previous next


PATI´BULUM from patere, seems to have originally denoted any beam placed horizontally; as the cross-bar of a door (Titin. ap. Non. p. 366, 16), or of a trellis for vines (Plin. Nat. 17.212), or the transverse beam of the cross (CRUX p. 568 a). The word, however, is almost always used of an instrument of punishment, and loosely as an equivalent to crux or furca. According to Marquardt (Privatl. 183), it was a wooden collar in two pieces, opened to receive the neck of the culprit and then closed upon it, while his hands might be bound or nailed to its extremities. This, he admits, is nowhere expressly stated; it is rather an inference from the etymology of the word; and he has produced no passage which does not point more clearly to the furca than the patibulum. (Compare the accounts of the slave driven through the Circus, whereby the games were profaned, in Dionys. A. R. 7.69, and Plut. Cor. 24.) Others explain the “opening” as a fork-shaped piece of wood, such as was undoubtedly used for the same purposes, as a prop for vines and a pillory for the necks of criminals [FURCA]. It is scarcely necessary to prove that patere is often applied to simple lateral extension, to stretch or spread as well as to be open ( “Helvetiorum fines... patebant,” Caes. Gal. 1.2; “qua terra patet,” Ov. Wet. 1.241); and on the whole it seems likely that the patibulum was a straight piece of wood, an explanation which covers all its varieties of meaning.


hide References (3 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (3):
    • Caesar, Gallic War, 1.2
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 1.241
    • Plutarch, Caius Marcius Coriolanus, 24
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: