Tripod - Encyclopedia

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TRIPOD (Gr. rpi'irovs, Lat. tripus), in classical antiquities, any "three-footed" utensil or article of furniture. The name is specially applied to the following: (1) A seat or table with three legs. (2) A stand for holding the caldron used for boiling water or cooking meat; when caldron and stand were made in one piece, the name was given to the complete apparatus. (3) A sacrificial tripod, or altar, the most famous of which was the Delphic tripod, on which the Pythian priestess took her seat to deliver the oracles of the god, the seat being formed by a circular slab on the top, on which a branch of laurel was deposited when it was unoccupied by the priestess. Another well-known tripod was the "Plataean," made from a tenth part of the spoils taken from the Persian army after the battle of Plataea. This consisted of a golden basin, supported by a bronze serpent with three heads (or three serpents intertwined), with a list of the states that had taken part in the war inscribed on the coils of the serpent. The golden bowl was carried off by the Phocians during the Sacred War; the stand was removed by the emperor Constantine to Constantinople, where it is still to be seen in the Atmeidan (hippodrome), but in a damaged condition, the heads of the serpents having disappeared. The inscription, however, has been almost entirely restored (see Frazer on Pausanias, v. 299 seq.). Such tripods were usually of bronze and had three "ears" (rings which served as handles). They also frequently had a central upright as support in addition to the three legs. Tripods are frequently mentioned in Homer as prizes in athletic games and as complimentary gifts, and in later times, highly decorated and bearing inscriptions, they served the same purpose. They were also used as dedicatory offerings to the gods, and in the dramatic contests at the Dionysia the victorious choregus (a wealthy citizen who bore the expense of equipping and training the chorus) received a crown and a tripod, which he either dedicated to some god or set upon the top of a marble structure erected in the form of a small circular temple in a street in Athens, called the "street of tripods," from the large number of memorials of this kind. One of these, the "monument of Lysicrates," erected by him to commemorate his victory in a dramatic contest in 335 B.C. is still in existence (see Frazer, ii. 207).

See C. O. Miller, De tripode delphico (1820); F. Wieseler, Ueber den delphischen Dreifuss (1871); E. Reisch, Griechische Weihgeschenke (1890), and his article "Dreifuss" in Pauly-Wissowa, Realencyclopadie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft, v. pt. 2. (1905).

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