The Ancient Library

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On this page: Publius Syrus – Pudicitia – Pulpitum – Purpura



names. The highest class, decumdnt, were the farmers of the dScuma, the tenth part of the produce of the agricultural lands which had been taken from the old posses­sors. The or scripturarii, were the farmers of the scriptura, the tax levied for the use of the State pastures. The conductores portorwrum were the farmers of the portoria, the import and export dues, etc. In order to make the greatest possible gain, the publicani were guilty of the most grievous oppression of the provincials, whose only hope of relief lay in the governor, who was rarely able to help them for fear of these influential societies. Under the Em­pire the position of the provincials was improved ; for the emperor, as the governor-in-chief of all the provinces, heard the final appeal in the case of any grievances. In imperial times, the decumani ceased to exist, and the letting out of taxes was en­trusted to the official boards specially con­cerned with them.

Publllius Sjrrus (i.e. "the Syrian"). A Roman writer of mimes (see mime), a youn-


er contemporary and rival of Laberius; he ourished about 43 B.C. Probably born at Antioch in Syria, he came to Rome in early youth as a slave. On account of his wit he was liberated by his master, and received a careful education. As a writer of mimes and as an improviser. he was exceedingly popular, and, after the death of Laberius, held sole sway on the stage. His mimes contained, in addition to the farcical humour of this sort of writing, a great number of short, witty sayings. These were so much admired that they were excerpted at an early date, and used in schools, while the pieces themselves were soon forgotten.

In the Middle Ages these sayings were popular under the name of SenSca. We nave an alphabetical collection of nearly two hundred of these apophthegms, bearing the title, Publilii Syri Mimi Sententice [e.g. tl Necesse est multos timeat, quern multi timent" ; " Beneficium accipere, libertatem est vendere"; and (the motto of the Edinburgh Review} " Index damnatur cum nocens absolvitur "].

Ptidicltla. The Roman goddess of modesty and chastity. She was at first wor­shipped in a chapel in Rome exclusively by the patrician matrons. When, in 296 b.c., the patrician Vergmia was excluded from this worship by her marriage with the plebeian consul Volumnius, she erected in her own house a chapel to the goddess, so that the plebeian matrons might worship there.

Afterwards this cult died out with the decay of morals. In imperial times altars were erected to Pudicitia in honour of the empresses. The goddess was represented as a draped matron, concealing her right hand in her garment.

Pulpltum. The stage of the Eoman theatre. (See theatre.)

Purpura. The finest and most costly dye of the ancients, a discovery of the Phoenicians; already known to the Greeks in the Homeric age. [This may be inferred from the frequent epithet porphyr£5s ap­plied to robes, rugs, etc.] It was also known to the Romans in the time of their kings. It was obtained from two kinds of shells in the Mediterranean Sea: (1) from the trumpet-shell (Gr. keryx; Lat. bucinum, murex) [=bucctn%um Idpillus]', (2) from the true purple-shell (Grr. par-phyra ; Lat. purpura, pClagla)[=murex brandaris or trlbulus]. These shells respectively contained in a diminutive bladder a small quantity of (1) scarlet coloured, (2) black and red coloured juice. The juice collected from a number of these shells was placed in salt [in the proportion of about one pint of salt to every seventy-five pounds avoirdupois of juice], and heated in metal vessels by the introduction of warm vapours; then the raw material, wool and silk, was dyed in it. The best and dearest purple was always the Phosnician, especially that of Tyre, although it was prepared by other inhabitants of the Mediterranean. As the colour of the bucinum was not last­ing, it was not used by itself, but only in combination with the true purpura for producing certain varieties of purple dye. By mixing bucinum with black pelffglum, the juice of the true purple-shell, the fashionable violet, called the " amethyst" purple was produced; and, by a double pro­cess of dyeing, first in half-boiled pelagium, and then in bucinum, Tyrian purple was produced. This had the colour of clotted blood, and when looked at straight ap­peared black, when held to the light it glowed with colour. A pound of violet wool cost in Csesar's time 100 denarii (£4 Is.), Tyrian purple wool above 1,000 denarii (£43 10s.). By mixing pelagium with other matter, water, urine, and orchilla, the bright purple dyes, heliotrope-blue, mauve-blue, and violet-yellow, were ob­tained. Other colours were produced by the combination of the different methods of dyeing; first dyeing the material with violet colour, purple dye, and scarlet (pro-

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