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palmus measure

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palmus measure

Postby Archimedes » Mon Feb 16, 2009 1:35 am

According to Lewis and Short, one version of the palmus was equal to a "span" of twelve digits:

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/pt ... 3D%2333517

Could anyone post the passages on which this is supposedly based? Thanks.
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Re: palmus measure

Postby adrianus » Mon Feb 16, 2009 12:58 pm

I'm writing in Latin hoping for correction, and not because I'm confident in how I express myself. Latinè scribo ut ab omnibus corrigar, non quod confidenter me exprimam.
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Re: palmus measure

Postby benissimus » Mon Feb 16, 2009 2:01 pm

adrianus wrote:http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/L/Roman/Texts/Varro/de_Re_Rustica/3*.html

I can't find a definition of the word palmus in that text. Am I missing something?
flebile nescio quid queritur lyra, flebile lingua murmurat exanimis, respondent flebile ripae
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Re: palmus measure

Postby adrianus » Mon Feb 16, 2009 6:03 pm

benissimus wrote:Am I missing something?

I don't think so, benissimus. However, that is the reference from L&S.
Te nihil praetermittere credo. Nisi fallor, verùm est fons (Varr. R. R. 3.7) qui à Lewis atque Short citatur.

Varr. R. R. 3.7 wrote:Nihil enim timidius columba. Singulis paribus columbaria fiunt rutunda in ordinem crebra, ordines quam plurimi possunt a terra usque ad camaram. Columbaria singula esse oportet ut os habeat, quo modo introire et exire possit, intus ternarum palmarum ex omnibus partibus. Sub ordines singulos tabulae fictae ut sint bipalmes, quo utantur vestibulo ac prodeant.
I'm writing in Latin hoping for correction, and not because I'm confident in how I express myself. Latinè scribo ut ab omnibus corrigar, non quod confidenter me exprimam.
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Re: palmus measure

Postby adrianus » Mon Feb 16, 2009 6:34 pm

I anticipate that Archimedes will say there's a problem in L&S. Is that what you think, Archimedes? Maybe it is a mistake. Because pes Romanorum = quattuor palmi = duodecim digiti (quià digitus Romanis = pollex) otherwise pes aliorum = quattuor palmi = sedecim digiti.
Expecto ut Archimedes errorem esse in L&S indicabit. Credisne quidem errorem esse, Archimedes? Fortassè vitium est.
I'm writing in Latin hoping for correction, and not because I'm confident in how I express myself. Latinè scribo ut ab omnibus corrigar, non quod confidenter me exprimam.
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Re: palmus measure

Postby adrianus » Mon Feb 16, 2009 7:08 pm

Here it is! An English "span" (of a widely extended hand, which equals 12 digits = 9 inches because 16 digits = 12 inches) is "palmus" in later Latin.
Eccum! Anglicè "span" vel "spann" (= duodecim digiti) = "palmus" significatione Latini serioris

Oxford English Dictionary on 'span' wrote: 1. a. The distance from the tip of the thumb to the tip of the little finger, or sometimes to the tip of the forefinger, when the hand is fully extended; the space equivalent to this taken as a measure of length, averaging nine inches.
Freq. followed by a positive or comparative adj.

