FA´LCULA (ἅρπη, κοπίς, δρέπανον,
), a sickle; a scythe; a
pruning-knife, or pruning-hook; a bill; a falchion; a halbert.
denoted a knife with
one straight edge, “falx” signified any similar instrument, the
single edge of which was curved. (Δρέπανον
Hom. Od. 18.368
Verg. G. 1.508
Ovid, Ov. Met.
; adunca falce,
additional epithets the various uses of the falx were indicated, and its
corresponding varieties in form and size. Thus the sickle, because it was
used by reapers, was called falx messoria;
scythe, which was employed in mowing hay, was called falx
the pruning-knife and the bill, on account of their use in
dressing vines, as well as in hedging and in cutting off the shoots and
branches of trees, were distinguished by the appellation of falx putatoria, vinitoria, arboraria,
(Cato, de Re
10, 11; Pallad. 1.43; Col. 4.25
or by the diminutive falcula
A rare coin published by Pellerin (Méd. de Rois,
Par. 1762, p. 208) shows the head of one of the Ptolemies, and on the
reverse a man cutting down corn with a sickle. (See woodcut.)
Falx. 1. From a coin. 2. From a MS. of Columella.
The lower figure in the same woodcut is taken from the MSS. of Columella, and
illustrates his description of the various parts of the falx vinitoria
(de Re Rust.
] The curvature in
the fore part of the blade is expressed by Virgil in the phrase procurva falx
the removal of a branch by the pruning-hook, it was often smoothed, as in
modern gardening, by the chisel. (Colum. de
The edge of the falx was often toothed or serrated (ἅρπην καρχαρόδοντα,
Colum. de Re Rust.
2.21). The indispensable process of sharpening these instruments (ἅρπην χαρασσεμέναι,
573; ἅρπην εὐκαμπῆ νεοθηγέα,
) was effected by whetstones
which the Romans obtained from Crete and other distant places, with the
addition of oil or water which the mower (fenisex
carried in a horn upon his thigh (Plin. Nat.
Numerous as were the uses to which the falx was applied in agriculture and
horticulture, its employment in battle was almost equally varied, though not
so frequent. The Geloni were noted for its use (Claudian, de Laud.
1.110). It was the weapon with which Jupiter wounded
Typhon (Apollod. 1.6
); with which Hercules
slew the Lernaean Hydra (Eur. Ion 192
with which Mercury cut off the head of Argus (falcato
Ovid, Ov. Met. 1.717
). Perseus, having received the
same weapon from Mercury, or, according to other authorities, from Vulcan,
used it to decapitate Medusa and to slay the sea-monster (Apollod. 2.4
; Eratosth. Cataster.
22; Ovid, Ov. Met. 4.666
; Brunck, Anal.
= Anth. Pal.
11.52). From the passages now referred to, we
may conclude that the falchion was a weapon of the most remote antiquity;
that it was girt like a dagger upon the waist; that it was held in the hand
by a short hilt; and that, as it was in fact a dagger or sharp-pointed
blade, with a proper falx projecting from one side, it was thrust into the
flesh up to this lateral curvature (curvo tenus abdidit
). In the following woodcut, four examples are selected
from works of ancient art to illustrate its form. One of the four cameos
Falx. (From cameos.)
here copied represents Perseus with the falchion in his right
hand, and the head of Medusa in his left. The two smaller figures are heads
of Saturn with the falx in its original form; and the fourth cameo,
representing the same divinity at full length, was probably engraved in
Italy at a later period than the others, but early enough to prove that the
scythe was in use among the Romans, while it illustrates the adaptation of
the symbols of Saturn (Κρόνος
: senex falcifer,
216) for the
purpose of personifying Time (Χρόνος
If we imagine the weapon which has now been described to be attached to the
end of a pole, it would assume the form and be applicable to all the
purposes of the modern halbert. Such [p. 1.824]
been the asseres falcati
used by the Romans at
the siege of Ambracia (Liv. 38.5
Caes. B. G.
7.22, 86; Q. Curt.
). Sometimes the iron head was so large as to be fastened,
instead of the ram's head, to a wooden beam, and worked by men under a
testudo (Veget. 4.14).
Lastly, the Assyrians, the Persians, the Medes, and the Syrians in Asia
(Xen. Cyrop. 6.1
, § 30, 2.7;
; Q. Curt. 4.9
Mace. 13.2; Veget. 3.24; Liv. 37.41
), and the Gauls and Britons in Europe
], made themselves
formidable on the field of battle by the use of chariots with scythes, fixed
at right angles (εἰς πλάγιον
) to the axle
and turned downwards; or inserted parallel to the axle into the felly of the
wheel, so as to revolve, when the chariot was put in motion, with more than
thrice the velocity of the chariot itself; and sometimes also projecting
from the extremities of the axle.