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RETE; dim. RETI´CULUM (δίκτυον), a net. Nets were made most commonly of flax from Egypt, Colchis, Spain, and some other places (Poll. 5.26; Artem. Oneir. 3.56; Plin. Nat. 19.10). Occasionally they were of hemp (Varro, R. R. 3.5; Plin. Nat. 19.174): sometimes also of σπάρτος or broom (Xen. Cyn. 9, 13); and of fibres of palm leaves (Theophr. 4.2, 7). They are sometimes called lina (λίνα) on account of the material of which they consisted (Horn. Il. 5.487; Brunck, Anal. 2.494, 495). The meshes (maculae, Ovid, Ov. Ep. 5.19; Cic. Ver. 5.11, 27; Varro, R. R. 3.11; Nemesianus, Cyneg. 302; βρόχοι, Xen. Cyn. 2, 5; Eur. H. F. 729) were great or small according to the purposes intended; and these purposes were very various. But by far the most important application of net-work was to the three kindred arts of fowling, hunting, and fishing: and besides the general terms used alike in reference to all these employments, there are special terms to be explained under each of these heads.

I. In fowling the use of nets was one among many methods (Aristoph. Birds 528); thrushes were caught in them (Hor. Epod. 2.33, 34); and doves or pigeons with their limbs tied up or fastened to the ground, or with their eyes covered or put out, were confined in a net, in order that they might allure others into the snare (Aristoph. Birds 1083). The ancient Egyptians, as we learn from the paintings in their tombs, caught birds in clap-nets (Wilkinson, Man. and Cust. vol. iii. pp. 35-38, 45). [AUCEPS]

II. In hunting it was usual to extend nets in a curved line of considerable length, so as in part to surround a space into which the beasts of chase, such as the hare, the boar, the deer, the lion, and the bear, were driven through the opening left on one side (Aelian, Ael. NA 12.46; Tibullus, 4.3, 6 sq.; Plin. Nat. 19.10). This range of nets, which was called indago, was flanked by cords, to which feathers dyed scarlet and of other bright colours were tied, so as to flare and flutter in the wind. The hunters then sallied forth with their dogs, dislodged the animals from their coverts, and by shouts and barking drove them first within the formido, as the apparatus of string and feathers was called, and then, as they were scared with this appearance, within the circuit of the nets. Descriptions of this scene are given in some of the following passages, all of which allude to the spacious enclosure of net-work:--Verg. G. 3.372 sq., Aen. 4.121, 151-159, 10.707-715; Ovid, Ov. Ep. 4.41, 42; Lucan 4.435 sq.; Oppian, Cyn. 4.120-123; Eurip. Bacchae, 866-876. The accompanying woodcuts are taken from two bas-reliefs in the collection of ancient marbles at Ince-Blundell in Lancashire. In the uppermost figure three

Servants carrying net. (From ancient relief.)

servants with staves carry on their shoulders a large net, which is intended to be set up as already described (Tibullus, 1.4, 49, 50; Sen. Hippol. 1.1, 44; Propert. 5.2, 33). The foremost servant holds by a leash a dog, which is eager to pursue the game. In the middle figure the net is set up. At each end of it


stands a watchman holding a staff (Oppian, Cyneg. 4.124). Being intended to take such large quadrupeds as boars and deer (which are seen within it), the meshes are very wide (retia rara, Verg. A. 4.131; Hor. Epod. 2.33). The net is supported by forked stakes (στάλικες, Oppian, Cyneg. 4.67, &c.; Pollux, 5.31; amites, Hor. Epod. 2.33; ancones, Gratius, Cyneg. 87; “vari,Lucan 4.439 ). To dispose the nets in this manner was called retia ponere (Verg. G. 1.307), or retia tendere (Ovid, Art. Amat. 1.45). Comparing it with the stature of the attendants, we perceive the net to be between five and six feet high. For deer they should be somewhat higher. The upper border of the net consists of a strong rope, which was called σαρδών (Xen. Cyn. 6, 9). This σαρδὼν in some nets had loops (στρόφια) or rings (κρίκοι) which attached it to the περίδρομος or [p. 2.546]ἐπίδρομος (cf. Plin. Nat. 19.11), i. e. the drawing cord, which was itself supported on the forked stakes (Pollux, 5.26-31). The figures in the following woodcut represent two men carrying the net home after the chase; the stakes for supporting it, two of which they hold in their hands, are forked at the top, as is expressed by the terms for them already quoted, ancones and vari, and δίκροι in Pollux.

Besides the nets used to enclose woods and coverts or other large tracts of country, two additional kinds are mentioned by those authors

Servants bearing home retia and amites.

who treat on hunting. All the three are mentioned together by Xenophon (δίκτυα, ἐνόδια, ἄρκες, 2.4), and by Nemesianus (Cyneg. 299, 300).

The two additional kinds were placed at intervals in the same circuit with the large hunting-net or haye. The road-net (plaga, ἐνόδιον) was much less than the others, and was placed across roads and narrow openings between bushes (Poll. l.c.). The purse-or tunnel-net (cassis, ἄρκυς) was made with a pouch (κεκρύφαλος, Xen. de Venat. 6.7), intended to receive the animal when chased towards the extremity of the enclosure. Within this pouch were placed branches of trees, to keep it expanded and to decoy the animals by making it invisible.

