The Ancient Library

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On this page: Possessio – Postal Service – Postvorta – Pothos – Pottery



Possesslo. The Roman term for the de facto possession of an article without actual proprietary right (dGmmiuni), The name was given in particular to those lands, properly belonging to the State, which were taken into cultivation by what was called occtipatio. For more see ageb publicds.

Postal Service. Under the Roman Em­pire a postal service proper was first formed in the time of Augustus. This, however, was not intended for the use of the public, but served only for the conveyance of magistrates and of government despatches ; just as the great network of roads, with which the Romans covered the whole em­pire, was laid down, not for the purposes of traffic, but in the first instance for the transport of the armies and of the materials of war. Under the Republic the correspondence of officials was carried as a rule by special messengers; the convey­ance of the officials themselves was laid upon the provincials, who were bound to provide relays of horses and supplies. Augustus instituted a State post (cursus publlcus) with a military organization, which conveyed the official despatches from station to station by means of couriers. For the conveyance of the magistrates sta­tions were instituted, with changes of horses (mutatiOnes) and with night-quarters (mansiones). Private persons were allowed to use the State posts only by special per­mission on the part of the governors, after­wards of the emperor, and upon definite orders given [diplomata: Pliny, Ep. x, the last two letters]. The cost of the posting-houses was made a charge upon the several localities, though occasionally the emperors undertook the provision of draught-animals and carriages. Besides the horse they rode, the couriers had a spare horse to carry the letter bags. Passengers were conveyed in carriages called rfdce, drawn by horses and mules; while goods were forwarded on vans, which were drawn by oxen. Besides this, vessels were stationed at various points on the rivers to carry letters, passengers, and goods, just as there was postal communication over sea, espe­cially from Ostia, the port of Rome, out­wards, to the islands and chief ports of the Mediterranean.

Postvorta. See carmekta.

P5th6s. The Greek personification of amo­rous longing, an attendant of Eros (q.v.),

Pottery. The simplest, and at the same time one of the oldest, branches of the pri­meval art of working in clay is the manu-

facture of bricks and tiles, the invention of which (at Athens) was ascribed by the Greeks to the mythical personages Eurjalus and Hyperbius [Pliny, H. N. vii 194]. So far as bricks were used at all, their use was generally confined to private buildings; and Greeks and Romans for ages employed only unbaked or sun-dried bricks. Bricks baked in the kiln came into use at a later date. The first to employ them extensively were the Romans, probably at the period when the population of the city rendered it ne­cessary to build houses of several stories, which demanded a more solid material. In imperial times such bricks were the common material for private and public buildings. The walls were built of them, and then overlaid with stucco or marble. Building with baked bricks extended from Rome into Greece, and, generally speaking, wher­ever the Romans carried their arms, they introduced their exceptional aptitude for making excellent bricks. Bricks which presented flat surfaces, to be used for walls or pavements, were made of the most various dimensions, but were for the most part thinner than ours. Besides these, there were also rounded bricks for bujlding dwarf columns, and for the construction of circu­lar walls. For roofs flat tiles were chiefly used (Lat. tggtild), which were provided with a raised rim on both of their longer sides, and were so formed that the upper fitted into the lower. Concave tiles also were used (Lat. imbrex) of the form of a half cylinder, which covered the adjoining edges of the flat tiles. The lowest row was commonly finished off with ornamental moulding. From the same material as bricks were also made pipes for conveying water, for sewers, and for warm air; the section in the first two cases was round, in the last, square.

Pottery in its proper sense, the manufac­ture of utensils, is very old. The potter's wheel was known even before Homer's time [II. xviii 600). Its invention was variously ascribed to the Corinthian ht-perblus [Pliny vii 198] and to the Athenian Talus, nephew of Daedalus. Corinth and Athens, where the neighbouring promon­tory of Collas furnished an inexhaustible supply of fine potter's clay, were, in fact, the headquarters of the manufacture of Greek pottery. Next came ^Egina, Samoa, Lacedsemon, and other places in Greece itself, which always remained the principal seat of this manufacture, especially in the form of vases of painted clay. These were

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All non-public domain material, including introductions, markup, and OCR © 2005 Tim Spalding.