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PHA´LERAE The Latin word is probably derived from its Greek equivalent, φάλαρα (τά). Oddly enough, the singular, both in Latin and Greek, only occurs once in literature, φάλαρον, in Aeschylus, Persae, 661, and phalera, in a quotation from an old annalist given by Pliny (Plin. Nat. 33.8). (Some commentators regard it as neut. plur.; others amend the text.)

The only passage in Homer where τὰ φάλαρα are mentioned is in the description of the Trojan attack on the Achaean ships (Il. 16.105). The poet says that the helm of Ajax rang out, as it was struck ever and anon, κὰπ φάλαρα εὐποίητα,--a use of the word very different from that of classical Greek, where it is only used of the ornaments of horses' harness. The old grammarians understood the meaning to be somewhat the same as in later times, and interpreted it as denoting disks worn as ornaments on the vizor of the helmet. Buttmann, however, maintained that they ornamented the strap of the helmet; but this, as Helbig shows (Das homerische Epos, ed. 1887, p. 305), assumes a form of helmet not known to Homer. Commentators since Buttmann have been inclined to connect the word, as synonymous, with φάλοι, meaning the ridges to which the crest was fixed; but as the same helmet could be τετραφάληρος and yet ἀμφίφαλος, this must be wrong. Helbig, from the analogy of ancient Italian and Phoenician helmets, decides (op. cit. p. 307) that they were studs or bosses, not on the vizor, as the grammarians said, but on the lower part of the casque near the cheek-pieces. There may possibly be a reminiscence of this old meaning in Aeschylus (Aesch. Pers. 661), when he speaks of the φάλαρον of the tiara of the great king. With these exceptions, the word is always used of the metal disks or crescents with which a horse's harness was ornamented. These ornaments, which were used not only in Greece but all over the ancient world, are frequently mentioned, and received different names according to the part of the harness to which they were attached. Thus, the προμετωπίδια (=frontalia) were on the brow (Xen. Cyrop. 6.4, 1; 7.1, 2), the παρήια (Hom. Il. 4.141) and the παραγναθῖδες on the cheeks, the ἀνθήλια and παρώπια near the eyes, while the προστερνίδια (Xen. Anab. 1.8, 7; de Re Eq. 12, 8) and προστηθίδια were on the breast. They were occasionally worn by other animals, as, for instance, by the asses and bulls in the great pompa of Ptolemy II. and by the elephants of Antiochus (Liv. 37.40; and Plin. Nat. 8.12). They were made not only of bronze, but of silver (Liv. 22.52), and even of gold (Hdt. 1.215, speaking of the Scythians). They were sometimes jewelled (Appian, Mithrad. 115), and were as a rule covered with most artistic designs, so that they were often of great value (cf. Cic. in Verr. 4.12, 29). One of the most favourite ornamentations was the well-known Gorgon's head (Eur. Rhesus, 306).

Phalerae, from statue of Alexander. (Naples Museum.)

The Romans attached even more importance to phalerae than the Greeks, and Juvenal sarcastically describes the soldier of the old school who cut up masterpieces of chased work “ut phaleris gauderet ecus” (Sat. 11.103). This was no doubt, to a large extent, owing to the Roman custom of bestowing them as dona militaria, not only to the cavalry, but also to the infantry. Polybius (6.29) says that (φιάλαι were given to the infantry and φάλαρα to the cavalry, the difference being probably that the former were without, the latter with ornament. In any case, though there is no distinction in Latin, it would be straining Greek usage to apply the word to ornaments worn by a soldier. However this may be, both kinds of phlalerae were worn by the soldiers themselves along with the torques, armillae, catellae, fibulae, and other military decorations, and as such are mentioned frequently in Latin literature (Verg. A. 9.359; Florus, 3.10, 26; Liv. 9.46). These, like the Greek (φάλαρα, were made of gold and silver no less than bronze (Plb. 31.3; Plin. Nat. 37.74). Necklaces worn by women were also occasionally called phalerae (P. Syrus quoted by Petronius, 55), as were, too, those worn by the slaves of rich Romans (Suet. Nero 30). In later writers it was used of any kind of external ornament (cf. Pers. 3.21; Symmach. Ep. init. § 222).

