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EXOSTRA (ἐξώστρα) was one of the many kinds of machines used in the theatres of the ancients, and its introduction was ascribed to Aeschylus. In order to represent a scene in an interior, a movable chamber corresponding to the size of any of the three doors was devised, which was wheeled out (ἐκκύκλημα) or pushed out (ἐξώστρα) (Pollux, 4.128; ἱερὸν ὠθεῖται, Schol. ad Aristoph. Thes. 276; ἐκκυκλεῖται ἐπὶ τὸ ἔξω τὸ Θεσμοφόριον, Schol. Ravenn. ibid.; Schol. ad Aristoph. Ach. 375). Donaldson thinks the ἐξώστρα was used to exhibit the interior of an upper chamber: this would find support in the late meaning of the word, balcony. A special use of both machines was to exhibit to the eyes of the spectators the results or consequences of such acts, as murder or suicide, as could not be permitted to take place in the proscenium, and were therefore described as having occurred behind the scena.

An interesting illustration of the meaning of the word is to be found in Cicero (de Prov. Cons. 6.14), who, speaking of Piso, says he formerly concealed his vices ( “post siparium heluabatur” ), but now practised them openly ( “jam in exostra heluatur” ). (Donaldson, Theatre of the Greeks, ed. 7, p. 238 ff.; C. O. Müller, Eumen. p. 103, Kleine Schriften, i. p. 524; Alb. Müller, Bühnenalterth. pp. 142-148, where there is a full discussion of the passages where the contrivance was used.) It must be admitted, on the whole, that the distinction between ἐξώστρα and ἐκκύκλημα is not very clearly made out (see especially A. Müller, p. 148, n. 5).

The name exostra was also applied to a peculiar kind of bridge, which was thrown from a tower of the besiegers upon the walls of a besieged town, and across which the assailants marched to attack those of the besieged who were stationed on the ramparts to defend the town (Veget. de Re Milit. 4.21; Plb. 2.6, 8). This was a very old device, frequently represented in Assyrian bas-reliefs.

[L.S] [J.M]

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