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PSYCTER (ψυκτήρ), a vessel for cooling wine or water. Wine was also cooled more simply by putting it in wells (Athen. 3.124 d; Plut. Quaest. Conv. 6, 4), or mixing it with snow (Athen. 3.125 c), or, less commonly, with ice (Sen. Ep. 78). These special wine-coolers were introduced to keep the snow separate from the wine. The vessel bore various names, in Greek usually ψυκτὴρ or ψυγεύς, but also βαύκαλις (Anth. Pal. 11.244) and κάλαθος (Hesych.); in Latin calathus (Verg. Ecl. 5, 71; Mart. 14.107) or gillo. In Plat. Symp. p. 214 A, the ψυκτήρ, which Alcibiades substituted for a drinking-cup, contained two quarts, but this was a small size; on the other hand the enormous ψυκτήρ, mentioned in Ath. 5.199 as carried in a procession and containing from 18 to 54 gallons were clearly not for ordinary use. The material was metal (silver or bronze, Athen. l.c. and iv. p. 142 d) as well as earthenware, and therefore the cooling cannot have depended on evaporation through a porous substance. As regards the shape, an example is given by Baumeister (Denkm. p. 1989), but it is not likely that they were all of one type. Pollux (6.99) says that it was a δῖνος, which implies that it [p. 2.520]was rounded at the bottom (Schol. Aristoph. Cl. 1474, Vesp. 618; cf. Athen. 4.142, where it is on a tripod), and he adds that it was distinguished from the ACRATOPHORUS by having no pedestal, but standing on little knobs (ἀστραγαλίσκοι), with which Ussing compares a vessel figured in Mus. Borbon. 3.14. It is not improbable that the rounded shape was found convenient for the inner vessel in the double ψυκτήρ. The name calathus also may be descriptive of one of the shapes which it took (perhaps most commonly), like the ordinary pailshape, larger at the top and diminishing towards the base. [CALATHUS]

The name Psycter might probably be given to any vessel in which wine was cooled, even when the process was merely putting in snow, but the contrivance specially so called consisted of a smaller vessel placed within a larger one. Sometimes the wine (or water) to be iced was placed in the smaller and plunged into the larger vessel which contained snow, sometimes the snow was placed in the smaller vessel and let down into the larger vase of wine. When the wine was sufficiently iced, the smaller vessel was no doubt removed, and the wine ladled out with a cyathus (Athen. 11. 503): we have no reason to suppose that a tap was used, as seems to have been sometimes the case in the AUTHEPSA for hot drinks. A contradiction has been imagined between Suidas, who derives the name ἀπὸ τοῦ ψύχεσθαι ἐν αὐτῷ θᾶττον τὴν κρᾶσιν, and Pollux, who says, ἐν ἦν ἄκρατος: but there is no difficulty in assuming that the wine was sometimes mixed before it was cooled, and sometimes afterwards.

Iced water, the gelida of Juv. 5.63 (frigida, Tac. Ann. 13.16), which, like the calida, was handed round to mix with the wine, or was used as a drink by itself (Athen. 3.121 e, 122 f), was prepared in a ψυκτὴρ as above described (in Mart. 14.116, lagona nivaria), and a special term decocta belongs to it, because it was boiled first in order that it might more readily be iced afterwards (Plin. Nat. 19.55; Juv. 5.50, and Mayor ad loc.). Pliny (31.40) says that this decocta was an invention of Nero's (cf. Suet. Nero 48), and that the water, which had sometime previously been boiled, was placed in a glass vessel and so plunged into a larger vessel of snow, that it might escape any impurities (vitia) of the snow. The word δηκόκτα was borrowed by some Greek writers (Galen, x. p. 467; cf. Athen. 3.121).

The snow for this purpose, or for use in the colus or saccus nivarius, was kept through the summer in pits covered over with chaff and woollen cloths (Plut. Symp. 6.6; Augustin. de Civ. Dei, 21.4): compare the narrative of Chares (ap. Athen. 3.124 c), who tells us that Alexander preserved snow in India by putting it in trenches and covering it with oak boughs. The method of Antiochus stated below (p. 124 e), when ὑδρίαι κεράμεαι were placed on straw on the top of the house at night, seems to have been the method of freezing by evaporation which is common in Persia at the present time. (See also Ussing in Annal. d. Inst. 1849; Beckmann, Hist. of Inventions, 3.322; Becker-Göll, Charikles, 2.346; Gallus, 3.430; Marquardt, Privatleben, 333.)

[J.Y] [G.E.M]

hide References (8 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (8):
    • Aristophanes, Clouds, 1474
    • Vergil, Eclogues, 5
    • Suetonius, Nero, 48
    • Tacitus, Annales, 13.16
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 19.55
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 31.40
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 14.107
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 14.116
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