previous next


κόμη). The hair of the head. Besides this general term, there are various other words, both in Greek and Latin, signifying the hair, each of which acquires its distinctive meaning from some physical property of the hair itself or from some peculiarity in the mode of arranging it, the principal of which are as follows:
  • 1. Ἔθειρα, a head of hair when carefully dressed.
  • 2. Χαίτη, properly the mane of a horse or lion, is used to signify long, flowing hair.
  • 3. Φόβη, when accurately used, implies the hair of the head in a state of disorder incident to a person under a sense of fear.
  • 4. Ποκάς, from πείκω or πέκω, the hair when combed and dressed.
  • 5. Θρίξ, a general term for hair, from the plural of which the Romans perhaps borrowed their word tricaeτρίχωσις and τρίχωμα are used in the same sense.
  • 6. Κόρση ( αττ.κόρρη), from the old word κόρ, “the head,” signifies properly the hair on the top of the head; and hence a particular fashion of arranging the

    Apollo Belvedere; Artemis. (British Museum.)

    hair among the Greek women was termed κόρυμβος; or, when worn in the same style by the men, it was designated by another derivative from the same word, κρώβυλος. To produce this effect the hair was drawn up all round the head from the front and back, and fastened in a bow on the top, as exemplified in the two preceding busts—one of the Apollo Belvedere, the other of Artemis—from the British Museum. Instead of a band, the people of Athens fastened the bow with an ornamental clasp, fashioned like

    Heracles. (British Museum.)

    a grasshopper, to show that they were aborigines. Κρώβυλος is also used for a cap of network. (See Calantica.)

  • 7. Μαλλός, which properly means wool, was also used for the short, round, curly hair, which resembles the fleece of a lamb, such as is seen in some of the early Greek sculptures, particularly in the heads of Heracles, one of which is subjoined from a specimen in the British Museum.
  • 8. Κέρας was a Greek term used when the hair was combed up from the temples on each side, so as to give it the appearance of two horns, as is seen in the heads of fauns and satyrs, and in the bust of Zeus on the following page.
  • 9. Κίκιννος, πλοχμός, χλιδαί, the hair which falls in ringlets, either natural or artificial, which was sometimes called βόστρυχος and πλόκαμος. All these terms, when strictly appropriated, seem to designate that singular style of coiffure which is observable in Etruscan and early Greek works, and common to both sexes, as is seen in the casts from the temple of Athené at Aegina in the British Museum.

Besides the generic coma, the Romans made use of the following terms, expressive of some peculiar qualities in the hair, or particular mode of arrangement:

  • 1. Capillus, according to the old etymologists, quasi capitis pilus.
  • 2. Crinis, the hair when carefully dressed.
  • 3. Caesaries, which is said, though without much probability, to be connected with caedo, the hair of the male sex, because they wore it short, whereas the women did not.
  • 4. Cincinnus, κίκιννος, the hair when platted and

    Cupid. (British Museum.)

    dressed in circles, like the head on page 17 (s.v. Acus), as it is still worn by the women of Mola di Gaieta (Formiae). Martial terms these circles anuli, and Claudian orbes.
  • 5. Cirrus, a lock of curly hair. The locks which fell over the forehead were termed capronae (προκόμιον), the modern “bang” or “fringe”; those which fell from the temples over the ears, antiae. Both the antiae and capronae are accurately traced in the figure of Cupid bending his bow, in the British Museum, from which the accompanying illustration is taken.

All the Greek divinities are distinguished by a characteristic coiffure, modified in some respects as the arts progressed, but never altered in character from the original model; so that any person tolerably conversant with the works of Greek art may almost invariably recognize the deity represented from the disposition of the hair. We proceed to specify some of the principal ones.

Lion's Head. (British Museum); Zeus. (Vatican.)

The head of the lion is the type upon which that of Zeus is formed, particularly in the disposition of the hair, which rises from the forehead and falls

Serapis. (British Museum.)

back in loose curls down the sides of the face, until it forms a junction with the beard. This is made clear by the two preceding illustrations, one of which is from a statue of Zeus in the Vatican, supposed to be a copy of the Phidian Zeus; and the other is a lion's head from the British Museum. The same disposition of the hair is likewise preserved in all the real or pretended descendants from Zeus, such as Aesculapius, Alexander, etc.

Pluto or Serapis has the hair longer, straighter, and lower over the forehead, in order to give severity to the aspect, and with the modius on his head, as represented in the above drawing from the British Museum. The modius is decorated with an olive

Poseidon. (British Museum.)

branch, for oil was used instead of wine in sacrifices to Pluto.

The hair of Poseidon is cut finer and sharper than that of Zeus. It rises from the forehead, and then falls down in flakes, as if wet, in the manner represented in the accompanying head from the British Museum.

Apollo is usually repre

Apollo. (British Museum.)

sented with the κρώβυλος; but when the hair is not tied up on the top of the head it is always long and flowing over the neck and shoulders, as represented in the annexed illustration from a very beautiful and early Greek sculpture in the British Museum. Hence he is called intonsus and ἀκερσεκόμης.

Dionysus also wears his hair unshorn; for he, as well as Apollo, is typical of perpetual youth.

