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LATER dim. LATE´RCULUS (πλίνθος, dim. πλινθίς, πλινθίον), a brick. Besides the Greeks and Romans, other ancient nations employed brick for building to a great extent, especially the Babylonians (Hdt. 179; Xen. Anab. 3.4, § § 7, 11; Nahum 3.14) and Egyptians. In the latter country a painting on the walls of a tomb at Thebes (Wilkinson's Manners and Customs, vol. ii. p. 99) exhibits slaves, in one part employed in procuring water, in mixing, tempering, and carrying the clay, or in turning the bricks out of the mould [FORMA], and arranging them in order on the ground to be dried by the sun, and in another part carrying the dried bricks by means of the yoke [ASILLA]. In the annexed woodcut we see a man with three bricks suspended from each end of the yoke, and beside him another who returns from having deposited his load.

Egyptian brick-makers. (From Thebes.)

These figures are selected from the above-mentioned painting, being in fact original portraits of two Αἰγύπτιοι πλινθοφόροι, girt with linen round the loins in exact accordance with the description given of them by Aristophanes, who at the same time alludes to all the operations in the process of brick-making (πλινθοποιΐα, Schol. in Pind. O. 5.20), which are exhibited in the Theban painting. (Aves, 1132-1152; Schol. ad loc.

The clay was carried in shovels (ἀμαὶ) and placed in troughs (λεκάναι), to be manipulated there and moistened with water (for which the word ὀργάζω is used).

It is necessary to distinguish the sun-dried bricks, which were used in the earliest times, from the baked bricks. The word later is strictly a sun-dried or unburnt brick, whereas testa is kiln-baked brick; so the word lateritius means, made of crude or sun-dried bricks, testaceus made of burnt bricks, and wherever no qualifying word is used this distinction will usually be observed, but the former are also termed lateres crudi, the latter lateres cocti or coctiles, and similarly πλίνθοι ὠμαὶ and πλίνθοι ὀπταί; πλίνθος being strictly a sun-dried rectangular brick (whence the word is used for shape independently of material). Babylonian brickwork is partly of sun-dried bricks with a thin layer of reeds between each course; but it appears from the remains that the walls were originally faced with burnt bricks. These bricks are found bearing the name of Nebuchadnezzar. (Layard, p. 406; Rawlinson on Herod. Book iii., Appendix.) Egyptian bricks were generally sun-dried, and many of the burnt bricks found in Egypt are Roman. The dry climate probably made them last better than in damper countries. [p. 2.9]Usually the proportion of length to width is 2 to 1; of length to thickness, 3 to 1. In length they vary from about 1 foot to 17 inches. (See Birch, Ancient Pottery, vol. i.) The Greeks used only crude or sun-dried bricks down to the time of the Roman conquest, or at any rate till after Alexander (Birch, 1.158). As an instance may be mentioned the temple of Demeter at Lepreon (Paus. 5.5.6). Pausanias (2.18.150) speaks of baked bricks in a temple at Argos, but that is conjectured to be of Macedonian or Roman date. Marquardt (Privatleben, 636) cites the Philippeum at Olympia (Paus. 5.20.10) as the earliest dated building in Greece of baked brick (B.C. 337): but Blümner denies this upon the evidence of the recent German excavators at Olympia, who informed him that in all the remains of the Philippeum there was no trace of baked brick (Blümner, Technologie, 2.16). Walls of Greek cities were generally of stone, but instances of sun-dried brick walls can be found in Pausanias, 8.8.7 (of Mantinea), and the birds in Aristophanes built their wall of this material (Arist. Aves, 1136). Their partial use for dwelling-houses, especially of the poorer classes, is mentioned in Xenophon, Xen. Mem. 3.1, 7.

Roman bricks were crude till the end of the Republic (Varro, ap. Non. s. v. suffundatum; Cic. de Div. 2.4. 7, 99): the use of baked brick probably became more common as houses of more stories were built, but they were only used for facing. Vitruvius (2.3) seems to speak solely of lateres crudi, for he does not mention the triangular bricks found in existing walls at all. The earliest baked bricks are found in the Rostra (B.C. 44), and even in the time of Augustus crude bricks only were used, of which none remain. The baked Roman bricks are of various colours--red, yellow, more rarely brown, some of red pozzolana mixed with clay, as in the Flavian palace on the Palatine (Middleton's Rome). Their thickness varies from 1 in. to 1 3/4 in. The commonest size is 15 inches long and 14 wide. Those in the “palace of Constantine” at Treves are 15 inches square and 1 1/4 thick. Vitruvius (who, as mentioned above, seems to be treating only of crude bricks) states that spring was the best time for brick-making, for those made in summer were apt to dry unequally and crack, and they should be kept two years before being used. He speaks of three shapes: the Lydian, 1 1/2 (Roman) feet long and a foot broad; the pentadoron, five palms square; and the tetradoron, four palms (Vitr. 2.3). Pliny (Plin. Nat. 35.49) mentions some which were so porous and light that they floated in water. Blümner states that the same kind of brick was made at Nuremberg in the 14th and 15th centuries and was called Schwammstein. As regards the baked Roman bricks, we find them stamped at Rome in the 2nd century A.D.: but in other parts of Italy the stamped bricks are found earlier. These stamps have a figure of some god or animal, as a trade-mark, encircled by the name of the brick-maker, sometimes of the consul also, and, in the case of bricks made by soldiers, of the legion to which they belong. As the Roman armies brought their brick-making art with them wherever they went, we can trace in some instances the movements of a legion by the brick-stamps. For the methods of building with bricks, see MURUS and PARIES; and for further information about their manufacture and history, see Birch, Ancient Pottery; Blümner, Technologie, 2.16.

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

hide References (9 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (9):
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 5.20.10
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 5.5.6
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 8.8.7
    • Xenophon, Anabasis, 3.4
    • Xenophon, Memorabilia, 3.1
    • Xenophon, Memorabilia, 3.7
    • Vitruvius, On Architecture, 2.3
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 35.49
    • Cicero, De Divinatione, 2.4
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