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PLAUSTRUM

PLAUSTRUM or PLOSTRUM, a cart or waggon. The plaustrum, strictly so called, was a heavy two-wheeled cart (Isid. Or. 20.12): the four-wheeled waggon was properly distinguished as plaustrum majus (Cato, Cat. Agr. 10.2; Varro, R. R. 1.20). The plaustrum was of simple construction--a platform of boards, with a strong pole projecting from it, fastened upon the pair of wheels and axle. The blocks of stone or other things to be carried were either laid upon this platform without any other support, or were secured by upright boards forming sides to the platform (ὑπερτερία Hom. Od. 6.70; Plat. Theaet. p. 270 A), or openwork rails (palae, Varr. L. L. 5.140); or a large wicker basket was fastened on the platform (scirpea, πείρινς). The annexed woodcut shows a cart the body of which is supplied by a basket.

Plaustrum, from a Roman bas-relief. (Ginrot.)

The wheels ordinarily had no spokes (non sunt radiatae, Prob. ad Verg. G. 1.165), but were solid, of the kind called tympana or “drums,” nearly a foot in thickness, and made either by sawing them whole from the trunk of a tree or by nailing together boards of the requisite shapes and size. These wheels were fastened to the axle, which moved within wooden rings (arbusculae, ἁμαξόποδες) attached to the under-side of the platform (Vitr. 10.20, 14; Varro, R. R. 3.5; Verg. G. 2.444). Although these wheels were excellent for the preservation of the roads, they turned with a long circuit, and advanced slowly and with a creaking sound (stridentia, gementia, Verg. G. 3.536, Aen. 11.138). They were drawn usually by oxen, but sometimes by mules (Oppian. Hal. 5.20). They could, of course, upon a necessity, be used for transporting people as well as goods, but we are not to conclude from Liv. 5.40, that it was constructed for that purpose, nor (as Ginzrot does) that the plaustrum there mentioned differed from the ordinary kind. The plaustrum majus, or four-wheeled waggon, had sometimes solid wheels, sometimes spoked wheels, and sometimes also a body of open-work rails (palae), as shown in the cut under AMPHORA, representing part of a plaustrum majus carrying wine-skins.

The Greek ἅμαξα corresponded both to the [p. 2.434]plaustrum and the plaustrum majus. The four-wheeled ἅμαξα is mentioned in Od. 9.241; Hdt. 1.188: but the word also was used to express a vehicle to convey people (Hdt. 1.31, &c.). [HARMAMAXA] Probably it had usually four wheels, differing little from the ἀπήνη [APENE], used for travelling (e. g. D. L. 8.73), for the use of the bride in weddings (Poll. 10.33, &c.), in processions [DIONYSIA Vol. I. p. 639]. Baumeister (Denkm. Taf. xc.) shows boat-shaped ἅμαξαι, which he conceives to have been used at some time in processions. (Ginzrot, Wagen, 1.166, 228; Guhl and Koner, 277; Marquardt, Privatleben, 732; Becker-Göll, Charikles, 2.16.)

[J.Y] [G.E.M]

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