previous next


The Latin term for a circular stone enclosure, consisting of a dwarf wall, surrounding either


the mouth of a well (puteus) or


a spot struck by lightning. Italian superstition demanded that every flash of lightning which struck and was buried in the earth should have, as it were, a grave and a propitiatory offering, as in the case of a human being. According to the place where the flash fell, this offering was made, either by the State or by private individuals, in the earlier times according to the directions of the pontifices, at a later date after consultation with the Etruscan haruspices. The earth which was touched by the divine fire was carefully collected (Lucan, i. 606), and enclosed in a coffin constructed out of four side-pieces and without any bottom (this was the burying of the lightning). Then round the coffin a shaft, consisting of four walls and open at the top, was built up to the surface of the ground. A place which had thus been consecrated by the offering which the haruspices made of a sheep fully teethed (bidens) was especially called a bidental, and was not allowed to be desecrated. According to the pontifical rite introduced by Numa, the propitiatory offering consisted of onions, hair, and sardels. If a human being had been struck

Puteal. (Pompeii.)

by lightning, his body was not burnt, but buried on the spot (Pliny , Pliny H. N. ii. 145). Such a spot was called a bidental, and a propitiatory offering was made on his behalf ( Fest. p. 27; Non. pp. 53, 26). See Bidental.

Puteal enclosing a Tree. (From a Painting found at Herculaneum.)

The puteal, with bay wreaths, lyres, and a pair of pincers, may be seen on coins of the gens Scribonia. The ancient puteal in the Forum, near the Arcus Fabianus, was repaired by Scribonius Libo, whence it was called the Puteal Libonis or Puteal Scribonianum. In its neighbourhood he erected a tribunal for the praetor, which led to its becoming the resort of litigants, money-lenders, etc. (Hor. Sat. ii. 6, 35; Ep. i. 19 Ep., 8; Pro Sestio, 18).

hide References (3 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (3):
    • Horace, Satires, 2.6
    • Pliny the Younger, Epistulae, 1.19
    • Pliny the Younger, Epistulae, 8
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: