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MORTA´RIUM also called PILA, a mortar: the Greek words to express it are ὅλμος, θυεία, and in old Attic ἴγδις. (See Rutherford, New Phryn. p. 252.)

Before the invention of mills [MOLA] corn [p. 2.181]was pounded and rubbed in mortars (pistum), and hence the place for making bread, or the bakehouse, was called pistrinum. (Serv. in 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. 74-76; Colum. 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. Op. 421), enumerating the wooden utensils necessary to a farmer, directs him to cut a mortar three feet, and a pestle (ὕπερος, δοίδυξ, pilum, pistillum) 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 (Hes. l.c.). 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 pilum” (Plin. Nat. 18.97) merely implies the perpendicular downward stroke (ruere) of the pestle. Pliny (Plin. Nat. 36.43) mentions 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

Egyptian Mortars.

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. (Archaeologia, vol. xxiv. p. 199, plate 44.)

Schliemann's Ilios, 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, 1; Plin. Nat. 33.123, 36.176, for making mortar or plaster.)

Another sort of pila or mortarium 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 στρόγγυλος and the σιδηροῦν οἷον ὕπερον attached to it, as in outward appearance resembling μηχαναὶ σιτοποιικαί. (See also Blümner, Technologie, 1.15.) For the mortarium of the oil-press, see TRAPETUM

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

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