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SIMPU´LUM or SIMPU´VIUM, a ladleshaped earthenware vessel, like a cyathus, but of ruder form. Varro (L. L. 5.124) tells us that it was supplanted at the dinner table by its Greek equivalent [CYATHUS], but retained for sacrifices, and Pliny (Plin. Nat. 35.158) notes that it was still, by old custom, made of earthenware. The definition of Festus is, “vas parvum non dissimile cyatho quo vinum in sacrificiis libatur: unde et mulieres rebus divinis deditae simpulatrices dicuntur.”

Simpulum and Malleus.

The cut here given is from the relief on the Arcus Argentariorum, and shows the sacred simpulum combined with the malleus used for striking certain victims. [See SECURIS]

The question naturally presents itself, What was the relation of this vessel to the patera? Representations in Greek art show the wine poured into the patera from a jug. Was the jug similarly used in Roman sacrifices, and filled by means of a simpulum, or was the wine taken from the crater by a simpulum and poured straight into the patera? Our impression is that neither supposition is correct, and that the patera was not used at all in the ritus Romanus [see SACRIFICIUM p. 586], but was introduced along with the ritus Graecus, in which the simpulum had no place. The writer has given his reasons for this view in the Classical Review, vol. iv. p. 69. It may be observed briefly here: 1. That the patera was the emblem of the Epulones, a comparatively recent order [see EPULONES], while the simpulum is the emblem of the Pontifex, who belongs to the old Roman religion (cf. Cic. de Rep. 6.2, 11; Marquardt, Staatsverw. 3.221). 2. That the representation of sacrificial implements in the Arcus Argentariorum shows a simpulum but no patera, which will be intelligible if the two were not used in the same rite. 3. That in the decree relating to silver articles retained for sacred purposes in the year the patella and salinum are mentioned, but not the patera (Liv. 26.36; PATELLA). This is accounted for if we assume the patera to have [p. 2.676]been introduced later; the simpulum being always of earthenware would naturally not be mentioned. 4. The words of Varro and Festus cited above tend to show that the simpulum was a form of Roman vessel handed down from primitive times before the introduction of Greek shapes, and with this agrees the mention in Juv. 6.343 of the simpuvium and niger catinus of Numa (the latter perhaps a praefericulum) as primitive sacrificial utensils. If the view here taken is correct, we must suppose that the sacrificial simpulum was used in sacrifices ritu Romano to take wine from the larger vessel, or crater, and either transfer it to the capis, or pour it directly in libation, as appears in the passages of Festus and Pliny.


hide References (2 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (2):
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 26, 36
    • Cicero, De Republica, 6.2
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