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πρόσωπον and προσωπεῖον). A mask; an artificial covering for the face worn among many peoples in all ages of history and for different purposes, but more frequently in Greece and Italy


for covering the faces of the dead and


by actors in theatrical performances.

Death-masks of gold have been found in tombs at Mycenae and elsewhere; at Carthage masks of clay were also similarly used. In Egypt they were placed upon the case containing the mummy. See also Imagines.

Mask from Mummy-case of Rameses II.

For theatrical purposes, masks were made of linen, of bark, of leather, and sometimes of wood. Their introduction in dramatic performances is ascribed to Choerilus (q.v.) of Samos about B.C. 500, and to Aeschylus (q.v.); but their use really goes back to the mummery in honour of Dionysus, at whose festivals in early Greece the face was painted with the lees of wine or covered with leaves. The opening for the eyes was not larger than the pupil of the actor's eyes behind the mask. The masks themselves sometimes merely covered the face, like masks in modern times; but sometimes, also, they covered the whole head down to the shoulders. The wig worn by the tragic actors

Masks. (Pompeii.)

was usually if not always a part of the mask. Phrynichus is said by Suidas (s. v.) to have first made comic masks. The varieties of masks were very numerous, representing every possible sort of character, age, sex, and condition. Pollux (iv. 133, etc.) enumerates twenty-eight typical kinds of mask, six for old men, eight for young men, eleven for women, and three for slaves. Gellius thinks that the mouth of the mask was arranged so as to intensify the sound of the actor's voice (v. 7); but this is doubtful.

Masks in British Museum.

At Rome masks were not used in early times, but only wigs. They were probably first introduced in B.C. 110 by Roscius, who was homely and had a squint. When the audiences hissed an actor he was obliged to remove his mask, except when acting in the Atellanae fabulae (Macrob. Sat. ii. 7).

See the articles Drama and Satyrica Fabula.

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