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CHELE (χηλή), derived from χα-, “to gape” (Vaniĉek, 237). Thus it is used for cracks in the feet (Poll. 4.198), for a cloven hoof (Eur. Bacch. 619), and thence for a hoof in general, even a solid one (Id. Phoen. 42). But usually χηλὴ signifies something hooked or forked: thus the claws of a crab (Plut. 2.98 D), the talons of a bird (Soph. Ant. 1003), the claws of a wild beast (Eur. Hec. 90; Theocr. Epigr. 6.4). We find it also applied to a kind of two-pronged hooked probing needle, used to pull out a polypus (Hipp. 471, 54). As regards military engines, χηλὴ was sometimes used for the notch of the arrow or other missile discharged from the catapult; also for the two “fingers” of the “hand” (manucla, Vitr. 10.15), which in that engine grasped the back-drawn string. See Heron, Belop. 141: μὲν γὰρ τοῦ εὐθυτόνου (sc. τοξότις) στρογγύλη γίνεται ἐπείπερ εἰς τὴν τοῦ οἰστοῦ ἐμπιπτει χηλήν ( “notch” ). ταύτην δὲ κατάγουσα χεὶρ διπλῆ γίνεται, κεχηλωμένη ( “bifurcated” ) τρὸς τὸ μεταξὺ τὼν χηλῶν

Chele, notch of Catapult. (Rüstow and Köchly, p. 384.)

δέξασθαι τὸ τοῦ βέλους τάχος. The figure shows a horizontal section of the “hand” of the engine and its two “fingers” (χηλαί), a, a, turning on an axis, x, x. The space between b must be at least as wide as the thickness of the missile. What really gripped the cord were vertical prongs running down from a, a (see a vertical section of a in fig. 2). For the whole explanation of military engines, from which this is taken, see Rüstow and Köchly, Geschichte des Griechischen. Kriegswesens, Aarau, 1852, pp. 378-405. The reading χηλὴν in Vitr. 10.17, 7, is wrong: it should be χελώνιον (see Rüstow and Köchly, Griechische Kriegsschriftsteller, Leipzig, 1853, 1.232).

Further, χηλὴ is applied to a breakwater which curves out and presents the form of a claw (see Arnold on the χηλὴ at Potidaea in Thuc. 1.63), and to the spur of a mountain (Suidas, s. v. χηλὴ ὄρους).

In astronomy that part of the heavens next Virgo embraced by the arms of the Scorpion was called Chelae by early writers and by the poets (Verg. G. 1.33; Ov. Met. 2.195), even after Geminus (80 B.C.) had separated that portion as a new sign, and called it Ζυγός (Lobra).


hide References (7 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (7):
    • Euripides, Hecuba, 90
    • Sophocles, Antigone, 1003
    • Thucydides, Histories, 1.63
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 2.195
    • Vergil, Georgics, 1.33
    • Vitruvius, On Architecture, 10.15
    • Vitruvius, On Architecture, 10.7
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