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FURCA dim. FURCULA, FURCILLA (δίκρανον, δίκρουν ξύλον), a fork. 1. A two-pronged fork used for various agricultural purposes, e. g. haymaking (Varr. R. R. 1.49.1). It is this kind which gave rise to the proverbial expression “to turn out with a pitchfork,” i. e. forcibly and without ceremony (δικροῖς ὠθεῖν, Aristoph. Peace 637; δικράνοις ἐξωθεῖν, Lucian, Tim. 12; furcillis extrudimur, Cic. Att. 16.2, § 4; musae furcillis praecipitem ejiciunt, Catull. 105.2; naturam expellas furca, Hor. Ep. 1.10, 24). 2. A wooden fork used as a prop, e. g. for vines (Verg. G. 1.264; 2.359); for planks to stand on in the Circus Maximus (Liv. 1.35.9); for supporting a two-wheeled carriage while the animals were being yoked to it (Greek στήριγξ, Lys. ap. Poll. 10.157); or as explained by Plutarch of props in general (ἐκαλεῖτο δὲ φούρκιφερ: γὰρ Ἕλληνες ὑποστάτην καὶ στήριγμα, τοῦτο Π̔ωμαῖοι φούρκαν ὀνομάζουσι, Coriol. 24). 3. The end of the pole of a carriage, forked like a Λ where it joins the axle (Ginzrot, Wagen und Fahrwerke, 1.96). This, Marquardt thinks, was the original furca placed round the necks of slaves as an old domestic punishment (Privatl. 182). 4. From the earliest times the furca was a well-known instrument for punishing not only slaves, but freemen (Liv. 1.26). Here, however, we must distinguish between the punishment awarded to Horatius at his first trial, which was scourging under a furca followed by hanging (not crucifixion: see CRUX p. 567 a), and the punishment believed in later times to have been more majorum, in which the criminal was scourged to death (Tac. Ann. 2.32, 16.11; Suet. Nero 49 [where it is described]; Aurel. Vict. Epit. 5). In these cases the furca was a piece of wood in the form of the letter A, which was placed upon the shoulders of the offender, whose hands were tied to it. Slaves were frequently flogged in this way, and were obliged to carry about the furca wherever they went (Liv. 2.36; Cic. de Div. 1.2. 6, § 55; Plut. Cor. l.c.; cf. Plaut. Cas. 2.6, 37, Pers. 5.2, 78; Donat. ad Terent. Andr. 3.5, 12);. whence furcifer as a term of reproach (Cic. in Vatin. 6, § 15; Hor. Sat. 2.7, 22). A some-what similar instrument was used in carrying burdens on the neck, and occurs in the reliefs of the Column of Trajan. For the furca in crucifixion, see PATIBULUM 5. The question of the use of table forks in antiquity has lately been re-opened, but the negative conclusions o<*> Beckmann (Hist. of Inventions, 2.407-414, ed. Bolin) have not been seriously shaken. Forks were doubtless used for kitchen purposes, such as taking down meat from the carnariumn (Petron. 95), carving, &c.; but the fact that forks for eating are neither mentioned by authors, represented in paintings or sculptures, nor found among the ample domestic stores of Herculaneum and Pompeii, was rightly judged decisive of the question. Some doubtful and unverified exceptions are discussed by Beckmann (l.c. p. 411),. and more recently by Marquardt (Privatl. 308 n.). Some slightly better evidence is now produced. Two silver forks of tasteful design were dug up in Rome in 1874, and pronounced by Castellani to be of the second century; from which date, he thinks, forks were in constant use among the cultivated classes: a bronze fork was also found at Rome, and an iron one at Rondineto, in 1878. Marquardt, while recording these facts, remarks cautiously that further discoveries will perhaps yield a solution. The use of fingers is too well attested to be easily disposed of; cf. CENA pp. 394 a, 397 a. (Rich, s.v. Marquardt, Privatl. 182 f., 307 f.)

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hide References (13 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (13):
    • Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 16.2
    • Aristophanes, Peace, 637
    • Cicero, Against Vatinius, 6
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 2, 36
    • Vergil, Georgics, 1.264
    • Vergil, Georgics, 2.359
    • Tacitus, Annales, 16.11
    • Tacitus, Annales, 2.32
    • Suetonius, Nero, 49
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 1, 26
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 1, 35.9
    • Cicero, De Divinatione, 1.2
    • Horace, Epistulae, 1.10
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