1. In its primary sense, a large circular vessel for containing liquids, and
used in cooking (Plin. Nat. 36.191
), dyeing wool or preparing dye
(Plin. Nat. 35
. § § 43
and 150), and receiving oil when it first flows from the press. (Cat.
de Re Rust.
66.) The illustration given
shows its use by
fullers. In Plautus, Poen.
5.5, 12 ( “qui cortinam
ludis per circum ferunt” ), it is supposed to denote a vessel in
which water was carried round the circus during the games for the use of the
horses, drivers, or attendants, which is possibly represented in the cut on
p. 435 in the hands of two of the children thrown down by the horses.
2. The table or hollow slab, supported by a tripod, upon which the priestess
at Delphi sat to deliver her responses; and hence the word is used for the
oracle itself. (Verg. A. 6.347
) The Romans
made tables of marble or bronze after the pattern of the Delphian tripod,
which they used as we do our sideboards, for the purpose of displaying their
plate at an entertainment, or the valuables contained in their temples, as
is still done in Catholic countries upon the altars. These were termed
simply. (Plin. Nat.
; Schol. ad
1.6, 116; Mart. 12.66
; Suet. Aug.
3. From the conical form of the vessel which contains the first notion of the
word, it came also to signify the vaulted part of a theatre over the stage
(“magni cortina theatri,
295), such as is in the Odeium of Pericles, the shape
of which we are expressly told was made to imitate the tent of Xerxes (Paus. 1.20.3
Plut. Per. 13
); and thence metaphorically for
anything which bore the appearance of a dome, as the vault of heaven
(Ennius, ap. Varr. de Ling. Lat.
7.48, ed. Müller);
or of a circle, as a group of listeners surrounding any object of
attraction. (Tac. Dial. 19
.) Finally, in the
Vulgate (Exod. xxvi.) cortina
is used in the
sense of a curtain.