also called PILA, a mortar: the Greek
words to express it are ὅλμος, θυεία,
in old Attic ἴγδις.
Before the invention of mills [MOLA
] corn [p. 2.181]
was pounded and rubbed in
), and hence the place for making
bread, or the bakehouse, was called pistrinum.
Verg. A. 1.179
) The ancient process, as
usual, is identified with a special deity in the name Pilumnus.
Also long after the introduction of mills this was
an indispensable article of domestic furniture. (Plaut. Aul.
1.2, 17; Cato, de Re Rust.
de Re Rust.
12.55.) Pliny (Plin. Nat. 18.97
) says that it was still in
the imperial times used in many parts of Italy for corn instead of a mill.
The material was sometimes wood, sometimes stone. (Hesiod.
421), enumerating the wooden utensils necessary to a
farmer, directs him to cut a mortar three feet, and a pestle (ὕπερος, δοίδυξ,
) three cubits long. Both of
these were evidently to be made from straight portions of the trunks or
branches of trees, and the thicker and shorter of them was to be hollowed
). They might then be used in the manner
represented in a painting on the tomb of Rameses III. at Thebes (see
woodcut, left-hand figure taken from Wilkinson, vol. ii. p. 383); for there
is no reason to doubt that the Egyptians and the Greeks fashioned and used
their mortars in the same manner. (See also Wilkinson, vol. iii. p. 181,
showing three stone mortars with metal pestles.) In these paintings we may
observe the thickening of the pestle at both ends, and that two men pound in
one mortar, raising their pestles alternately as is still the practice in
Egypt. The expression “ruidum
(Plin. Nat. 18.97
) merely implies the
perpendicular downward stroke (ruere
) of the
pestle. Pliny (Plin. Nat. 36.43
the various kinds of stone selected for making mortars, according to the
purposes to which they were intended to serve. Those used in pharmacy were
sometimes made, as he says, “of Egyptian alabaster.” The
annexed woodcut shows the
forms of two preserved in the Egyptian Collection of the British
Museum, which exactly answer to this description, being made of that
material. They do not exceed three inches in height: the dotted lines mark
the cavity within each. The woodcut also shows a mortar and pestle, make of
baked white clay, which were discovered, A.D. 1831, among numerous specimens
of Roman pottery in making the northern approaches to London Bridge.
vol. xxiv. p. 199, plate 44.)
p. 235, figures an ancien
stone mortar and pestle found at Hissarlik.
Besides the old-fashioned use instead of cornmills, they were retained for
all purposes for which the mortar and pestle are now employed in the kitchen
or the laboratory. (For drugs, Paus. 5.18
; Plin. Nat.
, 36.176, for making mortar or plaster.)
Another sort of pila
is described (rather obscurely) by Pliny (18.97
) as used in Etruria, where, instead of
the ordinary shape, there seems to have been a sort of tube of iron notched
inside and with star-shaped points or teeth, through which the grain was
forced by the iron pestle, working probably inside with a circular motion.
It is perhaps a similar kind of mortar that Polybius is thinking of in his
description of the battle of Mylae (1.22, 7) when he speaks of the corvus,
with the στῦλος
and the σιδηροῦν οἷον
attached to it, as in outward appearance resembling
1.15.) For the mortarium
of the oil-press, see TRAPETUM