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CAPSA

CAPSA (dim. CAPSULA, CAPSELLA) or SCRINIUM, the box for holding books and papers among the Romans (Cic. Div. in Caecil. 16, § 51; Cat. 68.36; Hor. Sat. 1.4, 22; 1.10, 63). These boxes were usually made of beech-wood [p. 1.359](Plin. H. V. 16.229), and were of a cylindrical form. Many representations of them exist: the following cut represents the Muse Clio with an open capsa by her side.

The Muse Clio with a Capsa. (
Pitture d'Ercolano,
vol. ii. pl. 2.)

The scrinium was a larger capsa, holding a considerable number of rolls, and hence jokingly assigned to voluminous authors (Hor. Sat. 1.1, 120; Mart. 1.2, 4). Boxes used for preserving other things besides books, for instance fruit, were also called capsae (Plin. H. V. 15.65; Mart. 11.8; capsella in this sense, Dig. 33, 7, 12). Scrinium, on the other hand, is almost exclusively applied to cases for writings; yet we find scrinium unguentorum in Pliny (Plin. Nat. 7.108).

The circular toilet-or jewel-cases of the Romans, if in wood, were called capsae; if in metal, cistae. Some fine examples of the latter, both in silver and bronze, have been preserved, and are described under CISTA: whether capsa and cista could be used interchangeably, as some think, seems doubtful, though we find cista for a book-box in Juvenal (3.206). In Petronius (100.67) a lady wears a golden capsella suspended from her neck. The phrase in Seneca, Noris complures juvenes ... totos de capsula (Ep. 115.2), means “redolent of the pouncet-box.”

The slaves who had the charge of these book-chests were called capsarii, and also custodes scriniorum; and the slaves who carried in a capsa behind their young masters the books, &c., of the sons of respectable Romans, when they went to school, were also called capsarii (Juv. 10.117). We accordingly find them mentioned together with the paedagogi (Suet. Nero 36).

When the capsa contained books of importance, it was sealed or kept under lock and key (Mart. 1.66); whence Horace (Hor. Ep. 1.20, 3) says to his work, Odisti claves, et grata sigilla pudico. The fastening of a lock is shown in the engraving; other representations of the capsa exhibit locks and keys, and the straps by which it was carried. (Becker-Goll, Gallus, ii. p. 443; Böttiger, Sabina, 1.102 if.)

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