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CHEME (χήμη), derived from χα-, “to gape;” hence it means “a yawn” (Hesych.); also the “cockle,” from its gaping double shell (Arist. H. A. 5.15, 4). Lat. chama. For varieties of cockles, see Pliny, Plin. Nat. 32.147. But its best known signification is that of a small measure of capacity, about the size of a cockle-shell (cf. κόγχη). Its exact size is variously related.

1. In Galen's table of liquid measures χήμη μικρά μύστρον μικρόν = 1/12 κοτύλη = 1/24 of 27.36 centilitres = 2.28 centilitres = 2.28 x 0.0176 Eng. pints 0.04 Eng. pints. In the table called that of Cleopatra's cosmetics, a similar measure is called ἐλάττων κόγχη. It was equal to two cochlearia.

2. In this table of Cleopatra there is a special section devoted to very small measures of capacity, arranged according to weight in drachmas. One drachma of oil or wine (see Hultsch, Metrologie der Griechen, &c. p. 110, n. 5) represented the capacity of 1/60 of an Attic κοτύλη. In this table the χήμη μεγάλη is a capacity for holding three drachmas ... 3/60 Attic κοτύλη = 1.368 centilitres = 0.024 Eng. pint. The χήμη μικρά is 2/3 of this = 0.016 Eng. pint.

3. In the table of Dioscorides the χήμη is 1/4 of the κύαθος (which is itself 1/6 of a κοτύλη) = 1.14 centilitres = 0.02 Eng. pint. This latter is the Ptolemaic reckoning (Metrologie, 625). It was = one cochlear.

The symbol for χήμη was χ. Evidence for most of the above statements will be found in F. Hultsch, Metrologici Scriptores, Index, s. vv. χήμη and chema.


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