previous next


ARCA (λάρναξ, κιβωτός, κυψέλη, in Homer χηλός), a chest or coffer.

1. Greek.

In the [p. 1.161]Homeric poems, and probably far on into historic times, the armarium, press or cupboard, was unknown to the Greeks; a box was the only depository for valuables. The λάρναξ of Homer was of no great size: the golden λάρναξ in which the ashes of Hector are laid after his funeral is evidently a quite small casket (Il. 24.795); and Hephaestus keeps his blacksmith's tools in a silver one (ib. 18.413). But the Homeric word for the ordinary clothes-chest is χηλός: the outfit of Achilles is a χηλὸς filled by Thetis with costly tunics and rich carpets, and in it he keeps his most precious cup (Il.. 16.221): the presents of Alcinous and his courtiers to Ulysses are similarly packed by Queen Arete and her handmaids, and likewise consist of raiment, gold and silver (Od. 9.424, 438; 13.10, 68).

In the early historic period the chest (κυψέλη) from which Cypselus the tyrant of Corinth (cir. 660 B.C.) derived his name was of cedar inlaid with gold and ivory, and was shown at Olympia more than 800 years later. Pausanias, who describes it minutely (5.17.5 ff.), tells us that it was covered not only with figures but with inscriptions, some written the ordinary way, others βουστροφηδόν, a term he explains. This would seem to show that the inscriptions were of different dates; Pausanias even hints (5.19.10) that they may all have been later than the chest itself.

At Athens, in the time of the Thirty (B.C. 404), money and valuables are kept in a κιβωτὸς in an inner chamber (δωμάτιον, Lys. c. Eratosth. [Or. 12], § 10). Treasure-chests are λάρνακες in Herodotus (3.123).

On Greek vase paintings the λάρναξ or κιβωτὸς is frequently introduced in mythological subjects. In the illustration (from Overbeck, Kunst-Mythologie, Tafel 6.3) a workman is seen in the act of shutting up Danae and the infant Perseus in the λάρναξ: Acrisius stands by. The epithet

Greek Chest. (Overbeck,

δαιδαλέα, in Simonides' famous poem (44, Bergk), is here sufficiently explained.


2. Roman.

1. chest or coffer.

The arca was a chest or coffer in which the Romans were accustomed to place valuables (arca vestiaria, Cato, Cat. Agr. 11, 3; cf. Suet. Cal. 59, Tib. 63), but was more particularly the chest in which money was kept (Varr. L. L. 5.182; Hor. Sat. 1.1, 67 ; Catull. 23.1). It stood in the atrium of the house (Serv. ad Verg. A. 1.730, 9.648), and was made either of iron (Appian, App. BC 4.44), or of wood bound with iron or bronze (ferrata, Juv. 11.26; aerata, id. 14.259). Its size may be inferred from the story of the proscript who remained concealed for several days in the iron area of his libertus (Appian, l.c.; D. C. 47.7; Suet. Oct. 27). It is opposed to the smaller loculi (Juv. 1.89, 90) and sacculus of the poor (Juv. 11.26). These arcae were so common that the word is used as equivalent to money (Cic. Att. 1.9; Plin. Ep. 3.19. 8); and ex area solvere or persolvere means to pay in ready money (Donat. ad Ter. And. 2.4, 13; Phorm. 5.8, 29). The arca was under the care of the porter (atriensis), and in great houses an arcarius had the charge of it, and made the disbursements (Dig. 40, tit. 5, s. 41.17). In inscriptions (Orelli, 2890) we find a servus arcarius in the imperial palace. Two arcae have been found in a house at Pompeii (one of which is figured below), backed into a

Roman Arca or Treasure-chest. (From Pompeii.)

pillar of the atrium; they were slightly raised from the floor by a ledge of brickwork, but kept firm by a strong nail passing through the bottom of each into the floor. (Niccolini, Case di Pomp. pl. xxxiii. apud Daremberg and Saglio, s. v.) Bronze plates (crustae) belonging to an arca were also found in the quaestor's house in Pompeii (Becker-Göll, Gallus, ii. p. 360 seq.).

2. Treasury.

ARCA PUBLICA, or simply ARCA was the treasury of the municipal towns, whether coloniae, municipia, or praefecturae: the name frequently occurs in inscriptions (Orelli, Inscr. 1760). The name was also applied to the treasury of a collegium, such as that of the Pontifices (Orelli, 2145, 4549), of the Vestals (1175), of the Seviri Augustales (2258), &c. In Rome, under the empire, the area publica signified the city-funds, which were distinct from the aerarium and the fiscus, and the administration of which belonged to the Senate (Vopisc. Aurel. 20). Subsequently it formed a department of the fiscus, and was divided into several departments, whence we read of an area frumentaria, area olearia, area vinaria, &c. (Symm. Ep. 10.33, 42; Cassiod. 2.42; Dig. 50, tit. 4, s. 1). The arcarius was a financial officer in the municipal towns and the provinces, whose name constantly occurs in inscriptions. (See Index to Orelli, Inscr.) Thus we find mention of the area Galliarum, the provincial chest. (Marquardt, Röm. Staatsv. i. pp. 119, 370.)

3. coffin.

ARCA the coffin, usually of stone, more commonly called sarcophagus, but sometimes of common material (vili in arca, Hor. Sat. 1.1, 9), in which the body was buried. (Liv. 40.29, 3; Lucan 8.736; Plin. Nat. 13.84; V. Max. 1.1, n. 12; Aur. Vict. 42; Dig. 11, tit. 7, s. 7; Orelli, Inscr. 3560, 4396.)

4. Cell for prisoners.

ARCA a strong cell, made of oak, in which criminals and slaves were confined (Cic. Mil. 22, 60: Fest. s. v. Robum).

[W.S] [p. 1.162]

hide References (18 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (18):
    • Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 1.9
    • Herodotus, Histories, 3.123
    • Homer, Odyssey, 13.10
    • Homer, Odyssey, 13.68
    • Homer, Iliad, 24.795
    • Homer, Odyssey, 9.424
    • Homer, Odyssey, 9.438
    • Appian, Civil Wars, 4.6.44
    • Cicero, For Milo, 22
    • Cicero, For Milo, 60
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 1.730
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 9.648
    • Suetonius, Caligula, 59
    • Lucan, Civil War, 8.736
    • Pliny the Younger, Epistulae, 3.19.8
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 40, 29
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 40, 3
    • Valerius Maximus, Facta et Dicta Memorabilia, 1.1
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: