), a nail. In Homer ἧλος
is not a nail to fix or fasten, but a stud
or projecting head used as an ornament (Il. 1.246
; Athen. 11.488
b), but subsequently
it has the sense of a nail
to fasten with, and is
identical with the Latin clavus
(Pind. P. 4.125
; Plat. Phaedr.
83 B; Xen. Cyneg. 9
Blümner (see below) points out that γόμφος
originally signified a peg or bolt, usually made of wood
and used in shipbuilding, and that it only subsequently became synonymous
(cf. Lucian, Gall.
24, 25; Pollux, 1.84).
But in Aeschylus (Sep.
signifies a nail, and Polybius (13.7.9
) speaks of iron nails under the name of γόμφοι.
In early times, before soldering was known, nails were used to join together
plates of metal. In the treasury of Atreus at Mycenae, the stones, of which
the dome is constructed, are perforated by regular series of bronze nails,
which doubtless held together the bronze plates with which the interior was
once decorated. Two of these bronze nails are represented in the annexed cut
they are of two-thirds the real size.
Bronze nails from Mycenae.
Hence we read in the poets of brazen chambers (Hom.
3.16; Schliemann, Mycenae,
Many ancient nails of various sizes and shapes are found in our museums. They
are, as might be expected, generally of iron (Pind. Xen. ll. cc.;
Cat. Agr. 18
4.3, 32; Caes. Gal. 3.13
; Vitr. 7.3
; Plin. Nat.
, 34.143,), sometimes of bronze (Theophr. Char.
5; Plin. Nat. 16.51
), of hard wood,
especially the cornus
(Xen. Cyneg. 9
, 12; Cat.
; Plin. Nat. 16.206
; Plut. Mar. 25
), of copper ( “clavus cuprinus,”
Pallad. Ian. 15, 18), and even of silver (Plut.
). In the ruins of the second city at Hissarlik
Schliemann found some very large copper nails with hammerlike
Copper nail found at Hissarlik, one-third of the size.
(Schliemann, Troja, p. 93, ed.
heads, which had been cast together with the nail.
The clavi muscarii
of Vitruvius (7.3.11
) were probably small nails like our
tacks. Large [p. 1.453]
nails for fastening beams were called
(Cic. Ver. 5.21, 53
; Hor. Carm. 1.35.18
; Arnob. 2.13), or
The shoes of soldiers were studded with nails, hence called clavi caligarii
(see references under CALIGA
346). The men received a donative, called clavarium
(Tac. Hist. 3.50
ostensibly for supplying them with these nails, though the donative was
probably more than was necessary for this purpose. There was a similar
donative under the name of calcearium
The heads of nails were of various shapes and sizes. Some were highly
ornamented, like the bronze nails on the doors of the Pantheon at Rome,
which were called bullae,
and some of which are
figured under BULLA
p. 318. The
annexed cut, representing a Roman nail, is highly ornamented: two of its
faces are given, but the pattern varies on each of the four.
Ornamented Roman nail. (Caylus, |
vol. v. pl. 96.)
The ornamented head of this nail shows that it was never intended to be
driven by the hammer: it may have been used for the hair in the manner shown
in the cut under ACUS
It remains to speak of the symbolical use of the clavus,
or nail. Clavum figere
proverbial expression, signifying what was unalterably fixed by Fate (
“ut hoc beneficium, quemadmodum
clavo trabali diceret,”
Cic. Ver. 5.21, 53
; “quod semel destinavi clavo trabulari fixum est,”
Petron. 75). Hence the goddess
The goddess Necessitas, armed with a nail. (Causci, Museum Romanum, vol. i. tav. 28.)
Necessitas is armed with a nail (Hor. Carm.
, 18; 3.24, 5, 6), wherewith to fix the decrees of Fate,
and is so represented in works of art.
In like manner, in an Etruscan mirror found at Perugia, the winged goddess
Athrpa or Atropus is represented as about to drive a nail with a hammer, to
indicate the predetermined death of Meleager and Atalanta.
The Etruscan goddess Athrpa or Atropus armed with a nail.
Inscriz. Perug. vol. i. p. 49.)
At Volsinii, in Etruria, a nail was driven every year in the temple of
Nortia, the Fortune of Etruscan mythology, in order to keep a reckoning of
the years (Cincius, ap. Liv. 7.3
). This custom was
introduced into Rome from Etruria, probably by the Tarquins, when they
founded the temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus. An ancient law enacted that a
nail should be driven each year by the chief magistrate on the Ides of
September into the side of the cella of Jupiter on the Capitol. As the
Romans thus kept a reckoning of their years, when letters were yet scarcely
in use, this nail was called Clavus Annalis.
Fest. p. 56, M.; cf. Cic. Att. 5.1. 5
) This practice fell into
disuse, but was afterwards revived, not for the purpose of marking the year,
but from a superstitious feeling that any great calamity, such as a
pestilence, would be averted, if this ceremony was performed by the supreme
magistrate. Hence we read of a dictator being appointed, more than once, for
the sole purpose of driving in the nail (clavi fiendi
7.3, 8.18, 9.28). Several
superstitions were connected with fixing a nail. Thus Pliny (Plin. Nat. 28.63
) recommends, as a remedy
against epilepsy, driving a nail into the spot where the head of the patient
was struck when he fell for the first time. (Blumner, Gewerbe u.
Künste bei Griech. u. Römern,
ii. pp. 230,
307; Daremberg and Saglio, s. v. Clavus;
ii. p. 25.)