History for the Rest of Us

Ampyx – Greek Hair Band

Ampyx – Greek Hair Band

Nov 1, 2012

The ampyx was a frontlet, or band, worn by Greek ladies to confine the hair, passing around the front of the head and fastening behind. It was generally a plate of gold or silver, richly worked, and adorned with precious stones. The ampyx appears in festive scenes depicted on Etruscan tombs worn by females. SOURCE: A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, Volume 1 edited by Sir William Smith, William Wayte, George Eden...

Amulet – Charm for Securing Good Luck

Amulet – Charm for Securing Good Luck

Nov 1, 2012

An amulet was a charm attached to the body of a human being or animal to avert calamities or secure good fortune. The shapes of ancient jewelery and ornaments were in great measure decided by a belief in their magical powers. Directions for the choice and application of amulets form no small part of many ancient documents on medicine, and it is often difficult to draw a distinction (which did not exist in the minds of many ancient physicians) between a medicine and an amulet. Sometimes a connection can be traced between the amulet and its purpose, for example when teeth of animals are used as a charm against dental diseases, but typically the relationship between the charm and its use seems entirely arbitrary. Below are some of the materials used for amulets and their magical purposes: Amethyst – believed to counteract the effects of wine Opal – believed to be beneficial to the eyes The ant, wasp, caterpillar, snail, and spider – used against fevers and mental disorders Amulets assumed the forms of necklaces, pendants, rings, bracelets, earrings, hairpins, etc. It was a very common practice to avoid bad luck by wearing some ill omened, grotesque, or obscene shape which would instantly catch the ‘evil eye’ and divert its malice. SOURCE: A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, Volume 1 edited by Sir William Smith, William Wayte, George Eden Marindin Items from the Creating History...

Abolla – Roman Military Cloak

Abolla – Roman Military Cloak

Sep 19, 2012

The abolla was a thick, double cloak. Differing from the toga in that it was, at least originally, used only as a military garment. By imperial times, it was worn indiscriminately. In Suetonius’ Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Ptolemy of Mauretania offended Caligula by the splendour of his purpurea (purple) abolla. For rich and fashionable wearers, the original military form was undoubtably altered, and its rough texture exchanged for fine linen. Philosophers also adopted the abolla and retained or even exaggerated it simple coarseness. The included image, a drawing derived from a bas-relief on the Arch of Septimius Severus is an example of the abolla as worn by soldiers. SOURCE: A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, Volume 1 edited by Sir William Smith, William Wayte, George Eden...

Acus – Roman Pin for Hair

Acus – Roman Pin for Hair

Sep 15, 2012

The acus was a pin or needle used in dressing the hair or fastening a robe. Typically made of gold or silver and ornamented with figures, the acus could also be made of bone or ivory. The length of these hair-pins varied from 6 to 9 inches. The image of an acus being used to fasten plaited hair (shown below) is derived from a marble group found in the south of France. The acus could also be used to curl, dye, or perfume the hair. SOURCE: A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, Volume 1 edited by Sir William Smith, William Wayte, George Eden...