c900 tr. Baeda's Hist. IV. xi. (1890) 296 a wæs se lichoma sponne [v.r. spanne] lengra ære ryh. c1000 ÆLFRIC Gloss. in Wr.-Wülcker 158 Palmus, span uel handbred. a1310 in Wright Lyric P. ix. 35 Swannes swyre swythe wel y-sette, A sponne lengore then y-mette. c1380 Sir Ferumb. 1607 e swerd..clef him anne, Til it hadde in-to is bodi i-sot by-nythe is brest a spanne. c1386 CHAUCER Prol. 155 Sche hadde a fair forheed. It was almost a spanne brood, I trowe. 14.. Sir Beues (S.) 2509 A span long ey [i.e. bristles] were, wel rowe. c1440 Promp. Parv. 467/1 Spanne, mesure of the hand, palmus,..palmata. 1483 Cath. Angl. 351 A Spayn (A. Spane), palmus. 1535 COVERDALE Judges iii. 16 Ehud made him a two edged dagger of a spanne longe. 1577-87 HOLINSHED Chron. I. 92/1 The space of his forehead betwixt his two eies was a span broad. 1660 BOYLE New Exp. Phys. Mech. ix. (1682) 39 There happen'd in the great Receiver a crack of about a Span long. 1671 J. WEBSTER Metallogr. xi. 158 They go no deeper than a span or two. 1718 Free-thinker No. 47. 343 Pharao..was a Dwarf, but seven Spans high. 1756-7 tr. Keysler's Trav. (1760) II. 276 The diameter..is twelve common spans, or near eight feet. 1811 A. T. THOMSON Lond. Disp. (1818) 36 The stems trailing, about a span in length. 1862 DRAPER Intell. Devel. Europe xiii. (1865) 303 In which there are walking about men, a span long.
I'm writing in Latin hoping for correction, and not because I'm confident in how I express myself. Latinè scribo ut ab omnibus corrigar, non quod confidenter me exprimam.
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Re: palmus measure

Postby WPThayer » Mon Feb 16, 2009 10:34 pm

I think we can do better than that; the 9-digit palmus was in use by the 4c, if maybe the better sort of people sniffed at it. According to Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, s.v. "Palmus" Jerome explicitly says that both are in use, although the large palm is less common. The passage in his Commentary on Ezechiel where he says so does not seem to be online yet.

Later edit: I was mistaken about it not being online. It's at this 4.1-MB page, in PDF, at Documenta Catholica; a search for palmus yields the passage right away, though.
Last edited by WPThayer on Mon Feb 16, 2009 11:20 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: palmus measure

Postby adrianus » Mon Feb 16, 2009 10:54 pm

Better indeed, WPThayer
Melius quidem.
I'm writing in Latin hoping for correction, and not because I'm confident in how I express myself. Latinè scribo ut ab omnibus corrigar, non quod confidenter me exprimam.
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Re: palmus measure

Postby Archimedes » Wed Feb 18, 2009 8:27 am

Thanks for the input. Livy describes the point of the cestros dart as bipalme spiculum, L&S defining bipalmis as "two spans long":

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/pt ... %3D%235376

Then when you look up palmus, L&S defines it as a "span" of nine inches, there also being a "minor" version of three inches. So was the head of the dart eighteen inches long or six inches long?
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Re: palmus measure

Postby Archimedes » Wed Feb 18, 2009 8:41 am

adrianus wrote:Here it is! An English "span" (of a widely extended hand, which equals 12 digits = 9 inches because 16 digits = 12 inches) is "palmus" in later Latin.


Okay, I guess Livy must have been using the smaller version then. If the Loeb translation had simply said "two palms" instead of "two spans," I would have understood "palm" as being the equivalent of the Greek palaiste instead of the Greek spithame.
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Re: palmus measure

Postby WPThayer » Wed Feb 18, 2009 11:32 am

The smaller seems likelier to me as well — but by themselves, so far, all the above citations taken together yield no conclusion.

The opinions of L&S (major, then minor) and the OED (later Latin) unfortunately have to be discounted: they are just modern opinions, even though maybe those of very sharp people — or then again, those of graduate students hired to do dictionary entries (this is the frequent practice with dictionaries; we can well imagine that no one top-level person wrote all the entries in either dictionary).

But even with top-level modern scholars, their opinions are based on the very same kind of reasoning as we are engaging in here; they can be wrong, other top-level scholars can disagree with them, etc. It used to surprise me, but after a coupla decades not any more, that the simplest and apparently most obvious ideas and those most casually accepted by us (the gladiator's thumbs-down, for example, or Herod dying at Lyon, or dating the battle of Pydna to 168 B.C.) all almost always present room for very different conclusions — and with investigation, often turn out wrong.

