, dim. κλειδίον
), a key. In Homer the κλεὶς
is not a key in the modern meaning of the
word, but rather a hook (having a leathern thong) which passed through the
door from the outside,
and caught the bolts
), so as to shoot them home or
draw them back, as required (Od. 21.6
some passages of Homer the word signifies simply a bolt (Od. 1.442
; L. & S. s. v.). In course of time locks and keys
were made, much like those of modern times. Locks were used in Egypt at an
early period, and were originally of wood, probably like those now used in
Egypt, which are opened by a key furnished [p. 1.451]
several fixed pins, answering to a similar number that fall down into the
movable tongue, into which the key is introduced, when they fasten or open
the lock (Wilkinson, Ancient Egyptians,
i. p. 353). At a
later time we find iron keys in Egypt, consisting of a long straight shank,
with three or more projecting teeth, like the one figured below The earliest
Iron Egyptian Key. (Wilkinson.)
a key, like our own, which could be taken out of the lock, is in
the Book of Judges (Judg. 3.23, 25; Wilkinson, l.c.
Schliemann found keys of copper and bronze in the remains of the cities in
the Troad. The accompanying cut represents a copper key, found close by the
so-called Treasury of Priam in the ruins at Hissarlik. “It is four
inches long, the head of which (about two inches long and broad) greatly
resembles a large safe-key of a bank.”
Copper Key found at Hissarlik. (Schliemann, Troy and its
Remains, p. 333, ed. 1875.)
The cut on the next column represents a curious bronze key, with a ring for
suspension, found in the ruins of Novum Ilium. “It has the shape of
the so-called quadrangular images of Hermes, with an altar-like base
forming one piece with the body, to which a quadrangular projection is
fixed on the back, with a hole corresponding to the lock-bolt.”
pp. 620, 621, ed. 1880.)
Pliny (Plin. Nat. 7.198
) ascribes the
invention of keys to Theodorus of Samos; and the ancient writers speak of
Carian (Avien. Orat. Phen.
455), and especially of Laconian
keys, because originally made by the Lacedaemonians. (Aristoph. Thes. 423
; Plaut. Most.
2.1, 57; Eustath. ad Od.
1603, 51; Suid. s. v. Λακωνικαὶ κλεῖδες
ii. p. 25, Engl. transl.) We learn
from Aristophanes (l.c.
) that the Laconian key had
three teeth (τρεῖς γομφίους
like the Egyptian key figured above. Keys are mentioned by Aeschylus (Aesch. Eum. 827
) and Euripides (Eur. Med. 661
); and Lysias in his speech on the
murder of Eratosthenes speaks of the wife shutting the door and taking the
key with her (τὴν κλεῖν ἐφέλκεται,
100.4), so that the husband was shut up in his chamber (ἀπεκλείσθην ἐν τῷ δωματίῳ,
100.5). In this
case the door must have been locked from the outside.
Many Roman keys have been found, much like our own, the larger ones usually
of iron, and the smaller of bronze; but there were also keys made of wood
and gold in use in later times. (Augustin. de Doctr. Christ.
4.11 (26).) Besides these there was the βαλανάγρα,
a key or hook, which was passed through a hole in the
door-post, and raised the βάλανοι
of the lock, like the Egyptian locks described above. (Hdt. 3.155
; Plb. 7.16.5
.) It must
have been a lock of this kind which the robber in Apuleius
4.10) opens, by passing his hand through the hole,
qua clavi immittendae foramen patebat.
Cuming observes that Roman keys, both of bronze and iron, have been found,
“which were never intended to turn, the stems being square, and
the webs, consisting of from one to five or six teeth, rising from a bar
bent at an acute angle to the stem; which teeth would serve the purpose
of elevating pegs, as in the Egyptian locks.”
Bronze Key found at Novum Ilium. (Schliemann.)
The street door was usually fastened inside by bolts (pessuli
) and a bar (sera
it also had a key which the janitor
house kept. (Apul. Met.
9.20; cf. 4.18.) The cut given below
represents a key found at Pompeii, and now in the Museum of Naples, the size
of which indicates that it was used as a door-key. The tongue with an eye in
it, which projects from the extremity of the handle, served to suspend it
from the wrist of the janitor.
The rooms of the
house were also opened inside with keys; and hence in both cases we read
subdita clavi pessulos reduco
1.14), clavi pessulis subjecta
mean the bolts of the lock. The
doors often had locks both inside and outside. This is evident from Plaut.
2.1, 57, where a Laconian key is
mentioned for locking the door from the outside, compared with verse
78--“Clavim cedo atque abi intro atque obclude ostium,
hinc [i. e. foris] obcludam.”
(Cf. Achill. Tat. 2.19.)
When a Roman woman first entered her husband's house, the keys of the
store-rooms were handed to her. Hence the form of divorce, in the Twelve
Tables, was that the husband took away the keys (claves
Cic. Phil. 2.28
); and the wife, when she separated from the husband, sent him
back the keys
Door-key found at Pompeii.
But the keys of the wine-cellar were not entrusted to the wife, and Fabius
Pictor related a story of a married woman having been starved to death by
her relatives because she picked the lock of the closet in which the keys of
the wine-cellar were kept (Plin. Nat.
), The key of the [p. 1.452]
street door was, as
we have already seen, kept by the janitor,
the keys of the other departments of the house by slaves to whom such
departments belonged (Sen. de Ir.
2.25). To this Martial
There were false or skeleton keys, called by the Romans adulterinae
by robbers for entering a house (Sall. B. J.
12 ; cf. Ov.
3.643). Besides locks fixed
permanently on doors, the Romans also had padlocks to be removed at
pleasure. Mr. Cuming (see below) gives a specimen of such a padlock, with
the corresponding key. Small keys were at times attached to rings to be worn
on the hand. [ANULUS
] In the annexed
Keys and Lock. (Guhl and Koner.)
cut from Guhl and Koner, figure a
represents a ring-key, b
a lock with wards, for
which a key of a complicated form must have been necessary, and c a ring
with several small keys attached, which probably served to open jewel-cases
or other small cases.
The gates of a city were locked by keys (Liv.
The epithet κλειδοῦχος
“key-bearer,” is given to several of the gods as having charge
or custody of a place. Thus it is an epithet of Janus, as the god of doors
Ov. Fast. 1.228
; cf. Macr. 1.9
). Hecate, the goddess, who held the keys
of Hades, is constantly thus represented in ancient works of art.
Hecate, holding a key. (Causel, Museum
Romanum, vol. i. tav. 21.)
On the clavis trochi,
(On ancient keys, see Cuming, History of Keys
Journal of the British Archaeol. Association,
p. 117 foll.; Wills, ibid.
vol. xiii. p. 335;
Marquardt, Privatleben d. Röm.
ii. p. 148 ; Gallus,
ii. p. 327.)