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SARRA´CUM a kind of common cart or waggon, which was used by the country people of Italy for conveying the produce of their fields, trees, and the like from one place to another (Vitr. 10.1; Juv. 3.254). Its name, as well as the fact that it was used by several barbarous nations, shows that it was introduced from them into Italy (Sidon. Epist. 4.18; Amm. Marc. 31.2). That persons also sometimes rode in a sarracum, is clear from a passage of Cicero quoted by Quintilian (8.3.21), who regards the word sarracum as low and vulgar. Capitolinus (Anton. Philos. 13) states that during a plague the mortality at Rome was so great that it was found necessary to carry the dead bodies out of the city upon the common sarraca. Several of the barbarous nations with which the Romans came in contact used these waggons also in war, and placed them around their camps as a fortification (Sisenna, ap. Non. 3.35), and the Scythians used them in their wanderings, and spent almost their whole lives upon them with their wives and children, whence Ammianus compares such a caravan of sarraca with all that was conveyed upon them to a wandering city. The Romans appear to have used the sarracum for all purposes for which the plaustrum was employed [PLAUSTRUM], and Juvenal (5.22) even applies it to the constellation which was generally called Plaustrum; but that there must have been some difference in the build is clear from the fact that plaustrum and sarracum are mentioned together in Juvenal and Vitruvius. What the difference was cannot be positively decided: both alike were formed with two wheels as well as with four (Ed. Diocles. 15, 23-28); from a general survey of the passages cited it may, however, be surmised that the sarracum was larger and heavier than the plaustrum. (Scheffer, de Re Vehic. 2.31; Marquardt Privatl. 732.)

[L.S] [G.E.M]

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  • Cross-references from this page (2):
    • Vitruvius, On Architecture, 10.1
    • Ammianus Marcellinus, Rerum Gestarum, 31.2
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