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BAL´TEUS in the plural baltea (πελαμών, ἀορτήρ), a belt, is sometimes used in poetry to denote a woman's girdle (Ovid, Ov. Met. 9.189; Lucan 2.362; Mart. 14.207), but more properly in the following senses:--

1. A shoulder-belt, and most frequently the sword-belt. Among the Greeks, as the sword commonly hung beside the left hip, its belt was supported by the right shoulder, and passed obliquely over the breast, as is seen in the cameo here introduced from the Florentine Museum. We

Balteus. (Florentine Museum.)

also read in Homer of broad belts (Il. 5.796) used to support the shield; for as Herodotus tells us (1.171), until the Carians invented the ὄχανον or shield-holder, all who made use of shields managed them by means of leather belts, which they passed round the neck and the left shoulder. Thus the sword-belt and the shield-belt crossed over the breast. (Il. 14.404-6.) The shield-belt is occasionally represented on ancient vases, as in the figure in the next column of a charioteer from Gerhard, Vasenbilder, pl. ccviii. Belts were generally made of leather, and the belts of the Homeric heroes are ornamented with silver and gold (Il. 11.31; 18.480, 597), which were sometimes wrought with elaborate devices (Il. 11.38) or representations of scenes (Od. 11.609-14). These may have been embossed on a plate of the metal, or embroidered on some fabric [CAELATURA]. (Cf. Verg. A. 10.495-500.) Belts were also employed to support the quiver or the γωρυτός [PHARETRA]. (Cf. Verg. A. 5.312-4; Nemes. Cyneg. 91.)

The Romans either attached their swords to the cingulum, or suspended them by a balteus, which sometimes passed from the right shoulder to the left side (Caes. Gal. 5.44), but more usually from the left shoulder to the right side [ARMA fig. p. 190], as may be regularly observed in the military figures on the public monuments of

Balteus. (From Gerhard's
pl. ccviii.)

imperial times. This arrangement was no doubt convenient enough for the short Spanish sword, but the long sword in use down to the end of the Second Punic War must surely have been worn on the left side in order to be easily drawn with the right hand. Figures on tombs, however, usually wear the sword attached to the cinqulum. [CINGULUM] The Roman sword-belts, like the Greek, were often richly ornamented, even with precious metals, in the form of bullae or more elaborate devices: thus we read (Tac. Hist. 1.57) of common soldiers having belts adorned with silver. The belts of the emperors were so magnificent that they were entrusted to a distinct officer--the baltearius--who had charge of them in the imperial palace. Hadrian was considered remarkably unostentatious because he did not wear a golden balteus; that of Gallienus was adorned with jewels. (Treb. Poll. Gallien. 16; Spart. Hadr. 10.)

The balteus was of course used for other than military purposes, for instance to support the lyre, as may be seen in statues of Apollo Citharoedus, or to carry amulets.

2. A belt or collar (μασχαλιστήρ, προστερνίδιον, προστηθίδιον), passing round a horse's neck and breast, used partly as a protection and partly as an ornament, especially for chariot-horses. It was often adorned with the same elaborateness and richness as the soldier's sword-belt, especially with phalerae and tintinnabula. See illustrations under these articles and Museo Bresciano, i. pl. liii. (Xen. Hippica, xii.; Poll. 5.16, 100.)

Claudian (Ep. xx.) uses balteus to express a horse's girth: so μασχαλιστήρ (Hdt. 1.215).

3. The belt on the celestial globe representing [p. 1.285]the sun's course, on which the signs of the zodiac are depicted (Manilius, 1.679; 3.334), as in the accompanying woodcut, from a painting at Pompeii.

4. The praecinctio (διάζωμα in the theatre [AMPHITHEATRUM, THEATRUM]. (Calpurn. 7.47 ; Tertull. Spect. 3.)

5. In architecture of

Balteus, the signs of the Zodiac. (From a painting at Pompeii.)

the Ionic style, a band, often covered with sculptured ornament, which encircles the pulvinus or “bolster” of the capital, and thus relieves it from the side view. (Vitr. 3.5, 7.) It was not always used by the Greek architects, but is found regularly in Roman buildings of this style. The accompanying Illustration is from the temple of Athene Polias. A similar ornament

Balteus of an Ionic Capital. (Temple of Athene Polias.)

sometimes is used to divide the pulvinus of altars and sarcophagi.


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