III. Fishing-nets (ἁλιευτικὰ δίκτυα, Diod. 17.43) were of six different kinds, which are enumerated by Oppian (Hal. 3.80-82) as follows:-- Τῶν τὰ μὲν ἀμφίβληστρα, τὰ δὲ γρῖφοι καλέονται,
Γάγγαμα τ᾽, ἠδ᾽ ὑποχαὶ περιηγέες, ἠδὲ σαγῆναι
Ἄλλα δὲ κικλήσκουσι καλύμματα.

Of these by far the most common were the ἀμφίβληστρον, or casting-net (funda, jaculum), and the σαγήνη, i. e. the drag-net, or sean (tragum, Isid. Orig. 19.5; tragula, Plin. Nat. 16.34; verriculum or everriculum, Ulp. Dig. 47, 10, 13.7; cf. Cic. Ver. 2.14, 24). Consequently these two are the only kinds mentioned by Virgil in Georg. 1.141, 142, and by Ovid in Art. Amat. 1.763, 764. Of theκαλύμμα we find nowhere any further mention. We have no distinct information about the form of the γρῖφος, but it seems that it was made of rush-work, and therefore probably was some-times a fishing-creel, but, when classed with nets, was a sort of eel-pot or lobster-pot = the ἐκ σχοίνων λαβύρινθοι of Theocr. 22.11. It is easy to connect the sense of riddle in γρῖφος with the intricacies of the eel-pot (cf. Poll. 6.107), and it may be conjectured that scirpus and scirpiculus correspond to all three meanings of γρῖφος (cf. Plaut. Capt. 4.2, 36; Gel. 12.6). We know no more of the γάγγαμον (Hesych. sub voce Aeschyl. Agam. 352): but from the fact that the word was also used for the omentum of the human body, it may be surmised that it was a circular net. The ὑποχὴ was a landingnet, made with a hoop (κύκλος) fastened to a pole (Oppian, Hal. 4.251). That ἀμφίβληστρον denoted a casting-net may be concluded both from its etymology and from the circumstances in which it is mentioned by various authors (Hesiod, Scut. Herc. 213-215; Hdt. 1.141; Is. 19.8; Hab. 1.15-17, LXX. and Vulgate versions; St. Matt. 4.18; St. Mark 1.16).

The English term sean (which is also in the south of England pronounced and spelt seine, as in French; cf. Littré, s. v.) has been brought into our language by a corruption of the Greek σαγήνη through the Vulgate Bible (sagena, Ezek. 26.5, 14, 47.10; St. Matt. 13.47, 48; St. John 21.6-11). This net, which, as now used both by the Arabians and by our own fishermen in Cornwall, is sometimes half a mile long, was probably of equal dimensions among the ancients, for they speak of it as nearly taking in the compass of a whole bay (Horn. Od. 22.384-387; Alciphron, 1.17, 18). This circumstance well illustrates the application of the term to describe the besieging of a city: to sweep a country of its population by an uninterrupted line of soldiers was called σαγηνεύειν (Hdt. 3.145, 6.31; Plato, Legg. iii. sub fin.). The use of corks (φελλοί, cortices suberini, Sidon. Apollin. Epist. 2.2; Plin. Nat. 16.34) to support the top, and of leads (μολιβδίδες) to keep down the bottom, is frequently mentioned by ancient writers (Ovid, Ov. Tr. 3.4, 11, 12; Aelian, Ael. NA 12.43; Paus. 8.12.1), and is clearly exhibited in some of the paintings in Egyptian tombs. Leads, and pieces of wood serving as floats instead of corks, still remain on a sean in the collection of Egyptian antiquities at Berlin.

The nassa (κημός, κυρτίς, κυψέλη) was especially used for catching the murex used for purple dye. It was sometimes a small net in the shape of a bag with thick close meshes of cord, but apparently more usually a sort of, basket of rushes or osiers. Bait was placed in it, for which, according to several writers, bivalves were used; these closed on the murex attacking them, and so kept it imprisoned till the net or basket was drawn up (Ael. A. N. 7.34; Plin. Nat. 9.132; Oppian, Hal. 5.600). Others describe the nassa in more ordinary fashion, as constructed like an eel-pot, narrowing after the entrance and then widening again, with the rushes or osiers so projecting inside as to make the return more difficult than the entrance (Sil. 5.43; Poll. 1.47, where it is called κυψέλη). Hesych., s. v. κημός, compares the shape to a strainer (ἠθμός). (See Yates, Textrinum Antiquum, Appendix C; and, for the material of nets, Blümner, Technol. 1.229, 292 ff., may also be consulted.)

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

hide References (30 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (30):
    • Aristophanes, Birds, 1083
    • Aristophanes, Birds, 528
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 17.43
    • Herodotus, Histories, 1.141
    • Herodotus, Histories, 3.145
    • Herodotus, Histories, 6.31
    • Homer, Odyssey, 22.384
    • Homer, Odyssey, 22.387
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 8.12.1
    • Xenophon, On Hunting, 2
    • Xenophon, On Hunting, 6
    • Xenophon, On Hunting, 6.7
    • Xenophon, On Hunting, 9
    • Homer, Iliad, 5.487
    • Cicero, Against Verres, 2.2.24
    • Cicero, Against Verres, 2.5.27
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 4.131
    • Vergil, Georgics, 1.307
    • Vergil, Georgics, 3.372
    • Lucan, Civil War, 4.435
    • Lucan, Civil War, 4.439
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 16.34
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 19.10
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 19.11
    • Gellius, Noctes Atticae, 12.6
    • Ovid, Tristia, 3.11
    • Ovid, Tristia, 3.12
    • Ovid, Tristia, 3.4
    • Aelian, De Natura Animalium, 12.43
    • Aelian, De Natura Animalium, 12.46
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