Jerome "Alioquin palmus σπιθαμὴν sonat, quam nonnulli pro distinctione palmam: porro παλαιστὴν, palmum appellare consueverunt." never says when these people used palmus in either sense. So what we seem to have is negative evidence; apparently the first instance of the larger palm is well after the first instance of the smaller palm, in extant documents. Very hard to prove a negative; and not infrequently, things can go back and forth: Quintilian for example writes in the 2c A.D. that "Still more pedantic are the practices of [...] writing quotidie instead of cotidie to show that it stands for quot diebus. But such practices have disappeared into the limbo of absurdities." and Isidore, about five and a half centuries later explicitly writes "Hodie quasi hoc die; et quotidie, non cotidie, ut sit quot diebus." I.e., Quintilian brands as obsolete something that Isidore says is good usage. For all we know, the palm may have undergone a similar fluctuation.

What we need is some clearly unambiguous text of Livy's period — ideally Livy himself speaking of his own usage — that the palm was one or the other; or, more practically maybe, we could look at archaeological recoveries of darts, and see how long they are....

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Re: palmus measure

Postby Archimedes » Fri Feb 20, 2009 7:40 am

According to Livy, the head of the dart was bipalmis and the shaft was semicubitalis; it is believed that this was a translation of an earlier account by Polybius, according to whom the head of the dart was dipalaistos and the shaft was spithamaios. It would appear, then, that the sense in Livy was two three-inch palms.
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Re: palmus measure

Postby WPThayer » Sat Feb 21, 2009 11:22 pm

Well that just about nails it; there's still wiggle room — did Livy (XL.65.9) in fact translate Polybius? — but that the passages should be independent is overwhelmingly improbable. Polyb XXVII.11.2, a fragment transmitted via the Suda. The Greek has 2 cubits long, 1 span for the dart length: τὸ δὲ βέλος τοιοῦτον· διπάλαιστον ἦν, ἴσον ἔχον τὸν αὐλίσκον τῇ προβολῇ. τούτῳ ξύλον ἐνήρμοστο τῷ μὲν μήκει σπιθαμιαῖον, τῷ δὲ πάχει δακτυλιαίαν ἔχον τῆν διάμετρον.)

Similar passage at Polyb VI.22.4: τὸ δὲ τῶν γρόσφων βέλος ἔχει τῷ μὲν μήκει τὸ ξύλον ὡς ἐπίπαν δίπηχυ, τῷ δὲ πάχει δακτυλιαῖον, τὸ δὲ κέντρον σπιθαμιαῖον, κατὰ τοσοῦτον ἐπὶ λεπτὸν ἐξεληλασμένον καὶ συνωξυσμένον ὥστε κατ᾽ ἀνάγκην εὐθέως ἀπὸ τῆς πρώτης ἐμβολῆς κάμπτεσθαι καὶ μὴ δύνασθαι τοὺς πολεμίους ἀντιβάλλειν· εἰ δὲ μή, κοινὸν γίνεται τὸ βέλος.)

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Re: palmus measure

Postby Archimedes » Mon Feb 23, 2009 6:43 am

WPThayer wrote:The Greek has 2 cubits long, 1 span for the dart length: τὸ δὲ βέλος τοιοῦτον· διπάλαιστον ἦν, ἴσον ἔχον τὸν αὐλίσκον τῇ προβολῇ. τούτῳ ξύλον ἐνήρμοστο τῷ μὲν μήκει σπιθαμιαῖον, τῷ δὲ πάχει δακτυλιαίαν ἔχον τῆν διάμετρον.)


The Loeb translation screwed up, though, translating dipalaiston as "two cubits" instead of "two palms." Apparently the head of the dart (point and socket) was two palms long, and a wooden shaft one span long was inserted into the socket.
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Re: palmus measure

Postby WPThayer » Mon Feb 23, 2009 10:55 am

After posting, I actually wondered about that! but in a hurry, just below the threshold of full consciousness. The people at Suda Online confirm that, of course: see their page on this passage. It's certainly not the only time a Loeb translator botched things (my Greek is very middling, but my Latin is pretty good, and I can vouch that Pliny's Natural History is often very poorly rendered). The Internet, as here, can be wonderful: I've now footnoted the passage in the transcription of Polybius. (The related passage in Polyb. VI.22.4 has δίπηχυ and the translation is OK.)

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