The Ancient Library

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On this page: Psychomanteion – Psychopompos – Pterelaus – Ptolemaeus – Publicani



by Zephyrus to a secluded spot, where he visits her at night alone, without being seen or recognised by her. Persuaded by her sisters, she transgresses his command, and wishes to see him, when the god immediately, vanishes. Amid innumerable troubles and appalling trials she seeks her lover, till at length, purified by the sufferings she has endured, she finds him again, and is united to him for ever. In the myth, as told by Apuleius, her daughter is called VOluptas.

Psychdmanteion. A Greek term for an oracle of the dead. (See oracles.)

Psychopompds. The guider of souls, another name for Hermes.

Pt&relaus. King of the Taphii and Tel«-b6£e in Acarnania. He was killed by his daughter Cfimsetho, who pulled out the golden hair, on the possession of which depended the immortality accorded him by Pdseidon. (See amphitryon.)

Ptdlemaeus. (1) Ptolemy I, called Soter (" saviour " or " preserver "), son of Lagus, born 366 b.c. ; general of Alexander the Great, after whose death (323) he received Egypt as his province. He took the royal title in 306. In the last years of his rule he founded the famous Museum and the great Library of Alexandria, and attracted thither all the foremost poets and scholars of the time. He died in 283. While he was on the throne, he wrote a history of Alex­ander the Great, which was noteworthy for its accuracy, more especially in military detail, and for its avoidance of exaggera­tion. Among the works on Alexander it took the first place. Only comparatively short fragments of it have been preserved. Next to AristSbulus, he is the principal authority for Arrian's Anabasis.

(2) Claudius PtoleiiHvns. A famous Greek mathematician, astronomer, and geo­grapher. He came from PtSlemals Her-meiou [ruins at modern Menschic] in Upper Egypt, and lived and worked in the 2nd century A.D. The most important of his writings which have been preserved are:

(a) G&Ographlce Hyplicgesis (" instruc­tions for the drawing of maps"), a geo­graphical work in eight books, the first of which contains the principles of mathe­matical geography and the drawing of maps, and the calculation of the longitudes and latitudes of places in the then known world; ii-vii contain tables of names of places in the maps described, arranged according to degrees and their subdivi­sions; viii contains an astronomical table of climates. This work is one of the

chief sources of our knowledge of ancient geography.

(b) His principal astronomical and mathe­matical work, in thirteen books, is called the Great Syntaxis of Astronomy, also known as the Almagest (from the Arabian transla­tion, Tabrir al Magesthi, through which it first became known to the Western world). This gives (with corrections) a summary of the researches of the earlier astronomers, ; and describes the Ptolemaic system of the universe, with the earth as a fixed centre, the system which was not superseded till the time of Copernicus (1473-1543).

(c) The Harmonics, in three books; next to that of Aristoxenus the most important work on ancient music. Of his remaining works we may mention the Canon of Kinys, a fragment of his chronological tables, cal­culating in Egyptian years the duration of the reign of fifty-five kings: twenty Baby­lonians after Nabonassar (747 b.c.), ten Persians, thirteen Ptolemies, and the Roman emperors down to Antoninus Pius.

Publlcani. The Romans gave this name to those who did business with the State by becoming contractors for public build­ings and for supplies, and to farmers of pub­lic lands, especially those who farmed the public taxes (vectlgalia') for a certain time, on payment of a fixed sum. In Rome, as indeed throughout the ancient world (cp. telon^e), the collection of taxes was made, not by paid officials, but by farmers of taxes, who belonged to the equestrian order, as the senators were excluded from such busi­ness. The farmers of taxes, by the im­mense profits which they made, became a politically powerful class of capitalists. As the various taxes in the different pro­vinces were let out as a whole by the-censors, joint-stock companies were formed, sScletates publicanSrum, whose members received a proportionate return for their in­vested capital. One member, the manceps, made a tender at the public auction, con­cluded ,the contract with the censors, and gave the necessary security. The duration of the contract was a lustrum, i.e. the period between one censorship and another, in imperial times always five years; it began on the 15th of March.

The general superintendence was given to a magister societatis in Rome, who vacated office every year; the management of details was in the hands of numerous officials.

According to the amount of the taxes farmed, the publicani received special

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