguished from the sitella, the urn from which the names of the tribes or centuries were drawn by lot. (See Comitia.)


Any box or casket, usually of small size, and intended for almost any purpose—e. g. a book-box (=capsa), a jewel-case, a toilet-box. Of the last-named variety of cista, a great many very beautiful specimens have been found of basketwork. They appear to have been used largely for holding hair-pins, sponges, small mirrors, and scent-bottles. Most of them have been discovered in the southern part of Italy (Magna Graecia); fewer in Greece proper and in Etruria. The

Cista, toilet-basket.

metal cistae (bronze or silver), on the other hand, come almost exclusively from Praenesté, where they were produced on a large scale. The most beautiful of these and the first to be discovered (about the year 1737) is the celebrated Ficoroni cista, now in the Museo Kircheriano at Rome. In 1866, Schoene described seventy cistae from Praenesté alone. In 1882, Fernique reported the number as having reached one hundred.


The name cistae was also given to the small boxes carried in the processions at the Greek festivals of Demeter and Dionysus, and containing the sacred things connected with the worship of the deities. (See Catull. lxiv. 259.) The shape was sometimes oblong; oftener cylindrical. To distinguish these from the common cistae, they are generally called cistae mysticae. See Cistophorus; Mysteria.

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