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TE´REBRA (τρύπανον, τρυπάνιον, τέρετρον), any instrument for boring wood, stone, or metal. Pliny gives Daedalus as the traditional inventor (H. N. 7.198; cf. SERRA). We find a distinction between terebra antiqua, which produced dust (scobis), and terebra gallica, which produced ramenta or shavings (Plin. Nat. 17.116; Col. 4.29, 15 and 16). The definition is not very clear: some have imagined that the antiqua was a simple gimlet, and the gallica a centre-bit, of which implement an, ancient specimen is preserved in the Zürich Museum (see Blümner, Techn. ii. fig. 43, i): the iron part, which alone remains, is like that of a modern centre-bit. A centre-bit, however, would not be a convenient tool for boring a tree in order to graft; and moreover the fact that both Pliny and Columella give as a further distinction of the gallica that it does not, like the other kind, generate heat in boring, suggests that the antiqua was a drill-borer, in principle like that described in the Odyssey (see below), and the gallica a gimlet with a large spiral. It may be added that we should expect the simple pointed drill, worked as Homer describes it, to be an earlier contrivance than a borer with a spiral, which implies more advanced art both in the inventor and the maker. Blümner suggests that the τρύπανον and τέρετρον correspond respectively to the terebra antiqua and terebra gallica; but the definition in Etym. Mag. makes the τέρετρον merely a smaller τρύπανον.

We find on monuments one kind of terebra exactly like our gimlet: another kind in common use (and probably the older “invention of Daedalus” ) was the “how-drill,” a borer twirled round by means of a bow, the string of which was twisted round the handle of the drill. This contrivance lasted till modern times, but has now, we believe, been universally superseded by the “brace” or bent handle. In the cut on page 243 both parts of the bow-drill are shown separately; the compasses (circini) lie between them. The shipwright's borer mentioned in Od. 9.384, Eur. Cycl. 460, was similar in principle, but on a larger scale. In these passages it is described by the general term τρυπανον: it had also a specific name ἀρίς (Anth. Pal. 6.103; Poll. 8.113). The wooden holder for the iron part of the terebra was called vagina (Plin. Nat. 16.230). More references and several figures from ancient representations of boring implements will be found in Blümner, Technologie, ii. pp. 223-226.


hide References (4 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (4):
    • Euripides, Cyclops, 460
    • Homer, Odyssey, 9.384
    • Columella, Res Rustica, 4.15
    • Columella, Res Rustica, 4.29
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