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LIBRA

LIBRA (σταθμός), a balance, a pair of scales. The principal parts of this instrument were: (1) the beam (jugum, ζυγόν), whence ζυγὸν ἱστάναι=to weigh (Dem. 1461); (2) the two scales called in Greek τάλαντα (Hom. Il. 8.69; 22.209, &c.; Aristoph. Frogs 797) and πλάστιγγε (Aristoph. Frogs 1378), and in Latin lances (Verg. A. 12.725, &c.). [LANX] Hence the verb ταλαντεύω is employed as equivalent to σταθμῶ, and to the Latin libro, and is applied as descriptive of an eagle balancing his wings in the air (Philostrat. Jun. Imag. 6; Welcker, ad loc.). The beam was sometimes made without a tongue, being held by a ring or other appendage fixed in the centre (see the woodcut). When the tongue working in an eye (agina) is used, as in our scales, it is called examen or ligula (Suet. Vesp. 25). The word trutina and the Greek τρυτάνμη were used of this sort of balance, as may be seen from Juv. 6.437 and Demosth. p. 60, where there are clearly two scales. Specimens of bronze balances may be seen in the British Museum and in other collections of antiquities, and also of the steel-yard [STATERA], which was used for the same purposes as the libra. The woodcut to the article CATENA shows some of the chains by which the scales are suspended from the beam. In the works of ancient art, the balance is also introduced emblematically in a great variety of ways. The annexed woodcut is taken from a beautiful bronze patera, representing Mercury and Apollo engaged in exploring the fates of Achilles and Memnon, by weighing the attendant genius of the one against

Libra. (From an ancient vase.)

that of the other. (Winckelmann, Mon. Ined. 133; Millin, Peintures de Vases Ant. i. pl. 19, p. 39.) A balance is often represented on the reverse of the Roman imperial coins; and to indicate more distinctly its signification, it is frequently held by a female in her right hand, while she supports a cornucopia in her left, the words AEQVITAS AVGVSTI being inscribed on the margin, so as to denote the justice and impartiality with which the emperors dispensed their bounty.

The constellation Libra (in Greek ζυγός) is placed in the Zodiac at the equinox, because it is the period of the year at which day and night are equally balanced. (Verg. G. 1.208; Plin. Nat. 18.245; Lucan 8.467,quo Libra pares examinat horas.

[J.Y] [G.E.M]

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