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CAL´ATHUS (κάλαθος, also τάλαρος), dim. calathiscus (καλαθίσκος). Calathus is a Greek word, though used by the Latin writers. The Latin word corresponding to it is qualus or qualum (Cat. Agr. 11, 5; 52, 1; Verg. G. 2.241; Hor. Carm. 3.12.4), dim. quasillus, un>quasillum (Cic. Phil. 3.4, 10; Tib. 4.10, 3; Prop. iv. (v.) 7, 41; “calathos Graeci, nos dicimus quasillos,” Fest. p. 47).

1. Calathus usually signified the basket in which women placed their work, and especially the materials for spinning. It was generally made of osiers or reeds (πλέκειν τάλαρους καὶ καλαθίσκους, Poll. 7.173; virgati calathisci, Catull. 64.320; calathos e vimine nexos, Ov. Fast. 4.435; rasiles calathi, “scraped or smooth osiers,” id. Her. 9.76); but sometimes of more valuble materials. Homer (Hom. Od. 4.125) speaks of a silver τάλαρος.

Calathus presented by a slave to her mistress. (From a vase.)

The calathus was narrow at the rising to a larger size at the top (“ab angustiis in latitudinem paulatim sese laxantis effigie calathi,Plin. Nat. 21.23). As spinning was the chief occupation of women, the calathus is constantly mentioned in connexion with them (Anth. Pal. 6.39, 147, et al.; Verg. A. 7.805; Ov. Met. 12.474, Ars Am. 1.693, 2.219; Juv. 2.54). Pollux (10.125) speaks of both τάλαρος and κάλαθος as τῆς γυναικωνίτιδος σκεύη: and they frequently occur in paintings on vases, indicating that the scene represented takes place in the gynaeconitis, or women's apartments. In the above woodcut, taken from a painting on a vase (Millin, Peintures de Vases Antiques, vol. i. pl. 4), a slave, belonging to the class called quasillariae, is presenting her mistress with the calathus, in which the wool was kept.

For the same reason Penelope is constantly represented in ancient works of art with the calathus. (Cf. Blümner, Gewerb. u. Künst bei Griech. u. Römer, i. p. 118.)

Penelope, with the Calathus under her seat. (British Museum.)

2. The calathus or talarus was also the name of a similar basket for carrying fruits, corn, flowers, &c. (Il. 18.568; Hes. Sc. 293; Aristot. Rh. 3.11.15; Mosch. 2.34, 61; Verg. Ecl. 2.46; Ov. Ars Am. 2.264) It was also used for holding cheeses, the whey running off through the wicker-work. (Hom. Od. 9.247; Theocr. 5.90, 8.70; Col. 7.8, 3; Ov. Met. 12.436

3. The name was likewise given to vessels made in the form of a wicker basket for holding milk (Verg. G. 3.400; Calp. Sic. 2.77; Col. 10.397), and to wine-cups of a similar shape (Verg. Ecl. 5.71; Mart. 9.60, 15, 14.107).

4. The calathus was used as a religious

Calathus on a chariot in the Eleusinian procession. (British Museum.)

emblem, and we accordingly find it figured on monuments in connexion with Athena or [p. 1.331]Minerva, who taught women the art of weaving; of Demeter or Ceres, the goddess of harvests; of Tellus and other divinities, as an emblem of abundance. It was carried in honour of Demeter at the Eleusinian festival (Callim. in Cer. 1), and is so represented in a bronze medal of Trajan figured above. It was frequently placed on the heads of divinities, especially of Demeter, in ancient statues, and in this use is called modius or bushel by archaeologists. It was probably carried on the heads of women or young girls in processions, whence it gave rise to the capital supported by a female figure in place of a column. [CARYATIDES] Figures of priestesses, from ancient monuments, wearing the calathus, are given by Saglio (Dict. s. v.) In particular the god Serapis in the time of the Roman empire is represented with a calathus on his head (calathum

Lamp with head of Serapis surmounted by the Calathus. (Birch.)

capiti ejus infigunt, Macr. 1.20, § § 13, 15; cf. 1.17, § § 67, 68), and so appears in works of art, as in a Roman lamp figured by Birch (Ancient Pottery, p. 506).


hide References (18 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (18):
    • Aristotle, Rhetoric, 3.11.15
    • Homer, Odyssey, 9.247
    • Homer, Odyssey, 4.125
    • Homer, Iliad, 18.568
    • Cicero, Philippics, 3.4
    • Cicero, Philippics, 3.10
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 12.474
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 7.805
    • Vergil, Georgics, 2.241
    • Vergil, Georgics, 3.400
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 12.436
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 21.23
    • Columella, Res Rustica, 7.3
    • Columella, Res Rustica, 7.8
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 14.107
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 9.15
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 9.60
    • Ovid, Fasti, 4
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