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FOCUS dim. FO´CULUS (ἑστία: ἐσχάρα, ἐσχάρις, dim. ἐσχάριον), a fire-place; a hearth; a brasier. The fire-place, while serving all the requirements of ordinary life, possessed a sacred character both among the Greeks and Romans. In the primitive Greek house the ἐσχάρα stood against, or near, the back wall of the μέγαρον, the kitchen and living-room of the family: in the more spacious dwellings of a later age it was transferred, with other objects of domestic worship, to a small private chapel, vaulted so as to resemble the Tholos (θόλος), the dome-shaped ἑστία of the state (Hermann-Blümner, Privatalt. p. 151, where the identity of ἑστία and ἐσχάρα is maintained; Guhl and Koner, ed. 5, p. 97). The well-known use of the hearth as a sanctuary for suppliants occurs as early as Homer (Hom. Od. 7.153-169: cf. Apollon. 4.693; Thu<*>yd. 1.136).

Among the Romans the fire-place was dedicated to the Lares of each family (Plut. Aul. 2.8, 16; Cato, de R. R. 15; Ov. Fast. 1.135, 6.302); a consecration which did not interfere with its homely uses (Hor. Epod. 2, 43; Epist. 1.5, 7; Ov. Met. 8.673; Senec. Cons. ad Helv. 10.7). On festivals the housewife decorated the hearth with garlands (Cato, de R. R. 143; Ov. Tr. 5.5, 10); a woollen fillet was sometimes added, nor were animal sacrifices unknown (Propert. 5.6, 1-6). The phrase “pro aris et focis” expressed attachment to all that was most dear and venerable (Cic. N. D. 3.4. 0, § 94; Flor. 3.13). At Rome, likewise, the progress of wealth and refinement led to the removal of the focus and penates to an inner apartment (Marquardt, Privatl. 234): the change from the single atrium or “house-place” to the more elaborate arrangement of a separate dining-room, culina, and Lararium is described under DOMUS p. 670 a, 672 b. In the Pompeian houses we see the atrium, now become a reception room, adorned with a fountain and a marble table [CARTIBULUM], but no longer with a hearth.

The focus was usually a fixture, constructed of stone or brick, and elevated a few inches

Focus. (From British Museum.)

above the ground; see the first figure on p. 672 a. It was also frequently made of bronze, variously ornamented, and could then be carried from room to room. One is shown under BALNEAE p. 276 b: another, found at Caere in Etruria, and preserved in the British Museum, is represented in the annexed woodcut.

The small portable brasier or chafing-dish, called foculus or ἐσχάριον, was especially used in sacrifices; and the same name was applied to the hollow or fire-pan at the top of an altar (Liv. 2.12; Cic. pro Domo, 47.123; ARA). The movable focus or foculus was also employed in the kitchen (Plaut. Capt. 4.2, 68; Juv. 3.262), and for keeping things hot was brought into the dining-room (Senec. Ep. 78.23). The treasures of Herculaneum and Pompeii are rich in illustrations of this kind of focus, whether pictorial or in bronze vessels actually preserved. See CALDARIUM and the second cut under AUTHEPSA

[J.Y] [W.W]

hide References (9 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (9):
    • Homer, Odyssey, 7.153
    • Homer, Odyssey, 7.169
    • Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica, 4.693
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 8.673
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 2, 12
    • Cicero, de Natura Deorum, 3.4
    • Ovid, Tristia, 5.10
    • Ovid, Tristia, 5.5
    • Ovid, Fasti, 1
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