In art not only are (φάλαρα and phalerae shown on monuments of all ages, but the actual ornaments have been frequently found all over the ancient world. The most important of these finds have been made in the Crimea, where, at Great Blisnitza alone, no less than four complete sets of harness were found. The phalerae consisted of 20 round disks (ἀσπιδίσκοι, Pollux and Suidas), four lenticular plates, and several crescents. All are of the same make, consisting of a bronze plate, to the top of which a thin piece of metal with a design in hammered work [p. 2.381]is soldered. In spite of their being crushed, the beauty of the designs, representing Greeks and Amazons and gods and giants in single combat, is very apparent. As a rule, however, such phalerae are ornamented with busts of Aphrodite, Athene, and other deities. The Gorgon's head is the most favourite design, and is interesting as showing that the figures were intended to be prophylactic (ἀποτρόπαια). The crescents which are frequently found with the other forms have doubtless the same purpose. One of the most curious varieties is that in which two boar's or other curved teeth are joined together at the base, forming a crescent. This is not only common on monuments and in the graves, but is mentioned in literature, as when Statius (Stat. Theb. 9.689) speaks of “niveo lunata monilia dente” (for other references see Stephani, Compte Rendu, 1865, p. 180). These crescents of teeth are also seen in antique necklaces, have been found in Saxon graves, and are still in use for the same purpose in parts of Europe, Africa, and Asia. The monuments show that the phalerae were worn not only at the joints of the harness, but in long strings round the breast of the horse. The horse of the celebrated bronze equestrian statue from Herculaneum in the Naples Museum, generally known as Alexander the Great, is one of the best instances, showing particularly well the Gorgon's head at the horse's breast. There is a fine chain of pendent phalerae (pensilia) in the British Museum, and a very similar one in Vienna (see Arneth, Die antiken Gold u. Silber Monumente, S. 1, 1; Vienna, 1850).

String of Phalerae. (From British Museum.)

Roman phalerae as worn by soldiers are shown on many gravestones of veterans, who are represented as seated on rearing chargers with enormous phalerae, or as wearing the phalerae on their breast, with the other dona militaria. These were of considerable weight, and were worn on a framework of leather straps, which hung from the shoulders, was braced across the chest with three or four straps, and supported the phalerae. On many coins these leather frameworks are represented without a wearer. The best examples of such ornaments are those found near Lanersfort, now in the Museum at Berlin. Like the Greek, they consist of bronze disks covered with a thin plate of hammered silver, ornamented with heads of deities and genii, in high relief; the space underneath the silver being filled up with bitumen. On the back is a stout hasp, by which they were attached to the harness or the leather framework just mentioned. In many cases phalerae of this description have pendants in the shape of leaves hanging from them, and specimens of these are very numerous. Besides these undoubted phalerae, there are many brooches and

Cippus of M. Cælius.

necklaces of so similar a description that there seems to be no good reason to refuse them the name, since we know that women occasionally wore them.

The custom of giving phalerae as rewards for good service seems to have been discontinued in the time of Caracalla, who began the custom of giving large gold medals with the emperor's bust in relief instead, especially to the semi-barbarous chieftains on the Danube frontier.

[The best account of φάλαρα, both literary and monumental, is given by Stephani in the Compte Rendu de la Commission Impériale for 1865 (St. Petersburg, 1866); the best of the Roman phalerae in Otto Jahn's Die Lanersforter Phalerae, Bonn, 1860, and Marquardt, Handbuch, vii. p. 655 foll., where references to the later literature will be found. The best illustrations are in the Atlas of the Compte Rendu and in Lindenschmidt's Tracht und Bewaffnung des römischen Heeres während der Kaiserzeit, 1882.]


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