Naples – Steelyards and scales found at Pompeii

These steelyards and scales are so like those used in modern times that they might, at least, have come out of our grandfathers’ shops. As you see, a strong round bar of iron with a hook on the end was generally fastened to the wall, and the scales hung on that, the scales having a beam which was graduated with a movable weight attached to it. These steelyards are marked with Roman numerals from X to XXX, and some bear an inscription stating that they had been compared with the standard in the capitol during the reign of Vespasian. Observe the counterpoises of these steelyards ; several of them present forms of great interest. That one in front of us, which is suspended from the beam of the scale whose iron rod is supported by the marble standard, represents Rome Triumphant, wearing a helmet on which are small figures of Romulus and Remus. Others are in the form of turtles.

On those wooden shelves or steps against the wall on the left there is quite a curious collection, part of which we see, of locks, door-handles and swords ; also sacrificial vessels, caldrons, saucepans, frying-pans, meat-hooks, chains and even a coil of petrified rope, together with a Roman ” congius,” or measure of capacity, having an inscription which says that it was verified in the capitol in the sixth year of the reign of Vespasian. Near these wooden shelves also are sickles, planes and saws, besides apothecary scales and scales used by gold and silversmiths. Certainly in weights and measures the world has not made much progress in two thousand years, for these belong to exact science, like arithmetic, and are not susceptible to change. These balances, one and all, are ready and waiting to be taken out of the museum and into the stores and markets of to-day, where they would mark with steady finger, as long ago in old Pompeii, the purchases of men.

Now let us pass into another room, as I did a short time ago ; and examine what to my companion was the most interesting collection in the museum and one which took the conceit out of him in less than five minutes.