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NERVUS a sort of stocks (ξύλον, also ποδοκάκκη, χοῖνιξ), in which criminals were confined, used frequently as a punishment for slaves. The illustrated by original meaning was probably a thong or a strap (corresponding to the other uses of the word), and with this strap the feet were tied to a post: so Festus defines it as “ferreum vinculum quo pedes impediuntur,” but adds that it also confined the neck sometimes; hence it may be said to have combined the pillory and stocks. This will explain the expression nervum brachialem (Plaut. Poen. 5.4, 99), which means embracing by throwing the arms the neck. The words numella and boiae had the same sense, and both of these (though not nervus) were used to express the ordinary method, still in use, of fastening up cattle by the neck (Colum. R. B. 6.19). It is clear that [p. 2.229]the nervus was not merely bonds, like compedes, but, more like modern stocks and pillory, had a wooden fiamework with holes for hands, feet, and neck, which were kept in their places by iron bands and collars: hence Aristophanes, Aristoph. Kn. 1049, calls the ξύλον πεντεσύριγγον, i. e. having five holes, for feet, hands, and neck. (The κλοιὸς seems to have confined the neck and hands only: Lucian. Toxarch. 29; the κύφων held the neck.) This “support” of the neck is probably indicated by Plautus in the expression os columnatum, when he speaks of the punishment of Naevius for libel: probably also by the porrectum jugulum of the captivus (Hor. Sat. 1.3, 88). The stocks were used for the imprisonment of freeborn malefactors as well as for slaves, both among Greeks and Romans. The κύφων is used for state-prisoners at Thebes (Arist. Poi. 8.6, 15 = p. 1306): we find the nervus for thieves (Plaut. Aul. 4.10, 13); for debtors, by Law of Twelve Tables (ap. Gel. 20.1), “vincito aut nervo aut compedibus” [NEXUM]: compare Liv. 6.15. So as a common part of imprisonment (cf. Act. Apost. 16.24) it is often used as equivalent to career (Ter. Phorm. 4.4, 15, &c.).


hide References (3 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (3):
    • Aristophanes, Knights, 1049
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 6, 15
    • Gellius, Noctes Atticae, 20.1
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