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AS´CIA a tool employed in somewhat different forms for different purposes.

1. The σκέπαρνον of Homer (Hom. Od. 5.235, 9.391), used in working wood, and resembling our adze. It was [p. 1.209]different from the πέλεκυς, felling-axe or hatchet (Liddell and Scott, s. v.). Muratori (Inscr. 1.534-536) has published numerous representations of the adze, as it is exhibited on ancient monuments. In the accompanying cut the figure on the left hand represents a ship-builder holding the ascia in his right hand, and using it to shape the rib of a vessel. Nos. 1 and 2 show the instrument

Ascla, or Carpenter's Adze.

with a slight variety of form, and No. 3 is the acisculus (see below), taken from a coin of the Valerian gens. Its invention is attributed by Pliny (Plin. Nat. 6.198) to Daedalus. Cf. XII. Tab. op. Cic. de Leg. 2.2. 3; Plin. Nat. 16.207; Petr. 74, 16; and App. M. 3.6, where we find the proverb in crus sibi asciam impingere--“to cut one's own legs.”

2. The Greek τύκος (Eur. H. F. 945; Pollux, 10.147) or τύχος (Theogn. 24), used in dressing stone, was a mason's hammer. Hence τύκη signifies mason's work (Eur. Ion 206) and τύκισμα, working of stones (Eur. Troad. 812).

Ascia, Mason's Hammer or Pick.

The ascia, or mason's hammer, often represented on tombs, especially in Gallia Lugdunensis, together with inscriptions, of which sub ascia posuit, sub ascia dedicavit (or S. A. D.), vivus sibi sub ascia dedicavit, may be taken as typical instances. The phrase is generally taken to mark a new tomb, which is held to be still in the workman's hands. The object of this, according to Facciolati, was to secure the right of re-opening the tomb without having recourse to the governor of the province and the pontiffs. For other views, which are numerous, see Mazzocchi, De Formulasub ascia dedicate ” (Naples, 1738), or a summary of the earlier views in Forcellini, s.v. and A. de Barthélemy, Recherches sur le formulesub ascia.

3. A bricklayer's implement for chopping lime and mixing mortar (Vitr. 7.7 ; Pallad. 1.14), seen in the woodcut below from Trajan's Column.

4. A hoe, which probably resembled an adze in the shape of its blade and the shortness of its handle. (Pallad. 1.43: ascias in aversa parte referentes rastros.

Asciola is given by Isidore (Orig. xix. 19) as the diminutive of ascia, and acisculus (Id. Gloss.) with the explanation asciola, dolabra. The word acisculus is also found on coins of the Valerian gens (in which Acisculus was a name), together with representations of a tool, resembling an ascia (see first cut No. 3), but varying in shape on the different coins. [J.Y] [J.H.F]

Ascia used by Bricklayers. (From Trajan's Column.)

hide References (5 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (5):
    • Euripides, Ion, 206
    • Homer, Odyssey, 5.235
    • Homer, Odyssey, 9.391
    • Vitruvius, On Architecture, 7.7
    • Cicero, De Legibus, 2.2
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