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TO´RCULAR or TO´RCULUM, a press for making wine or oil: in Greek, πιεστήρ, πιεστήριον, or, generally, ληνός which strictly means the vat in which the fruit was trodden or pressed.

The grapes which had been trodden by the feet [see under VINUM] required further mechanical pressure to extract the remaining juice; and the pulp (sampsa) of the olive, already separated by the process described under TRAPETUM had to be treated in a similar machine, to extract the oil. The simplest and earliest contrivance for this purpose was a heavy stone placed over a basket containing the grapes or the olive pulp, and pressed down by a lever, as is shown by a relief in the Naples Museum. This was improved by the press shown in the cut below, representing one found at Stabiae, which bears out the description left by Cato, Cat. Agr. 18 (cf. Plin. Nat. 18.317; Col. xii.

Plan of Torcular found at Stabiae. (Blümner.)

52; Vitr. 6.6). Two posts (a, a), termed arbores, were fixed in the floor of the pressing-room (torcularium), so as to hold down the tongue (lingula, b) of the press-beam (prelum, c) [in some cases a single post, with a hole to receive the lingula, answered the purpose, but offered less resistance to the strain]: at a distance=the length of the prelum, or beam, a windlass (sucula, e) was fixed by two other posts (stipites, d d), and, being turned by crowbars (vectes), drew down the beam by a rope attached to it [for sucula, see MACHINA, pp. 108, 109]: the pressure fell upon the olive-pulp or the grapes, placed in a basket (fiscina) or between lathes (regulae): over the basket was laid a flat board (orbis olearius): the boarding or bed, upon which the fruit was placed, was called area (f). To lift up the prelum, when it was required, a pulley (troclea) was hung from a beam above. The word prelum, though strictly the press-beam, often stands for the whole press (Hor. Od. i 20, 9; Plin. Nat. 16.193, &c.).

As a variation, not very clearly explained, which Pliny dates 100 years before his own time, the prelum was forced down by a screw instead of a windlass: and later, again, this was in great measure superseded by a screw-press, like an ordinary cloth-press [see COCLEA], an upright (malus) working as a male screw in an upper cross beam, and being screwed down upon what he calls a tympanum (probably a flat round board with rims like a tambourine), beneath which the fruit was placed (H. N. 18.317). One advantage of this was that it took much less room than the long prelum.

A simpler press than the above appears in a painting at Herculaneum (Baumeister, Denkm fig. 2333), a framework of two uprights joined by cross bars at the top and bottom. The basket of fruit being placed on the lower bar, rows of beams separated by wedges are ranged between the basket and the upper bar, and exercise pressure as the wedges are driven home. (Blümner, Technologie, 1.337-342; Rich, s.v. Schneider ad Cat. R. R.


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    • Vitruvius, On Architecture, 6.6
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