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GEEEK AND EOMAN ANTIQUITIES.
ABACUS (&£a£) denoted primarily a square tablet of any material; and was hence applied in the following significations : —
1. In Architecture it denoted the flat square stone, which constituted the highest member of a column, being placed immediately under the architrave. The annexed figure is drawn from that in the British Museum, which was taken from the Parthenon at Athens, and is a perfect specimen of the capital of a Doric column.
In the more ornamented orders of architecture, Such as the Corinthian, the sides of the abacus were curved inwards, and a rose or some other decoration was frequently placed in the middle of each side ; but the name Abacu's Was given to the stone thus diversified and enriched, as well as in its original form. (Vitruv. iii. 3, iv« 1. § 7.)
2. A painted panel, coffer, or square compartment in the wall or ceiling of a chamber. (Plm. H. N. xxxiii. 56, xxxv. 1, 13 ; Vitruv. vii. 3. § 10 ; Letronne, Peintur. mitr. p. 476.)
3. A wooden tray, used for a variety of purposes in domestic economy. It was, for instance, the name given to the mactra (yua/cTpa), or tray for knead.ing dough. (Cratin. Frag. p. 27, ed. Runkel; Pollux, vi. 90, x. 105 ; Cato, R. R. 10 ; Hesych. s. v. jj.dt.KTpa ; Schol. in Theocr. iv. 61.)
4. A board, covered with sand or dust, used by mathematicians for drawing diagrams (Eustath. in Od. i. 107), and by arithmeticians for the purposes of calculation. (Peis: Sat. i. 131.) For the latter purpose perpendicular lines - or channels seem to have been drawn in the sand upon the board ; but sometimes the board had perpendicular wooden divisions, the space, on the right hand being intended for units, the next space for tens, the next for hundreds, and so on. Thus was constructed the
€5<£' ov tyrjtyi&vo-iv, " the abacus on which they calculate," i. e. reckon by the use of stones OH^oi, calculi). (Comp. Pol. v. 26.) The figure following represents the probable form and appearance of such an abacus. The reader will observe, that stone after stone might be put into the right-hand partition until they amounted to 10, when it would be necessary to take them all out as represented in the figure, and instead of them to put one stone into the next partition. The stones in this division might in like manner amount to 10, thus representing 10 x 10 = 100, when it would be necessary to take out the 10, and instead of them to put one stone into the third partition, and so on. On this principle the stones in the abacus, as delineated in the figure, would be equivalent to 359,310.
5. A board adapted for playing with dice or counters, resembling a draught-board or backgammon-board. (Caryst. ap. Atli. x. p. 435, d ; Suet. Ner. 22 ; Macrob. Sat. i. 5.) The Greeks had a tradition ascribing this contrivance to Palamedes, hence they called it " the abacus of Palamedes." (Tb H.a\a^€iov a€dKioi>, Eustath. in Od. i. 107.) [latrunculi.]
6. A table or sideboard, chiefly used for the display (exponere) of gold and silver cups. The tops of such tables were sometimes made of silver, but more usually of marble, and appear in some cases to have had numerous cells or partitions beneath, in which the plate was likewise placed. The use of abaci was first introduced at Rome from Asia Minor after the victories of Cn. Manlius Vulso, b. c. 187, and their introduction was regarded as one of the marks of the growing luxury of the age.