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FRITILLUS (φιμός, πύργος), a dice-box. The dice were sometimes thrown from the hand, but (to prevent cheating) more usually from a dice-box. This was of a cylindrical shape, but, unlike those now in use, tapered towards the top: hence it was called (φιμός (Aeschin. c. Timarch. § 59; Diphil. fr. 74 M.) from the resemblance to a muzzle; perhaps also κημός, a funnel (see the Lexicons). Another name, from the tower-like shape, was πύργος (see the epigram of Agathias quoted under DUODECIM SCRIPTA 1. 23), in Latin pyrgus (Anthol. Lat. 3.77, No. 915 Meyer, 193 Riese; Sidon. Apoll. Epist. 8.12), turricula (Mart. 14.16), phimus (Hor. Sat. 2.7, 15), but most commonly fritillus (Senec. Apocol. 14.4; 15.1; Mart. 4.14, 14.1; Juv. 14.5). It was furnished inside with parallel indentations like steps (gradus, Auson. Comm. Prof. 1.27; Sidon. Apoll. l.c.; Anthol. Lat. l.c.), which gave a better spin to the dice. The material was wood (δουράτεος, Agathias; cava buxa, Auson.), ivory (Sidon. Apoll.), or horn (Schol. Juv. l.c.). Some have thought that the phimus was a funnel used for dropping the dice into the fritillus or pyrgus; see Salmasius on Hist. Aug. 2.755 ff., ed. 1671, or the quotations in Orellius on Hor. l.c., in Mayor on Juv. l.c. There seems no intelligible reason why two instruments should have been used; (φιμὸς is the regular word for a dice-box in classical Greek; and common-sense criticism cuts through such pedantries. The notion is rightly rejected by Orellius, Marquardt, Becker and Göll. In Agathias (l.c.) the ἠθμὸς is no doubt the funnel-shaped upper end of the πύργος, not a separate box. The orca of Persius (Sat. 3.50) has been identified with the fritillus, but probably refers to a different game (Conington ad loc.). (Becker-Göll, Gallus, 3.458; Marquardt, Privatl. 825; Guhl and Koner, ed. 5, pp. 353, 672.)

[J.Y] [W.W]

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  • Cross-references from this page (3):
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 14.1
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 14.16
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 4.14
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