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TRAPE´TUM a machine for performing the first process in oil-making, that of crushing the olives (θλᾶν, ἀλεῖν, frangere, molere), so as to separate the pulp from the stone. This was done in early times merely by treading, and it seems to us that the “canalis et solea” of Col. 12.52, 6, which Blümner dismisses as unintelligible, simply refers to treading olives by a wooden shoe (cf. SCULPONEA), with a pipe or trough to carry away the juice. To this succeeded the mola olearia and the trapetum. The former is preferred by Columella, as being more easily adjusted according to the size of the berries, so as to avoid breaking the kernel (Col. 12.51): it appears to have been the same in principle as the corn-mill [MOLA], formed of two stones, capable of adjustment, as is described in that article (see also Blumner, Technol. 1.331). This appears in the relief from Arles (fig. 1), where two genii are turning round the crushing stone. The distinction from the cornmill

Mola olearia, from a relief at Arles.

is that the stones are in inverse order; instead of the lower fixed stone being conical and the upper revolving stone hollowed (see cut under MOLA), the fixed lower stone is cupshaped, and the revolving stone is conical. The upright cross-handled beam is both a pivot for the revolving stone and a means of adjusting the pressure by raising it or lowering it.

The form of the trapetum, properly so called, can be ascertained from the remains found at Pompeii and Stabiae. In the cut below, the press found at Stabiae is shown in elevation and section (from Blümner, after Schneider). [p. 2.868]

The berries were placed in a circular stone basin (mortarium, 1), of which the sides were called labra: in the centre of this basin stood a

Trapetum in elevation and section.

column (miliarium, 2) to support the poles or levers (modioli, 6), on which the crushing stones (orbes, 3) rested, and by which they were turned round. These orbes were of stone, flat on the inner side and convex on the outer, as if forming two halves of a sphere: they were kept apart by a rectangular box of wood plated with metal, and called cupa (5), into which the modioli were fixed, and which served also to support the orbes. This cupa revolved round an iron pivot (columella ferrea, 4) fixed on the top of the miliarium or column, and rested on the column itself. To prevent it from slipping off the pivot, there was an iron pin (fistula ferrea, 7). To keep the orbes in position as close to the cupa as was required, a cap (armilla, 8) was fastened by a nail to the poles on the outside or convex surface of the stones: this cap not only kept the stones steady, but also to some extent regulated their distance from the labra and their consequent pressure. Two men (for, as Blümner remarks, we have no mention of horses or mules for this labour) moved round the poles, so that the stones bruised the fruit against the sides of the mortar. It must be observed that these poles are to be regarded not as axles, but as levers: the columella or pivot was practically the axle on which they worked. Moreover, as the stones were not fastened to the poles, they revolved to some extent on their own axis under the pressure of the fruit, whence there was a double motion and a more yielding pressure, the object being as much as possible to avoid crushing the kernels, which would give an unpleasant taste to the oil.

We have no data for a description of another machine for this purpose which Columella (12.52) calls a tudicula: he merely tells us that it worked “like an upright tribula” (which would seem to imply the principle of tearing or carding the fruit), and that it easily got out of order. (Blümner, Technologie, 1.326-336; Rich, s.v. Schneider, in Script. R. R.


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