In the mature age of Greek art, Hermes has short curly hair, as represented by the head on the left hand in the illustration below, from a statue in the Vatican, which was for a long time falsely ascribed to Antinoüs; but in very early Greek works he is represented with braided hair, in the Etruscan style, and a sharp-pointed beard (see the right-hand illustration, from an altar in the Museum of the Capitol at Rome), whence he is termed σφηνοπώγων.

Hermes. (Vatican); Etruscan Hermes. (Cap. Mus.)

Hercules has short, crisp hair, like the curls between the horns of a bull, the head of which animal formed the model for his, as is exemplified in the subjoined drawings, one being the head of the Farnese Hercules, the other that of a bull, from a bas-relief at Rome, in which all the characteristics of Hercules, the small head, thick neck, and particular form of the hair, are strongly preserved.

Farnese Hercules; Head of Bull.

The hair of Heré or Iuno is parted in the front, and on the top of the head is a kind of diadem, called in Latin corona, and in Greek σφενδόνη, from its resemblance to a sling, the broad part of which

Heré with σφενδόνη. (British Museum.)

is placed above the forehead, while the two lashes act as bands to confine the hair on the sides of the head and fasten it behind, in the manner represented in the annexed illustration from the British Museum.

Pallas is rarely seen without her helmet; but when portrayed with her head uncovered the hair is tied up in a knot at some distance from the head, and then falls from the band in long parallel curls.

Aphrodité and Artemis are sometimes adorned with the κόρυμβος; but both these divinities are more frequently represented with their hair dressed in the simple style of the young Greek girls, whose hair is parted in front, and conducted round to the back, so as to conceal the upper part of the ears. It is then tied in a plain knot at the nape of the neck, or, at other times, though less frequently, at the top of the head; both of which fashions are represented in the two illustrations subjoined; one, that on the right, Niobé, and the other from a bas-relief at Rome.

From a bas-relief at Rome; Niobé.

False hair, or wigs, φενάκη, πηϝίκη, κόμαι προσθέται, τριχὲς προσθέται, galerus, corymbium, caliendrum, capillamentum, were also worn by the people of both countries (Mart.v. 68; xii. 23), and much esteemed by them.

Several passages of Latin literature show the fondness of the Roman women for blond hair, quantities of which were imported from Germany to be made up into wigs. (See Juv. vi. 120; Ovid. A. A. iii. 163.) Hence, in some of the statues, the hair was gilt, remains of which are discernible in the Venus dei Medici and in the Apollo of the Capitol; and both sexes dyed their hair when it grew gray (Plin. H. N. xxvi. 164).

Ancient Wig. (Museum at Ghizeh.)

In very early times the Romans wore their hair long, as was represented in the oldest statues during the age of Varro, and hence the Romans of the Augustan Age designated their ancestors intonsi and capillati. But this fashion did not last after the year B.C. 300, as appears by the remaining works of art. The women, too, dressed their hair with simplicity, at least until the time of the emperors, and probably much in the same style as those of Greece; but at the Augustan period a variety of different head-dresses came into fashion, many of which are described by Ovid. Four specimens of different periods are given below. The first head on the left represents Octavia, the niece of Augustus, from the Museum in the Capitol at Rome; the next, Messalina, fifth wife of the emperor Claudius; the one below, on the left, Sabina, the wife of Hadrian; and the next, Plautilla, the wife of Caracalla, which last three are from the British Museum.

1. Octavia. (Capitol. Mus.); 2. Messalina, wife of Claudius; 3. Sabina, wife of Hadrian.; 4. Plautilla, wife of Caracalla. [The last three from the British Museum.]

Both countries had some peculiar customs connected with the growth of their hair and illustrative of their moral or physical conditions. The Spartans combed and dressed their heads with especial care when about to encounter any great danger, in which act Leonidas and his followers were discovered by the spies of Xerxes before the battle of Thermopylae. The sailors of both nations shaved off their hair after an escape from shipwreck or other heavy calamity and dedicated it to the gods. In the earlier ages, the Greeks of both sexes cut their hair close in mourning; but subsequently this practice was more exclusively confined to the women, the men leaving theirs long and neglected, as was the custom among the Romans.

In childhood—that is, up to the age of puberty— the hair of the males was suffered to grow long among both nations, when it was clipped and dedicated to some river or deity, from thence called κουροτρόφος by the poets, and therefore to cut off the hair means to take the toga virilis. At Athens this ceremony was performed on the third day of the festival Apaturia, which is therefore termed κουρεῶτις.

In both countries the slaves were shaved as a mark of servitude. On barbers, see Tonsor.

The Vestal Virgins also cut their hair short upon taking their vows; which rite still remains in the Roman Church, in which all women have their hair cut close upon taking the veil. The hair was fastened up with hair-pins (acus crinales) and combs (pectines), which we find made of boxwood, ivory, and tortoise-shell. The hair was also at times fastened with bands (diademata) of gold set with jewels, like the Greek στεφάνη. As to nets, the women used to wear reticula, sometimes made of gold threads. The mitra (Juv.iii. 66) has been explained elsewhere, and the calautica, or calantica, or calvatica was a cap with lappets covering the ears and with two strings for tying under the chin. Nonius says it was worn by women only. For other matters relating to the modes of dressing the hair, etc., see Acus; Diadema; Mitra; Pecten; Reticulum.

hide References (2 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (2):
    • Ovid, Ars Amatoria, 3
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 5.68
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: