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PATELLA (λεκάνιον, λεκανίς, λεκανίδιον, λεκανίσκη, λοπάδιον), a small dish or plate. The word is a diminutive of PATINA: a supposed connexion with patera has been a source of error to some writers [PATERA]. 1. The patella was used for holding solid food, meat or vegetables, either in cooking (Plin. Nat. 19.171, 30.68), or for serving up at table (Hor. Ep. 1.5, 2; Mart. 5.78, 13.81; Juv. 5.85). It was usually of earthenware (Mart. 14.114), but sometimes of metal (Juv. 10.64). Marquardt (Privatleben, p. 651) takes the patella used for cooking to be identical with the sartago: it seems more probable that, though of the same flat shape, it was smaller. [For the deeper cooking vessels, see AENUM, LEBES, OLLA.] 2. The patella was also a sacred vessel of the same shape as the ordinary patella, but reserved for domestic sacred rites, especially for the offering of food to the Lares, lances being used when a larger dish was needed [LANX]. Hence it is called cultrix foci (Pers. 3.26; cf. Ov. Fast. 6.310); and hence, too, every household ought to have one kept solely for religious uses, and Cicero (de Fin. 2.7, 22) notes it as a mark of profanity, “ut edint de patella,” meaning of course the patella used for offerings. This sacred dish was, if possible, of silver; even in comparatively poor households it was customary to have at least a patella, patera, salinum, and censer of silver (Cic. Ver. 4.21, 46); and in B.C. 410, as is mentioned by Liv. 26.36, in the general contribution of silver plate, it was provided that the householder should retain a salinum and patella of silver “deorum causa” (cf. Plin. Nat. 30.153; V. Max. 4.4, 3; Marquardt, Privatl. p. 318). Of this offering Varro says, “Quocirca oportet bonum civem legibus parere et deos colere, in patellam dare μικρὸν κρέας” [see further under LARARIUM], and the Lares are thence called by Plautus patellarii dii (Cist. 2.1, 46).


hide References (10 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (10):
    • Cicero, Against Verres, 2.4.46
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 26, 36
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 13.81
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 14.114
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 5.78
    • Horace, Epistulae, 1.2
    • Horace, Epistulae, 1.5
    • Ovid, Fasti, 6
    • Valerius Maximus, Facta et Dicta Memorabilia, 4.3
    • Valerius Maximus, Facta et Dicta Memorabilia, 4.4
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